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February 2006

Spring 2006 Fashion Don'ts

This is always an exciting time of year for shopaholics: new Spring fashions are in the stores and we can begin to think about putting away our tired, old winter clothes in favor of some snappy, new pieces.

Unless, of course, those new Spring "fashions" are heinous.

Take, for example, this jersey dress from Yaya, jersey leotard (gymnastics class, anyone?) and black leggings (again, jersey) from Marc Jacobs. Yaya_dress_3 Marc_leotard_3 Marcj_leggings_3

And let's not overlook Susana Monaco's tube short jumper (can also be worn as a swimsuit; how versatile!). Susana_monaco_romper_1

I hope there's more to Spring '06 than these Flashdance throwbacks; I love jersey knit as much as the next girl, but given these options, I think I'll restrict that material to my bed sheets.


Amazon gets 2.0

Amazon_3Amazon.com continues to set the bar for online commerce and community. Not content to remain simply "the world's largest bookstore," they have expanded their inventory over the years to include Music, Kitchen & Housewares, Apparel & Accessories, Electronics, Shoes, Health & Personal Care, and more. And despite growing to immense proportions, they've managed to avoid the criticism that other online plays have faced in their attempts to diversify (e.g., Google).

Amazon is perhaps best know for being a pioneer in collaborative filtering ("Customers who bought this also bought..."). While many companies talked about using this type of technology for cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, few have implemented it so successfully. In fact, Amazon is usually referenced in conversations about collaborative filtering, as it's the best known example of it in practice.

But Amazon didn't stop there. Long before consumer generated media became a buzzword, they encouraged users to post product reviews, build and share Wish Lists, and traverse Purchase Circles. They created the foundation for what Tim O'Reilly calls an "architecture of participation," or, the basis for Web 2.0.

With the introduction of its Amazon Connect author blogs and product wikis, Amazon has now fully embraced the principles of Web 2.0, and they've done so in a manner that is relevant to their customers, suppliers, partners, and products. They've been able to maintain an extremely intuitive and useful site experience, while others still struggle with how - or even when - to introduce such features and functionality (read this great article about companies that are doomed to fail, due to an inability to systematically change the way they do business).

That is why I will continue to buy from Amazon, when links to BarnesandNoble.com, BestBuy.com and other successful retailers are just one click away. I've had a long and happy relationship with this one site, that will only get better over time.


Ready.gov

Ready_2I came across the ad at left while perusing a fashion magazine recently. At first glance it's like any other you'd see in InStyle, Glamour or ShopEtc., which cater to women's love of fashion, clothing and accessories; this one happens to depict a closet full of women's shoes; but the copy in this ad indicates a very different sort of message. The headline reads:

BUT DO YOU HAVE A WHISTLE?

The ad (created pro bono by Ogilvy & Mather) is part of the America Prepared Campaign, and drives to its associated web site, Ready.gov, which is run by the Department of Homeland Security. The subtext reads:

You have the things that make you happy. Get the things that make you prepared. Make a plan. Get a kit.

It took my by surprise to see such a campaign in a women's magazine, but I guess it accomplished what it set out to do: raise awareness of how citizens can be more prepared in the event of an emergency.

APC is a non-profit, non-partisan effort to help Americans prepare for terrorist attacks and other disasters. At the site, consumers can get a kit of emergency supplies, get tips on making a plan for what to do in an emergency, and get informed about the various types of threats our country could face. The campaign has also been supported by various public service announcements and partnerships with a variety of businesses. The kits have also been made available at major retailers, including BJ's Wholesale Club, Costco, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Sam's Club.

Spooky to think about, but a smart idea.


Bob Cargill For Hire

Today, in my regular perusal of the posts on Adpulp, I came across an impassioned appeal for employment from Bob Cargill, a local direct marketer and creative director who's looking for his next great opportunity.

His appeal resonated so much with me that I wanted to share an excerpt here:

Wherever I land, I hope it’s a place that recognizes the need to leverage the effectiveness of traditional, time-tested marketing principles with the power of the latest new conversational media tools, consequently embracing a sense of both immediacy and transparency, two of the most important hallmarks of successful brand communications campaigns today.

Wherever I land, I hope it’s a place teeming with brilliant creative minds and bold, farsighted agents of change who can at least relate to such groundbreaking business tomes as “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” “The Tipping Point,” “The Virtual Handshake” and “Life After the 30-Second Spot,” not to mention the thought leadership of luminaries the likes of Seth Godin, Tom Peters, Steve Rubel and Amy Gahran.

Amen, Bob. I love your post and wish you the best of luck in your job search. I'll be interested to see where you end up!


Future Marketing Summit

EggvertisingNext week, PSFK's IF is presenting the Future Marketing Summit in NYC, a day-long event focused on non-traditional advertising concepts, the role of the agency of the future, and the creative challenges and solutions facings brands and their agencies. The panel lineup looks stellar, including:

...and many more!

The summit coincides with the Future Marketing Awards ceremony to be held the same evening; it will be chaired by Alex Bogusky and 47 jury members that will vote on entrants in 46 non-traditional "future marketing" categories.

As a fun experiment leading up to the big event, PSFK has started a project on Flickr whereby users are invited to post images that represent the future of marketing. Check it out.


Cory Doctorow at Harvard

The Harvard Computer Society together with Harvard Free Culture and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society hosted guest lecturer Cory Doctorow last night at an event that was open to the public. Doctorow, who is a blogger (BoingBoing), author (Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, among others), activist (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and podcaster gave a talk entitled, Set Top Cop: Hollywood's Secret War on Your LIving Room.

Doctorowflierweb_2The t-shirt clad Doctorow, with dark rimmed glasses on his face and iPod earbuds dangling casually over each shoulder, looked like any other techy in the audience. Armed with just a microphone and a laptop (for prompts; no typical PowerPoint slide projections in this lecture), he spoke nearly non-stop for one hour on a topic that he's clearly passionate about: Digital Rights Management (DRM) and the threat it poses to creativity. His casual dress and speaking style set the stage for the theme of the night: times are changing and the stuffy, buttoned-up business models of yore won't work any longer.

While conditional access creates a small speed bump to getting what you want (e.g., you must pay Apple 99 cents before you can download a song from iTunes), DRM proves a bigger challenge - it controls how you use the product after you "own" it. It prevents you from recording, backing up, manipulating, criticizing and remixing the media. According to Doctorow, this practice threatens innovation and competition, and flies in the face of the open source culture that is growing all around us. Doctorow argues that artists don't need DRM, and goes so far as to say that they suffer at its hands.

He spoke at length about big business' failure to develop Internet-ready business models and understand & support recent seismic shifts in the way content is created and shared. In effect, DRM treats the owner of the device/product (consumers) as a criminal, rather than an audience which should be wooed. He cited numerous cases of those who've "failed"

  • Sony Music and the rootkit fiasco that gained notoriety late last year
  • The arrest of ElcomSoft employee Dmitry Sklyarov during the Las Vegas Defcon hackers conference after giving a speech about his company's software, which is designed to crack protections on Adobe Systems' eBooks
  • Suggestions that the Recording Industry of America has effectively made a business model out of DRM, filing 700 lawsuits per month against those that violate their policies; at this volume, the settlements amply cover their legal costs. To Doctorow and others who are fighting for free flow of information and services, this is not a business model, but a "denial of service attack on the American legal system." (LOL)
  • TiVO recently pushed out a new update: if a show is tagged with restrictions (e.g., it can only be recorded at certain times, a certain number of times, or not at all), TiVO will honor those restrictions
  • The copy protection on coming HD DVDs is expected to be even more draconian

Doctorow argues that "there's no security in obscurity"; those who make their information readily available - and editable - will win in the long run, because they'll benefit from the collective knowledge of the community and their products will be stronger (and more relevant) because of it. In essence, tell everyone how it works so they can help expose any weakness or add-ons, and you can make a better product. True Internet-ready business models let product-centered communities form and create. He cites Creative Commons as an organization devoted to expanding the range of creative work available for others legally to build upon and share; they advocate "some rights reserved" rather than "all rights reserved."

In all, it was an interesting talk, raising a lot of ideas and opinions on a highly-contested topic that will surely remain in the spotlight for months (years?) to come.


Shecky's Girls Night Out

Sheckys_gnoFor years I've subscribed to NYC-based fashion & entertainment emails...longingly reading about the all the fun soirees that are a daily occurrance in the Big Apple. But Boston's finally catching up: first, StyleFixx came to town a couple of years ago, and outfitted the Cyclorama building with music, drinks, and tons of great fashions.

Now, Shecky's has launched its own Boston-themed website and newsletter - complete with reviews of the latest in local nightlife, dining, beauty and fashion - and with it comes the first Boston-based Shecky's Girls Night Out! Like StyleFixx before it, GNO promises a night of hot fashions (at up to 75% off), fun beauty treats and giveaways, all-night complimentary cocktails, and Shecky's Famous Goodie Bag.

The big event is scheduled for Thursday, March 23rd - also at the Cyclorama; advanced tickets may be purchased here.


Caravan Boutique

Shopcaravan_1Wired Magazine recently wrote about a new, NYC-based boutique called Caravan. It's mobile - as in a tricked out Winnebago that cruises around the city selling clothing and art. The only way to find it is to log on to shopcaravan.com and call or email for the location (Wired referenced access to real-time GPS coordinates on the site, but that option wasn't available at the time of my visit). You can also schedule private appointments or book the Caravan for special events.

The 240-square foot store can only handle about 12 customers at a time, but it pulling in up to $30,000 per month. It has created quite a stir due to both its mobility as well as its trendy merchandise...including big brands like Joie, Penguin and Rock and Republic.

Be on the lookout for Caravans in a city near you...current plans include a fleet expansion into Austin, Los Angeles, and MIami. Haute Wheels indeed!


The Rise of the Creative Class

Rise_of_the_creative_classI originally picked up Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class thinking it would be a good business read - particularly with the subtitle, How it's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. While the book proved to be more academic than I'd planned (re: multiple charts and graphs of population statistics and research findings), Florida did peak my interest with his theories on the Creative Class and how it has affected the economy, society and class structures.

Florida's tome was inspired by his work in urban planning...specifically, in trying to understand why once-successful cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit struggle to regain their past glories despite numerous attempts at improvement. The answer lies in the rise of the Creative Class, which values investments in R&D, the arts, and education rather than sports stadiums and strip malls.

Florida asserts that creativity has emerged as the single most important source of economic growth. The Creative Class behind this growth values individuality, meritocracy and diversity; creative communities take root and thrive when 3 things are present: technology, talent and tolerance. That is why communities like Cambridge, MA, and Silicon Valley have experienced boom times in recent years. Florida recounts social constructs throughout the years, like the bourgeoisie of the 50s that favored hard work, the bohemians of the 60s and 70s which favored play, and today's Creatives who recognize that life is an elusive mix of work and play. Creativity can not be turned on and off, and is not limited to the hours between 9 and 5. Thus we've seen more relaxed work environments and flexible working hours.

He quotes Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Fogel: "Today, people are increasingly concerned with what life is all about. That was not true for the ordinary individual in 1885 when nearly the whole day was devoted to earning the food, clothing, and shelter needed to sustain life." (p. 82) Homo Creativus is more tolerant and more liberal because material conditions allow it and social conditions demand it. Today, the content of the job and nature of work environment matter more than compensation; money alone does not motivate - it's important, but so is:

  • challenge and responsibility
  • flexibility
  • stable work environment
  • professional development
  • stimulating colleagues and managers

People don't stay tied to companies anymore. Instead of moving up through the ranks of one organization, they move laterally from one organization to another in search of what they want (or as Florida writes, "The playing field is horizaontal and people are always on the roll." (P. 104) Much of this can be attributed to the layoffs in the '90s which broke the social contract between employers and employees: it is no longer enough that you do a good job to stay employed. In fact, at the time of the book's publication in 2002, Americans changed jobs every 3.5 years - and that figure was trending downward. It hearkens back to the Young Experimenting Perfection Seekers I noted in a recent post about Sally Hogshead's Radical Careering.

Overall, The Rise of the Creative Class was a really interesting - if long - read; it documents a lot of principles to which my generation can relate.


MIT OpenCourseWare

In the true spirit of Open Source, MIT has made a broad selection of its course work available via MIT OpenCourseWare, a free educational resource for people around the world. According to the Web site, "OCW supports MIT's mission to advance knowledge and education, and serve the world in the 21st century. It is true to MIT's values of excellence, innovation, and leadership."

While the resource is non-degree-granting and does not provide direct access to MIT's famed faculty, I applaud their efforts at making syllabi, lecture notes, course calendars, problem sets and solutions, exams, reading lists, even a selection of video lectures available to self-learners around the world. With 1,250 courses published as of December 2005, the long-term goal is to include nearly all of its undergraduate and graduate course materials by 2007. For the Discussion Forums, MIT has partnered with the Open Sustainable Learning Opportunities Research Group in the Department of Instructional Technology at Utah State University. OSLO is a research project focused on building "social software" that enables informal learning communities to form around existing open educational content.

Of particular interest to me are their courses in Comparative Media Studies, an "examination of media technologies and their cultural, social, aesthetic, political, ethical, legal, and economic implications." Courses explore the cultural transition from analog to digital media, the use of technology and media in social constructs like education and war, and how images have shaped the identity of people and cultures, among others.

Stay tuned for more on this topic, as Jeremi and I are toying with the idea of building a companion weblog to document a self-learning experience in this space.