Simple Math

When it comes to small vendors there are those who use Square and everyone else.

Nearly every payment experience I've had with Square is one swipe, super fast, super simple.

Nearly every payment experience I've had with any other product is multiple swipes ... waiting ... waiting ... another swipe ... waiting ... failure ...swipe ... waiting ...

I can only guess the reason people use a Square competitor is to save a fraction of a % on commission.

The math is pretty simple: use a quality product that works, that will make your customers happy and will increase your throughput. 

The Squircle Is A Thing

All day yesterday I was thinking about the shape of the iPhone app icon.

According to Wikipedia the Squircle is a thing ...

squircle is a mathematical shape with properties between those of a square and those of a circle. It is a special case of superellipse. The word "squircle" is a portmanteau of the words "square" and "circle".

Who doesn't love a good portmanteau? 

Also cited in the Wikipedia entry is that Nokia is often associated with the shape, having used it as a touchpad for buttons for years.  As a former Nokian (both employee and loyal user) I can't make an association between the two.

IconAll I know is this past weekend my five year old yelled from the backseat of the car, "Dad! You should download that guitar app for your phone."  He was looking at a billboard for the Garage Band app.  No words.  No context (not placed on the deck of an iPhone).  Just the squircle.

That's all.  Nothing insightful.  Just found it interesting that a pretty common shape - one that another handset manufacturer apparently had some equity with - is so widely associated with Apple.  And that it has such a goofy name.

From Ossobuco to Afghanistan

[cross-posted on Fresh Influence]


I remember back in 2005-6, when I worked at Nokia, an anecdote that blew people away was something along the lines that Nokia was the world's largest manufacturer of digital cameras. It didn't take much imagination to picture a world with billions of photographers, capturing and sharing images in near real-time. That's obviously happened. Every day we're bombarded on Facebook, Twitter and blogs with images of Ossobuco; chubby-cheeked little babies; cats - lots of cats; keg stands; post-card sunsets; and new Manolos. To each his own.

What I couldn't have imagined back then - though I'm certain many did - was the profound impact the democratization of digital photography would have on our ability to tell touching, funny and impactful stories. Furthermore, that particularly adept creators would marry mobile photography with readily available technology to convey complex narratives in a way that feels so accessible and genuine. On that note, I recently stumbled on a project called Basetrack that embodies what I believe is the best of this new storytelling. As Basetrack describes itself:

This is an experimental media project, tracking the deployment of 1/8 – 1st Battalion, Eighth Marines, throughout the duration of their deployment to southern Afghanistan. A small team of mobile media operators is embedded with the battalion, transmitting their reports and reflections from Helmand province as they travel across the battalion’s area of operations.

Check out the site (and their mindblowing Flickr stream)- there's an newsfeed for stories related to the war in Afghanistan; a Twitter and Facebook aggregator; and a killer interactive map where you can scan a map and timeline to find photos, videos, blog posts and stories from the 1/8.

It is what the 'embed' model was meant to be.

A few of my favorite photos are below (courtesy of Basetrack's Flickr stream) - most of them shot on an iPhone and filtered with Hipstamatic. Pretty stunning.





All About Foursquare

This was originally posted on Ogilvy's Travel and Tourism blog.  I realize most of the people who read this blog already know about Foursquare.  But for my father ...


Foursquareis an interesting, fun and [at times] useful service that’s gotten some solid buzz in the last few months.  It’s the brainchild of the folks who brought us the one-time Internet service darling, Dodgeball.  I found this article from the New York Future Initiative which does a nice job of explaining the service, and the creators’ vision for what it might become.

With the ever-growing buzz, I thought you might appreciate the skinny …

What it is

Foursquare describes itself as 50% friend-finder, 30% social cityguide, 20% nightlife game, though my personal bias is that [at least for the time being] it’s more game.

How it works

A player checks in with Foursquare when they are out and about at a restaurant, bar, museum, movie theater, etc.  Checking in earns you points.  Points earn status [e.g, I was for a fleeting moment the Mayor of the Bowery Hotel Bar].  You can also earn badges for doing interesting things, like checking in at odd times or out-of-the-way places.

For now points/badges only get you bragging rights, though clearly that will change at some point [e.g., Ian checked in 5 times at Old Town Social, earning him a free cocktail].

How you "play"

Players check in via a slick iPhone app [uses GPS to find your location and things around you], mobile site and text message.  You can have Foursquare ping Twitter when you check in.

Where it works

At the time of this post, Foursquare is  available in: Amsterdam, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C.

My recommendation

If you’ve got an iPhone, I recommend giving it a whirl - nothing to lose.  If you’re a marketer, you should take a peak under the hood so you understand the possibilities when Foursquare [inevitably] opens for [paid] business.  If you’re a business in one of the cities above [particularly in a hipster neighborhood] maybe play around with rewarding patrons for checking in from your store/bar/restaurant.

It’s not there yet, and may never be.  But I continue to hear the buzz …

More Digital Holograms [Verizon + Nokia + Star Trek]

My previous posts on digital holograms proved pretty popular [here, here, here].  So when I stumbled on this from Verizon Wireless + Nokia + Star Trek I figured it was worth a shout out.  I can't claim to understand what Verizon or Nokia have to do with the new Star Trek film, but that's another post for another blogger.

Go to the Star Trek promotional site - the instructions are very simple.

TIP: Rather than print the .PDF take a picture of it on your cell phone.  I used the rather substandard iPhone camera, which worked fine.

Picture 1

QTip v Questlove on Twitter [Celebrity Tweet-Off Round 2]

In a recent post I compared the Twitter habits of Shaquille O'Neal and Lance Armstrong.  Both received high marks for their transparency and embracing of new technology.  In the end I gave a slight edge to Shaq because he's less polished, relatively engaged with other Twitter users and is pretty amusing.

Round two is a hip-hop battle for the social media age.  Q-Tip, the leader of A Tribe Called Quest versus Questlove (according to Wikipedia, also known as BROther, ?uestion, Brother Question and ?uestlove), drummer and producer extraordinaire from The Roots.  Using the same criteria as Shaq v Lance ...

  • Q-Tip has 7,568 followers and follows 3,127 [a ratio of 2.5:1]
  • Questlove has 9,594 followers and follows 289 [a ratio of 33:1]
  • In the week of Jan 18-25, Q-Tip Tweeted 51 times; Questlove ... well I stopped counting at 200 [the man is prolific and was clearly inspired by the inauguration]
  • 32 of Questlove's last 60 Tweets have been @replies; versus 18/60 for Q-Tip.

Looking at the stats I have to give the edge to Questlove, mainly for his frequency and relatively high @reply ratio.  Unlike my previous post I'm not going to get into the subjective stuff ... I'll leave that for you to decide. 

But I must say that more often than not I breeze through Q-Tip's Tweets while I try to actually read most of Questlove's.  Below are a few favorites that show a funny, conflicted, self-deprecating man ... not unlike many of us.  As I said in my previous post, I really give both these guys credit for opening themselves up like this ... I suspect their fans truly appreciate it - I certainly do.

Questlove Twitter  
So who do you think wins this one?  Any other celebs doing it well?

Shaquille O'Neal v Lance Armstrong ... On Twitter

Comparing Lance and Shaq in terms of their professional abilities is difficult since they play such different sports [can you say with any confidence that Lance is a better cyclist than Shaq is baller?]. But Twitter is even ground for these giants, and I think it's time to compare celebrity Tweeter @lancearmstrong v @the_real_shaq.

Read More

Hotel and Technology Roundup

From 2004-2007 I logged hundreds of thousands of air miles, countless nights on the road and roughly 30 international trips (and probably the same amount of domestic).  That's all to say, I know a thing or two about staying in hotels.  And while mercifully, I don't travel much any more, it's still with great interest that I notice articles and blog posts about hotel marketing/experiential innovations.  Thanks heavily to Springwise, here then are a few things I've Flagged For Follow Up recently:

Interactive Surface Technology at Sheraton:  Guests at Sheraton hotels in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle can use Microsoft's Surface technology to access entertainment content, local tourist information and information about other Sheraton properties worldwide.  Springwise recently documented the collaboration.

Picture 1


Westin Chicago Designs Special Rooms to Fight Jet Lag:  Also from Springwise, Westin Hotels and Philips have partnered to design a concept room specially aimed at helping jet-lagged travelers combat sleep troubles.  Amenities include Philips' new blue-light ActiViva lamps, a light therapy box at the work desk station,  a eucalyptus shower fizzer in the room's "Heavenly Shower," a guided-meditation sleep TV program, a special room-service menu and specially designed running local running maps.


New York City's Pod Hotel connects guests with each other before arrival:   Once guests have booked their reservations, they are sent a link to the hotel's PodCulture blog and a  user ID, which allows guests to connect and interact with others who will be there at the same time.

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Sheraton (again) Invites People to Experience Their Brand In An Unconventional Way:  As part of their Global Out of Office Day, Sheraton invited New Yorkers to work from Central Park, where it recreated its new Link@Sheraton lounges [a collaboration with Microsoft to infuse useful technology into its hotels].

Picture 5 


W Hotels Gives Guests a Quiet Place for a Cell Phone Call:  This is something I am particularly proud of since I was Nokia's point person on this project.  Simple concept - a modern take on the phone booth, combining Nokia Nseries technology and great looking design.  Visit PSFK to read a short interview with Carlos Gomez de Llarena [the designer from R/GA with whom we worked on the booth design and interaction].

Picture 6

Key Learnings:

  1. Make sure it works
  2. Make it simple
  3. Make it additive
  4. Work with the right partners to bring your vision to life
  5. Help people fight the loneliness of business travel
  6. Make it surprising and fun
  7. Understand the context in which the technology exists
  8. Experiment until you find something that really resonates with guests

Where Do You Find the Time?

When talking to people about myparticipation in online social media, the question I’m most frequently asked is, “how do you have time to do all this?”  And while they might deny it, the questioner asks it with a tone that implies You are either a total social misfit or a slacker in other parts of your life

My initial reaction is usually defensive, as if have to prove I actually do real work and spend quality time with my family.

I then spend the next 20 minutes stewing over the question - regretting I didn't have a prepared answer.  So I never have to go through that process again, here is my response from now on.  Would love to hear your builds, and of course any other thoughts you would like to add.

  • I have an 18 month old son.  I’ve become a time management ninja.  While the kid takes up a lot of time and energy, my new found discipline has given me more hours in the day.

  • I get up at 5am on weekdays, 6am on weekends.  While I don't get up and start Tweeting at 5am, I do use that time to deal with administrative issues at home (bills, etc.) which gives me more free time in the evening.

  • I don't watch a lot of TV.  When I do, it's almost always on DVR thus saving me around an hour a week on commercials.  When I watch sports (the only TV I don't DVR) I am usually multi-tasking.

  • I enjoy it.  Just like you enjoy birdwatching or reading WWII novels.

  • I use my mobile phone to participate in social media during otherwise wasted time.  I Tweet, upload photos to my Facebook page and text message friends during my morning and afternoon commutes - time that might otherwise be spent staring out the train window.

  • Besides on airplanes, I never read the newspaper.  HOWEVER, I am better informed than I've ever been, with much less of a daily time commitment.  I must tell people this five times a week - if you're not using an RSS reader to get your news feeds, you are not consuming information in the most efficient and effective way available.  Sign up for a Google Reader account and spend the 30 minutes to figure out how it works.  It will change the way you think about news consumption.

  • I view social media participation as a professional survival tool.  It keeps me current, connected and informed.

The net-net is that I make the time.  Just as a marathon runner makes the time to run; a celebrity junkie makes the time to read Us Weekly; an amateur photographer makes the time to take photos.  It's no different.  There I go again sounding defensive – I must break that habit!

Nokia Nseries Video ... Welcome to the 4th Screen

As you might know I spent three years at Nokia and was fortunate enough to be there when Nokia Nseries launched.  This video kind of says it all.  I think it's very well done [and I suspect I know who produced it], but I do think it takes a little too long to get to the payoff.  Would love to know what you think.  As a side note, I saw someone on the train today with a Nokia N91 ... the first time I had seen an Nseries user in the wild outside of Europe.

Mobile Advertising

I missed this article from the April 20 New York Times about how Internet players, mobile handset manufacturers and mobile operators are tackling mobile advertising.  It's a quick and informative read.

On a related note ... I walked into the office today to find that email and Internet were down.  I was admittedly annoyed, but without skipping a beat I fired up both my work email and Yahoo! email [using Yahoo! Go Gamma] on my mobile phone.  Within 5 minutes I was able to delete the spam from both accounts and reply to a few simple requests.  If I had been in Europe I would have used my 3G phone as a high-speed modem to log on to my company's email/Intranet.

Based on what I know about the US market, this is not typical behavior [yet ... although I'm confident we'll catch up to the rest of the world soon enough].  I could easily fool myself into thinking I'm an early-adopter in the mobile space.  But I'm not naive enough to think that my behavior wouldn't change if I were paying for my own data plan.

Un-Branded Orange Store

About a year ago I was fortunate enough to have a few hours to kill in London.  Despite having visited London many times over the years, I was interested in venturing a bit off the beaten path.  A trusted colleague recommended that I visit the un-branded Orange store in Notting Hill [editor's note: Yes, I realize Notting Hill is hardly 'unbeaten' - not the point of the story].  Orange is a mobile operator in the UK.  If you find yourself in London, make a point of visiting the store.  The sales people [and I hesitate to call them that because they are more like product experts] will engage you in endless conversation, demos of devices you won't find in the US and, if you're one of the fortunate, will take your photo with a camera phone and tack it to the wall [editor's note: I was not one of the fortunate].  And besides all that, the design of the store is wonderfully refreshing and contextual to the neighborhood.  I went back a few weeks ago and was happy to find it was just as interesting the second time around.

Orange Store: 201 Westbourne Grove, W11 [Tube: Notting Hill Gate]

[photo below courtesy of Cool Hunting]