applicationing, conversing, realtiming, sharing, social media-ising

Bringing the Reality of Deepwater Home: how is utilising GoogleMaps and RealTime data to fuel conversation and action


on April 20 an explosion on the BP operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed eleven crew members, sparking not only a significant environmental incident, but – increasingly – a new case study on how interested parties can bring pressure to bear on governments and organisations.

like The Guardian vs. Trafigura last year, the ongoing BP Deepwater Horizon situation is fueling emergent possibilities and rules of engagement on how different groups and organisations engage and influence each other, of which the above is a great example…

it's a GoogleMap of Sydney and the surrounding area, with the current extent of the Deepwater Oil spill super-imposed on top.  it makes real the extent of the spill, which – if it was here in Sydney – would stretch from Newcastle in the north to Wollongong in the south, and from far out to sea in the east to far beyond the blue mountains to the west.  it's all courtesy of the original page of which shows the extent of the spill in it's actual location.


it's interesting for three reasons.  one, it's built and powered by (pretty much) RealTime data.  we can see the situation as it is now, rather than retrospectively or projected.  the site explains how the data is collected…

"The data used to create the spill image comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA releases a daily report detailing where the spill is going to be within the next 24 hours. They do this by collecting data from a number of sources, including satellite imagery and reports by trained observers who have made helicopter flights back and forth across the potentially affected areas. This data is entered into several leading computer models by NOAA oceanographers along with information about currents and winds in the gulf." source

the second point of interest is how the site is intrinsically social.  of course all of the web is social now, but everything about the site is designed to make it adoptable and sharable, with functionality that encourages just that.

finally, it's such an elegant idea.  too often we fail to grasp the reality of a situation because it's too remote, too incomprehensible, is too short on credibility, or because its difficult to relate to.  this simple and elegant idea takes all of that square on, making the spill as relatable as it can be, in as credible a way as can be imagined.  whilst all the time fueling personalised ugc to propel the issue into conversations from which it may have otherwise been absent.

the casebook on how governments, BP, the media and the public interacted and influenced each other throughout the Deepwater incident is yet to be written, but I suspect that when it is, will have had a part to play.

sharing, thinking

A Tale of Two Matts: Plagiarism, Transparency and Outsourcing in the ideas economy

The Big Steal image from The Big Steal – totally unrelated but cool pic sourced here

there was a bit of a flurry of emails last week when infomaginationer and planner Matt Sadler noticed a think piece on the IPA website by Matt Harris, Data and CRM partner at Rapier which bore a remarkable resemblance to his President's Prize-winning essay, also about data.

without going thru the full story, here are the essential basics…  last Tuesday Matt S notices the similarity between Matt H's article in the IPA newsletter.  Matt S emails Matt H outlining the similarity and asking for an explanation.  on Wednesday Matt H replies to Matt S claiming to know nothing about his essay.

but by end of play on Wednesday all was resolved.  Matt H realised that he'd been the victim of some lazy freelancers and apologised to Matt S, the article was removed from the IPA site, and Matt S had forgiven everyone and suggested that Matt H and he may even collaborate on an article sometime.  as Matt S put it, "forgiveness rocks!"

forgiveness may well rock but there's an incredibly worrying thread to this whole tale.  one, an established, articulate and informed agency partner's response to being asked to write a think piece was to outsource it.  two, some freelance writers who had been asked to write said think piece responded by copying, thought for thought, the work of someone else.

what I am not in any way seeking to do is antagonise a situation that has been resolved by the parties involved (full credit to them).  what I am going to do is ask some serious questions that this unfortunate incident raises…  because the fact is that we all of us use ideas and inspiration from other people within and beyond the industry all the time…  if we didn't, ideas wouldn't spread and new, better ways of approaching what we do wouldn't get momentum and consensus.

indeed there's more than a little been written of late about the benefit of setting ideas free, of letting the crowd build on them and improve them, and on how all of us are better by remixing each others thoughts for mutual benefit.

but we do two things…  (1) we source them and (2) we add to them from our own experience before presenting them to a client or to each other.  neither of which was done in this case.  I worry that there's a sense that we feel if we didn't originate an idea then we can't use it.  which is madness.  at an IPA event only a few weeks ago Rory Sutherland instigated a project on Behavioural Economics and suggested that we all of us as an industry co-operated to understand it, use it and monetise it collectively as best as possible.

in the idea-led economy in which we all live and work we need each others' ideas.  we just need to be brave about using them, honest about the source of them, and demonstrate our expertise by using and adding to them in relevant and appropriate ways.  if there's anything to be learned from our Tale of two Matts it is this.  and if there's anything to be gained its everyone realising that being transparent about building on other people's ideas makes us more not less credible thinkers.