Monday, December 7, 2009

Modeling the Mind: the singularity series

We're on the path to artificial intelligence surpassing that of human intelligence within roughly 20 years but scientists are re-thinking the path to singularity. There are a lot of different pieces required to re-constructing the thought process and now researchers are trying to find a way to integrate them all.

Although it's pretty nerdy, I've always been fascinated with figuring out how to get a computer to think, solve problems and function like a human mind. These two paragraphs are from Re-Thinking Artificial Intelligence, an MIT article about how scientists are re-thinking and re-approaching an issue that once resolved will bring us one step closer to successfully completing a Turing test, and ultimately singularity.

"After modeling the thought process, the second area of focus is memory. Much work in AI has tried to impose an artificial consistency of systems and rules on the messy, complex nature of human thought and memory. “It’s now possible to accumulate the whole life experience of a person, and then reason using these data sets which are full of ambiguities and inconsistencies. That’s how we function — we don’t reason with precise truths,” he says. Computers need to learn “ways to reason that work with, rather than avoid, ambiguity and inconsistency."

"And the third focus of the new research has to do with what they describe as “body”: “Computer science and physical science diverged decades ago,” Gershenfeld says. Computers are programmed by writing a sequence of lines of code, but “the mind doesn’t work that way. In the mind, everything happens everywhere all the time.” A new approach to programming, called RALA (for reconfigurable asynchronous logic automata) attempts to “re-implement all of computer science on a base that looks like physics,” he says, representing computations “in a way that has physical units of time and space, so the description of the system aligns with the system it represents.” This could lead to making computers that “run with the fine-grained parallelism the brain uses,” he says."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

RedScout's Spur - Imaginative Solution Providers

The aspiration for planners should be "did I create a new reality and will people look at the world in a different way?"

Advertisers need to discriminate because you can't appeal to everyone. Planning is moving from the voice of the consumer to someone who adds imagination, creativity and a solution to a brand or communication problem.

Redscout presents Spur — Episode 3: Are planners glorified researchers? from Redscout on Vimeo.

Faris' 6 Step Approach to Social Media

Be Nice or Leave

1. Listen - market research, engage cognition
2. Respond - conversations about you are directed to you, customer service, being ignored creates backlashes
3. Nurture - support/ add value to communities that already exist.
4. Create Social Objects - produce something to pull people together and give them something to do.
5. Be Transparent - Expect everything you say to spread immediately
6. Join the conversation - cater a conversation to the interests of other parties.

The vision for social media: Dissolve the boundaries between companies and media.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The future of Digital is Telepathy

Jason Harris is a great story teller and his recent work isn't an exception. It seems he's experiencing a Faustian dilemma, living in nature and currently attempting to elude technology.

In a moment of reflection he makes an attempt to predict where the digital yellow brick road is headed,
"For the last 100 years—from letters, to phones, to faxes, to emails, to chats, to texts, to tweets—communication has been getting shorter and faster, but we are approaching a terminal velocity. Most online experiences are made, like fast food, to be cheap, easy, and addictive: appealing to our hunger for connection but rarely serving up nourishment.
Brief gestures of communication can be beautiful, but can also be shallow. So what will happen next? Will we stop at the tweet, or will we bounce back in the other direction, suddenly craving more depth? I’d bet on the latter."

I guess this begs the question, what is the point of communication? A necessary process to create, an attempt
to ward off loneliness, or something else? And no matter what the answer may be, does it make sense that a page worth of tweets communicating someone's thoughts over the day is less insightful or meaningful than a page of contemplated thought.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Engaging Your Audience & Learning From Simulated Mistakes

People use the term interactive pretty loosely and so I've been wondering what it takes to be truly engaging. I recently had a discussion with the creative director of the site World Without Oil and think this kind of interactivity experience has a lot to offer.

About the game: "WORLD WITHOUT OIL simulated the first 32 weeks of a global oil crisis. It established a citizen “nerve center”to track events and share solutions. Anybody could play by creating a personal story – an email or phone call, or for advanced users a blog post, video, photo, podcast, twitter, whatever – that chronicled the imagined reality of their life in the crisis. The WWO site at links to all these stories. The game encouraged excellence with daily awards and recognition for authentic and intriguing stories."

Understanding behavior. The game sought to uncover solutions to a problem before it actually occurred. The implications are tremendous because we've learned that it's very difficult to change human behavior, and exponentially more difficult when it's on a large scale.

"WWO didn’t only “raise awareness” about oil dependence. By creating a simple nonpartisan framework that focused thousands of people from all walks of life upon this common issue, WWO sparked peer learning and inquiry-based exploration of the roots, outcomes, and prevention of an oil crisis. By “rousing our democratic imagination,” WWO fostered deep engagement and changed people’s lives. Via a game, players made themselves better citizens."

Most often we have to learn from our mistakes before we can change, well what if we could simulate mistakes so we didn't have to suffer the pain of experience real mistakes. An interactive experience like WWO has this kind of potential. "WORLD WITHOUT OIL is a serious game for the public good. WWO invited people from all walks of life to contribute “collective imagination” to confront a real-world issue: the risk our unbridled thirst for oil poses to our economy, climate and quality of life. It’s a milestone in the quest to use games as democratic, collaborative platforms for exploring possible futures and sparking future-changing action. WWO set the model for using a hot net-native storytelling method (‘alternate reality’) to meet civic and educational goals. Best of all, it was compellingly fun."

It seems to me that there's a opportunity to create more simulated interactive experiences that truly engage people; to learn, to brand, to understand.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Interactive Planning

I attended Planningness last week and want to share some of the great ideas that came out of it. Thanks for a wonderful event Mark.

The best part was the thought provoking and interactive sessions. We had the opportunity to listen to wonderful speakers and then get creative.

One of my favorite videos that came out of one session is the one below, the Failure Awards. In work and life we are intimidated to do the unexpected because of risk of failure. Well what if we celebrated failure as a required part of the journey on the road to success? What if we were open about failure and offered to learn from one another's mistakes? It is a novel concept and one seriously worth considering.

The event was filled with insightful people and there were somegreat discussions; here are all the videos of the presentations and the decks that were presented.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Remix Culture

Great documentary featuring Girl Talk, Lessig and a few others who want to foster a society that isn't controlled by corporate law, but rather embraces creativity fueled by past culture.

Remix Manifesto

1. Culture always builds on the past
2. The past always tries to control the future
3. Our future is becoming less free.
4. To build free societies you must limit the control of the past.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tech Crunch 50

Tech Crunch 50 is an event where 50 pre-selected entrepreneurs have 5 minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of judges who evaluate and criticize their business ideas. This year they streamed the conference live and I thought it would be worth while mentioning a few companies that stood out and who are providing services or products that I will use.

- Lissn is a communication tool to help connect the people of the world through live, real-time conversations. Lissn lets the user see what the most important discussions are in the world, their local community and amongst their friends.
TechCrunch Lissn pitch video
Lissn website

Clixtr turns smartphones into smartcameras by leveraging location based technologies and the rapidly improving quality of camera phones. Clixtr users create events, upload mobile photos, and, for the first time ever, create real-time event photo streams with the users around them. Photos and events are public and can be followed live on the web or directly on mobile devices.
TechCrunch Clixtr pitch video
Clixtr website

Chyngle - Chyngle is the first mobile location-based service to provide a venue branded ultra-local experience for users to interact and exchange value with each other and their surroundings within what we call Ultra-Local Environments Chyngle website

Red Beacon - Red Beacon allows consumers who need a service performed to find and interact with local businesses and professionals.

Tech Crunch Red Beacon pitch video
Red Beacon website

Thursday, September 10, 2009

True Innovation

Below are 3 great discussions by 3 great minds on innovation. They will challenge you to question your process, environment and what you think about the conventions of innovation. Godin, Kawasaki & Semier are the rockstars of innovation and I think they bring home the bacon in these 3 speeches; here's what I took away.

Seth Godin: Quieting the Lizard Brain
- You're all creative but your job isn't to "be creative", it's "to ship" or bring your product or service to market. Thrashing early benefits your business because it means you won't sabatoge your work right before your about to send it to market. This human tendency is a primal impulse that we must fight so that we can be successful.
- We are all creative. We try to change the status quo, we come up with a creative idea but never commit to it or execute.
- Being a genius is getting the lizard brain to shut up long enough to over come resistance.
- Do a lot of thinking, scenario analysis, arguement & discussion up front because once you get over the initial hump you are going to finish (ship.)

Seth Godin: Quieting the Lizard Brain from 99% on Vimeo.

Guy Kawasaki: 10 Steps to Innovation
1. Make Meaning. Decide you want to change the world for the better. This will make you money, bring you success.
2. Create a succinct mantra. It should be based on why your product should exist. It should be 3 words in length.
3. Jump to the next Curve. Define business in terms of a benefit you provide instead of what you do. True innovation happens because you jump to the next curve not because you get 10% better on your current curve.
4. Roll the D.I.C.E. Is your product: Deep, Intelligent, Complete, Elegant?
5. Don't Worry, Be Crappy. Don't make your product perfect, at a certain point just ship it. Get it out and then start to make revisions.
6. Let 100 Flowers Blossom. Unitended people will use your product in unintended ways. Embrace it.
7. Polarize people. Create passion in people. Some people will love your product or service, some will hate it. It's ok not to be loved by everyone.
8. Churn. Improve your product/service. Create better versions by listening to how people want it to change.
9. Niche yourself. Find a specific market, be unique and be valuable.
10. 10 / 20 /30 Rule. Great communication is simple communication. When creating a ppt deck use 10 slides, present yourself in 20 minutes and don't use a font smaller than 30 point.

Ricardo Semier
It's been 100 years, why haven't we invented a car that parallel parks by turning the wheels 90 degrees perpendicular to the curb? Why hasn't office structure ever changed, why do we still work 9 to 5 sitting in a cube? Why do decisions have to be based on metrics instead of intuition even when intuition works so surprisingly well and metrics are such poor indicators? Here are a few other points made in Semier's 45 minute talk.
- Intuition: When playing chess Big Blue can calculate 4 million possible chess moves in the one minute time limit it has to make each move; yet it still loses to a chess pro who can only think 4 or 5 moves ahead. This analogy equates to business because the human mind has the capacity to make great decsions but corporations do not tolerate decisions made on intuition.
- The capitalist model rewards growth but growth has never been related to the success of a company.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Tool For Artists and Entrepreneurs

Kickstarter is a 2.0 tool currently in beta that is allowing creative folks to fund raise for their entrepreneurial efforts.

PC Fights Back

Why do brands resonate with people and how are they conflated with culture? This recent Times article PC Fights Back takes a closer look at how Microsoft is battling Apple after the past few years of Apple Ads laying a smack down on the Evil Empire. Faris talks about how Brands are like myths and Ducksworth points out that “brands enable us to make sense and create meaning for ourselves in the social world of consumption in which we participate.”

Lee Clow and Jobs have done things less conventionally and they have manufactured a brand that is based on both innovation and great story telling. But how does perceived power vs. real power play into the equation? What I mean is that Microsoft has a commanding 90% market share of the computing industry and they have stayed out of the marketing game. So much so that some say they feel bad for the poor geeky PC guy who get's tossed around in all the Apple ads. So even though Apple seems like such a dominant brand, history will tell a different story.

The fact is Apple is currently innovative, Microsoft was, but it certainly doesn't have a brand presence anymore. The story we tell and the brand we manufacture as advertisers is only as strong as the product it is supports.
McCann's “The Wow Starts Now” could have been a great story had Vista actually wowed people. Now Crispin's strategy is that a PC is for everyone and it's reasonably priced. Great, the problem is that Apple is innovating and we're not seeing anything new from Microsoft. It doesn't matter how creative Crispin gets, their story is still going to have trouble packing a punch.

Good brands incite aspiration. All I'm asking is that Microsoft step up to the plate and get back into the innovation game. Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's Not All About the Stats

Americans love statistics, they love to see their results and understand logically and mathematically how they were achieved. It's why we wear heart rate monitors and love fantasty football leagues. I'm one of those people too, I use to track every bike ride I take so I know my training zones, it's like each ride is a carefully mapped time trial. And I recently used to compare my cycling rides with riders around the US and the elite riders in the Tour.

I guess that's why it was refreshing to see something new from the sporting industry. I really like the way Versus disrupts the stereotypical approach the US has towards sports - it's about passion, not the stats. It's aspirational and if I hadn't dropped cable like a bad habit I'd probably watch Versus a bit more.

How to Sell yourself

So check this out, Allison Weiss is looking for some funding for her new EP. She's using kickstart, an initiative where creative people can try to fund their artistic endeavors by creating customized products and provide them for the people who donate to their cause. She's breaking from convention and trying to become a successful musician without the help of big media conglomerates. According to Faris she's already raised $6G.

I think it's smart because she's branding herself and allowing her fans to get what they want most, a little piece of her. It helps that she's succint, funny, easy on the eyes and edits her short well. I like her approach because she's targeting her niche on the longtail by making herself available to the people who like her and her music most.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Alternative Uses

Alternative Uses isn't exactly the most design savvy website but the concept is a smart one. The premise is creating a community around devising ways to find alternative uses for existing products. Can you get by using your drill as an electric mixer or how about using coffee grounds instead of fertilizer, what about using olive oil to lubricate your bike chain; why not consult Alternative Uses and see what the community says? Much like Instructables it's a great way to propogate smart ideas. You can search by uses or by products and of course submit your own if you have a great idea.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Waste = Food

A designer and chemist who are taking sustainability to the next level. This documentary is about true recycling and up-cycling, a way to reuse products that restores them to their raw form. Check out the Nike Consider that snaps apart and other products that are made to be fully biodegradable. Some of the key attributes are:
- these products can be fully disassembled
- made from non-toxic chemicals
- are designed to be cradle to cradle.

Entrepreneurship 3.0

Today's mashup consists of a talk on innovation by Charles Leadbeater and an idea I read in "The Four Hour Workweek," by Timothy Ferris. We live in a world where innovation is just as likely to come about from a professional amateur (someone who is passionate about their "hobby") as it is to come from an innovation or R&D department. Just watch Klunkerz (a doucmentary about the origins of mountainbiking) to get an idea of how this happens. The mountain bike was created out of a real need by a bunch of guys who loved biking in the woods out in Marin, not by the R&D division of Trek.

So how is the approach to business evolving, well I think there is a shift in how a business interacts with the market place and all of it's users/consumers. An entrepreneur can provide people with a platform, tools and some rules and then orchestrate a conversation that stimulates creativity; it doesn't seem like a new idea but it's disruptive to the conventional work place. It's a bit analagous to the open source movement because when passionate people are empowered they are extrememly productive. Even less conventional is allowing the consumer to create content linking the community of users with the company and in essence creating a two way relationship between business and consumer. It's a concept that has made Threadless, Etsy and the Apple iPhone application store a huge success. This is a business model that I think is going to continue becoming increasingly popular.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Quirky has some great implications for entrepreneurial minded designers. As a designer and entrepreneur I know that production & communications are a significant part of the equation if you want to make a profit from your product. If you're more an idea person, a creative mind who's time is best spent thinking up an idea and moving on to the next one then Quirky could be a great way to make your creativity come to life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

DIY urban farming

Growing plants on my roof is like trying to grow plants in space. For a long time I've been planning to build a green house on my roof in San Francisco. I've tried growing a few plants without the protection and they last two or three days before the wind sucks the life out them. So I was excited to see this new DIY approach to farming that uses a hydration system to grow plants in your windows.

The plan seems limiting at the moment, but what if we adapted the idea slightly and created a facade for a house that enabled plants to grow up the entire front of your house or apartment. With the use of hydroponics and a protective, greenhouse like cover I can see this as a real possibility.

Monday, May 25, 2009

reclaiming public space

As you stroll city streets you'll realize that construction sites an other areas around town are plastered with repeated advertisements. A large majority of these postings are unauthorized. Streetfest realized this and decided to do something about it. Their mission is to reclaim public space for corporations with private interests, public space should be used by the public.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ethnography: Project US

The US has some pretty aweful stereotypes. I can't wait to see how their destroyed and encouraged. Interview Project is David Lynch's new project to get a bit more intimate with people across the nation.

If it sounds interesting here's a clip from one an interview in Montana.


What makes us happy?

Dr. George Vaillant shares insights from his decades of following the Grant Study men.

Invest In Energy: Wind or Solar?

Ok, it's great to have information before the other guy, especially investment advice but doesn't this seem like a no brainer. Alright, there hasn't been a defining moment that has locked wind in as the energy of the future, but there have been some strong indications that wind gaining momentum. I first started noticing the shift to wind when I listened to this NPR talk about T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oil tycoon, who got out of oil so he could invest in wind technology. Over the past five years the average growth in new installations has been 27.6 per cent each year. In the forecast to 2013 the expected average annual growth rate is 15.7 per cent.

Private investors aren't the only one driving new energy initiatives, the Obama administration is also creating a shift in an attempt to facilitate innovation, progress and employment in the new energy sector. The
Social Investment Forum, is a good plac to start. It's a national membership association that focuses on socially and environmentally responsible companies and it tracks their financial performance.

Maybe the answer isn't wind or solar, but rather funds that emphasize alternative energy. Wind and solar don't quite seem to be in a race, but it's surprising to see
that the wind power market penetration is expected to reach 3.35 per cent by 2013 and 8 per cent by 2018.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thinking for Good

I've been surprised to discover that Taproot isn't as well known as I thought it was. For those of you not familiar Taproot is a non-profit that pairs professionals with other non-profits. The goal is to make it easier for smart people to volunteer their minds while giving to a company who needs a specific expertise. It's a great idea that has worked well for some time now. That's why I was excited to hear about Catapult a product design consultancy focusing on disadvantaged communities. It recognizes that many developing countries are exactly that, areas where progress is needed. Acknowledging these issues and setting out to engineer solutions is a noble cause and a great way to level the global playing field so that developing cultures can begin to innovate. Read more about the founder at dgoodr a blog of positive people and her work on the Hippo roller.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Organic Foods have 4 times as many nutrients

I always thought that the benefit of eating organic foods was mainly to reduce my consumption of chemicals and pesticides. I recently learned that organic foods are a lot healthier because they contain four times as many nutrients as non-organic foods. Apparently this is because organic foods take longer to grow and have deeper and more elaborate root systems which allow the plant to absorb more nutrients. This is an interesting concept which raises concerns about new farming techniques that place an emphasis on growing such large quantities at the expense of the quality of the food.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A New Way to Learn by Encouraging Cognitive Development

This is an exciting time for the field of education. Over the past two decades we have witnessed an explosive growth in information. The amount of new technical information is doubling every two years. We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist and to use technologies that haven't been invented. Finally, we are starting to see educational techniques that are catching up to this new wealth of knowledge and Scientific Learning is leading the charge.

What does this all mean? Well for starters it means that every child should focus on the core cognitive skills that enable them to develop a more efficient brain. It means thinking about the brain as a muscle that must be exercised on a consistent basis and how “brain plasticity” can help a child to learn more efficiently. It means that we must think beyond preparing students to be great test takers and instead prepare them to be great thinkers and creative problem solvers.

On April 25th, “The New Science of Learning: Brain Fitness for Kids” will air locally on KQED Public Television 9 at 7 p.m. For more on the advances being made in brain plasticity (check it out at The approach is a refreshing new way to look at educational development. Education is about problem solving, innovation and creativity, yet we don't have methodologies to teach children these skills. We can, however, train the brain to process information the same way we train legs to run a race or fingers to play the piano. We can create actual physical changes in the brain that result in quick and substantial gains in language and reading skills by improving cognitive skills.

The program features the latest information from scientists and researchers around the country. The program also features science and technology from Scientific Learning (, including the newly launched BrainSpark Learning consumer offering. Scientific Learning has engineered products based on more than 30 years of research on how the brain learns. Their BrainSpark online learning programs were created from the Fast ForWord® family of products, which have been used in more than 5,200 schools across the country. Designed for children ages 5 to 13, the BrainSpark exercises are designed to produce lasting improvements in brain fitness, focusing on five cognitive building blocks critical to learning success: speed, processing rate, attention, recall and memory, and knowledge (SPARK).

The BrainSpark Learning software accelerates learning by developing the child’s brain to process more efficiently. These products are designed to be fun and engaging and are intended to be used 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The software is designed to provide feedback and put parents in control of the child's learning. The BrainSpark product is a tool for supporting and motivating children to reach their full potential while creating a foundation for a better mind.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Musical Success In A Post Record Label World

Trent Reznor of NIN talks about monetizing creativity as a musician post record label.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pyschology of Connection

The psychology of buying fascinates me, especially when it's based on making connections through touch. Our curiosity might get us in trouble but just think about all those connections we're making.

I grew up with family members who shopped as a hobby and realize how shopping is ingrained in our culture. Like it or not, it's how some of us find satisfaction, occupy our time and fund other parts of our culture.
My father and I always laughed at our efforts to outsmart commercials and long before DVR we would talk about how the mute button was destroying advertising. How ironic now that I'm a brand strategist. It's even a little sad that now I'm blogging about my favorite spots. My only hope is that I can evolve what used to bore me. If advertising is here to stay, why not design stories that are engaging and entertaining. With that in mind here are a few ways to communicate better.

This article in Time discusses how touching an object creates a relationship and makes you more likely to buy it. The phenomenon is based on research of the "endowment effect", which states that owning an object creates more value in the mind of a consumer. This is based on the premise that touching an object makes you feel more connected to it. This segues nicely into another article, designing to sell, which lists successful user experience techniques. More specifically they talk about trials as some of the best strategies to lure customers. In an online world we can't always touch a product but we can create an experience that is as close to touching it as possible.

As online selling continues to evolve I think we're going to start seeing techniques for developing a connection. Right now that may mean more pictures, or techniques to create a deeper level of engagement and interaction. In the future it may mean using a holographic projector create a 3 dimensional replica on your desk. It would be great to experience a product by visualizing it as if it really existed

Monday, March 16, 2009

Embracing Your Brand

If you're a green company that is some how involved with the sustainability movement it's important that your behavior is as green as possible, right? Well a company called Nothing just upped the ante. They've created their entire office out of cardboard. There was a tremendous amount of design that was required because it's extremely asthetic, but an investment well worth it when it comes to proving you're dedication is 100%

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In the World of Art, How Do We Determine Who Has Skill?

Yesterday I came across this loosely written article about How Art Killed Our Culture. I found the comments to be more enlightening than the article itself, but the most interesting thought was one that surfaced around the idea of post-capitalist art. It raised an interesting question, which is how has pop art been a part of the art movement?

Some have questioned the talent required to produce art created by artists like Worhol and Matthew Barney. It can be debated whether culture reflects art or if art reflects culture, which led me to wonder if a lack of innovation and creativity in society is reflected in the past decade of art. I've been confused by works in the MoMa like foam sprayed on a wall or drawings Barney has done while suspended by a harness. I appreciate abstract art and I want it to push boundries, but I also want art featured in a museum to showcase talent, thought, hardwork and skill. It's no wonder our generation has such an infatuation with Banksy; he not only creates thoughtful works that challenge decisions in society, but I also seldom hear someone comment "I could have done that," when looking at his art.

My relationship with art has been an entertaining one. I was elected into the art enrichment program when I was in elementary school for my clayworking. Early on in college many of my peers were appreciative of my crafty skills that yielded free pizzas & "safe passage." I was surprised that so many people couldn't use scissors to cut a straight line. Later in college, after taking a few drawing & digital art classes I began concepting with Photoshop. After graduating I created sculptures and experimented with mixed media painting. Then I shifted to film with the advent of cheap cameras and software like Final Cut. Although I've loved producing work outside the realm of traditional art, a good portion of what I've created has come from skills that I've honed through the years. Most recently I've worked in the field of engineering and have realized how my creativity translates from art to building. This is my journey through the world of art and despite my dedication my art isn't in a museum; and rightfully so, for the same reason I'm not a pro cyclist competing in the tour de France. I guess my reason for this post is to question how we determine that an artist is truly talented. The line seems to be clear in business and athletics, but what about art?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monitoring your Carbon Footprint

I just took my friend Reid's survey about climate control. It got me thinking about how my behavior affects global warming and what I am or can do about it. Shortly after I came across this report by KQED on how children are using their cellphone to monitor their carbon footprint.

I think it's a great idea because it engages younger audiences with the intention of making an impression about the perils of global warming. More importantly it empowers children and sets them down a path that seeks to change antiquated behavior.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

programable matter

Is this for real because I feel like I just stepped into the future?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mining Thought Streams

Over the past week Twitter has replaced Google and Wikipedia as my tool for search. Twitturly has been bumped to the top of my list for places to find current events, competing with Digg & popurls and recently learned about Twittersphere that provides a similar service. I monitor Twitterfic and use it to converse with friends just as frequently as IM.

Twitter is expanding at a ridiculous rate and that is giving rise to the notion of
mining thought streams. Access to a real-time search engine that allows you to search what is happening right now is extremely valuable. It's a database of intentions that allows us to map our culture but also makes it easier to find (and release) trends and current events. There's a real opportunity for expanding the capability for searching Twitter and I'm looking for them to release an application that allows users to sift, sort, track and anlyze tweets.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Generation G

Creative vs. selling out, capitalist vs. socialist, greed vs. community service : these opposing forces stand at the forefront of american culture. The greed described in Wallstreet has become very real and personal. Now the assumption that successful business and doing good are conflicting practices is about to change.

Generation G "captures the growing importance of 'generosity' as a leading societal and business mindset as consumers are disgusted with greed and its current dire consequences for the economy." GOOD magazine, promotes a philosophy that aligns business with doing good.
The Taproot Foundation, Planning for Good and other such organizations realize that non-profits need professional services and seek to connect volunteers with service programs.

These are great but the concept of Generation G is acknowledging that it isn't enough to volunteer on your free time. What if businesses ingrained this philosophy into their corporate mentality? Putting a $500K cap on the salaries of greedy execs is the beginning of a trend that will change the fundamental principles of how businesses operate.

Here are a few ways corporations are looking to join Generation G:
1. Co-Donate - customer collaboration Google's Project 10^100 is a good example
2. Eco-Generosity - a shift from simply offsetting carbon footprints to boosting the environment. Ecoigo aims for their green car service to be carbon positive and offset double the emissions of their trips
3. Free Love - companies offering free products or services. TripWolf offers free travel guides.

4. Brand Butlers - assist customers in smart, relevant, generous ways. IKEA let's customers use bikes with free trailers to carry products home.
5. Perkonomics - brands that offer perks for preferred customers
6. Tryvertising- allowing consumers to decide on products based on experience, not messages.
7. Random Acts of Kindness - everything from picking up the tab to sending a surprise gift to loyal customers

8. Frigid No More - It’s about return policies that don’t require a receipt from loyal customers. It's what Seth calls learning how to lose. It’s about hotels not charging an extra night for that late checkout. It’s about ditching three-months-notice rules for a gym member who wants to cancel his membership due to illness.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Power meter

Would you consume power differently if you could visualize how you currenlty use it? I'm a visual learning and it makes sense that it would be easier for me to change my behavior if I could see what areas need improvement.

Google's new power meter seems like it has the potential to change behavior. If I can analyze which of my appliances consume the most amounts of energy and when energy is more expensive then I should be able to better manage my consumption. I think this smart meter would be most effective when I can see my energy consumption in real time. If I can see my energy expenses accruing and then tweak my use, I'll at least be able to see when I'm wasteful. When I know how much I can reduce my energy bill by switching off lights and computers I'll have a greater incentive to walk around the house and make those adjustments. I also like the idea of knowing that I'm using an inefficient appliance. If my toaster or fridge are on the fritz and sucking back energy I want to know that it will actually save me money to buy new appliances.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Augmented Reality

GE's new Smart Grid campaign produced by Sosia over at Goodby is moving interactive creative in the right direction. You interact with the branded content by printing out a "key" that is used to activate a 3D world that is produced in your webcam. You can blow into your microphone to engage the wind turbines.

Ultimately it's a fancy gimmick (as opposed to an interactive learning experience) that creates brand engagement, but I applaud the effort. It's great to see creatives moving the interactive spac
e in the right direction. I'm still surprised that new episodes of online TV shows like LOST and The Office (if you haven't seen Stress Relief, watch it now; the first 15 minutes are ridiculous) are still using :30 spots. They're missing a huge opportunity to engage viewers with their brand by implementing interactive content. Hopefully ad shops are still playing catch-up and we'll start to see new content start to emerge.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


DJ's like Fatboy Slim have pioneered the music remix and Girl Talk has built a successful career on it. It's a huge part of video culture too because remixing is an entertaining way to make anything just a bit more ridiculous. It's also a forum for creativity because remixers pair audio samples with all sorts of visuals. Faris recently hired Eclectic Method for the NYC Twestival. They are the fore-fathers of mash-up have been affecting the way we experience media since back in the day. The most recent example of this phenomenon is a meltdown Christian Bale had on-set. It didn't take long for the Bale remixes to pour in.

It's interesting because we love to tell stories, extrapolate and exaggerate; and remixing is great for just that. But it's bigger than an entertaining video. This story is about driving creativity. I'm a proponent of the philosophy that good ideas come from good ideas. Well I guess I picked that up from Lawarance Lessig. He is well know for fighting for remix culture because new ideas come from remixing old ones. His book f
rames the problem as "a war between an old read-only culture, in which media megaliths sell copyrighted music and movies to passive consumers, and a dawning digital read-write culture, in which audiovisual products are freely downloaded and manipulated in an explosion of democratized creativity." So I guess the question is how do we promote an environment that encourages the rapid progression of ideas instead of stymiing it?

Lessig remixed on Colbert

Lessig @ TED

Christian Bale Melt-down Remixed

Monday, February 2, 2009

Smart Consumption - a new generation of savers

Is your cart empty? Not if your an American.

Americans don't know how to spend or maybe they know too well; and it's about time for our behavior to change. Here's the problem, we're tempted to spend every chance we get which has resulted in a large portion of us living from pay check to pay check. We are a nation of instant gratification because it's tough to delay what we can have now. The good thing is we've realized it. We're going through the process of figuring out how we can ween ourselves off our addiction to buying. For the purposes of qualifying this I've broken purchasing behaviors into four categories:

1. Impulsive consumption - I got this b/c it was a good deal, or it would make for a hilarious gift for someone.
2. Excessive consumption - I bought a third pair of sunglasses to match my back up purse.
3. Consumption for perceived happiness - This flatscreen is going to be so much more aesthetically pleasing in my living room, plus I watch so much TV this is actually a great investment.
4. Shopping as a hobby - My mom is coming to visit. We'll spend Saturday shopping and then hit the Moma or see a movie on Sunday if we're not making returns.

Ironically, I think this is a great idea for a brand campaign. In fact it's a plan that might even catch the attention of Elizabeth Anne Moore. Why? Because it aims to fundamentally change the way we sell and purchase goods. If the paradox of temptation tells us we shouldn't simply eliminate behavior with undesired results then we should take an approach that embraces what we'd like to change. Businesses are branding themselves as good for the environment, well what if they brand themselves as good for the long term economy.

The premise could be the root of a campaign for a tourism board or luxury good; "We're in a recession dummy, we're gonna be here for a while, you probably shouldn't be booking a trip to Austrailia right now..." More importantly the campaign would focus on smart shopping. Explaining how or if the product falls in line with an established budget, even encouraging the creation of one. Maybe they even facilitate the use of a phone application that enables consumers to prioritize purchases based on need and the consumers finances. This approach has the ability for a brand to transcend normal perceptions: "We're a brand that seeks to make your life better, whether it helps our bottom line or not." Ultimately we have to correct our habit of over-spending and under-saving and it seems advantageous if brands can align themselves with this philosophy.

Do you have a budget? If you do email it to me. I'd love to see what people think is a budget and how they think they should consume (and save.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tapping Creativity: The New Model For Advertising

Fostering an online environment that rallies the creative type is gaining momentum. Online creative competitions don't exactly have large creative shops worried but maybe they should. I wonder how the post digital traditional agency is being challenged by these services that connect clients with a pool of motivated creative talent. A lot of agencies would laugh at the idea, but there's something to be said about tapping the talent of hungry creatives and brand enthusiasts.

Since Doritos asked its consumers to create a TV ad that aired during the super bowl, companies have been jumping on the bandwagon asking their consumers to create content. Most of it has resulted in an enormous pile of b-rated advertising. It's yielded a lot of work that is either off brief or amateurishly executed, but I recently came across a site that has polished its process and just may have a shot at creating the kind of content that matters.
Design 21 is a social design network that uses its website to host a variety of competitions. It enables designers, art directors, copy writers and creative thinkers to select projects and submit work. It's organized well and I'm most impressed with the briefs (here's one for FSC) and amount of planning to set up these projects. They also have an interactive forum enabling participants to vote on designs and view the winners and finalists. The ideas and creative work certainly spans a wide range of talent and experience, but a lot of it has been surprisingly impressive.

I think their model is a lucrative idea for a few reasons. First off they take advantage of
the accessibility of tools like Final Cut Pro and Adobe Creative Suite. These products are making it easier for motivated individuals to create high quality deliverables with relative ease. More importantly, it harnesses the creative ideas of product enthusiasts and key influencers. These are the people who are dedicated to a product and stand at the epicenter of the brand and they have the best chance of describing it well to others. Or maybe you're of the persuasion that brands will start marketing themselves....

Monday, January 19, 2009

Culture Is Shaped By the Marketing World

This is an annoying observation but there are a lot of smart and influential marketers who shape the way we think about our culture. Since good ideas come from good ideas I wanted to share the blogs that inspire me. Here's a list of the top 150 marketing blogs as defined by a Twitter search.

There are a lot that I didn't recognize, but here are my favorites:
Noah Brier -
Russell Davies-
Seth Godin -
Faris Yakob -

Telling a great story

We all love pretty pictures and it's the reason why interactive media is so successful. Here's a great model created by New York Times to illustrate and explain how US Airways Flight 1549 went down and was rescued. This news model packs a powerful punch. It's informative, visually stimulating and an efficient system for delivering content.

Friday, January 16, 2009

planned / perceived obsolescence

We live in a consumer world and as much as I'm annoyed by it I have to admit I'm caught up in it. I'm over the phase of disposing every possession I own like Chris McCandless from Into the Wild, but I still think that our culture needs to do some re-evaluation. Michael Moore is pretty famous for saying media breeds fear and leads us to security through consumerism. The US loves shopping and watching TV, in fact the story of stuff video describes how US culture is defined by the "work, watch, shop treadmill." What's most interesting about their video is how business has designed products for planned obsolescence.

Innovation fatigue plagues our culture. In fact the streets of San Francisco are riddled with discarded technology; TV's, computers and fax machines line our curbs. We're buying new products so quickly we don't know what to do with the old ones. Don't get me wrong, the problem here isn't innovation, in fact I'm proud to be at the forefront and like being an influencer. The problem is that companies design products for obsolescence. The film makes a great point, a vast majority of products are designed for disposal when it's very possible to swap out parts instead of discarding an entire item. Cuba's Yank Tank industry is a great example of being resourceful in an effort to conserve materials.

I think we need to rethink how we design products to expand their lifestyle and create a more sustainable and responsible way to be consumers. I have an elementary school science teacher who is convinced that automotive companies purchased the patents for materials that would make cars extremely safe and nearly industructable. He claims that insurance companies wouldn't have a purpose if the technology was used and I think the same applies to the consumer goods industry. What if we made computers that allowed us to swap out old motherboards or appliances made replacement parts readily accessible?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Citizen Journalism

I knew about the plane crash on the Hudson 30 minutes before CNN & NYtimes posted it on their website because of Twitter and was able to discover more using their search feature. There's more value than people give credit in this service that increases the ability to share information

Twitter enables search, but does anyone know of a Twitter current events page or application? It seems like there's a continued need to use Twitter to link the little guy to the mainstream. Or maybe Twitter will start making money by selling friends.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Make TV

I've attended the past 2 Maker Fairs and it's been an amazing resource for engineers and innovators. As DIY culture goes mainstream Make's is broadening their audience and have released their first episode of a series called Make TV. This first episode highlights Cyclcide who supplied creatively constructed bikes that we rode at the Maker Fair and Coachella. Subscribe to their content, I'm sure it will be a good source of creative inspiration.

Maker Profile - Cyclecide from make magazine on Vimeo.

Brand Control

Wonder why we're such a consumer culture? Maybe marketers have been one step ahead of consumers in understanding the science of marketing. This study has a few good insights into how brands permeate our subconscious.

"Brand choice turns out to be a largely unconscious process," says Tjaco Walvis, who led the one-and-a-half-year study. "But in that process, the brain behaves much like Google. It seems to use a set of rules called an algorithm to pick the brand from our memory that best and most reliably fits our functional and emotional needs at that particular moment. It behaves rationally, but in an unconscious way."

Based on the study, Mr. Walvis concludes that the brain's "algorithm" for brand choice has three elements.

Firstly, the brain selects the brand it has learned is best able to satisfy our biological and cultural goals. We unconsciously select the brand that is the most uniquely rewarding, based on its associations with our goals and the brain's reward centers (e.g. the dopamine system).

Secondly, the brain selects the brand that has shown most frequently in the past that it is able to fulfill these needs. Coherent brands that repeat their promise are more likely to be chosen. Volvo, Coca-Cola and Disney are examples of coherent brands.

Thirdly, the brain selects the brand it has interacted with most intensely in the past. Brand participation creates numerous new connections in our brain, facilitating that brand's retrieval. Nike Plus is an example of strong participation concept.

Brain Works Like Google, New Study Finds - Metals