Airbnb’s New Logo

Airbnb Belo

Airbnb has released a revision of its site, which is very 2014 modern in its flatness and active card based structure. It’s interesting, but nothing revolutionary or forward looking inside the Silicon Valley bubble. The best aspect is that we’re finally seeing the transition of the cards interface from services to actual physical interactions / products.

The more exceptional part of Airbnb’s visual revision is how they are treating their otherwise lukewarm logo. Airbnb is a confederation of hosts and potential users. While it has to be centralized in terms of the service, listings, etc the very nature of the business is to be democratized. It’s interesting to see their logo embracing that and making the decentralized nature of the business part of its core identity:

“The most revolutionary thing about this brand evolution is we are giving it away to the community,” Mr Conley says. “We are moving from an era of mass production to more individualised production… This is an extension to that. A host with a singular listing in Notting Hill could create their own logo and now we’ve created a micro-entrepreneur with their own brand.”

via Airbnb says its new logo belongs to everyone | Tech blog.

Happy Birthday, @pinboard

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Delicious way back in the mid 2000’s. But you probably don’t remember that site or the commotion it caused over something as simple as bookmarks. But bookmarks are important. I have over 7,000. It’s my personal interweb intersearch.  And that’s why I love Pinboard.

I found Pinboard just 4 days after it launched (my stats say July 14) in 2009 and quickly signed up. I can’t believe it’s 5 years old today.

I keep all of my bookmarks private and Pinboard brings in not just things I star etc on the web but also favorited Tweets, private notes etc… it’s literally one of the best records I could ever have of myself over the last five years. I only hope it’s around for fifty more.

If you’re looking for an amazing bookmarking experience that is quick, safe, secure, and easy (and is a literal archive of your web experience), check out it out.

Congrats congrats congrats to building an awesome site that bucks the trends…

The Internet is strewn with the corpses (or in some cases, zombies) of sites that once promised to save your links forever. As people keep discovering, building a bookmarking site is easy, but making a business of bookmarking is hard. Like one of those leathery, spiny plants that is able to thrive in the desert where everything else dies, I have tried to find ways to adapt to this hostile business environment. And I have feasted on the flesh of my rivals!

via Pinboard Turns Five (Pinboard Blog).

Google’s Surprising Chromebook Surge

I’ve been using a desktop and a phone as my main “computers” for the last several months and haven’t looked back.

When I’m on the road for client work, I’ll take along a Chromebook and have no issues getting “real” work done. Evidently I’m not alone…

And, globally, in a reversal of fortune, low-end PCs are eating into tablet sales.

“One encouraging factor was a good intake of lower-end systems, including Chromebooks, which coincides with the recent slowing in tablet growth,” said IDC analyst Jay Chou.

via PCs see surprising gain in US as global decline slows, but Apple slips – CNET.

I’ve had every model of iPad and use a Nexus 7 now when I need a tablet. But I mostly find myself using this desktop and my phone (Nexus 5) more than anything else. Looks like I’m not alone and Google was wise to plug the low-end price point with its Chromebook lineup.

When Chromebooks first started getting traction, there was an incessant meme of their nature of “just being a browser.” Turns out, people like having a simple (even web based) OS with a keyboard over a tablet with limited apps and no keyboard. iPad sales continue to slow from their high point last year.

Wonder how this impacts iPad’s marketing for the coming holiday season?

More on Dura Europos Looting

The first image is the site of Dura Europos from June 28 2012 and the second image is from April 2 2014 (notice how many looting holes there are now):

  

Dura Europos is located right near the border of Syria and Iraq on the Euphrates and is an archaeological record of the strife this area has faced for millenia. The little fort town only existed as a functioning place for about 500 years, but was controlled by the Macedonians, Persians, Parthians, and Romans before finally being destroyed and left for us to recover by the Sassanians around 256 CE. We’ve discovered incredible records of our shared human culture such as the earliest depictions of Jesus, a full Mithraeum, a rather intact Roman citadel, and a “painted” Jewish synagogue complete with depictions of Hebrew Bible / Old Testament narratives that still cause wonderment from scholars.

It’s sad that we’re not hearing more about this cultural loss.

From the US State Department regarding looting at Dura Europos and many similar (very important) archaeological sites in Syria…

This unique Classical-period site, founded in the 3rd century BC and occupied until the 3rd century AD, demonstrates the diversity of the ancient Middle East. One of the world’s earliest churches was discovered here, as was one of the oldest preserved synagogues and numerous temples devoted to polytheistic deities. This important site of approximately 150 acres (60 hectares) is now covered by looters’ pits.

via Imagery of Archaeological Site Looting | Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Dura Europos Looting

The “holes” in the inset picture are looting holes from the area near the main agora at Dura Europos. Sadly, we haven’t properly excavated much of that area.

This literally breaks my heart given that we’ve properly excavated such a small amount of Dura Europos and we’ve learned so much about Judaism, early Christianity, and a plethora of other 3rd century religions flourishing under Roman rule in Syria…

We need to act rapidly against a situation that is becoming noticeably worse. In fact we are faced by a volcano in permanent eruption with a mixture of hate and horror. It is breaking down Syrian society and its values through the violent and systematic destruction of its heritage. The situation is comparable to a boiling crater of lava. Around this volcano, archaeological heritage is suffering eruptive blasts, with the population hovering between expectation, anguish and hope.

via Syrian Archaeology, ‘Scale of the Scandal’ | The ASOR Blog.

History and our cultural heritage matters.

Vamping Teens

I had a friend who changed his home’s wifi password every night at bedtime to make sure their teen wasn’t “vamping.” Turns out the teen realized the power of turning your phone into a mobile hotspot (water flows down hill).

“Sometimes I look up and it’s 3 a.m. and I’m watching a video of a giraffe eating a steak,” he said. “And I wonder, ‘How did I get here?’ ”

via Vamping Teenagers Are Up All Night Texting – NYTimes.com.

Email Newsletters Still Alive and Very Well

For Email Newsletters, a Death Greatly Exaggerated - NYTimes.com

Email newsletters seem like such a quaint and out-of-date form of marketing, but they are incredibly effective because 1) people still rely on email more than most anything else for relevant info and 2) email has a personal connection in the same way our phones once did.

That doesn’t mean that blasting out emails with no relevancy or context is a successful strategy. Like anything else in the world of marketing, connection matters most.

The NY Times agrees…

With an email, there is a presumption of connection, of something personal, that makes it a good platform for publishers. Newer email newsletter outfits like TinyLetter, which MailChimp owns, are simple, free and easy to use. TinyLetter has over 100,000 users who reach 9.3 million subscribers, and it has had an increase of 15 percent in the number of newsletters sent in the last year.

via For Email Newsletters, a Death Greatly Exaggerated – NYTimes.com.

We’re big fans of MailChimp at Harrelson Agency and use their services for a number of our clients. If you want to get your start with email newsletters, they are a good place to start (and understand the power of mobile!).

 

On Not Being a That

My friend Stacy with an amazing, and completely self-giving, post…

So I remind myself, I am not a “that.” I am a woman. I am a child of God. I am a friend. I am a sister. I am a caregiver. I am an advocate. I am a daughter. I am a preacher. I am a confidant. I am a dog mom. I am a geek. I am an auntie. I am a teacher. I am an author. I am a disciple. I am a badass. I am a scholar. I am a chaplain. I am an ally. I am a feminist. I am a peacemaker. I am brave, I am resilient, and yes, I am sexy — on my own terms. I am no one’s object. I am so much more. I am me.

via I Am Not a “That” | chaplainjesuslady.

I celebrate the type of religion and Christianity that does not objectify people but instead points them to the wrestling that is found in places such as Romans 7:15-25.

If only we had more clergy willing to make such brave posts and statements.

Thank you, Stacy.

You Need to Segment Your Email List

Building an email newsletter is a fantastic thing for your business. In fact, it’s a must. Email is still a very active and viable channel for marketing and with free/cheap tools such as MailChimp, Constant Contact or Awebber, it’s easier than ever to organize and send email newsletters.

Whether your list size is 50 or 5,000, you need to be segmenting your list. That means splitting it up into various sub-lists based on relevance and groupings.

Even with small business lists of only 50 addresses, we commonly segment those into “leads,” “potential leads,” and “previous customers” with each segment receiving their own variation of the newsletter.

It works.

And here’s some data to back me up…

When I conducted a survey about email marketing, I asked respondents to tell me, in a free-form text field, why they chose to subscribe to emails from some companies. One of the most common responses I received was that they expected the emails were going to be relevant to their interests. 38% of respondents specifically referenced the word “relevance,” and one especially well-worded response indicated that content should be “particularly and specifically” relevant to them.

via New Data Proves Why You Need to Segment Your Email Marketing.

Vine’s Loops and Impact on Social Media Marketing

Vine is Twitter’s 6 second short video sharing social network that allows users to capture short videos that loop when viewed. Like Instagram, Vine is an app and the main experience is via mobile rather than the traditional desktop web. Accordingly, Vine is insanely popular with certain demographics (predominately teens – 24 year olds). It’s rather addicting and companies have caught on. Agencies have even been set up around the idea of “microcontent” marketing.

However, one of the stumbling blocks we’ve hit with client work has been the lack of sharing the number of views (or “loops”) that a particular Vine accumulates. One of the reasons Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram etc all share the number of views and shares particular content has over time is because it adds to the social “virality” of that content. These companies have done a great deal of research on how viewing numbers help to increase additional and long term viewing.

Looks like Vine is finally adding this feature too:

With this update, there’s now a new way for you to quickly get a sense of how popular and interesting a Vine may be –– based on how many times people watch a Vine loop. The number, which you can see in our mobile apps and on vine.co, updates in real time, so as you watch a video, you’ll know you’re watching with others at the same time.

via Vine blog – Introducing Loop Counts.

Vine isn’t right for every company, small business, or community group out there. However, if you can find your niche and aren’t afraid to “try new things,” then definitely give Vine a shot in your marketing plan.

Twitter Adding “Buy Now” Buttons to Tweets?

There’s no formal announcement of “Twitter Shopping” yet, but Twitter has been making some strategic moves that would allow users to purchase items directly from tweets (such as a partnership with Amazon).

If so, this could be an interesting play for small businesses that sell niche products. Twitter is a level playing field (well, relatively) compared to other social networks in that most everything is public. This could be very interesting for both Twitter and e-commerce…

So did Fancy accidentally make public another Twitter Commerce experiment? Is Twitter starting to facilitate in-tweet purchases?

The companies aren’t saying. Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser declined to comment, and Fancy execs didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

via “Buy Now” Buttons Start Appearing in Tweets. Is Twitter Shopping Here? | Re/code.

GoDaddy’s New Payment Processor with PayPal and Stripe

We’re big fans and users of Freshbooks for our online accounting, invoicing, and payment software.

It’s interesting to see GoDaddy teaming up with PayPal, Stripe, and Dwolla to offer their own “Get Paid” solution for people and businesses as a small monthly fee starting at $3.99

GET PAID

Everything you need to get paid

Get paid on any device—mobile phone, laptop, tablet

Accept credit cards, checks, PayPal, bank payments

Create and send invoices online and on your mobile phone

via Get Paid | Anytime, Anywhere, Anyhow – GoDaddy.

I suspect this will attract small businesses and folks who want a quick solution without all the hassle that setting up online payment options can cause for those who are less tech literate or strapped for time (and cash).

I also wonder how much this will impact the growing area of online invoicing that our beloved Freshbooks, Stripe, banks etc are already inhabiting after inheriting the space from the ancient Quickbooks ancestor.

What Images Should You Use on Your Website?

Testing is great. Finding a better solution by gathering data is one of the reasons our species has developed and survived. The same is true for solid results on websites, and using tools such as “A/B testing” to determine the best outcome is a worthwhile endeavor for small businesses, churches, community groups, and non-profits with a website…

At many Web publishers, such decisions can lead to impassioned arguments, fruitless debates, even hurt feelings. But 1-800-Dentist doesn’t leave it to chance or opinion. Instead it runs an experiment. It launches two or more versions of a Web page, and then watches as users react. After thousands of people have visited, one version will have edged out the others with a statistically significant improvement in the number of sign-ups.

via A/B Testing for Websites Redraws the Web | MIT Technology Review.

However, there are downsides to relying solely on tools such as A/B testing and the resulting data when it comes to web design (also from the link above)…

In fact, intensive testing appears to be reshaping what the Web looks like. But the page designs that are succeeding won’t win any awards for art direction, just as listicles don’t win Pulitzers. Even proponents of optimization technology admit it can produce sites with simple, cookie-cutter looks.

But A/B testing is spreading because it’s become easy to do. Optimizely says it can pick a winning design after as few as 100 visits for sites that have never been optimized. In practice, running experiments is often much harder. At 1-800-Dentist, which is based in Los Angeles, Kharkats says he’s testing text and images for several slightly different landing pages and estimates that he will need 150,000 visitors to each in order to detect a difference. That could take months, he says.

So, do some testing (we always do). Let it help you guide your path towards a better website or search campaign or poster design.

But, use your gut and trust your instincts (or the instincts of the agency you hire to help you out). After all, we’re humans, not robots.

Twitter’s New Mobile Ads

Twitter has long had an advertising component available (especially for small businesses). With their recent acquisition (acqui-hire) of MoPub, a mobile ad network, they are now releasing ads specifically targeted for mobile app users on iOS and Android in the apps category.

It won’t take long for Twitter to open up their mobile advertising to other categories and businesses as well as they continue to seek a successful monetization strategy…

Twitter is kicking off the global roll out of mobile app promotion ads — units that either take users to app downloads, or to the apps themselves if they’re already installed, via a deep link. Along with that, Twitter’s unveiling new cost-per-app-click pricing for the unit and a dashboard to track usage.

via Twitter Rolls Out App Install And Engagement Ads, And New Click Pricing, Globally | TechCrunch.

Facebook’s Creepy Psychology Study and Implications for Marketing

While Facebook’s recent psychology study on 700,000 of its users feels “creepy,” it does offer a couple of takeaways for businesses and groups looking to use the social network for marketing…

Facebook found that the emotion in posts is contagious. Those who saw positive content were, on average, more positive and less negative with their Facebook activity in the days that followed. The reverse was true for those who were tested with more negative postings in their News Feed.

via Facebook Reveals Huge Psychology Experiment on Users.

Specifically, if you’re using Facebook to promote your business, group, church, or organization, you need to take into account the ability of texts and postings to shape an interaction.

Facebook users, like most users of web services, zip through content at a fast rate and increasingly on mobile devices. You have a very short amount of time to make your mark, even if the user came to your page or post intentionally (it’s even less time if you’re trying to “grab attention”).

Make your posts positive, helpful, engaging, cheery, and (most importantly) personable. If you do run Facebook ads, try not to use generic language or phrases that we so often associate with marketing to our own detriment.

Generation Sell

After reading this study on how 60% of Gen Y professionals think they’re entrepreneurs (found via Jim Kukral‘s Facebook post), I remembered an “old” post from 2011 that described the millennial generation (born in late 70’s up to ’90) as “Generation Sale.” A little googling helped me find the NY Times piece.

It’s a spot on good read:

The small business is the idealized social form of our time. Our culture hero is not the artist or reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur. (Think of Steve Jobs, our new deity.) Autonomy, adventure, imagination: entrepreneurship comprehends all this and more for us. The characteristic art form of our age may be the business plan.

AND that, I think, is the real meaning of the Millennial affect — which is, like the entrepreneurial ideal, essentially everyone’s now. Today’s polite, pleasant personality is, above all, a commercial personality. It is the salesman’s smile and hearty handshake, because the customer is always right and you should always keep the customer happy. If you want to get ahead, said Benjamin Franklin, the original business guru, make yourself pleasing to others.

via The Entrepreneurial Generation – NYTimes.com.

I was born in 1978, so I’m not sure where exactly I fall in the Gen Y / Gen Millennial grouping. I grew up loving Nirvana, grunge, and the entire “Nevermind” aesthetic but find myself enjoying artisanal pizza.

Nevertheless, “millennials” will change how we do marketing and advertising (and business in general). You can see the differences in food truck lines, churches that make lifelong members uncomfortable, expectations for work place experiences, and how we view the concept of “jobs” in 2014.

So be prepared.

Looks Like Nexus Is Sticking Around (Thankfully)

I’m a huge fan of the Nexus line of Android phones and tablets that Google keeps producing with partners such as LG, Asus, HP, and Samsung.

These are devices that aren’t for the hoi polloi that wander into Best Buy and pick up a new iPhone because they think that’s the only smart phone on the market, but they are fantastic reference devices.

So, I’m glad to see this program sticking around…

You can’t build a platform in the abstract, you have to build a device (or devices). So, I don’t think can can or will ever go away. And then, I think Nexus is also interesting in that it is a way of us explaining how we think Android should run. It is a statement, almost a statement of purity in some respects. I don’t see why we would ever turn away from that, it wouldn’t make sense.

via No, Google Isn't Going To Kill Its Nexus Devices – ReadWrite.

Edge of Empires at Dura Europos

2014-06-21 18.56.35 2014-06-21 18.56.45 2014-06-21 18.57.11

Finally got my copy of Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos.

It’s a fascinating and beautiful book (I actually took some of the photos in there during my time at Yale University Art Gallery when I worked on digitizing our amazing Dura Europos collection). I could literally go on and on about Dura (ask my wife), but here’s the Amazon description:

Strategically located high above the Euphrates River between Syria and Mesopotamia, the city of Dura-Europos was founded around 300 BCE by one of the Macedonian generals who succeeded Alexander the Great. Within a century, the Near Eastern Parthians overtook and controlled the city until the Roman emperor Lucius Verus captured it in 164 CE. Dura-Europos then thrived as a critical stronghold along the Roman imperial frontier until 256 CE, when the Sasanian Persians destroyed it. By the time of its demise, Dura-Europos was a city positioned at the commercial, political, and cultural intersections of the Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds. Edge of Empires vividly illustrates the international and pluralistic character of Dura-Europos, highlighting objects that demonstrate the coexistence of multiple religions such as polytheistic cults, Judaism, and Christianity; the great variety of languages spoken by its population; and its role as an international military garrison.

Dura is like an old friend that teaches me new things all these years later.

Now I finally need to get duraeuropos.org off the ground 🙂

Importance of Crisis for Humanities

We religion majors don’t do so bad, either…

Defying all conventional wisdom and their parents’ warnings, most English majors also secure jobs, and not just at Starbucks. Last week, at the gathering of the Associated Departments of English, it was reported that English majors had 2 percent lower unemployment than the national rate, with an average starting salary of $40,800 and average mid-career salaries of $71,400. According to a 2013–14 study by PayScale.com, English ranks just above business administration as a “major that pays you back.”

via Crisis in the Humanities Has a Long History | New Republic.

Remember, crisis comes to us from the Greek word for “choice.” The humanities will always have a love for crisis / choice and that’s what makes it a remarkable human endeavor.