Foursquare and Amex, Instagram marketing agency, Montague Arms

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Foursquare and Amex
When I was checking in at the cinema on Foursquare recently I noticed the nearby Nandos had a ‘special’. These are usually a bit useless – a free drink for the mayor – but as I occasionally go to Nandos I looked to see what it was. It turned it was a deal where if I used my Amex card there I’d get back £10 on a £10 spend. Bargain.

This is something Amex has done for a while in America and I remember being rather disappointed it wasn’t doing it in the UK. Pleasingly it is launching with a similar £10 back on £10, or £5 back on £5, with useful retailers like Tesco, Eat and Pizza Express. Set up is easy. Sync your card via the Amex website, check in to participating places on Foursquare and ‘load’ the offer, then just pay by Amex. You don’t need to tell the retailer what you are doing or show them a voucher.

I’ve blogged before about not being able to give a reason why I use Foursquare but now I have one.

Incidentally, through reading about this I discovered the Explore section of the Foursquare app*. I cannot remember ever using it despite it sitting on the bottom navigation bar. It further proves that if you have a product which people use to do one focused thing it hard to get them to notice other functionality you offer.

*The Foursquare iOS app has since been completely updated and Explore is now more integrated.

Instagram marketing agency
To help (or feed) my obsession with New York I follow newyorkcity on Instagram. Every day a cool photo of the cool city is posted and it makes me want to go back there even more. It’s a popular feed with more followers than the Instagram app can show (it says 260…). Photos will get 10,000 likes and hundreds of comments.

I noticed this morning the feed’s owner/photographer announced she’d cofounded a company, The Mobile Media Lab, and for their first client, Samsung, she’ll be shooting with their Galaxy Note.

So, this is an agency set up by three people, which is specialising on getting brands on to Instagram. No big surprise here – a new market has opened up and there’s an opportunity to get in early. It will be interesting to see how effective they can be on Instagram. Their website has a case study of brand promotion which has already happened on the newyorkcity feed but I never noticed it.

Strangely over the past few days a few photos which feel more like personal interest have crept into newyorkcity (like an award ceremony). I’m not sure of the logic behind this. I follow it for great pictures of the NYC, and if they mess with that too much I’ll stop following.

Montague Arms
I was saddened to find out that the Montague Arms between New Cross and Peckham has closed, never to reopen in it’s old form. It actually closed at the end of 2011 but I didn’t realise.

The Montague was an amazing old boozer packed full of dusty taxidermy and seafaring memorabilia. It was the kind of pub you don’t get anymore. It closed mainly due to the death of the couple who co-ran it (into their 80s) and also because it was no longer fire safe.

The end of the Montague was inevitable. It was too big and just too far away from things to draw enough of a crowd to keep it going. Back in the day it welcomed coach parties on their way from Dover. More recently it hosted bands and student nights.

The taxidermy and memorabilia have been sold at auction. I cannot see anyone else taking on the lease. I dread the day I drive past and see new build flats in its place.

Leon de Bruxelles, Britain’s Got Talent Twitter Hashtags, Zeebox

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Leon de Bruxelles

Looking for somewhere to eat near Covent Garden I found myself in the new Leon de Bruxelles this week. It promised amazing mussels and, as the first London restaurant from an established European chain, great quality. It did not deliver.

On sitting down we were told they had run out of mussels (and, given no one else had them, they must have run out much earlier). Since mussels are really all they do I cannot understand how that happened. But we stayed and chose from the small list of other dishes. Shortly after ordering, a basket of four small pieces of cold baguette was plonked down. At first I couldn’t work out why it looked wrong, then I realised there was no butter, bread knives or plates.

I ordered the Flemish Carbonnade Beef which sounded lovely and at £14 I was expecting it to be a substantial tasty stew. It was neither. After eating over half I found a hair in it.

It left me wondering if I should post a bad review somewhere, so potential customers would know what it was like (I don’t count this blog as reaching such people). But, as someone who uses TripAdvisor but takes the negative reviews with a large pinch of salt, I realised if I posted the above it would seem like I was making it up.

There were two saving points. The staff were nice and, thanks to tastecard, two mains, two sides and two drinks came to £22.

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Britain’s Got Talent Twitter hashtags

It is becoming the norm for TV programmes to put hashtags on screen at the start. The new series of Britain’s Got Talent is doing something different. It is putting a few well-placed hagtags during auditions that play on what you are watching. #nowwithwings when a performer extended his costume wings, #hottie when a swoonful young male singer took to the stage.

I have to admit I was initially sceptical. I instantly spotted a ploy to get these tags trending but dismissed them, thinking few people would use them. I was wrong on the second point. They were so popular that TweetDeck froze and terminally crashed when I tried to add them as a column.

Yes, they did trend worldwide. Given that Twitter’s trending algorithm makes it hard for a term to trend more than once it will mean that BGT trends every week. The clever bit will come if ITV monetise these hashtags.

There is a danger here though. These tags need to be used sparingly and only when there’s something worth tweeting about. If too many programmes use them and, especially, if they use them badly, the audience will be turned off by them.

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Zeebox

If you haven’t have heard of the Zeebox app, then it describes itself as “your TV sidekick” which you should use “while you watch TV” as it is “social, clever and fun”. It has multi-channel programme listings, a programme twitter stream, news, things called ‘Zeetags’ and it can change the channel of a few TVs.

It attracted a lot of TV industry buzz and BSkyB bought a 10% stake in January with a promise to integrate it into it’s mobile applications.

In the last week I’ve heard from two separate sources, who have accessed a (possibly hidden) part of its developer API, that it has hundreds of users at a time when it should have thousands (and thousands).

It doesn’t take a genius to see why it isn’t connecting with an audience. The only thing that is “social” is the twitter stream and for most programmes a twitter stream is a pretty boring list of mundane updates. I watched both The Voice and BGT with Zeebox on and saw little of interest. Meanwhile my own Twitter feed and the official accounts were “fun”.

It could be that Zeebox have something revolutionary planned. But right now I cannot see anything doing “social” and “fun” which isn’t Facebook and Twitter. That’s where your friends are and they are much more “fun” and “social” than strangers. If second screen is going to be about anything it will be participation (see Million Pound Drop) and there are not many programme formats that call for audience participation.

(Please note, I’m currently contracting at ITV. This blog contains my personal views and do not represent or reflect the opinions of ITV, or any of my previous employers or clients.)

Memolane emails, Dropbox Automator, Philadelphia with Cadbury

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Memolane emails

MemolaneA while back I noted Memolane which is a website that pulls in all your social content from the web and presents it in a beautiful timeline to explore. You can look back over photos from Flickr and Instagram, tweets, last.fm music and more. It is great to wander back and remind yourself of your life. Depending on your privacy settings others can wander back too.

Shortly after Memolane came out of beta, Facebook announced its Timeline profile view, which — along with imports from Flickr, Instagram and Spotify, lets you wander back and remind yourself of your life. Depending on your privacy settings…

For me Memolane has been a site I occasionally like to visit but no more. But a few weeks ago it started sending me emails with highlights from my timeline a few years ago. The emails took me back to Iceland and Vietnam, and my tweets on Skins (first generation). It’s lovely seeing photos. Seeing tweets makes me cringe. Either way I look forward to seeing the emails.

The only flaw is it needs decent content from the current day in a previous year. I presume that is why I’m mainly getting emails from 4 years ago.

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Dropbox Automator

Towards the end of last year I noted that Box was giving new users 50Gb of cloud storage for free. At the time I thought it would be great for off-site storage for my photos, music and things like tax paperwork. Sadly the limited tools Box gives free users meant I didn’t really use it (plus iTunes Match came along to look after my music).

I started to use Dropbox for tax stuff and photos but I was aware the limited free storage would cause me problems one day. Also I didn’t want to keep these files on my laptop.

I think the answer to my problems is Dropbox Automator. It follows the ifttt model (which I’ve also previously noted) and lets you set up rules for actions. By connecting it to my Dropbox and Box accounts, Automator copies files I place in defined Dropbox directories to Box ones. So, when I save a bank statement into a Dropbox folder on my laptop, Automator copies it to Box. As Automator works in the cloudiverse I don’t need to do anything. I’m then free to delete the file from Dropbox safe in the knowledge Box has it. (It is a lot simpler in practice.)

Dropbox Automator can do other things. It can convert files, send them to a Kindle, upload to Facebook/Flickr, manipulate images, email files, zip them and more.

It is still early days from the project and the company behind it, Wappwolf, are improving it all the time. Worth keeping an eye on.

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Philadelphia with Cadbury

Philadelphia with CadburyWhen Kraft bought Cadbury there were all sorts of predictions of what the food giant would do with the beloved British brand. Would they move production out of the UK? Would they run it into the ground and replace it with their cheaper Milka brand?

What nobody predicted is they’d produce a Cadbury version of their Philadelphia soft cheese. Chocolate cheese — it is a taste I could not imagine. So when I saw a BOGOF offer I had to purchase.

I can confirm it is basically a chilled chocolate spread with a hint of soft cheese and it works. I had it on a muffin by itself and with banana. I’ve never gone in for spreads so probably will not be purchasing again but I will happily finish the pots I bought.

Pies, Pizza at the Gowlett, Instagram photos of food

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Pies

My pieI love pies. But until last week I’d never made one. While pies seem simple — pastry and some filling — the thought of making pastry and cooking up some filling seemed like too much work. I guess I also knew deep down that pies were unhealthy. The pie I made certainly was.

It came from the Pieminister book a friend kindly gave me. Like many cookery spin-off books it is beautifully produced, everything looks wonderful but takes a pile of ingredients the likes of me doesn’t keep around the house. However hidden at the back was the Hunter Chicken Pie which didn’t call for something I wouldn’t buy on a normal shop.

Admittedly I did cheat and use ready-rolled puff pastry. But the chopping of onions, cooking with rosemary then adding tomato, Worcester sauce and balsamic vinegar was me. Then cooking up the chicken, bacon and 150ml of double cream was me. I did get a bit of help laying out the pastry.

The result was gorgeous. I’m pleased I’d had my blood cholesterol test earlier in the week before eating it.

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Pizza at The Gowlett

Gowlett's pizzaI should love pizza but I have an on-off relationship with it, mainly because pizzas disappoint me too much. I’d given up hope on shop bought pizzas. Pizza Express’ efforts do nothing for me. The occasional delivery pizza is OK but only it if has BBQ sauce on it.

I’m down to two places that do pizza really well. One is Yard in Shoreditch which sells pizza by the yard with different toppings to share. I’ve only been there three times and it hasn’t failed me. But the best place I’ve ever found for pizza is The Gowlett in Peckham.

It often tops charts of best pizza in (South) London and deservedly so. What I cannot work out is why. It is a backstreet boozer that’s purposely been kept plain. Although it tries to make a virtue out of its beer selection it is average. But their pizzas stand out. The base is perfect and the toppings tasty and inventive.

Not skimping on the quality of the toppings is certainly a factor. Last night’s chef’s special featured a runny egg that tasted better than most I’ve made.

Their pizzas come from a hidden kitchen out back so you cannot even see how they are prepared. The only clue was a sign I once saw that said they are made by Polish chefs.

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Instagram photos of food

The face of cruditésInstagram photos seem to fall into three types. Cool photos made even cooler with the filters, pets and home cooked food. Lacking a pet my photos fall into the first and third categories (although I’d accept the criticism they aren’t that cool).

This is nothing new. In the early days of Flickr people would take photos of what they were about to eat but the fashion fell away. Now it is back on Instragram and I think I know why.

For a lot of people Instragram is about showcasing artistic creativity. The filters make this easy to do. Most people I know don’t have the time to create nice things but they do cook. I was very proud of the pie I made and my breadmaker produced its best ever loaf. I wanted to share those ‘achievements’ and Instagram made that quick and easy.

I find myself taking fewer Instagram photos as I feel like they have to be good. In the winter there are less opportunities to find interesting things to photograph. But I’m cooking more. The food pictures will continue.

Foursquare, ifttt, Ghostbusters

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Foursquare

This week marked two years of me checking in on Foursquare. In that time I’ve checked in over 1,500 times, collected 22 badges and I’m mayor of 15 places. The thing is I still cannot say why I use it.

I guess the main reason is I like recording the places I go to and I like the feeling of checking into lots of places when I’m on a fun day out. I also take some pleasure from being at the top of the points chart among my friends.

One personal quirk is I actually don’t like people ‘following me’ because I feel guilty about bombarding people with my checkins. I admit that on the rare occasion I am somewhere cool I like to show off a bit, and I do use it to say when I’m going on a trip. But my arrival at yet another pub cannot be interesting to anyone. However I do like seeing where my close friends are.

I guess the truth is I’ve got a bit of an addiction. And I suppose it is harmless.

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ifttt

If you haven’t heard of ifttt then you will not know it stands for ‘if this then that’. You also will not know is it is a webapp where you can set up actions based on what happens on other webapps. For example if someone tweets you can get ifttt to send you an email.

I signed up early for ifttt when it was still in beta. Back then it didn’t connect with many apps. At the time all I could think to use it for was said twitter>email. But recently I noticed it had come out of beta, connects with 13 apps and has a new thing called recipes.

Recipes are actions created by other people which anyone can use — and there’s some useful ones there. I now use ifttt to:
1. Copy my Instagram photos to my Dropbox
2. Copy any Facebook photos I’m tagged in to my Dropbox
3. Copy my shared items on Google Reader to Read It Later
4. Tweet when I share items on Google Reader
5. Save all my Foursquare checkins to a private Google Calendar

It is the last one I like most. I can now look back through a calendar of my checkins and remind myself where I went. ifttt has given me another reason to use Foursquare.

(Update: 3 and 4 will not work now Google Reader has changed sharing to Google+)

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Ghostbusters

I went to see Ghostbusters on the big screen at the weekend. I loved the film as a kid but hadn’t seen it for ages. The surprising thing was how simple the story was. GB see a ghost in library, female lead introduced, GB bust a ghost in a hotel, NYC gets overrun with ghosts, female lead gets possessed by big bad, annoying government man causes problems, GB get put in jail, hell breaks out, GB get out of jail and go to take on big bad, GB kill big bad and rescue the girl.

Now maybe they still make films this simple and I don’t see them. But having watched both parts of the final Harry Potter film/book I wonder if Hollywood has got too complicated.

HipGeo, Memolane, about.me

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HipGeo

HipGeo mapWhen it emerged that a ‘bug’ in iOS had meant location data wasn’t being deleted off my iPhone I was quite pleased. I was able to download a bit of software and see everywhere my phone had been. It was great looking back over a busy year of travels. I’ve been checking in on Foursquare for almost two years now and there are a few webapps I can use to plot my check-ins on that but they are all a bit basic. New app HipGeo could be what I’m looking for.

HipGeo is a well funded and talent filled start-up which has just released the first version of its iOS app. The app tracks your location regularly to plot a map of your journeys. You can add photos and comments as well as following your friends. Each day it produces a diary entry of what you’ve done. It is a basic offering and I presume auto-import of Foursquare, Instagram, Twitter etc will come along soon.

I’ve used it over a few days where I’ve been travelling out of London and I can see it fulfilling my desire to look back over what I did a few months/years ago.

The big problem, which you can probably guess, is battery usage. HipGeo has tried to manage this by only using GPS occasionally but I found it drained my battery within 10 hours (alongside my regular iPhone use). I count on my phone when I’m travelling around and I cannot risk using something that will drain it. But phones will get better at tracking location without hitting the battery.

The other problem is privacy. You can keep everything private, share with friends or the world. This level of data is something I want to keep private. That wipes out the fun of sharing I get from Foursquare. It also makes it harder for HipGeo to build awareness.

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Memolane

MemolaneContinuing the theme of looking back over what you’ve posted to the web there’s Memolane. It is a work of brilliance that pulls together what you’ve added to Twitter, Flickr, last.fm and a lot more into a beautiful timeline or, rather, lane. Moving back and forward by day is a simple drag or you can quickly jump back months and years by clicking on the lines at the bottom.

It does privacy simply and expertly. You set each source as public, just friends or private. That means anyone can look back over my public Flickr photos and last.fm scrobbles but only I can see my TripIt trips.

Memolane unlocks your history. I’ve been recording my gig-going in last.fm for years but it is hidden away in an unattractive set of pages on that site. On Memolane I remember them all with a few swipes and clicks.

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about.me

about.meI’ve been meaning to create a webpage that pulls together all my online stuff and presents it in a professional/formal way. I’ve been meaning to do it using about.me. This morning I finally did it.

about.me is kind of product I like – one that does only one thing and does it well. You get a single page with a splash image, your name, headline, biography, links and that is it. There’s just one big problem: you cannot stop it advertising about.me. Its header is fixed on everyone’s pages and a little advert appears when someone views your page asking if they want to create their own.

Somewhere along the line, about.me must have got desperate to build their user base and they are ruining their product by doing it. Sad thing is I’d gladly pay a small amount to remove these but I cannot.

Stella Creasy MP, PlainText and Franks

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Stella Creasy MP

Stella Creasy

Returning home late last night I wanted to know if looting had hit Walthamstow and if I’d need to be wary. I turned to Twitter (held up as the great realtime news source). Problem was tweets were predominantly rumour and exaggeration. There were reports of trouble in Walthamstow but at that point there hadn’t been. Once home there was a tweet about BHS being done in (true) that quickly turned into BHS on fire (not true).

Through all of this noise Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy was tweeting (and updating Facebook). To begin with she was assuring people nothing was happening and correcting those posting false information. Then when things did kick off she tweeted a warning to avoid the area and assured residents that looters where only targeting shops.

Once things calmed down (around 1am) she went out to see what had happened and reported back (apologising about not wanting to take out her camera phone). She continued to tweet replies and updates from trusted sources (usually the Police) until 4ish. Then started up again around 7ish.

Today she is touring around the areas affected, inviting anyone to come along and talk to her about their concerns.

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PlainText

PlainText

I don’t have a fancy way of remembering things or making notes. For example, when collecting links and ideas before a holiday I usually just keep a text file of stuff on my desktop. And for things I’d find on my iPhone or iPad I’d email myself and add them later (if I remember).

Usefully I’ve found an app to make this all a bit easier. PlainText is a very lightweight app that lets you make/edit text files which are saved to Dropbox. Now I have PlainText on my iOS devices and Dropbox on my Mac I can add stuff whenever I want.

PlainText is free and has few bells and whistles. If you like bells or whistles you can buy WriteRoom.

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Frank’s Cafe and Campari Bar

Franks

Sadly this summer bar on top of a car park in Peckham has become a victim of its own success. When we went two years ago we were lucky to be able to eat. Lucky because the day’s menu had mostly sold out and they were improvising with what they had left. And lucky because this improvised food was gorgeous.

Every time we went last year we couldn’t get a seat to eat or the food was sold out. The best we managed was a fine sausage roll. But the drinks were cheap and view was amazing.

This year our visits have been met by a crowded bar. Admittedly the last time was a sunny Saturday night but the five-deep bar queue meant we couldn’t drink £3 pints of Meantime London Pale Ale (a price I note is close to what some pubs charge for a half of the stuff).

Pity it is so popular.

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