Philips Hue ’16 Million Moments’

My mate Lucy Tcherniak has just mastered her most recent piece of work, for consumer tech giants Philips and their Wi-fi enabled lighting range Hue – which are remote control light bulbs that can augment the mood of a room via your mobile phone:

The blurb:

Discover just some of the millions of ways to use light with Philips Hue. from helping you relax or concentrate to reminding you of that perfect sunset or bringing a bedtime story to life. it can even tell you if it’ll rain later.

Earlier this year, Ars Technica ran a piece on the Hue’s free to use API & SDK, which have expanded the usefulness of these genius devices through third-party apps such as IFTTT. The article describes the full spectrum of 16 million colours, indicated below:

Philips Hue Full Spectrum

Now, of the available 16 million colours, Lucy chose to feature just 16 in her film, which highlighted at least a few cool use-cases for the Hue range. For example, adjusting from yellow to white light to improve concentration while studying, or the reverse when settling in for a quiet night on the sofa, sampling the colours of a vase of flowers to suit the room they’ll live in, reminding you to take an umbrella in the morning, or making home media more immersive for the viewer.

I can think of a few more, such as adaptive to music streaming from my Sonos, or as an alarm system for a gradual morning wake up, or flashing blue when I have a Twitter mention during a TV show. Cool system, cool advert. Not sure when it will appear on screen but I think it might make it onto a few people’s Xmas lists. I’ll certainly be asking for one!

Philips LivingColors Gen 3 Aura Black 70998/30/PU Colour Changing Mood Lamp with Remote Control  is £49.99 on Amazon.

First Contact with Galactaron

Girl meets synth-rock band from Outer Space; animated weirdness ensues. Well, that’s the elevator pitch, anyway. See for yourself:

Galactaron were dreamt up as an art/music project by Owen Dennis, a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation, and are comprised of Singer (centre right), Bass (bottom left), Guitar (centre left), Synth (right), Drums (top left) and their human friend Emily Wong:

Galactaron Album Cover
Album Cover as featured on iTunes

The virtual band have a presence across Twitter, Facebook, Last.fm, SoundCloud and iTunes, with each platform offering new information and imagery to enrich Galactaron’s back story:

Drawn by radio waves, Galactaron focused in on Earth and they traveled a great distance to learn about us. When they finally reached our planet, they landed their massive, red, egg-shaped ship on a frozen lake in the upper Midwest of the America. There they met Emily Wong, a young Chinese-American woman who lives with her father. Emily quickly befriended Galactaron and decided to give them a personalized tour of planet Earth. That’s when they started to discover what earth is, what humans are, and what we have to offer.

A ‘sighting’ of their ship forms one of several on their website.

It’s an admirable project: the band have a truly unique sound, a strong visual identity, a cool backstory, and they’ve even sold a few albums.

Their creator shows real ingenuity, having formed a small yet growing community around snippets of content such as cosmic ring-tones; science-themed status updates; user-contributed artwork; merchandise and not forgetting the music itself.

But despite being an excellent case study in transmedia storytelling, their single ‘First Contact’ has reached a surprisingly low 20,000 plays on YouTube, and far fewer elsewhere. Mission aborted? Or as I suspect, are their thrusters still warming up?

Missing: Bella the Dog

This isn’t the sort of thing I’d usually write about here, so for the hardcore who’ve come to expect a blend of media and tech thoughtfulness, an alternative reading is that this is a a live case-study in how digital can play troubleshooter to certain real-world issues…

Those who follow me on Twitter will know the news already:

There’s been a search out for her ever since, with all five Saunters and some amazing neighbours clomping about in our wellies, flashlights in hand.

I’m pretty sure we’ve thought of everything: we’ve scouring the entire surrounding area (see map); spoken to people all over town; put up flyers and posters in areas of high traffic; we’re leaving a scent-trail back to the house from where she went missing; notified all the necessary authorities and secured some media coverage (Star Radio, GumtreeDogLost).

As you’ll see, what we need now are some more eyes and ears…


View Larger Map

Four hours ago, something incredible happened. A lady I’ve never met created the Facebook group ‘Help find BELLA‘ and invited some friends.

Since then it’s grown, and now a whopping 128 people have joined. Tomorrow, there’s a search planned for 10.30am in the Littleport area. Truly awesome. Thank you all. We can’t do this without you!

[box]Update: We found her! I’ll update this blog post when we find her. In the meantime, please tweet, Facebook and G+ this blog post to anybody in your network that lives in the Cambridgeshire/Norfolk area.[/box]

Many thanks indeed, Tom.

Oops, Forgot To Blog…

Er, yeah, sorry about that… Here’s what I’ve been up to instead though!

  • Sharing loads of great links on Twitter – Trunkly has all of these
  • Trying out Google+ to see where the value lies (hmm…)
  • Looking for a place to live with Sarah  (any suggestions?)
  • Playing with my new Kindle (I’m reading Neuromancer)
  • Eating & drinking at some awesome places / seeing friends etc
  • Reconfiguring all my Google Reader feeds (more on this soon)
  • Watching movies: X-Men [8], Tree of Life [8] and Bridesmaids [9]
  • Testing Subscription Options v0.8 (v. cool gradient shit)
  • Reading The Authority by Warren Ellis, which is amazing
  • Listening to some brand new music, c/o Spotify
  • Working my balls off and all that…

Meanwhile, Brand Republic goes and published The BR 200 which is a list of “the best advertising, marketing, media, PR and digital blogs.” They stuck me in at #153, which is cool! Thing is, I haven’t blogged that much, have I? I’ll sort that out, sorry.

The BR 200 (OPML Feed)
BR 200 (OPML)

Meanwhile, as a mark of respect to the others on the BR 200, and to any remaining readers out there, I’ve compiled an OPML list of all the blogs on that list, which you can import into your RSS reader of choice.

There ya go, people! Enjoy all those proper bloggers. Hehe.

Strategy Bot: An Experiment in Social A.I.

In this post I’ll introduce you to my new pet project: an experiment in Twitter automation. The Strategy Bot (pictured) is ‘programmed’ to select & retweet key digital media resources, case studies or news items that provoke a higher understanding of the formation of good digital strategy.

Strategy Bot
He thinks, therefore he tweets.

Some context… I will typically have the odd side project on the go at any one time. Recent examples have included:

  • Recategorising all my RSS feeds for mobile, web & iPad
  • Linking up Instapaper / ReaditLater / Pinboard & Twitter
  • Testing Facebook ads to see if I can drive Twitter followers
  • Playing with XFBML, the new Follow button and Google +1
  • Sketching people’s Twitter avatars with my new stylus

All of the above would be worthy of a blog post, and that might happen for a couple of them, but there’s been one project I’ve been thinking about for a while that I reckon just needs to be shared, because, dear reader, I need your help!

I’ve been interested in getting the most out of Twitter for a while, and I’ve been certain there is some utility among the network’s parasites: the lowly twitterbot. I’d love to perform an autopsy on one to see how they really work, as there are some excellent cases of these automata being actually quite useful or cool. For example:

  • Spotibot – @replies suggested music based on your requests
  • Wikipediabot – random links to Wikipedia pages every hour
  • Easy Joke – RT’s with “that’s what she said” on certain phrases

There are loads more listed on the Twitter Fan Wiki, and of course there are millions of spambots that behave in similar ways. But I wanted to make something that would be primarily useful to me, and that others might enjoy too.

The idea arose from the need to detect, share and archive truly excellent links, without cluttering my personal Twitter feed. Did you know you can automatically add Twitter links to Pinboard for archiving? It’s a bloody useful way to passively log the stuff that’s held your attention. And did you know you can create a self-hosted archive of all your tweets? I use Tweetnest to this end, where I’ve been logging my personal tweets here. Try searching for something!

Mr. Strategy Bot is just another way to add useful stuff to my own personal content library. But throughout the course of his life, I’d like him to be useful to everyone. Or at least, everyone that works in digital media (you gotta have a niche). So how should I automate him to this end?

In my attempts to pin down what makes these robots work, I found a number of approaches, typically making use of Twitterfeed (a pretty blunt RSS syndication tool) or the Twitter API (way over my head). I needed something that would let me ‘scrape’ the top links from a list of Twitter users, and automatically RT the top five links.

I have totally failed in my attempts, even after a whole evening spent in the depths of Yahoo! Pipes. For now, I’ve had to settle on the manual way. Yep, I’m manually RT’ing the links until I find a better solution, five a day, with a bit of prose each time to help round out his character.

I will continue to research means of automating his behaviour, as I think the idea of one’s own personal virtual pet social robot is a really powerful idea. Wouldn’t you agree?

[box]Please leave a comment if you can help create virtual life! Let’s give this guy his own A.I. existence out in the digital ether.[/box]

In the meantime, you should follow him on Twitter here.
He’s programmed to follow back!

My Personal Blogging Ecosystem

Hello! Before we get down to business, here’s just a quick announcement: This weekend I launched a new WordPress plugin called Foursquare Map – any readers with your own blogs, please check it out and let me know how it goes!

Another thing I did this week was to set up my own GTD system with a fresh Moleskine book. I’ll be using this set of icons to help me manage my growing to-do list. First on that list was to follow up on a note to “Map the Digital Cortex Ecosystem“, so *tick!*

What does that entail? Over the two years the site has been running, I’ve tried and tested loads of ways to syndicate content, drive traffic and grow my following. I think I’ve just about maxed-out on the optimisations I can make, and expect further growth to come solely from publishing interesting content. So what does my so-called ‘optimal’ set-up look like? Thanks to Paint.NET you can see for yourself (click for full-screen):

Some tips for building your own blogging ecosystem:

  • Try StumbleUpon – it shows me the coolest stuff every day because I’ve spent time telling it my interests, and then fine-tuning the system with thumbs up / down. I use it about 50 times a day.
  • Get Read It Later – when you don’t have time to give a site the attention it deserves, click the ‘RIL’ button and it’ll sync to the cloud, for reading at a later date. I’ve racked up so much cool stuff this way.
  • Use Delicious Effectively – it’s immensely powerful when used in the right way, and I use it to write one sentence descriptions, along with loads of tags, that publish to my Tumblr each day.
  • Start a Side Blog – some stuff is too cool not to blog about, but sometimes that stuff doesn’t warrant a full blog post (esp. when you’re busy). That’s where Tumblr comes in, and mine is now the fifth largest referrer here, after just two months!
  • Don’t Cross the Streams – sure it’s fun to publish everything everywhere, but it’s sensible to apply a bit of intelligence: what’s really the most appropriate content for that channel? That’s why only blog content goes to my Facebook fan page.
  • Twitter is WIN! – It’s an amazing tool for bloggers, both for content discovery and for content syndication. It’s especially powerful when paired with Tweetmeme buttons on your site (like below). The same is true of the Facebook ‘Like’ button.

There’s probably more to structuring a blogging ecosystem than this, like the ‘star system’ with Twitter/Spotify/Google or the X-Marks approach. There’s also the big question of how you go about measuring any of this stuff, and no word has been made of an actual content strategy but hey, that’s the eternal battle, eh bloggers?!

That’s it from me, hope you enjoyed this post. Let’s discuss tactics… Go!