9 March 2012

Case Study: Woolworths Supermarket's new App - thinking distributed

Note, for UK readers: Australian Woolworths isn't quite the same as the now closed UK Store of the same name. Rather than a purveyor of cheap crap, its a supermarket and one that heads more towards quality then affordability (not that its expensive, you understand), but its Veg is better than any of the supermarkets that I've found in my 8 weeks of being here.

Woolies recently launched their new smart phone ap, and in doing so revealed their understanding of the post-internet consumer and demonstrate their ability to re-imagine their business not just as a supermarket but as a key part of the eating experience, as a platform upon which meals are built.

Check out the promo video before I share some thoughts...

The app is built around the promise of you doing your shopping when you want, and about making it easier for you to interact with their physical stores should you opt to go into them. Or, if thinking about things from the perspective of Jeff Jarvis' rules outline in his book What Would Google Do, then they are seeking to tick off the following boxes:
- Think Distributed (find ways to go to your customers, rather than make them come to you)
- Get out the way (make things as simple for customers as possible)
- Speed is Key (the internet and Google search has made customers want things NOW!)

They understand that, for example, after finishing work you might be sat on the tram, thinking about dinner. You can use this journey time to choose a recipe for dinner and create an aisle based list for your local store so you can hop of the tram, quickly dash in, grab your stuff and go home and cook it. Woolies are aiming to save you time, make your life easier. Or they understand that you aren't always at home on the computer when you want to order your shopping online. You might want to build your shopping list over 5 days as you use things, plan events, run out of things or just have ideas. Its about providing organization to the process of food shopping, to make it easier for you, the individual, to buy what you want to eat.

Why is this interesting?
Because, in Jarvis' words, "atoms are a drag". Because the internet has changed the way people interact and behave, and even think, and whilst online business have been quick to adapt to this and serve the Customer 2.0, the physical world is lacking. Because atoms, or "stuff" gets in the way. Things like stock cost, buildings, rent, staff, inventory, waste, warehousing, dead stock and many more. The lessons from the digital world have to filter into the physical world for it to keep up, and for shoppers to continue to use physical stores. There is no escaping it. But figuring out how to do it is hard. Not least because most physical stores and businesses are run by the old generation, brought up before the internet revolution and as such are not aware of the changing mindset of the people they sell to, even if they themselves have changed the way they shop.

Ultimately I write this post to commend Woolworths, for stepping out to embrace the consumer 2.0. Its a good sign, that physical stores can do things to become more internet friendly and more usable, less self centred.

However this app isn't perfect.
Woolworths can, and should, go further. Let customers upload their recipes to the system and review others. Make the app, and their site (which should link to it in the future if they are smart and the FAQ on their site is to be believed) into a network for people to share, to become a community and discuss, rate,  review and suggest recipes people could and should cook. Let this app become a resource and a platform, upon which other can build their business model. Let professional chefs upload content to inspire, let people build up knowledge for the collective good of everybody. Woolworths would be the bedrock of a national community of food lovers. Food is about conversation, thats what you do when you share dinner with friends or family; Woolworths should recognise this and turn their distributed platform for sales into a network for a mass of niches. It would build their brand, they would undoubtedly grow sales, but it could also open up new avenues for generating revenue further down the line, such as targeted advertising.

If theis is a first step its huge. The next ones aren't so big, there is no reason Woolworths (and others) shouldn't take it. There are huge rewards to reap. 

4 March 2012

New Look

I'm pleased to say I've (finally) updated the look of this here blog. Less Lo-Fi-Teenage scribble, more, um, simple....

...now settled in my new Home of Fitzroy, Melbourne, Oz I will be getting back to updating this blog and writing in general more frequently. So stay tuned. 

2 March 2012

Balance: The rise of nature in the post-internet age.

The love of technology in the young, western, post-“net” generation is an obvious observation. We, those brought up in the World 2.0 (the world after the spread of the internet, where Google rather than government dominates public thought), readily accept and, to some extent demand technology. How many people under 30 own some form of smart phone, a tablet, have a Facebook account, use Google maps to locate things, turn to Wikipedia for insight into unfamiliar topics and use internet search to empower their lives? Most people, probably. We readily accept a newly public life, a life of managing abundance, of ever growing freedom. Yet never has nature been so “on trend”. Whether its uber cool out-doors company Poler or the rise in cycling obviously exemplified by blogs such as Prolly or the “outdoorsy” feel to contemporary men’s fashion as with the current collection at Present in London or on musicians cover art such as emerging talent Visions of Trees we romanticise and fantasise about nature.


Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Or Zen, or whatever you want to call it, the notion of balance has never before been so easily visually recognisable. The growth in technological advancements, and the hierarchical equalization between the physical and the virtual world has brought about an unexpected yurning for the natural, for the green.

The future landscape depicted in pre-internet sci-fi such as Moonbase Alpha in space 1999 – pictured above – aren’t futures we want to inhabit. The drive for carbon neutral companies and organic produce would suggest that our future should be green. The better that cameras and CGI gets the more we want to watch David Attenborough talk about the Natural World. Viewership and downloads of programmes like the recent Frozen Planet are huge. The young and the trendy stay home from bars to indulge in luscious TV shows (usually watched online) about animals and plants. It fascinates us, natural beauty. The more we are able to leave nature behind the more we want to save it. We want to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and explore Alaska. The internet, and mobile devises that utilise it, enable us to remain connected to everything from nearly anywhere. That adventure you dreamed of is no longer impossible. Technology will get you there, help you navigate and survive, it will save if you if in trouble and still keep you up to date with the special offers of the supermarket closest your home-town. The internet has flattened cultural differences, we want to see the things that we don’t have close to home, we want to see the wild, because it is different, because our international friends and colleagues make us curious about things that aren’t on our doorstep, that the internet cannot adequately manifest for us.

There is another possible reason too. With the internet making social relations easier and fairer, making shopping simpler and cheaper, making music easily accessible and providing more knowledge then a library, the real world of 20 years ago - dominated by physical spaces - is becoming dull. When you can discover anything from your armchair, even from your phone, the joys of cities could be diminishing. Why go to a museum when you can see and learn more about the ancient world from Wikipedia. Why go to the mall when you can go on Google and find what you want in less time and at a lower price and have it delivered to your door? What the internet can’t offer is the feel of the wind or smell of rain on hot concrete. Nature is in some ways everything Technology isn’t. Its wild, and we love it….

3 December 2011

I'm back.

This blog has been somewhat neglected recently, what with its last post being nearly 9 months ago. In these nine months I met “the one” and watched as a I realised everything was now different. Better, obviously, but I mean more that my outlook on, and understanding of, the world has shifted.
In this time my professional life has also evolved. I’ve become increasing exposed to “code” through working with databases to make sense of information. In essence I have returned to the work I made at University with Kiki Claxton, but rather than working with people I have been working with text and numbers – in essence both un-encoded ‘bits’ of data in the modern computer age.
Its taken this long to feel that I have something to say again, enough jumped up certainty to think I could comment on something again. Between these two developments my understanding has shifted but my core interests have remained, namely the connection between Society, Digital Technology, the Young the Now and the Next
I have in this time become more political then ever before but yet with a complete detachment from the political processes. I am, like much of my contemporaries driven by a desire to make the world better. However unlike the “sit down brigade” of recidivists I am full of optimism. What I think few realise is the change is happening, you just have to look away from government to see it.
In the coming weeks I hope to update this blog more regularly like before, and share my thoughts and opinions on the NOW, looking initially at how I feel the recidivist young not only have it wrong, but are distracting some of the most tenacious and capable of the young and the future.  

28 March 2011

The Rise of the Trans-Disciplinary Cultural producer

Postmodernism died, and now we exist in a twilight that is both almost indistinguishable from Postmodern forms and ideologies and simultaneously non-relativistic, driven by moral conceptions of right. Perhaps this new cultural phenomenon is too young to accurately characterise in any full sense; as Bourriaud proved with his book Altermodern, yet there are certain aspects of this new cultural regime that are transparent and clear.

27 March 2011

Spin off

I've decided to launch a second blog for pictures. Of late I've been posting more and more on here, and its begun to clutter things and obscure other things. Plus I like images alot at the moment, and so felt the need to collate them, publicly.

Click the picture below to head over to the picture site....

23 March 2011

Dachau Leisure Centre: Teaser

I am currently in the process of creating a book. I guess its a bit of an art book, just without art in it. Heres a bit about it:

Things have always changed in to other things. However it wasn’t until the eighties that this notion became ideology. The supposed relativism of the postmodern age instead masked a definitive position on culture. It was this latent paradox that ultimately spelt the death of the movement. However in its wake a new  cultural form has come to light, one that holds similar values of recycling and transformation at its core and all expressed through trans-local and trans-disciplinary enquiry; whats missing is any sense of “right” outside of a context of “cool”.

This entity is intended to exist as a non-narrative exploration of this question of the change of use of objects and ideas in the contemporary moment; to question how culture interacts with time, and how we haunt our own existence through temporally non-delineated visions of the past and future simultaneously.

This object is intended to act like a bad group exhibition; A collection of works in tenuous and uncategorised connection to one another attempt to plot an understanding of something too big to deal with in an encompassing way. It will enact what it intends to critique and ultimately place emphasis on your subjectivity to accumulate meaning.

8 March 2011

Todays question.

If one is totaly convinced this reality will presently be superceeded by a new and more brilliant one, than how does one reconcile themselves to existing within this reality?

4 March 2011

Fuck you O2 broadband.

So I know I haven't posted on here much lately, its not that I have wondered off into another land. I'm writing a killer piece, but its taking for ever. So instead I thought I'd reward your readership with a pointless account of O2 (whom provide my mediocre internet service) who recently told me they were putting up their prices. I wasn't very happy, so I wrote them an email, which they didn't reply to, despite saying they reply to all emails in 8 days (its been 14). Heres what I sent, you can read it if you care.

"To whom it may concern,

I am writing to you with regard to en email I received yesterday announcing the rise of your broadband packages because “Internet use has changed dramatically over the last few years and this is likely to continue.” By this “change” do you mean that the cost of bandwidth is continuing to fall exponentially, and that bandwidth is the most exciting pricing decrease in all technological advancement at the moment (Chris Anderson, “Free, the future of a radical price”). Or do you mean that your customer base has expanded so that in all likely hood you are receiving greater discounts from the Tier 1 ISPs?
Maybe I’m a retard, but I can’t find a single reason why you would need to raise the price at all. Even if internet usage from individual users was doubling every year that would only mean prices have to stay the same – which maybe explains why you don’t halve your prices every year.

In any case the lack of transparency or stated reasons for your price rise, along with the near certainty that this is just a profit growing exercise makes me feel I am going to have to begin to look for a new supplier, and switch my ISP – despite the fact that until now everything has been pretty rosey with your service. And if this means taking my mobile phone plan to someone else as well then so be it.

How could you rectify this?
How about treating your customers with a little bit of respect, and  thinking they may have read one or two books or a blog or two in their life, and palming us off with price rises based on pathetic vague statements that actually say nothing is frankly insulting. 

Best wishes and I hope that your opaque business practise continues to serve you super well in the future,


I know, what a pretentious fuck wit. I was kind of hoping to be told I was wrong. No such luck.