Humorous Public Information Channels

September 12, 2013 at 9:07 pm (computers, internet) (, , , , , , , , , )

More and more companies, services and people are using social media as part of their information channels to others.  You can get traffic information via twitter, local police information via Facebook, companies with blogs, pinterest, tumblrs and so on.

Most are run of the mill, ‘this happened’, ‘this will be happening’, ‘pay for this’, ‘safe money on this’ or just maybe ‘watch out for this’ type messages, but every now and again I come across someone who uses these new methods for communications in quite an inspired way.

The most recent example was the link up between Nestle kitkat and Google Android.  Google has a tradition of naming the latest version of their mobile operating system after confectionary, which is why you might hear the more geeky inclined talking about Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice cream sandwiches, Jellybeans … see the pattern?  Yes, the next release hotly anticipated in the geekery was to be K… what?  Kitkat ended up being the answer.

And wow, did Nestle run with it. was just inspired.  They presented the whole website in terms of technical specs, user experiences, versions … in short the presentation of a new piece of technology, but all talking about the humble kitkat.  “Eye candy that really does taste as good as it looks.”  If you read to the bottom, my favourite part by far was the small print:

“Wow this really is small print isn’t it? Look how tiny it is. How are you even reading this? Come to think of it, why are you even reading this?? This is no way to spend your break! You’ve just read all of that stuff about how awesome the KITKAT 4.4 is and you still haven’t run out and got one? Wow, tough crowd.”

Very inspired and really ceasing the moment.

Another interesting example of following the Internet flow (although not a social media example) was spam.  The makers of that small blue and yellow tin had an interesting choice on their hands when email became ubiquitous, as it wasn’t long before the word “spam” started to mean something else. came along in the 1990s and started the slow process of reclaiming the word, riding on the new use of the term and people searching for information about it on the Internet,

I think they just had to accept that no matter what anyone said, no-one would ever call spam email UCE (unsolicited commercial email).  So, grin, bear it and embrace it.  Including the reasoning for why unwanted email was called spam in the first place – forever tying tinned meat to Monty Python to computer networks.

“Use of the term “spam” was adopted as a result of the Monty Python skit in which our SPAM meat product was featured. In this skit, a group of Vikings sang a chorus of “spam, spam, spam . . . ” in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation. Hence, the analogy applied because UCE was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet.

We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE, although we do object to the use of the word “spam” as a trademark and to the use of our product image in association with that term. Also, if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters.”

There are times when a humourous account comes along that it just way more entertaining than an official communications channel.  My current favourite skit channel is the TLF Travel Alerts twitter.  It parodies Transport for London, who do actually have their own twitter feeds, but it is far, far more entertaining.  Here are some recent good tweets:

(I counted the cameras in Euston once … lost count after 150 or so)

You get the idea. So much more preferable, and often quite profound, compared to the normality of TFL (sorry).

But by far my favourite is the genius behind the Twitter account of Waterstones bookstore in Oxford Street.  I would love to know if this is an official account – it looks like it.  There is such a humble honesty in the humour in these tweets – my only personal gripe is that the tweeter is just a little too prolific for my own feed, so I don’t follow, just dip in and out.  But there are some real gems, and I often see them retweeted anyway.

Some examples:

Which reminds me of the fun they had when author Robert Galbraith was revealed as being none other than J.K. herself. Too much to quote here, but have a browse over this – lets just say they had a ball with this one. Oh go on then, just one.

Commercial use of social media at its best.


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Some Quirky Videos

December 24, 2012 at 12:16 am (art, interesting, internet, music, odds) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’ve recently got into Twitter, after having an account sitting unused for around 5 years and in that time some rather interesting, but slightly quirky videos have wandered past my twitter feed.

The Christmas Almost Number 1

First of all, a great candidate for a Christmas #1, but unfortunately they didn’t make it. They should have done.  Funny, slightly tongue in cheek, a little humble, and musically very accomplished, is “Christmas Gets Worse Every Year” by ‘The Other Guys’ – 12 students from St Andrew’s University, in Scotland.  See it for yourself here:

Thanks to the QI Elves (@qikipedia) for that one.

A Pale Blue Animation

This is a nice animation to accompany Carl Sagan’s monologue ‘A Pale Blue Dot’, itself inspired by the most distant photograph taken of Earth – a photograph from Voyager 1 from a distance of almost 4 billion miles away .  A thought provoking, perspective giving monologue with a slick animation to nicely drive home the meaning. See it here:

Thanks to Robin Ince (@robinince) posting in Brian Cox’s Twitter feed (@ProfBrianCox).

A Father-Daughter Yearly Pilgrimage

This is a nice story – every year Steve Addis takes his daughter to the same street corner in New York and takes a photo of him holding her.  Something that started when she was a year old.  This is a TED talk he shares his 15 most treasured photos from doing this, and the experience of getting a random stranger to take their picture – and how no-one has ever declined.  See it here:

I can’t remember where I first saw that one retweeted, but now I subscribe to TED Talks (@tedtalks) to make sure I don’t miss any more.

Don’t Assume Anything

This is another one that I saw courtesy of a retween from someone and then followed up.  It took me to the site of Richard Wiseman, that contains a number of very well done videos that challenge your views of the world – this is a particularly nice optical illusion.  See it here:

Now I follow Richard Wiseman (@RichardWiseman) too.

The Boy and His Robot

This is a lovely tale about a boy and is robot companion.  It combines the imaginary with the real, an idea of a fantasy future with the here-and-now and love, hate and dependency.  You might be tempted to click back after a couple of minutes to whatever you were doing before, but don’t – I thoroughly recommend watching the full 12 minutes.  Its sensitively surprising.  See it here:

Thanks to IO9 (@io9) for that one.

So a very interesting first few weeks on twitter – long may it continue.



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Colossal Artistic Discovery

December 2, 2012 at 10:03 pm (art, interesting) (, , , , , , , , )

I just stumbled across this blog today – In the owners own words:

I like to describe Colossal as a blog that explores the intersection of art, design, and physical craft, specifically artwork that is tactile, physical and non-digital in nature. Each week you’ll find roughly 20-25 posts on photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture, drawing and street art. There are frequently posts about things far out in left field, but generally Colossal is a reminder that in this digital age there are still countless people making incredible work with their bare hands.

Naturally there is a wonderful irony in using the tools of the digital age to promote art work that is firmly placed in the physical.  It is great that these works can reach such a large audience, and the owner of the blog appears to live up to his word when he states that he spends a lot of time considering what to include.

If you have the time, I strongly recommend browsing through the visual gallery (a visual index to all the posts).  If you want a quick taster, you could check out the top 20.  Otherwise, here are some of my favourites from the most recent entries.

Birds on Twitter – Someone has attached bacon and fat to a keyboard, and when birds land to peck at it, the result is a series of rather odd looking tweets to the @hungrey_birds twitter account – interspersed with various tweets about the project and a bit of this and that too.  Go back to March to see the tweeting birds …

Anamorphic Illusions – These are superb.  Paper based 2D illusions that look like 3D objects.  You just have to watch the video expose to appreciate what is going on here.

Cardboard Stop-motion Animations – This is a video where frames have been turned into paper cut-out frames which themselves have been stop-motion animated.  Again, you have to see the videos to appreciate this wonder.  Very, very clever and quite effective.

Cloned Video Animations – These are a set of animated gifs that give the impression of one of those repeated patterns you’d get on a zoetrope.  They are a bit large and slow to load, but well worth the effort and very slickly done.

Flawed Symmetry of Prediction – A time-lapse photography film that includes lots of amazing skylines, elements of graffiti and some perspective based optical illusions.  It’s very well done.

Slit Scan Photography – what a great effect!  And there is a classic moment where someone wanders by in the back corner of the video and goes a little wobbly too!  This had me wandering off to wikipedia to read more about the technique – although I must admit I’m still not really any the nearer in understanding it …

Moleskine Notebooks Stop-motion Animation – an interesting idea, just take notebooks and animate a scene or several.  Very smooth and inventive.

… and that just takes me back through a single month of the posts!  I think this website will keep me busy for some time to come.


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Such Tweet Sorrow

May 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm (art, internet) (, , , )

What do you get if you cross the bard with the bird?  A running, ‘live’ commentary of one of Shakespeare’s plays, in small 140 character chunks.  That is the purpose of Such Tweet Sorrow, sponsored by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

It is relaying the story of Romeo and Juliet with tweets from the main characters as the plot unfolds.  There are tweets from 6 actors, improvising within the storyline over a 5 week period, starting on April 10th.

A very interesting idea.  And if the Royal Opera House can do Second Life, why can’t the RSC tweet the major literary works.

Its great to see old media meeting new media.  It will be interesting to see what kind of reception it gets and if they’ll do another one.


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Mobile Phone back channel at concerts

March 22, 2010 at 10:03 pm (art, internet, music) (, , , , , , , , , )

There have been a couple of occasions recently where I’ve had a difference highlighted to me between the times when I used to perform in concerts at school and kids performing in concerts today.  The difference I am talking about here is the mobile phone.

I’ve seen presentations where people are using social media as a back channel, for example using twitter to provide live feedback or discussion to presenters.  Its quite a different style of presenting, giving the presenter a chance to tailor their presentation to the audience … or giving the audience a chance to gang up on the presenter if things don’t go well!

However, I’ve now started to see times when what could be considered a more traditional concert is augmented by the use of (silent of course) mobile phones.  In the first instance, daughter was performing, and we happened to have the misfortune of having the guy with the biggest hair in the group sitting in front of her, right between us!  So a quick text later, and daughter shifts her chair on stage and all is good (yes, the phone was in her pocket whilst on stage).

In the second instance, I was watching another performance in an informal setting, and could see a number of people sending texts to each other.  How good would it be to have an official mobile-driven back channel at a classical concert, where performance notes could be published and the audience could engage in discussion about the music.  Sort of like a live version of the teletext programme notes that accompany performances on BBC 3 (or 4?), but with an added chat part too.

You see a little of this going on in virtual worlds.  There are many instances of ‘live’ performances in the virtual world of Second Life for example, and during the concert, where avatars are dancing, sitting or standing ‘watching’ a performance, with the music streamed to their owner’s PCs, there is usually quite a bit of chatter.  Both private chat as in instant messaging, but also group public chat going on. Its quiet, it doesn’t interfere with the music and it enhances the performances by providing a live context to what is going on.  There are lots of other uses for back channels in virtual world events too.

It would be really interesting to see if this kind of thing will start happening in real, more traditional, live concerts.  There have been one or two ‘dipping of toes’ into this area already.  The ENO for example, has Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.  However, I’m not aware that social media back channels have started to appear at concerts and performances yet (if you know otherwise, do send me a reference or link).

(Maybe the 21st century equivalent of John Cage’s 4’33” would be a large screen showing a twitter feed).

I think that, in general terms,  when it starts happening, it would be a good thing.


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