Playing around with my credit card sized computer

Designed by members of University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory, Raspberry Pi has already fuelled incredible technology projects around the world. As a fully programmable micro-computer it has the potential to be a media centre, a PC, digital photo frame or your next computer science project. It is as diverse as your imagination extends and I’ve been playing around with it.

Raspberry Pi won’t replace your PC but it does serve as a useful programming platform for devising technology projects. Due to the ever closing affinity between PR and the internet – top digital professionals should be expected to have a good understanding of the technologies behind platforms and channels, not just how to post updates on social media sites (which any monkey can be trained to do).

So if you work in digital PR: buy yourself a Raspberry Pi and get programming! If you really want to, watch my awful YouTube video below.

For those technically inclined the specifications of my unit are:

700Mhz ARM CPU
Videocore 4 GPU (capable of running at 40Mbits/s)
256GB of RAM
2 USB ports
1 HDMI port
1 S Video Port
8GB SD Card (I purchased this separately)


The Web of Social Interactivity

The internet exists today as one massive computer network, connected via fibre optic cables under our oceans and satellites in Space. You are connected to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), who is in turn connected to other ISPs. Therefore the internet, in its most simplistic form, could be considered one massive Local Area Network (LAN). The internet has invented new forms of human interaction, all originally spurred by inter-linked hypertext documents – building the World Wide Web (WWW).

Despite significant developments in online scripting languages, most pages still rely upon the foundations of Hyper Text Mark-up Language (HTML). It’s incredible that distinctions can be made between blogs, news sites, social network channels, galleries and video sites, as they all inherently share the same DNA.

With the number of internet connected devices believed to have reached 8.7 billion in 2012 – the need to find and curate information is crucial. We have at our finger tips a vast collection of data. How do we find what we need though?

I believe online information can generally be placed into several categories:

Past – the relevancy of information provided through a one-way communication model. Content can only be viewed, interpreted introspectively and not openly discussed.

Present – social networks have provided a way for information to be associated with individuals, brands and events. Content is viewed in context of conversation and information can be openly discussed.

The semantic web is an amalgamation between the web of information (past) and the web of social interactivity (present). At the same time it is an evolution, each day the web of information is being associated with the web of social. Our data is being linked with our personal details, a bit like the process of Google’s authorship tagging. Whilst hyperlinks create links between hypertext documents, the semantic web creates relationships between data.

The semantic web is a key area of development for the internet as a whole. The effect for the public relations industry will be colossal and will revolutionise the very meaning of ROI. However, these developments will seem insignificant compared to the power of machines understanding the relationships between data. Last year I wrote my dissertation on the semantic web and now it is time to put some of those ideas into practice.

Watch this space.

An afternoon with Brandwatch

Dozens of measurement tools exist on the market, none more innovative than Brandwatch. A social media measurement platform I use on a daily basis. Last week I was delighted to attend their client event at the Soho Hotel, London.

Brandwatch event image

How to “measure what matters” is a mantra that has been engrained into me since gaining experience in online advertising in 2010. Herding a load of creative types into a room to develop wacky ideas is one side of the coin; the other is measuring campaign impact. You would be surprised just how many agencies sacrifice metrics for creativity.

Brandwatch event

The event found the perfect balance between measurement tips and real-world case studies from blue-chip businesses. It was fascinating to see how far Brandwatch could drive campaigns, even measure sales impact. The mere fact that Brandwatch is a 7 year old company with 700+ clients conveys a clear message; social media measurement is a BIG business.

Now, as industry let’s hire less creative types and bring on the data scientists!

Beware of digital ‘desire paths’

Even though I have next to no talent as a graphics designer, I am still a designer. Instead of creating flashy graphics I assist to design public relations campaigns designed to sway opinions, offer clients solutions and provide measurable results. You may design brilliant musical pieces on the guitar, or a beautiful poem or even the circuitry necessary for a remote control to work. So before I move on to the point of this post remember this; you design something.

When it comes to digital campaigns, design takes on a new meaning entirely. We need to focus on the convenience of design and affordance.

As Wikipedia explains:

An affordance is a quality of an object, or an environment, which allows an individual to perform an action. For example, a knob affords twisting, and perhaps pushing, while a cord affords pulling.

This got me thinking.

In Nonsuch Park (part of the reason behind this blog’s title) are a number of constructed paths which lead from car parks, to the mansion, seating areas, etc. Concrete paths designed to give people a mud free alternative and a direct route to the next step of their journey. In terms of affordance these paths are objectively measureable, reliant for a person to recognise them for their designed purpose. The action is to walk down them and their design offers this.

This is when the simple factor of convenience steps in.

Whilst a path may lead a route, it may not necessarily be the most direct route. Whilst affordance provides the design of the path meaning, the obscurity of its routes renders its purpose to be insignificant. The answer? People make the decision to walk the most direct route and these are what we call ‘desire paths’. Tracks in the ground showing the alternative routes people prefer to take – the consequential alternative.

The perfect way to avoid railings
The perfect way to avoid railings

Bring this analogy back to public relations, in relation to designing campaigns. Who have you really got in mind? In my own experience I have seen ‘digital desire paths’ form, when hundreds of users seep through dozens of social media channels and decide to comment on the sites most convenient for them. For consumer campaigns this means careful planning and for reputation management this means intense monitoring.

Remember: desire paths aren’t formed by one person, it takes hundreds. All it takes is one person to weigh up the convenience of your design, everyone else will just follow. For online campaigns this may mean a willingness to adapt campaigns to suit your users’ online journey.

Thank you to Peter Sigrist for his presentation on the convenience of design at the CIPR’s ‘Share This Live’ Social Media Conference last week. I’ll be sure to continue building on this concept for weeks to come.

PR agencies must adapt or die

PR agencies must adopt big data, the semantic web and the internet of things, otherwise they will not survive. This has been the overall sentiment of a new White Paper published today by Keene Communications called ‘All PR is Online’. The paper, written by Professor David Phillips FCIPR and Philip Young, is based upon an abstract of their upcoming third edition of Online Public Relations which will be published by Kogan Page later this year. I had the challenge and honour of editing the paper which can be download here.

As it says in the paper, “let’s pretend it is 1984, when Grunig and Hunt wrote Managing Public Relations.” Back then the majority of media were static mass communication tools, such as newspapers, magazines, television and radio. All of these mediums required huge amounts of work and considerable financial investment. Today any amateur can start their own television station, broadcast audio and write columns.

Today we are in the age of the writable web, where we can contribute content on vast socially connected platforms. The tools of communication have changed but that doesn’t matter, it’s the connectivity of the tools which makes the real difference.

The connectivity of internet tools has introduced us to the age of the amateur. The word ‘amateur’ in Old French literally transcribes as ‘lover of’, social media users produce content for the love of it! This new era of communications means the PR industry needs to revise tactics and approach digital from a more intellectual angle. How else are we going to tackle big data?! It has never been more exciting to create PR campaigns.

It’s refreshing to have worked on a paper that looks beyond social media and instead on the very mechanisms of communication itself. Yet, the paper comes with a warning – unless we keep up with developments of big data, semantic analytics and the internet of things, agencies will inevitably fail. The internet has escaped from the deskbound PC – mobile devices now form an integral part of our lives. Leaving the PR industry with an opportunity to connect with stakeholders on a “deeper” level, but we must adapt our services to keep up.

I began gaining experience in the PR industry in 2008 and already I’ve witnessed gigantic leaps in communication, pushed along by fast evolving online platforms. The very title of the White Paper “All PR is Online” would have seemed completely bizarre in 2008, even controversial. I never knew that when I saw Facebook for the first time in 2005, that it would form part of my career path. Neither did I know that my amateur Atheist blogging days would serve as valuable experience in assisting the communications of global corporations in the future.

Times are moving fast and the authors behind the paper, Professor David Phillips FCIPR and Philip Young remind us that we must adapt or die.


Download a copy of the White Paper for yourself and share your thoughts on it. If you blog about it then do share it with @keenecomms so we can feature your blog in an upcoming post! The White Paper certainly makes some controversial points and it would be great to read feedback from you clever lot.