Friday, May 23, 2008

Pork and Beans

Hands down, one of the coolest music videos I've ever seen. YouTube junkies will eat it up--I see it quickly becoming one of the most viewed videos ever. Just try to count the inside internet jokes...the logistics of putting this together boggle my mind. Hats of to Weezer for knowing what their audience likes. Keep reading...

Automatic Name Abbreviators

Why is it that some people feel entitled to abbreviate your name without precedent or permission? Is it not fair to assume that the name you use to introduce yourself is the name you wish others to use when referring to you? While it is true that some parents save their children the trouble of an abbrieviable name, and put an an already-truncated name on the birth certificate, others of us are cursed with a commonly shortened appellation, like Daniel, Christopher, or David. Some of us may choose to ditch unnecessary syllables, but many of us hold on tight to each and every letter. When presumptuous acquaintances decide they know better, and shorten the name for us, it can be quite irritating. So, a message to all would-be abbreviators: don't do it. Enunciate every letter, unless the name-bearer himself allows otherwise. Keep reading...

Brand Timeline Portrait

Brand Portrait Timeline

Just the kind of thing an ad geek/life chronicler such as myself wishes I'd thought of. Amazing that consumer culture has advanced to the point where we can communicate the events of our day using only brand logos. Each logo conveys not just a specific activity, but also psychographic details about the personality and socioeconomic class of their user. Very cool. Keep reading...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

GWAP finally launches!

Luis von Ahn, the brains behind captchas (the nonsense codes that verify your mortality when registering on websites), is back with his latest, and even more ambitious creation, GWAP (Games With A Purpose) is a collection of several fun "games," which are actually clever artificial intelligence projects disguised as addictive online games.

In each activity, you are paired with a partner, and directed to complete a series of tasks. The better you are, the more points you get (and the better the data the site collects). Tag a Tune, for example, instructs you and your partner to listen to a series of notes and describe them. By comparing the answers, the computer learns which descriptors are more common, and therefore learns to recognize the tunes itself.

Other games have similar ends, allowing partner pairs to describe images and words based on certain restrictions. The odd game out is called "Matchin," whose sole task is picking the more appealing of two pictures. This will help the computer learn what humans consider attractive, one of the most subjective and difficult things to teach a machine.

Check it out and sign up!

GWAP Keep reading...

Coffee shops and cafes

Atlanta is seeing some interesting developments in the coffee shop/cafe category, perhaps in response to Starbucks' recent attempt to win back its alienated customer base by returning to its more modest roots.

The Caribou Coffee near my house recently commenced 24-hour service, becoming the first major chain to offer such a benefit (besides greasy spoons like Waffle House, which have a different clientele and atmosphere). The Caribou location has 8-10 signs proclaiming its new offering, but the company website doesn't seem to be hyping it at all. I've driven by as late as midnight, and it does seem the message has gotten out; the number of cars in the parking lot and customers on the patio rival that of the evening.

Marketing-wise, this is a great move for Caribou. It's an excellent point of differentiation from Starbucks, and a clever way to gain customer loyalty from those who appreciate the new hours. Business-wise, I'm not sure how smart it is. The cost of running the coffee shop through the night can't be insignificant, especially with energy costs rising. Most of the customers are likely to buy a cup of joe and maybe a snack, then hang out for several hours. There may be enough customers until 2am to make it worthwhile, but what about 4am? Even if there is just one employee, the store needs to be ringing up several tickets an hour to break even.

As a former resident of a college town, however, I can attest to the fact that 24-hour cafes are a valuable thing to have. It's nice to see a city like Atlanta is finally evolving to provide these safe, informal, reliable meeting places.

Caribou site

The second newish concept is called Roam, a cafe/business center hybrid located in Alpharetta. Roam positions itself as a "third place" for telecommuters and other businesspeople looking for a break from the office. It offers WiFi, conference rooms, copy and print services, as well as a full menu of fresh breakfast and lunch dishes. It's possible to rent out conference rooms or its 50-seat theatre, a cheaper and more casual alternative to holding business meetings at a hotel. Roam offers a professional environment conducive to lively interaction, in contrast to the subdued atmosphere of a Starbucks. I foresee Roam being quite successful, and I wouldn't be surprised if its owners bring the concept intown in the future.

Roam website

AccessAtlanta article

UPDATE: Caribou recently cut back to closing at 2am. Keep reading...

Monday, May 12, 2008

How to Drive Traffic to Your Blog

I'd like to think people read my blog because I write engaging posts on interesting and original topics. I craft every post with care, trying to make each one both meaningful and brief enough to hold readers' attention. I strive to maintain a consistent output of social criticism and advertising insights. But I've realized recently it's not interesting articles that bring readers to my blog. No, it's something much, much simpler. Pictures of attractive female celebrities.

Since linking to a picture of Mila Kunis in a post last month, I've gotten at least 8-10 hits a day from people searching for variations on Mila Kunis, including "mila kunis eye," "mila kunis porn," and "mila kunis odd eye." If these people find the picture they're looking for and then linger on the site, I'm happy. But I'm sure they rarely explore my posts beyond the Sarah Marshall entry, leaving the real meat of my blog unseen and unenjoyed.

It's disappointing, but I guess if you can't beat 'em, give 'em what they want. Keep reading...

Thursday, May 8, 2008



An outstanding example of an engaging, entertaining microsite. Reloading the home page results in several different introductions to the site, encouraging visitors to explore the site and discover hidden easter eggs and videos. The actor who plays the guide has spot-on delivery; his sardonic tone is unexpected coming from someone of his age, bt perfect for the target market.

The brand responsible for the site cleverly (and impressively) hides its identity, except for a few brief moments. I won't spoil the surprise. Keep reading...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Today I buried a squirrel

The last time I handled a dead animal was in 9th grade biology, and I certainly never intended to do it again--I don't even like touching bugs. But I made an exception today. While mowing the lawn, I saw a squirrel lying on its side just a few feet from my driveway. The poor thing looked to be recently deceased, given his still-fluffy appearance (it always amazes me how squirrels can get hit by a car, but still look as cute as ever). I'm not usually one to get involved with dead animals, but I felt I had a duty. Given his proximity to my house and still-intact guts, I thought I could get over my squeamishness and save him from any further post-thanatopic trauma.

I picked out a suitable spot in the yard as far from the house as possible, and dug a good-sized hole. Then I took the shovel and scooped up the limp body of the squirrel, carrying him back to his grave. On the way I noticed a striped feather on the ground, which seemed like a fine funereal object to bury with the squirrel.

I slid him into the hole and dropped the feather on top. After replacing the red dirt, I did my best to conceal the grave with sticks and pine straw. Burying this squirrel was one of the most satisfying experiences I've had in a while. I felt connected to the earth, and proud of myself for overcoming my fear of (dead) animals. And it was fulfilling to know that I'd given one of the countless, carefree creatures killed every day the treatment it deserved. It's easy to get desensitized to seeing splattered squirrels smushed into concrete day after day, but it's good to slow (life) down, get out of your car or house, and do something about it.

Somewhat surprisingly, I have yet to attend a human's funeral. But today I took my first step towards becoming more comfortable with death, and it was an experience I won't soon forget.

Keep reading...

Monday, May 5, 2008

More Data Visualization Sweetness from NYT

The Times continues to produce incredibly well designed statistical visualizations. This graphic shows the various components of the government's Consumer Price Index, as well as the percentage change in price of each product in the past year.

Link Keep reading...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Zohan meets Baron Davis

Some creative advertising from Sony for their new film, "You Don't Mess With the Zohan." The film itself seems like quite a gamble for a major studio; its protagonist is an effete ex-Israeli secret service agent who pursues a career in America as a hairdresser. An undeniably original premise, but probably not a movie with mass appeal. A marketing move like this, however, is a step in the right direction.

This spot parodies the commercials currently running to promote the NBA playoffs, which pair players whose teams are facing each other. I am impressed with the spot for several reasons--its timeliness is impeccable, it draws viewers by successfully imitating an already-popular campaign, and it makes a film with an outlandish premise more accessible to the general public. With its potential for viral popularity the commercial could spark interest in the film, which may otherwise find it challenging to attract moviegoers' dollars. Keep reading...