Some Background Info

November 29, 2008 in The Journey of a Facebook Application

This is part of a series of posts on the Journey of a Facebook Application

I’ll start with an apology! I thought I would have been able to post updates on this more frequently than I have, but I’ve just had a frantic week in work, so apologies to those of you who have been waiting on an update.

Also, welcome to all new subscribers – most of whom I’m presuming came from Damien’s Fluffy Link (thanks!)

Even though I haven’t had time to post about it, I did make some progress this week. I’ve picked an idea from the shortlist in my head and I’ve started thinking about how it might work. To pick the idea for this little experiment, I wanted to make an application that is:

  1. Simple – not necessarily the most original or innovative idea, but something that’s easy to explain and create
  2. Easy to understand (and blog about!)
  3. Social – i.e. something that makes good use of facebook, that helps friends connect or interact

Now that I have the idea in my head, I’m going to spend this evening and tomorrow registering the application name, looking at similar applications that exist and a few other small pieces of preperation.

More updates to follow!

Happy Boardsies

November 28, 2008 in Technology & Science

I saw on John Breslin’s blog that the winners of the SIOC data competition have been announced.

The competition ran from September to October 2008, and the brief was to produce an interesting creation based on a data set of discussion posts reflecting ten years of Irish online life from

There were some really cool entries, and I’d definitely recommend checking them out. My favourite use of all the information came from “Visualizing the community culture with charts“:

So it looks like on the whole we’re a happy nation! (well, those of us that use boards!)

A few other heartening graphs:

Check out the rest of the winners here

The Means are Not the Ends

November 24, 2008 in Economics, Essays, Evolution, Marketing

The thoughts behind this post have been inspired by reading the comments and reactions to Damien Mulley‘s blog post about the Pat the Baker Bebo campaign. Most of the intial reaction to Damien’s post seems to all be based on a logical flaw, (and one that I notice frequently in arguments), that when a certain “means to an end” becomes quite successful or popular, we tend to glorify or pursue the means as if it were the end. We forget that it’s value lies in what it delivers and not what it is.

Derived Demand
In economics, we used the term derived demand to explain this concept of means and ends. The demand I have for a brick is a derived demand. I don’t want a brick; I don’t get satisfaction or happiness from having it. But I do want a wall, or a house, or a new BBQ in my back garden. These are things I value; they provide me with satisfaction (economic utility). With the rare exception of Fr. Jack, I don’t think anyone would want a brick just to have, and would only go out and by one (or many) if they had some building to do.

Free Market Capitalism
I read a brilliant blog post in a similar vein to this by Alonzo Fyfe over at Atheist Ethicist, but can’t for the life of me find it to link to. He argued that many Republicans in America make a similar logical flaw in their adoration of “The Free Market“. Capitalism has created more wealth and lifted more people from poverty than any other economic system in human history. However, Mr. Fyfe is quick to remind us that we should be supporters of the free market because of the value it creates and not because of the system itself. Although it is the best system we have come up with it so far, the value it produces, it’s “ends” are far from perfect.

Without getting too deep into this topic here, in many regards I would see free market capitalism as almost perfect. It is immensely efficient and is flawed, in my opinion, only because humans are not always rational, we are an emotional animal. The caveat here is that I’m praising the means as a beautiful system, and not the ends that it produces. In fact, it is so effective at encouraging survial of the fittest, innovation and wealth creation through economic incentive, that it will almost certainly always create a huge wealth gap between the rich and the poor. When we idolise the means, raise “the free market” on a pedestal, and treat is as something of worth rather than the tool it is….. well I guess one look at any of today’s newspaper headlines will show you the result of that loss of perspective.

Evolution by Natural Selection
Although evolution doesn’t fit this template 100%, I feel it’s still worth a mention in this context. That humans are “the most evolved” animal is a statement that I often hear, and one which is borne out of misunderstanding. We, like all life that exists today, are the best adapted to our current environments. We come from descendants who were each the best adapted to their environments at the time. We are not something that evolution tried to make, evolution doesn’t have forethought. For the most part, we have been fine tuned by evolution and are better off as a result. But there are many ways in which natural selection works against us, fine tuning viruses that infect us, other humans that can take advantage of us, or animals that can kill us. Evolution by natural selection and the free market are wonderful and elegant systems, but neither are working entirely “for” us. Richard Dawkins explains this to us wonderfully in The Extended Phenotype, and we must always remember to be aware that our love of them should be a derived demand. Just as all things natural are not always the best for us (and so we get vaccines, use contraceptives etc.) , so too the free market must be regulated to ensure it’s in the best interest of all people (e.g. regulating the banks!)

Customer Engagement
And so, after a bit of a meander, we return to the original point. To paraphrase the question I took from Damien’s post “What is the NPV/ROI of the Bebo campaign to Pat the Baker?” The NPV, the profit, the extra customer, the revenue, the extra loafs of bread sold. These are all the ends in this equation. And Damien is right to point out that this is the value, this is the deliverable any company should be seeking. But the responses are all classic examples of “means worship“:

Philip MaCartney from Bebo wrote:

200 poems written about Pat The Baker in two weeks. That is brilliant engagement in any ones book. I have quoted these figures to a number of marketing professionals and all have been impressed so I fail to see how these figures should be considered a failure?


If the brand thinks it is a success and the Bebo audience obviously love it, how can it be a failure??

Another commenter said

Having all those people singing your theme tune [……], writing poems, wearing the tee-shitrs [….] is bound to be worth a lot in subliminal or secondary advertising too.

All in all, while the success of the campaign is still being debated, I felt that some of the responses, especially from the Bebo representative, are good examples of means worshiping, and I think it’s something that all of us, especially people who work in marketing (like me!) , need to be aware of. A brick can be as cool, or as shiny or as engaging as you want, but if it can’t be used to build a wall it’s not worth a damn to me. As I commented myself in response to Mr. MaCartney: Poems don’t put bread on the table!

So next time I hear a civil servant explain the purpose of a terrible process as “because that’s the way it’s done”, or when the success of a product is measured/presented only in customer engagement, all I’m going to hear is….

“I love my brick!”

The Journey of a Facebook Application

November 20, 2008 in The Journey of a Facebook Application

I’ve decided to make a Facebook Application. I’ve also decided that it might be fun to document the journey of a Facebook Application, from the idea popping into my head right the way through to launch and beyond!

I’ll blog about it every step of the way, so anyone who wants to read along should hopefully get a good insight into what a facebook application is, what’s involved in making one, what to expect if you decide to make one yourself, how I go about marketing it, how it spreads virally and a whole host of other questions that I have and hope to answer!

This won’t be the first Facebook application that I’ve made. I made one last year, mostly to test my abilities, (check it out here if you’re on facebook) so I’ll be employing some of the learnings I have from that in this project.

Right so, now I’m off to the drawing board. I have a few ideas floating around in my skull but I have to pick one. I’ll post again with a rough outline of the plan when I think it through.

Don’t forget to subscribe to follow along and get each post in your ibox or RSS reader… and wish me luck!

Obama names Tom Daschle as his Secretary of Health and Human Services

November 20, 2008 in links, Videos

It was announced earlier today that former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle will be Health and Human Services secretary in Obama’s cabinet. The news is pretty widespread on the internet, and all of the big news sites have write ups on the story, so I won’t try echo here what they’ve already said.

However, if you are interested in the people that the American’s new President-elect is selecting for his cabinet (as I am) you should have a look at some/all of the interviews below which are good introductions to Tom Daschle. Charlie Rose interviews are always quite good, each one is about 20 mins.

December 2, 2003

May 14, 2002

July 25, 1996

November 29, 1994

Leave a comment and let me know what you think of Mr. Daschle.