Monday, July 22, 2013

Candid Photography & The Future of Social Ads

Yikes – we’re fast approaching 3 years since this blog was last updated!

During this past year and a bit, I shifted my focus completely from working with Enterprise clients in a consulting role to envisioning and building new products over at FiveAces. Anyone who’s been involved with startup culture in the past knows the workload is nothing to sneeze at – it just doesn’t leave room for much else and this blog has clearly suffered in the process.  But it’s been an incredible journey and I’m thrilled to announce that we finally have something exciting to share. (short for Candid Input/Output) is a platform that enables real-time exchanges between brands and candid photographers. We work for the Candid photographers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter to ensure their inspiring moments reach the right audience.

What is Candid Photography, exactly?

Glad you asked! Here’s the technical definition:

Candid photography is photography that focuses on spontaneity rather than technique, on the immersion of a camera within events rather than focusing on setting up a staged situation or on preparing a lengthy camera setup. Candid photography is best described as un-posed and unplanned, immediate and unobtrusive. This is in contrast to classic photography, which includes aspects such as carefully staged portrait photography, landscape photography or object photography. Candid photography catches moments of life from immersion in it.

We like to think of it more as “mobile photography” in all its forms:

Billions of walking cameras...

Not Another Photo-Sharing Play

Candid offers users of the primary networks (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) alternative outlets for "putting their pictures to work". We believe the relationship these networks have with users is… slightly imbalanced, so we’re going to work for the candid photographer to make sure they have options. No one likes the idea of others capitalizing on their private photos but when you get to direct them to causes that personally matter suddenly it’s a different story.

The last few years have seen an explosion in the number of candid pictures taken each day. Authenticity is now more important than ever as businesses tap into this trend and turn to the crowd. The candid photographer has now emerged as a rising star but strangely doesn't have good representation yet. It’s more or less assumed that this vast stream of media is a free resource to be monetized by the networks and their partners with little regard for the creators. Users are left with little choice.

Agent of the candid photographer

We believe we can do better. We believe these images can be mobilized in novel ways to deliver surprising value that can be shared with their creators. Candid is the photographer's one agent across their networks,  working to make sure they get the most out of their pictures.

Agent of the Candid Photographer

Opt-in model for social ads

What’s unique about Candid is that it puts the photographer firmly in the driver’s seat of social ads – it allows them to decide when, where and how their images are put to work, with the platform simply providing inspiration and healthy variety of opportunities. The photographer’s privacy and preferences are the chief priority.

More than just business

Candid isn’t just about dollars, impressions and promotions – we’re here to inspire the world through uplifting images. In a world encumbered by negative news, sensationalism and fatigue, images have a unique power to instantly touch us and to galvanize supporters into action. Candid exists to spread positive stories through daily images, to strengthen our communities and to deepen our awareness.

We believe candid photography has transformational powers and we’re only at the tip of the iceberg in learning how to mobilize it.

Check out some of the campaigns we’re currently running around the Queen West area of Toronto:

Our support is currently limited to Instagram, but we are fast at work integrating support for Twitter and Facebook. If you’re already active on Instagram, sign in and let us know what you think!

Sign In With Instagram

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Does a policy prohibiting jQuery in Enterprise applications make sense?

I just don’t get it, I actually couldn’t believe it at first; what possible justification would there be for the all-out prohibition of jQuery within an Enterprise? Believe it or not, this is actually happening, on the doorsteps of 2011, and in larger numbers than I would’ve imagined.

Whatever the case may be, here’s an ironclad top 10 list of why avoiding jQuery is a costly mistake:

  1. It’s far and away the most popular and fastest growing JavaScript library on the planet [2]
  2. It’s arguably the safest, most scrutinized library of its kind with no open vulnerabilities
  3. It’s more pervasive than IIS itself –  in use by > 28% of all websites on the internet [2] [3]
  4. Even the US government uses it at [2]
  5. It’s distributed freely across the globe through both MS and Google CDN edge-servers [2]
  6. Microsoft has committed to help with QA testing and code development. It also includes jQuery as part of Visual Studio and ASP.NET MVC  [2]; on top of that, Microsoft ‘now offers actual tech support for jQuery as part of their Product Support Services (PSS) as jQuery integration has become part of several of the ASP.NET toolkits’ [5]
  7. Nokia is contributing with testing and has also hired one of the core developers, Brandon Aaron [2]
  8. It supports browsers from virtually a decade ago – everything  from IE6 and FF2 onward [1]
  9. jQuery solutions are far more supportable than their raw-JavaScript counterparts
  10. Forcing enterprise developers to hand-roll JavaScript is not a solution, just a costlier, more error-prone and less-secure alternative

Hopefully getting the right information in the hands of decision makers is enough to put this to an end.

In what scenarios have you seen jQuery use prohibited?

[1]  – Compatibility

[2] – jQuery’s triumphant march to success



[3] – June 2010 Web Server Survey

[4] – Does a policy prohibiting jQuery in Enterprise applications make sense?

[5] – Microsoft and jQuery

What the Enterprise Can Learn From – Top 3 Lessons

Update (Nov 3, 2010): I stand corrected, the president of Fog Creek Software informed me on Twitter that ‘the Stack Overflow Product is actually available for enterprises and a few of the top banks are using it internally”. Hopefully we can get more details around this soon…

Stackoverflow has turned the antiquated concept of basic Q & A into a very successful modern franchise. Enterprises grappling with fostering engagement within their knowledge communities should take note. While this platform is not available to to an internal audience, there are key elements that can still help in shaping your unique strategy.

Without further ado, here are the Top 3 StackOverflow Lessons for creating an effective knowledge-base:

  1. Kill Person-to-Person Collaboration

    This is the kryptonite of effective knowledge sharing, especially in the Enterprise. Notice that Stackoverflow profiles don’t publish user emails – this is partially to protect the user from unsolicited contact and a flood of questions from newbies, but also to foster person-to-community collaboration. Enterprise Search solutions attempt to ‘open’ content that was previously sealed behind business silos after the fact – well, you can start by not allowing this content to be hidden in the first place. This is poorly done in most organizations, with most users shying away from public distribution lists to carry personal conversations under the fear of inconveniencing others!

  2. Make Participation Highly Addictive

    Community up-take is the make-it-or-break-it factor for these applications, meaning they must be highly intuitive (low-barrier to entry) and highly addictive. Stackoverflow achieves this delicate balance through a simple yet competitive reputation system that draws out best-of-breed developers simply to compete and to learn from one another.  A slightly refined version of this would work within the Enterprise as well; far too often, the incentive to participate just isn’t there. Before you can reward top participants, you have to start measuring. 

  3. Recognize Top Contributors Externally

    This one is somewhat controversial (like most new ideas are) but imagine a scenario where the ranking of the top contributors within your organization were opened up externally to prying eyes. Sure, this might be a frightening scenario if you’re worried about exposing (and losing) your top talent, but it’s also the strongest reward you can provide, too. Most traditional incentive/reward programs are completely hidden from the outside world, which misses the point, IMO. As nice of a gesture as a jacket or a $100 gift-certificate may be, the real value to heard-working professionals is recognition of their dedication and devotion within the broader community.  

    (Now, Stackoverflow promotes ‘flairs’ for different reasons, I think; for one, it’s a highly effective way to spread the word and drive in traffic through a hub-and-spoke model. But I think the implications for external recognition within the Enterprise community are far more profound.)

What’s your Enterprise doing to embrace the lessons from the Web’s top successes?

[1] – Finding Opportunity for Success in the Failure of Others

[2] – What is reputation?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Measuring the ROI of Enterprise Search – Making the Case with Numbers

Far too often, the Enterprise Search experience is woefully inadequate and falls noticeably short of the carefully tuned and nurtured experience that internet users have come to expect, courtesy of the heated contest between Google, Bing and Yahoo. One factor that’s not helping to close this innovation lag is the complexity involved in building the clean-cut, formal ROI case that often drives project charters within the Enterprise.

NOTE: recognizing that “Enterprise Search” can include a vast spectrum of content sources and content types, each with unique characteristics and limitations, we will focus the discussion here on web-centric content that’s typically served through standard HTML, in both internal and external scenarios.

So how exactly do you build the business case for overhauling your search implementation? A leading Canadian IT consulting firm, NLC, recently tackled the question head on in their ‘Building the Business Case for Enterprise Search’ whitepaper [1] last week. While maintaining that a formal analysis ‘misses’ the real value of Enterprise Search, the paper does go on to provide a formal approach based on the IDC report, The Hidden Costs of Information Work (May 2009).

The proposed formula boils down to measuring:

  • Search Cost Today = # of knowledge workers X avg. salary (incl. benefits) X % of time spent searching
  • Potential Annual Benefit = Search Cost Today X The Search Lift Ratio (%)

Once deployed, estimates around ‘The Search Lift Ratio’ can easily be quantified through a combination of A/B testing, measurable and correlated call-to-actions (phone numbers present a challenge here, in some cases), ‘accurate’ time-on-page measurements [5] and traditional survey/feedback polls [4].

While the guidance is sound, it is largely based on estimates and, like similar reports before it [6], focuses primarily on the productivity gain; it does, however, offer a compelling, low-cost approach to building the case without relying on metrics that may be available in other areas. 

The “saves you money” argument, by all accounts, is wildly overshadowed by the broader “makes you money” advantages [2], yes; but, recognizing that corporate culture thrives on the the power of hard numbers, can we do  better upfront in the ‘reasonably measurable’ areas by relying on other metrics?

Assuming that the business has realized the value of matured analytics, even around legacy search implementations, can we explore these to make a stronger case?

While some of these are domain-specific, here are other areas that may yield useful ROI nuggets:

  • Reduced Database Volume => License/Hardware Savings: for high-volume applications that rely on a traditional RDBMS alone for ad-hoc queries or search-based functionality, a well-designed search implementation can significantly reduce the load on those database servers, resulting in both hardware and licensing savings. Through standard profiling tools, the volume of traffic that stands be offloaded to a search infrastructure can be quantified beforehand. Similar hardware/licensing savings (and training/staffing can also be realized in consolidating a fragmented search environment.
  • Measuring Publication Reach => Minimizing Sunk Costs: in scenarios where content was specifically authored and published for an intended audience, you should be able to measure the ‘publication cost’ and compare this to the ‘reach’ of the content (again, based on call-to-actions or accurate ‘time on page’ measurements). In scenarios where the reach is below a certain threshold, there is a clear and measureable ‘sunk cost’ that can be avoided in the future.
  • Reducing Call Center Volume => Headcount Reductions: assuming that source of call-center calls (both internal and external) are clearly classified (e.g. “I can’t find any information on…”), it should be possible to attribute a portion of call-center volume (by extension, head counts) to inadequate search implementations.

Can you think of others that affect your organization?


[1] – Building the Business Case for Enterprise Search

[2] – In Search of ROI | Search Done Right

[3] – How search can add real ROI to eCommerce websites

[4] – KISS Insights - It’s so quick to respond that many of your customers will!

[5] – The Problem With Measuring Time Spent on Page

[6] – Return on Information:  adding to your ROI with Google Enterprise Search

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to Remove the Evercookie?

One of my colleagues just sent this out – it’s truly amazing [1].

Check out the Web History link that uses a CSS trick to reveal your history (all on the latest FF).

From the author himself [2]:

evercookie is a javascript API available that produces extremely persistent cookies in a browser. Its goal is to identify a client even after they've removed standard cookies, Flash cookies (Local Shared Objects or LSOs), and others.

evercookie accomplishes this by storing the cookie data in several types of storage mechanisms that are available on the local browser. Additionally, if evercookie has found the user has removed any of the types of cookies in question, it recreates them using each mechanism available.

Specifically, when creating a new cookie, it uses the following storage mechanisms when available:

- Standard HTTP Cookies
- Local Shared Objects (Flash Cookies)
- Storing cookies in RGB values of auto-generated, force-cached
    PNGs using HTML5 Canvas tag to read pixels (cookies) back out
- Storing cookies in and reading out Web History
- Storing cookies in HTTP ETags
- Internet Explorer userData storage
- HTML5 Session Storage
- HTML5 Local Storage
- HTML5 Global Storage

Art is definitely in the eyes of the beholder!

This is a case of layering several techniques (some known, others new) to create an approach that requires some serious thought to defeat. Much like the MS vulnerability disclosed this week, I think this is more about bringing information to light to promote discussion and progress. As one comment put it, “the bad guys don’t make open source announcements, they keep the code to themselves.”)

[1] - Researcher Claims 'Evercookie' Can't Be Removed

[2] - Evercookie -- never forget.

[3] - Evercookie: A cookie that undeletes itself from 8 different storages