An Interview with Apple’s Founder

Here is an interview with the founder of a company that’s played a fair-sized part in shaping the modern world: Apple. Below you’ll find a 2,000 word interview where he very kindly gives his insights and advice on careers, regret, misconceptions, and the characteristics behind Apple’s success.

Which Apple Founder?

If you asked 1,000 people on the street “Who founded Apple?” most would be able to tell you “Steve Jobs”. Some may say “Steve Jobs… and the other guy” (some may even know Steve Wozniak’s name). And, if you were very lucky, some of the most tech savvy among them may give you the correct answer, as illustrated by a Google search for ‘Apple Founders':

applefounders

If you Google ‘Ron Wayne’, you’ll find he was born in 1934, he worked at Atari as well as founding Apple, he drew the first Apple logo, wrote their founding partnership document, wrote their first manual, and – at one time – owned 10% of their shares.

You would also find lots of articles focusing on him relinquishing his shares, how he left the company less than 2 weeks after founding it, and dwelling on how much theoretical money he ‘lost’ by doing so. Below are 9 questions with Ron, talking about his life, his single regret about Apple, his feelings on technology & society, prejudice, and how he would like to be remembered in 100 years.

Q1. What are some of the things you’re most proud of in your career?

“This reply will probably disappoint you, but in terms of technical achievements, I fear I’ve accomplished very little. For a start, I wasted early decades of my life (marked by the acquisition of a dozen significant patents) before I came to fully realize that the life of an independent inventor, in the U.S., is a treadmill to oblivion – because this happens to be the only advanced country in the world where it is not a crime infringe on a patent. This means that by acquiring a patent, the independent inventor is telling the corporate world precisely what he’s discovered, and then is given 17 years in which to defend himself in civil court, against such fabulously wealthy opponents as GE, Borg-Warner and Westinghouse. One might just as well chew on razor blades, or do something equally as ridiculous.” [ed: You can read all about these mis-adventures in Ron's autobiography "Adventures of an Apple Founder".]

“But to return to the initial question “What are the things I’m most proud of in my career?”, I think I’m most proud of having pursued my own technological passions – and of the fact that without a formal education in either electronics or engineering, I was still able to conclude a half-century career in these fields, as Chief Engineer at a small electronics firm in Salinas, California. But please do not misread me. My lack of formal education was due to the circumstances throughout my developing years, rather than to a philosophical opposition to formal education. I simply happened to develop my career during an era in which such a professional life-style was still possible. Only under the most extreme circumstances could such an approach be possible, under the complex technolgies of today’s world. More then that, its not a course of career development that I’d recommend to anyone.”

Q2. If you had founded a company other than Apple, which would you have liked it be, and why?

“As a point of interest, I actually did found a corporation of my own, in Las Vegas during the early 1970s, focused on the design and development of new electronic gaming machines. During its brief life, I actually succeeded in having equipment of my own design, qualified for street service through the Nevada State Gaming Control Board. But I wasn’t long involved in this effort before I realized that I had no business, being in business. The fact is, I came to realize that I was a helluva lot better as an engineer, than as a businessman. As a result, in less than a year the whole thing came unglued, and I eventually returned to California with $600 in borrowed money. Then over the next 18 months I bought back every share of the corporate stock, and made certain that every creditor was paid off at 100 cents on the dollar. I knew that my “corporate shell” was there so that I wouldn’t have to do that. But my personal need to be able to look in a mirror without cringing, denied me the use of such protection.”

Q3. A lot of your posts on your blog are about politics and social justice. What role do you think technology can or should play in these fields?

“I truly believe that successful corporate enterprises – technological or otherwise – are supposed to be functional entities within a “civilized” society. And if such corporate entities (as the Supreme Court has suggested) truly are “people too”, then they have an equal obligation to behave in a civilized manner, particularly among the ocean of “human” people, within who’s society they are “privileged” to exist. Make profit, by all means – but not in the fashion of organized thuggery – and then consider, at least peripherally, how some nominal portion of that profit might be used to support and enhance the well-being of people within that society, upon whom they ultimately depend, for their own success.”

Q4. You sold Apple’s founding contract for $1.5m, making it one of the most expensive corporate documents in history. What did you do/will you do with the money?

“This question reminds me an anecdote, about two elder gentlemen meeting on a steetcorner, after not having met for some time. One says to the other… “Hello George, I heard you made $50,000 in oil last week?” The other man then replied, through a sarcastic grin… “Well, you’re almost right – except it wasn’t oil, it was coal – it wasn’t last week, it was last month – it wasn’t $50,000, it was $100,000, – and I didn’t make it. I lost it.”

About 20 years ago, while working at Thor Electronics, I came across an ad by a dealer in autographs. I then remembered this “old Apple contract”, which was then collecting dust in my filing cabinet, and which carried the signatures of Jobs, Woz and myself. After a brief discussion, I sold the contract to the gentleman – for $500. That was the same contract which, about a year ago, went at auction for 1.3 millions. In this event alone, you see the story of my life – and out of my entire “Apple” experience, this is truly the only incident that I honestly regret.

There is this, however. After a brief meeting in my apartment, between Mr. Jobs, Mr. Wozniak and myself, it was decided that the three of us would found the Apple Computer Company. At that point, I immediately sat down to my typewriter and typed out three copies of that now-famous contract. This means that even though my actual compensation was quite trivial, I can honestly say that in that moment I actually created an artifact which eventually sold at auction for more than a million dollars. In some sort of convoluted way, I suppose that’s some kind of accomplishment.”

Q5. Many of the articles written about you focus on a false ‘with hindsight’ idea that you have missed out on billions. Has the decision, or have these articles ever caused you to feel regret? Do you have any tips for overcoming regret?

“It’s easily said that “I never had any regrets over that decision.”. But I can effective prove the truth of that statement. Aside from the fact that I had several well-founded reasons for not continuing with the Apple enterprise, during the several years that followed, on at least three occasions, Jobs offered me a position with Apple, and on each occassion, I graciously declined. In large part that decision was based on my “engineering style”. I was in my late 40s by that time, and had evolved into an approach to product-development which would involve me in very stage of a product’s creation – from concept development, to prototyping, to documentation, to production planning, and even to the development of production work-station design. It was this “soup-to-nuts” approach to engineering (admittedly a 19th century engineering philosophy), which led me to always ply my skills with small companies, where I could wear six hats. It was a philosophy that eventually laid the foundation for my 16-year stint at Thor Electronics. During that 16 years, I was the Chief Engineer because I was their only engineer. And I was also the Chief Draftsman for the same reason. That kind of engineering style could never have worked at Apple, or any other massive enterprise, for that matter.

How should one deal with regret? Simple. By locking your patterns of thinking into “reason” rather than “emotion”. For example, if I had later decided that my choice to separate from Apple had been a bad idea (which I hadn’t) the rational question must immediately pop up. “Why should I squander my phsychological energy, and my potentially productive tomorrows, making myself sick over the “yesterdays”, about which I can do absolutely nothing?”

In short, if one makes mistakes – learn from them. Don’t grieve over them. Yet I’ll also add, that if someone can actually smarten-up from their mistakes – I should by now be the wisest man in the world.”

Q6. Having seen Apple’s early days from both the in & outside, how much of the company’s eventual success do you put down to each of the 4: Luck, Hard Work, Talent, Personality.

“This is simple. Start with hard work – but also with the realization that in pursuit of ones own passions (as with Steve Wozniak), “hard work”, is just another word for “fun”. I’ve always told people, “Find a job that gives you so much pleasure that you’d be willing to do it for nothing, and you’ll never work a day in your life!”

Talent and personality is also unquestionably a benefit, but one that’s heavily outweighed by the others – passion, and in too many instances, luck.

When it comes to “luck”, an almost totally overlooked element, at the outset of Apple, which profoundly influenced the ultimate success of the enterprise, was the linkage between Jobs and Wozniak, the their finder, Mr. Art Rock. I don’t know if that linkage was by luck, or by cleverness on the part of Mr. Jobs. But without it, the success of Apple would have been strongly impeded. It had always been my experience that whenever an “investor” came in to support a creative mind, “money” always wanted control. But Mr. Rock was far wiser than that, so that when he linked Jobs and Wozniak to the millions needed to start the enterprise, he (Rock) made certain that the “boys” jointly retained the critical 51%. It was this key decision which guaranteed that creative genius would dominate the corporation’s future, and it’s inevitable success.”

Q7. You’ve said that Steve Jobs was the first person at Atari to whom you ‘came out’ as being gay. Do you think that would no longer be an issue today? If not, how do you think progress could be achieved to a point where sexuality and/or gender are no longer issues that trouble people?

“It is a tragic reality of the human condition that prejudice too often trumps reason. I think that the likely reason for this is that its easier to make one’s self feel superior, if others (who happen to be different) can be labelled inferior. And easier still, if one can link to others, of prejudiced thinking, to then use each other as sounding boards. The net result of this reality, is that humen social progress tends to flow like cement. I’ve presented substantial comments on this, and similar issues, in my opus magnum, “Insolence of Office“.

Q8. Do you have any big pieces of advice for someone looking to pursue a career in a ‘digital’ field, or mid-way through that career?

“When I was attending the School of Industrials Arts, in New York City, in the 1950s, I majored in Architecture and Industrial design, under the instruction of Dr. Mueller – a gentleman who held his doctorate in Architecture. My most powerful memory from that course, was when he defined architecture as “Enclosing Space for Human Living”. What struck me so deeply about this comment, was the “universality” of it. By that I mean, that the core of this expression is simply that “What ever you are creating – be it a design, a product or a painting, if you wish it be successful, never forget that you are creating it for the benefit or the use of people.” If the creator of anything forgets this simple truth, no matter how stylish the result, that effort will tempt failure.”

Q9. In 100 years, if you were to be remembered, how would you want people to think of you?

“I’d like to be remembered simply as “Someone who tried.” By the usual standards of the world, it could hardly be said that I was a “success”, by almost any measure of the term. In the final analysis, I’ve certainly never been rich – but then, I’ve never been hungry either. I’d like be thought of as someone who’d given total vent to his own creative passions, and in the process, explored the wonderful world of technology at my own pace, and under my own guidance. At 79, I can look back on a thoroughly eventful life – a life in which I’ve had a helluva good time.”

ronwayneblack

Thanks

Thanks for reading, and thanks very much to Ron Wayne for sharing his experience. Do read his books:

And do visit Ron’s website: http://www.ronaldgwayne.com


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The First Ever Banner Ad (& How it Performs Today)

This is a blog post about the first ever banner ad (from 1994), and the results it got when I set it live again. The post answers 2 interesting questions:

  1. What did the first ever banner ad look like?
  2. If you ran the same ad today, how would it perform?

What was the first ad?

The first ever banner ad ran in 1994, in Wired Magazine’s online equivalent (‘HotWired’). The ad was for AT&T, and got an enormous 44% clickthrough rate.

Here it was:

firsteverad

Quite a strange ad, eh? The birth of a multi-billion industry. It was designed by a man called Joe McCambley, who today works for a company he founded called The WonderFactory.

Since then, banner ads are more commonly called ‘display ads’, and the display advertising market is worth billions a year. Here are a few stats:

  • In the USA alone, $15 billion was spent last year on display ads. (Internet Retailer)
  • It’s a growing market: 64% of businesses increased their display ad spend this year. (Econsultancy)
  • The average clickthrough rate on display ads is roughly 1 in 1,000. (Smart Insights)
  • The particular format of the first ever banner ad performs even worse than that, roughly 1 in 2,500 (0.04%).

When it launched, the first ever banner ad got an enormous 44% clickthrough rate, no doubt due to the utter novelty of it at the time. Today, the average display ad has a clickthrough rate of just 0.11%. And, among the multitude of different formats today, the format of the first ever ad performs particularly poorly with a distressing 0.04% (The format is very roughly 468×60 pixels, which is the traditional ‘banner’ format).

How does the ad perform today?

Having stumbled across the first ever ad, I decided to test it to see how it would perform today. Would it beat the 0.04% benchmark of today’s typical ad of the same format?

Let’s take a quick look at it again before we look at the results:

firsteverad

  1. It’s totally generic. There’s no way to tell which brand it’s advertising.
  2. Most would consider it pretty ugly by today’s standards, but it is extremely contrasty – it would stand out on any background.
  3. Aside from the ugly factor, it’s quite a creative ad. It leads your eye around nicely without any animation. The copy is pretty good too: a question that applies to every viewer, and a clear next step.
  4. Finally, there’s an interesting thing that you don’t notice at first: There is some subliminal text – look carefully behind the coloured arrow and you see it repeats ‘YOU WILL. YOU WILL.’ over and over in very dark grey text.

The Results

I ran the ad for a week, on Google’s Display Network. To keep things fair I decided not to target the ad in any specific way that may influence its success. Instead I simply picked some arbitrary keywords & went with the standard settings.

I didn’t put a landing page together for the ad either. I just pointed it back to the homepage of one of my own sites (a sadly neglected page that hasn’t changed in years), and I told Google to target it against the keywords ‘ecommerce consultant‘.

Here’s the graph of ‘clicks’ & ‘clickthrough rate’ results over 7 days:

displayadresults

As you can see there, it started off slow & built up a little bit. If you look closely, you can also see that the CTR (‘clickthrough rate’) stayed consistently over 3%. I’ve picked out the highest performing day there in the little callout box. As you can see, it got a massive 1.10% clickthrough rate on the Saturday.

Here are the full overall results over the 7 days:

adresultstable

Results Summary:

  • I spent £14.54 (roughly $20).
  • The ad was viewed 10,140 times.
  • It was clicked 75 times.
  • As a result, it had a 0.74% clickthrough rate.

0.74% would not normally sound impressive, but it’s hugely impressive remembering that this format has an average clickthrough rate today of just 0.04%.

That means it performed 18.5x as well as (or put another way 17.5x better than) the average 0.04% clickthrough rate for this format. Or, in other words: Well done to the designer, Joe McCambley. Almost 20 years after he designed the ad, it performed 1,750% better than the average for its format.

Incredible, eh?


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Twitter Is Telling Google Not to Follow Your Links

Over the last couple of years, Twitter silently changed the way they treat any links you include in tweets. In doing so, they have given themselves a very nice competitive advantage in lots areas, but they’ve also silently taken away the ability for search engines to follow the links you post to Twitter.

Here’s what Twitter changed:

  • In the past, clicking a link within Twitter took you directly to the destination.
  • Today, any link you click within Twitter first takes you invisibly to Twitter’s ‘t.co’ URL redirect. Once there, Twitter record various information about the click, before taking you on to your destination. All of this takes a tiny fraction of a second.

For example, clicking this link: http://t.co/1nKSjDDRhd will take you first to ‘t.co’, where Twitter will record the fact that you clicked it, and then you’ll be moved on to the destination URL (in that case, a previous blog post I wrote).

This is a very clever, simple way of allowing Twitter to gather piles of data on which links are most popular, who shares them, who clicks them, etc. As an illustration of how big this is, as a result of this Alexa treats ‘t.co’ as the 66th most popular website in the world.

The Oddity

The oddity here is this – the robots.txt file Twitter have created to tell all search engines what they can/cannot do with t.co links (http://t.co/robots.txt):

tcodisallow

Roughly translated into English, the first 2 lines there say:

  • “TwitterBot, there is nothing you are disallowed from crawling.” (ie. Twitterbot is allowed to crawl everything)

The second block of 2 lines says:

  • “All other bots: You are disallowed from crawling anything.” (ie. Unless you’re “Twitterbot”, you are not allowed to crawl anything at all on t.co)

Twitter could make this information available in other ways – for example via their API – but they famously cut off Google from full access to this.

So What?

This is sensible from Twitter’s point of view, as it means they don’t have Google and other search engines crawling every URL posted to Twitter, eating their bandwidth.

But from a website owner’s point of view, and a user point of view, it means that Twitter have blocked Google (and any other search engine) from following the links you post to Twitter.


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#RoundUpYourMates – Did Guinness’s Ad Experiment Backfire?

Guinness, one of the world’s most well-known brands, just carried out a fairly interesting ad campaign. One that looks to have sprung forth from concepts like ‘integrating online & offline’, ‘content marketing’, ‘earned media’, and lots of other buzzphrases.

Here’s what they did:

  1. Bought up all of the ad space during one of the UK’s most popular TV talk shows.
  2. Paid the talk show host himself to front their ads. (Jonathan Ross – ‘@wossy’ on Twitter – a very well known man, with almost 3.5 million followers).
  3. They made the ads themselves advertorial – ie. the breaks from the TV ‘content’ were branded ‘content’ themselves.
  4. They hauled in a fairly well known comedian and an Oxford Professor to play talk show guests, cutting away to some scientific research they’d put together on the value of men meeting up with other men in real life. (note: they’ve also published this as a ‘paper‘ – pdf format there).
  5. They ended all of this with a twitter hashtag as the primary call to action, and the spoken call to action “Search for ‘Round Up Your Mates'”.

roundem

Here’s how Guinness themselves trailed it. (note the ‘#RoundUpYourMates’ hashtag):

rounduptrail

This was part of a £34 million push by Guinness’ parent company to boost the brand’s association with “quality”. All sounds like a fairly workable idea, doesn’t it?

Here’s the ad, in case you’d like to watch it:

Stuff they got right

Guinness has a huge amount of very successful advertising experience. They also have a long, long history of ‘content marketing’ (think Guinness World Records).

Here are some of the ‘necessaries’ they’d put in place to ensure this ‘Round Up Your Mates’ campaign had the best chance:

  1. They rank first in Google for the phrase ’round up your mates’. (they’ve run some previous ads around this phrase in the past)
  2. They had a few tweets scheduled to coincide with the ad, ,and had trailed it beforehand.
  3. think they had some promoted tweets around it to, although I didn’t screengrab anything.
  4. One of the celebs involved was chatting about it on Twitter too. (albeit somewhat sheepishly)
  5. They had everything loaded up on Youtube ready to support the TV slot.

But let’s take a look at whether it worked or not:

Here were the results:

The @GuinnessGB account, which fronted the campaign on Twitter had just under 3,500 followers before it went out, and had just dropped over the 4,000-follower mark 18 hours later.

And here were just a few of the comments on Twitter:

 

Fair enough – not everyone’s going to like it are they?

Oh dear…

Oops!

But surely they weren’t all negative?

And it was true – virtually every mention of the campaign was absolutely negative:

Almost everyone who took the bait of their #RoundUpYourMates hashtag absolutely hated it. I trawled through 1,991 tweets about it and there was only a handful of ‘neutrals’, and those that could be considered positive were essentially saying it had been misunderstood.

Summary: Not only was the response to the ad bad, the primary call to action was to search for the hashtag, which was utterly full of negative commentary.

What went wrong?

There were a few tactical things that went wrong – for example, the site they had ranking for this on Google was not mobile friendly at all – a big mistake when running stuff on TV. And there were some big things they got subjectively wrong – for example this was a 100% male-centric ad, run during a program with a fairly broad, mixed audience.

But let’s focus on the real thing they got wrong – at least according to the majority of the negative tweets: The Creative itself.

5 Reasons The Creative Didn’t Work:

1. Authenticity vs Astroturfing.

The ad was designed to appear ‘authentic’, but it simply did not feel authentic. It felt a bit like an author writing their own Amazon reviews: It was intended to feel authentic, and came off feeling anything but. It was plain to see that Guinness were behind it, nevertheless, it still felt like astroturf.

Alongside that – the ad centred around a group of 5 guys playing a football game, and the same 5 guys playing a game of 5-a-side on a roof somewhere. These are ultra-stereotypical scenes (not always a problem), but they were talked about out by an Oxford professor, and 2 comedians who we do not associate with football in the slightest, all of whom did not seem particularly genuinely interested.

They may have got away with all of this had it appeared more knowingly cheesy.

2. Context sync.

The first context mismatch was between the TV show and the ad slot: They ran the slot during a program that has a live studio audience. The ad itself used canned laughter, and was quite obviously scripted. The result was fairly jarring. Far more jarring than it would be with conventional ads.

The second context mismatch was between the ‘science’ findings (that ‘offline’ events are better for building friendships than ‘online’ events). Telling people ‘online is worse’ simply doesn’t make sense when you’re asking people to use the hashtag on Twitter, or visit your Youtube channel.

The third context mismatch was between the ad format & normal ad formats. Normal ads last less than 30 seconds. You have to be very, very good to get away with something much longer than that. As a result – as a few said on Twitter – 3 minutes 30 felt very, very long.

3. Brand sync.

The level of expectation is really high around Guinness ads. ‘Guinness advert’ is one of their top 10 Google suggestions for their brand, and if you asked someone to name 3 or 4 Guinness ads there’s a very strong chance they could do so – something that’s true of only a handful of brands. As a result, people expect their stuff to be very impressive. When it is underwhelming it feels massively so.

Their ads are also usually epic. This was anything but epic.

4. Sub-Pseudo-Science.

The ‘science’ presented via the ad itself was pretty poor. They used a ‘sample’ of 1 essentially: A team of 5 guys who played a computer game and then played a real life game of 5-a-side, with the aim of proving real life experience is better than online experience for improving relational ties. We had no emotional connection to these guys at all, other than knowing the stereotype. They were purely used to illustrate ‘the science’.

This felt even poorer as the ‘science’ part was framed as if watching 5 guys play 2 games of football (one virtual, one real) was enough to actually prove anything. If they’d run this across 100 teams, or 1,000 perhaps it would have worked a little better.

I feel a bit sorry for Robin Dunbar, the Oxford Professor they’d hauled in. He had obviously been convinced by someone that it would be sensible to present something very dumbed down, when really they’d have been better going the opposite way.

5. Lack of Value & Lack of Objects.

The 5th reason the creative simply did not work was there was zero value in it:

  • “Offline activity” builds relationships better than “Online activity” is self evident. Very few would disagree and. They would not be surprised by a tiny study finding it to be true.
  • Interrupting a TV show with a worse version of the same TV show also – according to many Twitter hecklers – simply devalued the TV show itself, rather than adding value to their lives.
  • And – on Twitter itself, if you followed their call to action to search for ‘#RoundUpYourMates’, you did not find anything valuable: A link to videos of more of the same, some pre-scheduled tweets from @GuinnessGB, lots of people talking about how bad the ad was.

Alongside this, there were no ‘objects’. When people talk about Strictly Come Dancing or The X Factor on Twitter, they are talking about particular acts, or particular occurrences. With this, we had a vague finding that “Offline is better than Online”. No interesting stats. Nothing unexpected. Nothing unresolved. No spectacle. There was no ‘object’ to talk about. And, as a result of that void, they essentially sent thousands of people off to Twitter to complain about their ad.

Redeeming Features?

Were there any redeeming features of the ad? If I’m honest I’m not sure. It certainly cost a lot, and didn’t quite work. If any, I’d suggest the following may be redeeming features:

  1. Complaints about the ad itself do not necessarily mean it did not achieve its objective. Guinness’ objective is to increase the perception of “quality”. They may well have achieved that, even if people hated the ad. (to measure that, you’d have to survey a sample of people before/after seeing the ad, or a large sample of people who had seen it and a large sample who had not, and ask them questions about ‘quality’ & guinness, rather than specifically about the ad itself).
  2.  It proves you can nudge people to talk about you via advertising – even if they’re saying negative stuff. Admittedly, plenty have already proved that. And Guinness themselves – whose last ad has more than 4 million views on Youtube – have proved it themselves too.
  3. In the main: People dislike advertising (or say they dislike it). It’s difficult to get away with telling people to talk about your ad and not have them talk about it in negative terms.
  4. It’s pretty clear from the many, many Twitter comments that the failure here was down to execution. That’s something that’s very, very testable, and thus they can avoid similar failures in future by better testing. Slightly ironic, as the advertorial itself was based around testing hypotheses.

Thanks to Guinness for trying this out – it’s always good to see people trying out different things.

And, if you have any comments or thoughts, do leave a comment.


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Daily Mail Comment UX Update

The Daily Mail are testing an update to their Comment UX.

It’s easy to ignore comments, and their usefulness, but take a look at a few of the Daily Mail’s articles, count up the number of comments & the number or ratings on those comments, make an estimate as to what percentage of people bother to rate comments, and it very quickly dawns on you that they make hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Daily Mail every year.

Here’s an example 24 hour snapshot of their comment ratings:

ratings

ie. They regularly get 2.5 million comment ratings in a day. Another way of looking at that: they’re close to a billion comment ratings per year. Therefore, whereas a change to comments style on most sites would be a trivial tweak, for the Daily Mail it can have a big effect.

Old vs New

Here’s the same set of comments in their old style & their new style (click for larger images if you like):

Old Style:

dmold

New Style:

dmnew

The main differences here are:

  1. Inclusion of headshots where available.
  2. They now split out ‘positive’ & ‘negative’ comments, rather than just showing the aggregate.
  3. The text is much larger.
  4. Username leads now, and is clickable through to user’s profile.
  5. Times are relative to the current time, rather than being timestamps.

The more prominent profile info, and the headshot are quite telling. I wonder if at some point they will do a bit more with profile pages themselves? There’s a big opportunity for newspaper sites to get ‘user generated’ news commentary right.

Extra Social Prompts:

Move the mouse over the comments & you get two new extras.

  1. Top right is a small down arrow that allows you to report abusive comments.
  2. Below the comment a block of prominent ‘share’ icons appear.

The Daily Mail have an interesting issue in that their articles are hugely commented on, but surprisingly ‘undershared’. This may help address that a little.

overroll

The’ve also tacked a little call to action to visit their ‘stats’ page onto the end of comments:

whois

 If you’ve never visited their stats page before, it’s very much worth a look: http://dailymail.co.uk/stats. If you were a sensible competitor, you’d have been following their stats for the last few months and would be able to see whether this UX update has increased/decreased the likelihood of users leaving and rating comments.


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The Hypocrisy of Big News Sites on State Surveillance in Seven Images

Every large news site is preaching about the NSA PRISM programme, and Obama’s apparent hypocrisy in monitoring his citizens.

What none of them mention explicitly is that they themselves use hundreds of technologies to track their readers both on their own sites, and as their readers move around the web.

Here are 6 images showing some of the tracking tecknologies on big news sites, plus 1 comparison chart of 68 technologies used across 10 large news sites. Note the ironic headlines on a few of these articles.

The Wall Street Journal

The WSJ says ‘US Collects Vast Data Trove’. Take a look at the 44 tracking technologies used on that page alone:

wsj

 Washington Post

The Washington Post talks about ‘sweeping surveillance’ on a page with 19 tracking technologies.

washpost

Cnet

Admittedly this is an old Cnet article, but take a look at their 20+ tracking technologies:

cnet

The Atlantic

The Atlantic often publish articles on privacy. Virtually their entire front page is devoted to the NSA PRISM programme at present. They themselves use a whole host of tracking tools, both directly & via their many social plugins.

theatlantic

GigaOm

No hypocrisy between the headline & the tracking technologies used by Om Malik, but interesting nonetheless.

gigaom

The New York Times

And double-irony from the NYT here. Take a look at the ad that’s automatically displayed. ‘2 friends are spying on you’, while the page itself has 17 tracking tools recording data about you.

nyt

Comparison of 68 Technologies Used by UK News Sites:

Finally, here’s a comparison I put together for an Econsultancy article (who use 13 technologies themselves) covering this:

News Sites Combined

The tools used for most of this were the excellent Ghostery, and Google Chrome’s Developer Tools.

Do share this with others if you have the chance. Outside of tech circles, I’m not sure many people realise quite how much of this is going on.


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Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg, and Data Literacy

The biggest finance/data story of the month is that “Bloomberg snooped on Goldman Sachs”. Here is one of the dozens (thousands) of articles covering it: http://theweek.com/article/index/244050/is-bloomberg-news-spying-on-goldman-sachs

What’s the fuss about?

This is the summary of the story:

  1. Most banks & financial institutions use Bloomberg systems to gather information about financial markets.
  2. Bloomberg record data on who accesses those systems, when they do it, and what they do.
  3. Bloomberg’s journalists were using that information, and analysis of how their terminals were being used, as the basis of news articles.
  4. Goldman figured this out, and confronted Bloomberg accusing them of snooping.

Gawker (very foolishly in my opinion) say this about it:

“The whole thing sounds like the News of the World scandal, except if the targets were paying Rupert Murdoch $20,000 for the privilege.”

Here’s the irony:

What is Goldman Sachs’ advice on how companies should use data?

In October of last year, Goldman Sachs themselves were crowing that ‘data’ was the biggest opportunity for companies.

Their co-head of Internet Investment Banking at the time put out a series of videos covering this. Here was his (paraphrased by venturebeat) advice on what companies needed in order to harness this opportunity:

  1. Access to proprietary data,
  2. Wherewithal/knowledge of what to do with it/how to process it, and
  3. The right relationship with the consumer in order to apply the data.

Think through the 3 of those, and compare that to what Bloomberg did.

Of course, there are enormous marketing & trust implications with using & exposing customer data in the way Bloomberg did, but it’s madness (verging on ‘data illiterate’) that Goldman Sachs would simply assume that zero analysis was taking place on how their staff were using Bloomberg terminals, especially so as both Goldman & Bloomberg are in the business of data and analysis. And even more so again because Bloomberg’s contractual terms allowed them to capture and analyse the data.


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6 Free Realtime Google Analytics Dashboards

Here is a collection of 6 free ‘Realtime‘ Google Analytics Dashboards that you can use for any website. The 6 Dashboards are as follows:

  1. Realtime Overview
  2. Realtime Channels
  3. Realtime Geographic Info
  4. Realtime Organic Search
  5. Realtime Content
  6. Realtime Social Media

Each of the dashboards is designed to be functional in the real world, and each is designed to be useful for any type of site from Ecommerce, to Magazine, to Lead Generation, etc.

There’s a full description of each below, along with a link to the individual dashboards. At the end of the post there’s a link allowing you to add all the dashboards at once to any Google Analytics account.

1. Realtime Overview Dashboard

dashboard---overview

This ‘Realtime Overview’ dashboard covers:

  • Total Active Visitors (with % breakdown by medium)
  • New vs Returning Visitors (broken down by medium)
  • Top Active Pages (by URL)
  • Top Active Pages (by Title)
  • Pageviews (Last 30 Minutes)
  • Pageviews (Last 60 Seconds)

Add it to any Google Analytics profile with this link: http://bit.ly/rtoverview

2. Realtime Channel Dashboard

dashboard---channels

 The ‘Channel’ dashboard covers:

  • Organic Search Visitors
  • Paid Search Visitors
  • Direct Visitors
  • Referral Visitors
  • Social Visitors
  • ‘Other’ Visitors (ie. the remainder outside of the above, which may include email traffic, and any other tagged campaigns)
  • Medium Breakdown (top 10)
  • Social Source Breakdown

Add the ‘Channel’ dashboard to any Google Analytics profile with this link: http://bit.ly/rtchannels

3. Realtime Geographic Dashboard

dashboard---geographic

 The ‘Geographic’ dashboard covers:

  • Returning visitors currently on the site
  • New visitors currently on the site
  • Visual breakdown by country
  • Trendline of activity on the site over the last 30 minutes
  • Top 10 Countries with current active visitors
  • Top 10 Cities with current active visitors

Add the ‘Geographic’ dashboard to any Google Analytics profile using this link: http://bit.ly/rtgeographic

4.Realtime Organic Search Dashboard

dashboard---organic-search

 The ‘Organic Search’ dashboard contains the following:

  • Active Visitors (By Search Engine)
  • Search Visitor Trend (Last 30 Minutes)
  • Top 10 Keywords (All)
  • Top 10 Keywords (Non-Brand) – click the ‘pencil’ and replace ‘YOURBRANDHERE’ with your brand name then hit ‘save’.
  • Top 10 Keywords (Brand) – again, click the pencil icon & replace ‘YOURBRANDHERE’ with your brand name then hit ‘save’.

As you can see from the graphic, I’ve added ‘(EDIT THIS)’ into the title of a couple of the widgets there. Those are on the ‘Brand’ and ‘Non-Brand’ specific widgets. To edit those, move the mouse over each and a small pencil will appear at the top right of the widget. Click that, and then you’ll see  I’ve placed ‘YOURBRANDHERE’ in one of the filters. By changing that to your most used brand name(s), it will then filter based on your own brand terms.

To add this to any Google Analytics profile, use this link: http://bit.ly/rtorganic

(note: I haven’t included a PPC dashboard, as I thought it would be fairly easy for you to copy the ‘organic’ dashboard and make your own. Do drop a comment if you’d like me to add one though).

5. Realtime Content Dashboard

dashboard---top-content

This is a slightly different dashboard – as you can see from the above. It simply lists the top 10 currently viewed pages on the site, segmented by various different means. From that you can answer the questions ‘what are visitors looking at on my site right now?’, ‘what are visitors from social media looking at right now?’, etc. You may wish to add others for your key channels.

It was tempting to add lots of other widgets here for the sake of it, but I thought this the most useful format.

To add this to any Google Analytics profile, use this link: http://bit.ly/rtcontent

6. Realtime Social Dashboard

dashboard---social

The realtime ‘Social’ dashboard contains:

  • Number of active visitors from social media (with a % bar showing split by social network)
  • Number of returning vs new visitors from social media.
  • Social visitor trend over the last 60 seconds.
  • Social visitor trend over the last 30 minutes
  • Top pages currently being viewed by visitors who arrived via social media
  • Top social sources. (eg. Twitter, Facebook)
  • Top cities where visitors are currently active on the site via social media

To add the social dashboard to any Google Analytics profile, use this link: http://bit.ly/rtsocial

Add All the Dashboards at Once

You can add all of these dashboards at once to any Google Analytics profile you choose, simply by logging in to Google Analytics & then hitting this link: http://bit.ly/6realtimedashboards . (note: there’s a small bug in Google Analytics meaning it will give you an error message the first time you do this. Submit it again & you should be fine.)

Any requests or questions?

Do drop me a note if you’d like me to add any others, or if you have any questions. I send out an occasional email containing info like this. Enter your email address below if you’d like me to include you on the list.


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Job Ads for Amazon’s First Retail Store

Amazon seem to be preparing to open their first retail store according to recruitment ads starting to appear on the web. If the ads are genuine, the store will apparently be in East London, in Westfield Stratford (the same site as the London Olympics).

There has been no official announcement from Amazon, and this hasn’t been covered on any news sites or blogs as far as I can see. But the ads seem genuine, and recruiters are apparently proactively approaching people via email.

The benefits listed in the job ads are fairly generous compared to similar jobs:

  • Up to £35,000 a year (around $53k)
  • 6 weeks paid holiday.
  • 25% employee discount.

Jeff Bezos talked about opening retail stores late last year, saying “We want to do something that is uniquely Amazon, but we haven’t found the idea yet.” The ads talk of the store as a ‘showroom’, and say applicants will be ‘actively enticing’ into the store. The job description also leans heavily on helping users with website info (selling, order info, using search functions), so it sounds like the store will be as much a ‘helper store’ for the online business as it will be a shop in its own right.

Here is a screengrab of one of the job ads. Judge for yourself whether it’s genuine:

amazonado

(you can view a cached version of the ad here)

Amazon opened a London ‘development centre’ last year, saying they did so because “the capital is brimming with world-class tech talent.” Apple previously opened their first European store in London (Regent Street), and Google opened their first ever retail outlet on London’s Tottenham Court Road in late 2011.

Do get in touch with me or leave a comment if you have any further info.


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The Guardian’s Terms & Conditions: Worse than Instagram?

The Guardian have launched a new ‘user content’ site in collaboration with EE called “Guardian Witness”, they are now urging users to post their content to the site at https://witness.guardian.co.uk. The site itself is nice and slick, as you’d expect if EE’s tech team has been involved.

The official announcement is full of comments criticising The Guardian for asking for free content, accusing them of trying to build up a free picture library, etc.

But something else seemed strange to me: throughout the launch article they keep saying that you ‘still own the copyright’ of any content you post. I have read The Guardian’s Ts & Cs before, and that didn’t seem quite right to me, so I did a little more digging.

Here are some notes, plus the key ‘Instagramesque’ part of their terms & conditions:

“You still own the copyright”

As part of the terms and conditions for using the site, they say this:

“You or the owner of the content still own the copyright in the content sent to us”

They’ve also put together a fairly friendly set of frequently asked questions which explain: “You (or whoever created the content) own the copyright to the content which means that you control what others can do with it.”

In their article promoting the site, they also point out in the comments that “the copyright is, and remains with, the creator of content added to GuardianWitness…” and later on in the comments they again say “The creator of the submission always holds the copyright.”

But what do the Terms & Conditions actually say?

Reading the above quotes, you may expect that it means that you, when submitting content, still control exactly who has the ‘right to copy’ any content you post there. What they don’t say in the launch article itself is that, in one of the clauses in the terms and conditions, there is this 50 word snippet:

“…by submitting content to us, you are granting us an unconditional, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, fully transferable, perpetual worldwide licence to use, publish and/or transmit, and to authorise third-parties to use, publish and/or transmit your content in any format and on any platform, either now known or hereinafter invented.”

 

Going back again through a few of the key points there:

  • Unconditional – there are zero conditions on how they can use your content.
  • Irrevocable – once you’ve posted content, you cannot ever stop them from using it.
  • Royalty-Free – they won’t pay you anything.
  • Fully transferable – they can in turn pass the right to use your content on to whoever they choose.
  • Perpetual – the right lasts forever.
  • Worldwide – there are no geographical restrictions.
  • Any format and on any platform – your content can be used for anything. They also “reserve the right to cut, crop, edit” your content elsewhere in the terms.

In other words, they may be promoting this by saying you still ‘own’ the copyright, and the FAQs may say they will endeavour to assist in various areas, but according to the terms & conditions The Guardian can do anything they like with your content once you have uploaded it.

They could sell your content, use it alongside ads (in fact the Guardian Witness site is in collaboration with an advertiser, so the content is by default being used as part of a third-party marketing campaign), they could allow anyone they choose to use your photos, videos, text, or any other ‘content’ you submit in any way they choose, and even if it is used commercially they never have to pay you.

How does this compare to Instagram?

This may all sound a vaguely similar to one of the complaints around the big Instagram Ts & Cs issue that blew up late last year. Oddly, one of the differences seems to be that The Guardian’s terms are slightly heavier than Instagram’s.

Here’s what The Guardian said about the Instagram issue in one of several articles about it:

“Instagram photos could be used in advertising, without reference to the owner, with all the payments going to Instagram. There is no opt-out from that use except to stop using the service and to delete your photos.”

The situation here is roughly similar, except that in The Guardian’s case you cannot opt out at all (even if you stop using the service). From the moment you post any content to Guardian Witness, you have granted them an “irrevocable, perpetual worldwide license”.

Keep that in mind when you read this advice, written by the excellent Jo Farmer in another Guardian article about user generated content following the Instagram fallout:

“Brands might be thinking that they can then use that content in future marketing, which might lead to a temptation to write something in the user terms and conditions to the effect that, “any content submitted by users may be used by the brand for any purpose without any payment to the user”.

The lessons we are learning from Instagram and other social media channels is to avoid any ham-fisted attempt to acquire such wide licence rights from your users in relation to their UGC.”

 

You can read the full terms here: https://witness.guardian.co.uk/terms.

Feedback very welcome on this, or do share this post if you think it would be of interest to others.


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