Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Theory of Everything

A few years ago, while walking with my father, he mentioned how the scientific community was looking for the theory of everything. I'm no scientist, and even worse barely getting through my doctoral program. However, the concept of a universal theory is very interesting to me.

If I had to answer this question right now, I would say this:

Everything acts and responds according to the values (gravity, money, etc.) inherit in its design. Everything has the ability to design other things. Context constitutes the independent variables, and values are dependent variables.

I know, this makes no sense, but I had to get the thought out.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cool Hunting: Google+


How some of the most tech-savvy are using the latest social network

With any new networking platform, the tech crowd always takes the lead while the rest of us are still complaining about our parents joining Facebook. When Google+ launched last month it seemed like a particularly novel way to stay socially organized, but we still weren't quite sure what to do with it. Turning to the digital community and beyond, we asked around to see how some of the earliest-adopters are engaging. From Refinery29's VP of Engineering Jorge Lopez, Gina Bianchi (who herself enabled anyone to make their own social network by co-founding Ning) and Selectism editor Jeff Carvalho to Jean Aw, Notcot founder, the overwhelming response from the total of 10 people that we surveyed was that, while there's tremendous potential, there's still a lot of learning that has to happen on both the consumer and Google's side.

Brett Renfer (Interaction Designer at Rockwell Group Lab told us that the more he uses it, the more he's discovered a need to share in the selective way that the site allows. Many from our list were on Google+ (or Plus, as some call it) since its launch, like technologist Joel Niedfeldt who described it as a "veritable ghostland at first." Matt Spangler (a friend of CH and digital entrepreneur) relays his more common experience, "I've read about it in articles more than I've used it."

Despite initial hesitations, most are checking Google+ two or three times a day. Ben Lerer, a Thrillist co-founder, and Taj Reid, who's the brains behind WeJetSet, point out they visit more thanks to the mobile app. And, as illustrator Keren Richter predicts, while it doesn't have the same activity as Twitter or Facebook, it "has a chance of catching on."

Which feature do you use most often?

Jeff: Circles, based on common interests. I have circles for people I know interested in technology and music, for example.
Jorge: The Stream is pretty much as far as I go with it. Going to Google+ has pretty much been a chore.
Taj: Definitely the Stream and Circles. I'm also interested in making more use of the photo section.
Gina: My team and I kicked Skype to the curb and now use Hangouts for our daily stand-ups because of the higher quality and reliability. I think they just nailed it.
Keren: I use the Stream, I post photos and update my status.

What's different about Google+ that you really like?

Ben: It feels like a blend between LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to me, but it has some advantages of all of them.
Brett: The Circles more closely mimic real-world social structure. I can see Google+ growing into more of a hub for me, especially in a work context.
Joel: They've built a very mature social networking platform that does away with the early-stage stuff that just annoys me now on Facebook. It's more of a tool.
Jorge: If they had events, I like that I could create a public event and exclude some people. (Sorry parents, I love you, but I don't want you to hang out with my drunk friends.)
Taj: I like how the posting works—it encourages stickier conversations.
Matt: I like the simplicity and clarity of its design and user interface. Its biggest advantage is integrating the magic of push notification alerts into my everyday media activity.
Gina: It's seamlessly connected to Gmail as well as my Google docs and apps, so it fits in beautifully with the fabric of my workday.

Is Google+ better for business or social aspects?

Brett: My job is very tech-centric, so my circles lean more towards people I'm interested in because of work rather than people I know in a social context.
Jeff: Socially. We'll see how their business model turns out for the service. I have a feeling it will not be free.
Jean: So far it's the same mess I have on Facebook and Twitter.
Matt: I've started creating some client-specific circles that I'm monitoring, but its just the beginning of that. Once they open up the API and allow for third-party developing, I think I'll both use the system more and it will drive a lot more adoption. I can imagine ways my small groups of trusted individuals can connect in more exciting ways, but it will depend on how well done the API is.
Keren: I'm not the most business-minded. Right now, it's mostly for friends and memes, but it's not SO much better than Facebook that there will be a mass exodus.

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Thank you,

Kenyatta Lovett
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Cool Hunting: Jojo


A more transparent brand of social entrepreneurship showing you exactly how shoes change the world

Jojo, an altruistic Belgian shoe brand, picks up where philanthropic companies like Toms leave off. Designed to look like a bandaged foot, for every pair of Jojo shoes purchased, they plant one tree or provide one person with a year of clean drinking water. But you don't have to just take the company's word for it; the enterprising young pair behind Jojo allow customers to track the progress of their contribution well after the point of purchase.

With a "choose, act, check" tagline, Jojo co-founder Matthieu Vaxelaire explains that the last step—following the progress of your contribution—is the most important part. In the future they envision shoes labeled with unique code that buyers can use to locate via GPS the well or tree they helped fund, "to really see their personal impact."

The passion that Vaxelaire, along with his friend and business partner Christoph Nagel, share for bettering the world shows in every aspect of the brand. The Jojo blog is filled with Instagram photos of current inventory and brainstorm sessions, outtakes from video campaigns (such as their inventive pigeon delivery video), business information and more.

While they set out to produce the shoes in Brazil (where they first conceived the idea), after four months of working with manufacturers, the twosome realized this was nearly impossible and almost gave up. Their tenacity led them to finding a producer in China, who now makes the shoes in a clean facility using fair work ethics.

They put that same undaunted enthusiasm into finding Tree Nation and The Water Project, the charitable organizations with which they partner. Vaxelaire explained the need for "reliable NGOs, because it takes months and months to find the right place to build a well and we needed to be with them on every step."

To help with the replanting of trees in Niger or the building of water pumps in Sierra Leone, purchase one of seven styles of Jojo shoes (€80 per pair). Simply choose the color, decide which project to support and then check in online to follow its development.

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Thank you,

Kenyatta Lovett
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Monday, August 08, 2011

(BN) Wal-Mart Joins Amazon to Pitch State Law for Tax Benefit Plan

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPad.

Wal-Mart Debates Amazon on State Sales-Tax Plan at ALEC

Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- In a windowless hotel ballroom, Utah State Senator Wayne Niederhauser presented his idea for a streamlined state sales tax to a task force subcommittee of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The proposal would allow several states to impose the same sales tax rate on both brick-and-mortar retailers and online outlets. Seated around the table were representatives from Wal- Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com, along with other state legislators from Oregon and New Hampshire, which have no sales tax.

"The group was pretty polarized," said Niederhauser, a Republican. People argued back and forth for about 15 minutes in what he called an "animated debate" before the idea was tabled.

ALEC is a Washington-based non-profit group that brings state legislators, corporate lobbyists and policy experts together to write model state laws. Niederhauser was one of more than a thousand state lawmakers who traveled to New Orleans on Aug. 3 to attend the group's 38th annual meeting.

This week's conference included workshops on health care, energy and states' rights. To sit on a legislation-writing task force, Wal-Mart and Amazon would have had to pay a fee between $3,000 and $10,000, in addition to their membership dues which range from $7,000 to $25,000, according to ALEC's website.

ALEC Critics

ALEC has become a target for some activist groups who contend that corporations, which finance most of ALEC's operations and reimburse the travel costs for some elected officials who attend the meetings, shouldn't have a seat at the table when lawmakers are writing bills.

"Legislators are voting behind closed doors alongside corporations to change our rights," said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, a Washington- based group that tracks news sources, who traveled to New Orleans to provide a counterpoint to ALEC's messages.

Niederhauser, whose home is in Sandy, Utah, said the criticism is overblown. "I get lobbied much harder in my own state," he said. He and other elected officials attending this week's gathering said they come to ALEC meetings to network with colleagues from other states.

Corporations are "definitely here, but I've not been lobbied at all," said Kansas Representative Mike Burgess, a Republican who has served in the state legislature for nine years. "I've not been subjected to any arm twisting."

Wal-Mart and BP

Companies definitely were there. Officials from Wal-Mart, oil giant BP Plc, and drug-maker Allergan Inc. were among the hundreds of private sector members at the New Orleans meeting. Three boards more than six-feet tall listed the event sponsors, which included United Healthcare Inc., cigarette-maker Altria and pharmaceutical-maker Johnson & Johnson.

When Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, spoke at the opening day luncheon, the logo for PhRMA, the lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry, was displayed on a screen behind him. Shell Oil Co.'s yellow shell logo hovered over the head of economist Arthur Laffer when he spoke at a breakfast.

Corporate sponsors of organizations' annual meetings aren't unusual. It is ALEC's task forces that are coming under most scrutiny.

The committees meet in sessions closed to reporters and the general public, during which they debate and vote on model bills. Legislators and private-sector task force members must vote to endorse any model legislation -- and each group must deliver a majority before it is officially adopted, said Raegan Weber, ALEC's spokeswoman.

Elected Officials

Adoption doesn't mean it will automatically be considered for passage. It's up to the elected officials to bring the proposed bills to the state Capitol and usher them into law. Burgess of Kansas says he has gotten ideas at ALEC but has never brought a model bill home.

Representative Tim Brown, an emergency room physician who serves in the Indiana legislature, says last year he introduced a bill that would prevent Governor Mitch Daniels, a fellow Republican, from preparing to implement President Barack Obama's health-care law until a challenge to its constitutionality is settled. The bill died in the Senate.

To join ALEC, legislators pay $100 for a two-year membership. ALEC has task forces devoted to civil justice, energy and environment, commerce, education, international relations, public safety, taxes and telecommunications.

'ALEC Exposed"

The Center for Media and Democracy created a website last month called ALEC Exposed where it posted about 800 model bills from ALEC's library that previously were available only to members. The bills include measures that have passed in dozens of states, including laws requiring voter identification; measures requiring states to pull out of cap-and-trade programs, which are designed to curb carbon emissions; and bills that prohibit states from implementing the national health-care law.

Common Cause, a Washington-based group that advocates for limits on money in politics, said companies affiliated with ALEC, along with their employees, spent more than $38 million electing state legislators and governors in 2009 and 2010.

The non-profit investigative reporting group ProPublica on Aug. 1 published on its website a guide for reporters to trace ALEC bills to their states.

The exposure doesn't appear to have hurt. More than 2,000 people signed up for the conference this week, about a 25 percent increase from last year's meeting, said Weber. The group has also attracted many more corporate sponsors, according to its program.

ALEC's mission is to promote free markets, limited government, federalism and individual freedom, according to its website. Legislators at the meeting said they joined because it represents their beliefs.

As for the corporate members, Brown said, "I'll take their money but I'm going to vote the way I want."

To contact the reporter on this story: Alison Fitzgerald in Washington at afitzgerald2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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Kenyatta Lovett
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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Cool Hunting: Cool Hunting Video Presents: Making the Evoque

Cool Hunting Video Presents: Making the Evoque

A behind the scenes video with Range Rover learning about the bridge between design and manufacturing

When Range Rover asked me to be a City Shaper and help tell the world about their all-new Evoque one of my first requests was to meet the car's designers and visit the factory where they're being built.

Exploring the role of design at Range Rover we visited their creative team in Gaydon, England to learn about how the LRX concept vehicle was translated to the all-new Evoque. From there we traveled north to the factory in Halewood to see how the cars are manufactured and what it means to bring a design to life.

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Kenyatta Lovett
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