Poetry in Branding

I have always been drawn toward poetry. It interested me at school, and captivated me during my university studies. You have probably even read some of my own buried here on the blog.
But the thing that continues to draw me into poetry is the ambiguity that it offers. You can use words powerfully and playfully to create many meanings, some which you may intend, and others that appear between the words (and only in the minds of some readers).
So it was an unexpected joy today to find this small piece of poetic writing that eloquently captures the challenges that marketers face every day. If only we all had such noble causes and clear results!
With thanks to Seth Godin for pointing it out.

Never Alone But Hard to Find

EndofinternetEvery day there are more and more blogs out there. If you are a lover of the hypertext, such as me, it is easy to spend hours drifting from one site to the next. But what if you reach the end?

I remember years ago seeing a website that had a single page in flat HTML. It declared "congratulations, you have reached the end of the Internet". It came as quite a shock, and back then, there probably was an "end". But now, I see these as not just marking a terminal point, but as a kind of online millenarianism (ha that one got caught in the spell checker!). These false prophets are out there decrying the end and exhorting us all to "do something productive".

I much prefer a novel approach such as this, where you have the option (at the click of a button) to turn off the entire Internet! (OK if you tried it and freaked, try Alt+Tab.)

And while it is clear that there are many, many sites out there, many social networks to join or engage with, it can still be hard to find a group to run with. An online relationship is just like any other … it takes time to develop and it needs to be nurtured. And you have got to keep going with it. So while you may never really be alone, sometimes it is hard to find others and hard to be found.

This is where the joy of hypertext kicks in … a quick blast on Technorati and you are off and away!


C for Chaos

There is always something new to learn on the web. The challenge of course is to have enough time to read/learn all there is to offer (never going to happen), and after failing/accepting this, learn to quickly select useful content. Most people have the same problem … but it is comforting to hear that others with more experience find the same thing.

There is a great article on Rebecca Blood over at the C for Chaos. Rebecca is famous for having a great blog and writing the Weblog Handbook. I was interested to read about her take on storytelling, and that she views this as a form of sharing. I also liked the way that she keeps notes during the day and sits down later to write her posts.

There are as many different approaches to blogs as there are bloggers. What are your tips? How do you work it all out? Or haven’t you tried yet?


On the Rails Over the Weekend

It is easy to avoid learning things and I often find that I make excuses to myself about thing that I have not done. So this weekend I have been forcing myself to learn some of the things I have been avoiding. (And sorry Terry, this doesn’t mean I have finished MoonLander — see Terry’s version here.)

I started out looking at 37signals’ Get Real eBook. I had been putting it off for some time but finally relented. It is a fast read and has some great tips and approaches for web development. However, the cool thing is that much of what they say can be translated to many other forms of business. I like the way that the focus on saying "no" to new features. It is their default response. Of course, if the same request keeps coming back then it becomes obvious that it is an actual need … this means that there is no need to keep logs of requests.

And, of course, buried within this document is a spiel about Ruby on Rails, which is another thing I have been avoiding. So while I was dealing with demons, I thought I may as well take on the beast. So I downloaded the software, followed the tutorial and built the test application. Now this is seriously fast and fun! It is nice to feel excited about some web software again (in that I spend most of my blogging time talking about stories, branding and marketing).

The next challenge, of course, is to see whether I can use Ruby on Rails to actually do something without instructions! Where to start? At the beginning of the Get Real eBook the 37signals team urge us all to under-do our competition — so that is where I will start. I may be on the rails, but there seems to be a long track ahead. I will let you know if I make it to the first station.


Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

The Internet makes us all more measurable. We can not only see the actual results of our marketing efforts, but we can see these results in (almost) real time. This has positive and negative aspects.

On the one hand it allows us to adjust our strategies and tactics as an online campaign unfolds. We can follow the clickstream up and down and see what works and what doesn’t.

On the other hand, it can mean that we rush to respond, becoming more reactionary in our efforts. By pre-emptively changing our approach mid-campaign, we can wreck our strategic approach before it can take hold.

I am all for measurement, but I am also (more importantly) all for ANALYSIS. By all means measure, but make sure you analyse the results carefully before communicating them to your client (or your boss). Hey, why don’t you keep your analysis to yourself for a day or two to see if anything else happens in the meantime. Sometimes it takes longer than a day or two for a trend to emerge. Have faith in your strategy, listen to your audience, and then give them something good to talk about!


Don’t Write for Clarity

I was reading this great post from Nat over at Decisive Flow and it reminded me of working as a technical writer and dealing with a particularly verbose computer analyst (let’s call him "George").

Now George was an intense young man and was having some difficulty in working with a writer. It was nothing personal … it was simply that we were working through some procedural documentation and it was very important that the document was correct. It was, after all, a "mission critical app, man" (who says that anyway?).

We had almost completed the document when George came to my office and explained that there was a new function that we had to urgently incorporate into the document. So I pulled up the document, ascertained the best place for the material and turned to George who began dictating some text. As I typed it became obvious that the text was becoming, with every word, a veritable hodge podge of jargon, keywords and acronyms that made no sense had no punctuation and was becomingvirtuallymeaningless. (Sorry couldn’t resist.)

So I stopped.

George kept going. Then stopped.

I looked him in the eye and asked him to describe the task. He looked at the screen and began reading what I had written. "NO", I said, "what is the task?". After a deep breath, George was able to explain the task that needed to be performed. I was then able to write it in a procedural format.

It made me realise that many people don’t write for clarity, they write in a way that is "designed to be clear". Unfortunately, this often means that extra words and jargon creep into your writing. It is only by listening first that you can write clearly … so when you are writing, try to listen to the sounds that are made in your own head. Don’t write for clarity … write for understanding.


Loving the Hypertext

Now that I have noticed this is a recurring theme I have added a new category! In Loving the Hypertext I will be tagging articles about surprise websites found by madly (and sometimes carelessly) clicking on web pages.

This one is not bad (stumbleupon.com). It is a one-stop-shop for the hypertext addict. Just click the Firefox toolbar button and you get a random site. But wait … there’s more! You can even rate it … thumbs up or thumbs down. Not bad — a bit of random web love and the chance to have your say. Thanks to Seth Godin for finding this one!


TV Makes Me Feel Weird

Over the last five years a number of people that I studied with have begun appearing in the media. At first, these appearances were limited to "guest spots" or articles and so on, but they all seem to be consolidating their experience and expertise (hopefully we all are).

What makes this weird is that in seeing people that I once knew (very well), it sometimes makes me feel connected to them in the way that I once was. Tonight, for example, I was watching Adam Hills on Spicks and Specks. Now, I have not seen him for many years, but one of his trademarks as a comedian is his ability to authentically reach his audience … and after a heavy day, it was strangely comforting to hear and see him on TV.

It made me think about how challenging it can be to remain authentic while working with a medium like TV. Part of the reason that I connect with Adam is through a shared history, which is now more to do with storytelling than with reality, but the same can be said for our relationships with other celebrities … the more that they are in our homes, the more we feel emotionally engaged with them. And while this makes ME feel weird, I bet it makes the celebrities feel even weirder … because of course, TV is a one way storytelling medium.

And even though it made me feel weird tonight … it also made me feel kind of happy. Now THAT is weird.


Can Viral Kill You?

The problem with bloggers ranting about BAD viral projects is that it helps promote bad creative work. So while I will not be sharing the link to the "Dancing Doughboy", I will share with you the link through to Seth Godin’s rant on it. Now, take it from me, it is NOT worth checking out.

BUT … I would love to know how many of you could not resist. Check it out, and then send me a comment or email to let me know that you CANT BEAT the hypertext addiction.

What this points out is something more problematic for those constantly pushing for innovation in online marketing. Until we are able to move beyond simple analytics (ie "wow 30,000 page impressions) to complex analysis and reporting (ie "cool, we funnelled 10,000 visitors into a rich experience that generated 500 new sales"), then the marketers will still fund poor creative to appear "on top of" the internet marketing game.


Spelling with Flickr


To tell a story you have to be able to spell. If you have errors in your text then it becomes easy for readers to not engage with your content. It can appear sloppy or careless. Even I am guilty of this … a former editor and writer — someone who cares about writing and language — can also fall into the trap of laziness.

And while I know that Typepad comes with a built-in spell checker, I very rarely use it … and the result can sometimes mean that I find errors in my own writing. These errors rarely change the meaning of what I am saying, but it does effect the way that I read my own text.

I was reminded of this after reading SplaTT’s weblog and trying out this cool Flickr spelling tool. Another one for the Web 2.0 junkies … but it appeals to my interest in technology and words. So, what does your name spell in pictures?