37 posts categorized "consumer generated content"

November 13, 2009

What is "The Fun Theory" really worth?

A couple of people took note of VW's campaign "The Fun Theory." Most recently Corley suggested it "further's VW's corporate social responsibility." Ultimately, I believe she is correct in saying that, but it's a broad statement begging to be unpacked.

To be sure, this campaign isn't about VW being socially responsible. It's about VW wanting others to associate the word "Fun" with VW.

The campaign is simple, unexpected, concrete, and each of the demonstrations have the trappings of a story, and presumably the effort is designed to get people excited about the possibilities (emotion). Together, all of these are components of a sticky message (PDF).

But is it credible?

Let's take a look at some of the videos that are currently on their website.

One is the piano. The question is "How do we get more people to take the stairs instead of the escalator." According to VW, the answer is to make the stairs FUN, of course.

I guess that's one way to do it, if you have $40K (or whatever) to spend on labor and materials. The problem, in this case, is that the owners of the stairs get no benefit from such an investment.

Additionally, their efforts may actually lead to injuries due to people trying to play a song on the stairs. There's no fun in that. I'll bet VW won't post any videos of anyone falling down the stairs.

The other, more cost-effective way to do it, without unnecessarily increasing the temptation to be careless on the stairs, is to turn off the escalator. It doesn't cost a thing (it actually saves electricity), and the number of people who use the stairs instead of the escalator increases to 100%.

It reminds me of something I read from Roger von Oech. I'll do my best to not butcher it in my retelling.

Villagers of a certain town were horrified to discover evidence that they had been burying people alive. Exhuming a coffin, they found that the lid had been clawed by the (currently) deceased. Upon this discovery, they exhumed a few more graves and found many others with these same characteristics, letting them know that it was a normative problem.

The elders were gathered together to figure out how to deal with this. They came up with two ideas.

One idea was to run a string into the grave with the person believed to be deceased. One end of the string would be tied to the hand of the one they buried. The other would be tied to a bell in the graveyard. If the grave keeper heard the bell, he'd discover its source and save the person buried alive. The focus of this effort was to ensure no one was buried alive.

The other idea was to build a large spike into the coffin top, so that when it was closed, it pierced the heart of the body in it. The focus of this effort was to ensure that everyone buried was dead.

As I mentioned to Corley, the issue I have with the effort is that some of them are impractical, and I suspect VW knows that. What they're trying to do is give people a reason to think of "fun" when they think of VW. Regardless of whether the association has validity with respect to their automobile choices, if people believe it to be true, it may as well be.

However, if this effort gets people thinking about the ways they can increase the "fun quotient" in their user experience, they can increase adoption rates. This is laudable not only from a social standpoint, but also from a business standpoint.

Notably, it doesn't have to be an investment of tens of thousands of dollars unless there is a corresponding financial benefit for making the investment.

Whatever the case, I'm interested in seeing other entries in this campaign. Keep track with me at TheFunTheory.com, or enter one yourself. - Cam Beck

November 25, 2008

Beware Navel-Gazing Straw Men on Second Life and in Real Life

Gink4_wideweb__470x341,0 Yesterday I came across this article on MSNBC that claims a bank crash that took place in the virtual world Second Life foretold the current economic crisis. The author says Second Life can provide "real-life lessons on the patterns of free markets and unfettered capitalism." Maybe it can, but be careful what conclusions you draw from those lessons. There are physical costs and incentives associated with the real world that a virtual world like Second Life cannot duplicate.

MSNBC's chief source is a highly credentialed professor out of Cornell, who also authors the blog Metanomics. However, comparisons between the real world and the virtual world to conclude financial markets cannot simply be left alone to self-regulate is a straw man.

The conclusion this straw man enables is tempting for two groups of people:

  • Second Life fanatics
  • Those who are inclined to believe that the problems in this economy can traced back to insufficient regulations.

So if you fall into one of those two groups (or worse, both), beware bias that might prematurely lead you to MSNBCs conclusion without a thorough vetting.

No market is unregulated in Second Life or in any other life -- especially the real world, where banks and businesses are under such stringent regulations that they hire teams of consultants and accountants to ensure they won't be fined, fired, or thrown in jail for misreporting their numbers.

On top of that, at some point in world history, before law and order were established mainstays of organized society, real life bankers really had to fear being tarred and feathered by mobs with pitchforks if they did not behave honestly. That's a pretty convincing incentive to not rip anyone off.

I won't say the same mob justice isn't possible on Second Life, but it doesn't sting as much when it happens to your avatar.

Now, at least the law gives people some recourse if they have a grievance due to fraud. And this is true no matter what life the promises are made. Then it's just a question of jurisdiction. And if all else fails, Second Life can ban access to its platform or certain types of transactions -- that in itself is another form of regulation that puts to rest the premise that Second Life represents life without regulation.

It's complicated and it makes for an interesting academic discussion, which is probably why an academic is exploring it. However, we need beware of hasty conclusions. - Cam Beck

July 03, 2008

Missed Opportunities and Distributable Content


Every year around Independence Day some news websites like MSNBC.com create mini-citizenship tests  -- almost as if to prove how dumb we all are with respect to our own laws and history. Perhaps because journalists are in the habit of conducting idiotic and meaningless polls to develop news out of nothing (Such as "Which Presidential candidate would you rather invite to a barbeque?"), they consider polls such as this one to be satisfactory in the fulfillment of their public service. This particular execution, however, practically screamed for an opportunity for the online community to share their results with others. Sadly, it isn't something MSNBC seemed to consider worthwhile.

Undoubtedly, this poll is being passed around. The fact that I'm writing about it talking proves that, and I'd wager that at least some of the people who read this will likely take the test to see how they fare.

But then what?

MSNBC, like a lot of companies when given the opportunity, don't make it easy to share the results in a way that would entice people to share it.

Conceptually, the idea isn't that difficult. It's been done before (See "What's Your Blog's Reading Level?" or "How Many 5 Year Olds Can You Take in a Fight?"). The design can be mediocre (such as this hack-job I threw together), and people would still have fun with it.

Distributable content

As you can see, it can even be branded to serve as a sort of "product placement" within the content of someone's blog or MySpace page, which is more likely to be seen and used than if it were simply a display ad.

The execution of it just requires technical skill that the folks at MSNBC.com surely have at their disposal.

What's more, the results aren't exactly useless. Something like this can be fun and still inform people about some things that they didn't (but probably should) know. People don't get -- and many of them resist it anyway -- all of their education from a stale textbook. 

Don't know the term of a U.S. Senator? You will after you take the test.

Why aren't more companies (and schools) taking advantage of this powerful tool? - Cam Beck

April 07, 2008

Be a Leader by Getting Out of the Way

Untitled_2 Tim and Wendy McHale of Madison Avenue Journal kindly invited me to attend Ad:Tech in the hopes that I would extend my meager observational talents to review some of the finalists for the "People's Choice Awards."

I know that some of you are thinking, "Cam, what qualifies you for this duty?"

As evidence of my expertise, I submit to you Exhibit A.

As you can see, I am, in fact, a people (The indefatigable Doug Meecham snapped that shot with me and my two friends, David Reich and Lewis Green).

For my first review, I took on the ever-popular ElfYourself. please do me the honor of heading over to Madison Avenue Journal and letting me know what you think. - Cam Beck

April 03, 2008

How Many Five Year Olds Could You Take in a Fight?

After a quick question and answer session, I've finally answered a question that has plagued me for years.  I don't really have any application to this other than the fact that it is hilarious and they've made it easy to share. How many can you take? - John Herrington


March 13, 2008

PayPerPost: Friend or Foe?

Recently a representative for IZEA came to visit Click Here about opportunities afforded by PayPerPost, a service Paul has written about before. The goal we had in mind wasn't to explore opportunities for ChaosScenario (our relationship with our wide variety of clients would pose too many potential conflicts of interest to even consider), but to see if any of our clients could use the service. I've concluded very little, but I think I have an idea about the 3 main questions I need to consider. Before we get there, though, I have to provide a little background.

PayPerPost must be looked at separately for companies and bloggers. Here is how it works:

  1. Companies determine how many bloggers they want to reach, how much they will bid for the posts, what the requirements of the post will be, and who can be eligible to participate (readership, ranking, industries covered).
  2. Bloggers who participate in the program search for or are invited to write about something they want to write about based on company, industry, and/or the amount they are being offered. If they find something that strikes their interest, they sign up for it and write a post according to the requirements (word count, etc.).

Here are the rules:

  1. Bloggers are required to disclose that they are being paid for their contribution (this wasn't always so), and
  2. They must separate each paid post with at least one normal (unpaid) post. The subject matter doesn't need to be the same.

Based on how well the blogger did, and providing the blogger followed the rules, the paying company can rate the blogger's post, which affects the person's PayPerPost reputation. This impacts how many requests they get in the future.

Is it immoral? Not necessarily.
Empirically I see no intrinsic ethical problem with this arrangement. Each blogger must maintain the relationships with his own readers. Since bloggers must disclose that they are being paid for their work, the reader is free do decide if the endorsement has merit.

All people, in business and on blogs, who sacrifice their integrity will see their reputations punished by the marketplace.

But perception is 9/10 of the law
If a blogger's audience objects to their being paid for writing posts, then it is up to the blogger to figure out how to deal with that, or he will lose his audience. That is between the blogger and his readers.

However, justified or not, how other people (mis)behave affects others' perception of us.

So it's worth it, as a blogger and as someone who needs to make recommendations in the best interests of my clients, to analyze this development in the marketplace.

Beware of myopia
It's easy to sit here from our pedestals, as marketing bloggers and media critics, and think that everyone else who blogs thinks about blogs like we do.

The truth is that people consume media -- including blogs -- in all sorts of ways, for all sorts of reasons. I try to branch outside of my circle continuously to remind myself of this fact, and I've benefited (profited?) from the experience.

One blogger claims that she earned $14,000 in one year from PayPerPost, and that her traffic has actually increased since she started (she draws no conclusions about causality). That's not a king's ransom, but it does show how a blogger can be effective using the service, part time.

What's the big difference?
While considering this issue, I'm comparing these things.

  1. Advertising - If you accept advertisements on your blog, do you run the ads through a filter to determine a proper fit? Do you have to use the product or service you are advertising? Do you care that your display ads are largely ignored?
  2. Celebrity endorsements -  When Michael Jordan receives millions for pitching Nike, do we hold it against him that he got paid for it?
  3. Sports sponsorships - Stadiums are named after the highest bidder. Does this compromise the integrity of the coaches, players, or owners? Does it affect your enjoyment of the game?
  4. Show sponsorships - When Cali Lewis tells us that the latest podcast was "brought to" us by the new, lower-price Nokia N810, is she to be commended or condemned?
  5. Work - Most of us have jobs that pay us a salary and/or commission for providing advice to our clients. Is the quality of our advice diminished because we're getting paid for it?

What do you think about it? I'm really looking for the answer to 3 main questions.

  1. Is it ethical?
  2. Will it help or harm the medium, over time?
  3. With an average campaign cost of $19K that delivers higher click-through rates than traditional display advertising, is it worth it?

- Cam Beck

February 29, 2008

Why Agencies Don't Get Social Media

Social_media Yesterday Brian Morrissey at AdWeek posted an article titled "Social Media: 'Agencies Don't Get It,' Survey Says."  I'd post the link, but it's now only available to AdWeek subscribers.  The gist of the story was that TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony polled marketers across North America, France and the U.K. on how they were sizing up when it comes to social media.  Part of the study was to gauge their agencies' abilities to shepherd  them through the chaos that makes up social networking, and TNS concluded that "Agencies don't get it."  The article went on to say that agencies talk a good game but they're severely lacking when it comes to implementation on a tactical level.

After reading the article, I felt like it opened up the conversation as to WHY agencies are perceived social media neophytes.

  1. Social networks weren’t designed to be a marketer’s playground, so everyone is still trying to figure out the fine line of being relevant to users but not invading their space in a corporate fashion.
  2. Many clients enter the interactive realm and want measured results with very focused ROI campaigns.  While this works well when it comes to search and targeted ad units, it isn’t necessarily a slam dunk when it comes to social networks.  I would argue that because of this reality there may be many agencies that don’t know much about social networks because they can’t justify to their clients how it would ever be profitable on a DR metric.  If companies don’t want to spend branding dollars online then they will continue to have a tough time coming up with “successful” social networking campaigns.
  3. Agencies as a whole need to embrace social networking not from a corporate level, but from an individual level.  This is what I believe Morrissey is speaking to.  It’s tough to come up with ideas for MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc when you don’t manage and embrace your own page.  I feel like the key to this as an interactive brand manager is to constantly try out new technologies so that we can speak on them from a personal experience level.  I know that sometimes this might be considered a brand planner or strategist's realm of expertise, but this should be something that every discipline jumps into.  The more collective knowledge we have on these networks and new technologies the better equipped we’ll be to make recommendations for or against such campaigns for our clients.

What do you think? - John Herrington

Photo courtesy of Mario Sundar

February 25, 2008

The Biggest Decision You'll Make this Year - Mike Huckabee

Now that we've taken a look at all of the presidential hopefuls, I'd be remiss to leave out one of the most followed Vice Presidential candidates, Mike Huckabee.  I joke, which seems fitting for Huckabee's campaign.

Huck_site_2 Design

Logo – Huckabee doesn't really have a consistent logo, but I'll review what is present in the header.  There appears to be falling stars which makes me think that I can make a wish.  Huckabee also, like Senator Clinton, reminds us that he's running for president by simply putting "President" underneath his name.  I think it's a bit presumptuous that he left off the "for" before "President."Huck_logo

Color palette – maroon, blue and yellow. Like McCain, this seems like an odd color combination.  I think the maroon is an homage to his beloved Razorbacks.

Personal pic – Unlike any of the other candidates, Huckabee seems a bit humble to not show a personal pic in a fixed position on the site.  It's true that other pictures take up the hero shot on the homepage, but the one up today is not Huckabee's best angle.

Navigation –  Here's another horizontal navigation, but there's no secondary links from the top bar.  While some might see this as a simplistic design, it strikes me as quite a surprise in that it seems like when running for the President of the United States there would be plenty of things to link to.   

Calls to action – There seem to be quite a few different calls to action on the homepage from Read More!, Build our Base, Become a Ranger and Contribute.  None of these particularly stand out too much.

Order of importance – based on navigation

  1. About Mike
  2. Newsroom
  3. Issues
  4. Blog
  5. Get Involved
  6. Contribute

Order of importance – based on layout

  1. Texas for Huckabee
  2. Help Mike Today!
  3. Ways You Can Help Huckabee!
  4. Recent Blog Posts

What’s missing - While the site is a clean design, it still leaves much to be desired.  Based on how the sections of the site are labeled it seems that Huckabee definitely needs help.  The 3 outlined steps are to 1. Join the team, 2. Build their base or Become a Ranger! (not as awesome as it sounds) and 3. Contribute.   The third option is most important as it is highlighted with a yellow font color.  Overall, the design reminds me of my days when I first started using Dreamweaver and Photoshop. While both programs offer a ton of ways to make things look cool, when you try them all out on the same site it looks like crap.  My guess is that Huckabee has a precocious grandson.

Seal Rating:Seal_3Seal_2



About Mike - This section of the site has a good amount of info on Huckabee, unfortunately the video that is intended to inspire reminds me more of a home movie.  On the flip-side, one of the most impressive things I've learned about Huckabee is that when he was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 2003 he lost 110 pounds. He then went on to complete four marathons over the next two years.  The other interesting piece is that Huckabee plays the bass guitar in a "rock-n-roll" band, Capitol Offense.  Here's the thing, with the exception of Sting, how many bass players are the leader in their bands?  Huckabee seems more like a wingman than a commander in chief.  Huckabee's the guy that forwards you the Chuck Norris jokes, he's fun to hang out with but you're not following him into battle.

Developer Log - One of the most bizarre parts of the site resides in the subnavigation in the About Mike section is this Developer Log.  Here, a voter can see important things like on 12/18 at 6:19 PM they "Added Filter to Ranger Endorsements public display" and on 12/11 at 5:30 PM "Rangers can add their own links to their dashboard, making the dashboard a potential home page for supporters."  This is hilarious to me.  Why on earth would you put this mundane information up on the site?  Like I said, it feels very amateur, like the developer wants everyone to know the progress he's made on the site.


Become a Ranger - one of the biggest disappointments to the site is that when I tried to "Become a Ranger" I was met with a Chuck Norris-like server error scissor-kick to the throat.


Newsroom - The problem I have with this section is that the Press Releases and Recent Articles aren't titled very distinctively and they don't lead me to want to click on them at all.  The video archive, which shows a screenshot of the video is a let down in that I can't just view the video on this page.  I would have to click on the link of the video and which then takes me to YouTube.  They've listed the Author, Keywords, and Date, but the problem is that all of the entries are from the same person with the same keyword.

Issues - Huckabee has chosen to rename the issues with his own personal spin, which makes quick scanning of the issues very difficult.

Blog - Here I see another missed opportunity, in that the Blog only highlights campaign events and videos instead of providing content and engaging people in a conversation.  This content is just recycled from what could be displayed on a videos page and an upcoming events page.

What’s missing -  There simply isn't much to the site as the content is severely lacking compared the other three candidate's sites.  With that in mind, I will say that 29 Things You Didn't Know About Huckabee is my favorite part of the site.

Seal Rating:Seal_4


Use of technology

The site was built on Coldfusion, which was a hot development framework back in 2001, but is seen as outdated by many in today's advertising space. Now, on to the social networks.

MySpace - 38,854 friends, 12,269 comments

  • Barack Obama - 295,556 friends, 46,073 comments
  • Hillary Clinton - 182,641 friends, 18,691 comments
  • John McCain - 44,931 friends, 5,814 comments. 

Facebook - 56,839 supporters, 8,898 wall posts

  • Barack Obama - 627,718 supporters, 83,325 wall posts
  • Hillary Clinton - 110,460 supporters, 37,456 wall posts
  • John McCain - 59,342 supporters, 5,804 wall posts

Eons - N/A

  • Hillary Clinton - 297 friends, 3 badges
  • Barack Obama - 216 friends, 1 badge 
  • John McCain - 3 friends, 0 badges

YouTube - 4,113 subscribers, 461,353 channel views,184 videos uploaded

  • Barack Obama - 30,595 subscribers, 12,180,341 channel views, 705 videos uploaded 
  • Hillary Clinton - 9,829 subscribers, 1,304,419 channel views, 252 videos uploaded
  • John McCain - 2,613 subscribers, 589,518 channel views, 166 videos uploaded

What’s missing - The social networking piece of Huckabee's campaign caught me off guard because I thought that most people, like me, would want to befriend the former Governor even if they didn't want to back his presidential run.  I mean, c'mon, he knows Chuck Norris! This sponsorship by Chuck Norris was the best and worst thing Huckabee could've done for his bid.  It was the best because it garnered 1.8 million views on YouTube alone, but it's possibly the worst because it's hard to take the guy seriously.

Seal Rating:Seal_4 Seal_5



Well, Mike, I hate to do this buddy, but your site just stinks.  With the other candidates it literally took me days to review all of their content and put it into bit sized nuggets for our readers while you provided the nuggets as your content.  It's a shame because you seem like a really nice guy, you just should have spent some money on an interactive strategy. 

Overall Seal Rating:Seal_4Half_seal

Thanks so much for your attention in these marathon posts! My hope is that you found some useful information that might help you in your decision for the next president of the free world.   

- John Herrington

February 24, 2008

The Biggest Decision You'll Make this Year - Barack Obama

As we approach the Texas primary it only seems fitting to finish the last two parts of my four part series by reviewing Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee's websites.  Clinton (Part 1) and McCain (Part 2) were interesting but today I've reviewed Senator Obama's site and I welcome your thoughts in this conversation.
Obama_site Design

Logo – some interesting things areLogo going on here.  The color choices were familiar with the red, white and blue, but there's definitely more symbolism here than with others.  The blue resembles a bridge while the red and white stripes look like a road. The center of the ‘O’ looks like a sun coming up on the horizon.  This is a well designed logo that lends itself to multiple uses.

Color palette – red, white and blue tell the story here. While these two words might seem contradictory, the site looks presidential yet fresh. So it’s official, your site can be be serious and yet inspire at the same time.

Personal pic – On one hand, Obama looks poised and ready, with a glimmer of hope on his face.  On the other hand, he’s looking up into the sun which makes him squint and look a bit confused. It reminds me somewhat of the bewildered George W. image that we see so often.  I think the thing I like most about his picture is there’s just one of him, besides a tiny headshot in the “Meet Barack Obama” section in the middle.  Less is certainly more.

Navigation –  Another horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page, with sub-navigation on the right of the page.  They’ve gone with single words for each category which makes the navigation look very clean.  It seems that the campaign is taking a cue from Apple in that they’ve used a common adjective for the different sections of their site.  Much like Apple’s common use of the letter “i” in iLife, iTunes and iPod, Obama’s site has Obama Blog, Obama News, Obama Events, Obama Map, Obama Mobile, Obama Everywhere and then the oddball BarackTV.

Calls to action – The most apparent call to action is the giant red “Donate Now” button that is pervasive throughout most of the site.  This is a pleasing experience for a visitor in that they aren’t inundated with pleas for money but it’s always present in the same spot if they decide that they want to make a contribution.  The Make a Difference section of the sub-navigation is straightforward and rhetoric-free.

Order of importance – based on navigation

  1. Home
  2. Learn
  3. Issues
  4. Media
  5. Action
  6. People
  7. States
  8. Blog
  9. Store
  10. Donate Now

Order of importance – based on layout

  1. One Million People
  2. Donate Now
  3. Make a Difference
  4. Get Involved
  5. Next Up
  6. Obama Blog
  7. Obama News
  8. Know the Facts
  9. Barack TV
  10. Obama Events
  11. My.BarackObama.com
  12. Obama Map
  13. National Voter Protection Center
  14. Action Center
  15. Obama Mobile
  16. Obama Everywhere

What’s missing - I’m baffled as to why all candidates I’ve reviewed so far feel the need to make their Store look any different than their main site.  Obama is no different in that the top navigation is removed and moved all to the left.  The header content is weak and uninspiring.  When it comes to naming the sections of the site, I think it was a mistake to call it BarackTV.  If you’re going to call everything else Obama, stick with that theme.  In addition, Barack just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Obama. Overall, however, the design is clean, easy to navigate and inspirational.

Seal Rating:Seal_3Seal_2
Seal_2 Seal



Learn - When I clicked on this link I was taken to the Meet the Candidate page, which is a secondary link under the “Learn” top nav.   This is a minor issue, but it isn’t a tactic that is followed throughout the site.  Obama’s personal history is rather short and there is only one video to supplement the copy.  Part of the problem is that once the copy ends there is an inordinate amount of white space because there are so many sub-navigational sections on the right, but detractors would probably say that there isn’t much in this section because Obama doesn’t have much experience to pull from.

Issues - This part of the site resembles other previously reviewed candidates with the issues listed and then a short blurb about where Obama stands and then a “Continue Reading” link for further information.  Each issue is clearly labeled like Civil Rights, Disabilities, Economy, Healthcare and Homeland Security.  This seems like a no-brainer to name the issue what the issue is called instead of trying to add your own spin to it.  This allows voters to quickly find the issue and not have to wade through the mire.  I like that even in some of the blurbs, we hear directly from Obama via speeches he’s delivered. The best differentiator for this section is that voters can download “The Blueprint for Change – Obama’s Plan for America” which is a 64 page PDF of how Obama wants to change things.  The PDF gives you an issue at a glance, the problem and Barack Obama’s Plan.  This is Obama’s answer  to critics that claim Obama is a talking head who speaks of change and hope with no real plan to achieve it.

People - Here you’ll find specific pages devoted to different demographics like African Americans, Americans Abroad, Women, LGBT and Kids. That’s right, there is a Kids for Obama page.  Now you may be asking yourself; How can my kid get involved? Well, wait no longer, with 10 Ways Kids for Obama Can Get Involved.  My favorites are:

  • Take an adult (voting age) to the polls on Election Day and encourage them to vote for you, by voting for Senator Obama.

Honestly, using kids to sway their parents is just plain funny.  I can hear it now,Daddy, please vote for Barack Obama! His comprehensive healthcare plan will pave the way to a brighter future for America.”

  • Host a Senator Barack Obama House Party or sleep-over.

Oh goodie!  We can stay up all night and talk about Senators that we have crushes on!

  • Contribute to the Kids for Obama Blog

If you’re a kid and you’re blogging, you seriously need to go outside and get some sun.

States - each state has its own dedicated page with information on how to early vote, read news from your state, upcoming events, TV ads, pictures from the events in your state and groups in your state. 

Blog - videos, articles, pictures, this blog is updated multiple times each day.  For instance, Sunday the 24th has about 10 separate posts.  This campaign understands how to use the blog to their advantage.

Repub Store - as previously mentioned, this part of the site looks and feels different than the rest of the site which is a disconnect.  The most interesting thing I found was the $3 Republicans for Obama bumper sticker, which is on back-order.

Results Center
– much like McCain, Obama has a running tally up-front on his site to remind potential voters that he’s the frontrunner.  This page shows a visual map along with each state and the number of delegates going to Obama versus Clinton.  One nice design element here is that Obama’s states and delegate count is a dark bold blue while Clinton’s is a light weak blue.  I think this is a subliminal attempt to show Obama’s masculinity and strength in opposition to Hillary’s femininity and weakness.  I don’t think Obama is sexist, but I do think there is more to this than just two separate colors.
Know the Facts – This section is genius. The Obama camp has taken statements from Clinton or McCain and either used them against themselves or given a reality check as to why they’re wrong.  Each section is complete with links out to articles and newspapers to back up their claims.  This is so smart in that regardless if Obama is correct on the issue, they’ve taken the work out of the equation for the voter in that they don’t have to search for who said what.  In addition, they defend attacks made against Obama rather convincingly.  This section has its own RSS feed which makes this content very consumable.

BarackTV - Within this section, you can peruse videos by the issue, videos created by the campaign and those created by supporters.  They’ve also taken care of accessibility by providing closed captioning and certain videos in Spanish.

My.BarackObama.com - much like the other two candidates reviewed, you can create an account, add friends, find events, send/receive messages, create groups, fundraise and blog.  EverywhereThey've also called the homepage "My Dashboard" which Mac users will feel at home with.

Obama Mobile - Here you can download mobile wallpapers, ringtones and signup for periodic mobile updates.  You can even receive specific issue updates, by texting issues like HEALTH, IRAQ, and REFORM to OBAMA (62262).  Obama’s camp also has a twitter account, but it’s severely underutilized considering they have 6,661 followers and yet they’ve only posted 72 tweets. Since my original review of Senator Clinton's site, I also found her twitter account as well.  However, she only has 509 followers and 44 posts.  I still wasn't able to find one for John McCain.

Obama Everywhere - literally, he is.

What’s missing
- I struggle to find what is missing from this site.  There is just so much content and sections that are different than the other candidates' sites that I can't give Senator Obama anything other than a perfect score here. 

Seal Rating:Seal_4 Seal_5
Seal_3 Seal_4Seal_5

Use of technology

MySpace - 295,556 friends, 46,073 comments

  • Hillary Clinton - 182,641 friends, 18,691 comments
  • John McCain - 44,931 friends, 5,814 comments. 

Facebook - 627,718 supporters, 83,325 wall posts

  • Hillary Clinton - 110,460 supporters, 37,456 wall posts
  • John McCain - 59,342 supporters, 5,804 wall posts

Eons - 216 friends, 1 badge 

  • Hillary Clinton - 297 friends, 3 badges
  • John McCain - 3 friends, 0 badges

YouTube - 30,595 subscribers, 12,180,341 views, 705 videos uploaded 

  • Hillary Clinton - 9,829 subscribers, 1,304,419 channel views, 252 videos uploaded
  • John McCain - 2,613 subscribers, 589,518 channel views, 166 videos uploaded

What’s missing - I think Obama is in every social network that is currently available.  It's pretty astounding that he has a presence in this many different venues and still dwarfs the other candidates when it comes to friends and interactions.  This campaign has fully utilized every bit of technology to make such a robust site, along with maintaining sixteen different profiles.  Bravo Obama!

Seal Rating:Seal_4 Seal_5
Seal_3 Seal_4Seal_5



While there are some minor shortfalls when it comes to Barack Obama's web presence, his site truly stands above the rest.  Regardless of where you stand on the issues, Obama has most effectively represented his brand in the interactive realm and for that, I give him four and a half seals.

Overall Seal Rating:Seal_4 Seal_5

Part 4, Mike Huckabee will also be this week. So come back soon. - John Herrington

December 18, 2007

What if Your Audience Members are Bozos?

From Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for December 17, 2007 ("Web 2.0 Can Be Dangerous"):

In contrast, on the Web, most people are bozos and not worth listening to.

This seems very strange, since Nielsen relies on a bunch of bozos to tell him what they think does or doesn't work on a website, which he then reports to us as the criteria suggesting what we should and shouldn't do. Is he saying that now we should not listen to him, since he relies on the ability of people who are not worth listening to?

Of course not...and for several reasons.

  1. The recruiting process for usability testing is generally designed to weed out people whose ability falls below the median.
  2. In this passage, Nielsen uses a generalization in language to represent a specific instance. A mistake in logic that might cause others to confuse him for Ebenezer Scrooge. Users? Humbug! This could be caused by the fact that English isn't Nielsen's native language. Or he could just be an ass. I'm not sure.

I disagree with the sentiment that "most people are bozos" entirely. We all have our strengths and weaknesses -- some are more visible and more important than others. I, for instance, am almost entirely useless on pop culture trivia, which is a weakness for me since part of my job entails understanding what other people do with their time (spent, often enough to be important, consuming pop culture). Understanding this is a limitation makes it easy to know I must listen and observe with an open mind when performing user research. (See Jim Stroup's excellent series on Socratic Genius and Ignorance to further explore the limitations of expertise and knowledge).

Context is King
Nielsen's purpose in the above passage was to contrast the quality of user reviews between members of a company and the general public, but he makes the perfectly valid point that in cases where user-generated reviews are scarce or slow in coming, employee-generated reviews in an intranet are likely to be more reliable.

Your Audience is Your Lifeblood
The greater point, though, is that if one thinks so poorly of the audience he seeks to attract, he may not be equipped to serve them well. - Cam Beck

Addendum: David Armano gives his take on usability's role in people-centered design. It's a worthwhile read and I highly recommend it.