Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

I can’t think of a snappy title. Honesty wins.

Andy Parkhouse - August 11th, 2010

I just went through my (too long) list of draft, never-published blog posts…found these links.

‘New’ is addictive. Here’s some stuff that’s not new. Don’t matter though, try em anyway.

I should just fricking put these links on Twitter where they belong instead of saving them up to try and add some useful insight. Whatever.

1. Faris Yakob and some other blokes talk about interesting stuff in 2008. Seems a long time ago now. Still, nobody knew anything then, nobody knows anything now. If anybody does know, send me a postcard, ta. And if you don’t know (and nobody does), give it some interesting chat instead.

2. BJ Fogg on Simplicity. If I say more, you won’t bother clicking. Then you’ll miss out. Go on, click. It’s worth it 😛

3. Five ways to ruin your industry reputation. Seems pretty retro and obvious, now right? Surely everyone knows Facebook is for baby pictures and debauchery; business networking is done with linkedin and twitter. Or do they? And who’s ‘everyone’ anyway. Get ‘everyone’ to send me a postcard, see how many I get.

4. John Kay. If you don’t like learning about business and economics at all, well, whatever. If you do like business and economics and you don’t like reading John Kay, you’re just wrong, and I’ll fight you. Unless you are (a) bigger than me, or (b) better at fighting than me or (c) nah.

5. “Viral marketing may also be limited by the virtue that most people are actually only talking to small groups of people online.” HP Labs research from 2008. So talk to lots of small groups, right? Or – get this – make sure you start a conversation with one person, repeat that n times. Don’t just arrogantly broadcast your views out at people…hmm. Irony fail. Kzzzpttt. [end]

Andy’s rules #261586

Andy Parkhouse - August 3rd, 2010

Andy’s rules….always go for the Win Win Scenario

4855852773 04e0db359b Andys rules #261586

Much of life is not zero-sum: one person’s gain is not another’s loss. Work towards a win for all participants. Not just a compromise; a win.

Is that possible? Try anyway.

Source of Think Win Win here.

The Secret Powers of Time by Professor Philip Zimbardo

Corwin Bainbridge - June 4th, 2010

Professor Philip Zimbardo presents a great stop-motion animation of theories on how we percieve time and how it affects our lives. If you have a spare 10 minutes, it’s definitely worth a watch!
0 The Secret Powers of Time by Professor Philip Zimbardo

6’66” – Sympathy For The Devil (…or how to make Powerpoint interesting)

Rory Ahern - May 26th, 2010

Originally posted at Rubber Republic

Picture 11 666   Sympathy For The Devil (...or how to make Powerpoint interesting)

[Image courtesy of : Wendelboe on Flickr]

The *devil* in question was indeed the force of office evil that is Powerpoint, and Tom Alcott from the Social Network Company gave us a masterclass in how to keep presentations succinct, engaging and conversational while remaining in total control of your material.

His PechKucha style talk on social network analysis lasted exactly ‘6 minutes & 66 seconds’ and covered everything from a crash course in social psychology, the ambiguity of what being ‘connected’ actually means to mapping the *viral* spread of information within networks.

At the heart of it was that key question: Who is the most valuable node within any social network? The ‘hub’ (the most connected individual within a community). Or the ‘broker’ (the person who bridges between two communities and therefore allows that idea to spread to new audiences)?

Finding this overlap is something we are fascinated by, as it potentially allows the conversation to evolve and new participants to join. This was also a central theme to ‘Connected’ our last Rubber Book Club mail-out which explains the various ways information travels with some very entertaining illustrations.

So all good stuff and many thanks to Tom for coming in on a very warm and humid Friday afternoon.

Incidentally if ‘666’ is the number of the beast, does that ‘668’ the neighbour of the beast?

Get your copy of the Good Online Policy-Making Guide

- April 14th, 2010

We made these rather nice 24-page booklets full of advice and examples about connecting people with decision-making online. We’d like to share them with you. There are 100 up for grabs. If you’d like your own copy, drop me a line and we’ll post one out to you.

online policy making guide Get your copy of the Good Online Policy Making Guide

Lessons from Toyota

Andy Parkhouse - February 10th, 2010

Toyota has problems. Eight Million problems. It’s interesting that this has attracted so much attention from mainstream quality media such as the Today programme. My own interest in Toyota – of which some of you are well aware – is driven by their principles and product development techniques, which are fascinating, and provide some of the foundations for currently ‘buzzy’ things like agile software development.

For those who not excited by Toyota, product development or agile software techniques, here’s a cookie for reading this far! Meanwhile, for those who like products, principles, and how the mighty fall, more after this graphical interlude…

2512181621 1c8646e317 Lessons from Toyota

So this post offers thumbnails on two topics: (1) why look at Toyota if you’re running an ad agency, digital agency or web app company. (2) what went wrong.

Why Toyota?

I became aware of Toyota principles when we started developing the Viral Ad Network. One of Toyota’s key principles is to control inventory – whatever that inventory might be, you don’t want too much of it piling up around you, the aim is to have just enough while never running out.

‘Inventory’ is a key feature of the Ad Network – in this case ‘inventory’ means space on publisher websites where ads can be displayed. Managing inventory is right at the heart of the network. Too much and space goes unsold (bad for publishers and us), too little and we can’t meet the promises we’ve made to clients. More on how we do this another time.

Way beyond inventory

A little light reading gave me a much more in depth understanding of what Toyota and similar Japanese companies have been doing, where their techniques came from (common sense, rigourously applied), and how they’ve surfaced in lean techniques and agile software development methods. Given that we’re advocates of agile techniques like Scrum and Kanban, it’s seems that we’d have run across the Toyota methods eventually somehow.

…but for agencies and web app startups?

Toyota – and similar lean companies have a bunch of stuff you can use:

  • Principles to run a business by – that put people first
  • Build in quality, don’t rely on fixing it later (film knows this – bad shots *cannot* be “fixed in post”)
  • Get stuff done

There’s way more, but this story about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sums it up: “stop cleaning and spend your time eliminating the source of dirt”.

So how do the mighty fall?

Toyota’s aim was to be the biggest carmaker in the world. They achieved that a couple of years ago. They got there with a fearsome reputation for quality, customer service, and a certain kind of innovation (excellent engineering, but rarely exciting).

Problems at Toyota have been kicking around for some time. Last year, Toyota’s president went public on his concerns for the company.

Four connected pitfalls (I’m guessing!)

I think Toyota got smacked down by these four nasties. They’re all connected:

  • Infallible fallacy
  • Engineering is difficult
  • Success can kill
  • Dissipation

When you believe that you have the best quality, it’s hard to accept you don’t. You know that you have a system for quality, so there can’t be a problem, right? “We’re infallible” <- Fallacy.

Meanwhile, engineering is difficult. Toyota initially traced many of the accelerator problems to slipping floor mats. With this pegged as ‘the problem’, it takes time to identify that there’s actually a secondary problem with the accelerator pedal. So engineering is difficult. Anyone think a similar thing might apply with clients and customers for agencies and web apps?

Success can kill. Nothing or more less than hubris – a fine dramatic staple. Toyota achieved their goal. Hubris makes you think you’re invincible, infallible, it makes you over-expand, and bank on a certain future, but the future is not certain, and you’re not in control of it. Lean attitudes are born in the cash-strapped start up, or the nation desperately trying to win a war. Hubris is the antithesis of this, it makes you fat, arrogant and lazy, and expectant of easy success. It’s a short step from there to…”you’re dead”.

People love a goal. They like a win, an achievement. Toyota hit their goal – become the biggest – and despite being renowned planners (do you have a one hundred year plan? I don’t – they do) – they don’t seem to have lined up much else in the way of goals. They’ve expanded globally and stretched their capability dangerously. Meanwhile the car market has moved on around them. Most carmakers ‘do quality’ now. Toyotas are not appealing beyond their loyal audience. Suddenly everyone wants their lunch, they are in ten places at once, and they have no clear win in mind. Dissipation.

I don’t need to draw a diagram: there are lessons above for any of us.

Say “sorry”

Toyota: say sorry. You probably will. You should. Not just because it’s in ‘your’ character, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Too many brands aren’t brave enough to say sorry. They should get braver.

If you want to talk about lean, agile, or how brands can ‘sorry’ (or ‘thanks’, or ‘how nice to meet you’): or 0845 680 0575. Meanwhile, it’s nice to finish on a picture 🙂
3611172279 3d42ea1bf2 Lessons from Toyota

Thought Den’s art of Flash game production

Alex Pitkin - January 15th, 2010

Some really good ‘Rules of Production’ from our compatriots at Thought Den in their The art of flash game production (with some baggage bowling fun thrown in) post.

It was written after the Suitcase Skittles development that we did with them last year for IHG in which we all learnt a lot. But that seems to be the case with most Flash game developments…

How to make a killer viral marketing video. 5 Top Tips

Andy Parkhouse - January 13th, 2010

We’ve put together a handy article for UTalkMarketing: How to make a killer viral marketing video. 5 Top Tips from Rubber Republic.

It’s a nice summary of what we’ve learned in the last ten or so years. Cheers – Andy

Six Pieces about Sentiment Analysis

Andy Parkhouse - September 22nd, 2009

I’ve been researching sentiment analysis, and I think I’ve found pieces to suit a range of tastes and interests.


First the notes from a 2008 talk given by Lillan Lee from Cornell University. Lee’s topic is “…the flood of interest in: sentiment analysis, opinion mining, and the computational treatment of subjective language.”

This is a good ‘who, what, why, how’, featuring:

  • – background
  • – useful stats
  • – an exploration of the broader implications of sentiment analysis in politics and business
  • – a basic outline of the scientific problems in classifying sentiment.

Read Lee’s piece here.

Meanwhile, the epicly-named Dirk Shaw has a blog post from July 2009 asking Sentiment analysis, How much is good enough?. It’s a short post explaining the basic differences between manual and automated sentiment analysis.

Thinking Deeper

In a post from June 2009, Irfan Kamal describes the approaches Ogilvy PR are taking to make sentiment analysis work for clients.

The Ogilvy post is useful in one respect because it shows the debate is still fledgling and the possibilities are wide open.

In another respect it helps illustrate that the people-or-software-or-both question of classifying sentiment is only one dimension of the problem. Sentiment analysis has to actually be of value to the people using the results.

In my view, the most useful output would be actionable insight, i.e. information that is directly useful for making decisions. That comes with a health-warning though: if we’re to make decisions on the basis of data, we had better be sure the data is completely valid, and leads to accurate conclusions.

It’s not clear yet that sentiment analysis will be able to deliver in such a concrete way, and at the level, for example, of government policy, sentiment data will find a place, but should be treated with healthy caution.

Marta Strickland has a post on these issues from September 2009. Focussing on product reviews, she identifies Five Reasons Sentiment Analysis Won’t Ever Be Enough, and concludes “What are we really trying to decide with this data? And are we asking the right questions?”

Wrap Up

So it it hopeless then? Is sentiment analysis a turkey? Absolutely not. Asking critical questions absolutely indicates that smart people are taking sentiment analysis seriously, and figuring out how best to do it and how best to use it.

Team Rubber has a working model for how we want to use sentiment analysis – for both our advertising and policy-making work. We’re evolving the model on the basis of trials, and we’re asking ourselves hard questions about how sentiment analysis can be valuable for our clients.

Enough about that (but more in future). Meanwhile, I’ll wrap up with a piece from each of the manual and automated perspectives. Nathan Gilliat has a September 2009 post on Scaling Human Analysis, while an April 2008 paper from Google discusses software approaches for Building a Sentiment Summarizer. Enjoy.


Andy Parkhouse - September 18th, 2009

Recently some silliness was going on in one of my favourite web forums. Toys were thrown from prams, names were being called, it was all very exciting, but only for drama whores, so being community-minded I went looking for something about internet dramas to remind people to stop with the unacceptable behaviour.

Along the way I found this chart, which is fun, probably just about accurate, and dovetails into an ongoing debate / development project / rolling bunfight we’re having about tracking and measuring opinion.

internetdrama Outliers

Found via Skeptobot: Comic #01 – Internet Drama

The chart is drawn as a bell curve. Can it be replotted as a power law?