Here we go again, thinking that marketing might borrow something of use from the social sciences — in this case a wonderful post from the Museum 2.0 blog on giving shape to the language and goals of ‘engagement’. In Nina Simon’s work at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, her team has attempted to frame ‘engagement’ through five key lenses:

  1. relevance to the interests of the community
  2. capacity to help the institution sustain itself
  3. building bridges between members
  4. ability to compel community members to co-create
  5. ability to inspire excitement and curiosity

It’s a fascinating read, and prompts this question: how many brand marketers could define — in such crystalline terms — their specific goals for ‘engagement’?

Tom Tunguz has a thoughtful review of Nancy Duarte’s Resonate, in which he outlines her three elements of compelling presentations and storytelling. Even if you’ve no intention of reading her book, this is a wildly compelling perspective on rolling out a narrative.

Of course, according to Mike Monteiro, there are thirteen ways in which designers frequently drop the ball in client presentations — from starting with an apology to mentioning typefaces (!!!).

Try and spot the Google-centrism of Kelli Wisuri and Gopi Kallayil’s (of Google, natch) piece for Wharton’s Knowledge

blog on ‘what makes things go viral’ **. Don’t worry — it won’t be hard to find. The problem with truisms like:

Brands that meet consumers on their own terms succeed in getting greater reach and engagement.

is that they rarely lend much insight into what those terms, in fact, are. Beware of marketing content masquerading as institutional learning.

It’s a few weeks old, but our friend Anne Aretz pointed us toward Tim Harford’s sprawling, fantastic history of the business of predicting and forecasting the future — from Keynes to Tetlock to Fisher. It’s really quite a good read, and gives us this gem, in particular:

Our predictions are about the future only in the most superficial way. They are really advertisements, conversation pieces, declarations of tribal loyalty – or statements of profound conviction about the logical structure of the world.

It appears that we’re entering the uncanny valley of handwriting: Clive Thompson wrote an engrossing piece on distinguishing machine-generated handwriting from human handwriting. It’s more difficult than you might think.

James Caig points towards changes in book design that acknowledge the growth in book clubs and reading groups — and wonders what other formats might benefit from similar examination.

Fortunately, Culture Digitally has mined Google nGrams and literary archives to give shape to the rise of ‘innovation speak’.

Sam Hulick, whose User Onboard blog is a favorite at Almighty, just launched Citizen Onboard — a blog dedicated to examining the usability of digital tools created by local and state governments. It’s not quite a Government Digital Service for the USA, but it’s a great start in thinking about civic service design.

From our old friend Neil:

One of the things that interests me most about Buzzfeed is that they are building a media company from scratch and so don’t view what they do through the lens of a legacy business.

He goes on to point to a terrific Chris Dixon appearance on the a16z podcast, in which Dixon outlines the idea of a ‘full stack’ startup, and the manner in which it enables organizations like Buzzfeed to build entirely new competitive models. This is great stuff.


Lovely work from the Microsoft Research group in Cambridge this week, in the form of physical charts that render real-time graphs intended to make data visualization more tangible for the everyday observer. Alternately, it’s some pretty awesome physical computing work. Be sure and watch the videos.

If ‘what makes things go viral’ is our most-clicked link next week, then shame on us all.