January, 2007

Show the world your undies, or How sharing will make you rich

It’s no big secret that open-source is good for business. The more people you invite to participate in creating something (an idea, a brand, a product or something else) the more channels you open up for that something to be adopted and to grow, and the more opportunity you create for the people participating. And if participation creates opportunity, more people will want to participate, and the community grows and so on and so on until we’re all super happy and rich.

Yes, we already know this. But still, it’s pretty cool, and few actually seem to be doing it . Web 2.0 businesses have been playing with this model since the phrase “Web 2.0″ made its way off the web and into the lexicon if not before. But still only the most courageous and unconventional companies are willing to share everything they’ve got for free. Until now. Here’s an interesting article from BusinessWeek to that end.

Winning companies today have open and porous boundaries and compete by reaching outside their walls to harness external knowledge, resources, and capabilities. Rather than do everything internally, these companies set a context for innovation and then invite their customers, partners, and other third parties to co-create their products and services.

Giving away useful information for free is smart because it invites conversation and participation. It builds trust. It shows credibility. And it makes people like you. And being loved and trusted is the thing that marketers have been shooting since forever. It’s easy. Just take your pants off and show ‘em what you’ve got.

Besides, who doesn’t like running around naked now and again?

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Yup, this is a grammatically correct sentence. Wanna know how to make sense of it? Link.

Beauty in the subway

turnstiles.jpgBill Sullivan is taking some of the most beautiful photographs out there. Really, it’s an amazingly rich depiction of New York City itself. Check it out for yourself and then report back. Did it stop your breath for moment?

Light criticism

light criticism graffiti
Two admirable organizations, The Anti-Advertising Agency and Graffiti Research Lab have just collaborated on a nicely executed piece of activism. New York City has recently installed flat-screen video billboards on the sidewalk, and well, somebody had to say something. The idea began with Ji Lee’s Abstractor and has evolved to this.

3 links about interesting maps

A NYT article about the great subway map wars.

Mappy Hour is a google maps mashup that lets people post and find happy hours in their neighborhood. Definitely useful if you have a great thirst.

And this last link might be worth a few visits. Check out this blog that updates a couple times a week with some strange maps.

IBM social networking site all about info visualization

So I was deliciousing just now and there’s this one user who I only know through her links, but somehow I’ve got a crush on her (at least I hope it’s a her). It’s stupid, I know, but she’s got a cool-ass set of links and, well, I’m attracted to that. Anyway, my point is that she’s just saved another link, a link to Many Eyes, which only makes me like her/him/it even more because it’s an awesome find. It’s a site, still in alpha phase, “for shared visualization and discovery.” In other words, you are able to “View your data, ask questions, and share your discoveries.
Harness the collective intelligence of the net for insight and analysis.” It’s being developed by IBM, and I’ve got a hunch that this will become huge. People are going to have access to so much more data over time, and this site could be the place where everyone takes their data to look at it. Not only will it fill that need–and create a thriving social network along the way–but it will also create a huge library of data and metadata, which has huge value as well. I’d bet they’ll also make it real easy for developers to use Many Eyes in mashup applications, so that means this thing is also a platform for other things. One question I have is What are people going use it for at first? What’s going to make data-watching a part of the mainstream everyday routine?

Context is everything

Some might say that the experience of art is lessened by the white walls of galleries and museums. Although, you’d probably be just as awestruck if you saw this tiger hanging in someone’s living room.

Somehow, this freaks me out

Yes, the spider is real. And those are parts from an antique watch. Brilliant, but freaky. I’m just sayin.

Language of all State of the Union addresses

state of the union
Last night, our benevolent dictator delivered his annual status report to the people. It was, of course, more of the same war- and fear-mongering. It’s hard to get a sense of what past State of the Union speeches were like, but this site offers a visualization of the language of every SOTU speech ever. It makes it easy to see, for example, that the reading level of SOTU speeches today is much lower than than the speeches of yesteryear, and that recent SOTU speeches are often 2 or 3 times longer than the the speeches of yore. And the more you play with the visualized info, the more you find. Pretty fucking interesting.

This is the new that


The old saying goes “____ is the new black.” The implication being that black never goes out of style, so anything that achieves the status of black will, likewise, never go out of style. Over the years marketers and media have adopted this phrase to woo customers and clients, and to make broad cultural statements. Remember when Demi Moore started dating Ashton Kucher and 40 became the new 30, and your mom’s friends started wearing low-cut jeans and halter-tops? Exactly. The thing is, it isn’t that black never goes out of style, it’s that it’s always been in style. Not so with trends, products, and all the other things people want you to buy. They come in to style, and they go out. Not at all like black, actually.

There’s a really cool graph that documents the movement of this little, but ubiquitous, language construct. You can get a taste from the snapshot above. I’ll bet since this thing was created, there’s been a few more this-is-the-new-thats. Heard any?

Why producing as many bad ideas as possible can lead to really good ones

Thomas Edison held 1093 patents. That’s 1093 more than most of us. But the thing is, most of those patents were for unworkable–bad–ideas. So why is he remembered for so many damn good ones? Because he set a quota for ideas that he and his assistants were forced to hit. That didn’t mean they had to be good, but he knew that the more ideas–good or bad–you have, the more likely it is that one of them will be brilliant. Have a good idea? Cool. Now set aside and go for another. A book by some profs at UC Davis found this to be true: The most brilliant, creative people don’t only produce genius work. They simply produce.

Smart plain talk about creativity

Business Week has a tidy interview with Sir Ken Robinson, who was knighted in 2003 for his commitment to creativity and education. He’s currently a senior advisor to the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles, probably because the guy has a really grounded way of talking about creativity. Like this:

The world is changing so quickly that promoting the ability for creative thinking and promoting cultural adaptability is essential. Remember that kids starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. We don’t have a clue about what the world will be like then.

The trouble is that the educational system isn’t designed to promote this sort of innovative thinking that we need. It is designed to promote uniformity and a certain type of narrow skill set. Creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy, and I actually think people understand that creativity is important — they just don’t understand what it is.

Pretty good, huh? Read the rest here.

Girls and Polaroids

girls and polaroids
Good god. Go visit this gorgeous site called FiftyRooms, and don’t come back for at least 3 or 4 minutes. I think I need some alone time. Link. [NSFW, duh]

DIY message layering fashion

mixed messages
Check out these instructions to make clothes with messages that layer. Link.

Via Neatorama

Programmable Jeep waterfall works like printer

jeep waterfall
The image you see in the waterfall is made of “pixels” of water. Watch the video to see how it works. Link.

Via Boing Boing

Fear of design

Fast Company’s got an article about Whirlpool’s approach to measuring the effect of design on their bottom line.

[The company] puts design prototypes in front of customer focus groups and then takes detailed measurements of their preferences about aesthetics, craftsmanship, technical performance, ergonomics, and usability. Whirlpool charts the results against both competing products and its own previous iterations, giving it a baseline of objective evidence from which to make investment decisions.

All these metrics go into a database, which gets crunched with sales metrics and whatnot. Doesn’t seem so remarkable to me.

The real story, in my opinion, is that this is a shitty creative process. Whirlpool is now doing something worse than design by committee. They are doing design by focus group.

I’ve never heard of a focus group choosing stuff that challenges them. And isn’t it obvious that the best designs offer something that expands the status quo?

Really, how the hell are you going to lead culture if you’re sitting quiet in a dark room watching people from behind a two-way mirror?

Toast radio!

ToasterYou know how sometimes you’re making toast and kinda singing to yourself and you’re not super satisfied with the song that’s stuck in your head, but you can’t figure a way to switch the channel? Here’s the remedy.

How to build a hippie/Hobbit home

hobbit home
Oh, to live in total oneness with gaea, my spirit swirling in harmony with nature. Apparently, all you need is a chainsaw, hammer, and one-inch chisel. Link.

Burger King’s ‘manly’ Double Whopper ad banned

LONDON – The advertising watchdog has banned a Burger King TV ad showing men singing the praise of its Double Whopper. However, the ban was not because of complaints about the burger’s unhealthiness, rather its exaggerated size in the ad.

And as a side note, this snippet is interesting: “[The ad] also drew…five complaints that it encouraged excessive consumption of unhealthy food.” I wonder if unhealthy food will be the next to join advertising pariahs Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Wanna know which hack shop is behind this ad? Read the second paragraph here.

Engineering and consciousness

Check out the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) program. It was established in 1979 “to enable better understanding of the role of consciousness in the establishment of physical reality,” and they do all kinds of interesting, scientifically-rigorous research on stuff like remote perception, and how a mind can influence a randomizer. Strange stuff.