Tuesday, September 25, 2007

$100 Laptop Program Needs Your Help

In high school, it was pretty challenging to be an emerging futurist and proponent of digital convergence. I was fortunate enough to have at least one teacher who let me ramble on about it (thanks, Mr Goodwin), but for the most part, telling people in the mid-nineties that their computer and tv would soon be the same thing wasn't really of interest or relevance to many folks. There weren't a whole lot of people around to talk about things like that with--or even many books to read. The first I recall devouring was Being Digital, penned by Nicholas Negroponte, at the time, director of the MIT Media Lab.

A few years ago, I was excited to learn that he had walked away from his post to pursue his passion--putting a computer in the hands of every child in the world. The organization is called One Laptop Per Child and the goal was to work with corporations to get the costs down to $100 per machine. The stories of even the early successes are amazing.

As you might imagine, this is quite an undertaking, and the fact that it hit the news again today is probably a sign that progress isn't going as well as they might have hoped. Nevertheless, for the first time, the program has gone public--asking individuals to help the cause. BBC reports that starting November 12, anyone will be able to purchase two laptops at a time--one that they may keep, and another that will be donated. The price is $399 for the two machines through the G1G1 (Give One, Get One) Program.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Halo3 Believe Campaign

There are buckets of amazing things to talk about surrounding next week's release of Halo 3 for Xbox 360. First off, all expectations are that its sales figures will obliterate any Hollywood box office record for an opening weekend. Yes, I realize that a game costs significantly more than a movie ticket, but seriously--gaming has come a long, long way. That's a whole different discussion, though.

My buddy Derek at AKQA tossed me the link to the Halo 3 site they just wrapped and launched to help promote this new blockbuster and it's pretty unbelievable.

I'm enamored by the concept. Most video games just focus on showing some hot graphics and animations from the game to entice folks to buy. With Halo 3, they finally took the step beyond and moved to telling a story. The serious gamers are already lined up for their copy, it's the fringe people who need a reason to buy (even if they have to buy an Xbox console in addition). With a very cinematic approach, they show the culminating battle of the war that takes place in the game and put it on par with other epic battles in our world's history. They did some really interesting offline promotions along these lines, as well.

I'm also impressed by the execution. In a world where the obvious solution would have been to take the already-created 3D characters and use them to tell the story, they instead painstakingly created the battle scene you'll see on the site out of true miniatures, and passed a film camera through the scene. Insodoing, they were able to do some things that couldn't have been done with CG--like allowing visitors to download any frame of the entire piece full-screen, to be used as a wallpaper.

Enjoy the story, and as you move through the environment, keep an eye out for the cauliflower explosions and the cotton ball smoke coming from the tank.

Food Fight

I just came across this site today and thought it was a really interesting way to get people involved and engaged in learning about and playing with the food they eat.

Get messy.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Work is Play: MediaSauce at Oranje

Last night was Oranje, one of Indy's annual can't-miss arts events. This was its sixth year, and by all accounts, it keeps getting better. In and of itself, the premise is unique because it treats art as an experience to be emersed into rather than something you just observe and pass by.

Each year the event takes place in a new location, most often in a large, vacant commercial or industrial building downtown. This year was held at the former Ross-Gage building at 22nd and Illinois. This giant facility kept hundreds of people gainfully employed for decades by doing nothing other than cutting out the thumb-shaped tabs on dictionaries, encyclopedias, and bibles that were shipped around the world. Amazing. We're truly in a different era now.

Anyway, this empty space is transformed for one night to allow dozens of local artists the opportunity to show and sell their work and gain exposure from thousands of visitors. Additionally, there are a multitude of stages with live music and a fashion show.

As an event sponsor, MediaSauce had the task of taking a blank 20'x20' space and transforming it into something significant enough to represent our ethos to all in attendance. Our choice was to create an interactive photobooth themed Work is Play. We built an environment out of conduit and visquine that allowed us to shoot images of attendees and then create an ongoing work of art throughout the night by projecting the images onto the opaque visquine walls for everyone to see. Also created on-the-fly was the web-based version of the experience, allowing people to find their specific image and download a high-resolution file to print or share.

In addition to the booth, fellow Saucers Ben and Dan worked together throughout the night to create an impressive graffiti mural and Abby did an amazing job with the makeup in what was basically an "unfashion show" that was a highlight of the night. The show had nothing to do with fashion, instead, it was all about the look she created.

All told, it was an impressive night. Creativity was abound, and the 20+ MediaSaucer who volunteered to help out in and around the booth had a great time hanging out and creating something truly unique that those who were in attendance truly enjoyed. It's unique for us to get the chance to have instantaneous feedback. Since most of our work lives online, we don't always see first-hand how excited people get by interacting with our ideas, this event gave us that chance.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Direct Mail vs Trees

On a continuum of "stuff I appreciate about the world we live in", a beautiful softwood tree, such as a spruce, pine, fir, or aspen, inhabits the complete opposite end of the spectrum from direct mail, such as real estate fliers, envelopes stuffed full of meaningless coupons, or brochures promoting supplements to my Medicare coverage.

Those ads don't even make it into my house. On occasion, I've been known to clip a pizza coupon or two, but now that I live near HotBox Pizza, I don't even need those. Instead, they go straight into the big, stinky garage trashcan so they can think about what they've done. I suppose that's not fair of me. It isn't the flier's fault that some backhanded marketing professional convinced a naive business person that it was brilliant strategy to send out random postcards or coupons to thousands of people who aren't at all in the market for their product or service. Yet, it is the advertisements who must suffer the consequences by heading off to a landfill or recycling plant for the remainder of their miserable trash-bag-water-soaked lives.

Successful marketing isn't about seeing how many people will immediately throw away messaging from you. It's about cultivating an audience and being relevant to them when, how, and why, you communicate.

More importantly, trees are rad, and those stupid direct mail ads you toss straight into the trash account for the demise of 1.5 trees per year per US household. So, do three things:

1. Think about that poor tree and a half the next time you throw away those ads. Their blood is on your hands. You know, that half tree might be a baby tree--have you no heart?

2. Better yet, just stop getting junk mail by registering here. It's like a Do Not Call List that saves trees, too. It costs a buck. If that's too much, email me and I'll reimburse you.

3. Find your own local pizza shop and support it instead of using that Dominoes coupon. The guy who runs it is probably helping a half dozen delivery drivers buy a new car to impress a girl or even pay for college.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I wholeheartedly believe that words create meaning. Until there is language to describe something, to a certain degree, it doesn't really exist. I mean, I'm sure people in generations past had struggles in their twenties, but until Abby Wilner coined the phrase and wrote the book in 2001, the idea of a "Quarterlife Crisis," was more of a figuring-out-process.

The truth is, most of life is chaotic, but there is a lot of figuring out to do throughout your mid-twenties that makes things especially challenging. There are changing dynamics of friendships and confusing relationships abound. As responsibilities and commitments mount and you struggle into adulthood, the question is inescapable--"what is it i am supposed to be doing with my life?"

It is the exploration of this subject matter that has lead to the creation of a new web-based series from Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the duo responsible for Blood Diamond, The Last Samuari, and Thirtysomething. The show is supposed to have the same sort of budget commitments that it would if it were destined for network television. It's simply going to be broadcast on MySpace instead because that's where the target audience would prefer it. The hour-long episodes will also air on quarterlife.com, which will become a fully functional portal for actual quarter-lifers trying to find their path. Perhaps this becomes the new way to pitch a show idea--if enough people are watching it online, it won't be long before the networks come calling to try to cash in.

Quarterlife Trailer

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Looks interesting, and it's just great to see that bigger budgets are moving to the screen that makes the most sense. Soon enough there won't be a difference, anyway.

One last topical reference in the form of some lyrics to a John Mayer song from an entire album that is basically about this same subject matter. Good stuff.

I rent a room and I fill the spaces with
wood in places to make it feel like home
but all I feel's alone
It might be a quarter life crisis
or just the stirring in my soul

Either way I wonder sometime
about the outcome
of a still verdictless life

John Mayer, Why Georgia (lyrics)

Read more about the show from the New York Times.

Monday, September 10, 2007

This is Faceball

"A lot of people would ask, 'why?' "

"None of those people work here."

Thank you Flickr, for your continued focus on innovation.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Art vs Art

So, today was the culmination of the annual Art vs Art competition. This amazing event is the brainchild of Jim Clinger, good friend and fellow MediaSauce team member of mine, and his cohorts at Primary Colours. It was my first time in attendance at the event, and it was amazing.

Here's how it works. Hundreds of artists arrive. They are each given the same kit of supplies--canvas, three (primary) colors of paint, brushes, etc. They are also given up to 4 hours to create. At the end of the allotted time, the pieces are collected and the voting begins. The top pieces (based on audience votes) are entered into an NCAA-style bracket for an all-out head-to-head battle. Round after round, the pieces are presented on stage and a decibel-meter judging crowd response declares which piece will move on to the next round, and which will face the Wheel of Death. If the losing piece doesn't receive a high enough bid--it's destroyed on spot in front of a bloodthirsty crowd of arts enthusiasts by means of a chainsaw, wood chipper, vat of acid, graffiti tagger, or worse). Each round, the starting bid increases.

This year, for the first time ever, the winning piece failed to earn a high enough bid. As the judges conferred about how to handle the situation, the winning artist, Amory Abbot, (oversized novelty check in tow) walked over and spun the Wheel of Death, thus sealing the fate of his piece.

Justice was served. Read the winning artist's blog here.

If you're interested in seeing more, here's how last year looked:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Creativity Always Inspires

Over the past few years, I've developed a pretty intense crush on TED. Once a year, 1000 thought leaders, visionaries, idea merchants, and catalysts get together for 3 days in Monterey, California to take a step back from the day-to-day and share their perspectives from their respective areas of expertise (in 18 minutes or less) and show how the pursuit of big ideas is helping change the world.

Though the original scope of the conference was Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED), the interconnectedness of our 21st century has led to a world where an increasingly wide array of topics fall into at least one of these categories. So, whether you're interested in the Climate Crisis (Al Gore, John Doerr), the future of media (Charles Leadbeater, Johnathan Harris), saving the world (Nicholas Negroponte, Bono), or dozens of things in between, there is something that will inspire you.

Best of all, this wealth of knowledge is no longer reserved just for those fortunate enough to earn an invitation. Video presentations are now added to the website on a weekly basis to incite dialogue, challenge thinking, and entertain more than anything you'll find on network television. Anyway, please check it out.

I love TED, but honestly, I only told you about it so I could tell you this . . .

Today, the Indianapolis Arts Council hosted their annual kick-off luncheon, Start With Art. I had the pleasure of attending and listening to Sir Ken Robinson speak about the importance of creativity and how lousy our society does at embracing it, from cutting funding to the arts in schools to the failure of many businesses to embrace the natural talents of their teams. I was really looking forward to hearing him speak and then talking with him afterwards because his presentation at TED has been one of my absolute favorites.

Since I blathered on so much about TED, I won't get into all of the details of today's talk. Instead, I'll let you enjoy the speech that first developed my affinity for Sir Robinson.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Return

So, it's been weeks and weeks since I spoke up and shared with the class. I'd like to apologize to my dozens of loyal readers out there (I think I may be pushing it a bit there--we're still striving towards the double digits). So, is my silence a testiment to a lack of quality topical material? Am I being passive aggressive and turning a frosty shoulder? Not in the least. Buckets have been going on in and around my world on a personal level, as well as the busy business of transforming the media universe. Yet, I've been absent--sitting about, mumming the words. You deserve better, America! In an effort to actually do something about that, you'll see a more dedicated focus coming from the keys of me. There is far too much going on to fail to share it.