Category Archives: Story Telling

The walls between art and engineering exist only in our mind

“A part of me is an engineer, who wants to map the progress of mobility.  The other is an artist, who wants to sculpt the earth around us and give it shape.

The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds”.

BMW ‘Kinetic Sculpture’ from Academy Films on Vimeo.

Everything is incredible

A beautiful, moving story. Heartbreaking.

Everything is Incredible from Tyler Bastian on Vimeo.


From Colossal:

Everything is Incredible is a short documentary by Tyler Bastian and Cameron Trejo about a man named Agustín from Siguatepeque, Honduras who was struck with polio at a young age. His body ravaged from disease, he was left unable to walk and spent most of his life working as a shoemaker in what is described as near-poverty. Possibly plagued by childhood dreams of flight, in 1958 he embarked on his life’s work: the construction of a crude, custom-designed helicopter made completely from trash with the exception of a few pieces of rebar purchased from a hardware store. Even the chains he uses to power the propeller were forged by hand. The filmmakers do a wonderful job interviewing local residents and family for their reactions that vary from hope to despair. I find this video to be both very beautiful and very sad as it discusses what is gained and what is sacrificed through the act of devotion and creation, yet I’m left feeling a profound sense of love for Agustín, which is perhaps why it’s stuck with me for so long. Definitely worth 10 minutes of your time. Thanks Jason.

Story-telling in the digital age

This isn’t really about digital: but surprising, powerful story-telling

Tomorrow I’m giving the keynote at SMX 2012 in Sydney. Here’s what I’m saying. -Jye

Digital and social media has not only changed the way we communicate with each other, but also how we interpret and develop perspectives on the world.  Search engines have become ‘decision engines’ and have changed our perspective on making both low and high value decisions, and the reputation of organisations.  All of which, is powered by content, communities & communications. Built mainly today on an infrastructure of search, social and mobile.

As a result, marketing and communications have changed just as significantly.  The evolution of which has meant that we are story-telling in an ever-changing ecosystem of owned, shared and paid media.

Last year, Oscar Nicholson wrote a piece for me on the evolution of story-telling. In short, a long, long time ago we told stories with the voice.  These stories were fluid and hence: shared, re-created, embellished and changed by various story-tellers and their audiences.  Not so long ago, printed and video stories ensured we thought of stories as linear experiences.  But today, in internet-land, stories are once again fluid, and the changes in technology and access have meant we are in a new age of digital story-telling.

YouTube is flooded with stories from budding pre-teen film editors; Instagram has never seen so many “selfies” (photos taken of your self in the mirror with a big pout) by teenagers, and Facebook has never seen so many photo albums of travels and adventures of everyone else.

Then we enter the land of memes.  Where content and ideas are created and re-interpreted over and over again. What’s important to remember is memes are not successful because EVERYONE gets them, in fact they are successful because they are incredibly TIMELY, sharp and often are built on a big ‘in joke’ with a group of people. These are fantastic forms of story telling. One of my favourites is Success Kid.  But something brand new and topical would be:

So what’s in a story?

Digital has a number of story-telling elements.  Digital is an ecosystem: not a series of channels. They are interchangeable, dynamic and ever-moving. Your stories, your brand and your team need to be as well.  The key digital elements to story-telling are search engines, mobility and social media.

Search engines

Search is where stories are found and heard.  More than simply ‘search’ engines, Google and the like have become “decision engines” and “opinion engines” for most of the population – we search here before most other sources.  Advocacy, shared-experiences and that god-awful word of “authenticity” have become vital, but often misunderstood: it is in the eye of the beholder (search engines and people) that they may be truly found (in search engines).

Reputation is also beheld in these answer-machines. BP (following the oil spill diaster) tried to buy up search words to minimise damage. Not everyone has that luxury.  Google’s collection of data and features like predictive search also offer up some really interesting (funny) stories about people.

Search should be a listening engine for story-telling.

Mobile and the four screens

Mobile is the future of where content will be accessed – and where stories are heard and re-told.  Furthermore, it is the ubiquity of that content across smart-phones, tablets, laptops and TV screens that will ensure its success.  Today (not the future) stories are shared via photos (Instagram), scrapbooks (Pintrest) and in locations (Facebook).  And for the APAC region, car screens are the 5th screen to consider.

This needs to be a 1ft, 2ft and 20ft ubiquitous story-telling experience for consumers.

Social media

Social media is where stories are found, shared and re-told.  Social media has changed the way we communicate with each other, but also the way we interpret the world around us.  But also the way stories are told: suddenly, ‘adjacent story-telling’ is the everyday.  Gavin Heaton put it best:

“Adjacent storytelling is not about naming your brand. The adjacent story is there – the one that you see out of the corner of your eye. It’s the story that stays with you long after you have forgotten the wording. It’s the feeling that reminds you that your experience is not singular and that we are connected more by our commonalities than by our differences.”


Songs need to be sung; stories need to be told

Creativity, story-telling and digital, should have structures in which they can exist.  This forms the infrastructure for your story-telling.  This is where content, communications and communities come into play.


This are the words and images that allow your story to take shape. They need tone, style and guidance. They need to be consistent, reflective, and relevant. They need to be understood in which the context they are told. Think of content being the way you want to tell your story.


This is how you narrate your story.  Where should your stories be told? What form should they be in? Which channels should they be found? Which character do you play? What scene are we in? Who’s dead and who’s living? It’s 3D and it is blu-ray.


Your advocates and stakeholders, your Facebook fans, your Twitter followers and website visitors.  Communities are those who narrate your story for you.  They are the  truest mirrors for brands and organisations, and the change in their perceptions of you are keys to understanding performance and positioning.

They are your most powerful story-tellers.  This is truly where “authenticity” lives.


Content is where your brand’s story takes shape; communications is how these stories are told and heard; and of course, communities are those who narrate your brand story for you.  These third-party advocates are your most powerful story-tellers and where positioning (perception) becomes reality.  Then apply this through your search strategy, social media engagement and access (mobile) points.

When I mapped this out, it literally looks like: content (search? social? mobile?), communications (search? social? mobile?) and communities (search?, social? mobile?) – addressing each point, allows me to understand exactly the context in which my story is going to be told, what story to tell and how to tell it.

This isn’t about digital, this is about surprising and powerful story-telling.

SxSW: Game mechanics and story-telling

After the first two days, it’s the new forms of gaming appears that are really making me sit-up and listen. I think it’s because gaming is becoming something for everyone – rather than something was the classic four-eyed experience.

What I found really compelling was that yesterday’s keynote – Seth Priebatch’s Game Layer – talked about game theory and game mechanics (risk and reward, time limits, status, players, allies, enemies, goals etc) – i.e. the things that make games, games!

It is very clear that games drive action and motivation, that facilitate behavioural change. Continue reading

23 revolutions of the sun

Valentina: Her first revolution of the sun

Year Zero

Today marks the beginning of my 24th revolution around our great star. Born when the binary stars of Cancer in M44, the Beehive Cluster,  were in the sky, in a the capital city of Colombia.  The revolution past was one of the most tumultuous; the most powerful and yet the most rewarding. I’ve never grown more.

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Nike: Write The Future

Nike’s new video ad: Write The Future

Interesting to note that this video is “unlisted” – which means it’s not available via Google Search or YouTube search.  You must know the URL of navigate through the hard links. Being unlisted would definitely have an implication on the amount of views traffic.

For a video of this brand and this calibre, 97,000+ views isn’t a great deal, and maybe it’ll explode shortly – but still interesting to note. (May 21, 2010)

So what do we like about it? It’s a brilliant piece of story-telling.  But my new colleague, Rose Kelly, at Weber Shandwick, really opened my eyes to the power of the video:

I don’t like football but I loved this ad as it humanised the players and the pressures they are under. If they fail they disappoint millions and if they score, they become Gods. Imagine living under that pressure. The execution was incredible not to mention the level of detail and multiple stories taking place. I may watch a World Cup match now.

Isn’t this what marketing, social media, digital communications should be about?

Creating an emotional connection, leading to a clear outcome.

Innovation: Changing People’s Stories

View more presentations from Jye Smith

Innovation in technology is driven by people & community

(5 minute, 5 slide presentation for Vibewire’s FastBREAK event around Innovation & Connectivity and to answer the question: are you alone?)

Innovation is not about technology. It’s about people. It’s about their stories.  Challenge yourself to think about it that way.

People’s stories are unique; which can make us feel alone and misunderstood.

My story was always: Hi, my name is Jye Smith, I was adopted from Colombia and I have no idea who my parents were or why I was adopted.

I’ve spent my life trying to connect people – bring them together around what they’re passionate about.  Music, concerts, social media, community management, crossfit, scuba diving, soccer, photography – whatever I’ve done I’ve always tried to bring people together.  I only really realised that it was all related to me being a part from my family this year.

People are doing better than me – the One Laptop Per Child project is a great example of how technology enables us to bring people together.  But it’s the people behind it, and the people it is for, the community, that really drives innovation.

I love technology because it has the power to bring people together.  And it brought me closer to knowing my entire family. I used forums to connect with other adopted kids, I used Google to hunt down more information, but biggest step? The Colombian Yellow Pages going online.

So I’m launching a site this year called Adopted From Colombia – to reach out, support and give the individuals a community that they can find. So other adopted individuals, know they are not alone. (If you’re interested to know more, leave your contact details in the comments).

My story is now: Hi my name is Jye Smith, adopted from Colombia, and I know who my family is. I’ve lived in the house I could have grown up in.

Without this, I might have never been able to take the photo below.  A photo of me feeding the youngest addition to my Colombian family.  Valentina.  She’s a beautiful baby girl. And this shot was taken this year, my second return to Colombia, to spend time with my birth family.

My story has changed. Innovative technology allowed me to do this.

Jye Smith & Valentina

Symphony of Science

Story through music

“A morning filled with four-hundred billion suns, The rising of the milky way” – Carl Sagan, A Glorious Dawn, ft Stephen Hawkings

I’ve got a soft spot for science, and this is one of the most beautiful ways to tell a story like this I’ve seen and heard in a very long way.  Symphony of Science brings us three incredible videos around delivering some very scientific knowledge and philosophy in the form of music.

Take a bunch of space and time nerds, grab a vocoder and drop some beats and strings behind it, and you’ve got some pretty incredible videos.

Massive hat tip to Leo for bringing these to my attention.

The Symphony of Science is a musical project by John Boswell designed to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form. Here you can watch music videos, download songs, read lyrics and find links relating to the messages conveyed by the music.

The Perfect Gift for a Man

The Perfect Gift for a MAn

30 Stories about Reinventing Manhood

Following on from the inspiration work around ManWeekGavin Heaton and Marky P got together with 30 of us men (and women) to publish The Perfect Gift for a Man – 30 Stories about Reinventing Manhood which aims to get men talking about their feelings in a bid to help prevent male suicide in Australia.  It also includes another of my stories, along the 29 others.

The facts are in: and young men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women.  The other fact is, you can try to help. Please use this book as a guiding light for those who might need it, or as Gavin said today, even those who mightn’t.

I am so proud to be apart of this, and can’t thank everyone enough for the support with the original post (Return to Colombia – A story about being adopted) and for the chance Gavin and Mark gave me to tell another story.

The book is available as both a soft cover book ($44.95) and an eBook ($14.95).You can buy the soft cover through Blurb - or the eBook from The Perfect Gift for a Man website -

Rewarding Loyalty

Lamborghini names a special edition Gallardo after their test driver

A very moving story from a very famous brand.

He has long been revered as one of the many legends surrounding the world’s most uncompromising sports car brand Valentino Balboni, a remarkable test driver with his own personal cult status. Automobili Lamborghini now presents a model in his honour and bearing his name the Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni.

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