Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dailymile - My Personal Online Workout Coach

My attendance at the gym isn't as frequent as it once was. It used to be easy. But as my workouts became more of a burden, I found that my financial commitment (monthly gym dues) motivated me. When that failed, it was my personal trainer's threats to stop canceling sessions. Sure, marriage, late-nights-at-work and business travel are to blame for this decline. But not "making the time" to exercise is all my fault.

Enter Dailymile. I log each workout, which includes specifics around my workout type, length of time, how I felt (on a smile-o-meter) and tag accordingly. I can now track my progress day over day, week over week. Dailymile users are encouraged to "motivate friends" to achieve fitness goals. And emails remind me to get my butt to the gym. And posts are synced with my Twitter account, so my pursuit to achieve Herculean strength is shared with my entire social network.

The site caters to runners and cyclists, which I personally do only when chased or for leisure. But it serves its purpose for me to track my general training workouts. There's also a feature that allows users to find other Dailymile athletes in my neighborhood (not very useful: other than my wife, I'm a loner at the gym - just me and my iPod).

Over the past few weeks I've been a beta user. As of today, the big news is that they've gone public. Looking ahead, Kelly at Dailymile says they'll be adding some new features. This should include:
  1. Routes — calculates distance ran or cycled and shares a map of the route with others;
  2. Workout Import — imports workouts from Nike and Garmin devices;
  3. Challenges — create exercise/workout challenges and invite friends to participate.
What would make Dailymile even more useful? Here's my wishlist to Kelly:
  1. iPhone app — I'd like to easily log my workout while walking home from the gym;
  2. Exercise Tips/Ideas — I'm always looking for new exercises to try out;
  3. Diet Advice — currently, forums have a lot of content, but how about a dedicated section?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Trying Out Google Web History

I took Google's new Web History for a brief test drive this weekend, using it to save and browse my Google searches. Web History allows me to search my past Google searches chronologically; by topic; and view trends (nice!). Although I'm kind of weirded out that they can track back my past search behavior, both at home and at work.

The features can be expanded to track and display my entire web browsing history, but that gets really creepy.

Thinking ahead to the possibilities (insert evil laugh here), this new capability could allow Google users to opt-in to share their browsing history. In return, users might expect a cut of the revenue (ala Google AdSense), free hosting, free ISP services -- you name it -- giving marketers unheard of visibility into consumer search and browsing behaviors.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My POV on Site Testing Tools

Last week I was asked by a colleague to recommend a site testing solution for a friend's tech product review site. The following is my response (edited to protect our agency's exclusive relationships, pricing, etc.):

In recent months, Tier I players like Optimost and Omniture Test & Target have dramatically reduced their prices. 1-year technology contracts are now half of what they were a year ago. But don't be fooled - they try to make up for these steep markdowns by trying to charge for costly services models. These solutions are only great values if you have a skilled site optimization expert or agency partner operating these tools.

A Tier II player like Widemile or SiteSpect incur minimal monthly charges, without an annual contract. They make it easy to scoop up their tool for just a few months with a low learning curve, and are very eager to compete with their larger rivals. As a result, these players will tend to be flexible on price and provide plenty of free education and technical support. Widemile in particular has a pretty sweet, Flash-based user interface, suitable for even a novice. Definitely gets high marks. SiteSpect's
big advantage is that no tags need to be implemented on the page. But be wary of implementation at a DNS level. Your larger organizations' IT teams will be shaking in their boots!

Ah, and of course Google’s Site Optimizer tool. Free, free, free. I don’t believe this is any less or more turnkey than Tier I or II solutions. Speaking from first-hand experience, this tool nicely complements Google Analytics' free solution, and is currently running live tests on my site. I've only just implemented this, so will update with my long-term satisfaction.

A general working knowledge of HTML is necessary for most of the above solutions. So in the context of this prospect -- a simple tech review site, supported by ads with no ecommerce or clear conversion…. then, err, free is a nice way to start. I think Avinash Kaushik's logic can be applied: a free analytics solution is practical for starters, if only to get your feet wet.

Disclaimer: We’re not talking about “big client” millions of media budget at stake in the above scenario, so I’m being very liberal with my recommendations. I think it takes a very careful evaluation of a business' goals, objectives, dedicated staff and technical limitations to make a consultative recommendation.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Plugging The Leaks in Your Website

My conversations with clients are usually focused on "plugging the leaks" within their websites. By "leaks," I mean the alarming rate of high visitor abandonment at various points within a website.

It's funny, but not long ago this sort of talk would have lead to " a result, we need to redesign the site." Hold your horses. Tough economy or not, why jump the gun and march right into a total site redesign? Do you know exactly what's so terribly wrong with the site that it's gotta get new paint job, or flat-out gut renovation? Do you even care about alienating users that might "love" the site's current aesthetic?

Make a small investment of time and budget to understand precisely what is wrong with your website and why it's causing visitors to bounce. Only then can we have a constructive conversation about changes to the website. By implementing a dozen or so data-driven tactical recommendations, your visitors can expect a more efficient, easier-to-use website that's actually achieving (let's even say exceeding) it's intended business goals!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Future of Web Design Conference in NYC

I'd like to attend the upcoming FOWD Conference in NYC, November 3-4. The absolute highlight for me is to hear Hillman Curtis speak about how he's continued to re-invent himself as an artist. Hillman Curtis was one of a few significant influences on my career as a graphic designer (others included Stephen Sagmeister and David Carson, although neither is currently scheduled to join Mr. Curtis as a speaker).

What stands between me and this conference, is funding. As the economy weakens, it is harder for my employer to approve expenses like this. In that case, I hope Louise at Carsonified can come through for me with a pass.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Why I'm In Advertising

It was the early 80's. Looking up in Times Square, I fixed my eyes on what must have been a Coca-Cola billboard. Amazed by the classic design, magnificent scale and masses of people exposed to it, it is my belief that at this moment I became mesmerized with the profession of advertising. Of course, at this prepubescent age I was also entertaining a few other careers: veterinarian, Disney animator or professional Corvette driver (the job description speaks for itself).

Looking back, it feels good to say that I've gone down one of my dream career paths. However, after zig-zagging a bit, and flexing my creative muscle, I'm not quite sure how I landed into this current role. I think it's a new found passion to make my clients wildly successful, in an all-new, quantifiable way.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Feedly Beautifully Delivers Content

I've tried Netvibes, iGoogle, Google Reader and numerous other RSS aggregators. For one reason or another, each failed to become part of my daily consumption of news and information.

Enter Feedly. The dashboard of all dashboards! Feedly is an extension for Firefox, incorporating my various email accounts, social networks, RSS feeds and bookmarks. Besides pulling everything into one place, one of the most attractive assets is Feedly's design and layout. All of my content can be formatted into customizable layouts, in which I can filter and search. I'm able to clip and send full articles or parts of articles, sharing them via my integrated email and social network accounts.

And personalization! An intelligent engine learns my reading habits, offering me relevant news based on my reading patterns and preferences. And articles that I've read within Feedly are refelected as 'read' in my Google Reader.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Groovey Digg Company Video

Here's a really smart, single-take, company video that Digg put together, set to the tune of Dee Lite's "Groove Is In The Heart." And get this – the normally dry Digg CEO Jay Adelson raps Q-Tip's solo! The whole office ("interns only," reports Valleywag) joins in by taking turns singing the lyrics. If you're wondering where Digg founder Kevin Rose is, stay tuned until the end.

Digg Dubb: Groove Is In The Heart

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

MUG Redesigns

One of my favorite sources for "what's hot & happening in NY" has redesigned! The MUG (Manhattan Users Guide) email newsletter showed up in my inbox this afternoon all fresh-faced and shiny.

I've referenced MUG several times in my posts, and have always appreciated Charlie & Co.'s: list of best movers in NYC, tasty new restaurants, hoppin' night spots, fresh tunes, best sample sales... the list goes on. And sure, the design always felt very 1999. But the unique content, inside scoop and (seemingly) expert advice always kept me coming back.

While it looks like MUG is still working out the kinks to this new design, I wish the devoted crew the best of luck with their new design direction.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Seat At The Table

It's funny how our agency's CEO began using the term "seat at the table" nearly a year ago, and now the idea has taken off like hot cakes. Curious if he's responsible for coining the term (?).

Anyway, Kate Rutter blogs about the theme, discussing the justification and opportunities available for a Creative to change a client's organization. I would agree that instead of the safe and traditional reactive position advertising professionals take, a strategic pro-active approach proves far more effective. I might add that it also stems from having the right client relationships, high up enough within an organization.

Go download your own "seat at the table" template. Cut it out, and you have your virtual table at your disposal. You've got to fake it before you make it, right?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lady Clown Brings Live Music to Brooklyn

Hoping to check out the acoustic, "intellectual" live music of Lady Clown next month. Benjamin Scheuer, part of the scruffy NY-based band, says they're hosting a concert series every Friday in August at I-Beam in Brooklyn. Lady Clown will take to the stage each August Friday around 10pm, accompanied by an eclectic range of acts each night. Get this: admission is free, wine will be served, and byob. This has got to be good. I'll be sure to post pics after my wife and I check out a show.

FYI: I-Beam is a new musician-operated performance and teaching space located in Park Slope at 168 7th St, between Second and Third Aves.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Extending Brands on Flickr

AKQA London's Geoff Northcott recently wrote about using Flickr as an extension of a brand into the social media space. His post is packed with great examples of companies who are using Flickr to do this well. What may be most valuable: Northcott's analysis of do’s and dont's for brands considering incorporating Flickr into their social media strategy. Full article:

'Wary' point number 4 is relevant to much of social media in general, but rarely is adhered to: "Attempting to start a community space without a passionate user base in place or cred to start one." Love it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

WDDG: War-Time Design Propaganda

Besides a brilliant company name (WDDG is short for World Domination Design Group), the smart execution in the style of WWII government propaganda videos is a load of fun. WDDG didn't take any shortcuts when producing content for each of their site's categories, continuing the vintage slideshow theme throughout. Sure, it's a bit cumbersome when trying to fetch a quick bit of information (a new video cues), and I'm sure SEO presents some challenges - but the site is a fun, playful and simple way to demonstrate their creativity. For an added bonus, view source: they even have fun with code!

Note: had WDDG linked in my favorites long ago, but finally getting around to writing about it now.

Friday, June 27, 2008

LEGO cupcakes -- brilliant!

Mix and match cupcakes for fun? That will only last so long, once the pieces become consumed. These will disappear faster than leaving a small child with actual Lego pieces.

My wife was inspired by this artist (Naomi), baked cupcakes last night and attempted to create fondant for her own designs. But the result was a gooey, slimy icing-like result that didn't resemble the dough-like consistency she was looking for. After further investigation this morning, 2 factors were the cause: not enough sugar, and not enough time to set. Only 16 ounces of sugar and 20 minutes to set just didn't cut it. However the results were still delicious.

She's welcome to continue to try, try, try again... I'm ready and willing to sample the results.

Friday, May 16, 2008

FriendFeed is a Friend Indeed

This week I aggregated all of my social networks into a single source on FriendFeed. It's an interesting way for me to broadcast everything from my blogs, Twitter, Pownce, YouTube, etc. And it's easy to view all of my friends' postings at a quick, dashboard level.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Cool Hunter Now Offers Consultancy Services?

I'm a reader of The Cool Hunter, an online art/music/fashion/design destination written by and for trend setters that are in-the-know. One of their latest spin-offs is The Cool Hunter Platinum, a self-proclaimed 'world trends consultancy,' targeting ad agencies and premium brands.

Something interesting about their authenticity is that they brag: "We don’t talk marketing-speak. In fact, we loathe it and its often meaningless jargon superfluous."

While this interesting new direction is fine and good (uh, maybe even considering giving them a ring), I really hope that new affiliations don't influence their otherwise non-biased listings.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spy Hunter Brought Back as a Pontiac? No...

Pontiac's new G8 commercial brings back memories of playing the old game Spy Hunter on Nintendo. While I appreciate the classic 80's videogame reference, I never envisioned my spy-driven armed sports car to be a plastic-clad Pontiac.

If I had to imagine a modern-day car that would fit the role in Spy Hunter, it would be more along the lines of a Nissan GT-R or Acura NSX. These cars were designed by the guys obsessively playing Spy Hunter in their youth.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Helping Mom Enter The World of Blogging

That's right. Last night I helped my mother launch her own blog: NY Piano Expert

My brother and I have encouraged Mom to create a blog for some time now. Over the years, she's mastered the consultative approach to selling pianos. Mom is quick to strike up conversation about pianos -- with absolute strangers -- at dinner, in a store, or practically any public place. So of course, that had us thinking; "what better candidate to enter the world of blogging?"

Thursday, February 28, 2008

UBIQ's Fresh New Site

UBIQ has got a nice new site. I'm feeling the product browse functionality right on the homepage. While the intro build is sweet, I find that it takes a little too long. But thankfully it doesn't have to re-build every time you hit the homepage.

Great photography and an overall smooth look and feel. Props to the web design veterans at The Chopping Block for pulling this together.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Honda Goes Green with Online Playground

I think the new Honda Problem Playground site one of my most favorite new sites. It offers a unique means of navigation by following a road map and dragging the screen to move about.

Another example of this site's quirkiness is that before users can play the video to see the new FCX car in action, they are required to first assemble a simple puzzle (of the video's first frame) beforehand. Not to mention the entire experience is helped along by tiny little people who lift, move and pull the pieces of content along.

And it's sure nice to see how Honda is harnessing hydrogen power for mass market (proposed) automobile production.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lame Pepsi Monster Invades Times Square

After skimming Ad Age's article this morning about a Pepsi Monster in Times Square (idea hatched by BBDO), I figured I'd stroll outside the office to see if I could locate the creature.

Well, low and behold -- a lame, giant, inflatable, ugly-looking thing awaited just outside our doors. I walked over to take a closer look and capture a few photos, but the below-freezing temps resulted in some quick snapshots and a speedy retreat back inside.

(However, not before I managed to walk away with this freebie.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Adobe's Wild Imagination Grows

Curious with Adobe's simple yet intriguing new rich media web banner, my attention was piqued with a welcoming slider bar within their new ad. Sliding the bar within the interactive ad was very rewarding, as new creatures, wildlife and organic growth emerge from behind the controls. Bravo, Adobe!

I posted a short demo here of my own interaction with the ad late last week. (sorry, play controls are all the way at bottom of screen)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Wii Remote Strap Replacement

I received an email this evening from Nintendo, indicating that my Wii remote may be in need of a replacement wrist strap. They've assured me that by wearing the wrist strap (I suppose both new or old), it will prevent me from "accidentally dropping or throwing the remote during game play which could damage the remote or surrounding objects, or cause injury to other people."

My wife can attest to the damage I've already caused with my Wii remote. I've managed to hack/scuff the frames on our living room walls, and on several occasions narrowly miss her face as I swing my tennis backhand -- all with wrist strap firmly secured, mind you.

But by the looks of this photo, I'm not sure what sort of wrist strap improvement I should expect from Nintendo in the mail. I can't tell much of a difference in quality between the new and original.