Week 1 of Fluxx Labs has just finished. One product is live and the other should be live this morning. Having 2 products taken from idea to being out in the wild by Friday was our target and therefore the measure of success, yet for me the real success of the week is encapsulated in this photo of Mark standing looking wistfully into the ceiling of Fluxx. He was contemplating how to get the bulb out to use to light our video shoot. It struck me that it's been a very long time in my work life since anyone I've worked with has cared enough about the thing they're doing to try to disassemble the building. It also leads me into a list of some of the other things we learned this week in Labs:
• The Labs environment makes people resourceful
• Labs doesn't feel like work but you get more done* in a week than you ever dreamed could be possible
• Labs is not for everyone - beyond the core skill sets people bring the most important thing people bring to Labs is themselves as personalities • Days in the Lab need to be structured by check-ins and reviews not by time-boxing the tasks you need to complete
• Ruthless focus and discipline about what you are doing and why you are doing it are essential at every step of the process
• A parking bay for the inevitable new ideas that crop up is a great way of stopping things from being lost and keeping focus I'm sure I'll add more to this as the products and proposition iterate. Snapshots of our week can be found here http://www.fluxxlabs.tumblr.com
*as in actually done not hypothetically done if the client signs everything off, the other agencies play nice, and several other planets align
What does it mean when the internet is not just real but is also an icon, and a symbol? Five thought provoking global stories of the internet as a place you drive to, asynchronous occasion, as an intermediate destination without keyboard, interface or electricty, that comes to you, the internet as an imagined space and last but not least the internet as an offering to the afterlife. Wonderful.
Obviously having a bit of an aural day today. I've been singing into, humming at, and generally fiddling about with SoundHound all day (and yes I know Shazam did this first). Like so many wonderful little app products it goes straight to the heart of a human behaviour/pain/need. Watching people tunelessly, desperately intoning 'that song that goes' to skinny tshirted and bejeaned hipsters in Rough Trade is one of my favourite things until of course I am in the poor soul in pursuit of an earworm with nowhere to go but the withering record shop staff. No more you bastards: SoundHound is on my side and I know now that lovely little snippet that just floated by me on NPR was the Orchestral Intro from Plastic Beach by Gorillaz. Hah.
Every now and again you stumble across a blog or a site that truly enrichs the way you think. Every single post on Neil Perkins' blog 'Only Dead Fish' makes my brain fire. This week's post is on the app Path a network that caps your friendship group to no more than 50 members. Here's a snippet and a link:
Since its redesign, Path has gotten a lot of attention. Many would say that having created a ground-breaking piece of mobile UX this is deserved. I've had Path on my phone for a good while but not really used it. The redesign has tempted me back to play around with it, but it's not yet something I open up regularly, partly because I'm not sure what place it has in amongst all the stuff I use on a daily basis. That may change, but for now that's how it is.
One of the interesting things about it though, is that it was designed from the outset to be an intimate network. When it began, the number of people you could friend on it was capped at 50. They've since relaxed that limit to 150. But they're still clear about where that reasoning comes from:
"We are inspired by Professor Robin Dunbar from Oxford University, whose research delves deeply into the number of trusted relationships humans can maintain throughout life. We tend to have 5 best friends, 15 good friends, 50 close friends and family, and 150 total friends. At Path, we're building tools for you to share with the people who matter most in your life."
I've been interested in networks for sometime now. The influence of the intimate network of those closest to us has a profound impact on behaviours across a broad spectrum of health and emotion (smoking, eating, alcohol, weight, happiness to name but a few). The work of Christakis and Fowler is wonderful:
For a while now I've been becoming increasingly jaded with agency life. I left ad agency life 8 years ago to work in digital agencies. Like so many who make this transition my reasons were predicated on creating things of real value and utility. The hard truth I've come to accept is that I haven't really ended up making anything of value to anyone apart from the brands I've helped prop up with online brand comms masquerading as digital services. There is a well trodden saying in the marketing community: 'Nothing kills a bad product quicker than good advertising'. The great skill of the traditional advertising creative team was to take a product, try to find a special or unique thing about it (there often wasn't anything different or special about it), and spin a human narrative of entertainment, emotion and desire complete with some succinct, clever copy. This is the great craft of advertising - wrap a dull/crap product in layers of emotion and creativity in order to create desire. The sad truth about digital agencies, even the very best of them like R/GA, is that 90% of the time the products that clients bring you to promote are still inherently flawed and undifferentiated. Beautiful layers of interaction, experience, service, social sharing etc wrap these products in a very similar the same way that advertising does, but underneath all these layers there often exists a fundamentally crap product, the semblance of value disappears once you get the the product. Control of product development in companies doesn't sit with the marketing teams therefore agencies aren't generally involved in the product until the proposition stage. Bad product is something I simply couldn't get close to fixing as long as the majority of my clients are in the marketing function of businesses.
Enter Fluxx, and a new chance for me. I'm trying to set up a Product Lab that will work with CTO, CIO and other business owners to catalyse ideas into products. A shortage of idea isn't the problem for businesses (see this post) surmounting the day-to-day processes, and bringing ideas into being is. By running methodologies of manufacturing combined with the creative lab process perfected by PAL for writers and film makers, Fluxx Labs will develop products in tandem with clients and end-users to deliver new products to deliver real value to people and new streams of revenue for businesses. I've been working on the proposition for a few weeks now, and meeting Fluxx clients. I'msurprised how many clients have already expressed an interest in this way of working; the trick now is to prove the methodology by putting it into practise.
I've maintained for some time that the people behind cycle lanes hate cyclists. This nice little video from a guy in NY ticketted by the NYPD for not cycling in the cycle lane really struck a cord with me: