On YouTube Getting a Homeless Man a Job

How does a former radio announcer, left homeless and on the streets, garner job offers from the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and NFL Films?

YouTube.  That’s how.

It’s a great story, and Mr. Williams’ voice really is incredible, but what makes this story so remarkable to me is how it demonstrates the sheer power of the medium. 

We’ve seen YouTube sensations get millions of hits and even record deals, but this is social media affecting profound change in the life of a person who lost their way.  All because a reporter decided to follow up and someone decided it belonged on YouTube.

This isn’t another story of the media machine trying to take advantage of viral popularity (if anything, it’s the other way around).  This is real and it’s quite amazing, really. 

Also, I might add, there’s a strange bit of zeitgeist in seeing YouTube help struggling radio find a second chance.

Just sayin’.


On Crowdsourcing The Kinect

Backtracking on their “hack the Kinect and we’ll prosecute” stance was the smartest thing Microsoft’s done in a long time.

Multinational corporations that fear manipulation of their carefully crafted devices come across like old people who wrap their sofas and remote controls in cellophane (Apple just has better branding).   At the end of the day, the Kinect is a technologically impressive device that, if Microsoft lets the momentum ride, could have a significant impact on the future of user interface. 

Microsoft’s decision to now be “excited” by the community’s interest in their toy will likely do more to advance the innovation of their own creation than they ever could.  Forget sitting in a boardroom trying to figure out what people want from a motion-driven device — let them play with it and tell you. 

It’s like market research, except the market is researching for you at the same time.

So here’s my thing: what are people actually doing with it? 

Everyone’s been watching the guy who used a PC emulator to play the original Super Mario Bros using body motion control.  Pretty cool.  And there’s also a fellow who turned his Kinect set up into a digital puppet controller.  Probably tougher than it looks and definitely impressive.

Still…  I mean, these are great and all, but I’m looking for that breakthrough use.  That thing where everyone goes “ah ha — this is where it goes next.”

The most exciting development to me so far?  Finger tip recognition with multi-touch interaction and navigation.  Researchers at MIT have basically made Minority Report a reality:

[via www.kinecthacks.net]

There are others who’ve done a variation, but this example was easily the most impressive.  The ability to recognize and interpret individual finger motions is, technologically speaking, nuts.  Touchscreen technology always seemed like a matter of time, but multitouching the air always seemed like the future.  Still does, really.

Now where are my moving sidewalks?

On iPad 2 and iPhone Rumours (Piling On)

WARNING: What you are about to read is my totally non-insider, mostly unsubstantiated assumptions about what Apple may or may not decide to do with their iOS devices in 2011.

But really, how different is that from anyone else?

The iPhone 4G (AKA “The Verizon iPhone”)

Yes, I’m even making a call on the name.

I’m pretty sold on this one. There’s no way Apple’s going to move onto an iPhone 5 already. They need to extend the iPhone 4 brand’s lifecycle. Want proof? Exhibit A: iPhone 3. Exhibit B: iPhone 3G. Exhibit C: iPhone 3Gs.

Verizon is already starting to make waves with its “most advanced 4G network” claims for the New Year (or sooner) and AT&T won’t have their act together in time to compete. Quite frankly, I can’t see Apple missing out on having its astoundingly popular device available on a “lightning fast” network. I mean seriously, 4G? Isn’t that just too conveniently sequential to pass up?

Plus there’s also the distinct possibility that Apple’s so-far-underwhelming FaceTime functionality could get a facelift via 4G support. Imagine that: getting to use FaceTime when you actually need it!

And that leads into my presuppositions over the next (and probably more) highly anticipated Apple product:

The iPad 4G (AKA “The iPad 2”)

Okay, I’m less confident in this name.  But hey, Apple is nothing if not consistent.

For the most part, I suspect they want to start pushing the iPad as a communications device. The front and rear-facing cameras are all but given. Apple is smart and easily 2-3 years ahead of what they’re revealing; they wouldn’t roll out FaceTime without knowing iPad would eventually join the party. The question is: how is it going to work?

With the iPad not being tethered (pun intended) to a mobile carrier, its 3G functionality is free to play with any provider. And with a 4G network in the wings that might even have the bandwidth to support millions of users FaceTiming, doesn’t it just make sense to send iPad an engraved invitation?

Being Canadian, it all seems like a moot point since none of our networks are preparing for an imminent 4G upgrade, but I get the feeling that once the next iterations of iPhone and iPad come out, it’ll be the world’s mobile carriers who are trying to play catch up more than smart phone and touch tablet competitors.

2011 will probably be a good year for Apple, but it might be an even better year for Verizon.

On Hyundai, Pomplamoose, and Taking Viral Mainstream

Looks like Hyundai’s playing with a new friend in the social media sandbox.

How do you make a fun, fresh commercial and tap into an existing audience of millions? Why, ask one of YouTube’s hottest viral musical talents to make it for you, of course.

I — like millions of net denizens who’ve found them on YouTube — am a pretty big fan of Pomplamoose and their channel. Their growing catalogue of covered and orignal “video songs” (songs where you can see every instrument played) are smart, catchy and fun to watch.

Hyundai thinks so, too. That’s why they’ve partnered with Pomplamoose to create a series of holiday season commercials featuring Jack & Nataly’s musical and editing talents. Yes: editing. Hyundai gave Pomplamoose full creative control.

Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose cover “Deck The Halls” for Hyundai

I imagine acquiescing control was a low-risk proposition for Hyundai, considering most of the budget probably went into revamping the duo’s garage into a higher-end studio than the room they’d been using for the past few years.

The point being, though, that Hyndai was smart enough to not mess with a good thing. They hired people who were doing something that people obviously enjoyed, so why tell them what to do? “Just make us a holiday video song with our car and these messages.” Done.

The result? A fun, unpretentious and enjoyable holiday ad campaign. Produced on a relatively low budget. And that has the potential to reach millions of viewers online.

Below is Pomplamoose’s full cover of “Deck the Halls” followed by a vlog post that not only talks a bit about the Hyundai commercials, but also about how to use a generous donation to get their “MPfree” Christmas EP.

On Samsung Galaxy S Marketing in Japan

Engadget posted a link to the new Samsung Galay S campaign in Japan.

Brilliant I say.

While most “iPhone killers” are feature-heavy and, arguably, offer more than the iPhone, the fact of the matter is Apple’s marketing and branding has made it easier to identify with (and desire) their products. Sure I think the iPhone’s UI is best of breed — but try selling that to the person who has to ask “what’s a UI?”

You know what you can sell, though? Darth Vader.

Screen Cap Credit: Engadget

Samsung’s positioning positioning strategy is great. Apple is light and trendy? Fine, we’ll be dark and cool. At the end of the day, anthropomophizing their product by using a character already embedded in the cultural psyche with its own built-in set of connotations as a way to accelerate the brand-building process was slick and clever.

Now we just sit back and wait for the Justin Long / John Hodgman / Darth Vader spoofs to pop up.

On The Sedins, And What Could Have Been

In all the moderate hoopla over Henrik leading the league in scoring, it’s easy to forget that The Sedins could easily have been wearing Maple Leafs uniforms on the first of July.

There was an eerie calm about The Sedins at free agency.  A pervasive feeling of “What? Where else would they go?”  They wanted to be here, right?  After all, they’re Swedes — and Swedes are like the Labrador Retriever of hockey players: loyal and happy to be where they’re treated well.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to The Sedins sticking around: Mike Gillis had to get on a plane to Sweden and plea bargain.   Then a second, less funny thing happened: Brian Burke got on a plane to Sweden, too.

Tampering allegations aside, what if Gillis didn’t make it?  What if on that fateful day, Gillis flubbed and lost arguably the two most important players on this Canucks team? 

And then assume that Burke got to them.  “Twins Land In TO: Burke Scoops Sedins”

  • Burke looks like a hero.  Reclaiming his prized possessions from the ’99 draft, Burke makes the big splash he wanted in Toronto.  Presuming the twins achieve the same torrid pace, the Leafs are no longer cellar dwellers in the East and are considered dark horses to make hay in the playoffs.
  • Gillis loses his cred.  A lot of people have given Gillis the benefit of the doubt, if not praise, for his ability to keep the core of this team together by re-signing Luongo and The Sedins.  But if his two top scorers flew the coop, would we feel the same way?
  • Alex Burrows goes MIA.  We all talk about Burrows’ back-to-back hat tricks against Columbus and Phoenix, but let’s not forget that when Daniel was hurt and Henrik was scoring, Burrows was nowhere to be found.  Only since Daniel’s come back has Burrows regained his touch.  And instead of Burrows, we could be watching CBC’s interview with alternate reality rookie scoring leader, Nazem Kadri.
  • League-wide superstar recognition.  Take this to the bank: if The Sedins are on the East Coast playing before the Toronto media monster the way they are now, they’re labeled superstars and everybody pays respect to the NHL’s leading scorer, further feeding into Burke’s “genius” and throwing egg all over the faces of Vancouver fans, media and Mike Gillis.  That would seriously suck.
  • The Canucks languish in neutral.  Despite some solid free agent signings, losing two of the team’s top scorers and leaders leaves them in a “team system” that misses the twins’ innate and consistent scoring ability.

So it took the Sedins 10 years to figure out the NHL game?  Hell, it took Naslund over six years to get it.  I think it’s pretty clear that without the Sedins this team would have more questions than answers, because it’s not like Grabner and Hansen were going to fill the void.

I like Daniel and Henrik.  I honestly never thought they’d be a serious top line threat in the NHL, but I always considered them the best second line in hockey and probably better than a few first lines.  But a funny thing happened on the way to mediocrity: we got to call Henrik the NHL’s leading scorer.  I’ll take it. 

And if this is a sign of what is still to come, I’ll take that too.

On The Canucks’ Identity

The Canucks are the smartest, laziest kid in the class; motivated to succeed by ego and challenge, but frustrated by their own inability to pass pop quizes and assignments.

That’s my definition of the Canucks’ identity this season.  How else do you explain the infuriating lack of consistency and effort?  They’re that teenager whose IQ is off the charts, but won’t do thier homework and can’t keep a job.

Much has been made of the Canucks’  ability to rise to the challenge of strong  opponents and big games, but whose concentration derails once the interest wanes.  Why?  Because they are (or at least they think they are) too smart and too good.  No one will say it out loud, and the Canucks themselves may not even realize it, but it’s true.  I really do believe they care, because they don’t like losing, but the character that Mike Gillis wants this team to be built around is inexplicably absent — otherwise this team, despite their injury woes, could easily be well over 500.

This is a pattern with these Canucks.  Look at last year’s playoffs for a microcosm of this season’s lacklustre performace:  The team drives hard through the last half of the season, riding high on their record and trouncing the almost equally favoured Blues.  Then the seemingly young and overacheiving Hawks (who they had blown out in their previous meeting) fall into their playoff laps.  What happens?  Overconfidence.  They take the supposedly “lesser” team for granted and lose it in six.

Fast forward to this pre-season: a team half-filled with prospects and farm-hands, steamrolling the competition and riding a wave of confidence.  What happens?  They fall apart to start the season and struggle to stay at 500.

I really thought the losses of Luongo and Daniel Sedin would be a good thing for this team.  It’d force them to rely on the system and hard work to get them through, then the reinsertion of their two stars would put them over the top. 

Not so much.

So here we are, sitting 10th in the west and facing Nashville, one of the hardest working, best-coached teams in the league.  Think they’ll win?  I do.  It’ll be a hard-fought contest that could even go into overtime.  Then who do we draw next?  Edmonton. 

Pop Quiz:  Where do they currently rank?

Answer: Last in the west. 

You think the Canucks know the answer to that one?