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Tim Burton’s Mom, the Key to Artistic Genius and What’s Wrong with America

Tim Burton — you know, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Batman — well, there’s a great article on NYTimes.com — Tim Burton, at Home in His Own Head — that synthesizes, via a simple anecdote, a few key subjects I’m interested in:

  • Creativity
  • Child development
  • U.S. culture
  • Innovation

Tim Burton:

“If you look at children’s drawings, they’re all great. And then at a certain point, even when they’re about 7 or 8 or 9, they go, “Oh, I can’t draw.” Well, yes, you can. I went through that same thing, even when I started to go to CalArts, and a couple of teachers said: “Don’t worry about it. If you like to draw, just draw.” And that just liberated me. My mother wasn’t an artist, but she made these weird owls out of pine cones, or cat needlepoint things. There’s an outlet for everyone, you know?”

Thank you Tim Burton for making a few things prophetically clear:

  1. Don’t limit yourself. Do new stuff. Even if it’s ‘weird’ or not your typical thing. Your life depends on it.
  2. Kids do best when they get to follow their instincts.
  3. A culture that compulsively values (demands!) grandiose perfection — Lady Gaga or bust — is headed towards irrelevance.
  4. Innovation stems from having freedom to roam and having the freedom to produce “mediocre” stuff.

When my kids (5 and 3) say “I’m going to be an artist when I grow up!” I say proudly: “Well, that would be the finest thing one could ever be.”

To be clear: it’s not that I envision them in an art gallery or behind a drum kit. It’s not the profession that I care about — it’s the mindset… the mindset that looks through boundaries — or doesn’t even see them at all.

So, let’s make some weird owls out of pine cones, shall we?

Follow Tim on Twitter.

 

 

Uberconference’s Beta Gamification Is Kinda Awesome

Uberconference’s Beta Gamification Is Kinda Awesome

Uberconference is the new kid on the block for online meetings. It looks like it’s gonna kick WebEx in the shins–if not in the mouth. So, yeah, I did this:

Uberconference's join beta input field

Uberconference’s Beta Sign-Up Form

 

And that brought me to this brilliant little game: Promote my interest in Uberconfernce and get points. Get enough and I get ‘to the front of the line’.

That’s pretty smartypants. And damn simple. Wonder if they did an A/B test–and what the lift is.

It’s scavenger hunt-esque.

Uberconference's Beta Invitation Gamification

Uberconference’s Beta Invitation Gamification

This also makes me think of the amount of time it took to build this company vs. WebEx. I’m sure it’s a multiple of 10.

 

 

Is There A Sociobiological Basis For These 4-Color Logos?

Is There A Sociobiological Basis For These 4-Color Logos?

Ok, to blog about Sociobiology is a little highfalutin (even though I find Edward O. Wilson an amazing intellectual)–but there’s something going on here.

Let’s examine these four popular logos:

 

 

 

Why do they all use the same paradigm: contiguous primary colors including blue, red, green and yellow?

All three businesses try to communicate things like “holistic”, “comprehensive”, “–what gives?

Perhaps this approach in some way settles our ‘old’ brain.

Or, perhaps, four primary colors just looks good!

 

 

 

Brands 2.0 – Transparency, Not Mythology

I’m new to Douglas Rushkoff, but I’m digging what he’s saying over on FastCompany about the state of ‘brands’ and the future (now!) of marketing.

In short, ditch the inflated and created ‘branding’ that takes place at your org–just be transparent and really good at what you do. BTW: One good example of this is MailChimp.

Rushkoff On “Brands”

[But] it’s not about creating a mythology around the way a product was created, so it’s no longer “these were cookies made by elves in a hollow tree.” That’s not the value of the brand. The value of the brand is where did this actually come from? What’s in this cookie? Who made it? Are Malaysian children losing their fingers in the cookie press or is this being made by happy cookie culture people? At that point, all these companies come to people like me saying, “We want to become transparent. We want a transparent communication strategy.” And I’m like “Well, are you proud of what’s going on inside your company? Are you proud enough to pull up the shades and let people see inside?” It’s that easy.

Every company has a social media strategy whether they know it or not. You can have your dedicated social media person chasing down consumer complaints, but your real social media strategy is how are the people who work at your company and the people who buy from your company and people who supply to your company, how are they talking about you in social media? The way to make them talk about you [favorably] is by walking the walk of the thing that you do. And that’s so hard for so many of these companies because they’ve become so abstracted. They’ve become so distanced from the core competence of their industry. The job of a communicator–or someone like me–is to go in and say, well, just do something. Don’t outsource one thing and then make your company about that.”

Rushkoff On Marketing

In response to: “What will marketing organizations look like in the future?”

It will be companies that figure out how to communicate the non-fiction story of a company, so it’s going to look a lot more like a communications company than a creative branding agency. It’s going to look a little bit more like PR, in some sense. It’s going to be people who go and figure out what does your company do and how do we let the world know about that? There’s going to be a lot of psychology involved, except instead of it being psychologists turned against the consumer, it’s going to be psychologists going in and trying to convince companies that what they’re doing is worthy. It’s breaking down this false need in companies to hide from the public what they’re doing–except for the ones that do (need to hide).

We’re getting back to the basics–and I like it.

Realtor.com App Lets You Draw Custom Geos

Realtor.com App Lets You Draw Custom Geos

Anybody who has grappled with building a local app has struggled with how to structure local searches and local information.

Is it by zip code? Area code? Town name? Mailing address? Miles from current location? Nearest largest city?

Well, Realtor.com has introduced a pretty sweet feature in their iPhone app that’s so intuitive an lightning fast–and downright HELPFUL that I have to show you:

Here’s how it works:

  • You hit the lass0-looking icon
  • You draw your on circle of interest
  • It populates your custom geo with the info you want
This has all the markings of greatness: it works the way you think, it’s easy and it’s fast.
Great UI and great UX Relator.com team!

 

Share the Meme Not the App

Share the Meme Not the App

I have Dictionary.com’s iPhone app, and I receive their Word of the Day. Today I actually looked at it and it was a gem:

Bandersnatch: An imaginary wild animal of fierce disposition.

There’s something about this words that seems so cool and useful that I’m definitely gonna use it. Ok, that makes me a little strange… My instinct, though, was to share it on Facebook–where my geeky linguaphile friends would surely drool over my discovery.

Alas, the only sharing on the Dictionary.com iPhone app was for the whole app!

Who wants to share a whole app!

People tend to share the smallest parts of our culture—song, photo, text, quote, link, video… Have you ever heard of an app going viral?

And so Dictionary.com could enable the sharing of words because that’s what people do. Marketing strategies might share apps, but people sure don’t.

It’s the meme that counts!

 

Someone Splice Skype’s DNA With Visual Thesaurus For The Ultimate IM UX

Someone Splice Skype’s DNA With Visual Thesaurus For The Ultimate IM UX

So IM was a great tool.

It no longer is.

Why? Primarily because we’ve all adapted to the concept of asynchronous communication, and we’re ready–we expect!– for a better, easier, more intuitive, more effective tool. What do I mean?

The problem:  The Skype UX lays out communication in linear fashion–even though human conversation isn’t! Here’s a little illustration to remind you:

Tell me you haven’t had this IM experience: your typing fast on the initial thread and then someone veers off–so you follow. Then someone comes back to the initial thread before you’ve even finished typing a response to their tangent. Then you press ‘Enter’ on the tangent thread and the IM UX shows the response next to a non-corresponding line. Now your work has exponentially increased. Add another thread and you’re focused entirely on the screen above–double checking previous IMs to ensure your on target. At this point the UI is not making it easier–it’s making it harder. Fail.

The solution

Now, imagine this: a branching IM a la Visual Thesaurus.

What if each comment or line had an imaginary box around it–and that box could be dragged around and anchored anywhere on a screen; and from each node could grow a conversation?

I would pay for that that!

 

 

Some Awesome Steve Jobs Quotes

Ok, so there are a lot of things about Steve that are great, but here are a few quotes that really resonate with me (all from the WSJ):

“We weren’t going to go out and do market research.”

It’s just liberating to know that you don’t have to focus group everything–or even listen to your audience! Sometimes you just know what to do–your instinct just hollers at you loud and clear. At that point you’d just better do what it says. I often think that it’s our instincts that really make us who we are–our judgement–and we have to hold on to that like gold.

“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

 Amen, brother. Diversity of experience is the key to creative problem solving. Creativity or bust! It’s so refreshing to meet people who have had a wide variety of jobs.

“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.”

No explanation necessary.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

This is probably my most favorite. Actually, there’s an ending here that’s not part of the quote. This is from a Standford commencement speech by the way. He ends by referencing the last issue of the Whole Earth catalog. On the back cover it said: “Stay hungry, Stay foolish.” Words to live by.

Geo-Smart Reminders

Ok, I’m wearing my soothsayer hat and looking into my crystal ball:

I see a time when I can add a to-do item to my iPhone app that helps me organize my life (Things by the way) and I can define it so that it goes off when I enter a particular store or class of store.

For example: I always have a few to-dos related to the hardware store–but they’re never a priority. I’m forced to give them an arbitrary due date just to keep them in my mind. It never works that the arbitrary date is the day I walk into a hardware store!

Now, if there was some real smartness in my phone, it would know when I walked into a hardware store (Home Depot, Lowes, local hardware) and then beep and vibrate like crazy.

That would work for the grocery store or music store or… it would be cool and helpful.

Groupon’s Mojo: Simplicity

I don’t generally use coupons, but I think Groupon is brilliant in its simplicity.  When you arrive at the site, there’s really only one question.

Here’s a great quote from Andrew Mason, founder of Groupon (from ChicagoMag.com):

The premise is “dead-simple value that you can comprehend by looking at one page in three seconds,” says Mason.

In the age of TMI (too much information), this concept will make or break a business.

 

Mixed Messaging: How Blackberry Flubbed Its Tablet Launch

Folks, the tablet/pad market is ablaze–and RIM was the last one in the room. Well their catch-up efforts just walked through the door. So far? Not impressed with their positioning.

RIM has always been the corporate device maker–because of their security protocols; however, they’re only lightly leaning on this differentiator.

In their massively heavy ad space on NYTimes.com, they start with “Introducing the world’s first professional grade tablet.”

That makes sense.

But then they show the tablet in use: screen shots of the NYTimes.com, video, games… Why wouldn’t they put in the Office products or graphs or charts?

And then the name! Playbook. Sure, this has sports connotations which are perfectly suited for biz, but it also denotes the stuff my kids do: play. How about something that connotes ‘professional grade’.

I think if RIM wanted to leap frog back over the competition it should have started from its strong point: get the the IT managers excited. It’s not a bad place to be–ensconced in major corporations. It’s a market in and of itself.