Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.

Via Microcontent News, found a cool interview about the power of social networks. It's an interview with Jonah Peretti, who you might have heard about before (the Nike "sweatshop" shoe tag and the "Rejection Line"). It's a neat look at how inpressive personal connections are. "It's been interesting to see the way the press hears about the project. I just followed the same rules that I did with the Nike email: I would only tell my friends about the Rejection Line. I never pitched it to people, I just told personal friends. It went from that to a couple hundred thousand people calling the line, and about 60,000 visiting the Web site."

He explains that even the media is really the front end of a vast network of social synapses. "A bunch of personal relationships lead to mass or print media. People think of media as this monolithic thing that chooses to cover one thing or another. But really, it's people who make media, and they hear stories from friends of theirs. Social networks tie into the way mass media works."

"The subplot is I'm trying to demonstrate that the Internet hasn't become totally corporate. Individuals with very little money can still reach millions of people."

Here's the interview.


Jim Collins' booklist

I really want to meet this guy. Not only does he publish research that radically transforms businesses, he rockclimbs, too. Collins tries to read 100 books a year, and he features his book list on his website. Although I don't know if the US Statistical Department's "Statistical Abstract of the United States" counts as a book, he redeems himself with books like "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" and Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird." As Heath says, "you are what you read." So if you'd like to be Jim Collins ...


alternate energy sources

Via John Robb comes this article in the Vancouver Sun, about the discovery of vast hydrogen fields and the potential for converting that hydrogen into a near-limitless supply of clean fuel.

"Hydrogen gas has been hailed as the ultimate clean fuel, as it produces only water when burned. Until now, however, moves to switch to a 'hydrogen economy' have been dogged by the cost of making the gas. The two most common ways -- extraction from natural gas and sea water -- are expensive and create environmental problems."

"Now scientists at the American space agency NASA have found that the Earth's crust is a vast natural reservoir of hydrogen which has become trapped in ancient rocks."

"The most promising source of the hydrogen may be geological 'traps' similar to those now drilled for natural gas. Professor Freund said: 'One of these natural hydrogen fields is already known to exist in North America, and extends from Canada to Kansas.' "

This is pretty exciting. There's certainly a long way to go before this technology yields real results. But it's good to know that scientists are working towards that end. John mentions that GM already has a device that extracts hydrogen from natural gas that costs less than $2,000. I'm looking around to find it. All in all, exciting, exciting stuff. Now if we could just get some offshore wind farms established.


the intersection of uncommon ideas

This post is for Cal, over at "Where HipHop and Libertarianism Meet". McSweeney's posted "All the President's Wu-Tang Clan," a list of names for the President and his Cabinet, as if they were members of hip-hop army the Wu-Tang Clan. Here are some highlights:

Secretary of State Colin Powell = Superintendent God-Botherer
Attorney General John Ashcroft = Tha Visible Choirboy
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson = Tha Ever So Weary Assistant
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta = Violent Toilet Thing
White House Senior Adviser Karl Rove = Excitable Misunderstood Genius
Press Secretary Ari Fleischer = Action-Packed Mental

If you want to figure out your Wu-Tang alias, check out the Wu Name Generator. I, for example, am "Vangelic Surgeon," and "Play Creative Consultancy" is "Ultra-Chronic Monstah." The piece d' resistance is this: Pure Content is "Fiendish Observational Comedian."


brand. spanking. new.

So the new site is up. Well ... the redesign. I'm excited about it, and I hope you like it. If you have any comments about it, please e-mail me, or just comment below. This is really just Phase Uno of the relaunch of Pure Content. Phase Dos will come when I'm joined by some of my fellow teammates at Play. Then things will really heat up.


more biological / business crossovers

This is straight from The Week. "Advertisers may soon have a new medium for their messages: butterfly wings. A scientist at the State University of New York in Buffalo is developing the first genetically modified butterfly, in an effort to figure out how shapes and patterns form on its wings. Butterflies didn't always have spots, and researcher Antonia Montiero wants to figure out how and why their markings evolved. She's creating butterflies with a heat-activated genetic switch in their wings. When a region of the wing is warmed with a laser beam, the gene will create a new spot. Montiero says that her method may be used by companies to mark logos on butterflies, to create flying advertisements."

Commentary from Charlie: First off, I want to say that I think this is a really neat development. And although business probably will be the first place this will develop, think about other ways this could be used. I had a relative (I think a great aunt on my mom's side) who was a spy for the Allies during WWII, and she would map out German encampments and forts, using sketches of butterflies in her notebook to hide the information. That is, she would draw a picture of the base, in such a way that it looked like a scientific analysis of a butterfly. The wing structure, the body, the legs. And in reality, it was a detailed sketch of supply routes, guns, and troops. The point? What if this technology develops military uses (a combination of carrier pigeons, spying, and propoganda?). At the absolute least, it could be used at weddings, like The Butterfly Celebration, which releases live butterflies at weddings. What if, like those bottles of wine with printed labels specific to the wedding, butterflies, with the names of the bride and groom, were released at the ceremony?

What if the genetic technology were applied to other things? What if the "laser-applied-color-changing-skin" was adapted to humans, so you could have a more permanent temporary tattoo?

In the end, I wouldn't be compelled to buy a product because I saw it on a butterfly's wings, but that doesn't mean I don't think it's cool.

Thanks to Rich Shaffer for the link to the Butterfly Celebration.


a plug for The Week

Back in January, my father bought me a subscription to The Week, and I've got to say that it's one of the best magazines I've seen. It takes the major news stories of the week and condenses them into abbreviated articles. "All you need to know about everything that matters" (from the cover). From The Week's web site, the Editor-in-chief writes the following (and although it's obviously slanted, I agree with it completely): "The Week is a witty, informative, important, and completely indispensable digest of the best reporting and writing from the U.S. and international press. In just 40 pages, it will bring you up-to-date on what's happening at home and abroad, and what the experts are saying about it." I'll be quoting from some articles from The Week in today's post, so I thought I'd mention how much I love it up front.

If I've compelled you to subscribe, go here. I don't get any kickbacks or anything. It's just a great, informative read.

Update: It's also good at killing spiders.



By the way, look for the redesigned Pure Content by the end of the day, Wednesday.


new press release

Play put out a new press release, and yours truly is mentioned. Although I joined the team full-time in December, the release is from yesterday, announcing my joining the team as "boy! wonder!" Read that title as a noun/verb command, not as an adjective/noun description. As in, "Hey, boy! Go forth and wonder!" The release also mentions Amanda Wood (with her doctorate of Play hospitality, she's our "Ph.D.") and Brian Ayers (as our new money guy (normally called a CFO), he's "ATM," although I suggested the far hipper "bling bling").


the bizarre world of corporate alliances

Corporate cross-promotions are interesting things. Sometimes they make sense. If Frito-Lay and Anheuser-Busch teamed up, that would be logical. Papa John's and Coca-Cola is not surprising. But who would have ever thought that a video game platform and a biotech / agribusiness outfit would team up? In the current issue of Popular Science, they report that Nintendo and Syngenta have done just that. Syngenta ("a world leading agribusiness company operating across all major areas of crop protection and seeds" with annual sales of $6.3 billion) bred a flower they named Pikmin. If you don't know, Pikmin is the name of a game developed by Shigeru Miyamoto (Nintendo's head game designer and cult hero, responsible for the Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong suites), somewhat akin to Lemmings. The premise is that you have crash-landed on a planet inhabited by Pikmin (strange, plant/animal creatures) and you have to use them to put your spaceship back together, fight enemies, and save the day. Anyway, there's a flower that grows out of the Pikmins' heads, and Syngenta created a flower that looks like it. Here's a press release from Nintendo.


Article(s) of the Week

I realized the terrible irony in lambasting Oprah for getting rid of the Book Club when I haven't updated my Article of the Week for two weeks. So I'm going to make up for it. I'm going to post ... not one ... not two ... but three Articles of the Week. The first is from Shift Magazine, "GROWING PAINS: Think the internet is old and tired? Maybe it's you" by Mark Moyes. A gentle berating of people who think "it's all been done" on the Internet already. It's short, and it features some good links. One of them is the following link, which is the second Article of the Week.

It's a feature from COLORS magazine, all about madness. It's a pretty enlightening picture of mental illness, and how it's treated in different cultures. My favorite quote: "I am the Devil when I'm here; I am God when I'm outside." That's from Midalia, a 54-year-old man in a mental home in Cuba.

Finally, we've got a supercolony of ants. Thanks to Boing Boing, there's an article in the San Francisco Bay insider, about a supercolony of ants, thousands of miles long. Normally, colonies of ants will fight each other. Sometimes, they'll team up, to share resources. Sometimes, they'll form a supercolony, that's about the size of several city blocks. But these stretch for several thousand miles, from Italy to Spain. This is strange enough, but I'm excited because I think that, down the road, this discovery will yield some interesting insight into cultures and society. Maybe that's hopeful and unrealistic. Anyway, it's interesting and a little creepy. "Them!," only smaller.


Playshare — Creativity and the bottom line

It's the fifteenth of the month, so Play sent out a Playshare. If you want to sign up to receive Playshares (1st and 15th of each month), send an e-mail here. Anyway, here's the share:

Creativity and the bottom line.

Businesses have a responsibility to use creativity. For some companies, however, creativity is the very last resource for gaining a competitive edge or developing a differentiating advantage, because it seems elusive and intangible. When the value of creativity is misunderstood, the excuse is inevitably, "We can't afford the time or money to be creative."

Creativity can actually be surprisingly lucrative if you commit to it. Whether the creative step is incremental, breakthrough, or transformational, creativity can dramatically affect the bottom line.

From our Seattle office comes a breath-taking example of the relationship of creativity and the bottom line. The Woodland Park Zoo turned a multi-thousand dollar annual expense into big bucks just by changing their perspective. The removal of animal waste was costing the zoo tens of thousands of dollars annually, until it creatively reconsidered the value of poo. By marketing the waste as "Zoo Doo," and by connecting with Seattle's gardening community, the unique animal compost now makes a $60,000 difference on the financial statement. With creative thinking, the Woodland Park Zoo definitely redefined "the bottom line."

As evidenced by the Woodland Park Zoo's turning doo into dollars, creativity doesn't always have to be a major investment. Using this philosophy and the inspiration from Seattle, how can you afford to not be creative?

let's play.


work life / family life

I received a forwarded e-mail about "great teams," written by someone at the Sonoma Institute. Although the general points in the newsletter were good, one of the points I felt completely missed the boat. Here's what it said: "While great teams are social institutions just as families and communities are, teams are not families! In our work, we invariably encounter founders/CEO's/team leaders who see and treat their team members as if they are family. When this is done, boundaries are often invaded and the same dysfunctions and moods that permeate families seep their way into the team." What does that say about 21st century life, that their fundamental assumptions / associations with "family" are "dysfunctions and moods"? Sure. A lot of families are dysfunctional. I'm not saying they're not. But to equate family life with dysfunction is ridiculous. Ultimately, the family provides a solid and substantial model for business teams.

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