I have a microphone, so I am an expert

08/06/08

Steve Heller, in AIGA:

… I cannot tolerate motivational speakers. Their imperious, self-bloated stagecraft is, for me, like listening to chalk screeching on a blackboard. Nonetheless, I know people who draw real inspiration from this twaddle. In fact, at a few conferences I’ve seen audiences become rapt in devotional attention as motivational gurus toss out bromides about how to achieve design nirvana …

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Less than majestic wonders of the world

08/05/08

Matthew Higgs asked 66 individuals and groups to identify their “seven wonders of the world” as part of a project with Book Works. Here are some of the responses that struck my fancy:

  • Bjork
  • Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
  • Ian Curtis dancing
  • The ‘Disappear Here’ billboard from Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero
  • The park in Antonioni’s Blow-Up

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Like Twitter but with details and stuff

08/04/08

You know how you’re sitting there, Blackberry, iPhone or smartphone in hand, when you live through a unique but compelling experience? The sort of funny, ironic, startling, refreshing or depressing moment that you just feel it necessary to share?

Or maybe you’re just bored – and you still feel like sharing?

Thanks to micro-blogging and the world of tiny little keyboards, this sort of event gets compressed into a curt, often ungainly 140 character shorthand.

And that means you have to drop adverbs, adjectives, descriptive phrases and ancillary thoughts, all the while hoping that your “followers” are sympatico, similarly culturally attuned, members of the same socio-economic tribe or equally ironic to understand the theory, the thought or the emotion behind your short transmission.

This is a very important point: speaking in very short fragments often forces you to refer to commonly known professional terms and cultural touchstones. That effectively blocks out people new to your community or those that hold a different point of view.

Even without these barriers, it’s really hard to build an effective (and coherent) counterargument in 140 characters.

What’s the happy medium? One Person Trend Stories. Three, four or even five paragraph posts that go beyond the obvious short descriptive sentence to build a proper (sarcastic or ironic) vignette.

  • Enough is Enough! One Woman Takes a Stand Against Coffee Shops That Play Really Loud Music
  • Testing her Patience: Aging Intellectual Defies Barnes & Noble Cashier
  • iDoNotWant! Young Man Says “No, Thanks” to Latest Tech Toy

Honestly, I worry about having a Twitter message being taken out of context. My Twitter stream is populating my Google vanity searches, and many of the messages make no sense.

What about Plurk, I hear some of you wondering?

Umm. No. I’ve tried to work my way through some of those Plurkshops – both live and after the fact. The stream of consciousness commentary and non-sequential contributions really disrupt the flow and make it very hard to identify the wheat from the chaff.

If Twitter is like overhearing conversations on the subway, Plurk is a lot like summer day camp – everyone’s there for the same purpose, following the same activities schedule – but some are keeners, some are dopes and a lot are just trying to fit in with the crowd.

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This bike goes to eleven

08/03/08

Back in university, there were two or three guys whose most prominent piece of furniture was a giant black performance speaker – the sort of three foot by five foot box normally carted around in the back of a Ford Econoline van, the sort of thing that needed a strong professional amp.

Usually, these guys didn’t even play an instrument or belong to a band – they had made a significant investment in audio equipment so that they could be “da man” when it came time to set up a house party.

“Jesus! Look at the size of that speaker! They’ll hear the music down the street! You da man!”

Made in Queens is the story of a group of young Trinidadian men who wheel around their Queens neighbourhood on BMX bikes – jacked to the max with those old school speakers and decks.

“In this age of obsessive video sharing and social networking, nearly every action is designed and packaged for public consumption. Especially with young people,” says co-director Joe Stevens. “The immed­iate charm of Nick and his crew is that they’re the exact opposite of all that. There is nothing calculated or self-conscious about who they are. They’re just a group of friends doing some­thing to challenge themselves and have some laughs. It’s a story which would have never come from kids who were born here.”

Here’s the trailer:

h/t Creative Review blog

[tags] Made in Queens, amps [/tags]

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A uniquely 20th century business

08/03/08

A former television repair centre, found on a backstreet here in Ottawa. The sign hangs over a roll-up steel door. This was personalized and convenient service, allowing you to drive your car or truck right into the service bay so your oversized television console could be brought in for repair with relatively little fuss.

The font choice is remarkably clean and modern for a business so obviously rooted in the 1960s and 1970s.

Let’s remember: when we used to talk about “portable TVs,” we meant bulky and heavy 13″ units, often with a built-in VCR. And rabbit ears.

Those units, as the sign notes, you could drag around to the side door yourself.

Over the past seven or eight years, it has become ridiculously easy to buy and set up a 42″ television – by yourself. I still remember a time when, as you were moving into a new house, you had to decide where the television was going to be placed – because it took two burly movers to put it in place, and it would never be moved again.

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A truly horrible corporate video

07/30/08

Mercedes Benz may produce marvelous vehicles, but their internal corporate videos are really quite horrible.

Someone, somewhere, said “This is EXACTLY what I was looking for!”

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A book wrapper for guidance

07/28/08

A workable solution to information overload, or simply insane? Information Aesthetics tells us about a novel approach to categorizing and classifying books in a large collection, based on a very imaginative book sleeve and an index based on a gradient of colours.

As a person who is genetically predisposed to wander in the stacks of libraries and bookstores, pulling books and pamphlets from shelves in a quest for something novel, informative or simply startling, I can sympathize with the desire for a more orderly and intuitive classification system.

Unfortunately, this classification system presents a fundamental conflict: it attempts to provide a simple visual cue to a very complex problem.

Let’s remember, there are still two camps of book classification: the Dewey die hards versus the Library of Congress obsessives.

And each breaks the classification problem down into a complex combination of letters and numbers.

The designer’s goal (explanation here) seems to have been to free the details of classification from the confined space of the shelf and the poor design of the contemporary library sticker:

“Notice that the book’s cover loses it’s importance in the library, it is squashed between this book and that book. Not to be confused with a book store, this is a well organized storage space. It is the spine that one look’s for and it is the call number label that allows one to find. With so much pressure on the call number label, I found it to be tiny and inconsistent, appearing to be slapped on carelessly.

Now imagine a wall of books, it appears to be quite disorganized in terms of the book’s information, a mismach a textures, typefaces and colours. The information inevitably gets lost within itself. I Initially wanted to cover the books individually with a standard removable sleeve that I would design displaying all of the book’s information in a clean, efficient and legible manner; however, it took about 30 seconds in the encyclopedia section to feel how boring and unbearable this solution would make one’s library experience.

The trickiest part was realizing that having the same template for every book did not ease one’s book search, but rather cause the book to completely to disappear within the others, making it impossible to see or stand out. All signs of curiosity vanish.”

An appealing design concept, but one that raises the colour of the sleeve above all the other qualities of the book:

  • the age of the binding
  • the texture of the title on the spine
  • the style of binding
  • the book size
  • the juxtaposition of similarly bound books (perhaps in a series, or by the same publisher)

With this system, design overpowers the atmosphere and idiosyncracy of the library: the sense of exploration and possibility for chance discovery is replaced by a dominating colour scheme and an eagerness to impose consistency and conformity. Fashion over content, acceptable behaviour over eccentricity.

Isn’t that what we have librarians for?

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Is a Bad Blog Better than No Blog?

07/24/08

Let’s assume you work for a government body that is deeply involved in highly contentious issues – issues that are very interesting (and frustrating) to communities both online and offline. Let’s also assume that your organization has very little chance of changing the fundamental policies and procedures that frame these issues in the public’s eyes.

In other words, you’re largely a punching bag, buffeted by public opinion, proposals and criticism from activists and civil society groups, and general incredulity from the public. Is it worth developing a proactive social media program? It’s always worthwhile to put passive social media measures into place – extensive monitoring of the conversations and debates taking place online, the measurement of shifting opinion and perception among your various communities, perhaps some element of limited participation in comment fields and on discussion boards.

But is it worth the effort to launch a blog or similar long term initiative if your comment fields will get filled with criticism, claims that your social media work is simply parroting or reinforcing your traditional media work, or growing references to critical reports, video clips and commentary that undermines the very point you were trying to make (see this post from the Transportation Safety Administration blog post where they try to explain the relatively small numbers of people actually stopped by no-fly lists)?

What if your efforts to keep comment fields relevant and abuse-free means you effectively build in discontinuity into your so-called “conversation”? Take, for example, the purgatory established for non-serious comments on the UK Identity and Passport Service consultation blog, mylifemyid.org? Or the cutting criticism found at the foot of the launch posting for the same site?

What’s the real question when considering your options? Is your organization ready to take a beating in the name of consultation, openness and conversation? After all, if your daily business is to argue the benefits of an unpopular policy or program, do you have the tools, the staff or even the operational flexibility to reflect and absorb any of the criticism or constructive commentary you are sure to receive as part of a social media campaign?

Or should your approach to social media be more self serving? Forget all those promises of access, change, conversation, progress and participative government touted by aspirational and inspirational social media consultants – why not just create a blog and accompanying campaign as part of an effort to engage your critics on as many battlefields as possible?

After all, you can’t rebut the argument if you don’t even have a ticket to the debate.

In some cases, it may be useful for a government organization to create a blog and implement other social media tactics to argue their side – even if the readers and commenters will have no hope of effecting any change AT ALL.

The key, as always, is use the tool effectively and understand the terrain upon which you have chosen to engage your enemy. It’s go big or go home. It’s time to break out of your institutional language, your ingrained reticence to confront opposition and your dependence upon senior administrators to speak on behalf of the organization. That’s probably why the TSA blog recently called out all its lurkers – the large majority of the 4000 unique readers per week* that the TSA blog receives – to submit questions to be answered in coming weeks.

It’s almost the Rocky School of Social Media (trademark pending) – when faced with overwhelming odds, continue to engage your opponent, seek out their weak spots, and hope that the more supportive members of the general public help push you through to the end. Paint the benefits of your issue in the most positive light possible, and simply be seen engaging your detractors.

After all, if they’re going to criticize you anyway, why not draw them to a site where you control the colour scheme and the blogroll?

*there’s a metric for you – compare your uniques and comment traffic to that of the TSA blog, which is undoubtedly a lightning rod for criticism on public policy issues.

*cross-posted from sosaidthe.org*

[tags] govt 2.0, egovernment, corporate blog, government blog [/tags]

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Some quickies from the preoccupied

07/23/08

“… In fact, in Repo Man, Harry Dean Stanton’s character makes a comment about this very phenomenon—something like, “You’re thinking about a plate o’ shrimp, and then suddenly someone’ll say ‘plate o’ shrimp’ out of the blue….” And of course, through the whole movie, signs for “plate o’ shrimp” are everywhere. …” (AIGA)

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For your next team building exercise

07/21/08

You’ve been there. You’ve got a small budget but you want big impact for your next team building exercise. You need a motivational speaker that will make a big impression and possibly knock their socks off.

Well, do I have a deal for you.

“… King Kong Bundy, the 400-pound behemoth known for once breaking a midget wrestler’s back. Flying Bundy in and putting him up at the La Quinta will cost $1,600 …” (Cleveland Scene)

Of course, that cost is just to fly the man in to make a celebrity appearance a minor league wrestling event in Ohio. The speech might be extra.

On a personal note, King Kong Bundy and Hulk Hogan were the two wrestlers I always chose when playing the stand-up arcade game Wrestlemania. And, for your viewing pleasure, the Bundy/Hogan cage match from Wrestlemania 2 (with the added pleasure of over-the-top colour from Jesse “the body” Ventura.

[tags] King Kong Bundy, team building, teambuilding, motivational speaker, speaker [/tags]

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Faith-based user generated content

07/16/08

Daycare facilities for 5000 – children, that is. 350 employees. Grammy Award winners in the choir.

That’s how Joel Osteen draws tens of thousands to the converted Compaq Center for his weekly sermons. But the key is heartfelt customer commitment to the product.

” … [Joel Osteen] believes, resolutely, in the value of the product he is crafting in his office on those quiet mornings. “Very rarely will you find a company that produces a widget where everyone is mentally and spiritually into producing a better widget,” Osteen says. “There’s a purpose behind what we’re doing. We believe in our widget. We’re doing more than giving people a good time or a better toothbrush, because it’s hard to put in your heart and soul and sacrifice so much to make a better toothbrush.” … ” (Portfolio)

[tags] marketing, church marketing, superchurch, evangelism [/tags]

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Mid-week mental wash

07/09/08

“… To make the point that Sonic doesn’t nuke its hamburgers in microwaves, T.J. and Pete asked a competitor’s cashier to microwave a bag of popcorn for them. “They would be like, ‘We can’t microwave your popcorn. We’re busy microwaving burgers,'” McKay says. “The smarter, more strategic stuff, that’s when we knew that it was bigger than a prank or a Jackass-kind of thing. That’s when we knew it was good.”

Pete and T.J.’s antics became brasher and more irreverent. In a traffic-jammed drive-thru lane, T.J. called the restaurant and asked if the restaurant could use a hand in speeding up the line. …”

  • Jack Kerouac, from the original scroll of “On the Road” in Memehuffer:

“People aren’t interested in facts but in ejaculations (journal entry, December 1949)”

[tags] Sonic Drive In, ads, Kerouac, egovernment, Tom Watson, subway artists [/tags]

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Lessons from Nadal’s Win At Wimbledon

07/07/08

Forget about stoic pride. Forget about demure recognition. When you hit a defining moment in your life, you should celebrate with energy, with passion and with a demonstrable air of excitement.

That’s what Rafael Nadal did last night, climbing up into the stands to hug his friends and family. He then walked across the top of the scoreboard at Centre Court to speak to the Spanish Crown Prince.

It was only after he had finished his personal celebrations that Nadal returned to the Court – where the tournament organizers in blue jackets grabbed him to make sure he returned to the age-old script for awarding the trophy – and maximizing television time for sponsors and Wimbledon club officeholders.

The second that blazer-toting apparatchik grabbed Nadal, I recognized that the Spaniard’s impulsive decision to head into the stands had exploited the transition between sport and business on Centre Court.

The convention is that the winner stands at Centre Court, turns to each side of the stands and does the aw-schucks do-see-do, then returns to his courtside chair to be led through the rest of the agenda.

Nadal did not pause to consider his dual obligations to sport and business – his epic match was a landmark in modern tennis, and he let his emotions shine brightly through.

[tags] joy, Wimbledon, Nadal, Federer, celebration, life goal [/tags]

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Spinal Tap Teaches You To Set Up a Social Media Agency

07/06/08

  • Pick An Unusual Name - hyphens, adverbs and acronyms will always make you seem smarter and better qualified.

“David St. Hubbins … I must admit I’ve never heard anybody with that name.
It’s an unusual name, well, he was an unusual saint, he’s not a very well known saint.
What was he the saint of?
He was the patron saint of quality footwear.”

  • Never Explain Why Your Staff Are Leaving - the only value your agency will bring to the table is in the assumed experience of your team. If they’re jumping ship, think up a better excuse or the business will crash.

“You know, several, you know, dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It’s just not really widely reported.”

  • Suck Every Ounce of Credibility From Each One Of Your Engagements – it’s not really a secret, but social media gigs are not the largest piece of the pie. Each and every one of your projects must be coloured, magnified, even exaggerated to imply that your agency continues to grow – in revenues, in influence and in market share.

“I’ve told them a hundred times: put ‘Spinal Tap’ first and ‘Puppet Show’ last.”

  • Exaggerate The Impact Of Your Tools – social media is the solution to all of the marketing world’s problems, will being communities together and will wash the stink of countless poor business decisions from your client.

“Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?

[pause] These go to eleven.”

  • Attack Your Detractors – inevitably, you will be criticized for your work, for parroting the propaganda of other social media acolytes or for being the groomsman on the social media bandwagon. Stay firm in your convictions, and your knowledge that you have a three year lease on the office.

“This tasteless cover is a good indication of the lack of musical invention within. The musical growth of this band cannot even be charted. They are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry.”

That’s just nitpicking, isn’t it?”

  • Don’t Let History, Experience Or The Blunt Force Of Reality Dampen Your Spirits – there are naysayers out there. Even three years into what we continue to argue is a fundamental shift in the economic and social fabric of at least 5% of the world’s economy, we are continually asked to justify the social media spend. Just push through and keep selling the story.

“In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, an ancient race of people… the Druids. No one knows who they were or what they were doing… “

  • Learn to Work A Room – Like A Bus Station Hooker – as a small agency in a world dominated by multi-nationals, look for every opportunity to differentiate yourself and promote your skills. Jump at every chance to “promote your brand” and sell your particular brand of social media expertise. Work the conference circuit so aggressively it seems like you’ve forgotten where you actually call home.

“HELLO CLEVELAND!”

[tags] social media agency, business development, Spinal Tap, conference, speaker, Nigel Tufnel [/tags]

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A Note From the Movie Previews

07/04/08

First off, how what happened to Elizabeth Shue’s career that she has to be “re-introduced” as a cast member in the summer epic “Jesus 2″?

Secondly, Kevin Costner’s election movie looks like a feelgood heart charmer. Here”s hoping it has no harpoons, bison or golf.

As a third and final point, Eddie Murphy should just stop.

Please.

No matter HOW WELL the international rights pay off.

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the last word on the Israel – Feldman conflagration

07/02/08

I haven’t had the time or the energy to follow the brouhaha between Loren and Shel, but I really think a comment in Loren’s last post sums up the entire game:

“I was knee deep in the puppet game before there was a Web 1.0, bitches, this Feldman fool got nothin on me.

Word to your mother.

By Mister Rogers on Jun 30, 2008

[tags] 1938media, Shel Israel, Loren Feldman, sock puppets [/tags]

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Reporter takes one – or 15 – for the team

06/30/08

Earlier today, a truck overturned on the Trans-Canada Highway. There was a slight hiccup, though. The truck was carrying 12 million bees used to pollinate crops. The media, of course, showed up in force to cover the story.

After all, who’s going to miss a potential swarming death?

” … [RCMP Sargeant Dan] Strong said there were no serious injuries although a reporter trying to get a clip of the bees buzzing, suffered 15 stings.

“It’s all about the clip,” he laughed. (Canwest News)

For amusing footage of reporters waving their hands in the air, check out this .mov clip from the CBC.

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I worry you’re not a deep thinker

06/27/08

… and most of you know you aren’t deep thinkers. Come on, admit it.

If you can spin through your feed reader inside of 30 minutes, how little time are you leaving for thoughts to sit, fester and grow?

What about variety? Are the details of your work consuming 480 minutes of the day, and your the reverb from your online echo chamber consuming the rest?

Where’s the inspiration coming from? How are ideas breaking through the noise to challenge your routine behaviour and instinctive judgement?

Are you learning new strokes and exploring new beaches, or are you simply treading water in the same stagnant pool?

Susan S. Szenasy, the editor of Metropolis, spoke to the need for intellectual curiosity while delivering a commencement address this spring:

“… As artists and communication designers you can choose to be the outriders of society. Like the scouts in the old western films, you can be in the position of surveying the horizon and alerting the rest of us to the dangers and surprises ahead. But I worry about you. I worry that while you have evolved the use of your thumbs to work at phenomenal speeds, you are not as interested in developing the habits you need to accumulate knowledge, knowledge that can inform your vision as artists. I mean knowledge of the world—science, literature, and history—knowledge of the great contributions others are making or have made to our rich understanding of humanity and the earth which gives us life.

It is not enough to find information instantly and use it opportunistically to support your argument. To be able to analyze and synthesize you need to delve deeply into a subject, build up your understanding incrementally, and own that knowledge. Own it, so you can call it up when you need it, without turning to your PDA, and use your amazing brain-power to interpret what you know when critical analysis is needed. What I’m asking of you is what I have always asked of myself: To be endlessly curious about everything, to search for facts when you need them, but more importantly, to search for ideas and meaning. Read a book, look at a building or a landscape, drink it all in—make it your own …” (Metropolis Magazine)

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All will be revealed with a flick of the wrist

06/22/08

I’m pretty sure that, in the western hemisphere at least, every focus group participant alive is fully aware of being monitored, either by camera or from a neighbouring room.

Key to the onsite observation is an adjacent room that offers a donut’s eye view of the focus group and its activities. For some reason, the focus group participants must be kept ignorant of the executives and public opinion specialists hidden behind the smoked glass.

I’m not sure why. What focus group will be swayed by a bunch of white folks in suits and pollsters in sweaters?

Leaving aside that skeptical outlook, Steve Portigal made an interesting observation while visiting one focus group facility – they had outfitted the overhead light switches with outdoor outlet covers.

I bet that touch of ingenuity was actually the product of one – or more – slightly embarrassing moments.

—————————–

A repost from February 2007:

Here’s the top 19 signs your focus group is quickly collapsing into abject failure and will be completely unusable for consumer research, message testing, product verification or concept formulation:

  • From an arriving participant: “Hey! I used to be a 1-900 operator for this place!”
  • The clients hold up the session waiting for the muffin plate to arrive.
  • The recruitment coordinator works from the bus depot.
  • A fantasy sports fan hijacks every idea with a poorly thought-out sports analogy.
  • I’m not saying it’s a bargain basement facility, but the viewing room has an electric blind that has to be fed quarters to stay up.
  • Your moderator shows up, and he’s in a Leafs jersey.
  • The participants are handed Hello Kitty knockoff pens and notepads.
  • There’s more than one socially conscious teacher at the table.
  • The moderator starts off by saying “Most of you know the drill …”
  • The viewing area for agency types is behind an old patio door. From a mobile home. With a “Texas Kixass” sticker on it.
  • Five words: retiree with a hearing aid.
  • The testing facility uses old pieces of drywall for whiteboards.
  • At the end of the video clip you’re testing – at great expense – more than one participant refers to “the money shot.”
  • Participants who answer in complete sentences are handed Wal-Mart gift cards.
  • More than three instances of someone saying “I’ll tell you what I think …”
  • Your moderator’s Steve McClaren (for the Brits among us).
  • “I know this product! I think my stepmama’s suing ya’ll!”
  • In the facility’s waiting room, you can make an extra ten bucks with only “a twist of the wrist.”
  • One of the participants asks who will sign for her high school volunteer credit.

[tags] focus group, public opinion research, moderator, popular opinion [/tags]

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A curmudgeon’s whisper

06/21/08

You may have noticed a slowing in my posting lately. I’m not very upset by this development, because it means that my work and family life is moving along quite nicely – but don’t take this to mean that I’ve lessened my commitment to blogging and social media.

I simply feel like making a blunt point about the rush to consensus and eagerness to endorse that seems to be coursing through the social media world, and particularly the suburb of public relations and marketing bloggers and podcasters.

Here's my work/life balance in the world of social media

There’s an awful lot of backslapping and overly enthusiastic encouragement that goes on in some quarters of social media – which is probably why this video never really hit viral status.

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Ideas that seemed smart at the time

06/19/08

Airlines, in a desperate attempt to remain profitable, are considering incremental charges and fees for services once considered routine. Like checking your bags before boarding your flight.

” … J. Scott Kirby, president of US Airways, said that passengers would prefer to pay for the features they actually used. Historically, he said, all passengers paid for checking bags even when they did not bring luggage, because a charge for transporting them was built into the ticket price.

Now, he said, “those who want the infrastructure to check bags, will check bags; those that don’t, won’t pay for them.” (NYT)

I hope airlines are building in the infrastructure for passengers who will choose to carry-on their luggage. Faced with an economic disincentive, passengers are bound to opt for the haul and stow – which may be a problem considering most airlines are also moving to smaller regional and commuter jets on most domestic flights.

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Paul Otlet is the internet founder you never heard of

06/19/08

Paul Otlet. He dreamed of an international network of electronic tools, documents and indexing more than seventy years ago. He dared dream of a network of information linked through symbolic code – at a time when most people could barely figure out a municipal transit schedule. He thought of the hyperlink fifty years before anyone could really make it work.

And then he convinced a government to fund his work. THAT is impressive. Do you know how hard it is to convince bureaucrats to give money to your visionary yet obsessive project? Especially if your project skews towards the crazy side of the innovative/crazy scale?
A brief history of Otlet and his Mundaneum can be found in the New York Times:

“… Although Otlet’s proto-Web relied on a patchwork of analog technologies like index cards and telegraph machines, it nonetheless anticipated the hyperlinked structure of today’s Web. “This was a Steampunk version of hypertext,” said Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired, who is writing a book about the future of technology.

Otlet’s vision hinged on the idea of a networked machine that joined documents using symbolic links. While that notion may seem obvious today, in 1934 it marked a conceptual breakthrough. “The hyperlink is one of the most underappreciated inventions of the last century,” Mr. Kelly said. “It will go down with radio in the pantheon of great inventions.”

Mathew Ingram has some pointers as well.

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Brand loyalty that leads to smuggling

06/17/08

Hoooo eeeeee! There’s some bootleggin’ going on! The fine folks of Dublin, Texas stil make Dr. Pepper with cane sugar – the only bottler in the United States to continue producing the quirky drink this way.

Problem is, their distributions rights are limited to the 40 miles around the plant.

We all know what that means – the locals are moving crate after crate out of the bottling plant, selling it bottle by bottle in corner stores and gas stations.

It’s like Smokey and the Bandit, but at a much smaller scale.

20 cases per individual, only available at the plant. And $7.89 for a six-pack of 8 ounce bottles.

“Hey! You lookin? You lookin for a snoot-full of the earthy aroma, the tangy yet fizzy bite of an old-fashioned soft drink? Just come back here, and bring your money with you.”

More details at the Dallas Observer.

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Brighton Port Authority – from my mouth to your ….

06/14/08

Brighton Port Authority – a new side project by Fatboy Slim/Norman Cook. I’ve loved this guy since the Housemartins and Beats International. Take a look at the video for Toe Jam, one of the first releases and backed by David Byrne and Dizee Rascal. There are a couple of other tracks on the MySpace.

[tags] Norman Cook, Fatboy Slim, Brighton Port Authority [/tags]

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Ice Cream Truck – summertime menace

06/13/08

That’s right – the ice cream truck is a summertime menace. I may have written about ice cream truck musictwice – but the early summer ice cream truck season is causing more grief than delight in the media:

Most importantly – I did not realize that ice cream trucks needed to bring in foreign workers to make the business cost-effective. Which is why the Russian white slavery charges in Kansas City were so startling.

Finally, Eddie Murphy reminds us how we would mindlessly chase ice cream trucks down the street.


[tags] ice cream truck, music, noise, Good Humor,

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Steven Colbert faces opposition

06/12/08

Humour, good design and the obligatory Facebook page. What else could you want?

As a sarcastic and overly critical internet addict, I appreciate the over the top approach of Colbert Is Dead To Me – a web site that criticizes Stephen Colbert’s recognition as Webby Person of the Year, and challenges you to sign a petition mocking him.

You also get the opportunity to give Colbert a “virtual slap to the face.”

The colbertisdeadtome.com site was designed by the folks at Toronto agency henderson bas – whose own site is pretty amusing.

[tags] Stephen Colbert, Colbert is dead to me, petition, henderson bas, humour [/tags]

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Twitter users are selfish

06/06/08

My first audio file, after five years. A little rant about how Twitter users are like hitchhikers – they jump in for the ride, but then become demanding, rude and overbearing.

Enjoy.

Download

[tags] Twitter, hitch hikers, repo man, doogie howser [/tags]

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Coming up with ideas as mad as a badger

06/06/08

This farm grows high efficiency creatives in direct marketing, gaming, design and other specialties, which are then juiced in a hydraulic press and shipped across England to power the creative industry.

Video from the South West Creative Growers Association. (which is, of course, a creation of the industry)

h/t Noisy Decent Graphics

[tags] creative, advertising industry, inspiration [/tags]

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Wrong-headed spin of the week

06/06/08

The Men’s Dress Furnishing Association, the trade association for American tie manufacturers, is shutting down. Despite quote after quote from industry executives about the decline of the industry, one executive can see sunshine and lollipops through the gloom:

“… Lee Terrill, president of [Phillips – Van Heusen]’s neckwear group and an executive member of the trade association, is optimistic about the tie’s future and believes the current economic downturn is actually good for his company’s tie business. His reasoning: Laid-off workers will need new ties for job interviews.

“Sometimes the economy forces people to look at themselves and say, ‘If I show up to a job interview in a T-shirt and jeans and the other guy is in a sport coat with a tie, who are they going to hire?’ ” Mr. Terrill says.” (Wall Street Journal)

h/t to Frank Shaw

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How’s this for perspective?

06/05/08

That’s some transit advertising in support of the World Science Festival, which just wrapped up in New York. The hardest thing in the world is to incite interest in science, especially if you’ve only got a couple of seconds as people pass by on the street.
More examples of the Festival’s transit advertising can be found on their blog.

[tags] transit advertising, World Science Fair [/tags]

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What a social media news release should look like

06/05/08

You know what the problem with the social media news release is? It’s still an artificial product. It’s still a filter imposed upon an actual event, an actual decision with real impact on people’s work, careers even lives.

And it’s a filter imposed by public relations and marketing types.

Sorry folks. We’re good at telling stories, and drawing attractive and engaging analogies out of our clients, and at connecting clients with transmitters like journalists, influencers and community connecters.

But does that filter really produce a document appealing to the end user – the reader?

Yesterday, there was an announcement at the Perimeter Institute, a standalone research institute in Waterloo, Ontario dedicated to research in fundamental physics. It’s largely been funded by Mike Lazaridis, one of the founders of RIM (to the tune of $100 million). A few years ago, he twisted the arms of the Ontario and federal governments to cough up some money.

Yesterday, he ponied up another $50 million. (Here’s the boring but fact-filled news release)

Perimeter is an unusual research institution – it spends a lot of time creating public events for the people of Waterloo. For example, yesterday’s announcement was followed by a public lecture by Nobel Prize-winning physicist William Phillips. A lecture where he wore a Star Wars tie and played with lasers and liquid nitrogen to reach within infinitesimal levels of absolute zero – in a Waterloo high school auditorium.

Using this example, here is what a social media news release should look like:

What’s missing from the public record of the announcement?

  • video of the science demonstration – including crowd reaction from the ordinary (but science obsessed) Waterpudlians in the audience

What is not needed:

  • pictures of the MC
  • pictures of hangers on (otherwise known as partners and stakeholders)
  • quotes from hangers on
  • messages from people NOT at the event

I know. There isn’t an announcement or an event in the world that doesn’t include a passel of stakeholders, partners, government supporters, local economic development officials, politicians and others whose favour has to be maintained if financial and political support is to continue.

Doesn’t mean I, as a consumer of news, have to be interested in their participation – unless they have a concrete role to play in the actual activity.

Maybe there should be a link to all this info on a separate page.

To give you an example of the spirit and tone a social media news release should really bring to the record, look at this excerpt from Paul Wells’ blog:

“…Rob Myers, Perimeter’s interim scientific director, is wearing a suit. This is a change because I saw him at Perimeter today in a polo shirt, so you know he’s making an effort. Myers is reminding everyone that Lazaridis launched Perimeter nearly a decade ago with $100 million of his own money. “That’s a one with a whole bunch of zeros,” says Myers, demonstrating a knack for science.

Now an Ontario cabinet minister with a voice uncannily like Steve Paikin’s is introducing Lazaridis. Gee, what can a man bring to the party when he’s already brought a whole bunch of zeros?…”

[tags] SMNR, social media news release, news release, communique, science [/tags]

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One reason why I’m not an academic

06/02/08

While I like reading articles like this, I couldn’t imagine spending the time to research and write it.

Reading Our Lips: The History of Lipstick Regulation in Western Seats of Power

Keep your eye peeled for the “rate of rouge adoption = rate of industrialization” argument:

“…Thus, overall the English lagged far behind their former American subjects in lipstick use. The first department store makeup counter opened at New York’s B. Altman’s in 1867. (128) That same year, Harriet M. Fish of New York patented a lip and cheek rouge pad colored with carmine, strawberry juice, beet juice, and hollyhock root.(129) Americans’ few previous qualms about lipstick lingered on, but Americans generally plunged ahead in using and developing lip rouge much as they pulled ahead of England in industrialization.(130)

This 87 page paper has 575 citations.

That’s right. FIVE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE.

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Welcome to the real world

05/30/08

DARINKA CHASE (beehive-coiffed hostess who has worked at the restaurant for more than two decades): In the front hallway there was a cigarette machine and a pay phone. That was the time. There was no Internet. There was a cigarette machine and a pay phone, O.K.?”

That’s just one quote from many in the NYT’s eulogy for Florent, “an anomalously egalitarian enclave beloved in equal measure by celebrities on the A list and hedonists on the edge, and a prism through which certain aspects of the city’s evolution could be seen with unusual clarity” – as Frank Bruni put it last week.

FLORENT MORELLET: My father had a major show at the Brooklyn Museum, a retrospective, in February of ’85, and I organized a huge party for him, which actually to this day is the yardstick of what should never happen again at the Brooklyn Museum. But for that party I put up a major mailing list of 3,000 names.

The yardstick of what should never happen again” There are so many situations where I could see using that phrase. It could almost be a life motto, a goal to set when beginning a project to make sure you push your work to its most creative and ground-breaking.

More of Florent’s quirky ads, fliers and promo material are available on its website.

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It pays to know who you know

05/30/08

Whaddya know. You can still make money off old school ties and inside information – in the United Kingdom:

“… We test the hypothesis that analysts’ school ties to senior officers impart comparative information advantages in the production of analyst research. We find evidence that analysts outperform on their stock recommendations when they have an educational link to the company.

A simple portfolio strategy of going long the buy recommendations with school ties and going short buy recommendations without ties earns returns of 5.40% per year.

We test whether Regulation FD, targeted at impeding selective disclosure, constrained the use of direct access to senior management. We find a large effect: pre-Reg FD the return premium from school ties was 8.16% per year, while post-Reg FD the return premium is nearly zero and insignificant.

In contrast, in an environment that did not change selective disclosure regulation (the UK), the analyst school-tie premium has remained large and significant over the entire sample period.”

Sell Side School Ties by Andrea Frazzini, Christopher Malloy, Lauren Cohen, NBER Working Paper No. 13973

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Favelas – a dynamic but challenging community

05/28/08

Even while GPS allows geographers, archeologists and sociologists to map neighbourhoods, slums, suburbs, abandoned developments and ghetto encroachment onto parkland, the characterization of each block and community escapes standardization. As Daniela Fabricius points out in Harvard Design Magazine, the same technology that offers great promise for social scientists may also fall into more misguided use, like the geolocation of protests by police in Rio de Janiero.

On the other hand, civil society groups have used commonly available GPS equipment (like your phone) and online mapping technology to track human rights abuses and the consequences of disasters in remote areas like Burma.

Fabricius’ essay on the development, perception and possibilities of the favelas in Rio provides a novel and wide-ranging look at the development and expansion of these communities, providing a political, economic, geographic and sociological insight into these vibrant slums.

“… When it comes to favelas, which by definition evade or exceed administrative or bureaucratic oversight, both the efficacy and the politics of conventional mapping (and of statistics and demographics) must be questioned. Statistics, etymologically a “science of the state,” have historically been an instrument of power. The indeterminacy of data on informality makes it particularly vulnerable to fabrication and manipulation. Census taking in favelas provides a notorious example. Population estimates for individual favelas vary widely, with differences between what the city declares the population to be and what the citizens themselves claim—usually a larger number that would give them a greater opportunity for political agency. The favela of Maré, for example, has even set up its own information-gathering center, which takes unofficial but probably more accurate census data of the neighborhood. Using this information, those in the center have argued that the neighborhood should be eligible for greater political representation and state funding.

This is the geography in which informality has emerged, beyond modernity’s peripheral vision. Informal housing and markets have found a basic grid of support in the architectural ruins of incomplete or abandoned projects of modernization, whether in Modernist housing projects designed to Athens Charter specifications, infrastructural objects and large buildings that have fallen into disuse, or what remains of social services like schools and hospitals, built in more optimistic times. These housing projects, highway overpasses, warehouses, and even high-rises are modified, mutated, adapted, and inhabited. Even if favelas form a close symbiosis with late-capitalist cities, they are not restricted to one urban typology.

Premodern and colonial cities, modern cities, and postmodern cities can accommodate the favela’s flexible typology. This is one reason it is difficult to situate favelas historically. On the one hand, they are very much a product of modernity, and particularly of the unprecedented scale of urbanization happening all over the globe. Favelas are not the product of “primitive” or premodern societies, like many of the urban typologies studied by Team 10 members in the 1960s, but are instead specifically related to industrialization and modernization. On the other hand, they bear no ideology of progress or marks of newness.

Even though they are very much a product of modern economies and social formations, favelas are still associated with an abject, primitive, or regressive form of urban life. Even if Rio’s favelas were once visited and celebrated by figures like Le Corbusier and Marinetti, they remained an image of counter-modernity, particularly in a country like Brazil, which developed a strong Modernist ethos. Favelas are frequently misunderstood as a transitional urbanism, a phase of the urban form as it evolves from a premodern to a modern civilization…

Cities like Rio de Janeiro and, perhaps more urgently, cities like Lima, which are more than half informal, must be represented in new ways. Informality requires a rethinking of mapping, both of informal areas and of the city as a whole. The invisibility of the informal sets it apart from other modes of urban life and produces a different and problematic relationship to representation.

Since it evades “the bureaucratic gaze,” it also has forms of citizenship that fall by the wayside but that must be recuperated in some way. The geography of informality—its enclaves and networks or islands and currents—presents barriers to political representation and social inclusion. But in the many ways in which the favela and the informal exceed the boundaries and borders that seem to contain them, they also present the potential for forms of community solidarity and the claiming of the “right to the city.” …”

[tags] favelas, slums, urban development, geography [/tags]

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I knew there was a reason I liked the North Sea

05/27/08

And it wasn’t completely the fault of Billy Bragg’s North Sea Bubble, a catchy little song about Britain’s over-reliance on oil money.

  • A Norwegian BBQ team at the Memphis in May BBQ championship

“…Led by Oklahoma-born Craig Whitson, a restaurateur who has lived in Stavanger, Norway, for almost 30 years, … known as the Grillkongen (Grill King) of Norway, has been importing Klose’s pits there and cooks on one for his catering work and classes. For the second year, Klose delivered a pit he calls Bling-Bling for Whitson’s team to use in Memphis. With a built-in flat-screen TV, gold-plated hubcaps, a concrete hot plate, a sound system and more, “the thing certainly draws attention,” said Whitson, 54, whose Okie-meets-Oslo accent (a twang and a lilt) makes him sound almost Canadian.” (Washington Post)

“… Today, the bus carries a dozen Danish musicians with strong accents, passable English skills, and names like Rasmus, Jeppe and Bjoern. Seven of them play in a Copenhagen band called Efterklang, the Danish word for “reverberation,” and four of them play in another Copenhagen band, Slaraffenland, the Danish word for “land of milk and honey.” The bands share one member, a Danish soundman and an American tour manager.

And for the last two weeks—for crowds of 50 to 300 people in western cities like Denver, San Francisco and Phoenix—they’ve shared the stage each night, sometimes covering a-ha’s “Take on Me,” often proclaiming “Danish Dynamite” during their sets. It’s not only the name they’ve given the tour, but it’s also a nod of appreciation to the Danish government, which, in part, funded this 25-show American adventure…” (Indy Weekly)

[tags] Denmark, Norway, Danish Rock Council, music promotion, BBQ [/tags]

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Your idea of cool is not my idea of cool

05/27/08

Ben Nugent has written a memoir and/or commentary on being a nerd, and the New York Press has run an excerpt and an interview with the young author.

“… What we have right now, in Brooklyn, the Bay Area, Portland, East Los Angeles—neighborhoods where bourgeois young people work at magazines, movie studios, TV shows, Web sites and advertising, so that cultural trends work like weather at sea, offering the newcomers a chance to prove themselves, upending the complacent— is a similar choice on the part of the privileged to identify with the outsider.

The outsider in this case is the nerd, because nerds are people incapable of, or at least averse to, riding cultural trends. When your greatest fear is that you will become a loser because your intuition will fail to keep up with tastes, you embrace the nerd like a little harmless teddy bear who’s the one creature in the whole wide world who would never do anything to hurt you…” (from the excerpt)

American Nerd: the Story of My People, digs deep into the recent history of nerd-dom:

“… Sure, you may have an image of an MIT guy in your head—thick glasses, pocket protector, thin-limbed, buck teeth—but there’s not one clear definition of what makes that unattractive, awkward dweeb a nerd. Once you begin to create criteria and apply them to a range of individuals, the nerd stereotype becomes even more problematic. Nugent breaks down the nerd into two basic groups: those who are excluded socially for arbitrary reasons and those who are excluded for “intrinsic mental reasons” because they prefer rational, rule-bound activities over more intuitive or emotional ones. …” (from the interview)

Paul Winston, on the other hand, is my idea of cool. His father, for god’s sake, invented patch Madras cloth and embroidered corduroys.

No, I am not sixty. No, I don’t live in New Haven.

I am preppie. Hear me roar!
[tags] nerds, prep, sociological survey, booger [/tags]

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The mainframe goes punk

05/26/08

This Burroughs B200 is talking smack – “Our B 200 can outdo any computer in its class. Any computer, regardless of name or initials.”

“… “Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18 000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers of the future may have only 1 000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1½ tons.” — Popular Mechanics, March 1949.”

Let’s keep some perspective on how big these computers were: the B200 pocket guide came with a cutout template to help the system manager layout the entire computer room.
from Armagideon Time

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It’s a beautiful day

05/24/08

It’s a beautifully sunny day outside. Two pieces of inspiration for you – get out there and get creative!

And remember – the fear of embarrassment should never keep you from doing something ridiculous but entertaining.

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Battle of the social theorists

05/21/08

Mark Kingwell, a Professor at the University of Toronto, and Malcolm Gladwell, you know him, sat down to discuss social change at the University of Toronto last week.

Eye Weekly had some biting remarks about their exchange:

“… Gladwell cautioned any exchange between him and Kingwell was bound to turn into “an incredibly boring love-in” – punctured only by the fact that Kingwell’s review of The Tipping Point called him “a shallow and unconvincing thinker”. Yet, a retaliation of sorts took shape, and it involved antagonizing the philosophy professor with talking points straight out of Alex P. Keaton’s precocious playbook.

Seat belt use, chemical company compliance and same-sex marriage legalization were raised by Gladwell as three examples where “awareness and engagement” had nothing to do with their adoption. “We have come to fetishize the knowing part when we should pay more attention to the mechanics of doing.”

And which figure does Gladwell consider the biggest hypocrite in that regard? Al Gore, who did nothing to raise environmental awareness during eight years as vice-president. Not long after he’s no longer able to affect policy, he makes a movie. “Then we put him up on a pedestal,” sneers Gladwell. “And that represents everything that’s wrong with the way we view social change.”

Kingwell went for a more intense response that drew on his recovering Catholic theological background, suggesting that everything you need to know about social change can apparently be seen in Conversion on the Way to Damascus, a painting by Caravaggio. And how the Corinthians quote about “Faith, Hope, Love” is not about romance, but the responsibility to be charitable: “It’s not enough to comfort the afflicted,” he said. “We also must afflict the comfortable.” …”

[tags] Gladwell, Kingwell, social theory, social change [/tags]

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