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Watch Neil DeGrasse Tyson educate Richard Dawkins on the importance of understanding context when “teaching” others. Tyson makes a wonderful point about the difference between information and persuasion.

So this morning, the new owners of the social bookmarking site Delicious launched their new, revamped version of the site. Gone are the Yahoo name and many features that long-time users are now complaining about on Twitter and other social networking sites. What they’ve offered is a new Beta site that is not without glitches. This, combined with a recent article in the Atlantic (The Cloud’s My-Mom-Cleaned-My-Room Problem) highlight the problems that many brands (especially online ones) face when they change a product or service.

It’s a clear reminder that users/customers/consumers whatever you want to call them, feel they have a stake in your brand.  Sometimes they feel their stake is as much as the actual owner’s. It’s yet to be seen if the new owners of Delicious can make enough changes to keep users attracted to their site, or if they’ll drive away existing users and do little to encourage growth. One thing is clear, they may have misjudged the passion and expectations that many of their customers have for their brand and service.

Want to go to dinner with new people? Want to try new places?  Maybe a service like Grub with Us will do the trick. Essentially the social networking site lets you browse dinner parties being formed and decide which one to join based on both the cuisine and the people involved. You pay in advance and just show up. You can search by a number of interests including:

  • Environmentalism
  • Rock Climbing
  • Spicy Foods
  • Singles
  • Food types
  • Baseball
We at W5 have always thought the dinner party is a great way to bring people together for a lively discussion. This is a nice twist on social networking that requires people to actually be social. Instead of hiding behind the anonymity of the net, it gives individuals the chance to get together and have real conversations in person.

Beautiful series of infographics by Peter Orntoft about how the Danish people feel about a number of pressing social issues. Though shortfalls of time, budget, and creativity force us to revert to PowerPoint Smart Art, it’s inspiring to see work that challenges what an infographic can be.

We try to pass along great infographics, but we also get excited about fresh and interesting approaches to cartography.  And from time to time in conducting national-scale quantitative research studies, we have to dig deep into Census statistics from 2000.

Eric Fischer’s recently-posted Flickr photoset relies on 2000 Census stats and OpenStreetMap data, depicting racial and ethnic divides in a few dozen major American cities. His work was inspired by Bill Rankin’s map of Chicago’s racial and ethnic divides. The visualizations for Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Houston are particularly striking, and most maps feature some explanatory notes through use of mouse-overs.

Long Beach

"Race and Ethnicity - Long Beach" By Eric Fischer

This is great work, and I hope to one day see an update based on 2010 Census data to see, among other things, the changes in concentration of Hispanic-Americans, the differences in post-Katrina New Orleans, and the evolving makeups of Southeastern cities.  This is fascinating data and imagery that really makes one think about what a difference a decade makes.

A little while back Tom wrote about Kickstarter, the site where people ask strangers to fund their projects. Today I tripped across Fiverr, a website where you can purchase services from strangers for $5. What can you really get for $5 you ask? It turns out you can get a wide variety of things, including:

  • Someone to post fliers for you around their college campus
  • Astrological readings
  • Transcription Services
  • Custom created birthday cards
  • Voiceovers
  • Advice
  • Exposure for your website

While much of it is silly, it’s a sign of how the web creates personalized products and services, micro-services if you will. While $5 might not seem like much, if someone can perform a $5 task several times in an hour or leverage the power of their own social network to advertise over and over again, they might make a little bit of extra money. More importantly, services like this and Kickstarter continue to lower the time and money investment needed to start something new.

I’ve been hearing and seeing a lot of advertising lately that is attempting to be green or to connect with consumers via social media or create community. Too often, my response has been “REALLY?” The idea is somewhat sound… give consumers what they want and like to get them more involved with your brand. Create some love.  I get it.  The problem is the execution.

Today on my way in, I heard a radio spot for a body groomer for men. The ad highlighted two things: 1) the company will plant a tree for each unit sold and 2) you can go to their website to create an avatar, a virtual shaved you. Honestly, what’s the point? They have a series of humorous videos to both explain the product benefits and drive interest, that makes sense to me.  But the social/green aspect feels out of place.

First, if your brand wants to go green, that’s great. But don’t greenwash. If you go green it needs to be related to your product. So if you plant trees but still use toxic chemicals or kill indigenous plants and birds to make your stuff, that’s no good. How could a body shaver go green? Maybe they could make the product more energy efficient or use a high percentage of recycled plastic in making it. Those would both be relevant. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Second, not every product needs or deserves a community. Using a viral video to highlight benefits, drive interest, etc. makes sense. If it’s cheap and you think it will have any impact, do it. The problem is do I really want to be in a community for a product like this? Do I need an avatar just for me? Does any guy really talk to their friends (or strangers for that matter) about grooming and how they look?  The answer is not really. So while you might think it’s great for your customers to talk to each other about your product or brand, you still need to understand if they’re actually going to do it.

I’ll give some brands like this credit though. They provided a few how-to videos to let guys escape embarrassment and learn about new ways of using the product on their own.

Green and social were new and interesting and have become “expected.” However, as with anything else in life, they’re only worth doing if you do them well.”

If you don’t know what Spotify is already, then you should by now – especially since the new update as of yesterday will make Steve Jobs run for cover with his precious iTunes. It’s been out there for a couple of short years – exploding first through Scandinavia and further on finding its way out in Europe. It’s a music service software that let’s you stream and play any music through the Internet directly on your computer and even your iPhone. Yes, other software like Pandora and Last.fm are out there as well, but appear totally irrelevant in comparison.

Imagine your iTunes filled with everything you could ever ask for, but that’s taking no hard disk space. I know what you’re thinking – so, what if I’m out and there’s no reception on my iPhone, or I have lost Internet in my house? Well, then you can download your playlists to an offline mode that will act just like any MP3 player, even if you are connected or not. Pure brilliance. Unfortunately, they haven’t released it in the US yet – Spotify is fighting with licenses and bigger record companies for access, and it shouldn’t be too far now. My way (and many others that are living in the US) around it is; I registered for free in Sweden while I was there, and when I’m now a subscriber every month ($10) I get a premium account which let’s me ‘travel’ with the service indefinitely–otherwise it would shut me down after 2 weeks abroad.

The new update (called ‘The Next Generation’) features pure awesomeness. With your own individual profile on Spotify you can now connect with your friends on Facebook, or whomever you’d like – and share tracks, playlists and artists with easy clicks. With your own inbox you can send and receive songs – you can ‘star’ favorites and let your wireless connection share info between your devices. It’s now even more about sharing, and who doesn’t want great, daily recommendations from other music lovers around their social network? Read about the release and get excited. Soon, when the US will get access, I’m seriously saying that Apple and iTunes will have a hard time competing. This is by far one of the greatest softwares I have ever experienced, and I do like to pride myself in good things that are Swedish. Let the music free!