On My Radar

The crush of correspondence/news/information I receive these days has made it increasingly difficult for me to make time for long-form blog posts. But I continue to discover and  share a variety of interesting things throughout the day, and I miss my blog and the conversations that it spurs. So, I'm switching to a micro-blogging approach here for awhile. Enjoy!

Here's what crossed my radar today:

Eye Candy

VERAMEAT-for-Of-a-Kind-Frenchie-Ladder-Cuff-102713-780 Poppy Necklace

The Frenchie Ladder Cuff by Verameat and the sparkly Poppy Necklace by Piper Strand.

Brain Candy

Inspiration

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
    in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
    of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

Just for Fun


My social network, visualized.

I jumped on the InMaps meme yesterday, using this latest experimental tool from LinkedIn to visualize my professional network. The result is interesting (and also quite beautiful):

LinkedIn inMaps
For the most part, it is what I expected: the major nodes in my professional network are driven by my current & past employers (PARTNERS+simons, Hill Holliday, One to One Interactive, THINK New Ideas), professional organizations (BIMA, MITX), and education (Bowdoin College).

The only real surprise is the inclusion of Compete, a local data analytics company, as a major node. While I have never worked for the company, I started out as a client of theirs about 5 years ago, and have grown into a "friend of the organization," both professionally and personally. So it makes sense that they're there, too (and I'm happy to be affiliated with such a smart group of folks).

Data visualizations like this are so interesting & informative. In one glance, you can quickly get a handle on my professional experience and the company I keep. Wouldn't it be cool if we could build similar visuals for a company or brand? LinkedIn Labs, are you working on this?

There are tools to visualize your Facebook network as well, but for the most part their value is unclear to me (basically, they all display some variation of which friends know each other). The one exception is UpGo, a Facebook app which does let you sort & filter your network based on different filters (high interaction, mutual friends, interests, age, location...) and groups (companies, schools, affiliations...). It's actually more like the inMaps app, but with a few more bells & whistles:

UpGo

Want to explore more visualizations? Head over to Visualizing.org, a new, collaborative data visualization hub created by Seed Media Group and GE. It's a great resource.

 


A Million Laughs for Literacy

Last Friday evening I had the opportunity to attend A Million Laughs for Literacy, the National Braille Press fundraiser to support its Hands On! Books for Blind Children campaign.

A million laughs

Headlined by comedienne Lily Tomlin and supported/attended by tons of local businesses and individuals, the aim for the night was to raise awareness of, and money for, programs that help eliminate the literacy gap separating blind children from the mainstream.

I didn't realize it, but not every blind person learns to read/write via Braille. In fact, most blind children attend public schools that are not prepared to teach Braille, and translation devices are expensive and only available to a few. The goal of the Hands On! campaign is to fund and expand programs that teach blind students, their parents, and educators the importance of Braille literacy. 

After cocktails and passed hors d'oeuvres in the lobby, the crowd moved into the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Boston Waterfront for a sit-down dinner and an assortment of speakers, including:

  • 7News anchor Randy Price, Master of Ceremonies for the evening
  • Boston College student Stephanie Fernandes, who refuses to let her blindness get in the way of her studies, the marching band, or her plans to become an attorney
  • Paul Parravano & Brian A. MacDonald, Board Chair and President, respectively, of the National Braille Press
  • And Lily Tomlin, who reprised some of her most famous characters, and threw in some very current events (read: Republican bashing) for good measure

Sabriye_Tenberken One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the Hands On! award to Sabriye Tenberken, a German social worker who became blind at age 12 and went on to study Central Asian Sciences, including Mongolian and modern Chinese as well as modern and classical Tibetan at Bonn University. The first blind person to enroll in these studies, she went on to develop the Tibetan Braille Script, as well as a project for blind children in Tibet (the incidence of blindness in this region is quite high, due to dust, wind, high UV light, high concentration of soot in houses, Vitamin A deficiencies, and inadequate medical care). Blind people in Tibet are excluded from basic activities in society, like education and employment, so Sabriye co-founded and co-directs an organization called  Braille Without Borders to serve this group of people.

The evening ended with a live auction of some great items: a night at Fenway Park for 10 friends in a private suite, an evening with Lily Tomlin, naming rights for a character in the next Robert Parker mystery novel, a VIP tour of the Hess Collection winery in Napa Valley, CA.

Overall, it was a great event that really raised awareness of an important issue. If you'd like to get more involved with the National Braille Press, they are hosting a Community Volunteer Day on Saturday, Nov 22nd, where volunteers will help put together print/braille books for blind children. Email Erin Markee for more information.

And on Jan 4, 2009, the world's blind with celebrate Louis Braille's Bicentennial in remembrance of the Frenchman, who at the age of 15 created the Braille system of reading and writing that is now used throughout the world.


School of the Future

I heard an interesting story on NPR recently about The School of the Future, a new high school that opened in West Philadelphia last month which is designed to give students the tools they need to excel in the 21st century.

And by "tools" they mean a fully connected learning environment that is constantly investigating new instructional practices to improve student achievement. To that end, it offers some of the most advanced technology offerings available, including:

  • a laptop and home broadband connection for every student
  • campus-wide Wi-Fi
  • student IDs embedded with smart chips that track attendance, open lockers and pay for meals (in 2007 they'll even track nutrition information for meals purchased there)
  • plasma screens and video projectors in the classrooms
  • an Interactive Learning Center offering streaming media content on a variety of subjects
  • a digital format for all paperwork and school assignments
  • access to digital cameras
  • special software for teachers to track students' attendance and progress, as well as adjust curriculum
  • a conspicuous absence of pencils, paper, textbooks, chalk and blackboards! (which are so old school)

What's also neat is that the school day itself more closely resembles the real-world workplace: it is project-oriented and based on appointments rather a traditional class schedule. Students attend a 7-hour day, but use software to schedule classes, meetings, meals and activities.

The school was first concepted in 2003, when Philadelphia School District CEO Paul Vallas pitched the idea to Microsoft, which subsequently dedicated a full-time staff member and a technology architect to the project, in addition to purchasing naming rights to the visitor center. The district itself put up the bulk of the cost -$61.4 million, which is a normal budget for area high schools.

The School of the Future will serve 750 students in grades 9-12, all admitted by lottery.  Over 98% of students are minorities and most live below the federal poverty level.  There are no academic or discipline performance required for admittance, but each student must apply to college in order to graduate.

This is such a great idea; hopefully more big business (and small for that matter) will find ways to donate time and materials for similar ventures.

Microsoft has a nice microsite dedicated to this particular project where you can take a virtual tour of the school.


 


 


50 People Who Matter Now

Business 2.0 has in interesting article in which it names the 50 People Who Matter Now...or, the most influential people changing the face of business today. They were selected not based on wealth or fame (although many of them qualify on both counts), but for bringing new products, services and ideas to market that are drastically changing the business landscape. As the magazine puts it, they are "those who are reshaping our future by inventing important new technologies, exploiting emerging opportunities, or throwing their weight around in ways that are sure to make everyone else take notice."

Not surprisingly, the list is full of so-called "new economy" executives, like those from Google, Flickr, Brightcove, and 37signals. But the winner of first place is the biggest indicator of the face of business today: consumers are in control like never before.

Below are the top 10 on the list; read about the rest here.

50_who_matter_1PS: Business 2.0 also boldly named the 10 People Who Don't Matter...a list of wealthy & famous executives who - the magazine thinks - are past their prime.


Coney Island Sideshow School

Shecky's culture & lifestyle newsletter shows us how we can indulge our inner carnie: by enrolling at the Coney Island Sideshow School (who knew?!).

For $600 one can learn all the secrets of the sideshow trade, including snake charming, sword swallowing, and magic!

It's a little unnerving that they have a Hold Harmless Agreement (indemifying instructors from any and all claims, actions, suits, etc., arising out of participation in the school) prominently displayed on the home page, and a requirement for any enrollee.

Fire eating anyone?

Sideshow_school


Kerry Healy at the Ad Club

Kerry_healy_1Lt. Governer of Massachusetts Kerry Healy was the guest speaker at the Womens Executive Forum breakfast I attended this morning. The program was sponsored by the Ad Club and held at the Four Seasons (in the Governor's Room, no less!).

It was a great start to the day; the sunny banquet room, continental breakfast and relatively small group of local women executives in attendance provided an intimate setting for Healy's discussion on balancing and attaining personal and professional goals...subjects about which she can speak at length.

Healy grew up in Daytona Beach, FL, during the 60's and 70's, which at times was a somewhat lawless environment due to the crowds of people (five hundred thousand) that would descend on the community of thirty thousand each spring break. The mayhem that often ensued left an impression on her, sparking her first interest in law enforcement and drug controls.

She attended less-than-stellar public schools (where Physics class was taught by a Physical Therapist from the athletic department because no one else was qualified and he at least had the "Phys" in his title), but was raised by a school teacher mother who instilled a passion for education. At 15, Healy's father suffered a debilitating heart attack which forced her to work 3 jobs in an effort to help pay the family's expenses.

Her combination of hard work, self study, and dogged determination was rewarded when she gained acceptance at Harvard University as an undergrad, and later Trinity College in Ireland (thanks to a Rotary Club scholarship). In Ireland she studied human rights, and how a society that had been incessantly under seige by terrorism could survive and protect its citizens' civil liberties (little did she know how relevant this would become 20 years later).

She met her husband in Ireland, a fellow Harvard grad also on a Rotary Club scholarship, and when talk turned to her family she revealed how she maintains that elusive work-life balance: by leveraging her extended family. Her mother-in-law lives in the house next door and has been gracious enough to help raise Healy's two children. Her own mother lives in a neighboring town.

I enjoyed hearing Healy speak; she was very eloquent and engaging, and clearly comfortable with the decisions she's made and her position in life. She's proof that there's truth in the old adage she shared early on in her talk: If you want to get something accomplished, give it to a busy woman.


Switch

SwitchI love this: an online show that encourages young girls to experiment with technology and design. Tech + Fashion. Two of my favorite things!

Tech_fashion_1

Dubbed Switch (with the cute, Junior-High-like URL: "iheartswitch.com"), the show was created by Allison Lewis, a web designer and instructor at the Parsons School of Design. The site is still in beta and has limited functionality, but there is a link to Episode 1: "How to Make a Talking Frame" with Diana Eng from Project Runway. Lewis has indicated it's a side project for her right now, but with the right promotion and partnership model this could form the basis of a cool little community.

You can read more about Switch on Boing Boing and in Wired Magazine.


PARTNERS+simons

PartnerssimonsI'm excited to announce that I have accepted a new position at PARTNERS+simons as Director, Interactive Strategies.

P+s was founded in 1989 and is one of the largest independent advertising communications firms in New England, providing a variety of cross-media marketing services to its clients in six business categories: technology, healthcare, life sciences, professional services, financial services, and consumer/retail. They take a media-agnostic approach to branding and demand generation initiatives, melding both traditional media-based communications with direct and interactive methods.

I will work closely with P+s leadership to further develop the firm's digital offering, cutting across their entire client base (which includes companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, EMC Corp., Genzyme Biosurgery, Boston University School of Management, and Sovereign Bank - read about this latest addition here).

It's a wonderful group of seasoned professionals that are doing really great work...I am eager to join them!

And lest we forget some of the fun that was had at Digitas, I've assembled some pix here.


MarkFenske.com

American Copywriter posted a great excerpt from Mark Fenske's blog today, which I'll share here:

Answering the client's problem is only part of the job a good ad does, and not at all the most important part.

Good advertising forms a connection between speaker and audience, between advertiser and people, that human beings enter into willingly, even hopefully at times.

Merely broadcasting the aim of your client into the eardrums and eye sockets of your brothers and sisters is neither the aim of good advertising nor an effective way to positively influence sales of the client's product. Half a connection isn't a connection.

Here's where you need to summon Mister Wacko.

What catches your eye when you walk around?
To what are you drawn on television/in grocery stores/art galleries/music?
Me, I want something I don't already know.
My eyes want to feast on a sight they've never seen before.
Ears too. And smell and touch and taste.
They all want in on the new.
You're the same, and so are all the people on earth.

I hadn't heard of Mark before, but I liked his ideas in this post, so I investigated his background: he's an ad guy, of course - more specifically, a Creative Director who's done stints with Wieden+Kennedy and The Bomb Factory (his own shop), and holds board positions at Creative Circus and 12 (W+K's experimental ad school).

The blog excerpt above is from an online "curriculum" that supplements his work at VCU AdCenter, a two-year graduate program leading to a Master in Communications degree, with concentrations in art direction, copywriting, strategic planning, media planning and brand management.

His site is an entertaining and informative look into the world of advertising, and agency folks in particular will find it a good read.