Categories
Advertising Code Creative Design Entertainment Pop Culture Thoughts

Apple revisits New York Times’ homepage

Apple/New York Times - Ad integration 5-18-2009

Apple/New York Times - Animated - Ad integration 5-18-2009Once again Apple has paired up with the New York Times to create an ad users actually want to see.  This time it’s for a homepage integration/takeover featuring multiple ads all working in unison.  Similar to Apple’s TV ads, this site integration features John Hodgman (PC) and Justin Long (MAC) talking about their differences.  In this case John is commenting on the results of a Forrester Research poll, shown in the ad space above theirs, when two characters from yet another ad space join in on the conversation.  Before they start talking they seemed to fade into the pages background drawing little to no attention.  When the main ad is complete the two secondary ads fade to an unobtrusive white panel with a floating Apple logo.  Allowing those that keep the NY Times open all day (to see news updates) not to be barraged with Apple, Apple, Apple.

Though this isn’t the first time for Apple it’s still worthy of the viral attention is getting/has gotten.  It’s cleanly designed and executed.  Continues the sense of humor that has made these ads a hit for the last few years.  Makes great use of its environment.  It may only run a single day but I’m sure both parties make out as winners each time they meet.

Links:
Apple
New York Times
John Hodgman
Justin Long

Categories
Code Personal

The Rapid Concepting/Development Experiment

Monday was the start of Lab Week for the developers at CIM.  The idea being that the developers could get a chance to work on stuff that wasn’t part of their everyday routine.  Similar to the 20% time that Google has made famous, but in this case the time is collected and used as a team over the course of a week (Lab Week).

Overall I think the concept behind Lab Week is great, we just need to smooth out the implementation.  Based on how things ran I learned that for Rapid Iterative Design (method modified from Todd Warfel‘s talk at Refresh Philly) to work there needs to be a moderator.  Ideally the moderator would be an unbiased non-participating person, and not the HiPPO in the room (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion – alla Google’s talk to CIM from a week earlier).  This moderation seems to be needed to keep the pace of the itteration process as well as keep people in the present and focused on the current goals.

Two other things that I feel would aid the overall goal of Lab Week are the removal of other external workload stresses and bottom up decision making.  Actually, I think these last two are essential components, without them it’s hard for members to focus on the lab project or feel the level of project ownership that motivates and inspires.

My comments above meant to guide us for the ideal Lab Week.  For our first run there was much to be proud about.  On Monday there was nothing, on Friday we had all the parts for our proof of concept.  A few more hours this week to bring everything together and we’re done…for now.  Even with some hours being done this week the time it it took us to go from nothing to complete will be shorter.  The integration between the teams will only help future projects run smoother.  And who knows maybe the concept we had has some legs and takes off.

Categories
Personal Social Thoughts

Why all the mind games?

I just ran into someone I know from the neighborhood.  He’s recently single and tends to bemoan women and the mind games they play.  Ironically, when he heard that I was also single he began to offer suggestions of various mind games for me to use, either to win her back or just mess with her head.  It’s clear that it’s not just women that play these game, he’s a clear example of a male that partakes in the subtle attacks to an ex’s psyche.  This irony along with how much this playing of mind games contrasts to my view got me thinking about the subject.

For all those that do play these games I ask Why?  If you didn’t work as a couple, why shouldn’t your ex pursue something that could make them happy?  If you really cared for them, why can’t you be happy for them when they do things to be happy?  Do you really think it has some reflection on you or their feelings for you?  Is it just self pity?  Does suggesting that your new love is everything, or implying they (your ex) weren’t really help you feel more secure in your new relationship? Or are you trying to convince yourself that you’ve moved on?

I know I’ve had ex’s try this crap with me.  I don’t know if they got what they wanted out of it, but I do know the games never made me want them more (or want to get back together).  Yeah, they may have gotten me riled up for a bit with a mixture of confusion to their purpose and agitation caused by the amplified echo of the problems we had during the relationship.  Either way the games never brought me closer, at least not when I was aware that games were being played.  If anything, I think it cemented that I was better off not being in a relationship with them.

As mentioned, I’m currently single and this isn’t the first time I’ve been single either.  Unknowingly I may be  guilty of doing some of these things myself, and if so I apologize, but I can say in good conscience that I never meant to.  For one thing, I don’t really see the point to them.  Secondly, it may be because I believed my ex’s actually did care for me (read: loved) and I didn’t feel the need for the reassurance one may be looking for when playing these games.  In the more casual relationships, their love/approval etc. wasn’t relevant to my well being.  I’ve also tried to make sure this wasn’t a question that would haunt them either.

According to some, mind games are an essential part of relationships.  Suggestions of “playing hard to get” fill magazines, and though that may lure a date or two, a relationship it does not make.  At the early stages of a relationship the stakes are low, and such games have more to do with catching the other’s attentions.  The games people play at the end of a relationship, sadly, often have more to do with hurting the partner then the cutesy ones used at the beginning.  It’s these latter ones that my neighbor was suggesting and I can only assume using himself.  It’s these I don’t understand.

Categories
Social Thoughts

There are no free lunches

One of the first thing you learn in Economics is “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” It’s a lesson that seems to be quickly forgotten. Thanks to the Internet everything seems like it can and should be free. So who’s paying?

For many sites, ad revenue is paying for the content/service being provided. Even more profitable is information, specifically user (read: your) information. The old saying that knowledge is power holds true online as well. The more info about who you are the more relevant they can target the ads presented to you. A better targeted ads bring in higher revenues.

Combining multiple user’s data into anonymous and general statistical data can be worth even more. Marketing companies will pay big money to get access to qualified demographical date. It doesn’t have to be much or even private. Knowing things like how many 11-14yr olds saw the Transformers movie, could be the deciding factor between releasing Product X or Product Y. The collecting and selling of statistical data is nothing new. It’s the same principle behind the membership cards at the grocery store, VISA and those people at the mall that just want to ask you a few questions.

Facebook like many other social networking sites are rich with statistical information. Well, a few weeks ago Facebook altered their Terms of Service (TOS) to assume permanent ownership rights of any content that the users add to their service. Then yesterday, under mass protest from users, they returned to their previous TOS while they rework the verbiage. Ultimately Facebook (and others) wants the ability to use/sell any data collected without worry of legal entanglements. Someone needs to pay for the endless hours users spend using their site.

Just like your first economics class told you, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The Internet with all it’s innovations is still subject to this rule. The free ride of the social web is paid for by the ads we see and the personal data we provide. It’s just something to keep in mind while you enjoy your lunch.

Categories
Creative Personal Photography

Philly at night

I recently picked up a new tripod.  It’s been a while since I really made use of one.  Broke my last one a few years back while at Avenue A | Razorfish (now just Razorfish) shooting items for our interactive holiday card.  So excited to give it a spin Alex and I braved the freezing cold and headed over to the Art Museum.  Here are some of the results:

Spiders Abstraction - by Robert Francis

Categories
Personal

Cars, confusion and a conclusion

I just recently purchased my first new car.  It’s actually the first car I’ve owned in 10 years.  During this time I’ve lived downtown where it didn’t warrant owning a car and it’s more of a hassle to own one then rent as needed.  When I did drive it was via car rentals, car shares, family, and friends.  So the decision to get a car was a big one all on it’s own. Then came the process of actually buying the car which was a bit nerve racking to say the least.

To start off there were so many options for me to choose between: stick or automatic, 4-door or 5, hatchback or sedan.  Based on my preferences to design, style, price and how well it would work with my 50lbs pooch, Malachi, I had it narrowed down to 7 models from 4 Manufacturers.

From there I began the seemingly endless research.  I hit the manufacturers sites, online magazines, user forums, and various “impartial” reviewers (Consumer Reports, JD Powers, etc). Thanks to my buddy and Lexus Nexus I had all the Consumer Reports reviews from last two years. I went through all of them, cross referenced them, ran the numbers. I was overloaded with numbers and statistics.

Then it was off to the dealers.  With all the horror stories about car dealers I assume this is probably a point of great discomfort to most car buyers.  For me it turned out to be not too bad.  Could be because I never got the stereotypical car salesman, or that I mentioned early on that I had a number of other models on my list.  Still, as expected, after doing the test drive they’d want to start talking numbers and close the deal.  Somewhat surprisingly at this point after reminding them of my need to compare they backed off on the direct sell.  The more subtle sell was still there but since none of my initial test drives wowed me I was far from ready to talk numbers.

For each of the initial models I tried I wasn’t able to find a comfortable position.  My right knee would inevitably and uncomfortably rest upon the hard edge of the center console.  Maybe it’s that I’m 6’2″ with long legs making me an edge case in regards to a vehicle’s ergonomics but I was still surprised about the cramped quarters.  Ironically the smallest of the cars I tried, the Honda Fit, I had ample leg room.  This discomfort knocked off one of the models with some of the best numbers (price, resale, performance, MPG, safety).  Others the comfort was less of an issue but still lingered as a strike against.

On to car 6 & 7.  With number six I actually talked numbers.  I liked how it drove.  Peppy and nimble.  Stats wise it was on par with the other contenders so the enjoyment factor tipped the scale here.  Still I prefaced the sale with the fact that there was one more on my list to test drive.  If number 7 failed to impress, number 6 would be ready to drive away within the next 48hrs.  I had previously driven number 7 early on in the hunt but only as a stick shift and after being stuck in 4.5 hours of stop & go traffic I reconsidered.

I had high hopes for number 7, enough to put number 6 in a waiting pattern.  Next day was seven’s potentially big day.  Took it for a spin.  Just about as peppy and nimble.  Solid too.  Can’t explain exactly what defines solid, but it was the scale tipper.  Then it was back to talking numbers.

Even though I thoroughly researched the prices of the car, accessories etc. there is so much to keep track of to make sure there are no surprises in the end.  I definitely suggest not going alone.  I was there for hours, partially because they were having computer problems, still be prepared to spend the day.  Also, be prepared your total cost will be a few thousand over the price of the car due to taxes, title, registration and any extras you may want (warranty, alarm system and other add-ons).  After running through numbers for hours, all the initial papers were signed and I could pick up my new car in two days.

Of course before driving out there were a few more papers to sign.   After all the time spent researching, trying, running numbers I was now the owner of my own car.  Now the big moment was upon me.  I was excited but worn out and a bit nervous as well.  So far so good.  I’m enjoying the added freedom and flexibility, and I’m still on my second tank of gas.

Categories
Code Personal

The joy of coding

Part of writing code is knowing the vocabulary of the particular language.  I’ve been working with ActionScript for years and started the transition to AS3 about a year ago.  I’m currently working on my first AIR application.  AIR can be made  as either Flex or pure ActionScript based.  Since I’m using Eclipse, which by default only supports Flex based AIR apps, I was in Flex’s world and not knowing it’s little quirks I was hitting a wall.

Not knowing the quirks or vocabulary of Flex nor all of AIR’s additions, the search for answers in the documentation left me empty.  Since what I was searching for seemed so basic and simple that I didn’t expect not to find it.  The answers could have been there, I just never found it.

So what was this mysterious nugget I was looking for?  It was simple little thing, adding a Sprite to the stage.  Found how to make various window types and other interesting tid bits, but none of the samples were based on a Flex based AIR app, which is what I was building.  To say the least it was very frustrating.

Turns out that to add a child to a Flex window you can’t just use addChild(), as the Flex window is a FLEX component.  There is a special function called addrawChildren(), which adds a non-Flex component to a Flex component.  From there you can add sub-children via addChild() as you would in an ActionScript based project.  It’s always the little things.

This simple answer/lesson was given to me in less then 5 minutes by my co-worker, Arpit.  He also showed that it was possible to do a non-Flex based AIR app in Ecipse, so all this was for naught.

Link:
Arpit

Categories
Personal

Resolutions

The new year is upon us and now is the time people make resolutions for things they what to change. Generally I totally ignore this process but this year I decided to give it a try but in a Zen like way.

The first resolution is to allow myself to make mistakes and fail more. Second is to explore more. The third and final is to learn to relax and not try to do everything.

They aren’t the S.M.A.R.T. goals that I have to set up for my day job. Rather they are things I want to keep in mind while going about my day. Things to influence my decisions rather then goals to target, attain then move on.

Categories
Thoughts

Change is in the air

America welcomes the first Africa-American president, more importantly the first non-Anglo president. America is no longer only refugies from Western Europe. It truly is a menlting pot of the world. Barack, with his background & upbringing is a symbol of this integration of people and cultures.

Still, that’s not the biggest result of Barack Obama’s winning the Presidential race. It was the mobilization of America’s youth (GenX & GenY), whether for him or against, to participate in the political and election process. He motivated the cynical and disconnected to act, to care, to join in the conversation that will shape the future.

Personally, I choose Obama for a future based on hope rather then fear. On unity over division and the failures caused by it. I know there are many obsticles that can keep some these ideals from materializing, but the mental sea change in those that supported him is a step in seeing a world less divided.

Countries all over the world are excited by the end of an era. An era where the US arogantly ignored allies and the will of it’s people. Where the US played bully and police in the same motion. This era is over, replaced with a president that shows diplomacy, honesty and an understanding that we are but one country in this world, regardless of our place in it.

I look forward to see how this man, his ideals and a nation recharged will take on the issues of tomorrow. My cynisism taking a backseat for hope to take its place.

Welcome back America.

Categories
Personal

Nearly 10 years in the making…sorry Mike

It’s been a long time.  Nine years and then some.  In Internet years that’s nearly forever.  Before the Dark Ages when the bubble burst. What am I speaking of…this site, of course.  What did you think I meant, Chinese Democracy?

RobertFrancis.com - Old home page
RobertFrancis.com - Old home page

Designed in the time when 800×600 was considered high-res, and 1024×768 was for the special people.  DSL and Cable connections a rarity, and 56K modems were the norm.  It’s an Internet that many never experienced and the ones that did try to forget.  Since then the Internet has expanded into every facet of modern living.  The most obvious are entertainment, communications and hell, dating.  Who would have though that dating online would something one no longer denies doing.  Now one can even watch their favorite TV shows the next day online as something bigger then a postage stamp (ie Fancast).  Even the mobile web experience is richer then anything available back in 1999.

What was available was this site, as it looks today (well not today as I’ve finally replaced it) with only the barest of changes.  It stood as a testament to what once was.  There were attempts to replace it with bigger better fast more.  These replacements never made it through all the production needed to give it life.  They got close, never all the way and then forgotten.

So what happened?
Well back in 1999, I started working at an Internet start up out in Wayne, PA.  There we attempted to connect entertainment and commerce.  Allowing fans to purchase the very items that the stars were wearing in the photo.  We did this for some big names too of the time (Everclear, Korn, Blair Witch Project, Stewart Little, and Radiohead to name a few). This was the start of the band microsites featuring viral opportunities (“send to a friend” and “add this to my site”) and dynamic content.  The big money said forget entertainment and provide all this dynamic content and tracking to the Fortune 100.  And so we did, till the whole bubble bursting thing happened.

I took this opportunity to go solo and provide my skillz to the highest bidder.  Except I realized I’m not such a good pimp.  Slowly I gravitated back to the 9:30-5:30 world.  Finally re-joined the full time workforce at an interactive agency here in town called iFrontier…then AvenueA|Razorfish, now just Razorfish (a Microsoft Company).  Regardless of the name they created websites, web campaigns and all sorts of web based analytics and media buys.  I was there for the creative side of their business, designing and building Flash based thing-a-majigs. This led me to CIM, where I am today, doing more of these Flash thing-a-majigs as part of their internal creative department. Work with a good crew, bringing this Web two thing to Comcast.net.

As the Interweb is changing I thought it was about time change RobertFrancis.com as well.  This time there will be changes to the content, as the backlog has grown deep and I keep moving forward.  Welcome back world.

Links:
Fancast
CIM