Here’s how to check if your Facebook data was shared with Cambridge Analytica

Facebook has provided a link where you can check if you (or your friends) shared your Facebook data with Cambridge Analytica.

Apparently, mine has not.

Interestingly, one of the biggest misconceptions over the Cambridge Analytica scandal is that there was some sort of “leak” of data from Facebook. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

What occured is that Cambridge Analytica created a Facebook app – thisisyourdigitallife – that asked people questions where they willingly handed over their data (after providing informed consent). Pre-2015, these people also gave consent for this third-party app to see what their Facebook friends were doing also.

Given that the average person has approximately 130 Facebook friends, if 270,000 people used this app, then it stands to reason that Cambridge Analytica has data on more than 35m people. There are some reports that this figure is much higher, around 87m people.

Either way, as I wrote in this piece covering what Facebook and Google knows about you, if the product is free, you’re the product.

What does my Facebook data say about me – and how do I access it?

What is Facebook / Google Data?

Wherever you go online, you leave information behind about yourself. This is referred to as your “digital footprint”.

Consider everything you do when you’re online:
Check into your favourite bar on Facebook.
Post an image of a great dinner at a particular restaurant.
Conduct a Google search for a car.
Fill in an enquiry form.
Visit a website and look at a sneaker product page.

All of these activities leave a “digital trail” of data, that with enough smarts, a good digital marketer can connect the dots on this activity and potentially build an image of you as a person. This “unique” profile may be anonymous; in other words, I may understand that there’s a person who has been undertaking certain activities that lead me to believe that they are buying a car, however I may not know your name, email address or anything specifically about you.

This is known as the difference between anonymous vs attributed data. I may identify one or more groupings of data, and infer that there’s a person wandering around car websites and clicking on car ads, but I may not really know it’s you.

However, the moment you link your Facebook profile or enter your email address, then I can get very specific about you. I will know your name, maybe your age, maybe your address, and I can use a data enrichment program to flesh out more – maybe even take your public posts and other publicly available data to “fill out” your profile.

This is done in order to understand certain things that may allow me a very specific “sell”. For example, if I can see that you have children, I may do better by selling you a 4WD than a two-seater sports car.

How do Facebook and Google know how to target me in this way?

Facebook and Google make money by selling advertising space that is targeted, so I may set up “audiences” within their platforms in order to target you better. Using a pool of advertising content, which I like to call “Content as a service”, I might create hundreds of ads, each of which are slightly different, and each of which might have a slightly different reason to buy the car. For example, three variations on the ad might be:

  1. This car can fit the whole family
  2. This car is fuel efficient
  3. This car is designed and built in Germany

I will deploy those ads on Facebook and Google networks and say to them: Please find me audiences of people who are attracted to that advertising. I may then link certain “marketing automation” elements to optimise further. so if you visited the car website and spent some time on the “fuel efficiency” page, I may communicate that visit so that Facebook and Google know to send you the ad on fuel efficiency.

But Facebook and Google may also know more about you, and are in a far better position to target you than just my assumption based on a website you clicked.

How much do Facebook and Google know about me?

Using these steps, I’ll help you extract all of the data that Facebook and Google know about you – and also the information that apps you’ve installed might know about you.

1. How to access your Google data

Visit: ​​https://myactivity.google.com

If you’ve got a Google account (which many billions of people do), then every Google search, YouTube video you’ve watched, every Google Home voice enquiry and every place you’ve visited is logged and tracked here. Every website you’ve visited from a Google search is there. And if that website has Google Analytics installed (which nearly every website in the world does), then Google will know what you’ve visited, how long you visited for, and what activities you undertook on that site. Further, they know about your location, IP address, device you visited on and plenty more.

2. How to access your Google Maps data

Visit: ​https://www.google.com/maps/timeline

As most people have a smart phone with GPS built in, Google asks for permission to track your location, even if the app isn’t active. In other words, passive tracking of your every move. This link allows you to understand where you’ve been, and allows Google to understand what your movements are, so it might be able to classify you as a “frequent restaurant goer” or “someone who has been visiting car yards” and therefore allow me as an advertiser to target you more effectively.

3. How to access your Google Ad Settings data

Visit: ​https://adssettings.google.com

This list shows “topics you like” and “topics you don’t like”. Googles uses searches, web visits and real life visits to understand your interests as a person. It then puts them into a list that only you can see. Advertisers then buy ads on the Google advertising network and may ask for “Everyone who is interested in buying a car within 20 kms of my car showroom”. This list is aggregated and you get served ads on that basis.

4. How to access your Google apps data

Visit: ​https://myaccount.google.com/permissions

If you use Google to log in to certain apps or websites (called social signon), while you make life easier by not having to remember many different passwords, it does give Google some access to data on the apps and websites you are logged in to. You can see what that access is, and what level of access from this page.

5. How to extract all of your Google data

Visit: ​https://google.com/takeout

Please note – this does not DELETE your data from Google, it only allows you to extract it. However you’ll see there’s a lot there, especially if you use a large number of Google apps and products, from Gmail to YouTube to Google photos.

6. How to track your YouTube search data

After Google itself, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world (Facebook’s search sucks). If you’d like to see what your entire YouTube search history is, click here: ​https://www.youtube.com/feed/history/search_history

7. How to track your YouTube view data

Here’s everything you’ve ever watched on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/feed/history

8. Here’s all of your Facebook data

There are a couple of levels of Facebook data. There’s what Facebook knows about you, and then there’s the apps that you have allowed to access your Facebook data.

In order to know who you’ve given access to, click this link: ​https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications&section=all
Here you’ll see a huge amount of apps and websites that you may have used to log in (again, Social signon in order to not have to remember multiple email addresses and passwords). Look through these, you may be surprised at how much detail you’ve granted some of these logons, especially the older (pre-2015) apps. These apps often have access to all of your photos, information and friends information. And – you’re the one that allowed them to do it. you can change it or simply remove access.

9. How to access your Facebook ad preferences data

Visit: ​https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/?entry_product=ad_settings_screen

Here you’ll see all of the various interests Facebook believes you have, based largely on things you’ve liked, things you’ve posted, ads you’ve clicked, places you’ve visited and sites you’re connected to.

10. How to access all of your Facebook Data

It’s extremely hard to lie to Facebook. While you can always put in a false name or username into Instagram or any other platform for that matter, Facebook is excellent at getting the truth out of you. While websites and platforms of old had “usernames” and crazy handles, Facebook rewards honesty: Your real name, your real birthday, your real data. It punishes you by not putting in your true data by not connecting you to your friends as well, an in-built reward mechnism. Therefore it’s by far the most powerful means to gather data on people.

In order to understand what Facebook knows about you, download your Facebook data via this link: ​https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=account – then go to “Download a copy of your Facebook data” on the bottom of the text.

The moral to the story

If you don’t want to share your information online, then it’sbest you don’t register for free services. Remember the truism: If the product is free, you’re the product. There is a tradeoff between what you give and what you get; in marketing this is known as a “value exchange”. If you must use Facebook and Google (which in all honesty I must say are superb services), then be aware that information you share with them and through them with other organisations must be something you are happy to share.

These organisations (and most marketers) treat data with respect – after all, it is a privilege to have information on customers. However be aware of what this data is, how this data might be used, and the nature of the value exchange.

I’m in B&Ts “Meet the Futurists” – marketing trends & predictions

B&T has come out with a new feature, “Meet The Futurists”. They asked me and a number of fellow marketing and advertising leaders what our views (predictions) were about marketing trends.

My answers covered: the media industry, digital marketing, the advertising industry, blockchain, marketing science (Ehrenberg), lean startup principles in marketing, artificial intelligence and plenty of other areas.

Here’s the piece on marketing trends / futures (click the image to download the PDF):

Here is the full interview:

What’s your one BIG FUTURE prediction for media in the coming years?

Media will go from a people heavy industry to a technology platform heavy industry. Artificial intelligence will drive applied media outcomes, where a couple of smart media strategists sitting across a number of software platforms will replace the jobs of thousands. This will massively erode margins and make most media companies shrink and die. Further, blockchain media attribution will provide clients with transparency they can only dream of now. These platforms will democratise the industry, drive increased transparency and trust, and better media and client outcomes, making it easy for any creative / comms / PR agency or client to take media buying in-house.

How will our workplaces change to suit?

In the old days, organisations grew, and with scale they gained certain economies: The ability to buy expensive barriers to entry, the ability to purchase sophisticated computers and software platforms, and the ability to hire top talent via expansive human resources departments that would ensure new entrants were facing an extremely steep battle in matters of cost, quality and scale.

However that has all changed. It’s now the opposite, as highly sophisticated software is available at a per seat, per month basis. Talent is now accessible via open online markets such as Linkedin. Huge computer systems that were once physical are now virtual, such as AWS. And even the manufacturing of goods and services has been commoditised via trading platforms such as Alibaba. Any founder or entrepreneur has BETTER access and ability than enterprise. A credit card is more agile than a procurement department.

So, the only advantage large businesses have over small businesses is their access to capital. But because large organisations don’t generally adhere to lean principles, they are afraid of marketing-based validation, and have mountainous layers of bureaucracy, their capital is wasted.

Our workplaces will therefore become smaller, more agile and more focussed. Like creative industries such as music and film, where vast swarms of teams gather to work on projects at various phases of production, marketing workplaces will be a mix of highly specialised people supported by a “sexy stack” of software, virtual assistants and AI bots enhancing and applying our knowledge and skills at scale.

Algorithms are fast replacing human brains. Should the thinkers and the creators be worried?

Linking neural networks and machine learning to marketing science will drastically simplify marketing strategies, tactics and approaches, and it make marketing much easier and more effective. Thinkers and creators will be empowered – most of the work of people in advertising, marketing and media could be easily replaced and most likely will be in the next three or four years. Audience identification, profit / revenue growth strategy, product optimisation, profit pool estimation, budget allocation, channel resource allocation, media planning, media buying, media optimisation, creative optimisation and workflow management can all be done with software now. Creativity, ideas, insights, innovation and corporate strategy cannot yet be done by machines. Creatives and planners should be fine – for the foreseeable future.

What will brands increasingly have to do to stand out above “the noise”?

As Peter Drucker once said: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions; marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

So how do brands then distinguish themselves with marketing and innovation and stand out above the noise? By adopting marketing science and lean startup principles. Marketing science is yet to make serious inroads, and until it is accepted rather than seen as a subjective fad, then marketers and agencies will truly struggle to achieve great results, and therefore be taken seriously by business leaders.

One of key challenges here is ensuring there is something to talk about – the products and services must be superb and distinctive. However the product innovation and product development lifecycles in business are generally too slow to outpace competition, so distinctiveness and excellence are increasingly difficult.

Further: Most efforts in business around ideas, products and innovation is merely internal noise – LMNA (Lots of Meetings, No Action). Worth nothing until it is shipped.

So therefore, market-validated innovation must play a more substantial role. Shipping and testing product variations, ideas and communications to new markets rapidly and iteratively is the only way brands will survive. Test every idea, every innovation, every suggestion at great reach – and learn in a mature, failure-filled way.

IBM Watson API: Artificial intelligence as a Service

In the past supercomputing was only accessible to large corporations who could afford to fork out tens of millions of dollars to set them up. However, with the rapid advancement of technology, computing has become much more affordable and accessible. Nowadays you don’t have to spend millions of dollars to access some of the world’s most powerful computer systems. In fact IBM is offering some of their Watson services to developers for free during the beta period.

Watson is an artificially intelligent system designed by IBM to process information in a more natural and human like manner. Watson continues to get smarter by tracking user feedback.

IBM is now offering developers the ability to use Watson via their cloud platform, BlueMix.

The current Watson services IBM are offering for public use are:

  • Concept Expansion: Maps euphemisms or colloquial terms to more commonly understood phrases
  • Concept Insights: Explore the concepts behind the input, identifying associations
  • Language Identification: Identifies the language in which text is written
  • Machine Translation: Globalise on the fly. Translate text from one language to another
  • Message Resonance: Communicate with people with a style and words that suits them
  • Question and Answer: Direct responses to users inquiries fuelled by primary document sources
  • Relationship Extraction: Intelligently finds relationships between sentences components (nouns, verbs, subjects, objects, etc.)
  • Speech To Text: This service provides highly accurate, low latency speech recognition capabilities.
  • Tradeoff Analytics: Helps make better choices under multiple conflicting goals. Combines smart visualisation and recommendations for tradeoff exploration
  • User Modeling: Improved understanding of people’s preferences to help engage users on their own terms
  • Visual Recognition: Analyses the visual content of images and videos to understand their content without requiring a textual description

This is a big deal for businesses around the world because this access and these capabilities were previously only available to large corporations and researchers. This means anyone has access to the forefront of technology. Now developers can use these services to easily build applications that do very advanced things for minimal initial investment.

For example the Visual Recognition service could form the basis of a digital asset management system which could automatically tag and categorise uploaded images and videos. User feedback could be fed back into the system to progressively improve the quality of the tagging and categorisation.

The Message Resonance service could be used to help improve the effectiveness of EDM campaigns. You could input social media feeds of customers and then have it analyse a draft EDM to see if the word choice fits the audience.

By making it easy for developers to interface with Watson, they are providing the AI with a firehose of learning material. It is likely that the capability, accuracy, and raw power of this and similar services will grow ever more rapidly in the coming months and years.

The service is still in beta, and while the live demos are hit and miss, they provide a glimpse of what is possible.

 

20 x 12 – 20 Trends for communicators in 2012

I’ve compiled a list of 20 trends for communicators for the next 12 months.  Enjoy!

1. True Digital Communications
What many people in our industry call “digital” is just online communications. Truly “Digital” operations occur across three layers: Hardware, Software and Online. Most agencies and companies have played with Online (Social , Facebook, online communications and content, ads and so on), dabbled in Software (software as a service, apps, calculators, tools and games) and have left Hardware to their staff hobbyists, if at all.

We’re going to see some truly digital operations in the marketing and communications space, led by the big integrated agencies and/or marketing companies. Large scale technology builds to augment shopper experience and facilitate awareness and sales should be part of every marketeer’s ambitions. What is more likely over the shorter term are smaller, cheaper, more nimble executions such as: merging digital displays with other media, ensuring that point of sale systems share APIs with social networks, and building low cost gadgets and tools to facilitate communications and sales (potentially starting with LittleBits, Cubelets and other low cost electronics).

2. The Internet of Things
We’re going to see a genuine value exchange – internet connected everyday household items provided cheaply (or freely) in return for advertising opportunities. With the rise of the “internet of things”, where every day household items such as fridges, alarm clocks and even toothbrushes become connected to the internet, we’ll see them become advertising and communications displays – a home full of screens. Advertising has funded the FTA TV industry in many countries; phone calls, SMS and data have subsidised mobile handsets. The freemium business model, so popular with software, will begin to expand into consumer hardware. Data, paid for by advertisers, feeding content to devices paid for by advertisers. Clocks that provide sponsored news updates, weather vanes that give you the temperature and an advertisement for clothing are just two examples of how marketeers might create new owned media channels.

3. Digital Austerity
2012 is about simplicity and austerity. The death of the campaign site has been coming for a long time, but finally, communicators are beginning to realise that in order to build distinctive, memorable brand assets, AUniqueWebsiteForAShortTermCampaign.com is a complete waste of time and money. Short term campaign constructs lead to efforts being made dragging people to that campaign construct such as short-term Facebook Fan page, short lived apps and other useless elements, rather than getting their brand noticed, remembered and understood through developing long term brand assets – the foundations of a brand – offline and online. The corollary of cutting down a variety of different campaigns and distraction marketing is that people will notice your brand more, rather than noticing your advertising. Branded, consistent distribution points for communications should always be increased.

4. The Last Campaign
2012 should see big changes in the way many marketing departments operate, away from the on-off “campaign mentality” that has hurt so many brands with visibility gaps and lack of reach, to more realtime marketing – always listening, always responding, always mentally available, always reaching consumers. The only way to achieve this is for many companies to move away from seasonal, quarterly and campaign budgets based on time, and move towards more modal budgeting – in order to reach, to tell stories, to create distinctive brand assets, to engage and entertain – all at the same time, over time, all the time.

5. Sentiment ain’t what it used to be
While social media monitoring, conversation analysis are essential elements to learning and developing qualitative communications insights, one of the most useless elements to it, sentiment analysis, will hopefully die a quick and sudden death. There is not a digital marketing practitioner worth his salt that believes sentiment analysis is anything more than gimmickry. So much more can be gained through analysis of issues at a qualitative level, keyword analysis and a spread of sites and conversations. Conversation monitoring firms should stop peddling this snake oil and actually provide better value by being able to monitor sites where truly insightful conversations occur – primarily Facebook and online forums / discussion boards.

6. Data and Analytics
Big Data is the new oil, the new plastics, the new “social media”. Forget retweets, likes and other soft metrics – Big Data analysis allows for any organisation to understand their huge data sets in a way that will fundamentally change the way they manage their businesses. From working out how to predict when insurance claims will be made, to the likelihood of hospital visits based on previous visits to a local doctor, to the correlation between temperature and beer consumption, companies like Kaggle are making high quality big data analysis cheaper and easier. Google Correlate helps banks understand the most likely timing and location of mortgage enquiries just as it has helped the US Center for Disease Control understand the timing and location of virus outbreaks. And on a small data analysis scale, companies like Betaworks, with their stable of brands such as Bitly and Chartbeat, and ISP based sources such as Experian Hitwise and eCommerce analytics tools are essential tools that have suffered from less visibility because they’re not the new, new thing, but they are incredibly important, and 2012 will see them recognised as such once again.

7. The Game Layer
2012 is the year that game dynamics or “gamification” crossover into the every day. Gamification is, in simple terms, a series of emotional mechanics communicators and marketeers can use to encourage purchase or incite reaction. A traditional example of gamification is happy hours in pubs. If you attend a pub (location) at a specific hour (time) you receive half price beers (discount reward). Airline rewards points are similar: purchase a flight (transaction), and you’ll get points (artificial reward points). The more you purchase, the more points you earn, therefore you increase your status (level-up) for greater benefits (point reward status). This is no different to addictive games, where the more you play, the more experience you earn (XP), the better your weapons / players / options. Humans are irrational, emotional beings. The key for communicators and marketers isn’t to change the way they communicate, but to change the way they get noticed and increase relevant associations with their communications, building a “game layer” over their existing communications and marketing.

8. One Hundred Seconds of Solitude
Solitude and silence will make a considerable comeback in 2012. Shutting down notifications, turning off phones, removing oneself from data access will become more and more valued. Out of office replies and voicemail is diminishing, with the expectation that we’re always connected, always plugged into the network. As a result, we’ve seen a consumer backlash in the form of email bankruptcy (deleting one’s entire inbox and writing an out of office alerting people that anything they’ve sent over that period has been lost/deleted) and overall attention deficit, not a disorder, but the deliberate lack of attention. Now we’re seeing apps such as MacFreedom that allow you to block the internet for up to 8 hours – and as the name suggests, earn “freedom” from notification. International holidays have an unintended benefit in that the prohibitively high mobile data costs stop people from checking in on the road, allowing a respite from notification fatigue (which for some is an asphyxiating disconnection).

9. Attention Shifting
From Instapaper to uTopic to Pinterest to YouTube’s “Watch This Later” to Safari’s “Reading List” – we’ve moved from appointment based media such as traditional TV and radio to time-shifting media such as podcasts and video recording to now “attention shifting”. We see it now, we can access it now, but we’re not ready to actually consume it and think about it now. These tools are in essence “Wishlists” for free content – despite it being free (cost-wise), we’re not free (time-wise). We’re going to see a lot more of these tools, “Attention shifting shopping carts”.

10. Advocacy Fatigue
Why listen to loyalists? They’re buying already. As for their reach, it’s limited, despite the protestations of many a social media “guru”. The excellent Ehrenberg-Bass Institute recently found that less than 1% of existing Facebook Fans were actively engaged in their Fan Pages, and existing fans didn’t buy any more of the products compared to non-fans. The social media industry needs to focus on reach, rather than niche; the industry needs to use social conversations as a means to understand what people are thinking, the questions they are asking, and what they’re searching for and visiting, rather than defining success on the actions of the very few “likes” and “fans”. What is more important is to speak to the many people who aren’t buying, talking, sharing, liking and blogging about your brand – the everyday consumer, non-existent or light buyers of your brand. Many social media campaigns ignore this very obvious paradox: the very people who are the lightest consumers (who are the source of sales growth) are the very ones who aren’t engaged, who aren’t participating, who aren’t fans – and who have little or no interest in the brand. Further, with the exception of high involvement purchases, current fans are unlikely to advocate to these others on your behalf.
Provide better communications to get noticed by the uninformed and disinterested – yes, involve the key opinion leaders, involve the niche if you have the luxury – but effective storytelling has to happen across media, for the many, not just the few.

11. Social Signon
Here’s a puzzle: If you consider the entire Hotmail user base, where are the largest number of users based? If you answered China, you’re wrong. Japan? No. India? Indonesia? Brazil? United States? Germany? United Kingdom? All incorrect. the answer is AFGHANISTAN. Before you wrack your brain considering the reasons why, the simple answer is that Afghanistan is the first country that comes up in the login / signup page, therefore people click Afghanistan rather than scrolling down and accurately filling in information. People are sick of signing up and logging in, but this isn’t new – 88% of people claimed to have provided incorrect information when joining services in 2011, up from 76% in 2010, according to a recent survey for Janrain. Facebook Connect – using Facebook to automatically fill in signup documents and login isn’t new either – however 2012 is the year when “Social signon” will move towards universal adoption. By the end of 2012, sites that do not offer social signon (whether via Facebook, Google Account or Twitter), and true connections to the social graph, will suffer drastic declines in visitation, interaction and most importantly, the ability to deliver customised content and advertising to users.

12. The Tyranny of Popularity
Facebook is making it easy – too easy – to automatically share our activities. We read an article on the Guardian or Washington Post Website, and it automatically adds it to our Facebook feed. We don’t even have to like it – simply participate, and it shares automatically, “frictionless sharing”.
There is a problem with this – there’s so much info out there. Facebook is breaking with its past of “Top Stories” and moving the other way – overwhelming us with more information than we need – or like. While sharing is always important to the sharer, too much sharing is a burden on the consumer. That’s the key problem with Twitter – it’s a torrent, not a stream. In the era of information overload, and attention bankruptcy, we now have too much from Facebook. Most people aren’t good at working out what’s interesting to others and what isn’t, so we require filters to identify the best stories and content – some filters are professional people such as editors, while other filters use aggregate measures such as clicks and “likes” and serve us the most popular. If something becomes popular, it moves to the top of social rankings, which begets popularity, whether the content is “good” or not. The only way to ensure that the most popular content changes on many sites is to introduce decay rates to content that ensure even popular content falls off the perch quickly enough that people won’t get bored by it. Google overcame this issue, what was known as the “Google effect“, when it used to promote the most clicked link higher up the search order. Since then, they’ve improved their algorithms to ensure that it’s not just the most popular (ie: social), but the most relevant and most authoritative link that gets promoted, but this will change in 2012 with increased social search results.

13. The Payment Layer
Digital has lead to an explosion of channels across so many industries – from music to social to content to platforms. However, one of the holy grails of the internet – reliable, universally acceptable and rigorous payment systems are rare. After PayPal, there is daylight. WePay, MoneyBookers, Amazon Payments and Bitcoin (despite it’s recent troubles) are potential challengers, while Square’s growth has been slow and steady.
Google Wallet is slowly growing, while Near Field Communications will be integrated into everything from digital panels to vending machines to supermarket checkouts – allowing us to pay by waving our mobile phone over a payment terminal. Once payment systems become more sophisticated and allow us to pay in increments of hundredths of a cent, then we may see an improvement in the way copyright is adequately remunerated outside of specific distribution channels, from text to images to video to audio.

14. The Rise of APIs
APIs, Application Programming Interfaces, are ways in which software programs communicate with each other. Simply, it’s how you’re able to get the weather on your iPhone app – the weather bureaux (or source of content) creates an API that your mobile weather app accesses in order to find out what your local weather forecast is. APIs aren’t just used for weather, but by organisations of all different types to open up their systems and allow people to build apps, software, games and solutions using that information. A perfect example of that is the NYSE, who opened up all of their data in the form of APIs, so that people would create software that analyses, tracks and provides solutions related to any part of the NYSE. Another example is auto manufacturer – General Motors has recently created a number of APIs in their cars, allowing people to control elements of the car’s operation using their mobile app – whether starting the car remotely, or setting off a map based alarm to warn the person that they should stop as they approach a petrol station. APIs aren’t just about access, but about building an ecology around products and services for the betterment of the consumer. American Express and FourSquare trialled a system whereby offers and specials through Foursquare were automatically redeemed if a person used their American Express card – without staff or consumer having to wave a coupon or delay the transaction. All of this powered by their respective APIs. 2012 will see a boom in APIs as organisations see the benefit of opening up their APIs and allowing customers, suppliers and consumers to mash up the benefits and reap the respective rewards.

15. The Internet is Leaking
As much as we love our flash in the pan status updates, tweets and other digital ephemera, people are looking for a reversion to the tangible, the tactile, the real. It’s been happening for a while, but there are a distinct lack of providers in this space. Berg has just launched Little Printer, a prototype for a “social printer”, a means to deliver up to the second status updates, weather reports, photos, coupons and other ephemera in printed form. Apple have recently added a very useful “Cards” app, that allows iPhone users to send greeting cards direct from their mobile phone using photos they’ve just taken. From the NewspaperClub.com to Postagram to Printstagram, tactile options are on the rise. As wonderful as digital is, it’s not great at giving us texture, despite the proliferation of Instagram and Hipstamatic film grain packs. 2012 will provide us with many more examples of where the Internet has leaked into our rooms.

16, Mesa Checkins
Forget checking into a venue – what are you eating there? What is the event you’re attending? 2012 will see an explosion in the detail checkin – not the generic venue, but the specific product, service or event. If I want the best spaghetti bolognese within 1km, a check-in service such as Oink will help me find it (despite it recently being purchased and shut down by Google). I might not be a fan of a sports stadium, but I’m a fan of the team who are playing there that day. Mesa checkins – “mesa” coming from the Greek “inside”, tend to be more active – I’m “watching” / “eating”, rather than the passive “I’m at”. Mesa checkins are also rapidly extending into traditional media, with an increasing number of media-synching apps that allow us to check-in to songs (Shazam, SoundHound) and TV shows (Miso, GetGlue, Into_Now, Meta Mirror, Flingo, Media Sync and GOAB) while we’re watching them.

17. Life Telemetry
Formula One cars are at the bleeding edge of electronic innovation, particularly their telemetry systems that monitor hundreds of variables on a car and instantly send the information back to base, in order to provide the teams with the ability to modify the performance of the car, thus improving performance. With mobile phones in every pocket, with accelerometer, compass, microphone, camera and other sensory inputs, why not track every element of your life and thereby improve your performance? Whether it be tracking your sleeping patterns with sleep apps such as Sleep Cycle, monitoring your calorie intake with LoseIt! or your jogging distances with Nike+Fuelband, the mobile device as sensor and quality infographics as output should increasingly allow us to monitor our life telemetry – from calorie intake to productivity to moods.

18. Smarter Search
As good as Google is, it only supplies us with a list of links where it believes the information lies, rather than the information itself. The greatest online success stories are platforms for sorting and filtering information – Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Amazon – they are in essence elaborate curators / editors – with either ads or a retail store attached to monetise them. We require better search, “plain English” search, and actual answers, not results. From Google Squared (recently shut down) to Wolfram Alpha to Siri to Google+, we are in a new era of search wars, based on providing us with real answers and solutions with a social, local, intent / historical context.

19. Second Screen Culture
We’re all accustomed to text search. For many of us, Shazam was the first app we installed on our smartphone – with its wonderful ability to ID any song we might hear out and about. We may even be in the vast minority who scan QR codes to access product information. Increasingly, 2012 will see visual search increase dramatically, especially when shopping – note eBay’s recent introduction of visual search. Second screens such as mobiles and tablets will give every single element of a brand the ability to be multi-dimensional in its communications. Where visual and audio search will play an increasingly important role is using the mobile as a media enabler – where people want to know more about a product at point of sale, or while watching an advertisements, they’ll simply be able to point their mobile phone at the device and allow the product packaging to “speak”. 68% of Americans watch TV with their smartphone, tablet or laptop in hand. How many marketers are providing complementary content for this second screen?

20. Vertical Social Networks
In the “good old days” of the internet, people would gather around interests and hobbies. News groups, with names such as alt.music.house were large planets that we would orbit around. We gravitated around interests, not people. These communities evolved into online forums – on topics as varied as fashion to football to cars to politics to music. These online forums are still the primary and most popular way in which people converse online – bringing together total strangers, generally identified by pseudonyms, around one common interest. Social networking sites such as Facebook are different – they make the person the “planet” – self-focussed, with a person’s life being the major topic that others gravitate towards. Vertical social networks bring together people who aren’t necessarily friends, but gather around an interest, just like online forums. The difference being they link the best of forums with the best of social networking; around specific topics. LinkedIn is a good example – people brought together around careers and business networking. Sermo is another – a social network for medical professionals and doctors to discuss medical issues. Myspace went from a social network, to trying to become a vertical social network around music, looking for focus and a specific interest to provide a hook for users. 2012 will see more and more of these vertical social networks arise, with the key being that they are mobile enabled – localised and using the cameras and microphones on phones to bring content “from the street” to the network instantly. PearlTrees, FoodSpotting and GetGlue are three examples; by the end of the year, there’ll be many, many more.

Safari's "Reader" poses problems for advertisers

Apple has just launched an updated version of the Safari web browser. One of the key features is an in-built “reader”, that identifies an article (of any type) and displays it in a floating screen, free from clutter, advertisements and other content.

Content looks lovely in the reader – almost as it does on a printed page. Clean, simple, scrollable.

Check out these comparisons below:

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 8.43.06 pm (2)

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This will pose a big problem for advertisers, as people have now been given a simple way of avoiding ads. It’s a big issue for publishers, who have created an overwhelming, many might say ludicrous amount of advertising inventory on their sites, with digital advertisements such as “Over The Pages” and “Page Takeovers”, many of which are site initiated – disturbing and annoying us in a vain attempt to “disrupt” our reading and make us pay attention to the product.

Simply, now as much as ever, compelling, permission based content and engagement is crucial. Marketeers and organisations have to earn their permission to speak, to engage and to encourage reaction. So many marketeers have avoided the elephant in the digital room – that so few people even look at their ads, let alone interact with them. Their default options of raising awareness via mass digital media broadcast are simply running out.

Beautiful Information / Data Visualisation

We’ve said a few times that 2010 is the year of data visualisation; ways in which ordinary information can be visualised in a way that is practical and informative at a glance. In the old days, we were limited to visualising only small amounts of information, due to the cost of the materials. Time is money, so only thing we’d pay for, the only thing we could practically use to track and visualise is a diary – a way in which we could visualise our time in blocks over a day, week, month, year.

Now, technology is allowing us to track and visualise almost anything. This is now leading to an explosion of data visualisation (or visualization if you’re American) tools, and now merging art with data.

Here are a few ways people have made data visualisation beautiful:

David McCandless is a guru in this area. He’s a London-based author, writer and designer who “loves pie, hates pie charts”.
http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/

Information Aesthetics is designed and maintained by Andrew Vande Moere, a Senior Lecturer at the Design Lab at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning of the University of Sydney:
http://infosthetics.com

Here’s a collection of photos of the Boston Commons and a colour wheel based on the distribution of particular colours. User generated art.
http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2010/03/flickrs-season-wheel.html

Turn your music listening into a chart
http://www.leebyron.com/what/lastfm/

A site that finds tweets based on particular words / terms (I hate, I love, I think) and displays them on the screen in realtime
http://twistori.com/

Kiss my RSS – An Explanation of RSS

Why don’t more people use RSS? Let’s start at the beginning, with an answer to the question: “What is RSS?” The best way to describe it is as a subscription to all of your favourite websites in the form of a “ticker tape” style notification. It allows your favourite sites’ new content, stories, posts and images to be delivered to you, rather than having to visit those sites to get the content.

As soon as there’s some new content – in the form of a new news piece, new photo, new video, new comment, new post, new item – the RSS feed you’ve subscribed to from that site notifies you of the new content – and even delivers it to you.

Therefore, instead of spending all day trying to find content you might like on various websites, you can subscribe and customise RSS feeds, and the content you like finds you.

I subscribe to over 400 RSS feeds – unique sources of information – grouped around the following topics:

  • APAC Business
  • US Business News
  • Economics
  • Clients
  • Digital and Social Media
  • Fashion and Culture
  • Footy
  • Forums (Forums are where 98% of online conversations occur  – I subscribe to the most popular, across topics as varied as Automotive, Mums, Fashion, Music, Youth, Politics, Finance… You name it).
  • Friends
  • Greek Sites
  • Italian Sites
  • Insights
  • Marketing News
  • European Business
  • Asian Business
  • Middle East Business
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Music Business
  • News and Opinion
  • Planning
  • Politics and Liberty
  • Random Blogs
  • SEO / SMO / SEM Insights
  • Shopping
  • Statistics
  • Strategy
  • Trends and Future
  • Video

So – if you’d like to be able to read the sports section of the Herald-Sun, the Business section of The Australian, the Opinion section of The Age, YouTube videos tagged “Daicos”, blog posts from the von Mises Institute, the Restaurant Review section of the New York Times, the Collingwood Forum on BigFooty.com, and the latest fashion updates from [frockwriter], all in five minutes without having to swap between 100 websites, then RSS feeds are for you.

All you need to do is be on the lookout for the orange or blue RSS logo – on various websites, and you’re halfway there! Then, by using Google Reader, Netvibes or other RSS readers, you can subscribe to your favourite feeds.

Google Squared – Definitely Not for Nerds

Google has released a fantastic new search option called Google Squared – it structures unstructured data, puts it in a table, and makes compiling lists and information MUCH easier.

This a great evolution of search engines, making it simple to find relevant info at a glance. Instead of search engines providing a list links where the content might eventually be – they will evolve into a place where they curate and collect multiple reliable structured data sources and give us the ANSWER. We may well look back on the pages and pages of unstructured lists that make up search engines today and think – “how uncivilised”. Google Squared acts to structure this content, and provide some commonalities between the types of content.

How it is prioritiseed will be an interesting question – will Google prioritise based on typical search engine optimisation rankings of popularity of quality data, or will it now begin to prioritise based on the spread of quality data – for example a coffee shop that lists not only the description, address, business hours and cuisine – but also payment methods, disabled access, coffee bean menu, and other, more imaginative things like whether it has a YouTube identity by which it provides video barista classes? Alternatively, will Google provide sorting options – based on user criteria?

Whatever the case, it’s a stronger incentive for organisations of all types to ensure they build a quality, structured, informative presence across all content platforms.

The social media space has come down with swine flu

Swine flu is dominating Google search. For the past two days (in the US at least), discussions around “swine flu”, “pig flu” and other such iterations have at least 10 references in the top 100 US searches, according to Google Trends. While not in the top five searches, people aren’t simply searching for “swine flu”, they’re searching for “swine flu deaths in California” and other such specific references – breaking up the overall search.

It was the idea that people search for things related to illness that was the basis of Google’s Flu Trends – a service they set up in 2007-2008. Their thinking is that when people get sick, they’ll type in symptoms or descriptions of the illness into Google in an attempt to learn more about the disease – and cure. Google discovered that if there was an outbreak or a pandemic, that they would be able to predict it up to two weeks faster than the US Center for Disease Control (CDC). This is the power of Google – in terms of being a “database of intent”, it knows what people are doing & thinking because it knows what people are searching for, on a mass global scale.

The bottom line of search and online activity is – people want to know whether it is near them, and whether swine flu will kill them. So how has the social media space reacted?

The Wikipedia listing for Swine Flu refers to a mortality rate of around 10% (the Wikipedia page has been viewed 114,687 times so far in April vs 237 times in March – and edited over 100 times in the past day). Google Maps has a live map, listing every outbreak of swine flu – as it happens! The subject “swine flu” is the number 1 trending topic on Twitter. Nielsen Blogpulse is showing the topic making up over 1.75% of all blog posts today.