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Darknet 101

The internet as most of us know it is only a small part of how the planet connects and does business. Jamie Bartlett, the author of “The Dark Net” offers an entertaining TED talk about, well, the dark net - this “hidden” part of the Internet, known as Tor hidden services, where URLs are a string of meaningless numbers and letters that end in .onion - where you can become an anonymous activist or buy cocaine. You know, the more you know, I guess. Don’t tell them we sent you. How the mysterious dark net is going mainstream  

What Is The Internet and What Is It For? Fresh Perspectives for 2016

In 1999, Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger posted 95 theses about the Internet and what it would mean to the world and called it The Cluetrain Manifesto. In 2000, seven essays were added and it was published as a book. 15 years later, they've given us a new set of clues. Technically, this was published a year ago, but the piece really hasn’t gotten the play it deserves. I mean, any discussion that starts with, “The Internet is us, connected…” deserves a heartfelt read and ponder. And, if you didn’t read the original, get on it. Our favorite from the OG piece is, “…internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way…”   We think it’s a big idea. Still. Again.   Learn more: Updated Clues from original authors of "The Cluetrain Manifesto" The Cluetrain Manifesto "Cluetrain..." on Amazon Rick Levine Christopher Locke Doc Searls David Weinberger  

  • 1 min read
  • January 20, 2016

An Oral History of 'A Special Thing', The World’s Most Important Comedy Message Board

For an art scene to exist, for artists within it to make the leap into greatness, hubs need to exist. Like-minded people need a space where their ideas can commingle and become better, where they can borrow, hook up, network, steal, and stab each other in the back. In the past, this meant a physical locale, but with the Internet, people no longer needed to share the same physical space. This is the story of a comedy scene incubator that ushered in Patton Oswalt, Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari Anthony Jeselnik, Marc Maron and dozens of prospective comedians, writers, and directors.  Comedy's Collective Master Class

In Defense of the Cookie

They are delicious, come in different flavors, can be crunchy or doughy, and go well with nearly any occasion. They also help with targeting, allow advertisers to display relevant ads, and provide insight into user browsing histories on the web. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this post talks about the latter of the two. So what are cookies besides those things we say we won't eat then eat when no one is looking? Cookies are targeting tags sent from an online ad to the user's web browser, allowing advertisers to gain information on user activity. What cookies do is not only provide information to advertisers about internet users and what they do online, but also track the user's online activity after the cookie has been placed. Cookies are a great tool for advertisers because they allow us to re-target consumers who have already expressed an interest in the product we are selling, while also allowing us to compile information on the user as long as the cookie is active. Unfortunately, more recently it's become a fad to DELETE your cookies as to protect your privacy from creepy advertisers who want to learn more about you. In some ways it is a little creepy, but in our defense'?¦ I have always been a huge fan of JetBlue Airlines. I'm a True Blue member, I enjoy my personal TV, I enjoy not trying to sit in a seat half my size (no offense United Airlines), and I enjoy being able to pick my own seat ahead of time so I can sit with my friends and not have to battle with strangers (no offense SouthWest Airlines). Why do you care? You don't care, but you should. See, JetBlue has been creepin on (aka re-targeting) me for months now. They find me on nearly every site I visit, across the span of the entire internet. They target me because I go to their site sometimes to check out cheap flights for when I go to visit friends in other cities. If it took clicks on an ad to get upgraded to first class (even though on JetBlue everyone is first class), I would be flying the plane by now, because I click on the ads almost every time I'm targeted. Why? Because they are constantly updating me with new deals, newly discounted flights and special offers. Why do I get to see these awesome offers without having to go to the site? Because I don't delete my cookies. Believe it or not, because I am going to be served the ad anyway, I actually PREFER to be re-targeted so at least I'm seeing ads for JetBlue and Nike instead of Gucci and Cadillac. I figure as long as I'm going to be forced to see ads, they might as well be something that I am or might potentially (that will be taught in Re-Targeting 102) be interested in. So don't delete your cookies. All it's going to do is guarantee that you will never see an ad that might be at least slightly interesting to you. HELP ME, HELP YOU!

I Have a Meme

Back in April, a few of us attended the quasi-yearly celebration of all-things internet known as ROFLcon. Picture what would happen if everything funny or weird you ever saw or heard about on the internet decided to show up at one place and talk about everything funny or weird you ever saw or heard about on the internet; that's ROFLcon. And while this isn't meant to be a summary of ROFLcon - because that would be dated and lame - it is meant to be a preface to the world of memes. Internet memes can be videos, images, websites, stories, or just plain old jokes. They're ideas that are spread around the internet. The idea of memes has been in existence long before the internet. Religious beliefs are essentially memes in that they're spreading cultural ideas or practices. So while memes don't have to be on the internet - the 'Where's the beef'? lady was a meme long before Al Gore even invented the web - they have certainly found their place on it. So how do you make one? Well, this may not lead to internet gold, but here are 5 ways to help you on your journey. Step 1: First off, don't call it viral until it's viral'?¦ and even then, don't call it viral Nothing is more off-putting than someone asking you to create, or telling someone that you're planning to make a viral video. I once saw a vendor presentation that said one of their capabilities was viral videos. Really? Let's be straight here, YOU do not create a viral video. The thousands of people watching, commenting and sharing the video do. That's more of a pet peeve than a key to success. Okay, here we go; the 4 keys to creating an internet meme. Step 1: Be funny, absurd, or shocking'?¦and if you can't, include an old person, baby, or cute animal I don't have the stats here, but out of the millions of non-adult videos, and photos on the internet, let's assume that 1% are popular enough to reach 'meme'? status. Can we agree that a large portion of those are overwhelmingly funny, absurd, shocking, have an old person, baby or cute animal? Let's. Step 2: Don't try too hard'?¦in fact, don't really try at all Most of the stories you hear about internet memes start with 'I was just making something for my friends'?. Most memes don't intend to be memes, they just sort of happen. This is where many brands and agencies fall short. They try too hard to be cool and different, or try too hard to make money. If you lose that organic and genuine feel, you lose the impact. Step 3: Encourage participation One of my favorite memes, Archaic Rap, mostly reached meme status because it's really fun to create them on your own. People love showing other people how funny/creative/knowledgeable about hip-hop lyrics they are, and this one gives them a chance to. The idea of in-jokes and obscure pop culture references are perfect cultivators for memes because people like to show others that they 'get'? them. Step 4: Get it to the influencers Video's up on YouTube? Done! Not so much. Successful branded content usually has a PR or social push behind it to get it into the right influencer hands to ensure it spreads. Unbranded user content usually has a similar approach, though it's usually unplanned. Send it to the right people, and it will spread. You'll be surprised how big Aunt Milly's online network is when babies or cute animals are involved. So that's it. I think we can expect the percentage of good content on the internet to explode after people read this post. In the event you're now inspired to create your own meme, I suggest you visit the folks over at KnowYourMeme.com who have done a great job cataloguing and studying memes from around the internet. It will be a good starting point to get into the psyche of the internet to determine if you have the ability to create the next great meme.

"High Impact" Indeed

At a time when the annoyance level with the invasiveness of online advertising is at an all time high, it seems poor logic to increase the size of ad units ' effectively marginalizing content (ahem, the reason the users are there in the first place?). With some high profile content providers on board as well as the IAB, one would assume there was some sort of legitimate strategy behind it, and there is. Unfortunately, that strategy is the swan song of digital content monetization as we know it. An infinite increase in online inventory supply paired with waning growth in spending against online banner programs has led to serious problems for content providers ' hence the shift from user/consumer focused site content management to advertiser focused solutions. I can imagine there will be a short novelty burst of success for these monster ad units (referred to as 'high impact'). However, at the end of the day, users will be alienated, annoyed, bitter, and eventually abandon sites for greener, less noisy pastures.

"High Impact" Indeed

At a time when the annoyance level with the invasiveness of online advertising is at an all time high, it seems poor logic to increase the size of ad units ' effectively marginalizing content (ahem, the reason the users are there in the first place?). With some high profile content providers on board as well as the IAB, one would assume there was some sort of legitimate strategy behind it, and there is. Unfortunately, that strategy is the swan song of digital content monetization as we know it. An infinite increase in online inventory supply paired with waning growth in spending against online banner programs has led to serious problems for content providers ' hence the shift from user/consumer focused site content management to advertiser focused solutions. I can imagine there will be a short novelty burst of success for these monster ad units (referred to as 'high impact'). However, at the end of the day, users will be alienated, annoyed, bitter, and eventually abandon sites for greener, less noisy pastures.

Online Product Sampling?

At first it may seem like an oxymoron; how can a company possibly put an online sample in consumers' hands? While technically the trial doesn't occur online, driving consumers to the web to request samples lays the foundation for a much longer consumer engagement than traditional hand-to-hand sampling. Not only does online sampling afford brands a chance to deliver samples, but it also allows brands the ability to capture contact information for future offers and more sampling! Dove is a great example of a brand doing an excellent job in this space. The process to sign up on their site and request your choice of samples is very easy, and they offer a revolving variety of shampoos, lotions and soaps. They have won me over in the past by giving me the opportunity to try their products, often resulting in my own personal Dove purchase. Not only is online sampling great for brands, but we see time and time again that consumers love it too. For our LifeStyles client we periodically offer samples and often it takes just 48 hours for us to 'sell out'? of samples! It's a great way for consumers to try their products, and at the same time, LifeStyles receives thousands of new email addresses for future marketing initiatives. Looking for a free sample? Check us out at http://www.lifestyles.com/ and sign up for the e-newsletter to get your hands on one of latest offerings from LifeStyles Condoms. What are your thoughts on sampling? Do you think it is a great investment or a waste of money? What products/brands do you wish you could try? Let us know what you think!

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