Google & @BBHIndia come up trumps (via @parthasinha)

Liking this ad for Google Chrome by BBH India. They’ve stayed true to the key Chrome message but infused a delightful Indian theme into it. It’s inspired by the true story of Tanjore artist G. Rajendran who used the web to build his business over at this website. I remember spending a whole summer learning the art of Tanjore painting (took me a month to finish just one, it’s a very time-consuming art), so I’m quite biased, I suppose!

BBH India’s Managing Partner Partha Sinha informs me that the music is by Shri of London electronic duo Badmarsh and Shri fame, in case you were wondering.

Google’s Economic Value

Some pretty useful insights from this presentation by Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist. He puts forward a very basic model for profit maximization for advertisers: the value per click should be more than the incremental cost per click – there’s a simple explanation to his formula as well. He also mentions Bid Simulator, a tool to experiment with different bids, which can help advertisers assess how much they should pay (I wasn’t aware of it before though it’s been in existence for a couple of years), and in hard numbers shows the value of search to users.

Advertising on Google has had its share of issues, and rightly so, with algorithms giving more importance to search engine relevance than their real relevance, which is of course aided by advertising and content farms. I much prefer using numbers to illustrate value the way this presentation does – scientific advertising, if you will, rather than fake number-pumping for unfair gains.

5 Things I’m Thinking About Right Now

Dan Hon and Duncan Gough did it; here are the 5 things I’m thinking about right now (better late than never):

1. The evolution of crowdsourcing: I started a wiki to document the many examples of crowdsourcing when the phenomenon was at its peak over a year ago, but I think it’s time for crowdsourcing to evolve and become something bigger. The criticism of the latest Peperami ad, the creation of which was thrown open to the public on the Idea Bounty crowdsourcing site a while ago, is an indication that it has seen its heyday. Crowdsourcing per se isn’t bad – but it needs to make sense in context. I think initiatives like FrogMob by Frog Design and Open Ideo by IDEO are part of this evolution: sponsorship of ideas (vs. products) is a big part of getting things made, and Frog Design and IDEO are leading the movement by providing this platform. It isn’t about brands like Peperami or Walkers crowdsourcing ads or flavours for their own benefit anymore, it’s about a body of people trying to create something good for the larger public. Therein lies the difference. That’s where I think crowdsourcing is rightly headed.

2. Transmedia experiences will be a regular part of our overall entertainment experience: I have a few thoughts on this bubbling away in my head, on which more at a later date, but I think the days of TV watching as a solitary activity are over. Whether it is LOST or Alice in Wonderland, fans want more than just the uni-dimensional TV or film experience. They want to suggest a twist to the tale and actually see it play it out on screen so they can share it with their friends and family, they want to cut an episode into scenes and tag their friends on Facebook saying that they thought of them when a particular dialogue was exchanged on screen. (No, those possibilities don’t exist – yet!). We will begin to expect our entertainment to be where we want it to be, as opposed to us being where they want us to be – namely the traditional venues of the cinema theatre or our drawing room.

3. The battle for supremacy amongst location-based services: Once upon a time (3 months ago to be precise), it was between Foursquare and Gowalla, but this week onwards the giant of social networking entered the fray and boy is there going to be blood. Whose, it’s too early to say – reports say that Foursquare membership actually shot up as a result of Facebook Places, but with 500 million ‘citizens’ versus Foursquare’s 2.8 million, will it be just too easy for the big guy to trump the little guy, or does the little guy have a secret weapon they’ve been labouring away at in their New York headquarters? Only time will tell.

4. Whether Apple truly believe the iPad and iPhone 4 will keep them going for the next few years as Google plays catch-up.

5. When data roaming charges will be low enough to allow me to check in to places on Foursquare with a clear conscience, when I travel abroad.

So that’s that.

Art is Art, by any name

These videos by Dvein from 8deagosto for Xcentric, an organisation that promotes experimental cinema in Barcelona, remind me a lot of the BBH Labs-Glue London collaborative work for Google Chrome in Europe. Both feature a short set of films that are very visual and arresting. Dvein’s work is poetic: the videos will serve as headers for different sections of an exhibition of Spanish film being curated by Xcentric, while the BBH Labs’ work seems much more handmade (or maybe that’s just me – one video features knitting, for example), despite being commercial.

I know that the BBH Labs work did not involve any special effects (probably a reason I feel the videos are ‘handmade’ – because they literally are!), whereas the Dvein work I’m pretty sure is a combination of real video and special effects. They’re both awesome.

Here are examples of both (more of Dvein’s work here).

Google Chrome:

My Life is My Own

I just turned Google Buzz off.

When it launched, I was actually mildly excited, while still perfectly aware that there was no way this could be a Twitter or Facebook killer. Being a Facebook killer is probably what they were aiming for, because Twitter is one of the services it allows you to connect to.

One of the things that Google requires you to do to have Buzz fully functional is to fill out your Google profile (why only for Buzz, I’m not quite sure). It pulls in a few details automatically if you have profiles on any of their owned services like YouTube or Picasa (which I do), and allows you to enter the rest. The whole concept of Google profiles, while disconcerting to me, works for some people, because I’ve noticed more than one person in my Twitter network admitting that their Google profile is now their online CV, more or less. (Personally, I prefer because it’s not so controlling – but that’s just me).

Anyway, I was very uncomfortable with the fact that they automatically pulled some of my details in and by default made it public, but since I’m tech-savvy enough to know how to disable those options, I did, as soon as I was able to. Of course in a couple of days Google themselves changed their privacy policy on Buzz and more or less admitted they made a mistake – I’m glad they understood that they started off on the wrong foot there.

Bud Caddell has written a good post about why Buzz doesn’t work for him, and what he says pretty much holds for me too, so I’m not going to repeat it. What I do want to talk about is the increasing sense of discomfort that is pervading my peace of mind as I go about my daily business on the web. Nothing’s changed that much in terms of how I use it – sure, I probably use social networking sites a bit more, but then so does everyone. I guess what I am coming to terms with is that the privileged club I like to think I was part of – the Early Adopters – has now given way to the Late Majority and the Laggard groups, who are completely invading my web spaces and rendering them less enjoyable to me.

Katy Lindemann wrote another nice post a while ago about how she has different rules for accepting people into her spaces on different networks (which I completely agree with). It came up again yesterday when I met her and she told me about how complete strangers were asking to be added as her friend on Foursquare, which as we all know means you allow your connections an uber-increased level of access to your life, because it relays location-specific data.

(As an aside, PleaseRobMe is an extreme case of this. Its creators are making a point, albeit in an uncomfortable manner – don’t check in at your home address and don’t be too forthcoming with your information online. That applies to something like Facebook also – I know plenty of people who have their home addresses on their profiles there).

Getting back to what I was talking about, the Late Majority and Laggards invading my spaces – am I being stupid here to think that I have the right to control my spaces however I want? When a classmate from school that I can’t even remember asks to add me on Facebook, or someone I do not know at all asks to follow me on Buzz, why do I feel more and more like I am losing control? That pressing the ‘ignore’ button is getting to be tiresome, and in itself an invasion of my peace of mind? Clearly it has to do with these sites becoming more popular. Is there any way to circumnavigate that problem? Making something as closed as A Small World is completely out of the question for sites that define themselves as social.

But then I think of  Twitter. These issues crop up much less there. What has Twitter done that is so remarkably right, that no one else can get?

I remember (again) reading a quote recently by Evan Williams or Biz Stone (I can’t remember where it was), that mentioned how no one still knows what Twitter actually is. I think that’s a large part of why it’s so successful. It also isn’t as threatening from a privacy point of view – it doesn’t ask much of you, relationships are allowed to grow as people want them to, there is no pressure to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to someone, and it doesn’t spew apps into your face (if that happens, you can simply unfollow the offender).

I know it isn’t easy, and we’re going to have to navigate an increasingly complex web, both figuratively and literally. I just wanted to have my say.