Behind Seattle’s history of creative prowess

A city of misfits, with its own way of doing things, Seattle is attracting creative minds from around the world.

A few years ago, Fast Company ranked Seattle as the most creative city in the world. Seattle is also a city of brands that have greatly impacted consumers and, to the marketing industry, are foundations of the city with names like Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, Nordstrom, REI and Boeing coming out of here.

This mix makes for a lethal combination. Though Wieden + Kennedy is the most well-known agency in the area there are other names to reckon with too – Cole & Weber (in the 1980s and 90s) and now, Wongdoody, Possible, Wexley School for Girls, DNA Seattle and others. But what makes Seattle the creative powerhouse it is?

The fundamental reason is a sense of innovation and being different. Technology too has been part of the transition and is one of the main drivers of the region. But what else makes the creative community here tick?


Facebook’s New Insights Shares Demographics, Purchase History, More

facebook audience insights2

Whether you’re buying ads or doing sponsored posts on Facebook, a new version of insights claims to provide a better idea of the audience you are targeting. The new Facebook Audience Insights offers more audience specifics than previous versions, the company explained recently.

Those Insights have generally been confined to such metrics as “likes”, “reach” and “engagement.” “Likes” are fairly self-explanatory, and refer to the number of visitors who have “liked” your page. “Reach” refers to the number of people who see your content, both paid and organic and “engagement” is a measure of how many people “liked”, “shared” and commented on it.

But what Facebook hasn’t delivered up until now is more detail about the type of visitors who are being reached by your message. And this is something marketers have been waiting a long time for, apparently.

In a recent post on Facebook’s official Product News Blog announcing the roll out of the new Audience Insights, the company explained:

“The more customer insights you have, the better you’re equipped to deliver meaningful messages to people. That’s the thinking behind Facebook Audience Insights, a new tool designed to help marketers learn more about their target audiences, including aggregate information about geography, demographics, purchase behavior and more.”

facebook audience insights

According to Facebook, the new Insights will tell marketers more details about their audience including:

  • Age, gender, lifestyle, relationship status, occupation and even the size of their household.
  • Past purchase behavior and whether they tend to purchase in a brick and mortar store or online.
  • The top Facebook Pages they like based on category.
  • Their location and the language they speak.
  • How frequently they use Facebook and what devices they use when visiting.

You can even view different target audiences for your marketing message ranging from all the people on Facebook, to all the people connected to your pages or all the people in your “custom audiences” (a measurement of your existing customers on the site).

Facebook insists the information is all aggregated and anonymous to protect users’ privacy, so you won’t get any information that helps you identify specific customers.

However, the information provided in the latest version of Facebook Audience Insights seems to go well beyond what the site has offered marketers and advertisers before.


Not Just Microsoft’s Tay: A Recent History of the Internet’s Racist Bots

Not Just Microsoft's Tay: A Recent History of the Internet's Racist Bots

Microsoft’s Tay AI bot was intended to charm the Internet with cute millennial jokes and memes. Instead, she became a genocidal maniac. Just hours after Tay started talking to people on Twitter and, as Microsoft explained, learning from those conversations the bot started to speak like a bad 4chan thread.

Now Tay is offline, and Microsoft says it’s “making adjustments” to, we guess, prevent Tay from learning how to deny the Holocaust in the future. In the meantime, more than a few people have wondered how Microsoft didn’t see this coming in the first place. If you build a bot that will repeat anything including some pretty bad and obvious racist slurs the trolls will come.

And it’s not like this is the first time this has happened. The Internet has some experience turning well-meaning bots to the dark side. Here are some of them.

Bot Or Not?
Anthony Garvan made Bot or Not? in 2014 as a sort of cute variation on the Turing test. Players were randomly matched with a conversation partner, and asked to guess whether the entity they were talking to was another player like them, or a bot. Like Tay, that bot learned from the conversations it had before.

In a Medium post on Thursday, Garvan revealed that after Bot or Not? went viral on Reddit, things started to go. … a little wrong.

“After the excitement died down, I was testing it myself, basking in my victory. Here’s how that went down: me: Hi! Bot: n***er.”

Garvan looked through the comments about his game, and found that some users figured out that the bot would, eventually, re-use the phrases it learned from humans. “a handful of people spammed the bot with tons of racist messages,” he wrote. Garvan at least partially fixed the problem by washing out the slurs and tweaking the game to mildly troll people who tried to re-introduce those words to his bot.

In his essay posted this week, Garvan reflects on why he believes Bot or Not? and Tay both went wrong: “I believe that Microsoft, and the rest of the machine learning community, has become so swept up in the power and magic of data that they forget that data still comes from the deeply flawed world we live in,” he wrote.

MeinCoke/Coke’s “MakeitHappy” bot
MeinCoke was a bot created by Gawker in 2015. It tweeted portions of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” Why? Well, if you remember Coca Cola’s short-lived campaign to turn mean tweets into cute ASCII art, you might have an idea.

Coke’s #MakeitHappy campaign wanted to show how a soda brand can make the world a happier place. But in doing so, it ended up setting up its Twitter account to automatically re-publish a lot of pretty terrible things, arranged into a “happy” shape. After one Gawker staffer realized that the automatic processes behind the campaign meant that they could get @CocaCola to tweet out the 14-word White Nationalism slogan (in the shape of a cute balloon doggie!), the company set up a bot that tweeted passages from Hitler’s autobiography, and then replied to those tweets with the #MakeitHappy hashtag. Coke ended up re-publishing several of those passages before the campaign was ended.

About five years ago, a research scientist at IBM decided to try to teach Watson some Internet slang. He did this by feeding the AI the entire Urban Dictionary, which basically meant that Watson learned a ton of really creative swear words and offensive slurs. Fortune reported:

“Watson couldn’t distinguish between polite language and profanity – which the Urban Dictionary is full of. Watson picked up some bad habits from reading Wikipedia as well. In tests it even used the word “bulls” in an answer to a researcher’s query.”

And while Watson is not dead, his team ended up scrubbing the dictionary from Watson’s poor brain.

Anyway. If Microsoft wanted Tay to be a reflection of what the entire Internet had to teach it, it succeeded. If it wanted a nice millennial bot, maybe it should find another teacher.

© 2016 The Washington Post

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Tags: Bots, Internet, Microsoft, Microsoft Tay, Science, Social, Tay

New Virtual Reality App Timelooper Takes You Back in History

New Virtual Reality App Timelooper Takes You Back in History

Imagine watching frantic shopkeepers busily extinguish the Great Fire of London, or sheltering from Nazi bombing raids during the Blitz.

Now, thanks to a new virtual reality app, you can travel back in time to be immersed in these events.

The Timelooper app allows users to experience key moments in London history with just a smartphone and a cardboard headset.

For example, when Timelooper cofounder Andrew Feinberg visits the Tower of London, a historic castle on the banks of London’s Thames River, he doesn’t queue up with hordes of tourists to catch a glimpse of the royal family’s crown jewels. Instead, he uses Timelooper’s time travel tourism app to experience the tower over 750 years ago, in 1255.

Instead of seeing a busy London tourist site, Feinberg sees a medieval marketplace, a formidable fortress, even an elephant being led down a path.

“We actually overlay the current infrastructure with what the infrastructure of the tower and the surrounding environment was like in 13th century London,” explained Feinberg. “So for example, now you see a Starbucks and now you see the tower as it looks today with the moat drained. When we take you back in time, you actually see the historically accurate representation of the tower in its heyday.”

Not far away at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Timelooper users travel back to the Great Fire of London 350 years ago, in 1666. The fire burned for four days, destroying over 13,000 houses.

The smartphone’s built-in motion detection allows time travelers wearing a cardboard headset to move their gaze around the virtual world, seemingly exploring London centuries ago. The videos are location-based, meaning visitors must visit the sites to unlock the historical experiences.

Feinberg and his cofounder, Yigit Yigiter, were frustrated with current tourismtechnology, which they say hasn’t evolved much since the introduction of audio guides. In 2014, Yigiter’s wife brought home a Google cardboard VR headset, and he began thinking about an immersive virtual reality tourism experience. By September 2015, he’d quit his job in private equity and moved to the British capital to begin work on the first incarnation of the app. The first version was launched in July 2015 and featured three sites.

While Timelooper uses VR to offer a unique historical perspective, the technology has been exploding in many directions throughout the tourism industry. Carnival Cruise Line uses it to market cruises, the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee uses it to show off a new rollercoaster, and the Seattle Space Needle uses it to help visitors appreciate the view from its sky-high observatory. The Dali Museum in Florida created a virtual reality experience that lets visitors walk through a landscape painting by the Surrealist master Salvador Dali. And a company called YouVisit has created over 300 VR experiences for destinations from Vatican City to Mexico.

Timelooper is a member of the Travel Tech Lab, an incubator space for travel technologystart-ups, partly created by London & Partners, the city’s official promotional company. Following the launch last year, Feinberg and Yigiter were contacted by destinations from China to Spain.

“Nothing replaces the experience of being on site, but you don’t always know what the stories are about those sights,” Yigiter said.

Timelooper’s travel app is also used by those working in London’s booming tourism industry. Blue Badge tourist guide Ruth Polling pulls her cardboard headset out as she escorts visitors to Trafalgar Square and lets them see what happened on Sept. 23, 1940, when a bomb dropped by Nazi Germany exploded near Nelson’s Column, a famous landmark and iconic part of the victory celebrations held five years later to mark the end of the war in Europe.”My job is a storyteller,” Polling said. “I’m here to conjure up what things are like and this just gives me something else I can use, particularly with small children, getting them really engaged.”

London landmarks are also finding Timelooper’s VR experience useful in giving a new-age twist to a decades-old attraction. The Thames River’s 120-year-old Tower Bridge is set to launch its own Timelooper experience in April, taking visitors back to 1666, before the bridge was even built. Instead, headset wearers view the raging Great Fire of London from a boat’s crow’s nest as it sails down the river.

“When you’re here at the bridge, you are told a story of how things were but you can’t physically see that,” says Chris Earlie, the head of Tower Bridge. The app also helps immerse international visitors into the story without “translating endless amount of text.”

Timelooper plans to launch in New York City this April, allowing tourists to witness the famous kiss that was photographed in Times Square in August 1945 on VJ Day, the day World War II officially ended with the surrender of Japan, and to see the iconic picture of workers eating lunch atop a skyscraper during construction of the Rockefeller Center in 1932.

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Tags: Apps, Home Entertainment, Timelooper app, Wearables