Cleaning up the dustbin that my brain has become lately…

More on the “L-Frame” Jumble

The ongoing discussion on multiple zones and live feeds continues. David Weinfeld recently posted an interesting piece on the infamous “L-frame”, and featured a quote from yours truly that was gleaned from a comment I made weeks ago to a post on another site. My comment essentially argued that framing a live TV feed with an L-frame was more enhanced television than digital signage, even if you chose to use digital signage software to pull it off. Weinfeld seems to agree in principle, but then goes on to describe what he thought was engaging L-frame content he saw in a bar. As I encounter more approaches both as a technologist and as a consumer, I tend to side with the “less is more” camp that argues for a full screen approach to digital signage. But that is just my personal preference, and I don’t get too exercised about it when a customer or prospect gets all heated up about multiple zones. To be sure, there is a place within certain content strategies for tickers and even sidebars.

Sometimes it is interesting to look at what people are doing in “old school” media and advertising to get perspective and to learn. With that on my mind, I ran across an innovative and effective use of an L-frame in a static billboard. James Ready, a Canadian brewer, and its agency, Leo Burnett, launched an award winning billboard campaign this Spring. The video summary is here. They created an L-Frame on a billboard, with a James Ready bottle providing the vertical interest, and invited customers to provide content for the “main window”.

Needless to say, they were flooded with entries, and created a way for thousands of beer drinkers to connect with James Ready. It ended up being a great vehicle for user-generated content on a billboard campaign. Sort of like RMG/Danoo, but with lots of dead trees. The James Ready website is also creative, funky and brilliantly done. A tip of the hat, and a twist of the cap to both James Ready and Leo Burnett.

Rails Rumble

We made a decision a couple of years back to re-platform our NEOCAST Media Server application to Ruby on Rails. We went that way fairly early in the Ruby life cycle because we thought that it would provide a robust and easily extensible environment. We took a few shots from customers and competitors along the way who challenged the scalability of the platform, to no avail. As the Ruby world has grown, the tools and libraries have also grown beyond our hopes, and it has been everything we hoped for and more. And it has scaled extremely well. But enough about us.

This weekend marked the annual Rails Rumble, where teams across the country gather and have 48 hours to write and deploy a web-based application “using the awesome power of Ruby and Rails”. Teams are allowed to do design but no coding before the contest, and the event organizers use a variety of tools to ensure that the code is developed on the fly. We had RDM’ers on two Tampa-based teams who came up with a couple of pretty nice apps, while reportedly bagging a significant amount of sleep during the process. Here is one: Omnominator, which helps solve the age old problem of “where do we go for lunch?” And here is the other: GetThinkin!, which provides a platform for brainstorming and collaboration with real time tallying of results. Judging is going on this week, and Omnominator is getting some early raves from independent sources. A lot of the other applications are extremely cool as well, and you can access them from the Rails Rumble site. As a non-developer who supported the instincts of the developers to use the platform, I observe two things. First, that Ruby on Rails supports rapid application development quite nicely, indeed; and second, that there are some really talented people who have hitched their wagon to Ruby. I’m good with that.

Vendor Stumbles a Sign of the Times

Finally, while I do not take any pleasure in reporting it, there are signs of some desperation out there in the solution space. One vendor has employed 12 different Twitter IDs to spam-tweet, among other things, a drawing to get a single free digital signage “system”. Why have a drawing? Just offer a no-cost limited time test. Associating the word “free” with your product can turn out to be a marketing ploy that backfires. Another vendor, in the SaaS space, has taken to calling around to customers of competitors and offering a monthly SaaS fee that does not allow for profitable operation (trust me on the math). Sort of a strategy statement that says, “We lose money on every deal, but make up for it on volume”. The fat lady is warming up her pipes for those folks.

These are more signs that the consolidation is upon us. We’ve already seen it start on the network side, where mergers are easier to pull off. On the solution side, mergers will be a lot tougher to execute due to the inefficiency of managing multiple code bases, and the difficulty of transitioning to a single base. As such, the weak are more likely to simply disappear than to be absorbed by competitors. It is classic industry life cycle progression, accelerated in part by the weak economy. Not pleasant, but not unexpected. The consolidation on both sides seems to be starting as the acceptance and absorption of digital signage is exploding. This would portend a very different playing field a year from now.