— On Comms Design. From London

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago in Medium.

You should check me there for the foreseeable future. Or until something else interesting comes along 🙂

 

“I started writing a blog almost 8 years ago, maybe more. The first one was on Blogger and that was, by far, the most rewarding blogging experience of my entire blogging “life”. Blogger was basic, easy to use, blogging was just starting, we had less of this “I blog professionally” shit and people had more options to discover other people they thought worthy of reading.

Somehow I got popular so people suggested I start blogging “professionally” which meant that I was to get my own name-domain (which I still own and it’s giving me a constant headache, find it here www.bogdanabutnar.ro), switch from blogging in English and move to WordPress where I could get better exposure in Google and have more control over the design and “accessories”. I’d say there were a couple of good years doing that but eventually managing a self-hosted WordPress blog became a huge pain in the butt. I was clearly not going to be a professional blogger. My profession is digital marketing and, as it happens, blogging is a small part of that, but I was not going to make money from writing on my blog. So the design, constant updates, SEO and Cache and whatnot plugins started to really bug me. I was lucky to have my blog hosted by a dear friend but even the minimal server updates sometimes left my WordPress blog crippled because of lack of constant care. Read More

It’s been a year already since last year 🙂 And one resolution is already happening and announced in the post previous to this one.

I have not blogged more. I feel bad about it and stupid with having given in to the ease with which one shares stuff on Facebook only to see it liked a bunch of times and then disappear into nothingness. That has not changed. Facebook is still a bottomless pit of darkness.

But other stuff has. This is my 2015 resolutions post. I was sad back then. I missed my life in Romania, my friends, my flat, my R2D2 doll. One year on, I still miss some of that: the friends mostly, but I have a new flat I am growing to like, and my life in London is not too bad, made a bit better by working in a great place and a few kind people who take care of me (Andreea, Andreea, Stefan, Adriana, Ben, Tom, Christina, Nik, Dragos, Gabi, Mihnea and recently Sanziana and Adriana). Skype and Messenger keep me connected to my best friends at home, Andreea and Cristina, you will forever be the lights of my life and the people who keep me sane. Skype connects me to the people I need, Mircea and my parents. Bobby is sometimes only a plane ride away. Trains now connect me to the man in my life. I have, clearly, learnt to make connections in various ways and replaced physical closeness with the next best thing. And this life is now good.

How did I do for resolutions? Surprisingly well I might say but unwittingly so, because whatever has happened did not happen because my will power has improved. I am now 10 kilos heavier than I should be and still cannot make a decent croissant at home. I have made a bunch of other stuff though and people seem to like them (I could link here to a nice album in FB but, guess what, FB sucks so no albums). I have seen a bunch of great movies and walked a whole lot more (made it through two Tube strikes) and read enough but not as much as my resolution suggested. I meditate sometimes. Not “professionally” but I do spend time thinking about my life. And I do strategy in a place that lets me do it the right way (Head of Strategy since October now, wheheeey!). Can’t even remember what the womanhood thing was about. I think I still suck at that one but who cares, if it was that unimportant probably should not have been a resolution to begin with.

What’s the plan for 2016? I have a draft but it’s really not thought through. The first 5 ones are below. They are the obvious ones. The big deep ones I am still working on.

  1. Blog for Christ’s sake! – I already made a jump to Medium. I’ll try some more things. I need to be able to take a serious hold of this publishing stuff and do it properly.
  2. Build something at work – there’s a handful of us now and we’re growing in the strategy department; but I want to make it something people are proud to speak of and something that genuinely works.
  3. Walk even more, maybe run, maybe swim – because I do need to get back in shape. I am clearly aware that this one needs to be a bit clearer and more specific because otherwise it will be among the not done ones. I’ll think it through.
  4. Bake and bake some more – breakfast and bread and cake. That’s the new frontier. I am done with muffins and cookies and pound cakes. I want layers and tiers and pastry.
  5. Start something that will define my life in my forties. Not sure what that is but I feel 39 is a new deadline and I should be planning for it.

+

5 more I still need to work on. To be continued.

 

I am trying something new. See it here.

I am not sure whether to rejoice that I might not be seeing all those inane responses to people’s Facebook posts and that these responses will be confined to neatly recorded smilies or hearts, or to be annoyed that we are coming closer and closer to an ultimate standardisation of people’s reactions (i.e. emotions) on social media.

This is of course about this, the news that the world is not getting a dislike button but rather a plethora of smilies, hearts and other icons that will enable us to not outright hate something but rather express a wider range of feelings.

The annoying thing about this is that we WERE able to record a wider range of emotions by leaving comments that could say “I partly agree with this” or “This is an immense and stinking pile of horse shit” (by which the commentator would not have simply described what he saw in the picture). The point of Likes was to aggregate the overall sentiment on the post, so it was mostly a scale thing, a way of measuring overall impact. People were asking for a dislike button mostly because sentiment analysis is so bad that 500k comments saying “I hate this” would be collapsed into something too small to compete with, say, 100 likes. Nobody campaigned for a “I kinda like this but I am not sure” button. There was a lot of conversation around Meh, but that was it.

The trouble with standardising responses is that people have a tendency to replace actual nuance with that standard. Remember when “In a relationship” had become the ultimate badge of commitment? Standardising means simplifying and we know the human brain loves a good simplification, but somehow it does not feel like we should be trying to simplify things when it comes to points of view or emotions. People should have to make an effort to express exactly what they are feeling because using smilies just impoverishes the conversation.

I want a dislike button. Because we need to be able to say no in a VERY loud voice to some things. I do not think, however, that we should be happy with being given a Facebook-approved list that bridges the gap between like and dislike. We mind find ourselves in a couple of years expressing a lot less.

So the Kardashian ladies have the most successful Instagram profiles ever. They have millions of followers and millions of likes. What do they do next? They turn their profiles into advertising billboards for their apps where they upload and share more content, more advertiser-driven content and more product plugs. The money flows in, they have no pesky Instagram rules to abide by and they control the stats and cookies of their downloaders.

Now if you ask me, instead of trying to do the same old thing of pushing ads on their users (which is getting a bit of a backlash I understand), Instagram could try and do something similar (you know, like YouTube has been trying to implement for a while, although it might be a bit later than anyone can stomach) –> simply put, paywall some major accounts, split the revenue with the creators and not risk bleeding users into apps. Or annoying everyone with ads, especially when your platform is hugely prohibitive to ads. What do I mean? Let’s say you follow 400 people on Instagram [which is already insane because there is NO way you can go through all of their updates at a time]. There is only this many ads Instagram will be able to serve in between your followed accounts’ content before they piss you off [Facebook has waaaay more display areas, Twitter faces a similar problem to Instagram so it’s trying to redesign itself]. The one solution would be for them to allow, say, chronological pics to be shown in a horizontal slider, versus the vertical one we use now ,which would give them twice as much display space. The ads would be shown both among horizontally sliding pics and the way they are now. And still how many can they show before they piss everyone off? Not many I would say.

So why not do the smart thing, start early and paywall some of that coveted content.

How it was made here.

What I LOVE about this is this small bit below, how they made the dots and how the dots do pretty much everything 🙂 Genius!

I will probably not buy a smartwatch. Most likely because I already hold very struct opinions about productivity and what’s worth optimizing and what is not. I seriously don’t think that having your social updates or even email pop up on your wrist is an improvement of anything. It’s just mindless “if technology can do it, why not” type of progress. Here’s some things I would buy a wearable for:

– tracking my pulse and body temperature and when I exercise analysing sweat   + any medical info they can fit in (and yes I am willing to insert a chip under my skin if needed)

– allowing me to scan foods (not labels) and/or measure weight of food on plate and tell me calories and whether they fit within my diet plan

– reminding me to stand up and do my 15 minute off time (I am currently trying to see if I can work with Pomodoro technique)  and yes, they do need better accelerometers because one I tested recording my motion of turning my car’s wheel as exercise 🙂

– carrying my card and ID information so I can just scan then at terminals (I think the watches might be doing this right now, phones definitely do it)

– recording memos on the go and having them automatically geo located and time stamped so the watch/band can remind me when the time and place occurs

and that’s pretty much it. I can do a bunch of those with my phone already so, and if smartphones do it, they sure do not advertise for it. But what I mean is that we seem to be in this race to improve on things that are not essential. I saw a VR speech and I could not get the people giving it to say what the tech was good for other than letting gamers get “a bit higher” on their drug of choice, “experience”. They seemed to envisage no actual applications for it other than allowing you to be able to shoot someone and make it look real :(. The same with smartphones. I am sure we can use all of this tech for better experiences of life not just of virtual life.

Every time I share something to Facebook I feel like I am throwing important things into a black hole. So I will also leave this amazing article here with the quote below

“Because they’ve spent money on making their marketing digital, not their processes. They’ve got good at social media rather than service design.They’ve invested in conversations, not services, so now they spend their whole time having conversations about how shit their services are.They’ve done the easy stuff, not the hard work to make things simple.”

[Russell Davies, of course :)]

 

I should probably not have made this so general, the title, I mean. What I mean is that good design for me is the trigger to make a decision. And I have been seeing this happen a lot lately when I look for things I know nothing about. In all cases, a good design of the app, the web page etc seems to be the thing that puts it over the top. I say Yes more often to things that ultimately also Look good in a short list of things I would like.

My very very smart boss at work, Mr. Roope, speaks about the implicit messages that good design and interface give out, meaning that he thinks one’s very good experience with a way something looks and works also sends out a more important message about whether you should choose that over something else. It appears to be quite true in my case and I have tried to understand why.

Primarily, I think it’s because I work in an industry which teaches the importance of design/usability etc (maybe I should strike industry and use company [smirk]). But to me, having someone think about how something looks after you’ve done all the important functional bits is interesting. It almost signals that you think of what you do beyond just the thing, that you care about how people will interact with it and how they will feel.

Of course, I could be wrong. There’s probably a bunch of nicely looking things out there that are crap but what I mean is not just a nice exterior but a way of designing something which makes your expectations (creative, quality, etc) met and your experience good. And there’s not a lot of things out there which are made like this. Consider shoe racks (a thing which I have been battling lately with my increasing collection of trainers). Most shoe racks are simply stupid and ugly looking because pretty much everyone is concerned with making a flat or slightly inclined space for shoes to sit on. Nobody thinks of other things like the space a show rack can actually take in a house, the types of shoes you need to fit etc. And finally, almost nobody thinks about HOW the shoe rack should look once you’ve installed it and you’re using it. I am still looking for one that will do all of these 🙂

Implicit messages that design sends 🙂 worth considering.

I am definitely not the first one to say this but of course the reason the likes of Uber and Airbnb make shitloads of money is because they simply do not abide by regular taxation, safety and employment policies like all the other companies do. Even that is a mis-statement because, while other companies try creative accounting  (remember this? which is an interesting take on the original story, tax avoidance), the likes of Uber and Airbnb simply pronounce themselves a completely new and original way of doing business which is outside normal taxation and employment rules.

You know I LOVE Uber. I seriously do. I am less in love with Airbnb, mostly because I am a more fussy sleeper than car rider, so I like to only sleep in certain hotels with specific types of beds and sound proofing levels. But the way Uber and Airbnb have empowered millions of people to become small scale business owners tugs at my heart strings. So this will not be about how Uber should pay health benefits to its drivers. Because I don’t think it needs to. Most of the Uber drivers I speak to (and I speak to all the ones that drive me which still makes my 4.7 rating confusing to me :((( really Uber, really!) seem to have a very down to earth, common sensical way of looking at their relationship with the app. They know how much they need to drive to make a profit. They think about it like a business partnership. They should be informed about the need to pay tax and health, true, but Uber is free to decide whether they want to contribute to that.

The security of passengers and travellers, however, now that’s a different story. That Uber and Airbnb do not want to take responsibility for the drivers and landlords raping, locking in house and allegedly abusing clients is another matter. This is not about the relationship between you and a business partner and the contracts you BOTH sign when you enter into that partnership. This is about a third party which buys into your promise and you should, both company and driver/landlord business partner, be held responsible. The easiest thing to do is put in a place a simple procedure to make sure help is made available asap. Of course this might cut into your profits but, on the up side, regulators might look more kindly on you when they come a-knocking.

8 years ago I would not have written this post. Back then it was cool to wake up at 6 just to be the first one to find out about the latest start-up to get funded, it was ok to eat in front of the computer just to go through my 600+ feed articles during lunch time, it was expected that I would have time to do my job, blog every day, maintain both my Fb and Twitter accounts with different content strategies, know everything there was not know about anything marketing related, hang out with my cool entrepreneur friends. Back then having a car to take me to work faster, a flat closer to the city centre and all the devices and apps in the world was required because it fed into my lifestyle of being alway on top of everything.

The need for uber-productivity and the level it’s gotten to scare me a bit today. Read More