The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: London Local, Chris Bradley — September 29, 2012

Interview: London Local, Chris Bradley

This week, community Ambassador Keith McGuinness interviewed Chris Bradley of Publicate.

Name: Chris Bradley
Website: Publicate
Twitter: @Publicate

To start with, can you tell us a bit about your background? 

My first step into digital was with my degree which was product design with engineering and multimedia at Liverpool. After that I kind of took a different path and actually got myself a job in Amsterdam working as a BDM for a large Taiwanese LCD manufacturer. It was a huge company, churning out over 200 million LCD panels a year. I started off working for them on the industrial product range in Europe but after a year or two I focused on the emerging market of Public Information Displays i.e. things like the screens in airports and on the London underground, which was great because I got solid insight into the world of marketing from a big business point of view and experience with developing business strategy in an emerging industry. So I was working in Amsterdam for about four years, before they asked me to go out to their HQ in Taiwan and look at things on a global scale, where I spent the last two years, before I got the idea for and started Publicate.

How did you come up with the idea for Publicate?

The idea for Publicate actually came about with me trying to promote myself in my career through content and what I was finding was that my “message” was fragmented by media type, so videos would be on Youtube, slide decks on Slideshare and so on. So that got me thinking about marketing and how it’s all about telling a story, and that we have all these awesome tools that make it easy to get any kind of media online so why isn’t there somewhere that you can combine all of this media, regardless of its type, into a more relevant and more engaging source of information, and that’s how it got started.

And how does Publicate work? 

The idea behind Publicate is to make it easy to organize and promote your content online. The platform is built around a simple CMS through which you can upload your own content, or collect it from anywhere on the web, in any media format and as your doing so you can also organize the content into relevant collections. So for example, let’s say I have a passion for cooking so I do a little bit of food blogging and I spend time finding cool recipes and food stuff online. What I could do with Publicate is organize all of that content into a more visual and engaging experience for viewers. So I could have a collection called “Awesome Recipes” and within that I could have a collection of “Duck Recipes” and of “The Best British Recipes”, then within each are any number of relevant media, so for “The Best British Recipes” collection I could have content on Heston’s take on cooking the perfect roast dinner– a video of me cooking it, a video of him cooking it, some pictures of what my attempt looks like, some other peoples pictures, the ingredient and preparation list etc.

So the idea is that the value of an individual piece of content is increased when it is combined with other relevant pieces of content and we don’t think that should be limited by type of media.

And obviously all of this is built around social features so the community can engage with your content, share it, comment on it, rate it and also collect it into their own Collections.

Can you give us a sneak preview into what else you’ve got planned for the site? 

For us the focus is helping people to get the most out of content online, content they already have, content they are creating, how they organize it, how they promote it, how they discover it, and ultimately what they can understand from all that in order to improve future content.

On specifics though, we want to get more integrated with the content people are already creating and sharing in their lives right now, so we are looking at creating a personal online library where all of your content automatically collates from various sources as and when you share it and can then be organized and reused later on.

Something else we are looking into is the discovery experience on the site and how we can use the human element of organization to provide a more relevant and contextual discovery path.

But to be honest right now we want to learn more from how the community uses the product and where they see the value so that we can evolve the direction accordingly.

Content curation is still really new, and we feel Publicate is a great tool to make the most out of the tactic from what we understand so far but we are really looking forward to evolving the platform as the community and tactic evolve too.

Who is Publicate for? 

Publicate is for people who have a passion that they want to share in a more focused and engaging way or a passion they want to find good and relevant content around.

So right now we see three main issues getting in the way of people doing both of these better:

  • Content is fragmented by media type
  • The internet is in content overload
  • Finding quality, relevant information is time consuming

So we’ve developed the product as it is now to start addressing these issues and our long term goal is to continually improve the experience from both a sharing and consuming point of view.

So for instance, on content overload, collections enable the community to define the relevance and value of content by combining it with other relevant and valuable information which in turn makes the discovery more focused and topic driven whilst at the same time increasing the chance of discovering quality information as it’s a human process. We’ve also taken the quality aspect a step further and made it possible for the community to rate the content which influences the amount of display space that a piece of content occupies so at a glance the community can quickly discern what the community sees as quality information, something we will be able to improve and refine more and more over time.

Would it be fair to say that Publicate is similar to Pinterest but encompassing a wider range of media? 

I think that is a good explanation to get a quick understanding of the type of platform that Publicate is but actually there are several core functions aside from just the media range that make a big difference.

The first is being able to view an entire collection content as a blog roll and because it can encompass all media types, all of the content within the collection can be viewed and engaged with from a single click, making it a simpler and more informative experience for the viewer.

Another is the level of organization possible, by being able to add a collection into a collection the community has endless organization capability, making it easy to organize the web in a very visual way as well as gaining a more detailed level of relevance and context around each piece of content.

How can the business community make use of Publicate? 

The focus of Publicate is all about content, we’ve designed the platform to put content centre stage, in the way its displayed, how the community can engage with it and how value can be added to it by combining media into relevant collections.

So for businesses and brands this is a very powerful social marketing tool. First and foremost it is a very visual and engaging way to tell their story, allowing them to easily pull together any number and type of media into a single shareable message. It also makes it easy for brands to empower the community by including user generated content into their collections whilst also offering a way for brands to help customers understand more about their products and services by the way the content is organized on the platform.

Another valuable aspect will be the understanding of how the customer organizes and relates the brands content with their own, giving detailed insight into first hand market perception and relevance.

And of course, last but not least is the increased visibility and SEO as the community engages, shares and collects their content.

What I am personally looking forward to seeing from brands is the creative ways in which they will be able to tell their stories and engage the community.

Publicate is a great example of how content curation is becoming increasingly popular, how do you see this practice evolving in the future? 

I think content curation is the evolution of the combination of human’s inherent need to organize and make sense of the world, and the Internet’s amazing ability to connect everyone and everything.

Organizing and making sense of the world is all about making connections i.e. this is connected to this because of this, which is also connected to that, which is relevant to this and so on. The Internet is the best resource for information on the planet so Google has spent 14 years developing an amazing secret sauce algorithm that works out what is relevant to what based on what. The human brain on the other hand has been honing its skills on what is relevant to what for over 200,000 years and Google knows this so since social media has completely taken over our lives, Google has seen that to make its search more relevant and more accurate it needs to tie the results to a human element which is why social interactions now carry weight. Content curation adds a further step to this and actually puts a very manual and very human layer onto organizing the web and by allowing people to actively collect and group information and content, we can create a much more accurate and human map of relevance.

So in the future I would see that content curation, just as social media is doing now, will dramatically impact the way in which we discover information online and that the path of discovery will be influenced by all three elements of algorithm, social media and content curation but as it evolves further the weighting will shift from the algorithm, more on to social media and content curation.

You’re moving to London to expand the business, how important is it to be based here for a digital entrepreneur?

Networking! When I started Publicate I was living in Taiwan, and at the time all the decisions were cost focused so moving in with the folks in North Wales was the logical choice but you don’t realise just how much of difference it makes being around people in your sector and being able to bounce ideas, get opinions and join the conversation.

It’s such a cliché but business really is all about who you know and the relationships you build. Tech is making long distance relationships easier but nothing beats face to face and actually getting to know people on a personal level.

So for me it’s a no brainer, the London tech scene is booming and there is a lot Britain is already doing and can show the world, I just know I need to be a part of that.

Do you have any advice for aspiring digital entrepreneurs reading this? 

The best piece of advice I was ever given was also the simplest. I was at SXSW this year, chatting to Michael Schneider, CEO of Mobile Roadie, and I actually asked him, “what’s the one thing you would advise to someone starting out” and he said – “Just don’t give up”. That really resonated with me because it was at a time when I was the only one in the company, the product development was being outsourced and we had just got a bit of visibility which flopped because we weren’t ready. I was really struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel but that piece of advice just simplified things for me.

Everyday there are 30 things you need to do that don’t get done but by just focusing on putting your all into everything you do, you find the way forward. And that doesn’t mean steaming ahead on bad decisions because all you need to do is not give up, it’s about maintaining the relentless drive and passion you need in order to find the right path and make the right decisions and by not losing that drive you’ll get there in the end.  After all business is the evolution of an idea into something that people want to pay you money for, it’s not giving up that gets you through the evolution.

About our Ambassador: Keith McGuinness runs digital agency 1Four Media. Connect with him on Twitter @1FourMedia.

Event Review: Ignite Ubelly — September 14, 2012

Event Review: Ignite Ubelly

When: Thursday 30th August
Where: Ballyhoo, New Oxford
Organised by: Ubelly

Skimming through the latest edition of The Fetch London, an event called Ignite Underbelly caught my attention. Not sure why as it isn’t immediately clear what type of event it is.

But I’m really pleased that I took the time to check it out.

Ignite is a unique presenting style that gives each presenter the chance to speak about something they are passionate about for 5 minutes. However they must do so with the aid of exactly twenty slides and spend only 15 seconds speaking about each slide.

The event was run by the team at Ubelly, the unofficial official Microsoft blog (as they describe it) for web developers. As you might expect, the presentations were mostly tech-related but covered an eclectic range of topics

A brief overview of each presentation follows. However I couldn’t possibly do the presenters justice in the space of a couple of lines so I’ve included links to clips of each presentation (click on the title).

1) Listening to Data

Peter Gregson spoke about The Listening Machine, a project that he worked on for the BBC that turns live data sets into music. Peter’s aim was to compose the first piece of music created purely from online data.

2) Code Club

Adam Onishi told us about Code Club, a voluntary initiative that is introducing coding to the school curriculum. They have already set up 196 clubs in the UK but are aiming for 500 (and need your help).

3) Crochet Stitches and Pixel Density

Ruth John explored the parallels between two of her passions, crochet and design and how these parallels can be used to enhance the use of pixels in the design process, such as testing how images appear on a range of different devices.

4) What happens when people share

Peter Sigrist questioned if social media really matters and whether we are taking advantage of it. He discussed the impact that Facebook, Twitter et al have made when it comes to sharing information such as during the Arab Spring.

5) Antifragile web systems

Andy Bell explored the concept of antifragility and how it can be applied to the web. He used examples such as Youtube and Twitter and discusses how they have been adapted from their original purpose.

6) Picture writing

Peter Gasston spoke about comics as a medium and the flexibility that they offer, focusing especially on the use of speech bubbles and the grid system employed by artists to structure the story.

7) Inspiration

Kat Thompson quite simply took us through what inspires her. Starting off with her parents’ positive influence, Kat goes on to discuss how inspiration is subjective and how it has impacted her career as a designer.

8) Two Laws, One Thermometer

Matt Ballantine bemoaned the fact that the corporate practice of classification by ‘traffic lights’ has seeped into our everyday lives. He argued that the real world is more complicated than this and it requires more fluidity.

There were no winners this time but all the presenters deserve a lot of credit for taking part. It’s hard enough to present to a room full of strangers but having to stick to Ignite’s strict guidelines would be enough to make the bravest of us break out into a cold sweat.

So, summing up, what did you miss? A really original event that gave us an insight into some very interesting people and the things that they are passionate about.

For information about Ubelly’s upcoming events, follow them @ubelly.

About our Ambassador: Keith McGuinness runs digital agency 1Four Media. Connect with him on Twitter @1FourMedia.

Interview: London Local, Peter Nixey — August 12, 2012

Interview: London Local, Peter Nixey

This week our Community Ambassador, Keith McGuinness interviews Peter Nixey to find out  about Pingpanel and what it means to be a digital entrepreneur.


Name: Peter Nixey
Website: Pingpanel
Twitter: @peternixey

To start with, would you mind telling us a bit about your background?

I was a physicist at university then did a couple of years research in computer vision before starting a web development company. I then founded Clickpass in 2007 which was funded by YCombinator and which I subsequently sold to 18months later. After a couple of years with Yola I took a year out to learn Rails and then started developing Pingpanel.

What do you enjoy most about being a digital entrepreneur?

You have incredible power to solve problems without any constraints. The only thing that holds you back is time and knowledge and once you’ve got those you can pretty much build whatever you want. Working in digital affords you a democratised toolset that engineers of other ages could only ever dream of. Programming attracts some awesome characters and I love working with good people, our team is awesome.

So how does Pingpanel work?

Pingpanel allows a company to integrate an “Ask an expert” Q&A section into their website. It’s skinned to look exactly like the client’s site and allows them to add a whole new service to their visitors. For companies with a natural set of experts (e.g. a marketplace) it’s also a great way to build community among their vendors, add a cool service for their users and generate a tonne of SEO.

How did you come up with the idea for Pingpanel?

After the Japanese Tsunami I was amazed that there was no authoritative reference for what was going to happen to Fukishima – would it melt down or could it explode? Even the press didn’t know and were perpetually publishing conflicting reports. I thought it would be amazing if there were a way to field your questions to a group of top nuclear physicists at a university and so went away and built Pingpanel.

What type of users are you targeting?

We’re a B2B service and are targeting companies who operate marketplaces of experts. Our first client for example is Rated People.

How does Pingpanel differ from established Q&A resources such as Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn?

We’re a tool for existing websites to add Q&A functionality. We’re not looking to build a central Q&A hub. We’re to Yahoo Answers what is to eHarmony.

How can the business community make use of Pingpanel?

It’s great for internet retailers or lead generators who have to convert hesitant consumers. Many things on the web come with what you need to know – get a camera and you can read 100 user reviews. However, if you want to find a vet or a mechanic and you’re looking through a directory of mechanics in your Sheffield it’s considerably harder.

Pingpanel is not a central directory for all mechanics but a very powerful tool for someone running such a directory to let their mechanics to answer questions about whether black smoke means the visitor needs to get to a garage immediately or only after they get back from the Lake District.

Have you got any other projects in the pipeline that you can share with us?

We’re looking at how we can make Pingpanel work inside a company as a tool for knowledge management. We’d like to help people get the right answers from the right person within a corporate environment.

How do you see the digital economy evolving over the next 5 years?

I think Dave McClure is right  when he says that the internet wants to be paid on Friday like the rest of the world. We’re going to see a continued shift towards revenue models that are subscription and transaction driven rather than ad-driven. There’s probably a backlash looming though as consumers suddenly realise they’re paying $150/month in subscription software to Dropbox, Spotify, Apple and the like. It’ll be interesting to see where the spend settles out though.

Finally, do you have any advice for fellow digital entrepreneurs?

Get exposure to other entrepreneurs who are really doing well. Having spent time in both San Francisco and London one of the biggest weaknesses of entrepreneurs here is that they don’t know enough what success looks like and so they don’t know what to expect from themselves, where to chill out and where to focus. Also understand how, even in extreme uncertainty, planning and running the numbers still make you much, much more powerful. Understand conversion rates, industry comparables, attrition rates, clickthrough rates and everything you possibly can about the dynamics of your business.

About our Ambassador: Keith McGuinness is a freelance copywriter based in South West London. Connect with him on Twitter @mcginty312

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