Nice Package, Amazon Media Services

Amazon’s ‘Advertising Week’ splash revealed the worst-kept secret in online media and marketing: Amazon’s ambition to be a media/marketing powerhouse open for brand business. Adweek reported that Lisa Utzschneider (Amazon’s VP-Global Sales) “pitched Amazon’s ecosystem of websites and devices and showed off ads with Amazon’s familiar buy button” to a standing-room only crowd. “When it comes to advertising,” Ms. Utzschneider said, “we have applied many of our core tenets by starting with the customer and working our way backwards. We are actually running ads we are proud of.”

And then today, I received this:

COD Amazon Mailer
Amazon’s COD-branded packaging

Was this a part of the new offering for advertisers? The messaging outside seemed completely unrelated to the item I’d ordered (FYI: a copy of Tim Harford’s ‘Adapt‘). Is Amazon now delivering packaging custom-printed to age/demo/interest targeted recipients? Can you buy based on reach, frequency, DMA? We’ve seen what happens when systems get behavioral targeting wrong…now imagine the most questionable thing you’ve checked out on Amazon – or dodgy site “your friend” browsed while using your Kindle – and translate that into “behaviorally-targeted” product pitches in HUGE PRINT on the side of your mailers. Awesome.

But think of the creative possibilities an Amazon palette could enable: Time-targeted, geo-fenced, purchase and browser-history aware, behaviorally micro-targeted, personally ink-jetted messages and experiences? Exxxxcccellent, Smithers.

Just start from the customer and work backwards.

I’m hoping to connect with Ms. Utzschneider – more to come.



Bitcoin fluent mercs/hitmen for good

Exceptionally fit “gold farmers” selling grey-market Nike Fuel

goldfarmer (before)
goldfarmer (future)


“guilt by NFC”

data shadows and “acceptable levels of creepy”

automated social net “relationship decay

“denial of insight” database attacks

Adam Harvey, Dark Objects – “When is an Apple not an Apple?”


Boundary Behavior: Toilet tweet ’til your legs asleep


Someone will sue the bejeesus out of Twitter for “emotional damage” and “injuries suffered” when they topple off wobbly legs that have fallen asleep while they tweeted on the toilet. Twitter can thank Apple’s crap battery life for protecting them so far (see fourth tweet down), but with the impending iPhone 5, will their luck hold?

a quick search nets gems

Boundary Behavior

tentative definition: “Boundary Behavior”

“The dynamic renegotiation of provocative human connections in the face of accelerating, digitally-fueled  social, cultural, personal and economic dissonance. At the core AND fringes of cultural transformation, it’s where the new stories and new meanings of the connected age are built and crash-tested in real time.”

Art hits Tech Hard in Rhizome’s “Seven on Seven” LHC: The Loooong Part One

The line between “artist”and “technologist” is blurring as code fluency becomes increasingly critical to the creation of meaningful cultural objects.

Three years ago, Lauren Cornell and the Rhizome/New Museum team launched “Seven on Seven“, a 24-hour “sprint-posium” pairing artists/technologist teams to create privately and explain publicly…something. A work, an idea, a prototype. Something resulting from the collision of their very different world views. Like a cultural LHC, “Seven on Seven’s” real premise is: can seven successive impacts of sufficient force throw off new cultural particles?

W+K got involved because the “Seven on Seven” platform confronts issues we tackle daily: What is an idea, now? How fast can you get to a compelling idea? How do artists and technologists productively collaborate? How do we build timeless stories in timely ways?

The teams had 24 hours to create two equally critical things: a collaboration, and the story of that collaboration. The story without the thing was fantasy, the thing without the story was unengaging.

A brief synopsis of the teams and the results:

Team #1 was Taryn Simon and Aaron Swartz, who used “the hidden spaces between cultures” as a visual root for their project: a tool that translates a query into a local language image search in fifteen countries – a “simple” act that exposes cultural differences visually (e.g., here’s “party“). Aaron described their process of considering “how supposedly neutral and statistical tools that claim to present an unmediated world carry with them biases that program us.”  The internet, they argued, has created an illusion of cultural flattening that this tool exposes.  (other examples: Liar, crazy and freedom).  Simple Formula, complex results.  So hot Clay Shirky (@chsirky) was tweeting it during their presentation. Watch their presentation here.

Charles Forman and Jon Rafman were Team #2.  They were interested in using images to explore memory and its plasticity. Charles described how looking at old photos created  “chronologically impossible” memories.  Jon has found unintended stories in images. Both sparked to the way old photos confront us with our “mistaken notion that we’ve always been whomever we’ve become,” and their collaboration generated the “Memory Box“. As described, by Jon, it’s as an “ivory box with golden circuitry” that records a reaction to any of your personal images, then serves that image and reaction back up seven years later for re-consideration. Not an archive of memories, the Box is an archive of what we’d forgotten, intentionally or not. Your chance to confront your neuro-plasticity. Without their invention, said Charles, “Ten years from now, I’ll remember that I was the funniest guy here at that you all loved me. And right now, there’s nothing to prevent me from doing that.” 20:47 video here.

Team#3 delivered the event’s “homeless hotspot ZOMG” moment.  Jeremy Asheknas, who enjoyed lifting “the constraint of the newsroom requirement of sticking to just the facts”, was working with Stephanie Syjuco, an artist who amongst other things, leads counterfeiting workshops. “I’m supposed to be transgressive,” she said,  “and he has a code of ethics.” Together they created an alternate “crowd-sourced” Seven-on-Seven they called “Seven on Seven, Again“.  They described their recruiting process and the resulting seven ideas – from “Hushamaphones” to a “Market of Intangibles”, but the mood shifted perceptibly in the room when the two revealed the entire project to be a fiction.  As required, they’d built a product (a website of the event) and a story – but in this case, the product was an artifact of a story that was a fiction. They raised all kinds of questions about authenticity you can watch here.

Team #4’s Aram Bartholl and Khoi Vinh were one of two team in Wieden’s NY office. While outside their office people leapt a swimming pool filled with rancid coffee and stale donuts, the two considered the ubiquity of the internet: Aram noted “it’s in pockets and cafes, but always in rectangles.” Khoi noted screens had gone from social experiences to personal ones, and wondered if you could reverse that trend. Aram didn’t buy technology deliverance – “I don’t believe in the AR thing – floating in a pool, connected to a brain…”, “or floating in a pool of coffee and donuts…” added Khoi.

They built a circular case for an iPad, then filmed Aram wearing it around NYC to see what reaction it caused. And while a circular screen “may not be culturally viable”, it was an important part of breaking cultural expectations for screens.

To see how it would change interactions. To see if people would engage with it differently. What would it mean if people could touch your content? Unsurprisingly, it took some convincing for women to engage with the gestural interface on Aram’s chest. Their video is priceless.

Team #5 was Blaine Cook and Naeem Mohaiemer, representing activism and left politics.  In wrestling with the creative process and where ideas come from, they considered the way the brain processes images and ideas, and thought about “slow” and “tactile” time. They explored five concepts:

“Don’t let me be lonely”: Naeem quoted Blaine with “poetry looks like ass on a blog.” And I can’t remember how this explained the concept, but it was so good, it’s here.

“Killing Time”: Now that people “Google” mid-conversation, everyone is an instant expert.  Or as Blaine put it, “I feel my memory doesn’t work anymore, and it doesn’t matter.”

Constellation Theory: Not a single note here. I google-ed it (see “killing time”, above) and got this blurb: “the self is organized into a stable concept, our defenses protect the self-concept and how to be aware of our defensive nature” from this book.

For the specificity of the local: you can’t flatten everything.  Local matters, illustrated by way of the German word, Doch, a hard-to-translate word roughly meaning “I affirm your negative structure.”  Also, (and I’m not sure why) they described Tacqawores, a work of fiction that described a micro-community (“Punk Muslims”) that was inspired to form because of the book.

Back to a room of my own: Naeem asked “how do we get our minds back when they are so linked into rectangles?” Blaine “we are against pecha kucha and TED. we are for the slow jam. we need our room back.”

The result: – a deliberately reflective collage-wall of ideas you can share with a limited number of people. While today’s “social” tools pressure us to expand our networks, this one forces choices to be made – and attention to be paid.  The prototype, said Naeem, is a means to an ends: How do we slow down? Watch their video here.

Team #6, Anthony Volodkin and Xavier Cha built an idea around the notion “you are what you eat” – and felt a fair proxy interactively was the twitter stream you consume. What if you could see the tweets someone else consumes, rather than projects? Would you get better insights into who they than reading their carefully curated tweets?  Boom: Peep, the tool that lets you step into someone else’s twitter feed. Xavier: “Foursquare isn’t a record of where you’ve been, it’s a record of missed opportunities – at any given moment, a friend is having a better time than you.” Peep looks for you in your incoming stream – in other words, the you you’ve chosen, not the you you create. You can watch them here.

Team #7, Latoya Ruby-Frazier and Michael Herf (also based in the W+K building) shared a concern about how technology is used – and how it affects us. Both interested in how you talk about culture and images – and how you raise visual literacy around the meanings embedded and encoded in images. Their project, Decode: A Encyclopedia of visual culture, is a collaborative platform on which users (identified by age, gender and race) can offer their cultural insights and perspectives on images in popular culture and communications. The tool would look for modifications, and layered cultural meanings. So that the font you use isn’t the one used by…say…Nazis. Video of the presentation is here.

If you’ve made it this far, wow. Buckle up – travelogue is over. Next stop: key takeaways



(and here’s the liveblog stream of the event from Rhizome. Nifty.)

Everything has an app – even kids

I was at the playground with my two boys yesterday.

We began a game of tag.

As I closed in on the older son, he shouted “magnet charge”.

Beeping loudly, the younger son came at me from the side, wrapped his arms around me and clung while his brother scrambled to the top of a jungle gym.

With my younger son still beeping triumphantly around my ankles, I asked the older about the ‘magnet charge’ move.

From atop the junglegym came the answer:  “It’s one of his apps.  He’s got ‘move silently’, ‘night vision’, ‘minigun’ and a whole bunch of others.  We downloaded all of them.  Isn’t that awesome?”

“Beep!  Beep!” came the shout from my ankles. “Beep!”

Turns out amongst his friends, you don’t have ‘skills’ or ‘superpowers’ on the playground anymore, you have ‘apps’.

From the top of the jungle gym came the closer:

“You can activate the apps across the playground with Siri – you just need to know their names!”

Slice of PIE: #Revisu’s brush with the internet famous

Although it’ll start with him, this post really isn’t about Dave Hersh.

It’s about how talking about not talking to Dave led to a lot of buzz for a young PIE startup called Revisu.

Some quick background: Amongst other things, Revisu lets folks append comments to files, specifically design files, whether they have the software that created those files or not.

So back to Dave.

PIE mentor, Jive COB and all-around awesome guy Dave Hersh was in PIE meeting with startups this week. Unfortunately, Revisu’s co-founders, Clifton (@maxticket) and Brad (@bradhe) didn’t get time to talk with him, but then spotted him later in a nearby bar, talking with a friend. They wanted to say hello to this well-respected VC and advisor, but didn’t want to interrupt him. So they did what any self-respecting hacker co-founders who had trouble working up the gumption to talk IRL would do – they shared their quandry on Hacker News (HN) in a post entitled “Ask HN: Hey VCs, do you mind if ppl intro themselves when you’re out at a bar?

This post resulted in Union Square Partners VC Fred Wilson responding with a blog post of his own entitled: “Should you introduce yourself to me at a bar?” His reply, in summary, was: be quick, be memorable, be considerate, but hell yeah. And that post spawned hundreds of replies.

One of them from @FAKEGRIMLOCK. Yes, that @FAKEGRIMLOCK. The giant robot dinosaur.

Clifton saw the comment and further up the twitter stream read an earlier post from @fakegrimlock that indicated he wasn’t crazy about the new new twitter redesign:

Clifton asked @FAKEGRIMLOCK whether he’d like to provide some color commentary on the Twitter redesign. When the giant robot dinosaur agreed, Clifton pinged his network to get older Twitter screenshots into Revisu, then sent the link to @FAKEGRIMLOCK, who proceeded to annotate them. Here’s one comment (read them all here, before the non-famous get there):

Once done, @FAKEGRIMLOCK tweeted his handiwork to his thousands of followers, who in turn retweeted it to their friends, and drove so much traffic to Revisu it crashed their servers.

The best? PIE startup Cloudability quickly helped Revisu get back online – and earned a @FAKEGRIMLOCK award (and unquestionably their best testimonial EVER):

What started as a conversation about not having a conversation became a high profile product demo by a benevolent internet rockstar. FAKEGRIMLOCK wins at internet, Revisu shows what its product can do, Cloudability saves the day.

Thank you, Dave Hersh!

what size is your box?

The Foundry Group’s @bfeld and @jasonmendelson stopped by PIE today for one-on-one mentoring sessions with the startups.   In the course of tossing a few brilliantly-aimed grenades to juggle, they shared two great turns of phrase –

@bfeld and @jasonmendelson, always with an exit strategy, visit #PIE
  • “Grinf**cked”, or ‘the smile that wastes a year’.  Focus on your core product and don’t be distracted by shiny objects, and
  • Someone “thrashing around in too big a box” hasn’t narrowed their focus enough to make rapid iterative progress.  (see also: ‘boiling the ocean’)

Shoutout as well to @andrewhyde, also in the house, mentoring.

If you haven’t read Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup by Feld and David Cohen, please do – full of great stuff.

And if you are planning on getting a venture deal going, please read Feld and Mendelson’s new book: Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.  They just did a book signing this evening over at PIE graduate Urban Airship!


PIE gets +1’ed by Google


This week saw a few highlights:  geek data overload from OSCON tore out AT&T’s PDX mobile backbone like Sub-Zero doing a Mortal Kombat killing move (see it here @ :22), while Old Spice Guy Fury-Fist-Wall-Punched his Fabio duel to an end, @grigs hosted another solid mobile portland night, and just today, GreenGoose, Sendgrid and Mashery (including @delynator) stopped by PIE pre-API Hackday.


But the one that got my +1 was Google joining Coke and Target as the newest partner in the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE).

The Google team said (their words, not mine) ‘having been small tech start-ups at one point, Google and YouTube are thrilled to join in supporting the Portland Incubator Experiment [and] helping next generation tech start-ups.'”

The Google/YouTube mentor list will include folks from a diversity of Google departments, including YouTube, Android, Google Ventures, Google+, etc. We are excited to have them on board, and we know they’ll provide valuable insight for participating start-ups – and the applications surged after the announcement hit the wires.

Additionally, we’ve got VC’s from Intel Capital, Founders Co-op and Voyager Capital participating as mentors and prospective backers for companies seeking outside funding.

Just today, some PIE guys were working on a unique monitor/dashboard that should provide a lot of utility/info/visualization possibilities for participating start-ups…

The boys are working on some tools to make life as a startup @ PIE easier


The application for PIE is open now through 8/8, so get your great ideas in!




Portland Incubator Experiment, Reloaded: PIE 2.0

You may have seen some news about PIE today, or came across it on Twitter.  The application form went live yesterday.  What is PIE?  Well, let’s start with “delicious”:

“PIE is technology accelerator/incubator seeking 8-10 brand-collaborative startups who’ve identified an emergent opportunity in brand-aligned and business-aligned hardware, software, services or experiences – and we’re particularly interested in mobility.  Applicants need an existing prototype or proof of concept, and a scalable, viable idea deployable in 3-9 months.  Most importantly, they need a collaborative spirit and want to work with some of the world’s greatest brands – including Coca-Cola, Target and Nike!”

I believe you don’t really talk about something until you’ve got something real to talk about.  Crazy, I know, given the business I’m in, but hopefully fair when you consider that Dan Wieden (the guy who let us set up PIE in his building) speaks pretty convincingly about brand voice and brand truths.   We wanted to make sure we had a few before we ran off at the mouth.


"Know your voice or STFU"

This is why my first blog post about the PIE experience comes a full year after it began, when a motley band of W+K’ers, technologists, entrepreneurs and ne’er-do-wells set up camp in the old PICA/Icebreaker space at the corner of NW 12th and Davis in Portland, Oregon.

PIE was initially conceived as a social and entrepreneurial experiment by four folks – myself, Silicon Florist blogger Rick Turoczy, serial entrepreneur/mobile force of nature Scott Kveton, and the man who has turned the notion of ‘side projects’ into an art form, Jason Glaspey.  But it wouldn’t have been what it became if the idea hadn’t caught the imagination of a wider group of interesting people – what we called PIE’s “crust” and “filling”.   [insert your own bad joke here – lord knows we have]

Mobile PDX meetup at PIE

All of us (from the fruity middle to the flaky edges…I know, I know) wondered: what would happen if you put a bunch of entrepreneurial technology optimists into an open space? Would you get a brilliant hive mind?  SkyNet?  Given the ready availability of solid off-the-shelf and web-based software packages, how quickly could you build entire businesses (Bac’n took 21 days) ? What happens when you bring iterative speed development by folks who don’t eat if their idea fails, inside Wieden’s walls?  Would the proximities and adjacencies in PIE make ideas better than they might have been otherwise?  would unexpected things happen?   would it be fun?

Short answer?  Yes.  And the keg helped.

Taking the name “Portland Incubator Experiment”, or “PIE”, we set out with some pretty vague but audacious goals – build a techno-cultural social hub for Portland, launch new businesses fast, build platforms/cultural disruptions not one-offs.  We didn’t know what to expect, but we did know that there was a lot that PDX tech culture and W+K culture could learn from each other.

In our first year, PIE was home to 20 startups, and amongst other things, generated 3 venture-backed companies, hosted a wide range of interesting events and kicked out a book on fast innovation, fast-ly.

So with that under our belts, and some innovation where our mouth is, we are taking off our stealth paint.

PIE 2.0: fresher and more delicious.

Dan Wieden judges the entries in Wieden + Kennedy's tenth annual PIE contest
Dan knows PIE

This time around, Wieden+Kennedy and a hardy band of technology innovators and entrepreneurs are joined by tech-forward brand partners Coca-Cola, Target, and Nike.  We’ll work together to explore and redefine brand experiences.  PIE will continue to serve as an active hub for the PDX tech community, entrepreneurship, and creative thinking, but now we’ll collaborate to help brands find unexpected solutions, accelerate mobile efforts, share brand wisdom and insights with young startups and expose brand organization to the wacky world of real-time, startup-flavored innovation.  Each brand has volunteered amazing mentors for the program; they and the extended PIE mentor network of tech entrepreneurs, geo-location wizards, mobile gaming experts, open source advocates and techno-cultural disruptors will look to make communications objects/products more compelling and our lives a little more interesting.

The application for PIE is here. Got a business idea, a dream and a prototype?  Want to work with some of the world’s most amazing brands and the insight and scale they can provide?  Applications close August 1st.  September 1st, the new class takes their seats.

We are pretty excited.

Renny rambles about things he likes, but mostly technology, culture, and marketing. Any resemblance to anything that seems like something his employers would condone is purely coincidental. As is his consistent and annoying use of the third person. Which he should stop.