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    Let The Cool Hunting Begin!

    I have been cool hunting in a number of different cities in the past, Taipei, Beijing, Barcelona, and now Leeds. So far I have been surprised... in a good way. All the people I've photographed have been very friendly, they stop and listen, respond well, and as you can see, they all have amazing smiles.

    We have started cool hunting in Leeds because we think it's important to follow the real trends on the street, what people are wearing. And maybe we can find out what makes fashion in Leeds different to other cities. -Stp


    "All technology is neutral", a reflection on Sir Ken Robinson's speech for #shifthappens 2010

    “All technology is neutral”. This was the essence of a keynote speech given by Sir Ken Robinson (@SirKenRobinson), via Skype from his home in California, to a packed out auditorium at York Theatre Royal.

    Sir Ken Robinson addresses the audience at Shift Happens 2010

    The speech came at the end of the opening day of the third annual Shift_Happens event, the brainchild of Pilot Theatre’s Artistic Director, Marcus Romer (@MarcusRomer). Inspired by Romer’s experiences at TED, Shift_Happens draws people together from across the cultural and creative industries (the arts, media and film, museums and libraries, and so on) to talk about how they can take part in, and drive the digital landscape. The event includes a series of speeches, covering areas of both digital practice and policy, as well as performances, user testing of new digital and interactive media works, and surgeries giving new arrivals to the conversation insight into the digital landscape.

    We were very pleased to attend Shift_Happens on behalf of Hyper Island, who we work with lots, and who are working with Skillset and Screen Yorkshire on a new leadership programme for Yorkshire’s digital and creative workforce. Our mission was to find out what is making people in the arts tick when it comes to digital.

    The keynote will be available to view online in the coming weeks, so I won’t summarise here (we will provide a link once available). To be honest, I’m not sure where I’d begin anyway: it moved back and forth between the earliest developments of technology, and predictions about where we might be heading. What I can summarise, though, is the thesis: that technology, historically, has shaped the condition of society and its cultures. In that process, technology has promoted ways of living (urbanisation, for example) that push us away from nature, and each other. However, the truth of the matter is that technology is not actively working towards these ends: it is not looking to drive the wedge. Indeed, technology is only ever passive – “all technology is neutral”. What matters, then, is how we use technology. If we use it responsibly then it will promote creativity and spiritual wellbeing. If we don’t then we could be in trouble.

    Sir Ken’s keynote followed another presentation (part speech, part crowd-souring performance lecture) by Andy Field, Artistic Director of Forrest Fringe Festival (a free festival phenomenon that landed at the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago).

    Andy Field, of Forrest Fringe Festival, talks to Director of National Theatre Wales, John E McGrath

    By accident or design, Field’s speech set a clear context for Ken Robinson’s keynote, and made it’s own call for a reconsideration of how technology is used by artists, to affect change: paraphrasing… “digital is a field that we are all, as artists and creative people, right at the forefront of: even if we were, in many ways, the last to arrive at the party. Rather than using technology to re-use existing ideas and content, we should be using our art to rip the heart from technology. We should bring art and technology together to dream stupid, impossibly grand visions of what the future might look like… It is true that no one can break the Internet, but we should all be trying.

    So, to end where I began (or, rather, where Sir Ken began), all technology is neutral. It is passive, non-political, non-destructive. What activates technology is us, and it is up to us to determine its uses and by extension the shape of tomorrow’s society. That all seems simple, doesn’t it? Well, not if you skip back to the middle of Sir Robinson’s presentation when he shared a prediction: that by 2050 the average personal computer will have the same processing power as all of human consciousness. Machines that think, and learn, and re-write their operating systems based on their experiences. Will technology still be neutral then?

    While you ponder that one the team at Hyper Island are heading off to buy copies of the Sarah Connor Chronicles, and here at Hebe we're getting started on the bunker. 


    Leeds United Online: The Story of PPV, Tweets & Social Media

    Recently I have been fascinated by the ongoing story of Leeds United's digital strategy. While I do genuinely applaud the club for finally taking the plunge into social media and the greater content on LUTV, the results have, so far, been a mixed bag to say the least. I am going to try and approach this from a purely professional point of view, which is a challenge as I myself am a life-long Leeds United fan and season ticket holder.


    Lets first of all look at the presence Leeds United have created within social media: Many of the current staff are now on Twitter, this includes the Director of Commercial Activity, Paul Bell, Head of Media Relations, Paul Dews, Yorkshire Radio Presenter, Thom Kirwin, LUTV Presenter, James Stanley. Added to this is the digital radio station owned by the club: Yorkshire Radio.

    On Facebook, the club does not have any kind of significant official presence (although I would hope negotiations and planning for this are going on behind the scenes) but there are numerous unofficial Pages such as 'Leeds United' (70k+ members) which unfortunately is outdated and another 'Leeds United' Page (1.5k) here which seems to be much more interesting and is regularly updated. One of our own pages 'Leeds' is another page which regularly discusses the club.

    Another factor we must also consider here is the massive presence of Leeds United fans in social media. There are numerous forums including WACCOE and Dirty Leeds where thousands of fans come together to talk, debate and update on everything Leeds United related (and much more sometimes!) There are also many fan blogs such as Travels of a Leeds FanThe Beaten Generation and The Scratching Shed.

    In terms of it's own presence Leeds United obviously has its own website which is a very popular site and ranks as one of the most visited football club sites in the UK. There is also LUTV, an online subscription-based 'TV Channel' featuring news, interviews and highlights from the clubs games. The club also owns Yorkshire Radio: a digital and online radio station which features amongst other things: live commentary of Leeds United games.  

    So we can see that the club has a significant online presence and seems to be offering a great amount of content and points of interaction to it's core target: Leeds United fans. Unfortunately the execution, marketing and communication around these channels does not quite match up to the massive potential this presence has.

    There are many examples I could use to demonstrate where things are going wrong but I will pick just one: The recent 'row' surrounding Leeds United's decision to offer a recent friendly on a Pay Per View basis to it's current/potential LUTV subscribers. 

    The Story

    Recently Leeds United decided to broadcast a pre-season friendly on PPV on LUTV. The decision was taken to charge an extra £5 for the game to subscribers who were already paying £4.99 per month or £40 per year for their LUTV subscription. The decision was immediately greeted with anger by Leeds United fans. The fans pointed to the fact that they were already paying a premium price for LUTV (when you consider Man Utd's comparative MUTV Online is £4.50 per month and £45 for the year, it is a fair point) and this content should be included in their package.

    Image courtesy of

    The fans also backed up their angry comments with constructive marketing know-how and an alternative for what the club could have done here. I must agree with the rational behind 'cmac34's' comments about missing an opportunity to attract new customers to LUTV. He suggests the club could have offered the PPV game for £5 to non subscribers as a 'taster' or a way to tempt non-subscribers into signing up to the £5 per month LUTV in the hope of impressing them sufficiently in the first month to then keep that subscription going after the initial month.

    The Response 

    Now whether or not I agree with the decision to charge for pay per view makes no difference to the subsequent fall out from the decision. Leeds United employees were hit with a barrage of questions and comments on Twitter, most noteably the club's commercial director Paul Bell. This is someone who had previously spoken in the form of guest blogs of his eagerness to use social media to engage fans and encourage them to come to the stadium earlier so as to increase their 'spend per head' at Leeds United games. 

    Suddenly as the criticism reigned in, Mr Bell seemed to disappear from Twitter and seemingly ignored fan's reactions and questions about the PPV decision. I personally tweeted the LUTV presenter, James Stanley, who privately messaged me telling me I should contact the club by email. At this point I explained to James that I had offered to meet Mr Bell on numerous occasions to discuss social media and Leeds United over a coffee: his reaction: to 'unfollow' me and with it his private messages disappeared... not really the reaction I had anticipated. 

    The Chairman's Response

    Perhaps the problem and approach can be traced right back to the inner workings of the club. I think the current approach and strategy is perfectly illustrated by this quote from the club's chairman: Ken Bates, when asked about LUTV and PPV (Thank you to @andrewhaigh who transcribed the following from a radio interview with Mr Bates and posted here)

    "Well it's interesting because there's a report in the Daily Mail today which says that 99 million people in the United States now only watch TV on the Internet. I think we always end up doing what the Americans are doing anyway, maybe 5 or 10 years afterwards. I think Internet TV is possibly the way forward and of course we have our own LUTV which has been going on that mode of transmission ever since it started. And certainly we at Elland road have a first class studio which enables us to beam our first class quality pictures. We are in fact examining the possibility of putting out an awful lot of our games, if we don't play competitively, live on LUTV. And we are also negotiating with a view to putting games live when they are not chosen by the central TV companies who have the rights to the Football League. It is in face something we are negotiating now. Once again, if we get it right, I think other clubs will follow our lead so that could be an interesting development. Certainly a very exiting one as far as Leeds United are concerned. And I understand there has been a few people, moaners, there are always a few people moaning about the fact that last night was a pay per view game. But there are PPV games on Sky, and on BT and on Virgin. It costs a lot of money to put a game out live. I think a lot of people were expecting that to be included in their £40 package. That's just totally unrealistic. A lot of people want us to reduce season ticket prices and admission ticket prices but at the same time 'why aren't we buying Messi'. The £40 annual fee and £4.99 a month has been unchanged for at least all the time I have been here in 2005 and I think even before that. This is an advanced warning - as we improve our technology, which costs money to enable to transmit Leeds United around the world of course the cost will go up. A large part of the license fee that the subscribers pay goes to the people who are transmit it and collect the money and also to the football league for the rights to use their technology"


    My Thoughts

    From a social media and brand point of view this really frustrated me. I desperately want to club to excel in this area and the current attitude of completely ignoring comments and quality feedback is depressing. Here you have a brand with a massively loyal 'customer' who wants to engage and help the club. Most brands in any other walk of business would love to have this level of love and input from the very people they are trying to engage.

    The club has an amazing archive of content that could be used to engage and build relationships with their target instead of looking for the short-term financial gain. Perhaps a little market research through social media would increase the club's business intelligence and they would notice people independently talking about what they would pay for LUTV on SKY or how they are having trouble connecting to LUTV online. This is sort of feedback and idea generation not usually easily available to normal brands. 

    LUTV, social media, smart-phones apps, games etc are all things that should be forming part of the club's digital strategy and I repeat what I have said privately to the club: that I am more then willing to sit down for a coffee and throw some ideas around and advise in any way I can.

    There needs to be a new approach and view to digital media at Leeds United both in terms of overall digital strategy and in particular to social media, because if the current tactic is to send one-way messages and then ignore and dismiss the feedback, why bother having a presence in social media?  It seems to go against the idea of being 'social'


    Video: Booka Shade, "Charlotte". It may be old, but it never gets old!

    Some videos are timeless. Some videos have seriously cool soundtracks. Only one video, though, has all this and a guy with a massive yellow cape. Enter Booka Shade's 2008 music video, "Charlotte".

    Is this in the top ten music videos of the last ten years?

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