Personal Thoughts

Oct 13

Mid October Article Wave

Over the past few  months I noticed I haven’t been exposing myself  enough to what I would consider ‘smart reads’.  Working for Christopher Berry I would occasionally get what he coined ‘waves’ of  articles, many of which I still have in a make shift digital library.  As an exercise and a means of  getting some content up on here I figure I would start up my own version of this and try to get these ‘waves’ together as a means to summarize my own top reads for the month. The Goods:

Truthfully I need to sit down and give this a full read (perhaps a blog post is in order…) but the data set analysed on this one is massive! An analysis of 700MM words from 75,000 social media users is probably one of the largest studies of online text out there. What was done on here is pretty awesome as well. Looking at demographic and personality influences , the study takes a look at what common trends occur within these different subgroups . I figure I would group these together.

  • First there is this a research paper from JWT on The State of Men  which is a quant/qual analysis of the state of Western Men ( the sample is 500 American and 500 British guys) and shared knowledge from a select group of international experts.
  • A  great follow  up to the above article is Ad Week’s “The Millennial Male is Not Who You Think He Is“.  I think first it’s a great analysis of the not so rosy picture of the millennial guy,  but it also highlights the importance of  working off of  actual research vs. personal perception  in regards to audience insights and planning.

Next up is the article Analyzing bias in opinion polls using R which looks at whether there is bias in political polling . This blog post looked through 14 years of German polling data and did what I feel is a good job at visualizing and doing a comparative analysis of all its sources. To finish this off I’ve included two articles that are a bit more timely rather than deep. The big players online (Google and Microsoft) have started to reveal how they plan to combat the growing ineffectiveness of the tracking cookie in getting you  customized  ad results. The articles below share a glimpse of their individual plans:

So this was done  in a bit of an ad hoc manner but here are the articles that were top of mind for me over the past while.  As I mentioned earlier this is a project that I’d like to keep going on a monthly basis.  I’ll likely release the next wave in  mid November. If you want to join in on this, feel  free to share your own top reads for the past while in the comments below.

Mar 13

On Settling Into Somewhere New

After being without my family in Toronto and now Montreal I’ve learned that that there are certain places and activities that make living somewhere more comfortable.

I’ve now been 8 months in Montreal and  having a week off  has made me realize that there are certain things that make me more comfortable living out here. Recently my biggest discovery is that knowing the location of a good book store is important to me. Back in Toronto it was Swipe Books and now here in Montreal its Drawn & Quarterly. Having good quality books available to big creature comfort to me…. yup I’m a nerd.

There are other things that give me comfort. Whenever I’ve needed to think I find myself going to the Vieux Port/ Old Montreal to check out the old cobbled streets or have a view of the St. Lawrence seaway. I  also have two bakeries that I tend to frequent and a Thai fast food place I go to when I don’t feel like cooking. In terms of person to person contact I’ve also discovered the Montreal New In Town Meetup where I can go and grab beers with people who are in a similar spot to where I am.

Rather than just living in a place, I think connectedness is important and that’s where knowing things are comes into play. We aren’t just people who go from home to work and then home again. Having a feeling of familiarity and comfort in your surroundings helps with your state of mind.

What is important (for me at least) to do when you live in a new place?

  • Explore your neighbourhood. Knowing what is around in your immediate vicinity makes you feel more comfortable and as a side benefit can give you places to check out later for activities.
  • Find places relevant to your interests. Not having access to activities that you previously had can be a bit of a downer. Find a comfy coffee shop or seek out a place that provides access to the activities/classes that you’ve enjoyed. This provides you with a feeling of continuity.
  • Find a group of like minded people. Going to a place alone can be tough. Having a group of people that you can talk to and share experiences with makes things a bit easier and can relieve feelings of frustration and isolation.

So while I’ve been unpacked for a few months in Montreal I’m still sort of still settling in and understanding my surroundings. In another 8 months I’ll have to see where things go!



Jan 13

Old Becoming New Again: Getting an Old School Shave

If something is new, more technologically advanced or simply has more moving parts we tend to generally think that something is better. Simple means that someone hasn’t been thinking about something hard enough about making it better right?  Well I’ve learned in at least the case of shaving that this isn’t necessarily true.

First thing out of the way, I am one hairy dude and my hair tends to sprout up like weeds. If you were to do a poll of men to ask how often they shave I’m sure you’ll generally hear that they shave every two to three days. Well for me it’s almost every day with the exception of weekends and holidays where I tend to give my face a rest and just generally look like a hobo otherwise.

The downside I used to experience with growing in a thick mane is that multi blade razors would clog up  and become ineffective. Of course this then means that you’re constantly replenishing your razor supply.  This changed about a year and a half ago when a fellow co-worker of mine suggested I try out shaving with a safety razor (not so much like safety scissors) of which afterwards I was hooked!

The Experience:

After getting the metal handle ( a Merkur razor) and a 20 pack of blades I was set. It was a bit of a bigger upfront cost ( about $60)  but it felt really good having the metal handle in hand when I shaved. Outside of this my experience was generally the same as usual. I would wet my face, plaster on some shave gel or foam and then begin gliding the handle across my face.

In general, a clean blade netted me a really smooth experience. It feels like having the single blade results in a more accurate shave with less need to return to the same spot. With my face unfortunately nicks and cuts still occur but they’ve been less painful and much less unsightly which is a plus. All in all its an enjoyable experience.

Getting Sucked In:

Learning recently that a buddy of mine straight blade shaves as well has gotten my thinking of exploring my other options in shaving. Recently I’ve picked up a shave brush and soap package and have been experiencing a different way in how my face gets prepped and lathered up. Something about getting myself an antique razor handle also draws me in. Seeing the old pop open razors has a bit of an allure for some reason.

For something that men do fairly often in life, shaving is something that has become very casual and routine. What was once a social experience of going to the barber and getting a hot shave, has now become more of a commodity. For myself, noticing the small community of those who invest more into their regular shave I’ve started noting new products and to potentially add  to make my daily morning routine even better.Getting the parts I need may not be as easy as going around to the corner store but I’d consider that another part of the overall experience.




Apr 12

Why Isn’t Digital Marketing Doing More?

Having been in the trenches of the digital industry for a few years now, I’m starting to note that my optimism has begun to slow a bit. Based on general industry observations and recent conversations I’ve been having  the feeling that the industry has begun to slow down has started to fall on me.  As a specialty that often touts itself as game changing and disruptive I feel we haven’t been pushing enough of those boundaries lately.

Time To Demand Better!

Recently Facebook insights was down for nearly a week and this was the second time this year alone that this has happened. The biggest shocker for me has been that this didn’t make news at all and no one really spoke out about it. Instead everyone went on their way and hoped that Facebook would get to eventually fixing this problem. When we are looking to provide data and insights to our clients how is this acceptable?

From what I’ve observed, social networks and tool suppliers haven’t been doing a lot to really push the envelope. We haven’t gotten any closer to understanding our fans. We don’t have a better understanding of what our initiatives deliver. More often instead I feel we are left with ambiguity. The reason this isn’t changing is because we aren’t making it clear about what we want. As an industry we haven’t been putting any pressure on our suppliers who are instead themselves setting the agenda.

Demanding Better Of Ourselves!

As practitioners I feel we could push the envelope more as well. The race for fans still continues and we have yet to come to the determination of when we  don’t need any more fans! In terms of engagement we understand how people engage but we aren’t delving much deeper into why. To build better results we are asking people that follow us to “Like” or “Share” but we aren’t developing any better understanding of whether messaging resonates with our fan base or even if who we are advertising to are really the right people at all.

Looking Outside The Walls:

My feeling is that a lot of the time as individual firms we are looking to build our own buzz and aren’t bringing anything useful back to the industry. When I read the latest article from Ad Age or Mashable I’m rarely excited or blown away by a firm’s latest research report. Truthfully I’ve been more excited by what’s come out of the realms of academia and development.

When I’m reading academic journal articles such as “Consumer’s decision to shop online: The moderating role of positive informational social influence” or “Consumer Tribes: membership, consumption and building loyalty” that’s when I sit back and think ‘Wow that’s one more piece of understanding I have about how people work!”. With more resources and less hurdles to go through I don’t understand why we aren’t able to continually deliver ground breaking consumer research.

Time for Personal Reflection:

A potential problem with writing a post like this is that just about anyone can yell out “hypocrite!” and ask what I’m contributing. What I would have to say is that in the early part of this year I’ve been looking at ways at expanding my skill set and strengthening the work I do.  This year I don’t plan to read any of the countless social media books that have come out. Instead my goal has been to read more on topics outside the industry such as branding and research. Something I’ve also been spending a lot of time on lately is work in the social listening realm. I’ve been more active in asking questions on how things operate on the tool side and on developing stronger methodologies internally.

So this is my rant and a bit of a call to arms for digital marketing practitioners of all stripes. We’ve promised that what we do is ground breaking and innovative, let’s make sure that this is what we actually deliver!

Nov 11

Why I Sometimes Don’t ‘Like’ The Like

At times I have a bit of a love /hate relationship with the ‘like’ on Facebook posts and spread across the web.  I think we can all agree that it is an action, it’s a sign that someone’s awake or at least somewhat conscious of what they are clicking. What it isn’t? A sale of product or a sign that the user has just done about face and has professed their love  of your brand. Overall though there seems to be a sort of fixation on this simple engagement.

Like this if you like Puppies!

Asking users to like something does have its tactical uses. Those who are a bit educated about the ins and outs of the Facebook news feed know that a user engaging with a source’s content frequently equals a higher relevancy score to the content source. Throwing up a piece of content that is generally enjoyable and asking users to like it means that the relevancy score is  bumped up a few spots and fans are just a bit more likely to see your content. Does this mean you should flood your feed with “LIKE THIS!” content? Well if that’s the sort of depth you want your brand to have then go for it! What this won’t do is sell your product or improve a users thoughts on certain attributes of your product unfortunately.

Time to throw away the ‘like’?

Am I asking people to ignore the ‘like’ completely? Absolutely not! Should the like engagement be considered along with other factors? Yes!   Compare it to consumer response (what are people saying in the comments) , the propensity of users to like your key messaging compared to other content  and I could go on…. Measuring channel success  in my opinion means measuring how you are changing people’s perception of your brand and product. Are people more likely to talk positively about your brand and as a result  increasing sales because of WOM? Has your brand gone from being seen as stale to something that people have feelings for? And lastly at the end of it all have you been able to track increased dollars going into your firms bank account?  At the end of the day changing minds rather than encouraging clicks should be the end goal, not the afterthought.

Nov 11

Can I Get Dirty With Your Data?

The initial steps of data analysis; Collecting data from various sources, ensuring the accuracy of the data and then putting it all into a legible format. Doing the grunt work of social media analytics (or really any data analysis) is not the most fun or glamorous part of the process but through my experience I’ve learned that having this level of intimacy with your data is an important  part of in ensuring the delivery of solid insight and analysis .

Getting In Close With The Numbers

Having to compile the different parts of your data puts you at a level of closeness with it that is not as easy to get otherwise. Entering in each source and dealing with all the tools you see almost instantly when there is a gap or significant change within your metrics because you see all the data points in front of you. Compare this with just getting summary data and you just get a snap shot of the entire picture of what is happening. Let’s just say this is like taking your data out for the day compared to having a quick phone call with them. One is much more effective in getting your desired result than the other.

Dressing up your data. Picture C/O Exey Panteleev


Having Your Way with The Data:

When all of the grunt work is done and your data set is put together and prettied up you tend to already have a sense of what you want to explore when you actually go and do your analysis. You’ll know where all the sweet spots are and try to determine why things happened the way they did. Experiencing all the parts of the data as a whole rather than in separation there’s a better understanding of the linkages and causes of change in the data. You are better able to see where something went up as a result of X or Y action. By having your hands in everything means you are able to get in there and push the right buttons to get the best end result.

Growing Old Together:               

In my work there have been some data sets that I’ve dealt with for a LONG time, sometimes since their inception going months back. Much like a long term relationship with a person you can get a read on when things are going as per usual or even great but you can also see when there is a significant drop off or unexpected event. In this sense your mental set is more finely tuned to see the trends and linkages within your data store. When your data set is mad at you, you know almost immediately to do something to fix it!

The 'sexy' end result. Picture C/O @BenLucier


Setting Yourself Up For The “Money Shot”

When all is said and done, the data is all in and you’re fully into writing the report, by knowing your data you are able to tell the right story and enter in the best summary metrics to share with your client. In the end, the job of an analyst is to see the data and make sense of it in the best way possible for your specific audience. Your “money shot” in all of this is when your client is sent off with the best insight and recommendations that they can take action on. When they are happy that they are seeing improvement in their operations or learning something useful that they can apply to their business this means increased results and profit for your organization. Essentially  something people will pay to see ;).

Nov 10

The Evolution of Gamer Camp

In  the last session I attended at this year’s Gamer Camp Benjamin Rivers spoke about how the way we interact with games and with others while playing  games has changed over the years. Similarly in looking back at this year’s Gamer Camp I think there has also been  a dramatic (and awesome!) shift in the way the event has flowed and developed this year over last.

Having attended last year’s Gamer Camp I was like an impatient kid on Christmas Eve waiting for this year’s Gamer Camp to arrive and I definitely wasn’t let down. Starting from just an idea  between Jamie Woo and Mark Rabo in fall 2009, this year’s Gamer Camp which occurred  on Nov. 13 and 14 grew to become not only much  bigger but also very different.

While keeping with the original format of Gamer Camp 1 on the first day I have to say that the addition of Day 2 was the most exciting. Set in the school of design at George Brown College the whole event was really opened up for attendees to explore and interact with the speakers and each other. Rather than a linear list of speakers, everyone in attendance was able to go from session to session or even not go at all having free reign to check out the classic game emulators, indy gaming cabinets or even just taking time out to interact with other game players and creators.

In the end I think this new format encouraged something that most people came to experience which was having an opportunity to just talk about games with fellow gamers and with the Toronto developer community.While gaming has become for the most part mainstream,  having an opportunity to talk passionately about how we play and interact with games still doesn’t happen often enough.

Looking at how the weekend progressed  you could definitely see that there were relationships formed and perhaps a sense of community being built. For myself I was able to meet some great people and had some great ideas started in my head with potential for projects to be created. Overall I think at the end of day two, people left exhausted but energized for more to come. For achieving this in just two years of existence in my opinion is pretty significant. To Mark, Jamie and everyone else involved in Gamer Camp this year congrats and thanks for the good times!

In a post I hope to have up sometime tomorrow I’ll take some time to look at some of the key learnings I took away this year. Stay tuned!

Oct 10

Will The Kinect Connect With Gamers?

The latest  trend in console gaming as of late has been the use of motion technology. Started by Nintendo with the Wiimote , competitors Microsoft and Sony are set to launch their own iterations this fall  of how they plan to allow gamers to interact with games in the months and years to come.

For the past year+ I’ve been following Microsoft’s product entry originally called Project Natal and now called the Kinect. Starting with the presentation  of the Milo project  during E3 2009 I definitely got chills and came to  think that this technology had some major potential ( See  the video below to see what I mean!)

1 year passed from the release of the project Milo video and I didn’t really hear much further about the Kinect until this summer from E3.  The thing was that  there was no mention of Milo, instead there were  announcements of games such as Kinect Adventures and and Kinect Joy Ride. Essentially games aimed towards the casual market  that looked like they were taken from the Wii. After being shown such a great tech demo this was hardly anything ground breaking. Another aspect which shaked my confidence a bit  in the machine  was the discussion from reporter previews making mention of significant play lag when using the Kinect . Would the Kinect not meet its full potential and just turn into a Wii wannabe device?

Recently I checked out the Toronto Kinect preview put  on by  Xbox Canada. Getting to try the system hands on (or hands off really) would finally help me to determine if this was a peripheral that would withstand the lifespan of the Xbox 360 or be eventually discontinued (much like the Xbox HD disc drive).

What are my thoughts on the Kinect now having played it? There is some serious tech behind this machine but its still early days. Getting to try most of the game demos on display I had to say except for Kinect Joy Ride the control of the games were very tight and the game play was fun. I wasn’t experiencing any sort of lag and my in game character was mimicking my every move flawlessly. Being shown a device tool (shown in the picture below) you could see that the Kinect was essentially a motion capture machine and more. When showed another Kinect tool I was amazed to see the level of detail in the image it was displaying back to me. In a pixelated view of myself even smaller details like the writing on my sweater were being displayed.

More than just motion capture!

My concerns for the system? That it will be nothing more than a tool to attract casual gamers pushing out games that contain just short mini contests and family trivia. While it has been confirmed that Fable 3 will have some sort of conectivity and at the Kinnect preview I was assured that they had more in depth games in the works, Microsoft needs to get a few blockbuster quality games on the Kinect for it to be accepted by their primary audience who play games like Halo, God of War and Madden NFL. If they can get games out  with similar game play to the commercial below I’d be completely sold!

While to a smaller extent, I was also concerned by the demands of the Kinect in terms of how much space and energy it required to play this game. In one demo, I found to be successful in the game I needed to be moving in a floor area that if played in my apartment  would place significant demands on my  living room space.

The games  also if played for long periods are definitely a workout ! They aren’t ones you can simply sit down for, they take your whole body and movement into it. As gaming is often something people  play to to sit back and unwind,  being required to be on their feet and active may be a bit of a put off.

Overall I’m converted back into thinking that the Kinect will be a killer app for the Xbox 360. I hope that Microsoft is able to put the marketing push into this device and persuade gamers to purchase it as I know I will!

Aug 10

Our Privacy Online

For a while I thought that internet privacy was over. The era of your mom telling you that  you shouldn’t talk to strangers and to keep your identity a secret was coming to an end.  I kept the mind set that the internet has become just another facet of a person’s identity and that information you post up is similar to being part of a phone book or walking down the street. Recently there have been a few things which made me reflect upon  how internet privacy and anonimity on the web still has some importance.

Blizzard Vs. The Hordes:

Earlier Blizzard Corp makers of World of WarCraft, Diablo and Star Craft announced the implementation of a RealID system which they planned to put into place for the upcoming Star Craft 2 title and later across their entire library of games. The idea behind real ID was that users could interact and be more connected to their friend lists within these games.  Blizzard had to later pull back on this initiative  because of the massive backlash from their communities and it is now  an optional feature rather than being  enforced system wide.

When everyone has a Facebook account why would gamers be concerned about revealing their personal information in game? Well for some its a sense of escape, it takes them away from their day to day lives as described in an editorial from Daniel Lipscombe  titled Why I play games: My Escapism . Gaming is a way to become separate from day to day activities. If you attach your real name to characters in game or within discussion of the game  is that separation still there? Also if  a character named “Princess Peach” decked out in pink  is suddenly attached to a user named Joe Blow can this person still act out the characteristics of that character? (Ok extreme example but you get the point!)  Despite all of this openness on social sites such as Facebook,  anonimity is still sought in the gaming world because once you form your character you can be a different person than yourself. When that character suddenly has your name it changes that aspect of the game.

The Anonymous Internet

With the ability to act (almost) completely anonymous online a certain mob mentality can often sink in within a group of like minded users sometimes with negative consequences.

Jessi Slaughter  AKA Kerligirl13 an 11 year old  from the U.S. enjoyed sharing her life and her interests on YouTube like many vloggers. As video views increased on her channel she began to see negative comments and she reacted much like any 11 year old girl would with a reactionary video. This video to haters  with the infamous line “I’ll pop a glock in your mouth and make a brain slushy” went viral and attracted the wrong type of attention. So much so that her and her family are now under police protection .

A large cause of this problem  is a site called 4chan. Now I won’t go into much details about the site or its users (because they scare the hell out of even me…) but as a group they have been known for creating false rumors about Steve Jobs having a heart attack (and causing Apple stock to take a tumble) and rigging the Time Magazine 2008 most influential person poll to be Christopher Poole aka Moot the founder of the site. Essentially this site with its large and anonymous user base is able to cause a lot of trouble when motivated to do so.

Upon seeing the video from Jessi ,4chan users decided to take it upon themselves to teach this girl a ‘lesson’ through harassing phone calls and  vandalism of social media profiles among other things. While what this little girl has said online is  absolutely inappropriate for a girl her age to be saying at all, harassing her and her family is even worse. With the growing ease of finding personal information online it is easy to announymously contact another person and do actions to them to the point of harassment. Kids especially not knowing the expansiveness of the internet and the consequences of being online are now increasingly at risk of receiving abuse online and without fully understanding could be sharing all sorts of personal information with perfect strangers on the web.

With younger age groups being at such risk online its very easy to say that they should be protected but the harder thing to answer is how?  No matter what restrictions are put in place there will be work arounds. Age restrictions on sites are easily lied to and  parental controls are almost easily turned off as well. When others can act anonymously and manipulate your own information how can be protect those who are just learning about the full expanse of the web?

Creating Online Persona’s

In the end I think managing your online self is becoming just as important as managing yourself offline. We all are visible online, its as easy as a quick google search so we need to ensure that only what we want people to see is visible. I think we also have to remember that our anonymous selves aren’t completely anonymous either. Comments or accounts that you think you made in private  can still be potentially tracked back to you.

Having these online persona’s bring on new problems like cyber bullying and identity theft and for good and for bad put us in front of a more global audience. For now I’ll remain more careful of what I place online and will continue to watch how things develop.

Do you have a question or comment ? Feel free to reach me at @kevrichard or

Oct 09

But I Just Want to Be Touched!

A major trend I’m currently seeing in consumer electronics is that we are becoming  much more involved with our electronics. We’re touching more, we’re feeling more and we’re also bringing more technology around with us as ‘life tools’ rather than leaving it at home. Here are some examples to show you what I mean:

Mobile Devices: Iphone, Blackberry Storm, Palm Pre ( and many others)

Computers: HP TouchSmart PC, Microsoft Surface,  and coming up the Crunch Pad, ‘Rumored’ Applie itablet, and Microsoft Courier. Laptops have gotten a lot smaller, much more tactile and are getting additional screens for added use.

Interactive Gaming: the hold in your hand Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, and the Wii. Upcoming Xbox Natal and PS3’s new motion remote.

Other Products: touch screen GPS  and car displays, interactive footwear, Mp3 players with touch screens/internet/ video camera ….(truthfully I have a blank but the list definitely goes on!)

Erin McNaught Launches GPS System

Even more recently I was interested to hear about how some television manufacturers were beginning to make 3d televisions , this is a drastic shift! Television has often been an inactive activity and now you’re getting placed into your shows!  Electronics becoming more tactile and interactive is an interesting shift. Perhaps over the years people have felt a lot more passive and immobile with the use of PC’s and low touch devices.

With the improvement of wireless technology’s, smaller devices  and a more social internet maybe what we are seeing now are people in general wanting technologies that offer them an  experience and further feelings of freedom and attachment. For me thats an important shift to take into account and is something that can be used in terms of business and marketing.  Looking at customer experiences ( whether its interactive or passive ) how products are used ( are there ways to let a person know if they are doing this right? How can this product improve their life experience?)  and what  materials go into these products ( will material X feel better than material Y).

This may all seem very rambly…. or it may put things in perfect sense. I don’t know. Its just been something thats been on my mind for while, driving ideas and thoughts. Am I headed in the wrong direction with this or do I have a sense of sanity in these thoughts ? Let me know what you think.