January 30, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: January 30th 2017

  • Money Talk. Open and honest blog post talking about the costs involved in manufacturing, and the challenges and issues when you try to do things better.
  • Exiting the Vampire Castle. Fantastic writing from the sadly late Mark Fisher.
  • Software Is Politics. Excellent article version of Richard Pope's excellent OSCON 2016 talk.
  • How to Culture Jam a Populist in Four Easy Steps. "it took our leaders ten years to figure out they needed to actually go to the slums and to the countryside. And not for a speech, or a rally, but for game of dominoes or to dance salsa – to show they were Venezuelans too, that they had tumbao and could hit a baseball, could tell a joke that landed. That they could break the tribal divide, come down off the billboards and show they were real."
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January 16, 2017

Interesting Things on the Internet: January 16th 2017

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January 03, 2017

Is the "Maker Movement" a Movement?

At the recent Lucas Plan 40th anniversary conference (see my thoughts on the day for more detail) Liz Corbin said, deliberately provocatively, that the "Maker Movement" isn't actually a movement.

I'm glad she did. It wasn't really something I'd given much thought to before. I've been involved in Maker culture, the Maker community, the Maker Movement, whatever it is, since pretty near the start, and so have just taken it somewhat for granted—and done my bit to help shape it—as it's grown.

But I'm not sure I could define what it is.

Looking in the dictionary, it defines a movement as "group with a common aim".

Judging it thus, Liz is right. I don't think there's a common aim among makers, other than to make, which seems rather broad a definition for a movement.

It's definitely a community, and probably a whole host of overlapping and intermingled communities who mostly share an ethos (that's not a proper capturing of a maker ethos, but it's one readily to hand).

There are advantages to not being a movement. I think that makes the maker community more inclusive and easier to adapt to new opportunities.

However, it also makes it easier to dismiss or to misunderstand. Most commonly by categorizing it as an updated version of the Arts and Crafts movement.

There's definitely an element of that, and I've made the "William Morris with a 3D printer" criticism myself. And there's definitely a risk that we may similarly fail to substantially change the mainstream culture.

However, I think that there could be a Maker Movement. That it is more than just an updated Arts and Crafts Movement.

I believe that the Maker Movement aims to democratize production and innovation.

The Arts and Crafts movement was defined by its celebration of traditional craft techniques and its rejection of industrialisation. The Maker Movement sees no such distinction—it embraces both the hand-carved wooden bowl and the CNC-routed desk.

What matters to the Maker Movement is that everyone who wants to produce some thing, has the ability to produce that thing. Not everyone has to be a maker, but there should be a universality of possibility.

It isn't just about the universality of who can be a maker; it's also about the universality of what can be produced, of the aesthetics of what can be produced. Not just items that are obviously hand-made but also objects that are indistinguishable from those mass-manufactured in factories.

Obviously a lot of this is driven by the falling cost of tools like 3D printers and the increasing digitalisation of manufacturing, coupled with borrowing the open source software community's sharing culture and assumption that you can (and should) make your own tools.

Added to that are elements of a much older tradition of people coming together in groups to achieve more collectively than they can alone, amplified by the Internet's ability to ease group discoverability and communication. That manifests in the collective purchase of machinery which would be out-of-reach for the individual and—arguably more importantly—the cross-pollination of skills and ideas that both accelerates the development of and improves the quality of the resultant innovations.

Democratizing production and innovation has the promise to improve our lives in many ways, from individuals 3D-printing themselves a new prosthetic hand through to new companies and products and communities building their own infrastructure.

We need to nurture and celebrate this movement and be vigilant against (and seek to better inform, to take under our wing and help) well-intentioned but ham-fisted approaches which miss the greater opportunities and cherry-pick the easier aspects such as filling workshops with shiny tools.

Here's to a better, Maker-fuelled future!

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January 02, 2017

Blog All Dog-eared Pages: Ogilvy On Advertising

I read this years ago, but managed not to publish this blog post. I've just come across the draft again, so rectifying that mistake.

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy ("Ogilvy on Advertising" on OpenLibrary "Ogilvy on Advertising" on BookBrainz) was an easy and enjoyable read. It's a pretty short book, but packed with lots of nuggets of interest.

Page 7

When I write an advertisement, I don't want you to tell me that you find it 'creative'. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.

Page 12

If you cannot afford the services of professionals to do this research, do it yourself. Informal conversations with half-a-dozen housewives can sometimes help a copywriter more than formal surveys in which he does not participate.

Page 16

Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art in science and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.

Page 19

'If you and your competitors all make excellent products, don't try to imply that your product is better. Just say what's good about your product - and do a clearer, more honest, more informative job of saying it.

Page 20

'Search the parks in all your cities.
You'll find no statues of committees.'

Page 24

The Benton & Bowles agency holds that 'if it doesn't sell, it isn't creative.' Amen.

Page 31

At the start of your career in advertising, what you learn is more important than what you earn.

Page 35

In your day-to-day dealings with clients and colleagues, fight for the king, queens and bishops, but throw away the pawns. A habit of graceful surrender on trivial issues will make you difficult to resist when you stand and fight on a major issue.

Page 42

[on applying for a job]
Be personal, direct and natural
You are a human being writing to another human being. Neither of you is an institution. You should be businesslike and courteous, but never stiff and impersonal.

Page 48

Brains? It doesn't necessarily mean a high IQ. It means curiosity, common sense, wisdom, imagination and literacy. Why literacy? Because most communication between agencies and clients is in writing. I don't suggest that you have to be a poet, but you won't climb the ladder very high unless you can write lucid memoranda.

Page 60

Above all, listen. The more you get the prospective client to talk, the easier it will be to decide whether you really want his account. A former head of Magnavox treated me to a two-hour lecture on advertising, about which he knew nothing. I gave him a cup of tea and showed him out.

Page 67

Don't keep a dog and bark yourself. Any fool can write a bad advertisement, but it takes a genius to keep his hands off a good one.

Page 71

On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 per cent of your money.

The headlines which work best are those which promise the reader a benefit - like a whiter wash, more miles per gallon, freedom from pimples, fewer cavities. Riffle through a magazine and count the number of ads whose headlines promise a benefit of any kind.

Headlines which contain news are sure-fire. The news can be the announcement of a new product, an improvement in an old product, or a new way to use an old product - like serving Campbells' Soup on the rocks. On the average, ads with news are recalled by 22 per cent more people than ads without news.

Page 80

Do not, however, address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing each of them a letter on behalf of your client. One human being to another, second person singular.

Page 138

Some copywriters, assuming that the reader will find the product as boring as they do, try to inveigle him into their ads with pictures of babies, beagles and bosoms. This is a mistake. A buyer of flexible pipe for offshore oil rigs is more interested in pipe than anything else in the world. So play it straight.

Page 144

Next to the positioning of your product, the most important variables to be tested are pricing, terms of payment, premiums and the format of your [direct] mailing.

Page 161

Keep in mind E. B. White's warning, 'When you say something, make sure you have said it. The chances of your having said it are only fair.'

Page 163

What price should you charge for your product? This is one of the most important questions which confront marketers, but, as far as I know, research cannot answer it.

Page 170

It is usually assumed that marketers use scientific methods to determine the price of their products. Nothing could be further from the truth. In almost every case, the process of decision is one of guesswork.

The higher you price your product, the more desirable it becomes in the eyes of the consumer. Yet when Professor Reisz of the University of Iowa tried to relate the prices of 679 brands of food products to their quality, he found that the correlation between quality and price was almost zero.

Page 202

[quoting ad-man Leo Burnett]

'Bug let me tell you when I might demand that you take my name off the door. That will be the day when you spend more time trying to make money and less time making advertising.

'When your main interest becomes a matter of size just to be big, rather than good, hard, wonderful work.'

Page 215

Billboards represent less than 2 per cent of total advertising in the United States. I cannot believe that the free-enterprise system would be irreparably damaged if they were abolished. Who is in favor of them? Only the people who make money out of them.

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