Tag Archives: User Generated Content

Amazed at the SOPA protests


I watched the SOPA protests closely last week with complete amazement.

In summary, SOPA is a proposed anti-piracy law in the US which would help prohibit illegal content on websites by imposing harsh penalties on sites that host it. 

Protests were held by some of the highest traffic websites on the Internet including Google and Wikipedia and were reported by the TV news.

Remember that Google own YouTube, which allegedly hosts many videos of illegal TV broadcasts (broadcasters and content owners can upload it to YouTube if they wish).

That’s one aspect of SOPA. Another aspect is that many websites that show illegal content use advertising as a source of revenue. SOPA wants networks which provide this advertising to become liable for where they are used.

If you took the Google search algorithm and posted it online, Google would take you to court and try to shut down any sites that host the illegal content. Yet Google refuses to be held accountable for the thousands of allegedly illegal videos it hosts on YouTube. These videos are illegal because they are TV recordings and violate copyright. Either Google does, or does not respect copyright. 

Google are rumoured to be bidding for the Premier League rights. It will be interesting to see if Google win the rights and then watch their lawyers report websites which contain illegal footage. Will Google remove these websites from the search results? Will Google remove their adsense and adwords accounts?

And the same applies to Wikipedia. Whilst I’m not suggesting that you actually do this, if you set up a website tomorrow and wrote a script to copy all of Wikipedia’s comments to your site, would you expect a legal letter from Wikipedia? Of course you would, because we understand copying content without permission is illegal from our school years onwards.

The value of content has been steadily fallen and the Internet has accelerated this. I don’t want people to copy my content illegally, and I respect the US for trying to help protect content.

Photo courtesy of KierDuros on Flickr


npowerclub72.com site review


This week npower, who secured the naming rights to the Football League from the 2010/11 season for three years, jumped on the bandwagon and launched a Football League social network – www.npowerclub72.com.

The agency behind the website clearly had some good intentions, some of which I agree with:

  1. Don’t use Facebook Connect for everything, because unless you’re a unique level of Superbrand, all the consumer data that you’ll be collecting will be owned by Facebook. I agree with this and at Endava we call this On Portal and Off Portal. Off Portal are social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. where the brand has no permanent rights to consumer data, and On Portal are brand-owned social networks where all the data belongs to the brand.
  2. Badges are good. I also agree with the philosophy that when users have used the site for long enough, reward them with badges. This idea has been around for a long time (Xbox or even Gold/Platinum credit cards and airline points cards). Badges cost nothing to distribute (they are only pixels), and instantly provide a level of loyalty to a website where users want to return to earn the next badge. On Npower’s website, users earn a badge for visiting/ claiming to visit a Football League club’s ground.
  3. Football and social networks. It’s been a long time coming – with football the most popular sport in the UK, and social networks so successful here as well, it’s natural to create a network for football fans.

So far so good.

The design is OK, nothing too fancy, and then again, it probably doesn’t need to be – neither Facebook or its twin brother Google+ are going to win any creative design awards.

Here’s what I’d have done differently if we ran the site:

  1. Badges are overused. In fact, the only thing to do on the site is earn badges. No other user generated content exists, and there’s no moderation on the site to you claiming all the badges. This defeats the loyalty aspect completely.
  2. No Facebook integration at all. The site should update Facebook (and Twitter, etc.) when users earn badges (once they sort out the badge issue).
  3. The visit-a-football-ground should be extended to upload pictures when a user visits a ground. This will provide a level of self-moderation.
  4. There’s no mobile support. In 2011, all sites should include mobile browser support and then include [iPhone and Android, etc.] app support. The mobile support should include mobile photo uploads and GPS, to provide FourSquare style ‘Check-In’ functionality to grounds.
  5. There’s little content links to the Football League. I would expect at least a league table and results ticker.

Back to my point above – a social network for football fans has been a long time coming, and I still think the opportunity exists for someone (probably a sponsor) to produce one.


Free news is [probably] fake news


In case you missed it, there was a news story that developed over Twitter yesterday where a “Canadian research company” announced that users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser had a lower IQ than users of other Internet browsers.

The story was found to be a fake after a few hours, and highlighted my concerns over citizen journalism.

In the past, we tuned into TV news services such as the BBC, CNN or ITN as well as newspapers and radio stations. We knew whether a media agency was biased towards one political persuasion or another, and made up our own mind how much to “rationalise” the news.

With “citizen journalism” where anyone can tweet 140 characters and be taken genuinely for other users to retweet and spread the message, our news sources have become unknown, which means we probably shouldn’t trust them. The public’s insatiable appetite for instant news means that news sources can’t be verified before shown on international news stations. The Internet Explorer story has highlighted this.

The problem facing news agencies is the requirement for second-by-second news and how to monetise quality, authentic reporting. Otherwise the news industry will become more unmoderated, unverified and will lead to more extreme and fake reporting.

Photo courtesy of Chris Metcalf

Users backlash against nma going digital only


One of the best magazines in the digital industry, new media age, has become digital-only by stopping it’s print edition. The week old announcement isn’t really newsworthy or blog-post-worthy by itself, however the user and subscriber feedback has been fascinating to follow.

new media age (all lower case) by definition has a digital-industry-focussed subscriber base. The print edition is subscription only (£100 per year). One would have thought this group of people are early adopters, and preaching the use of the Web as the way forward.

There have been 19 user comments on their announcement. Put into context, there have been only four comments in total across the 17 most recent articles – it really isn’t a site rich with user feedback.

Those 19 comments are mostly negative, complaining about a lack of user feedback to lead to the decision to go digital only (interesting in a world of ‘transparency’ and social networking in digital media) and some subscribers went so far as to offer to have continued subscribing to the print edition at a higher cost rather than announce it was too expensive to produce.

Many users claim that reading the digital edition is too difficult to read – that paper is better, it’s easier to rip out articles or annotate them. Some users said that they like to get away from screens (three users literally wrote word for word how nma got them to move “away from my screen”) and read paper – I wonder if those users work for digital agencies or not.

My personal view is that whilst I catch up with the latest news online, most content isn’t as time sensitive as we’re led to believe and yes, I prefer to read paper magazine rather than a tablet or mobile device. I find I can concentrate for longer when reading paper over a screen.

Take a look at the original article and read the user comments yourself.

One final point for transparency – Endava is a paying subscriber of nma and we also appear in the Top 100 agencies.

iPad review – at last


I’ve been pretty vocal about not-seeing-the-point of an iPad and so Alex Day at Endava lent me his iPad for a few weeks to see if I’d change my mind.

I’m now ten days into iPad ownership (more like borrowingship) and here are my thoughts.

It doesn’t replace any previous gadget. The thought of taking an iPad into work, or not taking my laptop home to do some late night work is frankly ridiculous. To open a Word document or PowerPoint requires buying some apps and I doubt they support some of the features we use at work (track changes, comments and Sharepoint integration). So it doesn’t replace my laptop for a moment.

I’m checking email much more often. One of the first things I did was to wipe the data (sorry Alex) and synchronise my personal email and work email. Which means the iPad alerts me when new calendar requests come in, etc. Now I realise why Alex lent it to me…

I’ve totally stopped having spare moments since the iPad came home. My wife and I charge our iPhones in the kitchen near the kettle, and every time I make a cup of tea, I’ll play on the iPad for a minute or so, rather than wait around doing whatever I did before the iPad.

The one app that excels above others on the iPad is FlipBoard. Flipboard takes your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other accounts including favourite RSS feeds, and converts them into a beautiful magazine style format (see the screenshot above). It takes images from links inside Tweets from people you are following and shows them as part of the article. It is the neatest form of personalised content I have seen anywhere. Content publishers should take note of this app as a glimpse into the future of content publishing. When you look at the Flickr feed on FlipBoard you need to remind yourself that this is user generated content – the quality of the photos and the screen are excellent.

And while we’re on the positive points, the battery is excellent. Alex’s iPad doesn’t have mobile coverage, just WiFi, which is fine considering it never goes outside of the house and office. I’ve only charged it twice in ten days. I guess that’s why the device weighs the same as a hardback book.

Everyone in the family is playing much, much more games. Despite owning a Wii and Xbox (with kinect) and 2 Nintendo DSs (DSes?) the iPad is the preferred device, especially for Mrs H. The graphics and general playability are superb, and that’s just on the free games we’ve downloaded.

And that’s why in think that I don’t get the iPad. I want it to replace my laptop and paper notepad, but it’s not that type of device at all. It’s not about productivity, it’s about entertainment. It’s a media device. It is a large iPod not a replacement laptop.

Yes you can convert it into a productivity tool, by buying £50 worth of apps and using the rubbish on-screen keyboard, which will probably give you RSI within five years, you can suffer whilst telling everyone you abandoned your laptop years ago. Ten years ago you were probably saying the same thing with a Palm V.

The best starters guide to online marketing

If you’re looking for a “How to” guide to online or digital marketing, I recommend the following graphic (care of Unbounce). I’ve sent this to many people by email and Twitter as the best starting point for any online marketing campaign. It doesn’t necessarily need a large advertising budget behind it – it just needs some time. 

There’s so much information in the graphic that I’ve tried printing it on several A3 sheets but it didn’t look particularly great. My brother-in-law (thanks to PhotoPaperDirect) has managed to print it as a 6 foot long print on a screen printer however there resolution isn’t good enough to remain clear (it’s OK, but not brilliant).

The Noob Guide to Online Marketing - Infographic
Unbounce – The DIY Landing Page Platform

Internet World


I spent today at Internet World. In the morning I met a number of vendors who we currently work with (such as Sitecore and Telligent) and ex-colleagues from my IMG days (such as Ismail at Webcredible). In the afternoon I went to a number of presentations from Blue State Digital, Attensity, Hilton and Dixons.

The presentations were far more information than previous years. All the presenters seemed more willing than previous years to impart key information – such as uptime statistics, very specific keyword analysis on social media listening (which included some negative publicity on a key client) and so on. This isn’t a complaint whatsoever – its a welcome observation.

Key points from the presentations:

Blue State Digital

  • BSD (owned by WPP, and they work with one of our clients) ran Obama’s digital campaign (13m subscribers, raised $600m donations from 3.2m donors, generated 1 million User Generated Photos of which many were used in campaign videos). 
  • A lot of thought about “seizing key moments” e.g. when Sarah Palin attacked Obama in speeches they sent plain emails responding immediately to her comments. BH: Sounds great – but how do you stop crying wolf for everything that might happen to a brand?
  • Every piece of content needs to drive a next step action (for example share, submit, click for the next step, comment) and as a proof of practising what they preached, I noticed that even the PowerPoint had questions not bullets
  • BSD recommend to their client not to mass newsletters. Instead, personalise them and target them
  • The key takeaway was on a ladder of participation, was to create one and measure it for clients. E.g. What’s the total number of consumers a brand reaches? What is the web traffic? How many email sends are there? How many emails are opened? How many Facebook fans on their page? How many people contribute in the on portal community?, and so on.


  • Key take away was their methodology: Listen, Analyse, Relate, Act
  • Conversations happen over multiple channels, not just social media and not just web. For instance they have a travel client and they “listen” to Travelocity and Hotels.com. To put this into context, most social media listening tools focus on Twitter, Facebook and some blog networks.


  • Surinder Phuller was excellent. Social media is about being open and transparent, and she got this more than most of the other social media speakers and other social experts that I’ve met in the last few months.
  • Her presentation was about using video content on social networks to improve sales
  • Their themes/ “targetted methodology” (you had to see it to understand) was to brand content, destinations, and specific hotels
  • It is an opportunity to sell ancillary services such as the spa or restaurant which historically has been very difficult within some hotel locations.
  • They sent Flip video cameras to all the hotels and asked local hotel staff to shoot them and upload them – not professional production teams
  • At first they sent the Flip cameras out and got poor quality videos back, e.g. “Here’s my ballroom, isn’t it lovely?”
  • She then worked on content plans with the hotels, training local staff with 12 month content plans with the above themes, such as asking staff at the Hilton Park Lane on their opinion of the Royal wedding
  • After the content plan the content improved to information about the local area and personal thoughts from staff members
  • The general aim was to get the hotel staff and their personalities into the videos, so you know that when you’re going to stay at a particular Hilton, you know the individual staff before you get there


  • Excellent presentation from Chris Howell, their IT Director
  • The presentation was all about customer experience – measuring it; acting on it; not hiding from the facts when the site has poor performance
  • Chris learned at Tesco what it means to be customer focussed, and his presentation was all about taking that to other companies
  • Chris raised an excellent point which is that the quote “Jack of all trades, master at none” is actually only half the quote. The full quote is “Jack of all trades, master of none, though oftentimes better than master of one“. Definitely the topic of a future blog post!

If you have some time on Wednesday, it’s worth popping down to Earls Court Two and hopefully the presentations will be as insightful as Tuesday’s. Please let me know what you thought of the exhibition via the comments below or on Twitter (@bradbox).

Facebook A/B testing and barriers to entry


Photo from 8ball.

I’m regularly being asked about the conversion stats for User Generated Content and the barriers to entry/what prevents users from uploading content.

Here’s an amazing article from Facebook which discusses A/B testing and their barriers to entry.

The highlights:

  • Out of 100 people that try to upload a photo to Facebook: 
    89% reach the starting point – the photo uploader. 
    58% select the photos they want to upload. 
    57% actually press the upload button. 
    54% succeed in uploading photos in one shot. 
    70% of people eventually succeed by the end of the day.
  • The last time Mosseri gave the talk, only 48% of people succeeded in uploading photos in one shot.
  • There is incredible anxiety for users in updating their status: 
    Out of users that enter three or more characters into the status update box, 17% don’t post anything at all.
  • “That’s one in six people who attempt to post something but don’t,” said Mosseri. “That’s pretty crazy.”
  • There are “way more people using Facebook on feature phones than smartphones,” but those using smartphones are “way more engaged.”