Radar DDB 10am One Thing: #FreeAndOpen

The following post originally appeared on the DDB Canada blog as part of the Radar 10am One Thing series of posts.

The internet connects billions of people to each other every day. It allows us to talk to people around the world, instantly. It lets us share and create art. It can help us learn.  It helps people who might not otherwise have a voice be heard.

Unfortunately, some of the world's governments want more control over the internet as we use it today. They want to be able to censor it, spy on it or otherwise manipulate it, and they are often supported by organizations that don't have the public's best interest in mind.


Enter the #FreeAndOpen campaign from Google. With a real-time map displaying the names and locations of those who have pledged their support and a video to put a face to some of these people, the company whose informal corporate motto was once famously "Don't be evil" is really trying to do some good. 3 million people have already added their names to the map online.


Visit to learn more about what's at stake and pledge your support at

This is an important issue that goes far beyond the advertising industry and our work at Tribal DDB. We urge you take a moment to consider how a free and open internet has benefitted you, and how it can do so much more for the entire world.

The One Thing is a result of the daily 10am meetings held in the DDB Canada offices, where our digital teams meet to discuss new online trends, tools and technologies. Today's One Thing was written by Tribal DDB Toronto Social Media Strategist, Parker Mason.

For an archive of the 10am links, visit our Delicious account and Pinterest board.

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The Google+ Party

There’s a lot of buzz (no pun intended) about Google+. The entry of another major social network into the scene has caught a lot of people's attention, and has forced many to ask, "Should I be on Google+ too?".
I'd like to step out of the excitement and flurry that Google+ has caused for a minute to remind marketers that, as with all social networks, you need to ask yourself a few questions before jumping in head first:
1. Is your audience using Google+?

Before signing up for a brand page, conduct a little recon. Searching through pages, conversations and sparks will help you identify whether your brand or industry is being talked about on Google+, and whether you should be there too. Also look at the demographics of Google+, as of a few months ago comScore reported they skewed slightly younger and wealthier than Facebook users. While this will likely broaden as Google+ grows, it should indicate whether now is the right time for you to put resources behind it.
2. Do you have the resources to manage another online community?

We all know how much time and energy it can take to manage a community effectively. By now, many of us are probably managing at least two. Do you have the resources to throw another one into the mix? Since optimizing content and experiences for each channel and audience will drive the best results, simply re-posting content on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ won't allow your distinct communities the chance to shine.
To this point, I have monitored a few brand pages on Google+, comparing them to those of Facebook. Many are indeed publishing the same content. This may be temporary while they experiment and develop a proper strategy for Google+ but they will need the time and resources to do so.
3. What role will Google+ play in helping your brand achieve its objectives?

Brands aren't on social networks for kicks. They are there to achieve real business objectives. Before signing up and getting your hands dirty with a Google+ brand page, make sure you have outlined the role Google+ will play in driving towards these goals. Once you have nailed this down, you can begin to flesh out a proper strategy and measurement framework that will drive towards and demonstrate success.
There’s is no rush to do something unless you know you can do it right, and that it will help achieve your objectives. No one wants to be late to the party, but there's something to be said about arriving with all your clothes on.
- Heather
Image via

Android and the Challenges of Choice

I like my Android phone. It was the first phone on the market to use Android, and might be a bit outdated, but so far it always served my needs—at a fraction of the price of an iPhone. And I'm not the only one; in May, Android's first quarter US sales surpassed that of Apple's platform. However, Testfreaks argues an excess of choice could cripple Android's future potential: a variety of phones with an increasingly fast product cycle is causing "hardware envy". Moreover, all these different devices run several Android versions (from 1.5 to 2.2) which makes it difficult for developers to create apps which fit them all.

As the article points out, given that all manufactures have access to the same Android OS, in order to stand out in a crowded market place, they must tweak it, with either hardware refinements, operating system supplements, or both. This leads to increased competition, even within some companies; can you actually name all of HTC's Android phones?

On top of that, this already confusing competition is made even more complicated by the phone carrier ecosystem it is tied to. Once you buy a phone, you're locked into a contract and have to keep it, at the same time new devices are coming out that you can't have (unless you break the contract).

The smartphone maker, if they do want to update their device lineup, has to work with the carriers to determine who gets which device. The drive for each manufacturer to shine in the market creates a short device turnover period, and this is in contrast to wireless carrier contracts. The end result is that each new Android phone “style”, if you will, needs to be tweaked for each carrier.

The result is even more confusion on the customers' part and a watered down brand. The Nexus One for example was not "the" Google phone but just another Android device. Moreover, developers find it increasingly difficult to develop apps, because each tweaked phone potentially means an incompatibility issue.

Google is aware of this. They ask developers to accurately list their apps' requirements, and then try to make sure that the app won’t be accessible to a device on which it won’t run properly.

That certainly makes things easier; however, as the Testfreaks piece continues, a lot of apps rely on taking advantage of new features to achieve popularity (e.g., a higher screen resolution). Games are a good example, and so far the choice of games for Android phones has been pretty slim.

The iPhone, on the other hand, managed to establish itself as a major player in the mobile game sector. It is, more or less, like a console, offering standardized hardware and software. Of course there were changes, but compared to the multitude of Android devices, they were rather minuscule.

Apple's phone is just one flagship product, which in a lot of countries was only available with one carrier. There is the AppStore and its near-infinite offerings over which Apple rules with an iron fist.

Yet consumers love it.

It is a smartphone that is successful because it breaks with the technicity of a smartphone. It reduces choice to a point where it can't even multitask. I've used the comparison before with the iPad, but the iPhone is the Wii of the smartphone world. Your two-year-old kid can use it, not because she's so smart but because of a break with a technicity that previously made smartphones appeal mainly to competent males.

To stretch the comparison a bit further, the PC used to be a successful game platform, but lost most of its momentum to consoles. Games on PCs are cheaper, they can easily be modified, etc., yet consumers stuck to consoles. Why? Because on the dedicated platforms, the games just work, there's less choice, less hassle, less confusion.

However, the PC also offers a very good counter-argument to the claim that a plethora of hardware can cause problems in the marketplace. Microsoft was able to establish Windows as the market leader despite it being available on a variety of devices with a variety of processors, RAM choices and peripherals.

Steven Johnson quotes New York Times writer Robert Wright:

The more models of Windows computers, competitively priced, the more people would buy Windows computers. And the more Windows computers people bought, the more programmers would write their software for Windows, not Apple. And the more Windows software there was, the more attractive Windows computers would be. And so on.

And even though the changes in variations of the operating system are faster with Android, Google ensures that it works by adding forward compatibility (apps written properly for older versions also run on the newest versions) and asking developers to list their app's requirements.

At the same time you also have to ask yourself what choice Google has. This is a company that, within the constraints of a corporation, is committed to democratic conduct and, as such, fuels innovation. This innovation is furthered by Android's self-competition and a less esoteric app policy.

I believe that this is a model that can work. As a more "classic" tech consumer, I feel at home with Android; I appreciate the choice, the fact that (potentially) there's something on offer for all sorts of consumers, and the chance to use a physical keyboard. I'm also pretty confident that if I bought a premier Android handset today, like the HTC Incredible, I won't really need another device for the next two years.

What do you think? Where is the phone market heading? And what will Microsoft's role be with their new Windows 7 phone platform? (Which handset manufacturers won't be able to personalize to suit themselves or their customers.)

Google's Console?

As John "Wardrox" Kershaw observed on his blog: Google is about to release Google TV, a software platform for set-top boxes and HDTV. It will also feature a browser, remote control, and keyboard interface.

Google also released an app shop which allows you to play PC games in a browser.

The interesting question is:

Does this mean Google is entering the console race in the same way the iPhone entered the hand-held race?

Details on the app shop and the integration of games are still light. In any case, this will have huge implications for the industry; here we have Google getting behind cloud gaming with its own console.


The Future of Education

A few weeks ago there was an excellent article in the Globe and Mail called "The Class of 2012: Mr. Google's Children" that followed a group of students in Toronto as they moved towards their high-school graduation last spring to where they are now (I'd link to it, but you know the way that newspaper and I feel about each other). One of the quotes from the article that stuck with me was from Julien Hernandez who said:

"I'm learning to play the guitar right now off of YouTube. I can look up anything and in a few minutes know more about any subject than my teacher does. Why should I listen to them?"

Similarly, The Wired Campus reports that students who are listening to recorded university and college lectures online are speeding them up so that they can get through the material faster (found via Smart Mobs).

While I chose to major in English at University, I could have majored in anything and written my papers on anything. What matters was that I was learning to write and think critically.I also learned how to absorb new information, and use it accordingly.

I like to think that Julian Hernandez and the students fast-forwarding through lectures are ahead of the game, in that they have learned to learn more efficiently. I also hope that the teachers of today are teaching students to not just go to Google for answers, but to actually think about what those answers are and question them.

Someone once suggested having a student (of almost any age) unofficially monitor and look after a Wikipedia page. Not only will they learn about the way people interact and create content online, but they'll learn about a specific subject area and will learn to research information that has been added to the page and ensure that it is correct.


The Last Dinosaurs Decided: Google is Violating German Copyright Law by Displaying Thumbnail Previews of Copyrighted Images

As ReadWriteWeb reports a regional court in Germany ruled that Google is violating German copyright law by displaying thumbnail previews of copyrighted images. From the piece:

German photographer Michael Bernhard and cartoonist Thomas Horn had sued the Google and demanded that their images be removed from Google's index. According to the judge at Hamburg's regional court, "no new work is created" by displaying thumbnails.

Google, of course, has no way of discerning whether an image in its index is copyrighted or not. Based on this decision, we would not be surprised if Google decided to block image search for German users. However, we also assume that Google will try to appeal this decision.

Ah ze Germans… Ten years after Google they still haven't figured out the Internet: A conscious decision to prevent people from accesing valuable information about one's visual work, hampering any form of self-promotion that would somehow resemble 21st century practices; all this backed by an unwordly, anti-business court whose ruling could potentially throw the Fatherland back into ze digital stoneage. And you thought having to pay for newspaper articles on the web was a bad idea…

-Jens (Thanks for the link Malte!)

Blog Campaigning: 2.2 The data gathering process

2.2 The data gathering process During an eight month research period, stretching from August 2006 to April 2007, the author actively searched blogs and online publications in an effort to locate theoretical views and statements spoken by authoritative bloggers and experts on online communication reflecting on how blogs impact on political campaigns. The research period was especially interesting because of two major political campaigns commencing at the time: The 2006 U.S. midterm election was held in November 2006, and in December 2006, the research saw the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaign kick off as one of the earliest presidential campaigns ever to be launched.

To help locate data the study employed a simple word search on Google Alerts ; a search engine searching specific words or word combinations in online newspapers and blogs. The word combinations searched for were ‘political blogging’ and ‘blogging as a campaign tool’.

The author did not rely on conventional ethnographic research techniques such as informal interviews. Instead, to engage in conversations with bloggers, the author explicitly created a blog, BlogCampaigning (thank you for reading), that reflected on the subject of the research and encouraged bloggers to discuss its content. The aim was to involve the subjects of the study in a constant dialogue. All the data collected during the research process was therefore channelled through the blog in an attempt to produce response and to test the significance of the material. This form of retrieving data is often referred to as action research:

“[…] a process of research in which the application of findings and an evaluation of their impact on practice become part of a cycle of research. This process, further, has become associated with a trend towards involving those affected by the research in the design and implementation of the research - to encourage them to participate as collaborators in the research rather then being subjects of it (Denscombe 2003, p. 57).

Action research is seen as “a strategy for social research rather than a specific method” and “does not specify any constraints when it comes to the means for data collection that might be adopted by the researcher” (Denscombe 2003, p. 58). The advantage of using action research is that it allows for the researcher to involve himself in the study and learn more about different aspects of the phenomenon and the objects being studied. As a consequence, structured self-reflection becomes a key part of the research process (Denscombe 2003, p. 58).

The author marketed the blog by submitting comments on other blogs sharing topics similar to the research and by linking to these blogs and their posts in daily entries. Additionally, specific individuals holding an authoritative status within political blog communities were notified of the blog’s existence. This active marketing process gradually increased the blog’s readership and incoming links. From August 2006 when the blog was launched, to the end of April 2007 when the research was ended, the blog had received 5,704 hits (not unique), 112 comments and ranked 193,562 on Technorati’s blog ranking list with 27 incoming links from 23 different blogs.

A result of the author’s effort to enhance the blog’s visibility by engaging with political blog communities was that it made the research and writing process more reflexive. The active engagement with other bloggers allowed for the author to gain a better understanding of political blogs and their context within the democratic election process. A similar research technique has also been employed in a previous study of blogs. In 2004 Schiano et al. (2004, p. 1144) conducted an ethnographic study aiming to understand blogs as a forum of personal expression from a blogger’s point of view. The team used conversational interviews to understand bloggers’ thoughts and habits, and in an attempt to better familiarise themselves with blogging, the team created a class blog within which they discussed their own research (Schiano et al. 2004, p. 1144). The difference and strength of the research-blog employed by the current study was that it encouraged feedback from other bloggers and therefore allowed for the researcher to engage with the subjects of the study in their natural settings. This technique represents a unique and innovative attempt to gain insight into the world of politics experienced by bloggers.

Blog Campaigning: 4.2 The potential impact of blogs

4.2 The potential impact of blogs Most scholars see the introduction of blogs to the political sphere as a major asset for political campaigns. Nigel Jackson (2006), for instance, argues that there are several aspects about blogs that might impact elections. First of all, bloggers present “a potential alternative to traditional media as gatekeepers of information and news” (Jackson 2006, p. 295). Bloggers have on several occasions proved that they can break major news stories (Jackson 2006, p. 295). For instance, it was bloggers that created the storm of protest that led to the resignation of Senate majority leader Trent Lott for comments he made on Senator Storm Thurmond’s 100th birthday party in December 2002, supporting Thurmond’s segregationist stance in the presidential election in 1948 (Jackson 2006, p. 295). The event was broadcast and reported in the mainstream press, but while bloggers denounced the remarks vigorously, it took the mainstream media almost a week to devote significant coverage to Lott’s comments (Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 3). Bloggers were also credited for creating the media storm that lead to CBS reporter Dan Rather’s resignation in 2004 (Jackson 2006, p. 295) after he presented false documents critical of President George W Bush's service in the United States National Guard during a 60 Minutes report in the lead up to the election (Eberhart 2005). Blogs questioned the authenticity of the documents within hours and the content soon spread to the mass media (Eberhart 2005, Pein 2005). Jackson (2006, p. 295) claims, therefore, that: “the impact of weblogs appears to be helping to set the political or news agenda”. Similar, Sroka (2007, p. 9) reports that the vast majority of the academic literature “has pinned the blogosphere’s potential for influence on its ability to sway, guide, and, generally, shape the way the media sees and frames political events”. Furthermore, Jackson (2006, p. 296), supported by Drezner and Farrell (2004), argues that it appears blogs have the capability of ‘influencing the influencers’. “The impact of political blogs is not so much who is producing them, rather it is whether they attract influential visitors”, claims Jackson (2006, p. 296). Studies have found that a high percentage of visitors to political blogs are opinion makers: political reporters, politicians and policy makers (Bloom in Jackson 2006, p. 296, Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 4), and because certain opinion-makers take blogs seriously, the medium can have a wide impact on the political agenda (Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 22). However, blogs also have a potential to influence voters that goes beyond their ability to occasionally set the news agenda (Jackson 2006, p. 296). What also strikes Jackson (2006, p. 296) is that bloggers are ‘techno-activists’ (coined by Kahn & Keller in Jackson 2006, p. 296), “so that their community is often ‘political’ in nature”. This, he claims, opens up the possibility of mobilizing this community. But what is even more important, is that blogs are unique in the way that they enable political actors to communicate at two different levels at the same time:

“First, they can narrowcast to a very small number of key opinion formers to influence the political agenda. Second, they can broadcast to as many people as possible to try and influence their individual opinion. Potentially, political parties and candidates can reach a range of voters who visit the blogosphere” (Jackson 2006, p. 296).

Abold and Heltsche (2006, p. 1) argue that blogs can make a successful contribution to political campaigns because they combine two main elements of political communication, namely openness and interactivity. Blogs consequently meet the growing demand for authentic and personal communication expected by the post-modern voter as they not only provide valuable information, but also enforce political discussions with citizens (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 1). A more technical feature that makes blogs a potentially effective campaigning tool is, according to Abold and Heltsche (2006, p. 2), the high rank of blog articles in Internet search engines. Blog articles rank high in search engines because of their linking system. Most of the search engines’ algorithms work in the way that they rank pages higher if the sites that link to that page use a consistent anchor text (Wikipedia 2007b) – “the text a user clicks when clicking a link on a web page” (Wikipedia 2007c). However, several recent sources claim that search engines, in particular Google, are working hard to change their algorithm after bloggers in the election battles of 2004 and 2006 organised so called ‘Google Bombing campaigns’ (see Easter 2007, Cutts 2007, Wikipedia 2007b) - attempts to intentionally influence the ranking of pages and articles in order to drive as many voters as possible toward the most damning, non-partisan article written on a candidate (Bowers 2006a).

Nonetheless, it is one thing to discuss the potential influence blogs may have on political campaigns, but looking at how political parties and candidates actually use the medium might give a different perspective of the mediums’ capabilities as an electioneering tool.