Tag Archives: Web Culture

J.C. Penney Employees Watched 5 Million YouTubes In January

Citing a staggering a fact, Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic plucks a piece from the WSJ where it was reported that the 4,800 JC Penny employees in Plano Texas watched 5 million YouTubes during January 2012. That translates to 50 videos per day per employee.

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Even If It Enrages Your Boss, Social Net Speech Is Protected

In it’s 2nd social media report, the National Labor Relations Board aims to protect employees’ rights to speech.  The memo “covers 14 cases, half of which involve questions about employer social media policies…The remaining cases involved discharges of employees after they posted comments to Facebook.”

Writing in The New York Times, Steven Greenhouse goes through some of these cases and helps explain what kind of things employees can say online and what things can rightfully get someone fired.

The labor board’s rulings, which apply to virtually all private sector employers, generally tell companies that it is illegal to adopt broad social media policies — like bans on “disrespectful” comments or posts that criticize the employer — if those policies discourage workers from exercising their right to communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits or working conditions.

Greenhouse also mentions that California and Illinois recently joined 4 other states in preventing companies from forcing workers to hand over their social media passwords.

The author quotes the president of the National Workrights Institute, Lewis L. Maltby: “No one should be fired for anything they post that’s legal, off-duty and not job-related.”

These rulings do not apply to public sector workers, however. And as Greenhouse reminds us, the internet speech of teachers, police officers, corporate execs and college students falls into a bizarro grey area that we are only beginning to grapple with.

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Foursquare Offers Personalized Coupons

Hamish Mckenzie writes on PandoDaily

The company is doing a trial with about 25 paying customers, including Best Buy and Old Navy, to see if users respond to sponsored results. “The point now is not for us to be generating a ton of revenue,” he said. “It’s to learn how these tools are supposed to work and to learn how the users are responding to the experiment of these promotions.”

Ultimately, he said, Foursquare’s proposed monetization scheme looks a lot like Google AdWords, but “targeted just at local, and exclusively on mobile.” The goal is to be able to let merchants target a specific 20-percent discount promotion to a specific user set, such as only the most loyal customers.

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A World Without Ads

Entrepreneur/blogger/geek-genius, Dalton Caldwell has raised $700,000 towards App.net, a company to challenge ad based social networks.  Where Facebook and Twitter must cater their services to the advertisers who fuel their business model, Caldwell wants to build a community with only users in mind.

Like Github, an adored software service that charges for premium options, App.net will ask you to hand over some cash.  The upshot is that the service/platform/community will never have to answer to advertisers.  No banner ads, no privacy concerns, no promoted tweets from Mitt Romney.

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Rather than praise Saverin for his financial savy, Manjoo pwns him for being the ultimate sellout.

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Why Are Congressional Websites So Bad?

Joe Brockmeier at ReadWriteWeb points out the glaring faults of the digital political world:

What you won’t find is any information about many things you might actually want to know, such as the aforementioned voting records. Also uniformly absent is a list of committees that the congressperson serves on, how bills actually become law, the lobbyists that they’ve met with, campaign donors, or anything that poses a danger of arming citizens with any real information that might lead to more intelligent voting. It’s as if our elected officials don’t want us to know what they’re doing in office. 

An easy way to become nauseated is to take a quick glance at Senate.gov and read the HOW TO guide on congressional votes

Looking at votes through THOMAS is easy if you know the date the vote occurred or you know the vote or bill number, but there is no subject access to votes and the description of each vote is very brief. House vote charts are broken out by yeas, nays, and not voting, and include overall vote tallies and party breakdowns. The Senate vote charts are grouped by three categories: yeas, nays, and not voting; alphabetically by name; and by state. The Senate charts also provide overall tallies, but not party breakdowns.  

Basically, there exists no readily available list of votes sorted by THE ACTUAL REPRESENTATIVES. To have these stats listed prominently on the websites of individual Representatives and Senators would be asking too much.

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App Overload: Google’s Project Glass and the baffling array of digital nonsense

Genius apps are the cutting edge of web culture, but others are pointless distractions.

Rather than inspire Neil deGrasse Tyson levels of wonder, suggesting to us its promising potential – a  Pilot’s POV with star maps, fuel gauge, and altimeter, or a Soldier’s HUD with terrain charts, ammo count and health monitor – Google’s ad shamelessly seduces, using the irresistible pull of consumer electronics.

With the promo in mind, consider Neil Postman’s quote from Amusing Ourselves To Death:

“But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision [1984], there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World…What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one […] Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy…”

I’m not an opponent of electronic consumption.   My crush on Alexia Tsotsis is almost as big as the one I have for Tina Fey.  I stream the shit out of Pandora and Netflix.  I pay friends beer money with Venmo.  I love the GIF of King Joffrey getting slapped.  I text and tweet and Gchat.  Once,  I out of reflex accidentally typed in youjizz when I really wanted youtube.com

However, for every ambitiously disruptive app or platform (Coursekit, Square, Kickstarter, OPower), there are thousands more whose purpose dumbfounds most (Pinterest).  The social web is the new cool.  But there are those using connectivity to grapple with society’s dysfunction, and there are others trying to convince us that sexting is better than sex (that digital interaction can replace the human touch).  The likes, the check-ins, the status updates, is that what we really mean by sharing?

To scroll through your Facebook feed is to see Freud’s narcissism of small differences in HTML.  All of us, so alike, trying desperately to be different in our own “I’m watching this, I’m listening to that” 21st century kind of way.

In a stunning display of withered imagination, Google’s glasses allows “…the wearer to set up meetings with friends, get directions in the city, find a book in a store, and even videoconference with a friend.” This small-minded view of technological innovation is less Carl Sagan and more Mark Zuckerberg.  Is Google’s glorified appointment maker, in the way it was revealed, really that compelling?

In much of our best science fiction, humans end all forms of tribalism and fix their gaze outward, toward the stars.   So before we circle jerk onto an ad company’s newest piece of plastic, we should check our standards: Do we see ourselves as the splendid dust of ancient suns or as frivolous consumers, too distracted to look up?

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Childish Gambino: Expanding Life-Scripts for Black Americans

The Racism of Donald4Spiderman Inspired the Label-Busting on Childish Gambino’s new album, “Camp”

Imagine if underneath Spider-Man’s red and blue suit was a Peter Parker with black skin.  Played by a person of color with the same neurotic humor, scientific wizardry, and love for a certain redhead, would the photo snapping wall-crawler be any less amazing?

When fans of Donald Glover suggested he play Spider-Man in the movie franchise’s reboot, the nether-realm of strident racism that thrives online swelled with hostility.  Motivated by the venom spit his way, Glover, known lyrically as Childish Gambino, responded with his new album, “Camp” (Glassnote Records).  Exploding the labels that confined his youth, CG offers a commentary that expands and enriches what a black life can be.

“The last thing Spider-Man should be is another white guy,” wrote Marc Bernardin on the science fiction website io9.   With a list of lackluster, potential actors, (who all happened to be white) Bernardin asked his readers to imagine Spidey with a darker hue. Because Peter Parker is “…defined by the people he cares for, by his career, by his identity as a New Yorker,” casting a non-white actor to play him wouldn’t change much.

While many supporters took to twitter propagating the hashtag Donald4Spiderman, Glover recounts all the hate mail he received.  In an interview with HardKnock TV he retells: “All these nerds were hitting me up on Twitter and emailing me and shit and calling me nigger…. Don’t take Peter Parker from us …and these are nerds!”

Capturing the polar reactions to Donald4Spiderman, Glover jokes on his Comedy Central special, “Weirdo” it was either “Donald for Spider-Man!” or, “He’s black kill em!”

Much more than overt hatred, one reaction infuriated Glover.   He recites: “Listen, the thing about it is there’s no black kids like Peter Parker.”

“It’s fucking 2011,” an aggravated Glover declares, “and you don’t think there is a black kid who lives with his aunt in Queens who likes science…who takes photography?”

Glover’s experience alludes to a narrow and impoverished conception of black Americans. Where white characters in TV and film occupy the entire spectrum of personality, black characters are denied nuance, instead defined solely by their blackness.  A colored man who is also nerdy, cunning, idiosyncratic? Impossible.

Take, as another example, the movie, “Finding Forrester.”A young basketball star from the Bronx is offered to attend a prestigious prep school.  Jamal Wallace, we soon find out, is also a talented writer versed in literature and poetry.  One of his pieces is so exceptional that his presumptuous teacher accuses him of plagiarism.  No black man can excel at basketball and something else.  The scenes where Wallace corrects his instructor on the usage of “farther” vs. “further” or when he educates an arrogant man on the origins of the BMW insignia: “white propeller zipping around a blue sky,” are righteous defiance.

Like Spider-Man with a different complexion, Wallace is strange only because he’s judged without complexity.  Relegated to stereotype, to the limited imagination of American culture, the attitudes people have towards blacks can be one dimensional.

To combat the negative conceptions that hinder life possibilities, Childish Gambino made his music for “white kids who feel like they don’t exist…I made the album for me when I was 13, I made it for black kids specifically who are told who they are all the time.”

CG aims to complicate black identity by challenging ready-made life-scripts. On the introspective and somber “Hold You Down,” Gambino confesses: “Culture shock at barber shops cuz I ain’t hood enough/ we all look the same to the cops ain’t that good enough?” The insightful and poetic sociology reminiscent of Dave Chappelle continues, “White kids get to wear whatever hat they want/ when it comes to black kids, one size fits all.”

The actor/writer/comedian/musician proudly inverts the popular comparison: “I won’t stop till they say James Franco is the white Donald Glover.”

Feeling pigeonholed as a rapper (like Mos Def and Drake he sings too), Gambino prefers to call his music black rock. He explains, “Oh its a rap album. People are like okay, got you. People think all rap is the same.” On the ardent track “Sunrise” Gambino affirms, “New shit, you didn’t know/black rock like a fuckin’ Lost episode/something for these black kids to call they own/so when you skatin’ in yo driveway you not alone.”

With equal parts salt and sugar Glover cracks: “I really have to thank the racists…That whole Spider-Man campaign is probably the reason Childish Gambino is the way it is now.

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“I Volunteer As Tribute!” How “Hunger Games” Marketing Is Some Next Level Shit.

Those who suffer from nerd fever have historically been male fans of sci-fi and fantasy. We think of serpentine lines of over-stimulated, under-sexed man-children waiting for the midnight showing of “Star Wars”. We imagine “Star Trek” and “Lord of the Rings,” World of Warcraft and Halo. But what about a young adult fantasy, originally a book, which stars a young girl?

“Twilight” and “Harry Potter”*** come to mind. And like these two, “The Hunger Games” spread obsessive fascination through clever web promotion. Using Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, Lionsgate has been implementing a “phased, yearlong digital effort.” Armed with a tiny budget and small staff, marketers successfully turned fans of “The Hunger Games” into evangelists.

A crafty example:

On Dec. 15, 100 days before the movie’s release, the studio created a new poster and cut it into 100 puzzle pieces. It then gave digital versions of those pieces to 100 Web sites and asked them to post their puzzle piece on Twitter in lockstep.

While many have noted the record breaking opening weekend ($155 million, 3rd biggest of all time), it’s also interesting to note how many men made up the movie’s initial audience: 39 percent. Compared to the newest “Twilight,” whose first weekend audience was only 20 percent male, “Hunger Games” had a much broader marketing campaign.

Well received by critics and fans, the intense buzz generated online seems appropriate and worth the effort.

*** Yes, I meant to call Harry Potter a girl.

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How Dick’s Sporting Goods Can become less limp: Great Commercial, Lackluster Brand

It’s hard not to get amped up to rapid fire athletic feats set to the theme of Rudy.

This new commercial stirs up our inner beast, but once we realize the ad is for Dick’s Sporting Goods…the climax becomes a harsh letdown.

I’m glad Dick’s spent money on a polished and compelling ad.  It’s one of the better commercials I have seen in a while.

But why does the brand not inspire the way the commercial does?

A problem facing big-box stores is an utter lack of loyalty. Perhaps you swear by a certain pair of Reeboks or can’t live without your Under Armour longsleeve. Dick’s only happens to sell those things, it doesn’t make them. The store’s prices are rarely as low as what you can find online. Is their customer service so outstanding that you would forgo cheaper options?

According to Forbes, the company is looking to focus more on sport equipment and to increase its online sales, which currently amounts to only 6% of total revenue.

For student athletes on a budget, or adult consumers trying to pick up some sneaks or a racket, Dicks could become the go-to online source. If the company tweaks its image a bit, it could harness the allure of physical prowess — the way Nike and Under Armour do.

1) Change that hideous Logo. It looks like it belongs to a 4th grader’s “sports” themed bunk
bed. Give us something primal, something harsh, something that resembles human exertion.
2) Sign a baller athlete to rep the brand. Make me want to go to to your store, check out
your site, and buy your things. We look up to athletes and will spend money to be like
them.
3) Change your name, or stop going by your full name. DSG is less vulnerable to puns.

Right now Dick’s is just a giant box. It sells sports goods, among other things, and resonates about as well as Rooms To Go or CompUSA (= barf). With some work, though Dick’s can avoid being just another store, like The Sports Authority, and instead become something closer to that Untouchable commercial.

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