Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.

a quick take

Wired has this article, Flash: Blogging Goes Corporate. Although I won't be able to address this today, I'll tackle it on Monday. In the meantime, here's Meg Hourihan's take on it.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Robert has entered the blog.

I welcome myself to the blog (hold for applause). I have picked today to make my debut because Charlie gave me an incentive. If I blogged today, Charlie promised I could (don't be mad Sarah....) create a false lipstick "smooch" on his shiny bald head with permanent marker. sweet.

My nephew Graham remarked this weekend that "Uncle Robert seems like he is always onstage." well. How insightful. But I guess as long as my ticket holders are happy, the seats are filled and the reviews are good I should be content (not to be confused with pure content).

A shout out to the fine folks at Turbo Tax and Quicken who have changed my life. No longer will I be a slave to annual procrastination thanks to the amazingly easily, friendly and efficient service provided online for tax preparation. I don't even have to sign my name! and I was reveling in the pleasure of phoning in my extension at 11:00pm on April 15th...what's next? Pizza delivered to my home?!

Geof Hammond tells me not to listen to Dr. Laura ("1-800-D-R-L-A-U-R-A") because she raises my blood pressure. My recent rant: she admonishes a caller who is having difficulties with his second wife. She dictates that it is ridiculous for him to include romance in his life as it overshadows his responsibilities for the child, and second marriages (she says) most always end in failure so why bother? I mean first off, heaven forbid that a child have a happy parent, but that aside, on the very next broadcast she berates a caller for being alone. It’s unnatural and an abnormal state to be alone, says the "doctor". I guess I should listen to one more show. She's talking out of two heads now...maybe a third is on the way and that would explain her resemblance to hellish figures like Cerbeus the dog at the gate to Hades. Oops, time for my blood pressure check.

Seriously, it does help me clarify what I am passionate about and how to articulate it when I listen to opposing opinions. And it is the only thing on when I drive 25 minutes home from choir rehearsals...it used to be Lionel, and now the pendulum has swung. Oh dear.

...and thank you for having me here. I have enjoyed it too. Drive safely, and blog to you again soon.


welcome Emma

Tracey, on Play's Activation team, just had her second baby yesterday, at 4:58 pm. Emma Harrison Leverty weighs in at 7.4 lbs. Both Tracey and Emma are great. Congrats.


who are you people?

I've been keeping track of some of the Google searches that lead people to Pure Content. But I just found two that blow my mind.

Freeserve, a British search engine and content provider, has Pure Content as the #1 search for "poland horses ownership brands." What?

And on Google, we're number two for "Article featured in the news paper on indian tea industry." Maybe after this post, we'll have a Google lock on that one.


who else is tired of of-the-moment design?

A couple of days ago, the Eureopean Union announced that Rem Koolhaas had designed a new flag. I've been looking for a picture of it (although I haven't been looking that hard) to share with you, and SvN provided the conduit. Here's a picture of the new flag, which combines the colors of every flag in the EU.

Whatever happened to timeless design? I know that aesthetics are subjective, but there are some styles that are appreciated by a far greater majority than other styles. Bach vs. Philip Glass. The Beatles vs. G.G. Allen. Obviously, Glass and Allen had different agendas than Bach or the Beatles. But there's a way to combine the function of the new EU flag with the form of classical design elements (and by "classical" I'm not necessarily saying "Greco-Roman").

What do you think about the new flag? Does it do the job? Could it be more attractive? Any concerns about the bar-code overtones?

Update: It's not really the new flag. Sweet.


How about this Pupli? No, Mom, everyone in school picks on the Pupli kids, even I do. I just hate them so much.

I just lost the coolest post I had ever made to Pure Content. Just as I was thinking, "Gosh. I really like Blogger. It's a shame that it seems to be the "starter" blogging program. People like Ed Murray are jumping over to Movable Type. Oh well. I'm happy with Blogger." And then it lost my post. Yargh.

I'll try again. And I'm sticking with Blogger. I have faith in Pyra.

That quote's from the Simpsons. No reason except Melissa (my little sister) will get a kick out of it.

update: after 20 more minutes of writing up the post, it deleted it AGAIN. Yargh².


reinvent yourself

So ... two big changes to my appearance. Three if you count the bow tie I'm wearing today.

One. I shaved my goatee off. (To which, those of you who *haven't* seen me since January are saying "I didn't know you had a goatee." And to which those of you who *have* seen me since January are saying "I didn't know you had a goatee.") It wasn't really working, so I got rid of it.

Two. I shaved my head. Bald. Number One attachment to face razor to straight razor. It's all gone. Why? A couple of reasons.

One. Faster swim times. Not really.
One. I needed a haircut.
Two. The next big event I have is my brother-in-law's wedding, in a month, and that's enough time to grow back some peach fuzz.
Three. I've always been curious about what it would look like. Although I cut my hair close and bleached it in college, I never shaved it to the skin. So I was curious.
Four. We talk about "not taking yourself too seriously" at Play, and it's hard to take yourself seriously when you have an empty, pale white scalp.
Five. There are a couple of things I'm bad at. Routine, every day things that I should be better about. One of them is maintaining my database of billed hours. Another is getting up early to work on my book. Another is getting up (even earlier) for prayer / reading / reflection time in the morning. All of those are things that I want to be better at. And so I decided that, with a shaved head and a bow tie, I would reinvent myself. I'm all caught up on that billing database. I'll let you know tomorrow about the early morning bit. Wish me luck.


but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need

So I'm trying to add a search function, per your requests, but I'm having trouble with it. It just loads up the main Pure Content page. Anybody know how to have Atomz locate specific posts? Otherwise, there's not much use in having a search form.

Thanks, if you can help. Go ahead and comment below, or e-mail me (charlie AT lookatmorestuff DOT com).

Also, if anyone knows any good Palm / PDA emulators, please let me know. I'm trying to make Pure Content m-friendly. Thanks.


the value of content

Yesterday I promised that, if I had time, I'd address David Weinberger's "Why I Hate Content" post from Monday. I have about ten minutes. Let's see what I can get done.

Here's the entirety of his post, so you know what I'm addressing.

"It's taken me this long to figure out why I usually get uncomfortable when people talk about the Web in terms of 'content.' I start out am uncomfortable for the same reasons as Doc Searls. The Web is more about conversation than content. And with content comes a whole template of metaphors about ownership, delivery and distribution, and consumption."

"But there's another reason my hackles go up when the Web is hailed as a treasure trove of content. Content sits there all pleased with itself for being valuable. It's smug because it's an asset. Yeah, well it'd be content-in-itself if it weren't for the fact that someone cares enough about it to link to. And it's merely content unless it can get over itself enough to point us to some other places worth going."

"Links not only literally make the Web a web, but the nature of those links determines almost everything that is interesting and important about it. Content is to the Web as zombies are to human culture."

On one level, I agree with DW. Ultimately, the value of the Internet really is the networks that it allows to form. It is the conversations (or the "markets," if you prefer Cluetrain terminology) that occur — the links, the posts, the comments, etc. — and the speed at which those conversations occur that makes the Web such a revolutionary step forward. But let's look at some other revolutionary steps forward. The move from a hunter-gatherer society to an agrarian society is always hailed as a big paradigm-shifting-time. Same with the shift from an agrarian society to an industrial society. Now that we're moving to an information-based society, we're seeing the exact same models carried out.

For example. The real benefit of the industrial revolution wasn't the machines that made work efficient. Yes, they were a huge advancement. But what really characterized the industrial revolution was the gathering of workers and skilled craftsmen in one, central location. Rather than a wool trader who wandered from village to village, the industrial revolution centralized those tradesmen and craftsmen in one, large, city, where imports and exports were delivered to factories and distribution points. It was the gathering of people, not the development of machines, that changed the way work happened. In other words, it was the conversation.

Similarly, the move to an agrarian culture (from hunter-gatherers) had similar effects.

In the end, what's my point? Are the conversations and links on the Web important? They're critical. But the advancements made by things like the wheel, mechanical looms, steam engines, and bulk shipping wouldn't have been important either, if it weren't for the conversations that took place around them. And nobody's denigrating the wheel. Nobody takes issue with the steam engine. Don't undervalue the content, because when it comes down to it, the content is what the conversations are all about.


less is more

Back in college, I was going to create a zine or a website or something called rest/less. You can hopefully figure out the cutesy postmodern word wrangling I was applying. Sort of like Re:generation Quarterly.

Anyway, I thought back to that when I saw Less, Bruce Kasanoff's new blog about simplifying business. "Too much of business is needlessly complicated. Too many people are overwhelmed with data, responsibilities and complications. For some time, I've been collecting stories about companies succeeding by delivering less, and have discovered the power of this simple idea. Stay tuned..."

It looks promising. Let's see how it goes.


here be losers

This morning Armistead e-mailed me with a response to David Weinberger's post "Why I Hate Content." I guess it behooves me to respond to that post with my own thoughts and whatnot, but I haven't so far. The main reason? I haven't had time. He argues that the value of content isn't the content itself, but the links and the conversations that revolve around said content. Hi. That's not "new thought." I'll write more tomorrow, but my wife is here, and I'd rather spend time with her. Expect more tomorrow. If I have time.


purely for the upper crust

Sara Lee (the people behind L'eggs, Hanes, Ballpark Franks, Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farms sausages) has released the next big trend in baked goods: crustless bread. According to this article at CNN.com, the bread industry is a $5.6 billion-per-year segment, and the fastest-growing section of that industry is what they call "super premium breads," which includes flavors (roasted garlic, olive oil), and styles (French, Italian), and I'm sure it includes other iterations of bread as well. Anyway, for those of you who are in a rush to get your cucumber sandwiches on the table, Sara Lee has your salvation.


please cheese to change the world as you like

There is a man I know in Western Virginia who used his team of draft horses for logging projects on the Appalacian Trail. In the sensitive and pristine portions of the Appalacian Trail, his team of draft horses would drag felled trees from National Forest Service parklands. Draft horses caused minimal damage to the forest floor compared to the treads of a tractor. Draft horses transporting trees is old school. Using draft horses instead of tractors is new school. Applying old school ideas to today's problems is one smoothe approach toward creating a social invention.

Anyone using their creative smarts to solve social problems is a social inventor. Think Alcoholics Anonymous or the Public Library or a ticker tape parade.

The April issue of the Utne Reader has a cover story on the power of ideas for changing the world. The article tells the story of the Institute for Social Inventions which has been gathering and promoting bulges of thought aimed at community building, sustainability, and small-scale endeavors. The Institute has recently published The World's Greatest Ideas: An Encyclopedia of Social Inventions. The book is a collection of the inspired suggestions gathered from around the world. It chronicles people empowered to change the world: non-scientists dropping science.

The Utne Reader is even offering a $500 prize to improve life on planet Earth. Winning ideas will be published in a future issue.


shout out

Frank McPherson, who runs Notes From the Cave, wrote a quick post about the conference we were at last week.

I'm hoping that we will have time to write up some comments from it, because it was a truly spectacular two days. And Geof even got to ride on a Segway (although he didn't fall off of it). Despite the teasing he's been giving me, he still hasn't written about it for Pure Content. Sean, however, will be posting his first piece later on today. Thank goodness.

Anyway, I'm getting away from myself. Frank McPherson has some good links regarding the conference and some of the speakers that were there. Go check it out.


TCM's "Essentials" Favorites

We have some friends (clients, but they're really more like friends) in Atlanta who run the show at Turner Classic Movies. Recently, they sent us a list of some of their favorite movies. Culled from TCM's list, "The Essentials," these are the creme de la creme. Enjoy.

The Night of the Hunter — Robert Mitchum in Charles Laughton's gothic Americana horror
To Be or Not to Be — Jack Benny in Ernst Lubitsch's parody of the Nazis in Poland
Sweet Smell of Success — Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis in the seedy underworld of NY showbiz
Sullivan's Travels — Preston Sturges' comic tale of a Hollywood director seeking deeper meaning
Paths of Glory — Kirk Douglas in stirring early Stanley Kubrick anti-war film
To Kill a Mockingbird — Gregory Peck in classic adaptation of Harper Lee's novel
Annie Hall — Definitive Woody Allen with Diane Keaton as "Annie"
The Lost Weekend — Billy Wilder's horror film on alcoholism starring Ray Milland
North by Northwest — Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in tremendous Hitchcock dramatic/comedy caper
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre — John Huston directs his dad Walter and Bogart and they "don't need no stinkin' badges"


beer + bait + bites = bucks

Busch beer has launched a promotion that targets their demographic with a brilliant campaign. In conjunction with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Anheuser-Busch has tagged 40 fish around the country with special markers. If you catch one of those fish between now and June 4th, you could win either $1,000 (39 of the fish) or $1,000,000 (if you catch "Big Jake"). Here's an article about it, and the official website.

Via Fark.


validation / what's in a name?

In the past, people have been confused by what Play is, and by what Play does. We are constantly evolving and changing, and we are intentionally off-the-curve. I just received a pre-book version of "Don't Panic," and it has a section about their 10 Commandments ("the concrete consequences of the paradigm shift," intended to give some guidance, some pleasure and some additional thoughts). I'll copy one of them here for you, and you can go to their website for the others, as well as some other info about the book.

Thou Shalt Not Do Things That Already Have a Name

A widely spread and pretty stupid notion is that a new business idea can be explained to a possible investor during the time it takes to ride an elevator, i.e., an "elevator pitch."

This is probably both realistic and wise for the person who does not want to do anything remotely close to anything that one could classify as novel. The thought that Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, or Richard Branson not only could describe their concepts in 50 seconds, but also convince an investor is not just unrealistic, it's absurd.

On the other hand, investors who don't perceive that they can spend ore than 50 seconds listening before they make up their mind, will probably never understand anything new. They have probably learned everything there is to learn ...

The rest of us, yho either have a genuinely new idea or would like to hear about a truly revolutionary concept, must probably show some humility.

If it is new, it does not have a name. If it is new, we can't describe it with a few simple sentences. If it is new, we can't understand it without a lot of work and flexible frames of reference.


want some ads with your trendiness?

Abercrombie & Fitch, which has come under attack for questionable shirts (and before that, for questionable taste), has some good news to post.

The NY Times Business section notes that, beginning with the summer issue of their magalog, the A&F Quarterly, the retailer wil lbegin to include ads from other companies. SoBe, Sony/Playstation, Trek bicycles, and the WB TV network will all have double-page spreads. The estimated cost per spread is in the low five figures, and will reach a readership of around 200,000.

This is pretty new, I think. To feature other companies' ads in your catalog, principally because they reach out to the exact same demographic as you do, and because you can capitalize on the synergies (if you'll excuse the consultant-speak).

In more Abercrombie news, Douglas Rushkoff has an excellent post about the racist t-shirt. (It's about more than that, but that's where the discussion begins.) "AF's campaign is intended to make people celebrate their own closet racism, and to identify the brand with a simpler time, when Chinese-Americans were Chinks, and white kids were "normal." The techniques of disruptive, viral media are now in use by a counter-culture of anti-intellectualism and racism."

In another side note, the Washington Post article said that on April 18th, the day after they pulled those shirts from their stores, their stock hit a 52-week high, $33.30. Not because people were happy that the shirts were gone, but because people knew that, with the added publicity, foot traffic would increase, and people would buy more. A&F, adopting the "any publicity is good publicity" philosophy.

Via Heath Row's Media Diet.


community rooftop gardens

Former Play intern Liz Pisciotta sent us this article, and we wanted to share it with you. In the vein of the hydrogen traps, cleaner coal plants, and the farming projects from previous weeks, this is a rooftop garden experiment that's almost ten years old, taking place at the Chicago offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Using 38 children's wading pools, they allow poor, local residents to grow their own vegetables, using less water and resources than they would otherwise need.

"The urban agriculture project of the ELCA demonstrates how fresh, healthy vegetables can be grown inexpensively in containers virtually anywhere — at the edges of parking lots; along railroad tracks; on back porches; on rooftops; in patios; in driveways; in vacant lots between buildings; in brown fields or areas where there is a concern about soil pollutants; in areas where soil nutrition is lacking — just about anywhere there is a bit of space, sun and access to water."

The result was phenomenal. With an average of nearly 26 pounds of vegetables per pool, they grew the equivalent of 26,800 pounds per acre, which exceeds the national average for crop yields. I've been trying to figure out a way to get the local grocery stores (Ukrop's, Kroger, and Community Pride) to develop some community gardens in downtown Richmond. Maybe this will be the slight tweak needed. Maybe by the end of the year there'll be wading pool gardens on the roofs of buildings and in sunny nooks and crannies all over Richmond.

If you missed the link above, here's the article. Thanks to Liz for sending it to us.

As an aside, there's a tomato breed called "Park's Whopper." I've got one in my backyard, and I'll keep you posted on its development.

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
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