Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 22, 2016 6:31 AM

Great Curation On Farnam Street

Episode #515 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

This is where I typically wax poetic about this week's guest. This time, I think Farnam Street's chief, curator and smarty pants, Shane Parrish, can best explain who he is: "My goal is to help you go to bed each night smarter than when you woke up. I'll do this by giving you tools, ideas, and frameworks for thinking. I'm not smart enough to figure all of this out myself. I try to master the best of what other people have already figured out. Sounds simple, doesn't it? The best way to do this is to read a lot. And so I make friends with the eminent dead. Along the way I write about what I'm learning." I could not be a bigger fan of the Farnam Street newsletter, and his curation is stunning. Enjoy the conversation...

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast #515.

By Mitch Joel


May 21, 2016 6:08 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #309

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person "must see".

Check out these six links that we're recommending to one another: 

  • Big Imagination 747 - One Month Progress Report - Big Imagination - YouTube. "This project tried to get to Burning Man last year, failed pretty spectacularly because -- who knew--they underestimated the challenges of acquiring a jumbo jet. It's now underway. It shows the sheer hubris and scale of what has become a controversial festival that's a wannabe spiritualist hipster boondoggle for some, and the greatest art party on the planet for others. But whichever camp you're in, the scale of this art car boggles the mind." (Alistair for Hugh).
  • Hyper-Reality - Keiichi Matsuda - Vimeo. "A few years ago I saw a pretty dystopian video of mixed reality by Keiichi Matsuda, where a user's view was clogged with ads that blocked out the real world in order to earn enough money to boil water. Well, if that was dark, this finished, Kickstarter-backed one is downright terrifying. Here's what our augmented future might look like if we're not careful, and it's so compelling and vivid it's hard not to believe it's on its way." (Alistair for Mitch).
  • How I Acted Like A Pundit And Screwed Up On Donald Trump - FiveThirtyEight. "Data whiz any pollster analyst, Nate Silver, underestimated Donald Trump on his site FiveThirtyEight. Here is his mea culpa." (Hugh for Alistair).
  • Never mind the bus pass: punks look back at their wildest days - The Guardian. "When I was a kid in the mid-eighties, I fell in love with punk music and the punk aesthetic from late 70s London. Somehow this article is heartwarming." (Hugh for Mitch).
  • New Digital Face Manipulation Means You Can't Trust Video Anymore - Singularity Hub. "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. This was a well-used, much loved cartoon that made the rounds - for years - as connectivity and social media took hold. The image to support the text was - simply - a dog typing on a computer. Well, what if you could alter a video of anyone to emulate facial and mouth movements that never existed in the source video -- by yourself, at home, using a cheap webcam? Watch the demo below. Now, think about how big of a problem we already have, in a world where most people share, comment and expand on news items that are false and/or satire. Who will be watching for us?" (Mitch for Alistair).
  • Great Books for Designers to Read in 2016 - Robin Raszka - Medium. "As a non-designer (in the traditional sense), I find that most of my inspiration and ideation gets sparked by looking, reading, analyzing and thinking even deeper about design. Most of that inspiration comes from books (the Web versions seem somewhat "limiting" - which is surprising). There is something about how these books are designed (imagine that), that truly does inspire. Here's a whole lot of them... many of which I have just ordered." (Mitch for Hugh). 

Feel free to share these links and add your picks on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments below or wherever you play.

HYPER-REALITY from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

By Mitch Joel


May 20, 201611:34 PM

Your Creative Moment Of Zen

I want my MTV.

Yes, I am from that generation. A time when moving images were put to the hottest music, and every musician and band was forced to create a video representation of their audio landscape. Most bands, labels and managers failed spectacularly, when it came to making this happen. Some struggled due to talent, while most suffered with little-to-no budget. As with all things creative, these limitations also gave rise to a new form of art and creativity. It's one that has spilled into the YouTube (and now, Snapchat) generation. Creators are finding fascinating ways to tell stories. The other (major) factor in the development of the music video genre, has been technology. As the years wane on, access to better tools (hardware and software) have empowered these same creators to think bigger than ever. Just wait and see what augmented and virtual reality is going to do to push this genre even more.

A prime example of great video, creativity and artistry.

For Coldplay's latest single, Up&Up (it's the third single taken from their new album, A Head Full Of Dreams), the band really pushes the boundaries, in what can only be described as a timely (and timeless) visual collage that you will want to watch over and over again. Beyond how visually stunning this clip is, I'm left trying to imagine how the creators juxtaposed so many interesting ideas. Fun, eye-opening, clever, deep and highly entertaining. A lesson for every brand (and band) that has access to the tools and a publish button...  

By Mitch Joel


May 19, 201611:43 PM

Facebook Made The Right Move. Regardless Of What Marketers Think.

Brands will have to leave Facebook. 

This was the general sentiment not all that long ago. For the longest time, Facebook was encouraging brands to build Pages, chase likes and engage with consumers on their platform. Brands could not resist, as the number of Facebook users grew without end. It was a veritable free-for-all for a long time. On one hand, it was great for brands and the Grand Prix race for millions of likes. On the other hand, there was a huge erosion taking place. Brands - who could publish, post and reach everyone they were connected to - did so with reckless abandon. It was all about quantity over quality, and the Facebook users were feeling it. No joke. Brands would post a stock photo of the sun with the gripping copy of "like this is you like Thursday!" An impression was a free impression. Brands never met an impression that they didn't like. A "like" was the perfect vanity metric to push brands to spend more on Facebook. The like acquisition business was a healthy one. Still, consumers are not stupid. It was terrible and wasteful content, and it was turning them off. It polluted the Facebook experience, and was pushing people away from the platform because they believed that Facebook was becoming less about friends, and more about being marketed to. Never a good thing. 

Then Facebook did both the best thing and the worst thing possible. 

Not that long ago Facebook began throttling the content from these brand pages. The reasoning was sound. Perhaps the less content that makes its way to the user, the more content they would see from real friends. Perhaps the less content that makes its way to the user, the more a brand might think about what they're posting, to make it count. Perhaps, now that Facebook, is controlling the distribution of content, they can charge for it. Charge, not just for the distribution, but a premium amount for an increase of reach and targeting. Some might argue (I would), that they created a very powerful (and lucrative) advertising platform. A few years in, and take a look at their advertising sales. Brands can like it (or not), but it's impressive. Impressive beyond words. 

The final straw?

Once Facebook amped this strategy up, organic distribution of content dropped drastically (for the majority). Next to nothing was making its way from brands on Facebook to the people who actually liked the brand. Brands worked super-hard to get likes and followers, and now Facebook is letting nothing through. It's pay to play. The general consensus was that brands would now leave Facebook. They would not concentrate on Facebook any longer. They would bail. Facebook would lose revenue. Facebook is just another paid channel. Brand and media companies have options. 
The brands did not shy away. Facebook wins. 

The lack of organic reach has had zero effect on how brands operate on Facebook.

In fact (and maybe most surpassingly), brands are spending more time creating content on Facebook (and paying for it). That was the general message from the Social Times piece titled,
Is Facebook Dead to Brands? Not So Fast... that was published today. From the article: "Daily post frequency rose by 36 percent on Facebook and by 14 percent on Instagram, while slipping by 2 percent on Twitter. Instagram posted the highest follower growth among the three social networks in 2015, but it peaked in February and began trending downward, while Facebook and Twitter were more stable. Instagram topped Facebook and Twitter in terms of engagement rate, and brand with the smallest followings (1,000 or fewer) on all three social networks boasted the strongest engagement rates."

What can brands learn from this?

  1. Brand are spending a lot more time on Facebook. 
  2. Brands are posting much more frequently.
  3. If you think Facebook is slowing down, it is not. 
  4. Photos and videos will engage your consumers more than text.
  5. The tighter your community, the better your engagement will be.
  6. Brands are paying (more than ever) to be active on Facebook.

Don't assume it's all paid media.

Content still has value. Creating something that people will talk about, share and connect with has value. Content is now a tale of two cities, when it comes to Facebook. Some of it must be created with more of an advertising angle (something to inform or sell with the impetus that money will spent against it), while a lot of it should still be created to add value, insight and connections with your consumers (and yes, you can still boost these with some dollars to get more attention). Facebook is still a great place to create a more human connection, let's not forget that. Let's also not forget that Facebook is a growing advertising platform. How Facebook tweaks the algorithm will forevermore have massive brand implications.

Still, with 1.65 billion users (plus their ownership of Instagram), etc... Facebook is calling the shots, and brands are going along for the ride.

By Mitch Joel


May 18, 2016 7:11 AM

Our Narrowing World View Is Not Facebook's Fault

Don't blame Facebook for the type of content that we see.

There was a lot of conversation this week about what Facebook does (and does not do) to control the content that we see. Facebook was accused of suppressing conservative news, and how it hits the newsfeed. Interesting. In a world where people are shunning traditional news outlets (newspapers, magazines, radio, etc...) and turning to social media for their news, there is a sudden expectation (demand?) that a social media platform should have the same moral, ethical and social contracts that news organizations have had within our society. Should Facebook suddenly ensure that content (of all shapes and political sizes) get their own fair share of distribution? Is that their business model? Is that their moral obligation? Is that their business model? No. No it is not (for the time being).

Social media is not news. You don't follow unbiased sources.

Back when social media took hold (over a decade ago), I had written several pieces about how - in a world where we're all going to be more connected - our world view will shrink and become more repressive than ever. How so? With so many new voices online (and places to connect), how can our world view shrink? For years, we got our news from news outlets. While these outlets may have had a political slant, they still delivered various kinds of news, from various sources, and from various parts of our world. You could just love the sports section of your local newspaper, but still whip through (and be exposed to) a bunch of headlines and issues in the world. When we were not buried in our smartphones (in our social feeds), we stumbled across news sources in places like our cars (radio) or while watching television (the news), etc... Once the web browser took hold, we had "internet portals" (remember those?) like AOL and Yahoo. Their homepages dominated the web, as millions of people would turn to their news-driven homepages that were carefully curated (often mixed with original news) from experiences editors. Then, came customization. Customization allowed consumers to choose the type of content that they wanted to see. You could dump everything from your homepage except for the sports (if that was your thing). As social media took over, we took this customization to a whole other level. Now, we're not just choosing sports, but people who only like the same teams that we do.

Sports is the analogy that leads us to this much larger problem and realization.

It's not that Facebook is (or ins't) suppressing conservative news that should be the eye-opener here, it's that you - yes, you! - are suppressing your world view, every single day that you continue to follow only a small, specific and like-minded group of friends, connections and likes. Facebook could double-dose on conservative news, but if your feed is full of people with an opposing view, the odds of you seeing it is minimal to non-non-existant.

Our narrowing world view is on you.

When things were much more heated in the Middle East, their was a consensus that one side was winning the PR and news battle. I remember having people pull me aside and ask how this is possible? Their newsfeeds clearly demonstrated the opposite. These smart, educated and well-informed individuals didn't understand that they were only following people who shared a similar point of view (who only wanted to see one side). They had seen no counter-views in their newsfeed. And, after all, this newsfeed is becoming their only perspective of the world (which includes the limited number of people that they follow, and  how natural and tribal it is to follow those who are most like you). There is no solving this problem. Facebook (and other social media channels) can amp up the content, distribution and more, but if all you're doing is following a group of likeminded people (who are most like you), we're going to be left wondering where a depth of perspective and insight is going to come from. It's not fair to blame Facebook for the choices that we're all making.

Odds are that a truly world view will not be found in your newsfeed any time soon... and Facebook is not to blame. We are.

By Mitch Joel


May 16, 2016 8:26 AM

We're Watching Too Much Netflix, People!

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is... Read more

By Mitch Joel


May 15, 2016 6:40 AM

The Power Of Small Data

Episode #514 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. He's got a big brain, and he's always thinking about marketing, advertising and brands. You can hear the excitement... Read more

By Mitch Joel


May 14, 2016 6:46 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #308

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see? My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete... Read more

By Mitch Joel


May 13, 201611:18 PM

Disruption Of Disrupted

Opinions are not facts. Perspectives are not reality (they're personal). I read Dan Lyons book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, and really loved it. It's a real page-turner. It was well-written. It was funny. It was fast-paced. It shed... Read more

By Mitch Joel


May 12, 201611:43 PM

A More Elegant Question About Publishing And Money

How are publishers going to make money? That is the question that everyone in the media wants an answer to. This is the million dollar question? Scratch that, this is the multi-billion dollar question. It's not just traditional media outlets... Read more

By Mitch Joel