Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Great Whale Hunt

The Great Whale Hunt is a truly amazing interactive experience. It's a new way to take pictures and a fantastic way of telling a story. It is extremely technologically saavy and a captivating way to document an experience online. It will take you on a pretty amazing experience recorded with great and carefully organized. The website allows you to experience a whale hunt as if you were on the expedition as it occurred over 9 days hunting with Inupiat Eskimos in Barrow Alaska. 3,214 photos were taken.

One of the techniques Jason Harris (the creator) used enables the rate of photographs taken to match the excitment of the photographer so the experience can be accurately portrayed to the viewer; "the photographs were taken at five-minute intervals, even while sleeping (using a chronometer), establishing a constant “photographic heartbeat”. In moments of high adrenaline, this photographic heartbeat would quicken (to a maximum rate of 37 pictures in five minutes while the first whale was being cut up), mimicking the changing pace of my own heartbeat."

Harris described one of the objectives of this adventure
"as a way to subject himself to the same sort of incessant automated data collection process that he usually writes computer programs to conduct (in previous projects like We Feel Fine, Lovelines, Universe, 10x10, and Phylotaxis). Much effort is spent making computers understand what it’s like to be human (through data mining and artificial intelligence), but rarely do humans try to see things from a computer’s perspective. He was interested in reaching some degree of empathy with the computer, a constant thankless helper in my work."

The photos and the way you interact with them are certainly worth a look.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pownce - How do you get your music?

I've been a member of Pownce for a few months now. To be honest I haven't completely figured out it's somewhat unconventional interface and I definitely haven't been a very good contributer, but it has been a great resource for exchanging... actually just getting new music.

I think it's actually a lot easier to use than it seems. It's essentially a posting board for you and your friends but the main feature that makes it nice is that you can upload large files and share them with your friend list. I realized pretty quickly that I didn't find myself needing to email my friends large files that often so I decided to expand my Pownce circle of friends to see what I could discover.

I found musicians and communities interested in good music and added these people to my friends list. I started accepting random friend invites and unlike Facebook I found myself pleasantly surprised to be receiving music files from these new friends. Now as they exchange songs and music files I can download and taste some of the newest sounds being produced and shot around the intrawebs.

Shoot me an email if you're interested. I have a bunch of invites that I'm itching to send out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Health Care Is Changing

Consider the following; you're pretty sure you have a sinus infection and you're miserable; it's not bad enough for you to pay some ridiculous fee at the ER, if you call your doctor you'll have to wait three weeks, and if you take anymore NyQuil you'll probably end up on a full fledge Robotrip - what are you supposed to do? Well you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that if you don't already, you will soon have a new option that doesn't include you sitting around with with green goo dripping from your shnoz.

You may not have noticed but our Healthcare system is changing right under our nose.

I recently got back from St. Louis where I had a little visit to a great Midwestern sight - Walgreens. I visited four to be exact but I spent the most time at one in Manchester where I got a check up from a lovely Nurse Practitioner who actually worked in a Clinic right inside Walgreens. Not only did she give me a physical, she also prescribed me some meds.

Although I haven't exactly determined how I think easier access to prescription medications will improve our nation's health, I do think that more providing a network of Nurse Practitioners can help make our country a healthier place live.

Our current healthcare system has some pretty fundamental flaws but I can't help feeling at least a little optimistic about what's on the horizon. During my visit I was impresessed with how quickly I was seen and the quality time I was given when I visited the Walgreens Clinic Nurse Practitioner. Clinics like Walgreens' Take Care Health treat issues like Mono, Lyme Disease and Bladder Infections, offer sports physicals and access to vaccinations like the flu shot, tetanus shots, hepatitis B and a bunch of others. They aren't the solution for everyone, but they do provide solutions to medical issues for a reasonable price. My visit cost $59. They don't take X-rays or blood work and will refer you to Doctor or the ER if they can't handle your ailment and they do take insurance. As I inquired further I learned that these Clinics are popping up quicker than pimples on the face of a fifteen year old, with an estimated 2000 to open by the end of 2008.

I think we're going to start seeing some drastic changes and the democratization of health care looks to be a growing business. It will be interesting to see how we find solutions to provide these services as well as more complex issues to those who don't have insurance and can't afford treatment.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Transitioning American Culture: A Smarter Way to Commute

Back in May I went to the 2007 MakerFaire in San Mateo and had the opportunity to meet Rick Woodberry of CommuterCars, the creator of the Tango. It's an electric car that is all around a great solution to urban commuting. It's extremely thin but packs a punnch - it goes from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds. This is an interesting phenomenon, unfortunately it retails for $108,000 although Rick is working on getting it mass manufactured.

US car culture is facing a huge problem. A big portion of the problem revolves around our dependency of the automobile. Parking in cities, congested highways, gridlock in urban areas and urban sprawl. These are all complicated issues that will not be easily resolved. Yes these problems might start to solve themselves as we depelete our oil reserves and get stranded out in suburbia. Until then we need vehicles that will help transition us into time when cities are planned a bit more strategically and we are using more renewable sources of energy.

Surprisingly a big part of this transition is finding compromises. That means not abandoning what Americans love so much about their cars; things like being free and going fast. The Tango is a great compromise. Not only is it small and electric but it's fast and sexy.

More on this subject to come....

Predictions for 2008

Here are my top 5 predictions for 2008.
Alright, they're probably not all going to happen next year, but they're coming.

1. Cell phone users will finally make use of the technology they have and allow users to view one another as they talk to each other.

2. Chevron will buy GM & Exxon will buy Ford - they will give their cars away for free, you will pay for the gas. Gas will be so expensive that people will choose the Tango and other alternatives.

3. Healthcare companies will start requiring the $1000 DNA test at birth to evaluate & assess customers healthcare fees. FDA will require restaurants to put calories on menus

4. Digg, Reddit, Del.icio.us & Facebook become overrun by Mandarin, Chinese & Japanese leaving the US / English speakers realizing who's really running the world.

5. Record Labels try to buy and destroy the Internet in a last ditch effort to save themselves. MP3's On Demand puts the power and money back into artist's hands.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Seward Johson - Grounds for Sculpture

Last week I was back East and checked out the Seward Johnson - Grounds for Sculpture. They had some pretty amazing works of art. Besides a dissected motorcycle and a mobile stationary treadmill, some of the coolest works were the several three dimensional reenactments of mid century paintings.

MIT Classes Online for Free

What a great resource! In the past 2 hours I've watched a circuits and electronics class and listening to a psychology class taught by MIT professors.

MIT has their entire curriculum online and professors have been recording their classes for a few years now and are making them all available online here - for free!

A recent article '
How to take a course at MIT free -- at home' by the Post Gazette covers the details of how this $4 million per year service is funded and what implications it has. This open courseware approach is changing the way information is spread and paving the road for making new innovations and improving education.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

7 Habits of Highly Innovative People

I've been do a few different events lately talking about fostering creativity and innovation. I think this article does a good job at summing up how we can cultivate creativity.

Have you ever looked at super creative or innovative people, and felt they are special beings blessed with gifts? Have you felt that you are not as fortunate? I used to feel this way. I have since learned that creativity is more about psychology than intellect, and there are no secrets to being creative. Actually, there is no such thing as “being more creative”, you are already a creative being.

I’m sure we can all relate to moments when we felt stuck trying to tap into our own creativity. Did you know that this block is merely your mind at work? Your mind is creating all sorts of assumptions, self-imposed constraints and self-limiting inhibitions. I have found that we can remove these assumptions just by being in the moment; start doing, and stop thinking.

Here are seven habits found in highly innovative and creative people that I’ve organized and summarized from Scott Berkun’s “the myths of innovation“.

1. Persistence - Innovation involves more than just great ideas. We need faith, hard work and a laser sharp focus for the end result to keep persisting for our vision in the face of roadblocks. We tend to see the end result of a creative idea in awe, but what we don’t see are the actions, hard work and persistence behind the scene to make the vision a reality.

Invention is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration“,
–Thomas A. Edison

2. Remove Self-Limiting Inhibitions - Under the spell of inhibition, we feel limited and stuck. We need to free ourselves from these mind-created constraints by removing assumptions and restrictions. This is what we refer to when we say “think outside the box”. Encourage ourselves to be open to new ideas and solutions without setting limiting beliefs. Remember, innovation is more about psychology than intellect.

3. Take Risks, Make Mistakes - I believe that part of the reason why we create self-imposed inhibition is due to our fear of failure. Expect that some ideas will fail in the process of learning. Build prototypes often, test them out on people, gather feedback, and make incremental changes. Rather than treating the mistakes as failures, think of them as experiments. “Experiment is the expected failure to deliberately learn something.” (Scott Berkun). Instead of punishing yourself for the failures, accept them, then take your newfound knowledge and put it towards finding the best solution. Live up to your goal of producing the best result, but understand you might hit roadblocks along the way.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
–Thomas A. Edison

4. Escape - Our environment can and does effect how we feel. The more relaxed and calm we are internally, the more receptive we are to tap into our flowing creativity. This is why ideas sometimes come to us in the shower or while we’re alone. Each of us have different triggers to access our creative energy. I get into the ‘creative zone’ from sitting at my dining table, with a warm cup of chai, and my noise-canceling headphones. Many great thinkers go on long walks to help them solve problems. Experiment and find what works for you.

5. Writing Things Down - Many innovators and creative people keep a journal to jot down ideas and thoughts. Some keep a sketch book, scrap book, post-it notes, loose paper. They all have a method to capture their thoughts, to think on paper, to drop their inhibitions and start the creative process. Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous notebook was purchased by Bill Gates for $30.8 Million dollars.

6. Find Patterns & Create Combinations - Ideas come from other ideas. Did you know that Edison wasn’t the first one who came up with the invention of the light bulb? He was the first to build a workable carbon filament inside a glass bulb, that made light bulbs last longer. You can increase your exposure to new ideas, look for patterns and see how you can combine ideas to improve upon existing solutions.

7. Curiosity - Many innovators are just curious people who are inquisitive, and like to solve problems. Practice seeing things differently. For example, When seeing the solution to a problem, ask yourself, “What are some alternative ways to doing this?”. Ask a lot of questions and challenge the norms or existing methods.

Here are some techniques you can apply to cultivate creativity:

  • Keep a Journal - Practice writing every thought, idea, and inspiration down. Practice, brainstorming and thinking on paper.
  • Solve the Opposite Problem - Scott talked about this technique. The idea is to invent and brainstorm by solving the opposite problem that you are trying to solve. So, for example, if you are trying to create “The best laptop design”, then start with ideas to create “The worst laptop design”. For each idea you come up with, flip it. For example, if “heavy and clunky” is one idea for “The worst laptop design”, then flipping that might give me “light and sleek” which can be used in “The best laptop design”.
    This technique works especially well when brainstorming in a group.The technique sounds so silly that people will become playful when answering. Humor brings down inhibition and encourages people to say things out aloud. People feel less insecure and more open.
  • Find A Creative Environment - Find a relaxing or inspiring environment that triggers your creativity. Try different spots until you find some that really bring out the best in you. I alternate between my living room (which I have carefully decorated) and a couple of local coffee shops.
  • Do something fun - If you’re stuck on something, shift your thoughts by going to do something fun and completely different. Come back to it with a fresh mind.
  • Partnering - Find creative partnerships with another. New ideas can surface as a result of two forces that would not have been arrived by a single person. Brainstorm together.
  • ‘Commit to Failure’ - “Commit yourself to taking enough risks that you will fail some of the time. If you’re not failing, we’re not doing something sufficiently difficult or creative.” -Scott Berkun
  • Talk to Someone About It - I have found that when I try to articulate a particular problem to someone, that I’ll somehow articulate my solution, as well. When explaining my situation, I’m not expecting them to solve my problem, but rather act as a ‘bouncing board’ for ideas.
  • **Plan for Roadblocks -Commit to efforts to overcome potential setbacks. It’s worthwhile to identify and have a plan for non-creative items that may inhibit creative thinking. Scott talked about the most common roadblocks people face: Loss of motivation, ran out of money, unable to convince key person.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Future of Branding

Moore’s new book about brandalism is kind of inspiring in the same way Cotton’s Planning For Good is inspiring. There is a real desire for advertising to change for the better.

As a brand strategist I like to be challenged about how I’m contributing to my culture. Moore challenges me to understand what I’m doing and although she wouldn’t agree, there is certainly a middle of the road compromise that can allow for the sale of goods without manipulating the consumer. This includes a two way street that allows art and advertising to contribute positively to culture.

Is the future of branding about driving profits and manipulating a consumer by bluring the line between product and culture? Elizabeth Anne Moore spoke last week in Boston about her book which described the impact that advertising has on our culture. She raised questions about emotional branding and marking concepts like love marking.

Moore really gets her boxers in a bunch when she describes the destructive impact of Kevin Robert's Lovemarks, a term to essentially refers to branding through emotional manipulation. Consumers are driven to purchase a product because of what they think it stands for; not because it is a product they need. Her argument challenges advertisers to be authentic and act with integrity – it’s too extreme, even from an advertising perspective.

We value DIY; forefathers like Ian of Dischord records.
Dischord was a revolutionary record label that pushed us culturally and made us realize that there are alternatives to selling out. Our generation is stuck between the extremes of selling out and dumpster diving. We’re charged with manufacturing our own culture now and determining to what extent we embrace various marketing techniques.

If bad advertising is about pushing a product that people don't really need then how can marketing shift to have a more positive influence on society.
Maybe it's about operating with transparency to create trust and destroy the manipulative and deceptive side of advertising. Is it about advertisers promoting culture or being a part of society without trying push their believes on us. Maybe it's about embracing subtlety, about being who you are and letting people recognize they're interested in you. Or maybe it's just about embracing your own inner dumpster diver.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Guitar Hero

My entire life I've avoided playing a musical instrument. I can speculate on a lot of reasons why, despite loving listening to my sister play both the guitar and piano. Well, 2 days ago that all changed with Guitar Hero III. I've played the game filled with a bunch of classic rock songs and it's tough. You grip it like a real guitar, strum it like a real guitar, play the whammy bar and use buttons that simulate chords; it's as realistic as a non-guitar player could imagine. So what's interesting about this you ask?

Video games are entertaining but they often leave us feeling void and depressed. Even when I beat a game I don't really have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Whatever sense of accomplishment I get from imagining how I'm improving my hand eye coordination quickly diminishes when I realize I'm just living in someone else's puzzle world. It's like talking on the phone only to realize the other voice is just a recorded message.

Second Life was the first time I entered the world of gaming and felt like I had the ability to be creative and impact the environment in which I "existed." It was cool, I built some useless structures, talked to some Italian programmers and flew around a bunch, but my interested faded relatively quickly.

Tonight I got the feeling that we're heading toward an evolution in gaming, a place where we can be part of an environment that will let you engage in meaningful and creative activities. Video games are reaching a point where they are becoming a tool instead of the cage. With that in mind, why doesn't Guitar Hero III have a freestyle jam feature so players can leave the game side to play the guitar freestyle and create their own music?

I'm awful at the game but the fact is it inspired me to start playing an instrument; something I hadn't had interest in for 28 years. Now I want more. The interface got me started, why not help me grow and facilitate an opportunity to create my own music?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A new music experience

Arcade Fire recently released their new album Neon Bible and they've created an interactive music video that is a refreshing and creative online experience. Although they're only scratching the surface, it's surprising that we haven't seen more musicians look online to create ways to engage their fans. They're using the internet the way it should be used.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Influx Ideas Conference 2007

Yesterday Ed Cotton of InfluxInsights hosted The Influx Ideas 2007 Conference. The conference was an opportunity for great minds to converge and discuss the future of branding. There were a few interesting themes that provided insight into how branding is evolving.

- Branding will become more responsible for delivering an emotional experience. "Panasonic embraced an effort to use their technology to create the first battery operated airplane. Communities became passionate about the project and the resulting PR had a tremendous impact on the brand."

- Brands will be expected to provide an all encompassing experience. "Burger King has recently created 3 Xbox games that allows kinds to be entertained while interacting with their brand."

- Brands will be required to deliver genuine value based on what their brand promises. Consumers will seek meaning in what a brand claims. "The Chysler building is a great example of a car company who created an architectural icon that uses their building design to represent the aesthetic of the car."

- Brands must provide transparent sustainability solutions by fundamentally changing practices that are counter intuitive to the green movement. "Those who survive must provide a transparent solution that reveals a commitment to environmental and social responsibility."

- Customization will allow brands to connect with their consumers. An open source approach is important; embracing a consumer's
individuality, creativity and ability to innovate makes the consumer feel like the brand is more a part of who they are.

- Brands will be required to communicate with their consumers not just provide communications to them.

We had the opportunity to hear from Jonah Bloom from Ad Age, Scott Wyatt from NBBJ Architects, Sarah Rich from worldchanging.org, Christian Simm from Swiss Next, Kent Nicholas from Ask A Ninja and Gregory Kennedy from Millions of Us. Here's what they had to say:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What You're Hiding

Studying identical twins has always been fascinating. It's such a cool way to test how our environment affects our behavior; but as it turns out, these 'twin' tests may not be very good indicators at all.

We've decoded the human genome but it's only showed us how much more we still have to learn. We're just starting to toy with the findings that explain why humans express certain personality traits while others do not. Specifically, two identical twins may exhibit different personalities or one twin may develop cancer while the other does not. Studies on the epigenome ( a layer of biochemical material that turns genes on and off) are under heavy research. The study sets out to test how the epigenome determines how we develop, look and behave. More interestingly, these characteristics are influenced by environmental factors, meaning there is proof that who we are isn't all about nature.

The study that recently aired on PBS called Ghost In Your Genes talks about the way that a famine experienced by a boy during his young adulthood will influence the personalities of his grandchildren. It comes at an interesting time since I recently started researching my family history on Ancestry.com. I've realized how little I know about my own family tree; what does that mean to understanding my own future?

The study has some interesting implications regarding the choices we make and how our environment effects our offspring. It makes me wonder if inhaling smoke from the G.I. Joes I burned with my magnifiying glass as a kid is going to affect my grandkids, or if eating a bunch of B-12 vitamins and Folic Acid while you're pregnant can silence bad genes. I never had any doubt that coming from a nurturing family has made me a better acclimated individual, but now I'm wondering how far I can go to coax out the good genes.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Questioning Identity

Doesn't everyone go through a phase at some point in their life where they question their identity? It's a pivotal experience, enabling you to define who you are. This has been a topic of mind recently and one possible idea I'm theorizing is centered on the benefits of having many of these moments where we question our identity. Each new experience allows us to evolve and grow. I'm drawing on a few experience that have all helped me reach this conclusion. A few of them are fasting, watching American Beauty, The End of Suburbia and most recently Into the Wild, taking a few buddhist meditation classes, reading Dawkins' The God Delusion and having some good discussions on the topic. Paraphrasing a quote from Into the Wild, "the 21st century man is defined by the perception of the 20th century career man." Profession and consumption too often become intertwined possessions become part of identity.

Deliberate Living: Conscious attention to the basics of life, and a constant attention to your immediate environment and its concerns, example-> A job, a task, a book; anything requiring efficient concentration (Circumstance has no value. It is how one relates to a situation that has value. All true meaning resides in the personal relationship to a phenomenon, what it means to you).


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Future of Energy

Think for a brief second how America would change if all of our cars instantaneously vaporized. It would be a huge inconvenience, a lot of people would be stranded; but with some major restructuring of our transportation infrastructure we'd no doubt compensate. Now ask yourself what would happen if all of our oil disappeared: no transportation, no energy, no heat, no electricity, no fertilizer, no food, to plastics - life would be paralyzed.

At least that is the impression you get from watching "A Crude Awakening" and "The End of Suburbia." The end of oil won't be abrupt, but it is coming at a faster pace than we realize, especially consider our lack of preparedness. Peak oil is the economic principle that oil supply will plateau and then begin to dwindle at an increasing pace. It's not a theory, it's a fact; fossil fuels will run out in the near future. There is speculation that there will be several severe repercussions that will drastically affect how we live. Oil is not just related to transportation, it affects agriculture, the economic success of city & suburban life, political relationships, the
production of most goods & products and energy as a whole. Both movies are depressing and drive home the same point, we're squandering our resources. We're reaching the end of an oil dependent American empire and haven't considered how we'll transition into an age fueled by a new kind of energy.

The depletion of oil means we will be forced to devise new means of producing energy and implement them in a relatively short time span. Authors like Richard Heinberg "Power Down: Options For A Post Carbon World" and Michael Ruppert "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire At the End of the Age of Oil" discuss ideas like the Project For the New American Century as well as new urbanism, where cities are devised to be more sustainable and completely walkable. They raise interesting questions like how will we support a huge population without the means to use gas to power farming equipment enabling us to mass produce food and transport it around the country? Do you realize how many products are petroleum based and will suburbs become the new slums? They consider the validity of alternative means of energy like ethanol, hydrogen, nuclear and solar, but are highly skeptical. Despite their negativity, they raise some good questions; questions I think we have started to answer with new solar and battery technology.

In the same way the Inconvenient Truth helped to reiterate underlying faults in our ways of life, these documentaries spell out the fact that the oil wells are drying up and we're ill prepared. To think that there is a very real possibility that our grandchildren will never fly on an airplane is certainly a wake up call. So what can we do, start by becoming less dependent on oil. Learn to live and act locally to become self sufficient and adopt practices that are considerably less dependent on oil. Below is a KQED short on promising new nano solar technology that helps give us all an inkling of hope as we go up in flames.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A City With No Ads

This discover comes at a timely moment, right after a talk from Naomi Klein, author of "No Logo." Sao Paulo recently engaged in an effort to clean up the urban landscape and they've done so by turning the city into an advertising ghost town. Everything has been removed, from graffiti to posters to billboards, leaving tourists and citizens alike to enjoy the purity of a brand free city.

Imagine for a moment that you were able to focus just on the architecture and nature of a city without being forced to consider advertising messages. Branding is about creating a personality in a product, but how do brands compose the personality of a city?

PingMag covered the story and quotes one Brazilian who described the disorientation and then the new identity and culture growing out of the ad free city, "My reference was a big Panasonic billboard. But now my reference is art deco building that was once covered with this Panasonic. So you start getting new references in the city. The city’s got now new language, a new identity.”

Corporations have started painting their buildings in vibrant colors in a effort to distinguish themselves; Tony de Marco has a No Logo scrapbook on Flickr documenting the changes he's seen throughout the city. It shows such a humanitarian trait of brands; their desire to express their individuality.

So if the upside is Sao Paulo shedding a superficial skin and reclaiming its truer self, then the downside is the economic repercussion. The ban started at the beginning of the year, so there aren't any real reports on how it is affecting business, but I can't help wonder how things will change to compensate for the lack of visual aid. Nature has a way of creating balance; negative space can often be the fertilizer for creativity so we might look to Sao Paulo for new ways to brand.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wall Animations

Pretty fantastic wall animation. Awesome imagination and great use of abandoned space.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How Shock Therapy Makes Money

Tonight Naomi Klein spoke about her new book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, and discussed the ways governments exploit countries in crisis. She explained her theory in very human terms and used examples of shock treatment to illustrate her point. The premise is that during a time of crisis there is overwhelming opportunity to leveraged the situation to one's advantage in the interest of making a profit. She wasted no time citing Iraq, New Orleans, 9/11, & Sri Lanka as examples of the ways that contractors seize an opportunity to profit from others misfortunes.

Alfonso Cuaron created a short to help Naomi express some of her ideas. The video references CIA torture manuals that explain the use of psychological and physical shock to induce a form of regression to control and manipulate their subjects. Naomi goes on to parallel this effect on an individual to collective traumas experienced by entire countries. The short ends with a type of public service announcement: "The best way to arm yourself is by understanding what is happening and why: 'Information is shock resistance, arm yourself.'"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Virtual Gets Functional

People continue to express skepticism of virtual environments like Second Life. This KQED mini-documentary changes things a bit and for the first time I feel like there are some practical applications to virtual worlds. With the use of SL, learning and group interaction certainly takes on a new dimension. Second Life is struggling because there aren't compelling reason to visit the environment, but interacting with a simulation of a real life environment makes learning online much more engaging and dynamic. Visualizing the classroom and your fellow classmates makes the educational experience more real. There additional human element lets peers establish relationships and display personality that will make long distance learning more engaging. This makes me feel like SL has just gotten off to a slow start, and now it's potential is getting recognized.

This spoof was dead on because there was seemingly no purpose to floating around Second Life. There were too many opportunities to realize how ridiculous (and boring) the experience was. I think practical applications like this educational program are going to give Second Life a Second Wind.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Future of Weight Loss

A balanced life is a healthier life. The weight loss landscape has changed a lot over the last thirty years. We took Slim Fast, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, we danced to Richard Simmons workout videos, Tae Bo & Jazzercise, we did Pilates, Yoga, Bikrim Yoga & Thai Chi, we took diet pills had lipo suction, joined Curves, hired nutritionists, did the Atkins, the Master Clense, gained weight, lost weight and used a great deal of trial and error to get a bit closer to figuring out what we're searching for. So what have we learned from all this? Well, we've discovered we aren't looking for a quick fix.

There will always be a need to lose 5 pounds three days before we leave for our spring break vacation, but our overall attitudes towards weight loss are changing. We're looking for sustainable habits that will provide long term health. What does this mean? We're shift towards being healthier individuals. It requires that we maintain a balanced lifestyle that considers, eating healthier, making more time for exercise.

Interestingly we've become a more obese country. The airline industry spends $250 million a year extra in fuel costs to fly the fat packed on by over weight Americans. The thing is, since 2003, around when Atkins died from a heart attack people started moving away from fad diets. Consumer mentality is showing signs of seeing the big picture. People are weighing the risks of heart disease and diabetes and are more willing to consider the long term benefits over instant gratification.

A few trends emerged:
- Diet fatigue
- Eating more reasonably size portions.
- Fat can be fit ( Weight loss is not about image, it's about living longer: Scientific America)
- Skinny is nice but I want to be healthy: At first companies subsidized their employee's work out plans, now they could be charging their employees if they don't stay fit.
- Can we evolve into a more fit race?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Crowdsourcing / GeoCaching

Crowdsourcing - tapping the wisdom of the masses to improve upon an idea, service or product. The idea has been recently applied to the technology market where a group of online consumers discuss ideas for a new gadget, then investors will throw some money down and build a prototype. Once that's done, the community comes back to test the device, and then will ostensibly buy that product.

Geocaching -
an entertaining adventure game for gps users. Participating in a cache hunt is a good way to take advantage of the wonderful features and capability of a gps unit. The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. All the visitor is asked to do is if they get something they should try to leave something for the cache.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Open Up a Little, Hugs For Everyone

Do we keep to ourselves a bit too much sometimes? Is there an advantage to displacing our tunnel vision mentality when it comes to dealing with the 'would be friends' (or daily strangers, depending on how you look at it,) who surround us? Many of us have this mentality, most easily observed in big cities, that we do our thing, stick to ourselves and everything will be alright. I understand the value of alone time, I like to reflect, it's like sleeping after a day of hard thinking, all your good ideas incubate. But I feel like there's some unspoken aversion to being publicly social.

God Grew Tired of Us was an interesting documentary about the Lost Boys of Sudan who endured harsh persecution followed by a 1,000 mile relocation trek to escape death and then 10 years away from anyone they knew. The film is about the experiences the boys have when they are given the opportunity to relocate to the US. Most fascinating was their observation of the way Americans treat their neighbors. They're surprised to see people ignore one another on the streets and walk straight past people who are crying in a public place. This stood out because these men from Sudan had an objective perspective of our culture and this kind of social behavior really struck them as odd; so I wondered a bit more about why this behavior of walking around with blinders on in our own little bubble has become normal.

The WSJ recently wrote an article about how men will avoid a lost child in a mall for fear of being labeled a predator. I just watched the High Fives video which again gave me the sense that people don't seek contact with strangers and will simply avoid it if approached.

High Five video

This attitude contrasts some other films where people are reluctant but eventually embrace the idea that public behavior might have some benefits and it isn't that bad to engage strangers.

Free Hugs

and Dave Mathew's Everyday video

These examples are an inspiration but certainly exhibit behavior that most people would choose to avoid.
After watching God Grew Tired Of Us I realized how our culture really encourages people to keep to themselves in public and couldn't help to think how our daily lives would be improved if we made the extra effort to be a little more open.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Robots Are Going To Take Over the World

It's predicted that sometime between 2020 and 2030 civilization will reach a point where technology will become more intelligent than humans. When I attended the singularity conference yesterday I was expecting a bunch of science fiction enthusiasts theorizing about robots taking over the world and turning the human body into a battery, just like we saw in the Matrix. The speakers were surprisingly grounded and talked about their current efforts as engineers and philosophers. Dr. Rodney Brooks of MIT and the founder of iRobot, was the key note speaker and revealed (with a bit of humor too) some of his firms experimentation with artificial intelligence. Most interesting is their work with programming robots to interact with humans and exhibit emotional reaction. Not surprisingly, Rodney explained how research and development on AI has taken off in the last few years since the US Government has funded the design of robots to reduce the numbers of humans in war zones. His company currently responsible for mass producing robots for consumer use.

As the discussion progressed it became clear(er) that there were a few different fields that study the increasing intelligence of technology; which you're probably familiar with if you've seen the Terminator. The premise is, when (not if) will machines become conscious? While much of the discussion here at the Singularity summit centers around theorizing on when this technological moment will come and how it will impact the human race, a few speakers, explained how they are working on robots that interact & converse by understanding and exhibiting human reactions.

Another interesting topic is based around accelerating change and the theory of exponentials. It sounds technical but it's pretty straight forward: technology is advancing at a faster pace. It's based on Moore's law, the principle that computing power doubles every 18 months. Moore's law is the rational being used to explain how the moment of singularity is fast approaching. Throughout the summit the one topic that seemed to get all these scientists hot and bothered was making a prediction about what would happen after Singularity has been achieved. Predicting the future after the moment of singularity is huge, and no one really has any idea what the consequences will be, we just realize it's fast approaching.

I think some of the ways we currently interact with "robots" aren't even realized, take Amazon's Mechanical Turk project for example. One of it's most recent programs allowed users to search satellite images from Google maps to find lost individuals. This is a great way to combine human intelligence with AI, but how do things change when the human component doesn't offer an advantage.

Another interesting topic of debate surrounded the proliferation of robotic rights. One argument centered on the hypocritical nature of humans and how we disregard the rights of others; proving that rights aren’t given, they are earned. At some point, it's argued, Artificial Intelligence will reach a point where it is self conscious and autonomous, at which point robots will seek to claim rights. Scientists are studying human behavior to understand how cognition (
LIDA Cognitive Cycle) develops with the intention of understanding how machines could be moral.

The most public example of an autonomous machine is the success of an unmanned car winning the DARPA challenge by autonomously completing a 132 mile course in just under seven hours. Clearly this is just the beginning, but what if this car hit someone based on a decision it made that was in no way related to the individuals who programmed the car? Who is responsible? Does the car stand trial?

Another study referenced the Joshua Blue Project - a comptuer system patterned after the human mind, capable of autonomously learning to successfully function in a number of environments. It included the study of semantic processing and autonomous common sense knowledge acquisition. IBM has been looking at clues from human development and have been studying synaptic life cycles along with the human brain and eye tracking.

Dr. Barney Pell from Powerset spoke about the importance of robots in the work place. In this clip he explains the characteristics necessary for a robot to be a successful employee; including socialization with humans.

As I left the Summit I realized I was going to have to drive myself home, but at least I wouldn't have to worry about getting run over by some demoniacally possessed robotic car.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

SF New Tech

Today I experienced the front line of web 2.0 and amidst all the great ideas, cool technology and angel investors I couldn't help but wonder if we're building an internet 2.0 bubble. 6 companies pitched their ideas in 5 minutes or less and during the Q&A session that followed each presentation there was someone in the crowd who asked, "so, how will this idea make money?" It seems obvious but despite all the creativity and innovation, the profitability of each business model seemed to be absent.

During SF New Tech a few entrepreneurs did present websites that are worth checking out. Most of them are mash-ups but they are up and running and provide seemingly useful services. Take a look:



"us4real.com allows consumers to research a metropolitan area before deciding to move. Our Google maps based site shows Cost of living, Income, School, Crime, and unemployment in different cities in a metro. Cities are color coded from green to red depending on their "grade" for a particular category. Once they pick a city, they can run price comparisons for houses / apartments for the properties. In the "property search" mode, users can dra g the map, and retrieve new properties based on their search criteria."

Global Motion

"GlobalMotion aims to be the leading Wiki for locations. GlobalMotion combines the power of geotagged photos, online maps and wikis into a surprisingly easy and fun user experience."


"SezWho aims to be a distributed rating and reputation system for all user generated content."

Crazy Menu

"Crazymenu makes eating lunches easy as pie through a set of applications and patent pending tools and technologies that connects restaurants to office workers, and enables them to make the most of the short lunch hours. Our real-time Pick-A-Place collaboration application and our extensive restaurant management tools are a breeze to use for both restaurants and lunch eaters."

Monday, September 3, 2007

How to Bring a City to Life: Urban Street Art

Julian Beever's been making chalk art for over 10 years now. He travels the world and creates amazing 3D drawings on city streets and sidewalks. He agreed when asked for photograph, but requested one without flash for fear of it creating a migrane. While watching Julian over the three days he crouched over the Embarcadero sidewalk, I admired his patience for passers-by and tourists who assaulted him with questions, rode their bikes through his canvas and even shared the same camera he was using to anamorphically create his drawings. As he finished earlier tonight he wrapped himself with a blue tarp, slouched down on the sidewalk corner and likely contemplated his next gig.
Julian's been adding to the visual stimulus of cities around the world for 10 years now. His art is amazing and trumps the work of taggers and most graffiti artists. He knows each drawing is extremely temporary but still puts his heart into each one. The impact is great, creating interest and inspiration in everyone who passes. Turning the city into a color by number canvas literally brings the city to life. We need to find more artists willing to add this kind of visual stimulation to the concrete canvas.

Julian Beever SF Embarcadero

Julian Beever lines up

Julian at the Embarcadero

Thursday, August 23, 2007

the evolution of good

Two friends of mine have recently embarked on separate missions to increase the good we all do in this world. People are constantly telling us that humans are inherently good and I believe it. We're heading towards a point in history where humanity takes a leap and it will be an evolution in the way we think and act.

We've seen enough maps filled with bubbles indicating where and how frequently crimes occur, or where the nearest sex offender lives, but I've yet to see a map filled with acts of kindness. I recently read a WSJ article about social networking enabling philanthropy. Non-profits and volunteers are popping up all over Facebook innovative ideas fostering communities that make it easier to volunteer and contribute to a cause you believe in. Advertising planners can do more than brand a product, they can crack a brief to help solve problems for non-profits and causes eg. resolving the New Orleans crisis or entrepreneurs can participate in micro finance by facilitating a small business in a developing country.

These are all great examples of a larger collective movement towards a fundamental change in how we are treating each other better. There is a shift taking place encouraging us to act upon our inherently good nature. Maybe we're tired of the perception that we're living in fear, maybe social networking is facilitating our dormant acts of kindness or maybe we're finally evolving to a point where we can all embrace a new level of kindness.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Train coming

Say there's a group of five people standing on a train track, with a train coming toward them. You can save the whole group by pulling a lever and switching to another track, but the catch is that you'll kill another person who's standing on that other track. Do you pull the lever?

According to Harvard scientist Mark Hauser, who posed this question to hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet, nine out of 10 people say yes, they would pull the lever. But the next question was a bit harder—and the answers much more confusing.

In the second scenario you're on a trestle standing above the tracks and again there is a group of five people standing down track who are about to die. There is also a large man standing in-front of you. If you push him, he'll fall onto the track, stop the train and save the group of five. Would you push the man?

This time Mark Hauser, again posed the question to hundreds of thousands of people, nine out of 10 people said they would NOT push the man.
It's an interesting moral quandry; in both instances you're actions lead to the death of someone, but the act of arriving there is processed by our brains differently. He ran tests posing questions like this while using an MRI to imaging the brains of respondents. He discovered that we process moral decisions and will arrive at different conclusions because of how our minds have evolved. Even more interesting, Mark's theory is that morality is hardwired into our genetics.

Listen to the full Episode on "This American Life" here: Who Can You Save?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

subliminal messaging

I attended and covered Siggraph; here's a piece from the Emerging Technology room:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

a smarter city

Today I spoke with Katrina and Sam, editors of Dwell magazine and learned about new initiatives they're undertaking that have the potential to change our urban landscape. The challenge is to bring architects, city designers and engineers together to brainstorm about the ways we can make our city better. How do we design multi-unit housing so it truly promotes community? We spoke about learning from our mistakes with housing projects, how we can build a more sustainable city and what it will mean to look beyond San Francisco's new Federal building.

Washington DC is a recent example of what happens when urban planners start to run out of space an poor neighborhoods become valuable real estate. Naturally it's difficult not to wonder what is in store for the Tenderloin and more importantly how will we deal with it's inhabitants. It's also interesting to try and understand how we can clean up our cities without destroying their history or culture. The Meatpacking district of New York is a new place when it's filled with fancy restaurants, so can we clean up sections of the city without destroying their culture; or is that premise too centered around trying to hold on to the past. Come to the Dwell conference and learn more.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Eric Ryan - Method

Great speech from the Account Planners conference this year down in San Diego. His company produces house hold products, but he approached the market from a new angle. Method products are certainly design savvy; they're meant to function well and be aesthetically pleasing. His cleaners are about living healthier, something not normal grocery store cleaners don't care much about. On the most simple level, he's moved in on large companies by eating the market share of players who don't innovate. It's a great case study for doing market research and innovating.


Feel Good? - Now Think

I didn't have 5 minutes to watch this video but I couldn't tear myself away. There's something to be said about a gritty, honest, feel good advertisement that has disturbingly good intentions and forces you to really contemplate an issue.

Post Secret

I think I first saw this technique in a more rudimentary form while watching "Adaptation"; it was a quick scene when a car reverses out of the driveway and you witness a startlingly disturbing and violent impact. The technique was later reused in a recent Volkswagon campaign.

Most recently we saw "Wind" which was elusively entertaining, intriguing and a bit unsettling to watch:

and now Post Secret. It's becoming more of an imperative that advertisements are entertaining, but there's a shift towards a theme that elicits an emotional response. It's a gritty, honest approach that doesn't seem contrived. This technique has incredible potential because it has the ability to get your message passed around; but it also enables the viewer to watch the message to the end and has a better chance of resonating with the audience.

In a DVR, OnDemand & internet world there has to be a reason to stay tuned into the increasingly obsolete 30 second spot, why not build off a trend that is gaining some momentum?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Siggraph 2007

This was a great opportunity to preview some state-of-the-art technology that will give us a look into the future of the video game and movie industry.

The Emerging technology room showcased some pretty cool innovations like 3D Holograms, the Microsoft touch table, easy to control robots, a touch based video game and track pad that let's you walk without moving.

Here's a preview of some of the technology I got to try out:

Siggraph also gave filmmakers an opportunity to preview their animation and CGI films. They were all breath taking. Here's an example of one:

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

AAAA 2007

I've been at the Planners Conference in San Diego for the past 3 days and had the opportunity to listen to some interesting and smart people. The goal was to share ideas and become a better account planner.

The seminar kicked off with a speech by Sir Ken Robinson, an enthusiastic and funny, motivational speaker. His expertise is revolutionizing the way we educate and he spoke quite eloquently about unlocking creativity. He is the author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative. He mentioned case studies like the branding of tap water to fundraise and made comments like "it's not how intelligent you are, but rather how you are intelligent." His ending quote was "our problem isn't that we aim too high and fail, but that we aim to low and succeed."

Adam Morgan of Eatbigfish spoke about realizing opportunities and being innovative. He offered inspirational advice like Kissing the Shadow - creating an opportunity from a disadvantage, and others like being Gorilla Blind, and how to beat the Duncker Cradle Task. He expressed the tremendous value he sees in looking at micro targets to determine future needs, like for example designing products for the mainstream by looking at products needed by the disabled.

Brandon Geary of Avenue Q Razorfish spoke about how we can use web 2.0 to observing better and capitalize on consumer information that is posted on sites like Flickr, Wefeelfine and others who are the 'online entrenched.' He talked about aspirational profiling and searching out pent-up demand.

Scott Lucas of Dosage talked about why people become engaged and what to do to engage them. He referenced the "7-up" documentary and focused on the characteristics that engage, like: Scandal, coopertive communities, rituals and listed about 32 different ways people become engaged.

Ed Cotton & Aki Spicer spoke passionately about Blogging, why it's so important and how to do it successfully. They expressed the importance of using blogs to"harvesting our collective intelligence" and "helping keep us curious." It was inspirational because they showed the essence of being a planner requires soaking information in, sharing information with others in an effort to engage other and figure things out.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On All Fours

Why aren't we allowed to procreate with family members. I know, I know, that's gross, it's disg
usting, shunned; but why? Well why would we condone behavior that creates devolved offspring?

Everyone alive today has FoxP2 - it is a genetic mutation that makes humans smart and, well human. Pidedality is one trait that is a product of our larger brains and increased intelligence. I recently watched a film on KQED called "Family that Walks on All Fours" that raises an intense scientific issue.

The episode is enlightening - the Turkish family is difficult to watch, they are like animals, they walk on all fours and stare into the camera like zombies - actually it kind of freaked me out!

The family, however, sparked an interesting question that is more of moral and societal question than a scientific one. Let me set up the issue this way. We don't breed with our family members because of the risk that society has deemed unacceptable. Same family breeding allows negative genetic mutations to become dominant, often resulting in retardation. The good of society, is a good enough reason not to allow this behavior. So then, what are the limits to acceptable breeding policy.

It seems taboo to discuss, but we all tote our IQ around with us and our society is made up of a variety of people ranging from, simply put, smart to dumb. We are trained to think that we are all smart in our unique way, but some have a few more pistons firing than others. A lack of intelligence isn't always as visually obvious as walking on all fours, but evolutionarily speaking some humans are not as advanced as others.

That being said, let's look at the Chinese governmental mandate called the "One Child Policy", and take a look at how it might be compared to social policy about inbreeding. Both policies dictate that citizens should not procreate in ways that are harmful to society. Watching "The Family Who Walks On All Fours" I started to wonder why social policy doesn't favor intelligent offspring over the offspring of parents who are less evolved. See the movie Idiocracy. Maybe it's too hard to draw a line without obvious visual deformities, or Is it because we don't have a good enough way of testing how smart or evolved certain individuals are? Why isn't there a test that evaluates our DNA, determines our biological intelligence and dictates whether we're permitted to have 1 kid ( below par) or 3 kids ( really smart), or maybe not any kids at all?

I think about mandates currently in place to enhance our society, how they will change and what we can do to encourage intelligence without becoming a bunch of Nazis.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Two things:
- Good brand communication requires strategy and creative. Together they are a powerful combination.
- Good presentation communication must be simple, concise & captivating. I recently wrote a blog on this discussing the impact of Powerpoint.

This presentation is a great example of both:


Sex Camps: Russians Way to Combat Democracy

Where has Russian been? Are they making a come back? What a lucrative way for the government to increase nationalism - it's just as fun as handing out drugs only you boost your population instead of creating a bunch of strung out losers.

If your Mom said, "Alright, I've signed you up for sex camp, you have to go procreate for the next two weeks," would you kick and scream? Well.... maybe, it is kind of strange, but it's being embraced in Russia.

This article talks about
"Nashi", the 100,000 person strong youth movement run by Vladimir Putin's Kremlin that has become a central part of Russian political life. During the camp sex is encouraged and condoms are nowhere in sight.

The main reason Russians feel it's an important movement is because, "
the hard-drinking, hardsmoking and disease-ridden population is set to plunge by a million a year in the next decade." Some point out the similarities to Nazis movements, while others feel it's an effort to combat democracy.

Despite the somewhat obvious governmental agenda, kids are going; obviously for the sex but also for a sense of purpose and for opportunities for an education and a chance at getting a leg up.

"Nashi supporters drown out protests by Russia's feeble and divided democratic opposition," mmm I guess sex is a powerful thing. I know history repeats itself, but how has Russia so quickly forgotten that communism didn't work out for them the first time around. The Kremlin's chief, Vladislav Surkov, is trying to explain why questioning the crooks and spooks who run Russia is not just mistaken, but treacherous." It seems to me that we have similar problems, eg. the US healthcare system; we know there's a huge problem, we know it needs fixing, but we're having trouble figuring out how to get started.