We’re working on something special…

It’s called Bootleg Foods and the tagline might be “Food that makes other food better.”  The first batch of products (pictured below) included pickled peppers, a drunken fig jam and a pear ginger chutney…all made with organic, locally-sourced ingredients.

We’re thinking of producing sauces, aolis, jams, chutneys, spreads, toppings and any other additions that make your meals (burgers, brats, steaks, roasts, snack plates, salads, etc.) taste more better.  Finally, it’s all about seasonality and producing products that are available for short periods of time, i.e. fig jam for the holidays, increasing demand while reducing environmental impact.  Thoughts?

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MakerHaus

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Love love love this concept.  Further proof that indie capitalism is alive and well.  What is Maker Haus? I’ll let them explain…

Frustrated by the lack of access to tools and prototyping equipment in Seattle, we decided to establish a place that allowed our community of creative minds to learn, discover, create, and collaborate all under one roof. We are an incubator and facilitator for those creative minds who need access to professional tools and prototyping equipment to support their businesses and bring their own design ideas to life.

MakerHaus is a studio environment with a professional staff from diverse backgrounds in design, manufacturing, creative strategy, and business. Napkin sketches, Kickstarter dreams, and design challenges of all kinds welcome!

It’s basically a space that provides entrepreneurs with resources like a metal and wood shop, 3D printers, laser cutting, classrooms, conference rooms, and event space, a material library and more, all accessed through a membership-based system.  Here’s a video of two aspiring guitar makers talking about how Maker Haus is helping them to scale their business:

The Power of a Tweet

Still doubting the importance of Twitter? Last Tuesday the Associated Press’  account got hacked, leading to the creation of the false Tweet pictured below.  Even more startling is the fact that Wall Street investment firms who use algorithms that instantly buy and sell stocks based on scanning news feeds (including those on Twitter) went into a tailspin causing the Dow Jones to drop 145 points in an instant.  While the market quickly recovered, that one Tweet temporarily had a $200 billion impact on our economy.

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[via Wall Street Journal]

This is how rockstars write creative briefs…

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This letter has been getting a bit of press lately, due in part to it’s recent sharing at a digital storytelling conference.  Pretty self-explanatory, but Mick Jagger was writing to Andy Warhol about doing the artwork on The Rolling Stones greatest hits album Through The Past, Darkly.

[via Phaidon]

The World’s Fastest Agency

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Interesting concept.  About them:

World’s Fastest Agency is a new kind of marketing and communications agency.

From briefing to a creative solution within 24 hours, WFA helps time-pressured clients keep pace with the lightning fast 24/7 global media and social culture.

Clients can say goodbye to 100-page PowerPoint decks, meetings, weeks of fee negotiation, countless emails, more meetings, lunch, meetings, scope of work to-ing and fro-ing, meetings, more emails, Q&A sessions, tissue meetings, inaudible conference call, pitch, feedback, feedback on the feedback, re-briefing, re-pitching, another meeting, more feedback, focus groups, another meeting, more emails….

Check em’ out.

Wealth Inequality in America

 

Over the past three decades, American companies have gone from below average profits to the highest in history, meanwhile paying the lowest employee salaries on record, both as a percentage of the overall economy.  Make no mistake, business is booming, but 90% of this country isn’t reaping any of the benefits [Source].

Income inequality is the central issue facing America today.  There is nothing more crucial to our future success and security; not the deficit, not gun violence, not the environment, not unemployment, nothing.

Sever the ties between our government and big business, and you deliver this problem a devastating blow that frees up politicians to pass legislation that benefits the majority rather than the minority.  It is that simple.

Why Isn’t Netflix Social?

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Netflix has received a lot of good press lately due, in part, to the success of it’s newly released original series House of Cards.  It’s created a solid first season for the show and will only continue to build it’s credibility for original programming with the highly-anticipated release of Arrested Development this spring.  Publications across the web are predicting what the brand’s success will mean for the future of television and whether it can truly become a leader of the medium’s emerging “Golden Age.”

All of this is interesting commentary, but what I find myself more curious about is why Netflix still doesn’t have any social functionality integrated into it’s site.  This only recently dawned on me when a colleague and I were sharing movie recommendations with one another in conversation (ha, god forbid).  Regardless, one has to believe that some level of social functionality is on it’s way, and this gives us with an opportunity to discuss the evolution of the web experience and how Netflix could provide greater benefit to it’s customers while extending it’s reach.

The consumer behavior trends are there. Watching television, especially marquee programming is becoming more social by the minute.  Watching the Super Bowl, a Presidential debate or just your favorite show with your Twitter feed in tow adds a new dimension to the experience – more insights, more humor, more well-rounded experience. But, that’s just part of it, networks like FX go as far as to create live programming, like Talking Dead, in which actors discuss the shows you just watched, guiding conversation with the greater public through hashtags while allowing viewers to ask questions, and post comments, addressed in real time.

All of this is well beyond where Netflix currently sits with it’s user experience.  We use the service in a vacuum, oblivious to what our friends are watching and deprived of their reactions and preferences.  But, that’s not all. Despite the service’s highly detailed survey which can be used to narrow down user’s film preferences, it, unlike Facebook, has no idea what bands I love, how I spend my free time, what social issues I’m most concerned about, etc., all of which is data that could be leveraged to enhance the user experience through better recommendations.

If this doesn’t seem like a big deal, think about how much influence your current Netflix recommendations have over what you watch.  In my case very little, although they certainly improve with time.  But, what if the system could actually incorporate more salient data about what you’re reading, what links you’re sharing, or classes you’re taking in school?  It could actually start to generate recommendations based on more timely interests and fascinations and with it become a highly trusted source for what to watch next, at which point Netflix would become indispensable to it’s subscribers.  For more on this specific topic, see a previous post I wrote about the Rise of the Personal Assistant.

All of that aside, the main point here is that Netflix is behind in the social realm.  When the web first came about (and before Facebook) users traveled from page to page in relative isolation.  Now, (and largely because of Facebook) when we travel throughout the internet we carry tons of our personal information, preferences and interests with us.  But it doesn’t end there, we also bring all of our friends and their interests with us as well, hence the social web.

Take Etsy’s social shopping experience which allows shoppers to use Facebook Connect to incorporate the interests from their friends profiles, be it samurai films, classic cars, or Sesame Street to populate super relevant gift recommendations.  It transforms the Etsy shopping experience, making it much faster and more enjoyable to shop for others. If you haven’t tried it, do it.

It’s easy to see the benefit that Netflix could gain from incorporating this type of social framework into it’s site; the recommendations could become more precise and timely, I could connect with my friends to explore their preferences (the ultimate influencers in our lives), and perhaps most importantly, Netflix could grow from the outwardly-focused sharing behavior that would inevitably result.

The question isn’t when they’ll do it, its how well.

[Image via Mashable]

Adobe’s Global Creativity Gap Study

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The State of Create Global Benchmark Study from which this infographic is compiled sought to assess the attitudes and beliefs surrounding creativity in (5) of the largest economies in the world: U.S., Japan, France, U.K. and Germany.  I think the results are important. A couple things to note:

The increasing pressure to be productive and get things done at work was found to be one of the largest barriers to coming up with creative solutions and ideas.  This tension is always going to be present.  Making time to be creative in the workplace is something that takes it’s own set of novel solutions from the individual.

What is of greater concern to me is that our education system does not see creativity as an important aptitude.  Or, perhaps more accurately, the system is not designed in such a way as to nurture it among America’s youth.  Globally, 52% believe education systems are taking creativity for granted, compared to 70% in the United States.

Sir Ken Robinson, puts it best in his response to the study: “One of the problems is that too often our educational systems don’t enable students to develop their natural creative powers. Instead, they promote uniformity and standardization. The result is that we’re draining people of their creative possibilities and, as this study reveals, producing a workforce that’s conditioned to prioritize conformity over creativity.”

Surveyed Americans are not aloof to this issue, as 82% expressed urgency and concern that the country is not living up to it’s creative potential.  And yet, math and science still sit at the top of school’s priorities, because we (and our government) believe that these skill-sets, when applied to our economy, will create more growth.

I don’t disagree with this.  Math and science are extremely important aptitudes, but when taught from the standpoint of factual memorization and the following of predetermined protocols, are virtually useless.

We need to drastically reduce the standardized assessments that control our teacher’s curriculum and restructure them to allow for more critical thinking, open problem solving, and creative exploration. The context – math, science, writing, fine arts, etc. are secondary.

Head here to download the entire study.

 

Wolff Olins: A Model For Social Value

A Wolff Olins post today by the Head of New Thinking, Robert Jones, touched on something I’m thinking a lot about lately, actually in preparation for the AdMap Prize Essay Contest. This year’s topic is: Can brands maximize profits and be a force for social good? Jones lays some solid ground work:

We all know brands create huge commercial value – which places like Interbrand try to put a dollar value on. And we can imagine the chain of cause and effect that creates the value.

But can we do the same for social value?

If commercial value is a product of short-term (profit) and long-term (growth prospects), can we think about social value in the same kind of way? As the product of short-term happiness and long-term sustainability?

Jones does a great job of illustrating the rationale behind commercial and social growth:

Wolff Olins blog, A Model For Social Value,  Dec. 7, 2012

Wolff Olins blog, A Model For Social Value, Dec. 7, 2012

However, the area that we really need to be looking at is the potential relationships between the two. In other words, how does one feed the other and vice versa?

More to come. Enjoy your weekend.

Star Wars is changing hands but my childhood lives on.

So, you probably heard the news yesterday that George Lucas sold Star Wars, otherwise known as LucasFilm to Disney yesterday for an impressive $4.05 billion. With that came news that Disney was already beginning work on an Episode 7, due for release in 2015.

Let me start by saying how enormous of a Star Wars fan I am. Aside from the toys, the customizable card game, the novels, and yes, the now famous Darth Vader cardboard cutout that sits in my living room, Star Wars has always been an important anchor for me. The stories provide a valuable connection back to my childhood, reminding me of what it feels like to be completely immersed in my own imagination.

In my (more) adult years, the stories themselves have served as introductions into the wisdom of comparative mythologist, Joseph Campbell and his work on the hero archetype and the hero’s journey, from which many believe the Star Wars trilogy is derived. In a sense, I’ve aged with them, growing up to pull intellectual and (try not to laugh) even spiritual wisdom from the stories.

But, the sadness I felt yesterday upon hearing the news of Lucas’ sale, was, in part, due to the assumption that Star Wars would now be exploited without any thought of restraint. But, those are the feelings of a crotchety old-timer. I had every toy imaginable as a child, why should today’s kids be denied the same thing, because I hold Star Wars in some sacred regard?

But, that was just part of the remorse.  The other part came from a feeling that purists, not unlike myself, who had criticized Lucas so heavily, going as far as to create documentaries devoted to exposing his shortcomings, had driven him to part ways with his child.

While I’m sure that Lucas would disagree with this statement, I can’t help feeling there may be some truth to it. In fact, Lucas’ departure was all but spelled out in a NYT interview released 10 months ago alongside his latest film Red Tails, a project that provided even more insight into his beliefs as a man and as a filmmaker. When asked about the fans’ distaste spawned by his merchandising of the franchise and re-release of the films, the columnist wrote this:

“I think there are a lot more important things in the world” than feuds with fanboys, Lucas says with a kind of weary diffidence. But then he gets serious, even a little wounded…“On the Internet, all those same guys that are complaining I made a change are completely changing the movie,” Lucas says, referring to fans who, like the dreaded studios, have done their own forcible re-edits. “I’m saying: ‘Fine. But my movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.’ ”

Lucas seized control of his movies from the studios only to discover that the fanboys could still give him script notes. “Why would I make any more,” Lucas says of the “Star Wars” movies, “when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”

It’s sad. But the reality, as often described by those who worked closely with George over the years, was that his passion and sage-like wisdom lied in editing, not writing, not directing…editing. The man loved to tinker, loved to see how technology could change the face of his beloved films and no one acknowledges this.

I mean, the man founded Industrial Light & Magic, the world’s first special effects studio, invented simply because he had no other way to create the expansive space shots he dreamed up while filming A New Hope. And then he founded Skywalker Sound, because he needed audio to match visuals.

All those who love and appreciate cinema, as most fanboys do, love to complain about how the movie industry is driven by corporate greed, and that true works of art are increasingly more difficult to discover and produce. Well, George Lucas broke free of that in 1978, ensuring that no movie studio would have the final editing rights over his works of art. The result was the greatest trilogy our world has ever seen.

I will never be able to fully grasp the impact that Star Wars has had on my life, my career choices, the intellectuals whom I now study and look up to, the importance I place on my own imagination and creativity, the way I will raise my own children and who I’ve grown into as a person.

I owe that to George Lucas and his vision as a filmmaker.

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