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2013 Top 10s of everything

The year 2013 is drawing to a close (where did it go?) and the world did not end. Lots happened and as I did at the end of 2012 here’s my little collection of top 10s… please note they’re in no particular order, not all necessarily created, released, finished or completed in 2013, it was just when I discovered them… and of course it’s just my own subjective opinon:

1 – Books

  1. Arthur C. Clarke – 2001: A Space Odyssey – Wow – Just Wow. How did I ever manage to get to 2013 and have not read this masterpiece. Really an amazing book.
  2. Thomas Harris – The Hannibal Lecter Trilogy – Again, just another set of books I felt like I should have read. So I did & it didn’t disappoint. Really knocked me back how good they were / are.
  3. Dan Brown – The Lost Symbol – I read all the Dan Brown books this year and The Lost Symbol was my favourite. The others were ‘nah’ but The Lost Symbol I really enjoyed. Hence this one makes it onto the list but the others don’t.
  4. Neil Cross – The Calling: A John Luther Novel – Dark, deep, a real page turner.
  5. James McQuivey – Digital Disruption: Unleashing the next wave of innovation – I have worked in disruptive innovation for more than 15 years. Here, McQuivey offers insights about disruption–and about the accelerating pace of disruption–that I truly hadn’t understood before. This is a very important book about what tomorrow holds in store; it shows us both what will happen and how to address it. I recommend it enthusiastically.
  6. Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt – The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations & Business – This is a book that defines both the nature of the new world which the internet is creating; and its challenges
  7. Orson Scott Card – Enders Game – read this when I found out about the film. What an incredible book. So visceral and twisted
  8. Sebastian Junger – The Perfect Storm – W0w. Just wow. What a read.
  9. George R R Martin – A Game of Thrones – I’ve read this before and didn’t get on with it, so I went back and tried again. Easier the second time round. Enjoyed it.
  10. Simon Rogers – Facts are Sacred – A beautiful book that sits proudly on my shelf.

2 – Most visited websites in order (officially – I kept stats!)


3 – Albums

These are the albums that weren’t necessarily all released just in 2013, but the ones I discovered and played the most;

  1. Bastille – Bad Blood – A great album. That is all.
  2. Biffy Clyro – Opposites – Far from their best, but far from their worst. Just nice to have Biffy back on the stereo until the Foos release a new album.
  3. Dave Matthews Band – The Best Of What’s Around – Bit of cheat because it’s a greatest hits… but it did get a lot of airplay, so it has to go on the list.
  4. David Bowie – The Next Day – Nice to see Bowie back in action & even better that the album delivers.
  5. Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune – Guilty Pleasure really.
  6. Feeder – Silent Cry – An old album now really, but I just kept coming back to it. Commercially the bands least successful to date, but to me, their best.
  7. The Foals – Holy FireHoly Fire? Holy Shit! What a fucking masterpiece. Loved it.
  8. Austin Wintory – Journey Soundtrack – Just a stunning stunning piece of work when you think it’s a Game soundtrack it makes it even more remarkable.
  9. Gary Clark Jr. – Blak and Blu – Loved. Great discovery this year. Recommended by a client.
  10. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – An album full of sublime genius.

4 – Songs

  1. Mumford & Sons – I will wait – Helped me run up some big hills out in the rain this song.
  2. Coldplay – Glass of Water – A hidden gem on the Prospekt March album. Really their best song ever. It’s EPIC.
  3. Foals – Bad Habit – Booooom. What a track.
  4. Bastille – Pompeii – First track off the album. A little overplayed this year but still great.
  5. Empire of the Sun – DNA – You’ve got to admit EOTS are good fun… this is just a great radio track.
  6. Pete Lawrie – Half as Good – Still on the playlist.
  7. Wild Cub – Thunder Clatter – You’ll recognise this one off the TV!
  8. Yiruma – River Flows In You – Just beautiful.
  9. Athlete – Yesterday Threw Everything At Me – Ended the year by listening to this old classic a lot.
  10. Pearl Jam – Release – So old now this song but still so so so amazing.

5 – Films

  1. Pain & Gain – A surpise gem. Had no idea it was going to be so good. Loved it. LOVED IT.
  2. Man of Steel – It’s good. Say what you want… I thought it’s scale, tone & direction were superb.
  3. Star Trek Into Darkness – It’s a great film. It just is.
  4. Iron Man 3 – Rescued from being medicare by Sir Ben Kingsley who was EPIC.
  5. The Evil Dead (remake) – I’m a fan of the originals and I was worried about this. But it’s good old fashioned video nasty. Respect to the director for sticking to his guns.
  6. Django Unchained – Was cracking wasn’t it?!
  7. Filth – Dark, funny, deep… true to the book… McAvoy aced it.
  8. Zero Dark Thirty – I enjoyed it. Not normally my thing, but I did.
  9. Thor: The Dark World – Brain Chew.
  10. Lincoln – Again, not normally my thing, but enjoyed it. Dragged on a bit though.

6 – TV Moments

  1. Breaking Bad – Seasons 1 – 5
  2. True Blood – Season 6
  3. The Walking Dead – Season 3
  4. Game of Thrones – Season 3
  5. House of Cards – Season 1
  6. Hannibal – Season 1
  7. Sherlock – Season 1 – 3
  8. Luther – Season 3
  9. Banshee – Season 1
  10. House – Season 1

7 – Interactions / Experiences / Marketing

  1. First Directs Beat-boxing Bird
  2. Apples iOS 7 – Flat and boring but rewarding and slicker
  3. Various Twitter updates
  4. Amnesty International – Trial By Timeline Campaign
  5. Nike Fuel – Got the new fuelband which is fantastic and the app updates have been awesome
  6. The New MySpace
  7. Clash of Clans – Technically an app, but in general I’ve used it as a case study of genius for a whole year now
  8. IFTTT – If this, then that – Absolutely brilliant. Love it.
  9. Argus – Motion and Fitness Tracker
  10. A project that I’ve been working on for an insurance company in the UK, that I can’t talk about.

8 – News stories

  1. Nelson Mandela died Dec. 5 at age 95, leaving a legacy that extended far beyond ending 46 years of apartheid in South Africa. He inspired generations around the world to fight not just for racial equality, but for inclusiveness. Not many people actually CHANGE THE WORLD… He did. RIP.
  2. North Korea – Fascinating to wonder what’s going on there.
  3. The NSA leaks that began in June. Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor, had collected a vast store of secret internal documents and began sharing them with journalist Glenn Greenwald, The Washington Post, and others. The revelations were shocking: the scope and depth of the NSA’s collection of private data stopped looking like a conspiracy theory and became a cold, hard reality we all had to face. The leaks showed that the NSA has collected troves of phone records, spied on US citizens, and tapped the phones of foreign leaders.
  4. Drones – Though the debates surrounding military drone strikes are far from over, 2013 saw a new issue rise: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in US airspace. The rise of the machines are upon us!
  5. Elon Musk – The CEO and co-founder of two of the most exciting technology companies today — SpaceX and Tesla — Elon Musk sits atop The Verge 50 for a reason. Rarely a week went by in 2013 when the South African billionaire wasn’t in the news, having taken his white-hot electric vehicle-maker to its first-ever quarterly profit, docked a spacecraft with the International Space Station, and — in his plentiful spare time — designed an audacious high-speed transport system that could send commuters from LA to San Francisco in under half an hour. At just 42 years of age, it seems likely that Musk will be a newsmaker for many, many days to come (or sols, once he inevitably finds his way to Mars).
  6. Bitcoin – The virtual currency that mimics cash on the internet, has proven itself to be surprisingly resilient, as technology fads go. Despite increased regulation, repeated price crashes, massive heists, and competition from other virtual currencies, Bitcoin is now almost five years old — it’s showing no sign of going away, and has even spawned a meme-based me-too cryptocurrency.
  7. 2013 saw the last big tech IPO that everybody had been waiting for: Twitter. Unlike Facebook, which faltered out of the gate, Twitter’s IPO was a home run by most measures. While a host of early employees and angel investors made a ton of new cash (some of which will pour back into the startup scene), the IPO established Twitter as a mainstream company. Next up? Profit, if Twitter plays its cards right. Those cards include more pictures, more ways to bring in new users (and potentially annoy current ones), and more rapid redesigns of its apps. Now that it’s a public company with real investors expecting real returns, the biggest changes for the service are yet to come.
  8. The resurrection of MUSIC: Remember when the music industry was doomed? It wasn’t so many years ago, but it feels like longer. It was before Beyoncé ambushed the web with one of the best albums of the year, owning the moment in a way most culture critics thought was impossible in the modern age. She was snatching it from Kanye, who’d been tussling with Daft Punk for control of the world’s headphones all summer. Jay-Z did his strange, transfixing, app-based two-step with Samsung and for months on end, it was all anyone wanted to talk about. And that’s to say nothing of the billion-dollar EDM company that splashed onto the Nasdaq in October. Music? Dead? What were we thinking?
  9. Mars gets interesting – Experts have been scrutinizing the red planet for decades, but 2013 offered up unprecedented and tantalizing details about what Mars is (and was) made of. After landing on the planet in August of 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover spent this past year sending back reams of data for scientists to analyze, leading to new insights into the planet’s watery, potentially habitable past. And Curiosity will soon have more company, as this year also saw NASA launch the MAVEN probe to characterize Mars’ atmosphere
  10. Design went Flat – Windows has its Live Tiles, Google has its Cards, and now, with iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks, Apple has finally left the rich textures of its recent history behind. The company changed the direction of its mobile and desktop software in less than a year, moving from green felt and faux leather to flat panels, thin type, and soft gradients.

 9 – Most used Apps (iOS)

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter (my most used app by a country mile)
  3. Instagram
  5. LinkedIn
  6. Ebay
  7. First Direct
  8. FourSquare
  9. BBC News
  10. LapseIt

10 – People

  1. Nelson Mandela
  2. Elon Musk
  3. Google’s Schaft Robot
  4. Edward Snowden
  5. Jeff Bezos
  6. Barack Obama
  7. Dick Costolo
  8. Banksy
  9. Lou Reed
  10. Dwayne Johnson – The Rock (Once you’ve seen Pain & Gain you’ll know why I put him on my list!!!!!)


And that concludes my 2013 10×10. A varied year for stuff I liked. More old old old stuff that I went back and caught up on than new stuff that swung me in 2013. A year for looking backwards.

8 Subconscious mistakes our brain makes everyday

It’s fascinating to learn more about how we think and make decisions every day, so let’s take a look at some of these habits of thinking that we didn’t know we had.

1. We surround ourselves with information that matches our beliefs

We tend to like people who think like us. If we agree with someone’s beliefs, we’re more likely to be friends with them. While this makes sense, it means that we subconsciously begin to ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our world views, since we surround ourselves with people and information that confirm what we already think.

This is called confirmation bias. If you’ve ever heard of the frequency illusion, this is very similar. The frequency illusion occurs when you buy a new car, and suddenly you see the same car everywhere. Or when a pregnant woman suddenly notices other pregnant women all over the place. It’s a passive experience, where our brains seek out information that’s related to us, but we believe there’s been an actual increase in the frequency of those occurrences.

It’s similar to how improving our body language can also actually change who we are as people.

Confirmation bias is a more active form of the same experience. It happens when we proactively seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs.

Not only do we do this with the information we take in, but we approach our memories this way, as well. In an experiment in 1979 at the University of Minnesota, participants read a story about a women called Jane who acted extroverted in some situations and introverted in others. When the participants returned a few days later, they were divided into two groups. One group was asked if Jane would be suited to a job as a librarian, the other group was asked about her having a job as a real-estate agent. The librarian group remembered Jane as being introverted and later said that she would not be suited to a real-estate job. The real-estate group did exactly the opposite: They remembered Jane as extroverted, said she would be suited to a real-estate job, and when they were later asked if she would make a good librarian, they said no.

In 2009, a study at Ohio State University showed that we will spend 36% more time reading an essay if it aligns with our opinions.

Whenever your opinions or beliefs are so intertwined with your self-image that you couldn’t pull them away without damaging your core concepts of self, you avoid situations that may cause harm to those beliefs. –David McRaney

2. We believe in the “Swimmers Body” illusion

This has to be one of my favorite thinking mistakes. In Rolf Dobelli’s book, The Art of Thinking Clearly, he explains how our ideas about talent and extensive training are well off-track:

Professional swimmers don’t have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques. How their bodies are designed is a factor for selection and not the result of their activities.

The “swimmer’s body illusion” occurs when we confuse selection factors with results. Another good example is top-performing universities: Are they actually the best schools, or do they choose the best students, who do well regardless of the school’s influence? Our mind often plays tricks on us, and that is one of the key ones to be aware of.

Without this illusion, half of advertising campaigns would not work.

It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. If we believed that we were predisposed to be good at certain things (or not), we wouldn’t buy into ad campaigns that promised to improve our skills in areas where it’s unlikely we’ll ever excel.

This is similar to the skill of learning to say no, or how our creativity actually works: Both diverge strongly from what we think is true, versus what actions will actually help us get the result we want.

3. We worry about things we’ve already lost

No matter how much I pay attention to the sunk-cost fallacy, I still naturally gravitate towards it.

The term sunk cost refers to any cost (not just monetary, but also time and effort) that has been paid already and cannot be recovered. So it’s a payment of time or money that’s gone forever, basically.

The reason we can’t ignore the cost, even though it’s already been paid, is that we wired to feel loss far more strongly than gain. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains this in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow:

Organisms that placed more urgency on avoiding threats than they did on maximizing opportunities were more likely to pass on their genes. So over time, the prospect of losses has become a more powerful motivator on your behavior than the promise of gains.

The sunk-cost fallacy plays on our tendency to emphasize loss over gain. This research study is a great example of how it works:

Hal Arkes and Catehrine Blumer created an experiment in 1985 that demonstrated your tendency to go fuzzy when sunk costs come along. They asked subjects to assume they had spent $100 on a ticket for a ski trip in Michigan, but soon after found a better ski trip in Wisconsin for $50 and bought a ticket for this trip, too. They then asked the people in the study to imagine they learned the two trips overlapped and the tickets couldn’t be refunded or resold. Which one do you think they chose, the $100 good vacation, or the $50 great one?

More than half of the people in the study went with the more expensive trip. It may not have promised to be as fun, but the loss seemed greater.

So like the other mistakes I’ve explained in this post, the sunk-cost fallacy leads us to miss or ignore the logical facts presented to us and instead make irrational decisions based on our emotions–without even realizing we’re doing so.

The fallacy prevents you from realizing the best choice is to do whatever promises the better experience in the future, not which one negates the feeling of loss in the past.

Being such a subconscious reaction, it’s hard to avoid this one. Our best bet is to try to separate the current facts we have from anything that happened in the past. For instance, if you buy a movie ticket only to realize the movie is terrible, you could either:

  • A) stay and watch the movie, to “get your money’s worth” since you’ve already paid for the ticket (sunk-cost fallacy)


  • B) leave the cinema and use that time to do something you’ll actually enjoy.

The thing to remember is this: You can’t get that investment back. It’s gone. Don’t let it cloud your judgment in whatever decision you’re making in this moment–let it remain in the past.

4. We incorrectly predict odds

Imagine you’re playing Heads or Tails with a friend. You flip a coin, over and over, each time guessing whether it will turn up heads or tails. You have a 50-50 chance of being right each time.

Now, suppose you’ve flipped the coin five times already and it’s turned up heads every time. Surely, surely, the next one will be tails, right? The chances of it being tails must be higher now, right?

Well, no. The chances of tails turning up are 50-50. Every time. Even if you turned up heads the last 20 times. The odds don’t change.

The gambler’s fallacy is a glitch in our thinking–once again, we’re proven to be illogical creatures. The problem occurs when we place too much weight on past events and confuse our memory with how the world actually works, believing that they will have an effect on future outcomes (or, in the case of Heads or Tails, any weight, since past events make absolutely no difference to the odds).

Unfortunately, gambling addictions in particular are also affected by a similar mistakes in thinking–the positive expectation bias. This is when we mistakenly think that eventually our luck has to change for the better. Somehow, we find it impossible to accept bad results and give up–we often insist on keeping at it until we get positive results, regardless of what the odds of that actually happening are.

5. We rationalize purchases we don’t want

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. How many times have you gotten home after a shopping trip only to be less than satisfied with your purchase decisions and started rationalizing them to yourself? Maybe you didn’t really want it after all, or in hindsight you thought it was too expensive. Or maybe it didn’t do what you hoped and was actually useless to you.

Regardless, we’re pretty good at convincing ourselves that those flashy, useless, badly thought-out purchases are necessary after all. This is known as post-purchase rationalization or Buyer’s Stockholm Syndrome.

The reason we’re so good at this comes back to psychology of language:

Social psychologists say it stems from the principle of commitment, our psychological desire to stay consistent and avoid a state of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort we get when we’re trying to hold onto two competing ideas or theories. For instance, if we think of ourselves as being nice to strangers, but then we see someone fall over and don’t stop to help them, we would then have conflicting views about ourselves: We are nice to strangers, but we weren’t nice to the stranger who fell over. This creates so much discomfort that we have to change our thinking to match our actions–in other words, we start thinking of ourselves as someone who is not nice to strangers, since that’s what our actions proved.

So in the case of our impulse shopping trip, we would need to rationalize the purchases until we truly believe we needed to buy those things so that our thoughts about ourselves line up with our actions (making the purchases).

The tricky thing in avoiding this mistake is that we generally act before we think (which can be one of the most important elements that successful people have as traits!), leaving us to rationalize our actions afterwards.

Being aware of this mistake can help us avoid it by predicting it before taking action–for instance, as we’re considering a purchase, we often know that we will have to rationalize it to ourselves later. If we can recognize this, perhaps we can avoid it. It’s not an easy one to tackle though!

6. We make decisions based on the anchoring effect

Dan Ariely is a behavioral economist who gave one of my favorite TED talks ever about the irrationality of the human brain when it comes to making decisions.

He illustrates this particular mistake in our thinking superbly, with multiple examples. The anchoring effect essentially works like this: rather than making a decision based on pure value for investment (time, money, and the like), we factor in comparative value–that is, how much value an option offers when compared to another option.

Let’s look at some examples from Dan, to illustrate this effect in practice:

One example is an experiment that Dan conducted using two kinds of chocolates for sale in a booth: Hershey’s Kisses and Lindt Truffles. The Kisses were one penny each, while the Truffles were 15 cents each. Considering the quality differences between the two kinds of chocolates and the normal prices of both items, the Truffles were a great deal, and the majority of visitors to the booth chose the Truffles.

For the next stage of his experiment, Dan offered the same two choices, but lowered the prices by one cent each. So now the Kisses were free, and the Truffles cost 14 cents each. Of course, the Truffles were even more of a bargain now, but since the Kisses were free, most people chose those, instead.

Your loss-aversion system is always vigilant, waiting on standby to keep you from giving up more than you can afford to spare, so you calculate the balance between cost and reward whenever possible.

Another example Dan offers in his TED talk is when consumers are given holiday options to choose between. When given a choice of a trip to Rome, all expenses paid, or a similar trip to Paris, the decision is quite hard. Each city comes with its own food, culture, and travel experiences that the consumer must choose between.

When a third option is added, however, such as the same Rome trip, but without coffee included in the morning, things change. When the consumer sees that they have to pay 2,50 euros for coffee in the third trip option, not only does the original Rome trip suddenly seem superior out of these two, it also seems superior to the Paris trip. Even though they probably hadn’t even considered whether coffee was included or not before the third option was added.

This mistake is called the anchoring effect, because we tend to focus on a particular value and compare it to our other options, seeing the difference between values rather than the value of each option itself.

Eliminating the “useless” options ourselves as we make decisions can help us choose more wisely. On the other hand, Dan says, a big part of the problem comes from simply not knowing our own preferences very well, so perhaps that’s the area we should focus on more, instead.

While we know that our decision-making skills as people are often poor, (more on this topic here), it’s fascinating how the term free can affect us. In fact free has been mentioned before as one of the most powerful ways that can affect our decision making.

7. We believe our memories more than facts

Our memories are highly fallible and plastic. And yet, we tend to subconsciously favor them over objective facts. The availability heuristic is a good example of this. It works like this:

Suppose you read a page of text and then you’re asked whether the page includes more words that end in “ing” or more words with “n” as the second-last letter. Obviously, it would be impossible for there to be more “ing” words than words with “n” as their penultimate letter (it took me a while to get that–read over the sentence again, carefully, if you’re not sure why that is). However, words ending in “ing” are easier to recall than words like hand, end, or and, which have “n” as their second-last letter, so we would naturally answer that there are more “ing” words.

What’s happening here is that we are basing our answer of probability (that is, whether it’s probable that there are more “ing” words on the page) on how available relevant examples are (for instance, how easily we can recall them). Our troubles in recalling words with “n” as the second last letter make us think those words don’t occur very often, and we subconsciously ignore the obvious facts in front of us.

Although the availability heuristic is a natural process of our thinking, two Chicago scholars have explained how wrong it can be:

Yet reliable statistical evidence will outperform the availability heuristic every time.

The lesson here? Whenever possible, look at the facts. Examine the data. Don’t base a factual decision on your gut instinct without at least exploring the data objectively first. If we look at the psychology of language in general, we’ll find even more evidence that looking at facts first is necessary.

8. We pay more attention to stereotypes than we think we do

The funny thing about lots of these thinking mistakes, especially those related to memory, is that they’re so ingrained. I had to think long and hard about why they’re mistakes at all! This one is a good example–it took me a while to understand how illogical this pattern of thinking is.

It’s another one that explains how easily we ignore actual facts:

The human mind is so wedded to stereotypes and so distracted by vivid descriptions that it will seize upon them, even when they defy logic, rather than upon truly relevant facts.

Here’s an example to illustrate the mistake, from researchers Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky:

In 1983, Kahneman and Tversky tested how illogical human thinking is by describing the following imaginary person:

Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice and also participated in antinuclear demonstrations.

The researchers asked people to read this description, and then asked them to answer this question:

Which alternative is more probable?

  1. Linda is a bank teller.
  2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

Here’s where it can get a bit tricky to understand (at least, it did for me!)–If answer #2 is true, #1 is also true. This means that #2 cannot be the answer to the question of probability.

Unfortunately, few of us realize this, because we’re so overcome by the more detailed description of #2. Plus, as the earlier quote pointed out, stereotypes are so deeply ingrained in our minds that we subconsciously apply them to others.

Roughly 85% of people chose option #2 as the answer. A simple choice of words can change everything.

Again, we see here how irrational and illogical we can be, even when the facts are seemingly obvious.

I love this quote from researcher Daniel Kahneman on the differences between economics and psychology:

I was astonished. My economic colleagues worked in the building next door, but I had not appreciated the profound difference between our intellectual worlds. To a psychologist, it is self-evident that people are neither fully rational nor completely selfish, and that their tastes are anything but stable.

Clearly, it’s normal for us to be irrational and to think illogically, especially when language acts as a limitation to how we think, even though we rarely realize we’re doing it. Still, being aware of the pitfalls we often fall into when making decisions can help us to at least recognize them, if not avoid them.

ORIGINAL SOURCE: Fast Company article 8 Subconscious Mistakes Our Brain Makes Every Day by Belle Beth Cooper is a content crafter at Buffer, a smarter way to share on Twitter and Facebook. Follow her on Twitter at @BelleBethCooper

What makes you click?

There’s a turf war for readers’ mouse clicks and one of the favoured trick is to phrase headlines as questions. This isn’t an Internet innovation. As a way to grab attention, question headlines have been recommended by editors and marketeers for decades. But what is new, is the easy ability today to measure how often readers choose to click a headline. For a new paper, researchers in Norway have used Twitter to find out if question headlines really do entice more clicks. This is classic Neuro CX at work. The art of fooling the inquisitive.

Linda Lai and Audun Farbrot used a real science communication Twitter feed that had 6,350 followers at the time of the study. Real stories were tweeted to these followers twice, an hour apart. The first tweet used a statement headline, such as “Power corrupts”. The second tweet, referring to the same story, was phrased as a question that was either self-referencing, as in “Is your boss intoxicated by power?” or non-self-referencing, as in “Are bosses intoxicated by power?”

Lai and Farbrot found that self-referencing question headlines were clicked on average 175 per cent more often than statement headlines (this advantage dropped to 150 per cent for non-self-referencing question headlines). The difference in clicks for question and statement headlines was statistically significant, but the difference between the self-referencing and non-self-referencing headlines was not.

A follow-up study was similar but was conducted via the Norwegian equivalent of Ebay, known as Lai and Farbrot posted adverts for an iPhone, a couch, a TV and a washing machine using either statement headlines or question headlines (self-referencing or not), such as: “For sale: Black iPhone4 16GB”; “Anyone need a new iPhone4?”; or “Is this your new iPhone4?”

Overall, across the four products, non-self-referencing question headlines were clicked on 137 per cent more often on average than statement headlines; this rose to 257 per cent more often for self-referencing question headlines. This time the difference between the two types of question headline was statistically significant. This overall benefit of question headlines was observed despite one anomaly that the researchers were unable to explain – question headlines for washing machines actually led to fewer clicks than statement headlines.

The clear take-out from this research is that you should phrase your headlines as questions, especially self-referencing ones, if you want to attract more clicks. “The combined strategy [of question headlines and self-referencing] seems to represent a useful tool for practitioners in attracting readers to their Internet-based communications,” the researchers said. However, an issue they don’t address is what happens if headline writers heed this message and adopt question headlines universally. Perhaps then statement headlines would appear more original and distinctive and attract more clicks…

Original Source:


2012 Top 10s of everything

The year 2012 is drawing to a close (where did it go?) and the world did not end. Lots happened and as always here’s my little collection of top 10s… please note they’re in no particular order and just my own subjective opinon:

1 – Books

  1. Charlies Bronson – Bronson – Compelling reading. Frightening but a page turner. More an overview of the failings of the prison system than a memoir of a total loon.
  2. Bear Grylls – Facing Up
  3. Jon Krakauer – Into Thin Air – A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster in 1996
  4. Oscar Pistorius – Blade Runner – Never a more moving and inspiring story written!
  5. Wade Davis – Into the Silence – Haven’t finished reading it yet, but it’s shaping up to be my favorite book of the year.
  6. Simon Yates – Against the Wall – Not a page turner and pretty repetitive, but it’s still a good read if you’re into climbing books
  7. Michael Crichton – Jurassic Park / The Lost World – I’ve read them before but wanted to revisit. Well worth it too. Still two amazing books. Jurassic Part far superior.
  8. Mark Johnson – Wasted – This is the big one for me. A truly remarkable book. Absolutely engrossing and moving.
  9. Keith Richards – Life – Just an ‘alright’ rock biography full of the anecdotes you’d expect but nothing that really made me go “oh wow”
  10. Walter Isaacson – The Authorized Biography of Steve Jobs – Took me a while to get through this. It’s not an easy or enjoyable read. But worth it. RIP Jobs – I think few men or women get to say they actually ‘changed the world’… Steve Jobs was one of them.

2 – Most visited websites in order (officially – I kept stats!)

3 – Music (albums)

These are the albums that weren’t necessarily all released just in 2012, but the ones I discovered and played the most;

  1. Chicane – Thousand Mile Stare – An unbelievable return to form
  2. Deus Ex Human Revolution Soundtrack – What an amazing thing… a computer game soundtrack made it into my top 10. Seriously good album. Almost Bladerunner-esque
  3. John Murphy – Sunshine Soundtrack – Again. A bit of a weird edition and no real explanation other than that I listened to it loads.
  4. Sucker Punch Soundtrack – ANOTHER soundtrack. The horror. A bit different this time though… some very very cool covers of some very very cool songs by the cast of the movie. A great selection.
  5. Robbie Williams – Take the Crown – ALRIGHT… I admit it… this is my guilty, uncool addition. 3 songs I skip on an album of 10 tracks is pretty good going.
  6. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Got a lot of air-play in the Trainor house. I’m glad he left Oasis & went solo. He’s better on his own.
  7. Keane – Strangeland – It’s not a guilty pleasure when it’s an album of this quality. Some big tunes.
  8. Toploader – Only Human – Technically released in 2011 but it only hit my ipod in 2012 and I listened to it religiously for MONTHS.
  9. Muse – The 2nd Law – Sometimes ridiculous but always rewarding. I fear Muse are starting to morph into a slight parody of themselves, but for now they’re still turning out big rock.
  10. Beastie Boys – The in sound from way out – When co-founder Adam Yauch Dead this year I went back over all my old BB albums and I found this little gem. Just a straight up Funk Jazz album. It’s massive.

4 – Music (individual songs)

  1. Keane – Sovereign Light Cafe
  2. Robbie Williams – Into the Silence
  3. Chicane & Vigri – Sòlarupprás
  4. The Envy Corps – Rhinemaidens
  5. Ki:Theory – My Thoughts
  6. Muse – The 2nd Law / Unsustainable
  7. Coldplay – Don’t let it break your heart
  8. Grouplove – Colours
  9. Chicane – Thousand Mile Stare
  10. Public Enemy – Harder than you think

5 – Films

  1. The Dark Knight Rise – Disappointing conclusion but it was a slow year for films so still made it in.
  2. The Avengers – Dumb & I loved it.
  3. Skyfall – The jury is still out on this one.
  4. Prometheus – I actually really enjoyed it despite the scathing reviews
  5. First Ascent – A climbing film… about first ascents…
  6. Sucker Punch – So it wasn’t amazing. But it did entertain me on a plane.
  7. Warrior – A film about mixed martial arts????? Ughhhh… How? Amazing.
  8. Super 8 – Just a really interesting film. Not brain taxing, but is represents what cinema should be – silly escapism.
  9. The Amazing Spiderman – OK… a reboot wasn’t really necessary so soon. However… it’s a much better film than any that Rami (the horror) was able to create & it’s got all the component parts for a great superhero flick.
  10. The Devils Double – We rented this off the Box Office and found ourselves pleasantly surprised. A really great movie.

6 – TV Moments

The first 3 are all episodes of the same TV series. Justifiably so… First Ascent is in my mind one of the greatest pieces of TV that I’ve ever seen. The missing episodes were equally amazing but it’s these that really blew my mind.

  1. First Ascent – Episode 3: Alone On The Wall – Alex Honnold usually a bumbling, slightly geeky kid, becomes poised and graceful when free solo climbing. He sets his sights on scaling Yosemite’s iconic 600-metre Half Dome wall.
  2. First Ascent – Episode 4: Brothers Wild – Professional climber Timmy O’Neill and his brother Sean, who is paralysed from the waist down, rely on their skills and tenacity to climb huge walls like El Capitan and remote Alaskan mountains.
  3. First Ascent – Episode 5: Point Of No Return – Two top alpine climbers and a cameraman go on a fateful journey to a dangerous mountain in south western China. There’s an unbelievable twist in this story that really almost had me in tears.
  4. The Paralympic Closing Ceremony – So what if it was essentially a great big Coldplay gig. It was amazing. The best of the games ceremonies this year.
  5. Game of Thrones Season 2 – Epic. Just epic.
  6. The Walking Dead Season 3 – Taking the action up a notch. Thrilling & big value TV.
  7. Grand Designs – More compelling wackiness. Some great projects. Some absolute stinkers. All great to watch.
  8. The Killing Season 2 – Much pacier and more enjoyable than the first (which I wasn’t a massive fan of).
  9. True Blood – I raced through all 4 seasons this year. Was never expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. Great TV.
  10. Homeland – It’s not grabbed me as much as the wife, but it’s still good to get into a regular show. It’s made Sunday nights better!

7 – Interactions / Experiences

  1. Nike Fuel Band – Nuff said.
  2. Photos To Art App – Smart. Clever. Easy.
  3. New MySpace – This one had me excited right from that teaser video & it’s delivering. The search on it’s own is one of the coolest things I’ve seen all year. Pure amazingness.
  4. SF Dok – 360 Langstrasse Zurich – It’s not new but it is amazing. I saw a new way of navigating when I found this, so I learn some new tricks.
  5. – It got easier, it morphed, it was tweaked…
  6. eBay iPad App – It’s marmite. You’ll be in love with it or you’ll hate it. I found all it’s weird little interactions amazing and compelling. Like developers had just been told to ‘go and play’.
  7. Isotope from MetaFizzy was a defining library of code for me in more ways than one. For starters this blog you’re reading right now is built using it (amongst other project). It’s also been my ‘sort’ function of choice in 2012.
  8. Responsive Web Design – It’s no silver bullet. It’s mis-used. It’s over-sold. But it was the big thing in 2012 and will continue to be so into 2013 and beyond despite what the naysayers predict.
  9. Maily – You know when you see something & think “sh*t, I wish I’d come up with that”… this was that moment for me. My son Charlie LOVES it and so do I.
  10. Roambi become one of my most used references for Data Visualisation (real, not creative) and it inspired a lot of conversations with a lot of clients and colleagues.

8 – News stories

  1. President Barack Obama earning a second term as President of the USA after defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney
  2. Facebook’s much-hyped initial public offering was the biggest in Internet history. It gave the company a market cap of more than $104 billion but then went on to flop.
  3. The crisis in Syria has escalated through 2012 as the government of Bashar al-Assad continues its extreme crackdown on Syrian rebels and protesters. The U.S. and the international community have come under increasing pressure to act.
  4. Great Britain’s Andy Murray took Olympic gold over Roger Federer at Wimbledon… made so much sweeter by the fact he lost in the Wimbledon final to Federer in June. An astonishing comeback.
  5. Jessica Ennis really proved why she was our Olympic poster girl after she clinched the Olympic heptathlon title in style.
  6. The Curiosity Mars Rover was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011 aboard the MSL spacecraft and successfully landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012. We just loved the fact that the Rover was ‘Tweeting’.
  7. Apple axed the ‘Maps chap’ and Jony Ive took over software design – Which is going to mean some astonishing things. Mr Ive also visited the palace in 2012 and was Knighted. A remarkable achievement.
  8. The SOPA Blackout On January 18 – Wikipedia, along with many others, orchestrated a service blackout. The sites shut down for the day and put up banners explaining why they weren’t operating and instructing people to sign petitions against SOPA.

 9 – Most used App (iOS)

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter (most used by a country mile)
  3. Instagram
  5. LinkedIn
  6. Ebay
  7. NatWest
  8. IncrediBooth
  9. Nike Fuelband
  10. CineXPlayer

10 – People

  1. Jony Ive – The man who shapes my tech.
  2. Tom Hardy – The actor who appeared in 2 of my top 10 films (Warrior & Dark Knight Rises).
  3. Kim Jong-un – The funniest politician on the planet.
  4. Barack Obama – The guy did good. Again.
  5. John McAfee – What an amazing news story.
  6. Oscar Pistorius – For me, the elite Athlete of the last 10 years.
  7. Bashar Assad – The man who just keeps on keeping on.
  8. Sebastian Vettel – Answered the critics (much like Andy Murray) and for me, he is the sportsman of the year.
  9. Hans Rosling – He made me fall in love with Data this year.
  10. Mark Zuckerberg – He is still the most influential man for my social circle.


And that concludes my 2012 10×10. Really nothing AMAZING and controversial this year (with the exception of me admitting to like Robbie Williams new album) but still a year of some great events and media consumption. A steady year, not an explosive year.

Riots… the greatest viral campaign of 2011.

A riot is the language of the unheard – Martin Luther King Jr.

In August 2011 riots ripped through major cities in the UK & the best viral campaign of the year was created. What do we now know about the rioters and looters? Are they a criminal, feral underclass OR victims of socio-economic blight getting their own back on the rest of society? Fluke organizers or the new experts in 140 character communication. Rather than shouting through a megaphone — as in the infamous 1985 riots on the Broadwater Estate in Tottenham — today’s rabble rousers organized online and with the aid of their iPhones and BlackBerrys. As the riots unfolded, they turned to Social Media to encourage violence & organize hordes of youth into areas of the cities. They communicated digitally and efficiently and in ways that every advertising agency in the world only dream about executing successfully.

If any proof was needed that Generation Y, Generation We, Generation Sell, the Millennials, Generation Next, the Net Generation & Echo Boomers should be running the communication strategies in advertising and digital media then last year it was given to us on a big flaming plate. The demographic cohort following Generation X proved without a shadow of a doubt that with their thumbs and fingers they are the greatest organizers and communicators on our planet at the moment.

Youth custody is failing young people who want to change their ways – Mark Johnson

Characteristics of the generation vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions. However, it is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. In most parts of the world its upbringing was marked by an increase in a neoliberal approach to politics and economics. The 2007–2012 global financial crisis has had a major impact on this generation because it has caused historically high levels of unemployment among young people. This problem is particularly acute in Europe, and has led to speculation about possible long term economic and social damage to this generation. They want to start reaping what has been sown over 3 decades of creating grotesquely unequal society, with the alienated young copying ethos of looting bankers in their own special brand of communication. But they also have the firepower and the passion to fight back. They just need to be tapped and employed by we the communication makers. We talk to them but we don’t talk to them in their own language.

So what happened then?

  • 6 U.K. cities where rioting broke out
  • 1,051 Arrests in London alone as of Aug. 12
  • 591 Number of people charged in London
  • 11 Age of the youngest person arrested
  • 5 Number of fatalities
  • 16 Civilians officially reported as injured in the riots
  • 186 Police officers injured in the riots
  • 6,000 Number of police on duty in the areas affected by the riots on Aug. 8
  • 16,000 Police on duty in those areas on Aug. 9
  • 2,169 Calls received by the London Fire Brigade on Aug. 8
  • 20,800 Emergency calls received by the London Metropolitan Police Service on Aug. 8 (a 400 per cent increase over the average volume)

The figures are a devastating indictment of the way society has failed some of the poorest and most disadvantaged younger members of society.

The “criminality” vs “ideology” argument goes like this. These riots are fundamentally criminal acts, an opportunity for a criminal class to act with impunity. BUT, so the counter argument goes, these crimes have an undercurrent of ideology. They are the voice of the unheard. Of course they are largely criminal acts. But the bigger story is the dwindling of confidence in the idea of progress. The idea of progress is as fundamental to a society based on science and technology as the idea of liberty was to the enlightenment.

TWITTER: Everyone up and roll to Tottenham f*** the 50 [police]. I hope one dead tonight

TWITTER: Be inspired by the scenes in #tottenham, and rise up in your neighborhood. 100 people in every area = the way we can beat the feds.

Jody McIntyew was forcibly removed from his wheelchair by police during London demonstrations last year – he asked his 9,000 Twitter followers to spread unrest across the city. He has ‘followers’. The police forget about that.

People were referring to BBM as a network where they were telling people where they were going. References to the Tottenham riots on BBM began cropping up two days before violence broke out.

There’s a recruitment broadcast going around on BBM to gather hoodrats to start a riot. Just received 3 BBM Messages detailing a new organised ‘Riot’ plan complete with ‘Loot Rules’. This is the start of something new. #Anarchy

Some 90% of those brought before the courts were male and about half were aged under 21. The 18-30 market are themselves, gatekeepers and experts on leveraging communications and messaging… In an age of social media in which disgruntled youth are frequently more skilled with smart phones than are the adults who police them, authorities believe handheld technologies may have helped those trying to instigate violence to spread their message. You’ve got to admire their resourcefulness.

62% of youth brand and technology decisions are influenced by friends and family. Other decisions are no different. By 2013, Earned Media will replace paid as the #1 driver of youth consumer behavior for smartphones. Who understands earned media better than the people creating the most powerful messages? Brand choice is shaped by Paid vs Earned Media splits. Research data shows key “Beachheads” of customer support for brands in specific age groups not found in rival brands. Youth spend just short of £200 billion on mobile services annually. That’s one pound in every ten of their disposable income going to a mobile telecoms company. They get it. They understand it. They also understand how to use it to mobilize and rise up.

13% of those arrested were gang members (but in London the figure was 19%).

In terms of ethnicity, 42% of those charged were white, 46% black, 7% Asian and 5% were classified as ‘other’.

In this same demographic group only 1/3 of the youth generation trust advertising or traditional top-down messaging – preferring peers to guide their choices rather than traditional marketing messages.

For many people who were rioting, that week was a rejection of the future that was laid out for them… so I say why not employ them? With support obviously… they need proper integrating and acclimating. Unlike most people, some of those rioting and looting had no stake in conformity, those things that normally constrain people are not there. But they have the will and the communication methods that we in advertising and communication would LOVE to tap and bottle. A generation bred on a diet of excessive consumerism and bombarded by advertising has been unleashed… now we have to make them the arbiters.

They feel they can rationalize it by targeting big corporations. There is a sense that the companies have lots of money, while they have very little.

Passion is the mob of the man, that commits a riot upon his reason. – William Penn

Most advertising agencies prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees and a liberal arts background – preferably in advertising, journalism, public relations, literature, sociology, philosophy, or psychology. However, after fifteen years working across the big players I realised that the greatest skill in an agency is passion and vision. A channeled desire, defies and beats any recognised degree. Strong leaders and mentors trump all teachers and lecturers. We can create a new system where people are empowered to learn and improve.

The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.

Some say we need leaders in Government and the tech community to give us a vision of where science and technology is headed, and how it makes us better as a society and a people, and to articulate why that is an inclusive vision. I say we need to ask and empower the people who fight for their voice.

These kids are called the hardest to reach, what we’ve found is that they’re really easy to reach. All you’ve got to do is have a really honest approach, and for them to see transparently that there’s an opportunity to be part of something. mark johnson

#numbers – Twitter Growth

This interesting article was posted on the Twitter blog on Monday 14th March. As a huge admirer and fan of Twitter (it’s an experience of simplicity… my favorite kind of experience) I really enjoyed reading the numbers so I decided to share them here too:

Five years ago this week, a small team of people started working on a prototype of the service that we now know as Twitter. On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey (@jack) sent the first Tweet.

Today, on every measure of growth and engagement, Twitter is growing at a record pace. Here are some numbers:


  • 3 years, 2 months and 1 day. The time it took from the first Tweet to the billionth Tweet.
  • 1 week. The time it now takes for users to send a billion Tweets.
  • 50 million. The average number of Tweets people sent per day, one year ago.
  • 140 million. The average number of Tweets people sent per day, in the last month.
  • 177 million. Tweets sent on March 11, 2011.
  • 456. Tweets per second (TPS) when Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009 (a record at that time).
  • 6,939. Current TPS record, set 4 seconds after midnight in Japan on New Year’s Day.


  • 572,000. Number of new accounts created on March 12, 2011.
  • 460,000. Average number of new accounts per day over the last month.
  • 182%. Increase in number of mobile users over the past year.


  • * 8. 29. 130. 350. 400. Number of Twitter employees in Jan 2008, Jan 2009, Jan 2010, Jan 2011 and today.

The reach and addict-ability of Twitter is unquestionable. After the Japanese earthquake hit it was Twitter I went too for updates from the news rooms… that’s what it’s become to me – The place of ‘updates’.

Long may it reign.

Viral Loop – The power of pass it on

I was recently recommended a book by Adam Penenberg called ‘Viral Loop’ by an old colleague of mine Marty Carrol who has just set up a cracking start-up called PowNum.

In essence the take-aways from the book are:

  • Some traditional companies, such as Tupperware, achieved “viral”-type success decades before popular use of the Internet.
  • Online firms grow virally when members of a Web site invite their friends to join.
  • When this pattern generates exponential growth, it becomes a “viral expansion loop,” which has three categories:
  • A “viral loop” expands based on referrals from members to their friends.
  • A “viral network” is made up of numerous connected viral loops, such as Facebook.
  • A “double viral loop” is a combination of a viral loop and a viral network.
  • With quality online offerings, sites don’t need salespeople or advertising to go viral.
  • Viral companies, such as Hotmail, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and eBay, share certain traits, like clear concepts, ease of use and rapid adoption.
  • A Web offering’s “viral coefficient” is measurable; a score of 1.0 – indicating that each member generates one new member – leads to exponential growth.
  • Viral growth is an integral component of great products and services, and is suited for smart phones, which will soon outsell PCs as Internet access machines.

The Web can make a business hugely profitable if the entrepreneurs have the right design and offer something the audience really wants. This formula worked for Hotmail, eBay, PayPal, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn, Twitter and Flickr, as well as Hot or Not. Such sites offer services to which people come to feel so deeply attached that they become fervent evangelists. Then their contacts do the same, in a “positive-feedback loop.” That’s how viral lightning hits. Companies become Internet juggernauts when they can ride the three-part “viral expansion loop,” wherein Web visitors reliably beget additional guests:

  1. “Viral loop” – This referral-multiplying mechanism grows member-to-member.
  2. “Viral Network” – Members form groups that intersect as they expand.
  3. “Double Viral Loop” – This hybrid of viral networks and viral loops is built on ever-increasing user content. A double viral loop grows more quickly as it adds users, often with little marketing effort (though increasing technical concerns).

The expansion of a viral loop depends both on users who promote a site’s goods or services, and on designers who build virality into their offerings. The Web is the ultimate, exponential connectivity medium, in that it enables people to share blogs, links, photos, videos and other Internet services. This creates a “virtuous circle,” the most efficacious form of direct marketing, based on the understanding that people will share things they like. The trick is figuring out what they like and including it, intrinsically, from the very beginning.

Big-time viral winners like Ning share certain characteristics:

  • “Web-based” service – The firm is designed to function and grow on the Internet.
  • “Free” offering – The service is complimentary but may be monetized in the future.
  • “Organizational technology” – Users, not employees, develop the content.
  • “Simple concept” – Straightforward and easy is always best.
  • “Built-in virality” – Users spur growth through sharing and positive word-of-mouth. “Extremely fast adoption” – Some 50% of Harvard students joined Facebook a month after the social network started, although the site spent no money on promotion.
  • “Exponential growth” – Users bring in more users, who bring in more users.
  • “Viral” characteristics – The “Virality index” must read greater than 1.0 for exponential growth.
  • “Predictable growth rates” – Just as “epidemiologists can predict with some certainty how quickly a virus will spread through a city,” you can foretell the birth of a viral loop.
  • “Network effects” – The more users there are, the more attractive joining becomes. “Stackability” – PayPal’s relationship with eBay offers stackable, synergistic growth. A “point of nondisplacement” – Viral companies eventually hit a “tipping point,” an unbeatable mass of users.
  • “Ultimate saturation” – Growth can slow once a site becomes immense.

Get the book:

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