Edmonton Public Library’s MP3 Experiment

More than 250 Edmontonians gathered tonight in Churchill Square to take part in the Edmonton Public Library’s MP3 Experiment. The shared experience was a great way to help launch the new brand:

Ever heard of an MP3 Experiment? Think of it as a giant, updated version of the game "Simon Says" …all you need to participate is an MP3 player (iPod, etc.) and headphones. Here’s how it works: anyone visiting spreadthewords.ca can download an MP3 file onto their portable MP3 player. On the day of the experiment (without listening to the MP3 file ahead of time), participants gather at a prescribed public location and at a pre-determined time all push play. Hilarity ensues as participants carry out ridiculous, coordinated instructions delivered to their headphones via an omnipotent narrator and everyone else tries to figure out what the heck is going on.

EPL MP3 ExperimentEPL MP3 Experiment

It was actually lots of fun – I’m glad I was able to participate! I really love that EPL incorporated some learning into the experiment too, talking about some of the buildings around the square, our sister cities, and more. Here’s the video:

You can see more photos from the evening here. Stay tuned to epl.ca and @EPLdotCA for updates on the Spread the words campaign.

Edmonton Public Library: Spread the words.

Today the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) introduced its new brand, which includes a new logo, brand promise, and shared values. The rebranding is the result of more than six months of work, which included research, design, and some deep thought about what EPL is all about.

Why rebrand?

After a series of personnel changes throughout 2009, EPL found itself with a brand new communications team, led by Tina Thomas. Drawing on her experience in the private sector at companies like Nortel, Tina started to examine EPL’s branding. What she found was that although usage statistics were good, EPL wasn’t growing its user base, and it was stuck with the common misconception that books were the only offering. And although the different branches were nicely integrated behind the scenes, Tina and her team found that many people didn’t realize they were part of the same library.

The rebranding aims to increase EPL’s appeal, recognition, and profile in the community. It’s a single, consistent, and unifying brand identity.

Where to begin?

One of the most important steps in the rebranding process was the creation of a Shared Values Wheel. The core value, passionate about sharing, is in the centre of the wheel, and it is encircled by two rings with the rest of EPL’s values, like ideas champion, open, human, and unrivaled value. Tina told me that once they had figured out the wheel, everything else seemed to come together quite nicely.

The new brand!

Through research, EPL found that many people considered the old logo to be cold, boring, forgettable, and similar to clip art. The new logo better reflects the idea that EPL is about more than just books – “five simple bars can mean a great deal.” It’s modern, fun, and can be transformed in a variety of ways (as you’ll see below). I really like that it moves away from the very obvious book.

The brand promise, spread the words, embodies EPL’s values, which are centered around sharing; not just books, but also music, DVDs, ideas, etc.

EPL provides an exceptional service to Edmonton. It’s worth talking about and sharing. Spread the words is a call to action to this.

Starting tomorrow, you’ll see the new logo and branding everywhere. Sixty-five buses around the city will carry the new ads, and there will be a series of creative TV spots too. Even the library cards themselves will reflect the new branding, and there’s of course reusable tote bags, mugs, and all the usual things you’d expect. Here’s one of the commercials:

Perhaps the most important update will be to the website. In early May, it’ll be updated not only with the new branding, but with a modern look and dramatically improved navigation and layout. Built using Drupal, the new website will enable better integration with the EPL catalogue in the future. EPL worked with Donovan Creative on the rebranding (see their press release here).

Physical signage at the Stanley Milner library downtown will be changed right away. The rest of the branches will be changed as upgrades are required over time.

Launch events!

EPL is launching the new brand with, appropriately, a shared experience. Tomorrow at 6:30pm in Churchill Square, you’re invited to take part in the MP3 Experiment (on ShareEdmonton):

Ever heard of an MP3 Experiment? Think of it as a giant, updated version of the game "Simon Says" …all you need to participate is an MP3 player (iPod, etc.) and headphones. Here’s how it works: anyone visiting spreadthewords.ca can download an MP3 file onto their portable MP3 player. On the day of the experiment (without listening to the MP3 file ahead of time), participants gather at a prescribed public location and at a pre-determined time all push play. Hilarity ensues as participants carry out ridiculous, coordinated instructions delivered to their headphones via an omnipotent narrator and everyone else tries to figure out what the heck is going on.

It’s going to be a lot of fun! Head over to the website, download the MP3, and follow the instructions on the right side.

After the MP3 experiment, EPL is showing an audience participation version of The Princess Bride at the Stanley Milner library (on ShareEdmonton). The show starts at 7:45pm, and participants are encouraged to bring noisemakers, blowing bubbles, and bells, among other things!

There’s much more planned for the weeks ahead as well, including a membership drive and sticker campaign. Stay tuned to @EPLdotCA on Twitter for updates. And don’t miss Brittney’s excellent post on the Spread the Words campaign!

Congratulations to EPL on the new brand!

Resources

Podcast Spot: What would I have done differently?

podcast spot Last night I presented in the VenturePrize Seminar Series with James Matsuba of IdleTime. The seminars are meant as a primer for this year’s competitors on business plans, building a company, and pitching ideas to investors (and judges). When I attended the seminars back in 2006, I found the most useful part was getting to hear the experiences of other entrepreneurs.

For that reason, I have been more than happy to go back and share my own experiences from the competition and beyond. Last night I talked about the VenturePrize process and making it to the finals, and James talked about his experience last year in the student competition and gave his presentation from the finals too.

As a presenter, I think the most enjoyable part is the question and answer period. Both James and I answered a ton of questions last night, but one stuck with me. After I had explained that we were shutting Podcast Spot down, someone asked what I would have done differently.

I didn’t have to think about it for very long, probably because Dickson and I have talked through this a number of times. There’s a ton of things I might have done differently, but two things in particular:

  1. I would have avoided using the word “podcast” in the name of our service.
  2. I would have focused on sharing audio and video for a specific niche.

I personally have nothing against the word podcast. I don’t think we hitched our wagon to the wrong horse or anything, because the underlying technology is sound and in use by millions of people around the world. The word itself has always been confusing and misleading, however. I’ve written many times that podcasting is just a word, but unfortunately most people don’t see it that way.

I also think it would have been a good idea to target our service to a specific group of people. As a service for anyone and everyone to share audio and video, we were a little too much like a YouTube clone (even though our feature set was quite a bit different). I think we could have executed more effectively with a smaller target customer base.

The follow-up question is, of course, why didn’t we do those two things? That question is much more difficult to answer!

Windows 7 will be called…Windows 7

windows logo Microsoft announced yesterday that the next version of Windows will go by its codename when it is released, a first for the operating system. The successor to Windows Vista will be called simply, Windows 7:

Over the years, we have taken different approaches to naming Windows. We’ve used version numbers like Windows 3.11, or dates like Windows 98, or “aspirational” monikers like Windows XP or Windows Vista. And since we do not ship new versions of Windows every year, using a date did not make sense. Likewise, coming up with an all-new “aspirational” name does not do justice to what we are trying to achieve, which is to stay firmly rooted in our aspirations for Windows Vista, while evolving and refining the substantial investments in platform technology in Windows Vista into the next generation of Windows.

Even though I’m somewhat surprised by the decision, I think it’s a good one.

Most people call Windows XP just “XP” and Windows Vista just “Vista”. By the time Windows 7 comes out, it will have been ten years since we’ve had a version with a common moniker that includes the name “Windows” (of course, that would be Windows 2000). I suppose it’s possible that people may refer to it as just “Seven”, but I think “Windows 7” will be used more commonly. That’ll be good for the overall brand.

I also like the idea of evolving and refining Windows Vista, though it’s less clear how consumers will make that connection based on the name alone (I doubt most people think of Windows Vista as version 6). I think Windows 7 strikes a nice balance between “Windows Vienna” (or whatever other aspirational name was thrown around) and “Windows Vista R2”.

I wonder if this is a new trend for Microsoft? They also just released Silverlight 2 (not Silverlight 2.0). Maybe the next release of Office will be called Office 14 (they are skipping 13 due to superstition).

A version number is simple and easy-to-understand. It’s immediately clear that 7 came after 6. And removing the minor version (7.0) makes it less geeky. It also divorces the software from a yearly release cycle, which means Microsoft can focus on quality before making a new release.

I hope this decision is a sign of things to come for Windows 7. Simple and effective.

I'm sad to see CNET's yellow and green go

cnet Earlier this week, Dan Farber posted a preview of CNET’s new, improved look. The main changes are to the logo (the pipe between the “c” and “net” is now gone, as you can see to the right) and the color scheme (yellow and green have been replaced with red, black, and grey). I’ll admit that I like the new design, because it is cleaner and simpler. At the same time however, a part of my own personal web history is dying along with the yellow and green.

When I was in junior high (grade seven if I remember correctly), living in Inuvik, NT, I had a summer job at the Inuvik Centennial Library. Part of my job was to scan in old yearbooks and other volumes so that they could be viewed (and presumably searched) using a computer. The other part of my job was to assist library patrons in using the computers and the web (this was around 1996, so the web was still new to most people). Both of these jobs meant that I had a lot of free time, either waiting for the slower scanner to do its thing, or waiting for people to need assistance. To pass the time I would read whatever technology news I could find online. In 1996, that meant CNET’s News.com.

Every morning, I was greeted by the yellow and green coloring of CNET’s properties. My passion (or addiction) for following tech news started at that library, reading News.com. I daresay I became quite fond of the yellow and green!

Over the years I have visited News.com less frequently, of course, due to the appearance of blogs like TechCrunch and aggregators like Techmeme and FriendFeed. Occasionally I’ll still check it out, but usually I find myself clicking through from Techmeme. News.com is no longer the destination for me.

For a trip down memory lane, check out the Wayback Machine. The version of News.com from December 22, 1996 is particularly trippy!

So long, CNET yellow and green, and thanks for all the fish.

Edmonton International Airport launches new brand

eia - we'll move you The Edmonton International Airport’s (EIA) new “we’ll move you” brand actually launched earlier this month on May 8th, but I didn’t see a commercial for it until this week. I haven’t had to fly anywhere either, so I’m not sure if the new brand is prominently displayed at the airport itself or not.

The new brand is meant to bring awareness to the fact that EIA is growing:

The new brand and airport expansion program reflect EIA’s shift from a small, regional airport to a medium-sized international airport serving Northwestern Canada. EIA is Canada’s fastest-growing major airport for two years in a row and now serves over six million passengers annually, a nearly 50 per cent increase in just three years.

The “we’ll move you” philosophy also underpins the $1.1-billion expansion program and current initiatives to incorporate industry-leading technologies, including common-use, self-serve check-in kiosks, Pay & Go parking stations, the expedited customs clearance program NEXUS and a host of others.

The expansion is expected to be completely by 2012 and should enable EIA to service nine million passengers annually. A key aspect to the expansion is a brand new control tower. Our airport is finally getting some food outlets too, including another Tim Horton’s and two Starbucks.

In addition to the branding, they’ve got a new URL: http://www.flyeia.com. It simply redirects to http://www.edmontonairports.com. Reminds me of Edmonton Transit’s http://www.takeets.com address, which I find far easier to remember than anything else.

I like the new logo and colors. Fresh and bright, the new design definitely makes EIA feel more modern than the old navy blue and red.

You can learn more about the changes happening at EIA here.

Windows Live Writer 2008

Post Image I just downloaded and installed the latest update to my blogging tool of choice – Windows Live Writer. This version is the first to drop the "beta" moniker, but I don’t like the new name. I was kind of hoping that Microsoft could avoid the "year names" with their Windows Live products.

MSN Messenger and Windows Live Messenger have never used the year in release names, and I hope it stays that way. If we can’t have more creative names, then I’m happy with a version number. A version number conveys the same information as a year (which release is newer) while at the same time not sounding out of date the following year (when it may still be the latest release).

I know some people don’t like it, but Apple’s use of codenames in the actual marketing for OS X is pretty cool. Anil’s point is good – the name "Leopard" should appear in the actual product itself. Still, "Leopard" is much more creative than "10.5". Of course, version numbers shouldn’t disappear, as they do serve a useful function.

Separating the product name from the release name could do wonders for Microsoft’s notoriously horrible product/release names. The product is "Windows Live Writer" or "Office", the release could be so much more than "2008" or "2007". They’ve started to do this with consumer editions of Windows it seems, with XP followed by Vista. Why not for other products?

Read: Writer Zone

How Google names products

Post ImageYesterday Google announced that they have renamed Froogle to Google Product Search. The change is explained on the official Google Blog:

Froogle offers a lot of great functionality and has helped many users find things to buy over the years, but the name caused confusion for some because it doesn’t clearly describe what the product does.

I don’t think that’s why they renamed it. I think Owen Thomas is right to point out that Google’s marketing is run by engineers. Froogle was/is simply a subset of search in general, so why not name it as such?

Think about it. They have Google, Google Image Search, Google Book Search, and Google Blog Search, so why not Google Product Search?

You could almost use the following rule for the way Google names products:

Is search the core feature of this product?
If yes then call it Google _____ Search
If no then call it Google _____

Obviously not all Google products fit into this rule, but most do.

Read: Google Blog

Microsoft totally sucks at product names

Post ImageI’ve said it here before, and I’m sure you’ve read it elsewhere, but it needs to be said again: Microsoft completely and totally sucks at naming their products. Possibly the only names from the last year that are really good (IMHO) are Xbox 360 and Windows Vista. Let’s take a look at what I mean.

On Friday, Microsoft announced the official names for IE7:

For Windows XP: “Windows Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP”
For Windows Vista: “Windows Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Vista”

Now let’s compare that to a product (technically a feature I guess) that Apple announced yesterday:

You back up your system regularly, right? Well, you would. If you had a better way to do it. With Mac OS X Leopard and Time Machine, not only can you back up and preserve everything on your Mac — including priceless digital photos, music, movies, and documents — without lifting a finger, you can go back in time to recover anything you’ve ever backed up.

A backup product named “Time Machine”. You can bet if Microsoft had named the product, it would have been something like “Windows Data Backup Manager” and there would have been a “Premium Edition” and a “Home Edition”, at least. “Time Machine” is simple, inviting, and yet still makes sense as the name of a backup product!

This makes two things on my list of people Microsoft should hire: a professional demo person (like Steve Jobs) and a professional product namer.