Archive for the ‘Project Redstripe’ Category

Site design is the new editorial

May 1, 2007

Just came across a nice little piece on why the comments you see on Slashdot are generally of a higher standard than the one’s on Digg. As your comments are now your content it shows nicely how site design and moderating systems are the new editorial.

Atthe base the problem is that Digg’s moderation system makes it easier for bad comments to show up, as they have to be voted down five times to disappear. Most people can’t be bothered to vote down one lame comment in a sea of lame comments, abbreviations and insults, that rarely happens.

However, at Slashdot the set up is different. Your comment can be hidden more easily, therefore you’ll put more effort into it, as “OMG this is lAme!!!!!11111!!!1111!” will not get shown. By creating the right incentive system for users, you will increase the quality of the content they provide. Maybe pay them. (via 25HoursADay).

– I do realise I have been away from this blog for a while, without so much as an explanation. I quite like it like that, as though Lord Lucan just wandered back into his kitchen one day and asked for a cup of tea. Needless to say we’ve been very busy and PRS is getting extremely exciting.


Project Red Stripe seeks ideas

March 9, 2007

Today we’re going live with our idea gathering process. This is where we throw open the doors to everyone to contribute ideas. Asking the question : what would you like to see The Economist Group doing online? We’re ready to do anything that rocks, and I’m sure there are a lot of creative people who would like to see that happen. I’m sure there are a lot of folk that would like to give advice on how this big old group could change. This is the opportunity to do it.

We’ve written a brief here, which sketches out what we sort of idea we’d like. It’s great, but I’d like to have my own go at it, for a more personal touch.


Tom’s Manifesto

The Economist Group is ready to do amazing things. They’ve set up Project Redstripe to dream impossible dreams on the web. We’ve got the chance to build something outrageous and we want your help.

Think big. Think bigger than big. Send that idea in and we’ll try to make it happen.

Our objective is to come up with “innovative web based product”, but that sounds a little staid. It doesn’t quite capture the true jaw dropping potential of our project.

Project Redstripe wants to start a new state in the U.S. of Awesome.

Our ice cream flavour is Pralines and Ridonculousness.

Project Redstripe is a Model T Ford in any colour as long as it’s smokin’.

Think Elvis riding a unicorn through Area 51. Yep, think like that.

Now, if you’d like to tell us some cool things you’d like to see happen then please give us your ideas.

We want ideas that rock.

Ideas that make a difference.

Ideas that you can make happen if you’ve got a global community of incredibly interesting people, amazing content, tons of data and six months to do it.

Gentlepeople, start your engines and submit ideas here.

Thanks so much for your time, creativity and kindness. Please keep in touch for the rest of the project via our blog and thanks again.

ps. T&Cs and FAQs over here.


Yep, that’s closer to the mark. It seems a bit more me. Hope you submit an idea.

Thanks if you do.

The Early Apology Post

February 13, 2007

We’re now planning for what to do, and everywhere we look there seem to be too many questions and variables to answer. This means that sometimes we spend a lot of time trying to answer every single potential problem because if something goes wrong, then we’ll upset people.

Here’s my thoughts on the subject : we’re going to make mistakes, therefore I’m apologising now.

We’re a small team trying to do a lot in a short time. Things are bound to go wrong, we’ll endeavour to sort them out but shit will still happen.  However, when this project winds up on July 27th hopefully we’ll have done something amazing.

ps. If you’ve been directed to this further down the line, then I hope to God we haven’t included your personal details in a mass mail out. Sorry for our screw up, we’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again and thanks for getting involved.

First impressions of Project Red Stripe

January 30, 2007

Yesterday was the first day of Project Redstripe and it didn’t impress me. Let me clarify. After nervously asking at reception where the Economist thing was, I got pointed in the direction of the Kitchen Room, where we’d have our first meeting.

Whenever you’re in a new office there’s a bit of a first day of school feeling, but I was most excited to see our place of work, which is at AMV BBDO. After all, it had been built up a lot. “And you’ll be working in an ad agency” was the cry at Economist Tower. I couldn’t help but think of a bean bag infested, foosball table sprouting, glass and brushed steel plushness.

This soon disappeared after settling down in the Kitchen Room to greet all the folk (and everyone is great, by the way). It turned out that the very plain, very white meeting room (with ensuite loo and shower facilities) would be Red Stripe HQ for six months. But if Apple can be built in a garage, this will do us nicely.

As the day drew one thing became very clear: we’ve been set a monumental challenge. After we’d fitted in all the key components (development, marketing, testing, business plan) to a very high level time plan, there was little time left to spare. We’re going to have to work like crazy people to get this done.

However, the first day wasn’t entirely spent creative thinking as we were able to film the first post to our vlog.

It turns out Joanna is pretty good

Yes! I got on Project Redstripe

December 22, 2006

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m on the team. I got it. I did it. Mouth, sing it to the sky : “I’m doing the coolest job in the world”.

If I were Alan Shearer I’d be peeling away to the Milburn Stand with my right hand in the air. And, if I were a bell, I’d be ringing.


Mike “The Wise Boss Man” Seery just sent me an email with these key sentences :

“I know that you’ve been dying to find out who will be in the Red Stripe project team, so here it is (well nearly).

Stewart Robinson, Tom Shelley, Ludwig Siegele and Joanna Slykerman are all on board and raring to go.”

Tell you the truth, I’ve know for a while, but was told to keep schtum. I got the info just before I went to New York a month ago as I walking to meet some friends. Whilst waiting in the cheese shop/cafe, over a lovely bottle of red and a plate of cheese, I downloaded my thoughts to the Moleskine.


I can’t believe what has just happened. Mike told me I’m on the team. I’m part of it. Just moments before I had been thinking about the possibilities we had ahead of us. How we could build something for the good of the world building on our incredible foundations of The Economist Group.

But, right now we need to be aware of the past but not afraid of it. We are responsible to it, but not intimidated by it. Indeed, our relationship to The Economist and its heritage should be managed in the same way that we manage our relationship with our readers. This amazing bunch of interested and interesting folk scattered to the four corners of the earth, from Nauru to New York.  We should not put any old thing up for them, and betray their trust, though neither should we be terrified of experimenting

The Economist really is a publication apart. A collective of journalists dedicated to making the world understandable. Being above the rush events, looking under appearances. Irreverent, exacting and oh so lucid.

To have this behind Project Redstripe and to be standing on the cusp of a communication revolution brings on the shakes.  We’re 15 years into the internet but the fun is only just  beginning.

Oh, oh, oh my!

I’m torn between recording this moment, eating a delicious platter of cheese and ringing everyone to tell them the news. And all this emotion is tinged with sadness, as only yesterday I heard that a close family friend had died.

What a confusing thing life can be.

On Monday I was rapturous with joy celebrating the music of the Flaming Lips in the Hammersmith Apollo. Shouting myself hoarse to the exhilirating songs of Wayne Coyne. Tuesday, I walked back from an inspiring NMK Beers and Innovation session on Social By Design. That made me even more (if that’s possible) pumped about Project Redstripe, to be told about Erik’s death. Today, this news.

I decide to listen to Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips singing Do you realise? A song that gets it right on just how the greatest moments of life are made richer by knowing that we’re not sticking around for long.

Do You Realize – we’re floating in space –
Do You Realize – that happiness makes you cry
Do You Realize – that everyone you know someday will die..

…You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do You Realize – Oh – Oh – Oh
Do You Realize – that everyone you know
Someday will die -”

I guess all that’s left is to give everything we’ve got to Project Redstripe, and to settle on nothing less than doing something out of this world cool.


 As you can read, it was an emotional day.

Now, I can look forward to a Christmas of planning and scheming and I can’t wait to get in touch with fellow team members. Congratulations guys, let’s get stuck in.

Ed Lee : A man of vision

November 30, 2006

A short post to say thanks to Ed Lee. He commented on a post where I sold myself for Project Redstripe and said “you get my vote tom!”.

Thanks Ed, you get the first Man of Vision prize.

Well, no news to give yet and not long now until the announcement. I’m feeling chipper but want to have something to say. Some more blog posts coming but am catching up on things after New York.

Video and The Economist : do we want home movies of our articles?

November 14, 2006

On Friday I’ll be flying out to New York to visit my sister. It will be my first time there and I plan on having a good time. However, I also want to take advantage of the undervalued Chinese remimbi which has, in turn, led to the US weakening the dollar to protect manufacturing jobs. This means great shopping.

What I want to get is a Tom Shelley Media kit. I’m in the market for an iMac, video camera and microphone. That should be all I need to become a one man social media army. Hugh Macleod is also looking into video and from there I was able to find out how much it would cost, through helpful posts like this one.

It’s really not that much and, according to Life Hacker, there are 8 easy ways to shoot video like a pro.

I think this democratisation is important as just over a week ago I was involved in an Economist discussion on our audio future. I, naturally, wanted to get the conversation on to video, because it will play a part in the future of The Economist.

The questions that came up all started from the premise that you need professionals to do video :

How would journalists recreate the polish and poise of the articles with cameras?

Surely the quality will be too low to be Economist?

The questions are all valid and I don’t have the answers, but I think the sooner we find a way to move into this space the better.

It’s changes like this that make me so excited about the possibility of Redstripe. Why get worried about the future when we should just try to get their first?

From the Alive in Baghdad vlog : quality of picture vs quality of content

Tom Shelley: the three in one option

November 10, 2006

If you’ve watched the Dirty Dozen, Ocean’s Eleven or any other team bonding action film you’ll know, that when you’re putting together a team you need different skills. You’ll need an explosive man, a gymnast comes in handy and there’s probably a guy called Wheels somewhere in the mix.

Judging by Mike’s post on the Project Redstripe blog the lessons of Hollywood have been learned. Just as you don’t need two lethal hand-to-hand fighters, we might not need two classified sales people. So this post will show that on top of being a super keen internet geek and a sales guy, I’m also a newsfiend and ex-amateur hack.

I’ve been addicted to newspapers since I were a nipper. Between the ages of 8-13 I read the Times and Express that got sent to our school library. Then, from 13-18, I did very little work, but read almost every newspaper,every day. I subscribed to The Guardian, borrowing The Times, The Mail (know your enemy) and The Telegraph from different chaps in my house.

Whilst there, in a daring burst of originality,I wrote a, wait for it, satirical school magazine – that stalwart of public school dissent. The Loafer ran for one issue in order to raise holiday/drinking money. Great features included faux-serious interviews with the camp head chef and a Regimental Sergeant Major Agony Aunt.

The authorities quaked before my pen.

At university I wrote but did nail one corrupt landlord with a glorious front page scoop for the Bristol University newspaper. Who’d have thought a landlord would try to take student’s deposits?

During my sojourn in Paris (did I tell you I speak French?) one of the projects I most enjoyed was writing a small politics column for GoGo Paris a trendy arts and culture magazine. It was not very long piece – 400 words or so – but I really did enjoy it. I got to choose a story in the French news and bring it to the English speakers of Paris. Writing a summary of the EU Constitution kerfuffle in 400 is tough.

I’m not pretending to be a journo, with ink stained hand and tattered jumper, but what I will say is that I care about the news. It is something that intrigues and entrances me. The opportunity to be involved in the changes that are sweeping the system is beyond words.

Think of me as the combined safe cracker, crack pistol shot and dextrous pickpocket all in one. Kind of.

Crowdsourcing your way out of a crowded market

November 8, 2006

I started this blog to show that I was the right person for Project Redstripe, The Economist Group’s snazzy new internet unit. As a social media evangelist/nut job/freak I would love to be able to do amazing things with the content, brands and, more importantly, the audience of the The EG.

Now it’s almost two months since I put myself forward for the job and it is starting to drive me a little mad. I’m just so pumped when I think about the opportunities that we have. Not only that, but the race into digital continues apace.

There’s the Gary Younge video blog at The Guardian – his last video of his trip across America has him visit Las Vegas (expect more insight from St. Tropez, Gstaad and Sun City later in the second series), Alan Rusbridger namechecks the Sunlight Labs at The Society of Editors and Gannet are now crowdsourcing their news.Here at The Economist we’re making ever more podcasts and are number 1 on iTunes (in the politics category).

As I look around publishing I sense the fear is gone, the snobbery is going and there’s still a tiny bit of time to get a fraction of a step ahead.

Of all the developments I’ve seen recently the Gannet use of crowdsourcing is one which most excites me. They’re turning to their audience for news because they know they can mobilise far more folk who, collectively, know far more than their journalists, to investigate stories.

Now imagine what the audience of The Economist Group could do. You just have to read the letters page of The Economist to realise how clever these dudes are. Do you think that CFO magazine is read by halfwits? The possibilities are endless and I want to be part of it.
The entire post could be boiled down to this : please choose me Mike, you’ll make me very happy indeed.

Lethal Excitement 4 Project Redstripe

October 25, 2006

Hollow tipped bullets have got a great reputation in 1980s action films. Dums dums, as these bullets are known in the professional killing community, do not pass clean through the body. Instead, they vibrate wildly, destroying all internal organs.

Why do I bring up these lethal weapons? Because I feel like I’ve been shot with a dum dum. A dum dum of excitement, that is. You see I’m shaking with anticipation, but keeping it all on the inside.

I think I’m in with a shout for this Project Redstripe lark, but can’t get too pumped about it, because I’ll be crushed if I don’t get it. There’s a permanent nervous energy coursing through me as I turn over the amazingness of this opportunity. Yet there’s a phony war feeling at the same time as it might pass me by. Hell, I just can’t wait to find out.

I thought I’d tie the post together by getting a pop culture reference, and first flick I could remember that has hollow point chat is Lethal Weapon. A trip to IMDB brought up the quote and how apposite it was. Unstable Martin Riggs, played by psycho young Mel Gibson, tells his partner Murtaugh he regulary contemplates suicide and he keeps a hollow point bullet to make a clean job of topping himself.

Check out the reason why he doesn’t end it all :

“You know why I don’t do it? This is gonna make you laugh! You know why I don’t do it? The job! Doin’ the job! Now that’s the reason!”

The job! Doin’ the job! Now that’s the reason for all this excitement too.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Crazy Mel