Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.

:: radical sabbatical ::

At Play, after a teammate has been with the company full-time for five years, they get to take a month off, paid, where they explore a passion of theirs. The idea is that they will get to do something that will help them grow and develop as a person, and that they will be able to bring their learnings back to the company at the end of their time. Also, it's a neat recognition of their five years of service to the team. Two of our teammates will be taking their radical sabbaticals this summer. I bring this up because the BBC is establishing a similar program. "The scheme enables staff to take on more responsibilities and helps their career development. There is also a business benefit. The placements develop skills that can be used when people return to their departments." (thanks, Metafilter)


:: DC Blogfest ::

For any bloggers in the DC area, come out to Taliano's on Saturday for the DC Blogfest. E-mail thomasn528@prodigy.net to find out more. I'll see you there.


:: article of the week [03.11 - 03.15] ::

For the archives, the :: article of the week :: for this week was Points About E-Commerce and Community. A white paper on the power of InterNetWorking (did I just make up that word? I like it. woot woot, as it were.), this article looks at the reasoning behind building community (customer loyalty, better bottom-up ideas from consumers, increased awareness of buyers' preferences and the ability to build a network of clients, vendors, affiliates, and prospectives), and how it applies to e-commerce sites. Even if you don't have an e-commerce site that you're working with, the article has much broader applications. Ultimately, it's a good, quick read, and it makes points that apply to any discussion regarding the Internet and community building.


:: Playshare ::

A lot of longer posts today, but you can think of yesterday as the calm before the storm. My only regret is that anybody referred here via one of the Blog Watches might not see this stuff, because it's Friday, and I think there's a higher visit rate on Monday - Thursday. Anyway, Play sent out its Playshare for March 15th, and I thought I'd share it with you. If you want to sign up to receive Playshares (every two weeks), send an e-mail here. Anyway, here's the share:

Picture this scene: a motorist, traveling on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. He passes a highway sign reading "Welcome to Baltimore." He continues driving, unmoved by the sign, unmotivated to get to know the city, its people, or its character. "Welcome to Baltimore" provides no more to the traveler than a designation of the city limits.

Now consider a different scenario. Same driver. Same parkway. Same sign except for the addition of one word: "Welcome to Baltimore, Hon." The addition of the local abbreviation of "honey" to the traditional road sign tells a compelling story as it heightens your curiosity and provokes questions. Where does your mind go due to that one word? Do you hear a voice and inflection in your head? Do you imagine a personality? Do you visualize a friendly waitress and a slice of pie? Maybe you're reminded of old friends? Chances are that the driver takes a mental detour as he travels down the highway.

Thanks to an anonymous urban folk hero, this scenario is a reality for motorists entering Baltimore. Using a stealthy, anonymous approach, "the Hon Man" (as he has been named) has been altering Baltimore welcome signs for the past ten years. He has created a story for the city by giving it a personality, and in the process, reminding us of the creative power of words.

What is the ultimate goal of creativity in business? On one level, it is to give an organization a competitive edge, to be memorable to the client or customer, or to build brand recognition. Any business or organization wants to tell a compelling story that invites the listener to take another step closer—to engage in or explore what the business has to offer. Words are the tools that allow us to tell those compelling stories. Or in the case of the city of Baltimore, just one word.

What opportunities are available to you to tell your compelling story? Change your business and change the world. It starts with a single word.

let's play, hon.


:: strangers on the web ::

After updating Pure Content, I jumped over to weblogs.com to register that it had updated. I glanced at the other recently-updated sites, and stumbled across snowdeal.org. It's a weblog about bioinformatics (see the first quote below if you don't know what bioinformatics is), and I thought that was interesting enough to post it up here. But I found two quotes on the site that I wanted to share with you.

The first: "Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs."

The second: "The stranger has been a fundamental touchstone of cultures at least since Abraham and Sarah invited weary road travelers into their tent only to find out that they were angels in disguise. The Odyssey, too, is a meditation on strangers and hospitality: Odysseus experiences different ways of being a stranger on his way home while the suitors abuse every rule of hospitality in his own house. It's easy to see why strangers are so important: a culture's attitude towards them expresses its understanding of its position in the world of social groups. In our culture, we're suspicious of strangers. They're a threat. They lurk in shadows. On the Web, however, strangers are the source of everything worthwhile. Strangers and their utterances are the stuff of the Web."

I like it.


:: "stock" car racing ::

Co-ops have existed for a while (like REI or ... well ... the stock market in general), but a new outfit is bringing the concept of shared ownership into a completely new arena: NASCAR.

Growing up in DC, I had no idea about the social and economic impact of auto racing. Having moved to Richmond, though, where it's a moderately popular sport, it's easy to see how professional auto racing makes something to the tune of four billion dollars each year. Now, a collective known as Fanz Enterprises has started up a co-op to let the common man join in. They are selling stock ($10 per share with a minimum of 25 shares) to fans of NASCAR, "giving a limited group of everyday fans across America the chance to directly own part of a professional motorsports team." We'll see how it does. Regarding the target audience, it doesn't seem to have the drama and color that NASCAR fans are drawn to. Regarding its financial approach, it seems like it's less "professional" than the pre-IPO status of most public firms. But there's a lot of potential. We'll see what happens. Article.


:: housekeeping ::

Thanks to all who have signed up to receive subscriptions and who have commented on articles and postings. I've gotten some good feedback regarding both. If there's anything else you want to see, let me know.


:: moving day ::

Two quick bits. One, fellow blogger (and Augustinian Wonder Boy) Kevin Holtsberry has moved his blog, Ideas, etc., to a new home on the web.

In somewhat related news, my wife and I just bought our first house. We won't move in until the beginning of May, but gosh. We're excited.


:: 2MBR ::

Well, it’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for a Two Minute Book Review.

I was hoping to review A Pattern Language, but that'll have to wait until next week. For now, I want to share with you The Ultimate Book of Business Creativity. All too often, "creativity in business" is perceived as people wearing bizarre hats and doing team-building exercises to facilitate communication and build trust. Ugh. The author (Ros Jay) escapes that, by applying sound, analytic thought to creating strategic exercises and techniques that help develop a creative mindset. One of the nicer elements of the book is that he breaks the exercises down into "problem solving" and "idea generation" exercises, as well as "individual" and "group" exercises. Although not all of the techniques are outstanding, there are some solid exercises that can help lead to innovative thinking. And he even has a technique built on A Pattern Language.


:: every road a toll road ::

Would you drive less if you paid a tax on each mile you travelled? Global Positioning Systems have done a lot of interesting work. Finding avalanche victims, assisting ambulances and fire crews to reach emergencies, assisting the military in their missle guidance systems. A report given to politicians in England recently outlined a plan where GPS satellites would be used to track individual car movements, assigning a toll for every mile driven. The payments would replace an annual car tax and would reduce the tax on gasoline. Using the GPS system, certain roads (urban) and certain times of day (rush hour) would have higher costs associated with them. Although it clearly has potential problems regarding civil liberties, I think it's an interesting idea. I'm interested to see how it progresses. Here's the article. When it comes down to it, I'm in favor of it. [Note to Samizdata-types: Do I "really like it"? No. Not really. Especially as I've thought about it more (and seen your comments). But I'm intrigued by the idea of it. Thanks.] Thoughts?


:: public art ::

The same people behind the Tribute in Light have another, more modest, public art campaign. Although I'd prefer it if they made it interactive and replicable (like "Andre the Giant Has a Posse"), it's still a very interesting concept. It's a poster campaign, wherein the artist puts up pieces of white paper, with silhouettes of the World Trade Center towers cut out. The colors of the underlying background take up the void created by the cut-out towers. You can see a small picture of it here, on the right side of the screen ("A Project by Hans Haacke"). There's also a downloadable computer application, but I couldn't quite make it work.


:: a good reference for blogging newbies ::

I hate it when I go somewhere new, and I look lost, and nobody stops to help me. In light of that, I thought I'd share two good links about blogs, in case you're new to the blogging world, and have stumbled across this site. The first is one from Camworld, from over three years ago. He draws a map of the landscape of the early blogging world. A lot of his comments have maintained their relevance.

The other link is from Blogdex, which is a project at MIT, "built to harness the power of personal news, amalgamating and organizing personal news content into one navigable source, moving democratic media to the masses." It shows which sites and articles have been linked the most from blogs. The above link will take you to the main list. Clicking here will take you to the info page, which has some good links to info about blogs.

The Blogosphere is a constantly evolving place. Welcome aboard.


:: blogs meet "the tipping point" ::

If I had found this article at Microcontent a little earlier, it might have become the [:: article of the week ::] for this week. Anyway, it takes the principles Malcolm Gladwell discusses in The Tipping Point, and it relates them to the online world. Specifically, the world of blogs. The author (John Hiller) picks apart an article he wrote that eventually sent thousands of readers to his site, and he explains why and how the floodgates opened. He outlines a five-step process (Expert > Link Maven > Connector > Bloggers' Tipping Point > Non-Bloggers' Tipping Point) that makes a lot of sense.


:: "a complex network of relationships over time" ::

Heath linked to a great white paper on the Internet and community-building. It pulls wisdom from the Cluetrain Manifesto and a couple of other places. In short, though, it's a compact, concise, and powerful look at the do's and dont's of e-commerce and community. Here's the white paper.


:: convergent circles ::

Evan, the guy who helped create Blogger, is apparently friends with the KaosPilots. Here, he posts some pics from a party they threw. I can't tell if it's in Denmark or if it's at their outpost in California (that's my guess, with the presence of David). It's good to see cool people connecting.


:: subscribe ::

In case you haven't made Pure Content your homepage (shame!), and you want an easy way to get your daily fix, please sign up to receive it in your Inbox. Just type in your e-mail address on the left, and you'll be good to go. You've asked for a subscription service. Here you go. Have fun.


:: six months later ::

I'm sure that almost every site will make some commentary about today being six months after 9/11. Of course, in light of the magnitude of the events of that day, there's nothing significant that I can add. So I wanted to share this with you. It's a comment board from the morning of Sept. 11th, from Fark. It shows the confusion, the fear, the anger, and the sadness of Americans (and others) who were typing in their comments as the events unfolded. The first tower hit. The second tower hit. Bush's address. The Pentagon hit. Manhattan sealed off. White House evacuation. All planes grounded. Tower 2 collapsing. The plane in PA. Tower 1 collapsing.

The most significant element of the site is the confusion. Everyone trying to figure out what's going on. Everyone sharing the information they know. Everyone wondering who organized the attacks, why they did it, and what the US response would be. Bin Laden is named as early as 9:23 am, which is pretty early. Anyway, it's a fascinating microcosm of the range of emotions and responses from that Tuesday in September.

In case you want more of the discussion, go here. It's where the discussion continued, due to the large number of people trying to access information on the Internet. And here, the BBC chronicled eyewitness accounts.

who / what / why

At Play we create brands, strategies, new products, and better cultures for Fortune 100 companies. Our formula for creativity: "Look at more stuff. Think about it harder." Pure Content is one place where we do that, daily.

the cool kids' table

Ben Domenech
(politics, football, and a boatload of know-how)

Creative Generalist
(if Pure Content had a doppelganger ...)

Heath Row
(punk + business
+ creativity = Heath)


go go gadget google:

stuck in an airport

A Pattern Language

Creative Company
Orbiting the Giant Hairball
The Ultimate Book of Business Creativity

The Little Prince

Wittgenstein's Poker

The Dancing Wu Li Masters

The Tipping Point

new to you

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see our neighbors
Comments by: YACCS