Facebook was stealth testing a new ‘Find Friends Nearby’ feature over the weekend that would show the Facebook users who were around you—think Find My Friends on iOS or Where You At? on Boost Mobile—but has now pulled the feature completely.
The service was admittedly half-baked, there was no official announcement about the Find Friends Nearby and when we tried playing around with it on our phones, we found nobody near us. Facebook told Wired that Find Friends Nearby wasn’t actually intended to launch. Specifically Facebook said:
“This wasn’t a formal release—this was just something that a few engineers were testing. With all tests, some get released as full products, others don’t. Nothing more to say on this for now, but we’ll communicate to everyone when there is something to say.”
Looks like we’ll have to wait a little bit longer to creep on Facebook users in our vicinity. [Wired]
Trolls. They fill the internet with insults, dead-end arguments, and inanity the likes of which we’ve never seen. Or maybe we have. The Guardian’s David Mitchell notes that trolling comments aren’t all that different from graffiti, and should likewise carry no more weight.
More specifically, Mitchell is talking less about trolls as you and I know them and more about anonymous, often inaccurate online reviews. It’s not a bulletproof analogy by any means, but Mitchell’s idea does reframe the way you look at anonymous content in a compelling way:
When you read a bit of graffiti that says something like “Blair is a liar”, you don’t take it as fact. You may, independently, have concluded that it is fact. But you don’t think that the graffiti has provided that information. It is merely evidence that someone, when in possession of a spray can, wished to assert their belief in the millionaire former premier’s mendacity. It is unsubstantiated, anonymous opinion. We understand that instinctively. We need to start routinely applying those instincts to the web.
If you read a review, an opinion, a description or a fact and you don’t know who wrote it then it’s no more reliable than if it were sprayed on a railway bridge. We should always assume the worst so that all those who wish to convince… have an incentive to identify themselves.
The flip side of the coin, of course, is that anonymity is vital to the spread of information on the internet. The important tool to remember, as always, is your skepticism. Without it, you’re letting yourself get all worked up over graffiti. (And we’re not talking Banksy here—or even Hanksy.) Photo remixed from The Awl.
If you have a brilliant new idea for an mobile app, a handy gadget, a smartphone case that does something cool, an album you want to produce, or even a comic book you want to publish, it’s never been easier to get your idea in front of a lot of people and raise money to make it a reality. There are dozens of free and cheap sites designed to boost new ideas, but not all of them are best for your idea. Here’s how to pick the best one for you.
Sites like Kickstarter and many others all cater to people with ideas they believe can make it big, but who need money to get them off the ground. The community supports the idea, everyone chips in, and with luck and enough interest and the right amount of money, the product gets made and the contributors usually get first cut or a special perk. Still, even though Kickstarter gets a lot of press, it’s not necessarily the best one for your idea.
Photo remixed with an original by dinadesign/Shutterstock.
For The Most Attention: Kickstarter
Kickstarter is the major player in this space, and for good reason. The service gets a lot of media attention, and even though the majority of Kickstarter projects don’t go anywhere, it’s become the go-to destination for anyone looking to crowd-fund their projects thanks to a few high-profile projects that managed to raise a lot of money. It’s not the biggest crowd-funding community, and it’s not even the one with the best track record, but it’s incredibly easy to use, popular with angel investors and people looking for the next big idea to invest in and get behind, and well organized. Idea creators can set up their profiles for free, founders can pledge as much or as little as they choose, and no money changes hands until time runs out or the project is fully-funded. If the project is fully funded, Kickstarter takes 5% off the top, and the rest goes to the inventor or creator to make their idea happen.
For App-Builders, Game Designers, and Developers: IndieGoGo
IndieGoGo is actually larger than Kickstarter, and more people there use it for more types of projects. The site takes 4% off the top of your fundraising if you reach your funding goal, and encourages creators and developers to offer perks to the community for funding their projects. Unlike some of its competition, IndieGoGo also has its doors open to charities and non-profits. The site is particularly popular with software and app developers, although all sorts of creative projects are up on the site for funding, including documentary and independant films, education projects, and international aid projects. IndieGoGo also has the benefit of being a global site, available to users around the world.
For Inventors and Gadget Creators: Quirky
Quirky has an excellent track record, and some of our favorite gadgets started as Quirky ideas. The process of getting your idea in front of the Quirky community is a bit more involved than at other sites. You submit your idea, the community weighs in first on whether or not it’s an idea that could be made into an actual product before it goes in front of the world for fundraising. That’s the key, while other sites focus on creative endeavors, most Quirky projects are tangible products that can be manufactured and sold. The Quirky community is active and engaged in idea building and product design and development, and a lot goes on long before the idea ever gets on the site for presale fundraising. Pricing is on a sliding scale—people who get in early can get lower prices than people who get in later, and once the product is made, Quirky can work to manufacture it themselves, or work with a major retail partner to get it on store shelves everywhere.
For Musicians: Bandcamp
We touched on this topic a bit in our previous story on how to release music online so music-lovers can get to it, but while SoundCloud was one of our favorite options for releasing your music for free, allowing people to remix it, and comment on it, Bandcamp is another great solution for musicians looking to set up a free storefront on the web to allow people to buy and download their music directly. Artists and fans both love Bandcamp, and the service handles the entire payment platform, from set-your-own-price albums and songs to artists with a mix of free and paid songs in their discography. Artists can also sell merchandise through their stores, and Bandcamp takes a slice off the top depending on the artist’s sales. Fans and music lovers on the other hand get a social platform where they can follow and interact with their favorite artists, get alerts when new music is released, and discover new artists through their friends.
For Crafty Types: Etsy
Crafty types are already well aware of Etsy and how the platform works. When people who made their own hand-made goods, arts, and custom crafts wanted an online storefront that catered more to their needs than a general auction site like eBay, Etsy was born. The site has dozens of categories, including clothing, art, jewelry, household accessories, and more. While most people know Etsy as a craft-lovers haven, the site is also home to a number of stores that manufacture products you wouldn’t associate with “arts and crafts,” like wall decals, custom motorcycle helmets, and even edible crafts like homemade cookies and beef jerky. Where other similar sites help you get seed money for an idea, Etsy is more of a traditional store, meaning you have to have your idea off the ground and your product ready for sale—even if it’s a single item—before you can sell it.
For Global Users: RocketHub
Many of these sites limit their membership to users in the United States, but RocketHub is one of the largest global communities dedicated to crowd-funding new ideas. RocketHub combines a traditional crowd-funding site where individuals can promote and raise money for their own ideas and pet projects with a funding bank where people with inspired ideas can connect with sponsors, non-profits, and funding groups who are willing to share some cash with a particularly motivated or passionate individual. The service works much like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo—sign-ups are free, and the site takes a 4% cut.
Different crowd-funding sites have different goals and different audiences. Depending on the type of idea you have and the audience you want to reach, you have an array of sites to choose from, and this is just the beginning. For example, if you have a random request or want to get the crowd’s help in funding a life event like a wedding or a vacation, you can try GoGetFunding, and if you’re an industrial designer, Yanko Design is a great resource for like-minded designers.
Whichever site you choose to get your ideas off the ground, make sure it’s one where the community is aligned with and supportive of your ideas, and you’ll have no trouble raising the funds needed to make it a reality. Have you used any of these sites to crowd-fund a project or idea? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Convinced you’re more environmentally aware than your neighbors? Now you can find out: scientists have mapped the entire energy use of New York City, building by building.
The interactive map, created by Bianca Howard, a PhD student in mechanical engineering at Columbia University, uses publicly available data to work out which buildings are using the most energy and how they are using it. Then, it displays the energy use on a color-map. Howard’s PhD supervisors, Professor Modi, explains:
“While discussions frequently focus on electricity use, homes in New York City, whether a townhouse or a large apartment building, use far more energy in form of heat rather than electricity. Nearly all of this heat is obtained from heating oil or natural gas. In addition, current electricity distribution infrastructure in many urban areas relies on large amounts of electricity brought in from outside the city, making it difficult to support increased future use without requiring significant investment of resources and funds. We are looking at ways we can address both these issues-reducing our heating bills and increasing local electricity generation capacity.”
The resulting interactive map is great fun to play around with, allowing you to see how energy use is split down between electricity, space heating and cooling, and water heating. The best bit is that, as mentioned, its detail lets you study energy use down to the scale of individual buildings. You can play around with the map here. Every city needs something like this. [Columbia Engineering via Boing Boing]
Reality appears to have finally arrived at Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest marketer, whose $10 billion annual ad budget has hurt the company’s margins.
P&G said it would lay off 1,600 staffers, including marketers, as part of a cost-cutting exercise. More interestingly, CEO Robert McDonald finally seems to have woken up to the fact that he cannot keep increasing P&G’s ad budget forever, regardless of what happens to its sales.
He told Wall Street analysts that he would have to “moderate” his ad budget because Facebook and Google can be “more efficient” than the traditional media that usually eats the lion’s share of P&G’s ad budget.
This is coming from the man who increased P&G’s adspend by a staggering 24 percent over the two years through October 2011, even though sales rose only 6 percent in the same period.
Note that P&G’s revenues were up 4 percent to $22 billion in the quarter but the company’s costs for sales, general and administrative work were flat.
P&G’s staggering ad budget has become a bit of an issue among analysts. On the call, McDonald and his crew were asked about ad costs three different times! . McDonald eventually said:
As we’ve said historically, the 9% to 11% range [for advertising as a percentage of sales] has been what we have spent. Actually, I believe that over time, we will see the increase in the cost of advertising moderate. There are just so many different media available today and we’re quickly moving more and more of our businesses into digital. And in that space, there are lots of different avenues available.
In the digital space, with things like Facebook and Google and others, we find that the return on investment of the advertising, when properly designed, when the big idea is there, can be much more efficient. One example is our Old Spice campaign, where we had 1.8 billion free impressions and there are many other examples I can cite from all over the world. So while there may be pressure on advertising, particularly in the United States, for example, during the year of a presidential election, there are mitigating factors like the plethora of media available.
P&G’s Old Spice campaign is a textbook example of what the entire company should be doing. The problem is that the entire company isn’t doing it. Check out Mr. Clean’s Twitter stream, for instance. Oh, right—he doesn’t have one.
McDonald’s recent discovery that digital media is free comes after the long-delayed launch of Tide Pods, now scheduled for a month from now but with only a limited supply. It was originally planned for July 2011. The ad budget for that campaign is estimated at $150 million and will come from agency Saatchi & Saatchi.
The problem is that while P&G has struggled to get a single U.S. pod out the factory door, several of its competitors have already launched competing laundry pod products.
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Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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