Friday, December 29, 2006

A story for leaders and their mentors

Doing some clean-up about the house today, I came across the Alan Price book Ready to Lead? (2004), which is worth a little plug. This is thoughtful essay on leadership, and the differences between leadership and management. The essay is written in the form of a novel, which works much better than one might expect. I'd recommend it to anyone, particularly MBA students or executives making a big career transition.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Business writing with a kick

Early on Christmas morning, I finished reading The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Indusry from Crop to the Last Drop from New Press. The two authors—Nina Luttinger and Gregory Dicum, fellow San Franciscans—are superb storytellers. Every chapter is a joy to read, with insightful and lucid descriptions of the history of third places, the effects of globalization on the developing world, and the promise and potential snarls of the sustainable food movement.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reducing PC power consumption

LocalCooling is a software program designed to reduce your PC's power consumption and, thereby, its CO2 footprint. Not yet available for Mac.

Global Kids virtual summer camp

One of my favorite Second Life projects from 2006: the Global Kids virtual summer camp.

The Evening Call

My brother hit a home run by buying me the latest Greg Brown CD for Christmas. I have a thing for soulful baritones, and The Evening Call is one of the best from Brown's thirty year career.

The album has many virtues, but what I like most are Greg's beautiful, broken voice, and flashes of wisdom and joy found deep in the muck of life.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The trend trend

A great NYT article by Rob Walker on TrendWatching, and the explosion of organizations involved in finding and naming trends.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Second Life carbon footprint

Rough Type has run the numbers to figure out the total energy consumption of Second Life.

Read the comments, too—they include some solid critiques of his math and assumptions, as well as attempts to broaden the conversation to look at PC usage and First World energy consumption generally. A good start to the conversation.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Let me get what I want this time

There's a hilarious and touching exhibit at the SFMOMA called "the world won't listen." Phil Collins (not that one) went to Istanbul in 2005 to film young people bearing their souls doing karaoke versions of Smiths songs. And all we got was this wonderful 1-hour video.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

Some big marketing ideas

From the Ad Age IDEA conference last week in NYC. I was hoping to go to this but ended up staying put in SF. Thankfully Andrew Hamp took good notes.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Digital utopians

I saw Fred Turner (author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Catalog, and Rise of Digital Utopianism) give an interesting talk earlier this week. Next Thursday 11/9, he'll be joining Brand, Kevin Kelly, and Howard Rheingold for a panel discussion at Stanford. Anyone wanna go?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pricing carbon

Another great post from Terrapass about the California solar subsidy, and the economics of carbon reduction generally.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sustainability and the Metaverse

I attended the first 3pointD Think Tank on Sunday to discuss Sustainability and the Metaverse. It was a good night, with insightful debate on community building, interoperability and standards, and "dirtworld" sustainability. I was of course most passionate about the latter:

"Group #4 discussed the challenges of making the back-end infrastructure that runs the metaverse more environmentally friendly, and also whether there were ways to use the metaverse to make the rest of the world more '“green,'” including virtual conferencing and the like that might cut down on fuel and other costs. One of the ways to accomplish the later might be to speed adoption of metaversal platforms by improving interoperability or finding a 'killer app' that promoted use (just as Amazon.com and eBay have promoted Web use). It was agreed, though, that despite past attempts at things like '“the paperless office,'” resource use has only continued to grow."

For complete notes from the meeting, check out 3pointD.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The big controversies of SL

Gwyneth Llewelyn has written eloquently about the cultural substrate of Second Life—a great primer for anyone new to the "game."

Through reading Gwyn's article, I discovered that we are each a furry, a noob, a Gorean...

Your news, your way

Anderson Cooper, take note—the future of customized, aggregated news reporting might look something like this. As blogged in 3pointD.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Anger + joy = cruelty

Super cool breakdown of human facial expressions from Scott McCloud's Making Comics. As blogged in Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools.

39 Positions

Also this week, I heard Evany Thomas read from her new book The Secret Language of Sleep: A Couple's Guide to the Thirty-Nine Positions.

I haven't read the book yet, but if it's half as funny as Evany was in person, it will make a primo holiday gift, either for yourself or someone special. My favorite position name so far is "¡Dormimos!" (We sleep!).

I'm not sure yet what to make of the observation that "The Cliffhanger" is the favored position of consultants...

Free-floating anger, big vocabulary

Last night, I watched my friend Rebecca and ten other brave souls read their high school poems and journals on-stage before an audience of sympathetic yuppies. It's all part of Get Mortified, a hilarious "woe and tell" event that's spreading from LA to SF, NYC, Boston, and Chicago.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Your next career is calling

For my many graphic design friends, here is a short video documentary on Fallingwater Cellardoor, who makes a living as one of the best clothing designers in Second Life.

Cory Doctorow says it so well

"Content isn't king. If I sent you to a desert island and gave you the choice of taking your friends or your movies, you'd choose your friends—if you chose the movies, we'd call you a sociopath. Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about."

- Disney exec: Piracy is just a business model, BoingBoing

Portion control: the next innovation frontier

I can think of two dozen companies who could make millions from this research. I just wish I had read the article before I ate a full pint of Ben & Jerry's last night. (NY Times)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Coke Zero

More proof that Al Ries was right, and that brand extensions often just steal customers from the parent brand (from 5 Blogs Before Lunch).

Not here, but now

A gripping bus shelter campaign from Amnesty International.

From the writer of the new Doctor Who

Recently, I was happy to stumble across the Russell T. Davies series Bob and Rose (2001). The premise—a love story between a gay man and a straight woman—is mildly provocative, I suppose. But what's most memorable about the show is how well it captures the odd rhythms of two real people falling in love.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why blogs matter

Last three sentences in today's BW article about Six Apart:

(1) "Yes, blogging will change your business," says [Andrew Anker, Six Apart VP for corporate development].

(2) "But it will also change the way you talk to your kids."

(3) It even might change who gets to be famous.

Monday, September 25, 2006

WoW as third place

NYT article on World of Warcraft.

Bubblegeneration

I've been reading Umair Haque's blog at Bubblegeneration for several months now—it's some of the best, most provocative thinking about digital media that I've come across.

The site might look a bit messy, but there are some real gems, both in the ongoing blog, and in the downloadable PPT presentations (e.g., "The New Economics of Media").

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shutting out the Sun

I attended a great talk this evening with Michael Zielenziger, author of the new book "Shutting out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation." His summary of Japan's economic and social collapse over the past fifteen years is chilling and deeply insightful. The book uses the phenomenon of hikikomori—young Japanese men who lock themselves in their apartments for years at a time—as a prism for looking at all of Japanese culture.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Second Man

There are lots of Second Life fashion blogs out there, but The Second Man is the first one I've seen that's exclusively dedicated to menswear.

Looking for something to wear to your morning staff meeting, or evening salsa party? Or just more proof that SL is getting really big, really fast? Check out The Second Man.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Brooklyn goes hyperlocal

Hyperlocal Media just launched a beta version of Until Monday for the Brooklyn market. Until Monday does a paticularly good job of combining rich functionality and content in a playful Ajax UI.

From the press release: "Popular blogger and Six Apart Vice President, Anil Dash said of Until Monday, 'It's a beautiful community-based events site that's as attractive as it is useful.' Mena Trott, Six Apart's President and Co-Founder, said, 'the user interface just feels good to click around in.'"

Hyperlocal is new to me, but they seem like a pretty neat company—check out the other products they have in queue.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Back in action


I just got back from two busy weeks on the East Coast, and I'm hopelessly behind on sharing great links, or what's on my mind generally. But here's some quick catch-up.

  • I had some long car rides between DC and NYC that I put to good use, listening to the podcasts of the seminars of the Long Now Foundation. They are all riveting and provocative. Stewart Brand is my hero.

  • I had the unexpected scare, and joy, last week of going on a hot air balloon ride with my family in Clinton, New Jersey, close to where I grew up. I got over my fear of crashing quickly, and then only had to worry about my hair catching on fire. But intimations of mortality aside, it was beautiful to see a place I knew well from a completely new vantage point. Every dog for miles barks at a hot air balloon, every kid waves at you, and, in New Jersey at least, you can see every herd of overpopulated deer. I was mid-way through reading Stewart Brand's "How Buildings Learn," so with architecture on my mind, it was fascinating to see what dozens of families had done to evolve their old barns or customize their McMansions. If you want to see how people really live—in other words, what's in their backyards—go on a hot air balloon ride.

  • In his SALT lecture (see above), Kevin Kelly mentions that new tools are more useful to science than new theories. I love how romantic Kelly is about science in general, equating it to the capital-T collective human project. And I think he's right about the impact of new tools, especially considering that I was listening to his months-old talk on an iPod, while I dictaphoned observations into my RAZR. But what interested me most about his comment is how new tools affect not just science and how it's done, but also the arts. One theme I'm trying to bring out in this blog because I'm so fascinated with it is the intersection of the arts, new media, and business. I think all the best thinking and techniques about how to live well and create impact in a post-modern, technologically mediated world have been solved by the performing arts. All of this was on my mind recently when I read an excellent story in the NYT about the actress Vera Farmiga, and how she has carved out a professional and personal journey outside the Hollywood mold. I was particularly struck by how she uses video taping in innovative ways to hone her craft. It's a great article, all the more so to me because I went to high school with Vera, and it's inspiring to see what she's done, and how eloquent and successful she has become, in the last fifteen years.

  • And other high school friends are doing amazingly well. Big congratulations to my friend Chris in London whose social shopping site Crowdstorm went into beta last week and is getting tons of great press. My friend Marc, who I had dinner with in NYC, is making a name for himself as a VP programming at Logo. Beyond high school, another friend of mine is featured without a modeling credit in the latest Trendwatching newsletter on "status skills" which is very much worth a read. Last but not least, Dervala.net has written a review of "The Culture of New Capitalism," with typically great insight about technology, life, work, and integrity.

  • And I haven't forgotten about Second Life. I've visited some amazing places there recently and met some people doing really pioneering work with the platform. More on that soon... but since all my real-world photos from the East Coast trip are ho-hum, here is a pic of my avatar's recent visit to Svarga—a generative, fully functioning ecosystem in Second Life. If Brian Eno were a gardener, this is the world he would create.

    I love the fall, with all its excitement, possibility, warmth, stress, growth.
  • Saturday, August 26, 2006

    The new puppet theater

    The possibilities for staged theater in Second Life, from Giff Constable at The Electric Sheep Company.

    Oh, and, um, here's a book signing, as posted by Amazon employee Jeff Barr.

    And yet another great link from New World Notes. Makes you wonder why Coke didn't do its Chilltop ad in Second Life...

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    Second Life

    I just attended the Second Life Community Convention this weekend in San Francisco. It was amazing, mind-blowing.

    Mitch Kapor kicked things off with a presentation entitled "The Past as Prologue: What the Triumph of the Personal Computer and the Internet Tell Us About the Future of Second Life." The next two days proved he was more than on to something—with story after story about how this grassroots community has come together to create an astonishingly rich, avatar-based virtual world.

    Did you know?

  • Second Life has over 250,000 active Residents.
  • 61 universities teach classes in SL.
  • The American Cancer Society has raised over $40,000 in SL, and hosted an in-world Relay for Life, complete with blimp rides and other experiences impossible in the real world.
  • Toyota Scion, American Apparel, Starwood, and Adidas all have presences in SL.
  • Suzanne Vega and Duran Duran have both performed in SL.
  • Supportive communities are forming in SL for stroke survivors, paraplegics, and other groups.
  • In-world protests have been held in response to policy changes and Resident ejections.

    The Linden Lab sponsors did a tremendous job of bringing together SL experts on art, sex, business, marketing, media, nonprofit, education, and technology.

    Come on in, and check it out.
  • Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    Like nothing else in Tennessee

    My friend makeitplain has collected sayings from years of travel. He puts them in jars, stripped of context and attribution, and sells them on his website.

    "[W]isdom is not a book of doctrine, but a journey of conversations...What matters is the brief instant when someone looks into your eyes and shares words with you. Every conversation holds a deeper message that is meant especially for you. Do not question it or reason it away; treat it like a message in a bottle."

    Why design?

    Peter Merholtz of Adaptive Path interviews Michael Bierut of Pentagram and Design Observer.

    Black is the new green

    Great article in today's Worldchanging about terra preta—the extra-rich soil found in Amazonian rain forests, and one potential solution for taking carbon out of the atmosphere.

    Love Worldchanging.

    From Dawn to Decadence

    From Jacques Barzun, a rich, highly readable history of Western civilization, from the Renaissance to the present.

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    De lo habitual

    I went to Ritual in the Mission today with my friend Amy. Great vibe, great coffee. I wonder how they get the foam to look like little Christmas trees?

    Sunday, August 06, 2006

    SF Playreading Meetup

    I am hosting the first ever SF Playreading Meetup at Bliss Bar in Noe Valley, on Wednesday August 16th. Those without acting experience are particularly welcome. See link for details.

    Saturday, August 05, 2006

    East meets West

    I just finished Mark Epstein's Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, an exploration of Buddhist meditation and Western psychoanalysis. Good stuff.

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    Ted talks and sings

    New videos have been posted this morning to TEDtalks, including Jeff Han, at NYU's Media Research Lab.

    Also new, on iTunes: Teddy Thompson singing "Tonight Will Be Fine" (Leonard Cohen).

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    Making capitalism fully transparent

    Bruce Sterling, in Shaping Things:

    "There are still many aspects missing from the spectrum of services provided by Amazon.com. It would be exceedingly useful and healthful to know the full compositon of [a] book. How long will it last before yellowing and falling to bits from acid paper? What (possibly bioaccumulative) substances will subtly boil out of its glue and ink, settling into your body in years to come?...

    Now imagine that we establish an Amazon.org, a social-software entity that hangs around the fringes of Amazon, answering these questions. Questions about objects. What questions? Not the profit-centric questions that obsess Amazon. The real questions."

    An idea with incredible business and social potential.

    Sunday, July 30, 2006

    I'm a blogger. Bloggers blog.

    The Pew Internet and American Life project releases a new report on blogging in the U.S.

    Burrito city

    My friend Todd recently took me to Green Chile Kitchen, a relatively new burrito joint at Fulton and Baker that emphasizes local, organic ingredients. It has a nice decor and attracts a friendly crowd.

    BTW there seems to be an explosion of websites rating the burritos of San Francisco. My favorite is Burrito Eater.

    Thanks guys for the public service.

    You are the angel glow that lights a star

    Introducing LuckyVoice, a super mod karaoke bar in London, with a fun website.

    TED Talks

    TED has been posting some great videos from this year's conference. Strongly recommended: Majora Carter, founder of Sustainability South Bronx, and Joshua Prince-Ramus, the architect of the Seattle Public Library.

    Cheeseholiday


    My friend Cheeseholiday has taken some amazing photos recently. A great way to see the world when you can't leave your desk.

    The Dictionary of Sustainable Management

    Fantastic. A project of the Presidio School of Management.

    Things to be happy about: Walzwerk

    A cozy and kooky little East German restaurant, in San Francisco.

    Stephen Mitchell and Byron Katie

    Stephen Mitchell is a Bay Area writer who has done some poetic and illuminating translations of the Tao Te Ching, the New Testament, and other major spiritual texts. His translations of Rilke's poetry are gorgeous—often said to be better than the originals.

    I recently became aware of Mitchell's wife, Byron Katie, whose writing is also wonderfully good company. Katie is a recovered addict, now life coach. She has summarized her method for getting through conflict in a simple, practical book called Loving What Is.

    Byron's 4 Questions are hands-down the best way I've found for sleeping peacefully when anger, confusion, or indecision slow me down. Compared to the costs of almost any other "therapy" out there, the $25 investment in the book is pretty cheap.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006

    On desire

    I thought that Slavoj Zizek was brilliant—brilliant!—when I was in college. And he probably still is. But I can't read his books cover to cover anymore. I left lit crit and philosophy behind a long time ago, and now I find the jargon impenetrable.

    However, I couldn't resist paging through his latest book The Parallax View looking for gold nuggets. He writes for several pages about the scene in Wild at Heart where Willem Dafoe traps Laura Dern in the back room of a motel. Tucked away in the middle of his review is the observation that "As Lacan put it, desire is mostly experienced as that which I do not want."

    Those words have stuck with me this week. Food for thought.

    On love

    I am a huge fan of the movie A Room with a View. I just read the novel for the first time. Forster's writing is as wonderful as ever:

    "But Lucy had developed since spring. That is to say, she was now better able to stifle the emotions of which the conventions and the world disapprove... Love felt and returned, love which our bodies exact and our hearts have transfigured, love which is the most real thing we shall ever meet, reappeared now as the world's enemy and she must stifle it."

    Sunday, July 23, 2006

    Things to be happy about: A Suitable Boy

    A deeply satisfying novel from Vikram Seth set in mid twentieth-century India.

    The science of trust

    A recent Cary Tennis column in Salon linked to this academic article on building and rebuilding trust. It's a quick read, and one of the most common-sense, directive frameworks I've seen for companies looking to build strong relationships with their customers.

    Too darn hot

    Yesterday, the temperature in my neighborhood in San Francisco reached 95 degrees. (Our typical weather this time of year is high-60s.) I'd be happier about putting on flip-flops and heading for the beach today if I didn't know that the hot weather here and across the world this summer is clearly due to global warming.

    For anyone looking to get up to speed quickly on climate change, I strongly recommend Tim Flannery's recent book The Weather Makers. Flannery goes broader and deeper than the recent Al Gore movie—with more detail on the hard science, as well as potential solutions. Frightening, but essential reading.

    Saturday, July 22, 2006

    The hazards of the new online collectivism

    Jaron Lanier recently posted a provocative essay on Edge.org, critiquing digital "hive" communities and aggregators like Wikipedia and Google News (two sites I use every day).

    From the essay, tilted "Digital Maoism": "The beauty of the Internet is that it connects people. The value is in the other people. If we start to believe that the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we're devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots."

    And later: "The hive mind should be thought of as a tool. Empowering the collective does not empower individuals — just the reverse is true."

    Things to be happy about: Paul Curreri

    Paul is a country blues singer and guitarist who lives in Charlotteville, Virginia. He is also a force of nature—with enough talent, unexpected wisdom, and emotional generosity to warm a thousand hearts.

    Paul's first album that got me hooked was "Songs for Devon Sproule"—dedicated to his fellow folk singer and now wife.

    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    First things

    I started this blog to add a little joy to your day, and to save you time finding things that might be useful.