October 29, 2007 by Colin
You’re like me, aren’t you? You look in the fridge, and all you can see is a package of frankfurters. Hot dogs. Sausages. Processed meat in a casing.
What about a refreshing meat bunny? Or perhaps you’d like a little meat trunk on your elephant?
It’s been around for a while, but Nippon Ham has a novel way of promoting the purchase and consumption of their Winny brand hot dogs – detailed instructions on how to carve them into a variety of animals. Like these instructions for making that adorable meat bunny.
October 29, 2007 by Colin
Barbara Faga is an urban planner who has participated in hundreds and hundreds of public meetings – meetings that attempt to build a dialogue among many different factions on a highly sensitive issue: what will be built/destroyed/grown/paved over near my house or business?
Imagine two ferocious Not In My BackYard opponents chained together and locked in a 900 square foot room – with bad coffee. That’s right. A NIMBY faceoff of epic proportions.
And you are the referee.
Barbara Faga is well-acquainted with this environment. Which is why she was well-qualified to write this blog post last month: A guide to Taser-free public meetings.
She has also written a much longer book, Designing Public Consensus, that discusses the process of urban design and public consultation. Of particular interest is her observation that a good public consultation will stray from a linear, factual and dogmatic presentation of the proposal and options.
“…Rather than a scripted reading, managing a public process is much more a continuous improvisation. This is another image that came to me in Boston, about halfway through the 19 months it took to get final approval of our design for the Wharf District Park. As we debriefed after a particularly fractious meeting, our colleague, Lynn Wolff, insightfully described this series of public meetings as a form of “civic theater,” an entertaining way for involved and curious citizens to spend an evening.
At this point, we felt like lion fodder in the Roman Coliseum, so the metaphor seemed particularly apt. The power plays, emotional outbursts, bitter arguments, tiresome soliloquies, comic relief, sudden plot twists, and dramatic resolutions of the typical public process somehow seem better suited to the stage than to the hardheaded realities of designing and building our public spaces.
As I participated in the public drama that played out in Boston, I couldn’t help noticing the strong parallels to soap opera, Kabuki, and a three-ring circus. Some of our most important work will be performing (not acting, precisely, though a little dramatic flair doesn’t hurt) for audiences we have to win over. If we design and planning professionals think we can stay safely in the wings, ensconced at our comfy desks or drafting tables, we’ve got it wrong.
It’s like the old vaudeville act in which the guy gets all those plates spinning at once, in time to the music. That guy has nothing on us. (Foreword, Designing Public Consensus)
[tags] consultation, public meetings, town hall, public debate [/tags]
October 29, 2007 by Colin
Sorry folks – I’m going to interrupt with a little Ottawa civil servant code here.
If you’re an IS-04 or IS-05, bilingual, and can answer the question “what is your favourite feed reader” – please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 26, 2007 by Colin
Thirty years of teenage angst. Thirty years of rage. Thirty years of commercial manipulation.
It’s been thirty years since the Sex Pistols desecrated “God Save the Queen” – for the good of music and to add to the arsenal of expression available to citizens overlooked or oppressed by their government.
It’s a pity that a large part of the punk rock identity has been appropriated. Not just by large corporations peddling Never Mind The Bollocks tshirts or using London Calling in mobile phone ads, but by snot-nosed suburban kids with no real idea of the severe social, political and economic dislocation that prodded punk rock into existence.
Now, I don’t mean that punk rock MUST be reserved for the dis-associated sallow-skinned British youth. Punk has a mutli-cultural (and multi-generational) appeal and a highly personal relevance.
Instead, I am obsessed with the appropriation of punk imagery by the customers of mainstream marketers. My kids like a Canadian retail chain called West 49. There, they can find studded belts, skate decks, DC shoes, plaid pants, and $100 Billabong hoodies. And all these things sell very well.
But that sort of behaviour has to be expected. These retailers are serving the market.
But what is wrong with the GD kids? Why are $80 ballet flat Vans with death’s head appliques selling so well? Why does the young woman boarding that suburban bus have a “punk rock” tote bag? Why can kids pick up temporary hair colour in purple, yellow, green and orange?
DIY punk seems to be dead, at least in middle-class Ottawa. Is this the result of increased brand awareness among children?
Do kids now look for “punk” brand attributes? Are they looking for their rebellion, their outrage and a radicalisation of their family, neighbourhood, city or society in a well-designed box?
As we keep pushing youth and children to identify with brands, with products or with sentiments, are we undermining their ability to express themselves?
Are our marketing dollars making brand attributes so prevalent and so culturally predominant that it takes a truly dissociative individual to build a truly independent identity as a punk?
Is it even possible to buy white Chuck Taylors to colour and “bedazzle” with spikes and pins?
To quote Hot Topic Is Not Punk Rock by MC Lars:
“…Hot Topic uses contrived identification with youth sub-cultures to manufacture an antiauthoritarian identity and make millions.
That $8 you paid for the Mudvayne poster would be better spent used for seeing your brother’s friend’s band.
DIY ethics are punk rock! Starting your own label is punk rock! GG Allin was punk rock!
But when a crass corporate vulture feeds on mass consumer culture, then spending Mommy’s money is not punk rock!
[Tags] punk rock, Sex Pistols, brand, brand attribute, self expression [/tags]
October 25, 2007 by Colin
“…“Second Life, as a global community with residents from more than 100 countries, is an ideal venue to host a virtual launch of a report that compares how easy it is for people to start and operate a business in 178 economies,” Dahlia Khalifa said.
“Second Life is on the frontier of collaboration and technology. It brings people from around the world together by removing boundaries,” she added. …(news release)
It’s a noble effort and an example that the World Bank and its’ partners are looking for new ways to communicate their ideas – but Second Life has not proven its worth as a communication tool.
Earlier this year, Eric Kintz at HP argued why he still needed convincing about Second Life. Bandwidth and computing power were among the factors he identified for his reluctance to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak.
Those are very big issues for most government departments. Even OECD members have to evaluate the capacity of their network to deliver content over a service like Second Life – but also their network’s capacity to deliver that content back to their own employees.
I suspect that many organizations with outposts in Second Life (like Sweden) have set up separate networks and better equipment for their in-world representatives.
More on the event:
“…The event will be an open forum where policy makers and the public from around the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, can ask questions, challenge the findings, and contribute to a global business dialogue aimed at stimulating reforms that improve the business environment, and ultimately create more business startups, job opportunities, and economic growth.
Digital copies of the report’s overview, as well as World Bank–IFC virtual apparel and products, will be available to Second Life residents who attend the event.”
How are the clients of the World Bank – many of them living in remote corners of the internet – supposed to sign on for this report launch?
[tags] Second Life, World Bank, Doing Business, third world, international organizations, multilateral [/tags]
October 25, 2007 by Colin
Wow. A commentary on microblogging which manages to sneak in a 1980s AND a 1960s cultural reference:
“Trivial Pursuits: With microblogging services, such as Pownce, Jaiku, Twitter, and Facebook, the mundane is the message.“
That’s the title and subhed of an article by Jason Pontin in the November/December MIT Technology Review.
As a result, a prescient observation (the medium is the message) becomes another snippet of post-mod irony (the mundane is the message).
Still, as a polite Canadian I suppose I should thank MIT for the double shot reference to these significant Canadian contributions to popular culture.
I certainly shouldn’t lash out in anger and spite – like the last comment on this Slate article about Trivial Pursuit.
Still, the observation is accurate: 140 characters is not a lot of space to communicate sophisticated thought, or even to draw a link between ideas and events.
But that’s not the benefit of services like Twitter, is it?
[tags] microblogging, micro blog, twitter, facebook, Pontin [/tags]
October 25, 2007 by Colin
What do you do when a review process goes horribly, horribly wrong? When the judges are just staring blankly past you, hoping that you’ll get the hint and leave? Sort of like any one of the first five episodes of every season of American Idol?
Apparently, one option is a blowfish:
“…Puff out your cheeks and point your fingers out around your face, like dangerous spikes…”
That’s from Blowfish: What To Do When A Design Jury Attacks, in the Fall issue of Harvard Design Magazine.
There’s another 109 responses in the article. Here’s a sample:
2. Pre-emptive abuse
Slap your head violently and mutter “Stupid, stupid, stupid, I should have thought of that.”
6. Throw down the gauntlet
Gesture aggressively toward the jury and yell, “Ya wanna go? Ya wanna step outside?” For a hockey motif, bear-hug a critic and try to pull his or her shirt up over the head. This renders your opponent both blind and open to your punches.
10. Postmodern simulation
Leaf through your sketchbook and then look up and say, “I’m sorry, that’s not in the script. What page are you on?”
Say nothing. Whip out a roll of Mentos, smile at the critic, and freeze.
43. Focus power (chi)
With a serious manner, straighten your body, look at the critic severely, then explain, “Architecture here!” (tapping on your chest), “No here!” (tapping on the critic’s head).
45. Special interests
Make your rebuttal based on the endangered mystical animals that inhabit the area of the critic’s concern. For example, “But unicorns are fatally allergic to exhaust fumes, so there can’t be parking anywhere near there.”
51. Bill and Ted
Make the devil sign with your hand, raise it above your head and shout, “San Dimas High School Football Rules!” The audience should cheer loud enough for you to make an exit.
59. Lost childhood
Look sad and mutter, “This is the worst school for show-and-tell I’ve ever been to.”
94. News anchor
Stick a finger in your ear, as if receiving a bulletin through an earpiece. Haltingly inform the critic: “Wait a minute . . . yes. . . . I’m receiving word that. . . It is indeed as you say, not like it looks here. Again, the latest news is that you are correct, and this drawing is NOT accurate.”
Wow. There’s actually 164 in the Harvard Graduate School of Design Student Forums.
More recently, Michael Schrage wrote about his experience as a juror for the Industrial Design Society of America’s global design competition.
[tags] blowfish, design, review, judge, creative, design school [/tags]
October 24, 2007 by Colin
Depending upon the topic, it seems that people define the role of public relations practitioner, corporate communicator, and marketing fairly loosely. What exactly is the difference between the three distinct professions?
This graphic tries to separate them by indicating specific “benefits” of working in marketing communications (like travelling on business, having access to Super Bowl tickets) and then presenting the proportional odds of that benefit being available to one or all of the professions.
[tags] marketing, communicator, corporate communications, public relations, schwag [/tags]
October 24, 2007 by Colin
Taking up the challenge from UGA’s Karen Miller Russell that “PR bloggers would write about topic x,” I submit my guide to Office Politics 101
1. Read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. TWICE.
2. Never annoy the assistants in the office. They can make your life unbearable.
3. Identify the five essential office characters:
- Knows Where the Bodies are Buried
- Boss’ Right Hand
- The Office Klinger (aka scrounger, thief, fixer)
- He Who Knows Everything (aka corporate memory)
- Everybody’s Social Butterfly
4. Acronyms are not your friend. Not when you don’t understand them, and not when you throw them around trying to look intelligent.
5. Read up on learning styles. The way a person collects, interprets and processes information affects how they behave in a conversation with you, how they interact with others in meetings, and how quickly and violently they will try to shoot down and bury your cool new idea.
6. Figure out the conversation nodes in the office. Where do people hang out and exchange information? The office kitchen? Starbucks down the street? Twenty years ago, your best bet of learning the latest corporate rumour was by hanging out with the senior executives as they had a smoke on the sidewalk.\
7. You have not explained your idea well enough. Whether you’re twenty or forty, you’re the new person in the office. You need to make reference to the past ideas, experiments, and failures of your new colleagues if you expect them to engage and understand what you’re trying to sell.
8. Always dress for the job you would like to have, not the job you have now. In some offices, that means kicks and jeans. Personally, I’ve just laid out a lot of money on suits.
9. Manage your online social networks and your offline social networks discretely. Facebook and other social networks have a place in the office, in my opinion. And I’m not upset if you take some time to organize your weekend while sitting at your desk. But I don’t need to know the details of your personal life – either by you speaking to loudly in the office, or by posting inappropriate pictures. (Hey. If the first thing you did at work was “friend” your new boss, then don’t complain when I notice the pictures.)
10. Share credit more than blame. Nothing says you’re a high performer more than being able to deliver high quality work – and convince others to help you do it. If you spend all your time complaining about how others are keeping you from doing well – then you’re the problem.
11. Speak to people. Email and IM can only get you so far.
[tags] office politics, office conflict, new job [/tags]
October 19, 2007 by Colin
Here it is , folks. One of the first effective media applications of Twitter.
Two BBC reporters covering the Rugby World Cup are using Twitter as part of their reporter’s tool kit.
And the BBC has done a very smart job of integrating their Twitter messages into the overall reporting package.
Twitter seems a perfect application for sports reporting, especially in a high profile game like the Rugby World Cup final. It’s:
- already part of the user’s media diet
- already used to convey emotion and a sense of place by users
- easily integrated into the larger reporting plan
As Robin Hamman, a voice from inside the BBC points out:
“…One of the most exciting things that the BBC Blogs seem to have done is to give programme and website producers the opportunity to innovate by adding additional services, from social bookmarking to social networking, to their pages – creating some compelling new content and new building audience communities in the process….” (Cybersoc)
h/t to Matthew at Data Mining.
[tags] twitter, rugby, bbc, integrated news rooms, social media [/tags]
October 19, 2007 by Colin
“…And from the moment we opened the front door, we all agreed later, we knew we were in trouble. The very young woman at the desk had the anesthetized air of a Barneys salesgirl who had languished too long in Belts.” (NYTimes)
That’s from Alex Witchel’s column of September 26, about a visit to a New York restaurant. I can imagine the look, the attitude and the atmosphere around that young woman, can’t you?
October 19, 2007 by Colin
There is a place in the world for effective and well-targeted satire. It’s usually most influential when focused on a particular issue or community – like Valleywag or Spy.
Satire tends to fall apart and draw criticism when it is used to further barely concealed personal vendettas, or where the level of humour and insight varies among the authors.
It has been announced that Strumpette will be replaced by a site called Furthermore. Brian Connolly, who some have argued was the puppet master behind Strumpette all along, provides this explanation for the new name:
“…”furthermore” was selected as it captures the point where a debate gets definitive. Connolly said, “It is the exact moment when the conversation concludes amicably or somebody gets punched in the nose.”…”
I completely disagree. “Furthermore” is a bridge in a conversation, the point where a boring pedant continues arguing their point long after anyone else is interested or even listening. Similar bridges include:
- “let me finish”
- “I’ll tell you”
- “just one more point”
Every time someone has used “furthermore” in a conversation with me, they were well into a diatribe and not very interested in my point of view.
Actually, “furthermore” was usually flourished when I showed an interest in interrupting the speaker or making a point of my own.
It’s a rhetorical tool used to stifle conversation, not encourage it.
Revision: I just looked at Furthermore’s About page. I’m being unnecessarily polite. The concept is bullshit. Satire is fine, but when you add exaggerated masculine bravado and fight imagery, you get bullying.
[tags] Strumpette, Amanda Chapel, Furthermore, PR 2.0, PR is Dead [/tags]
October 18, 2007 by Colin
A really meta-meta-meta moment: Luke Burbank, one of the hosts of NPR’s Bryant Park, really felt that an interview with Sigur Ros, the gifted but notoriously distant band from Iceland, went badly. Very badly.
That’s because it did. It was painful. Why would Burbank have booked the band? Because a public relations hack called him up and suggested it. That’s right – this train wreck was recommended to him.
Maybe Burbank just didn’t prep well enough. I’m a suburban dad from Canada, and I knew Sigur Ros were a hard interview. Just take a look at this excerpt from an interview in the Guardian – from 2005:
“…On their astounding new album, Takk … , titles are back and most of the lyrics are in Icelandic. This spirit of glasnost also animates their interviews, which were once a barren tundra of single-word answers. In 2001, one journalist came away with just three usable quotes, one of which was “Yeah, yeah”. They’ll still admit that, given the choice, they would never talk to the press. “It would be nice, yes, if that was possible,” says guitarist and keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson. “That’s something I used to talk about, but I’m getting older and,” he laughs, “weaker. I used to be really sceptical about these things and not really trust anybody.”
Or maybe the flack had recently seen them give good interviews. The evidence seems overwhelmingly negative. They are not an “up with people” band.
It’s clear that the original interview did not make good radio. Jancee, the journalist, is blunt in her assessment of the interview and offers some brief insight into the process of interviewing musicians (like the suggestion, late in the video, that a sock puppet could interview David Lee Roth). Still, some of her commentary is amusing:
“I really do zero in on the drummer. Look at his yearning expression, it’s saying “ask me a question. I’ll answer it. I’m friendly. Over here!” … And really, the other band mates, they really will be puzzled, then they’ll be upset and then they’ll kind of jump in, usually, after a while.”
Jake McKee pointed to this NPR piece and held it up as an example of “turning that frown upside down.” When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Take the critical energy being directed at you, and turn it into a learning experience.
I agree that this is an interesting way to respond to criticism and defuse the situation. He was even-handed in his assessment of his own performance, as well as that of the band. Unfortunately, I found the technique just a little too coy: running a display-in-display critique of his own interview, with the help of a colour commentator.
All that was missing was the Madden Telestrator.
****Added feature: one commenter on the NPR blog suggested Tom Sndyer’s 1980 interview with Johnny Rotten as far worse. I don’t know if I can agree: at least Rotten was engaged and animated.
[tags] NPR, Bryant Park, Sigur Ros, interview techniques [/tags]
October 17, 2007 by Colin
This may reveal what sort of programming I used to watch on 80s and 90s-era cable television, but I find the choice of ambient soundtrack for the DeLuca International Communications and Fundraising firm a little … distracting.
Combined with the stock photo imagery used throughout the site, I keep expecting semi-revealing shots of Shannon Tweed or Erika Eleniak … or Daniel Baldwin.
October 16, 2007 by Colin
From am.fm.pm: a selection of songs about the working man, office life, and working in retail.
From Matthew Dillon’s notebook: quotes from famous musicians, and Dillon’s riposte:
George Clinton (b.1941) says – “I GET OFF ON FUNK, TO TELL THE TRUTH. DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T DO THAT. ‘CAUSE YOU KNOW HOW JOYFUL IT IS.”
Windmill (b.1979) reacts – “This is unnerving; especially the use of capital letters. Getting off is joyful and I’m not telling him he can’t. But I’m not helping.”…
Claude Debussy (b.1862) says – “Music is the silence between the notes.”
Windmill (b.1979) reacts – “I think you still need the notes.”…
Ludwig van Beethoven (b.1770) – Beethoven can write music, thank god, but he can do nothing else on Earth.”
Windmill (b.1979) reacts – “Windmill can write music, thank god, but he can also do the entire “Fresh Prince” rap in the style of monster mash, make a mean cheese & marmite sandwich, perform a handstand against a wall, thumb wrestle and beat anyone at ‘Golden Eye’ on the Nintendo 64.”