Notable things: Stop making magazines “interactive,” that mannequin is tracking you, I need an in-store app for hard-to-find products

Esquire wants its print edition to be more interactive. From the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog:

With the new app [Netpage] … Esquire is offering interactivity without changing the print design, outside of a few text reminders guiding readers to try out the new app. Every bit of the magazine can be recognized by the app and saved on readers’ smartphones as a high-resolution pdf. That means readers of the print magazine will be able to tweet a story easily, rather than having to go and find the web site version, which sometimes isn’t posted until later.

Let’s be clear: Tweeting a print story will never be “easy.” Nor should it be. Print isn’t digital. It doesn’t flow and it cannot be recombined without pushing content through a conversion meat grinder (or grabbing a pair of scissors). But that’s okay. Print is print, and print is just fine.

I understand Esquire’s impulse to try new technologies — it’s got a history of such things — but what if publishers focused on platform refinement instead of bolting electronic gimmicks on to print pages? Tablet editions can improve (boy can they). Online can improve. Print can improve. There’s lots of work to be done.

The magazine world’s fixation on a print-digital mash-up has been a bad idea since the CueCat. Let it go.


And in other physical-digital news …

That’s not a mannequin. That’s a first-gen Terminator.

The EyeSee mannequin has an embedded camera (behind the eye, natch) that “feeds data into facial-recognition software like that used by police. It logs the age, gender, and race of passers-by.”

More info here.

It sounds creepy, but keep in mind that virtually every retail website you visit has its own set of “eyes.”

Besides, the title of World’s Creepiest Mannequin was claimed 25 years ago:


Here’s something I want / need: An app (or apps) that show me where products are located within a store. I’ve wasted precious hours of my life searching for ridiculous things — adapters and crackers and toys and tools … it’s such a long and sad list.

The introduction of organic aisles in supermarkets has been particularly tough on me. How am I supposed to know if a product is organic or not? And sometimes, there’s the organic version and the regular version (Annie’s, I’m looking at you).

So where’s my in-store app? I want to fire up my phone, initiate a search and have it reveal that those damn felt furniture pads are two aisles over, next to the Velcro (because “Velcro” and “felt furniture pads” are so obviously related …).

Followers aren’t readers, so let’s stop fooling ourselves

Anil Dash follows up his great post on Twitter’s suggested user list with an equally great piece that politely challenges Twitter follower counts. As he notes, analytics and inflated self-importance are nothing new: It’s a bit like when I worked…

Anil Dash follows up his great post on Twitter’s suggested user list with an equally great piece that politely challenges Twitter follower counts. As he notes, analytics and inflated self-importance are nothing new:

It’s a bit like when I worked at a newspaper: Every reporter thought “Well, our circulation is a million copies, that must mean a million people read my column.” Facing the reality that only 10,000 of those people read the column, or that perhaps only 1,000 of them were reading the advertisement on the opposite page, forced a useful and important reckoning into some false assumptions that were underpinning that industry’s workings.

The key here — and Dash mentions this in his post — is to dispel overblown notions so analytics become useful. Follower counts have value, just as page views, uniques, user-session times, circulation figures and subscription numbers do. But all those numbers have to be filtered through the realities of passivity and engagement.

Yes, But How Do You Feel? Sentiment Joins the Web Analytics Toolset

The New York Times examines sentiment analysis: An emerging field known as sentiment analysis is taking shape around one of the computer world’s unexplored frontiers: translating the vagaries of human emotion into hard data. This is more than just an…

The New York Times examines sentiment analysis:

An emerging field known as sentiment analysis is taking shape around one of the computer world’s unexplored frontiers: translating the vagaries of human emotion into hard data.

This is more than just an interesting programming exercise. For many businesses, online opinion has turned into a kind of virtual currency that can make or break a product in the marketplace.

Amy Martin briefly mentioned sentiment during her presentation at Twitter Boot Camp in June (the sentiment stuff is in slide No. 9). The concept caught my attention because it strays from typical number-centric measurements like page views, user-session times or velocity. For someone like me, who believes numbers and non-numerical “soft” analysis must exist in harmony, it injects a much-needed psychological component into the audience dynamic. This commingling of data and feelings is why NBC Local’s mood tool is so interesting.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves with the touchy feely business. Sentiment’s power as a data point is limited because it’s a loaded concept with infinite variations. If my “positive” could be your “neutral,” how can a measurement tool adequately capture sentiment on a broad, numerical level? It can’t. Not reliably, anyway. Wild swings and spikes will appear in graphs, but small percentage shifts between open-ended terms are too ambiguous to rely upon. That’s why sentiment needs to function as a general data point for online engagement. It’s a single tool on a big analytics workbench.