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Bring me your “Best of” Lists

I love the end of the year and all of the lists that go along with it. There’s rarely a list that doesn’t include at least one unknown gem and it is such a great way to discover things you’ve missed. So what did you love most in 2012?

 

“Greatest hits albums are for housewives and little girls”

Actually, I’d take your “most obscure” list as well. Have a crazy movie you’ve watched? Spill it.

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It isn’t about pageviews…

The thing about sharing a blog post with all of your different social networks is that discussions starts happening in multiple locations. I wish that they could happen all in one place, as I find myself wanting to cut and paste someone’s reponse so other can see it. 

It isn’t about driving traffic back to my blog (because let’s get serious, this blog ain’t about pageviews). It is about wanting more smart people to connect, discuss and potentially becoming friends. The Internet equivalent of inviting your friends from work to hang out with your friends from college. 

I understand that most people want to comment where they hang out all the time, but wish there was a way to pull discussions that are happening all over into one place. My Internet friends are smart and I think that they would all like each other. 

 

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Do you believe in the future of your city?

Do you ever spend time wondering what your city will be like in 20 years? I think about this possibly more than most people, because the city that I grew up in is so incredibly new. Calgary is only 100 years old, and has changed so much since the first time I moved there. Seeing how things change, it impossible not to wonder how things will be in the future.

For example, a number of high-rise buildings in downtown Calgary were built with very little parking, as there was land/empty parking lots in every direction. How short-sighted were the people designing those buildings to have not been able to imagine a future where there would be other high-rise buildings where those parking lots were?

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Where I live now, there are amazing, beautiful buildings that have been abandoned for years, covered in graffiti and hiding all kinds of terrible secrets. These buildings though, they have presence. Within walking distance of me in Philadelphia, is The Divine Lorraine, a building with enough character to write a book and one of those buildings that you just can’t get out of your head. I look at it, all broken and weary, and imagine what the lives were like of the people who lived there. What the neighborhood was like, what people wore and what they ate for dinner.

I then look to the new buildings I see going up, from the mirrored, smooth high-rise across the street, to the cookie cutter houses in the suburbs where I work. I see them and consider that they are nice enough. Nice enough to live or work in, but not good enough to inspire.

In comparison, I see the new building for the Barnes Foundation and I want more. I want to explore it, to look at the art and hear about how the building was designed. I see the peace bridge in Calgary and I feel pride. I imagine people crossing it every day, going to work and coming home. I wonder if they stop to consider how interesting it is and how it has created this bond with other cities that also have Santiago Calatrava designed structures. I want to visit Milwaukee now, solely because of the Peace Bridge in Calgary.

I like how these buildings and structures make me think and I like that they push us forward. If we aren’t striving to build something unique, something taller, more efficient or more beautiful, we are stuck. We are saying our city isn’t worth being inspired, nor is it worth being inspiring.

I believe in my city. I want to invest in its future.

*I totally stole this photo from @streetsdept Follow him on Instagram to fall in love with Philadelphia, and check out the Streets Dept blog so I don’t feel like such a jerk

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What can a dead department store owner teach us about education?

I really, really wanted to write a post comparing the educational systems of America and China. The very day I was mentally making notes on being creative versus working hard, my coworker complained that “everyone holds up China as the ideal, when really, we should be looking more towards FInland or Japan for educational excellence.” I didn’t question this, as she did her masters on something to do education and technology and startups and other extremely interesting sounding stuff, whereas I have a trip to China and a mild ability to follow the news as my knowledge base. 

Thanks for ruining that blog post, Kamaila. Instead, let’s talk about John Wanamaker and how looking at the past has given me ideas on education for the future. 

Philadelphia has an amazing, beautiful organ in what is currently a Macy’s department store. This is odd. What is more odd is that the six story organ was installed into a department store that already had four concert halls.  While most department stores aren’t places you go for world class concerts,the Wanamaker family loved music. Moreover, they wanted to share their love of music with Philadelphia. That is cool. 

While music doesn’t have anything to do with education, John Wanamaker didn’t stop there. He gave all of his employees free medical care, recreation facilities (there was a track on the top of the building!) and education. Free education for all employees (and if that wasn’t cool enough, needless aside, he also took all of the younger employees to the shore for summer camp!). 

Would this work today? Is it possible to pay people to work, and to grow? Does the short term loss of revenue outweigh the long term benefits of having a more intelligent, more skilled group of employees?

What if every Starbucks, McDonalds and Walmart paid for five hours of education per week for its employees. How would change the future of an employee? Would employees take it for granted, or would it empowering? 

What if every web2.0 startup, ad agency and marketing firm hired an artist-in-residence. How would that change the life of the artist and how would that creative input change the company they were hired to? 

What if grocery stores taught basic skills that people can no longer afford to outsource? Is there a sustainable way to teach employees how to grow their own food, while growing food to sell in the store? 

I don’t know if any of these are good ideas, I just know that they smell like opportunity. Do you agree? 

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Instagram is not filters

It is Twitter, from five years ago. A social network that people use on a regular basis, but without restriction. Nobody is going to tell you that only taking pictures of trees is doing it wrong, no one cares if never post, there are no rules.

Instagram has gone from a place to improve the look of your crummy, amateur photos to a social network that provides a quick, creative outlet with no character limit and instant feedback. You don’t have to toil away for hours before sharing with the world. Anywhere you are, you can share what you see and how it inspires you. It’s an exercise in putting yourself out there.

A successful community rarely has to do with the brand or product it is based around. I argue the most important indicator is how the community has changed the lives of its users. The second most important indicator of success is how the community adds to its intended purpose and makes it their own.

This is why I’m so in love with Instagram. I don’t just add filters to photos. I share my life. I share what I love, what inspires me and what I think will inspire others. I get all of that back and more. I noticed a while back that Jason Hargrove was writing long story captions to his photos. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a picture with words worth? I’ve dubbed these photos + stories Instastories.

These Instastories are a delight to read and pure entertainment. In the back of my marketing mind, I can’t help but think Hargrove has hit a gold mine. He has created mini-artist statements about each photo and stumbled into a great way of marketing himself. A platform to share his creativity, but also to show it off and standout from the crowd.

I asked him he why and he replied with an Instastory of my very own (flutter!):

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“Chirp chirp!” his phone whistles, suddenly atwitter. He’d like to reply with something interesting, perhaps noble; you know, a statement for the ages: “I do it for the social conversation; to be involved, to interact. The truth is I want to share my inspiration.” But that would be a work of fiction. “It’s entertainment,” he confides in her. “Most often mine, more than anybody else’s.” He jots it down, he presses send. “Chirp chirp!” her phone whistles, suddenly atwitter. – Jason Hargrove

Before long, I noticed others starting to do this as well. James Whatley was posting photos that could easily be mistaken for stills from science fiction movies and writing stories to go along with them. A mini-glimpse into a possible future, right in my Instagram feed. A quick read to inspire looking for the future in the things all around us. He says he was inspired by¬†Philip K Dick and Warren Ellis to “see the world differently.”

I’ve been on the lookout for more people using Instagram to post Instastories, but really, maybe I should be trying it out myself. Would you write a story to post alongside a photo on Instagram? If you do, please let me know so I can give you a follow.

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My uninformed, amateur opinion on why we won’t colonize Mars

[Edited: The original title of this was “Why North America won’t colonize Mars” I regret changing the title now, as I feel l like the points I’ve made about “we” in general are too vague. The original premise was that “we” in America only like easy, with upside.]

The subject of colonizing Mars comes up often in my office. First, the Mars One project has been discussed at length – mostly the idea of giving people a one way ticket off of Earth. If something goes wrong and we can’t do anything about it, will we watch, unable to look away or turn it off in horror? When thinking about a television show based on colonizing another planet, it’s hard not to think of aliens, but I assume the more likely scenario for failure is starvation or weather exposure, pretty much extremely depressing viewing.

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Second, Elon Musk’s recent statements of establishing a Mars colony (he further clarified, that’s 80,000 people per year, millions would be needed to create a sustainable colony on Mars) have me again pondering why we would want to colonize Mars.

Here are the things I’m struggling with:

When Europeans colonized America, sure, it was rough, but the land provided everything humans needed to survive.  Humans can’t colonize Mars without trucking in a metric butt ton of supplies (that’s a scientific term). 

There is no reason to colonize Mars. Mars isn’t the goal of humans being a multi-planet species, it is a highway rest stop. If we don’t have an emergent need to be on Mars, why would we be? Populating other planets as a means to control overcrowding isn’t practical (for further reading on how wrong people have been on this topic, DC pointed me in the direction of the book, The Population Bomb, by Paul Ehlrich, holy wtf). Are we considering it as a survivalist measure (I don’t know the answer to this)?

There is no reward. There are no untold riches to bring back from Mars. Even if there were, there is currently no projected way back from Mars, there are only one-way trips to Mars. Can you think of anything on Mars that it could be so valuable that you would become rich within the colony? Hard to believe as people struggle to survive. 

There is no better future. No matter what your reason for finding the colonization of Mars interesting, you will not go if there is no hope for the future. Your life would have to be pretty horrible here to want to sign up for the hard work and poor living conditions that you’ll be going to on Mars. If your life is that bad, I seriously doubt you’ll have the 500K needed to go to Mars. 

Is colonization a thing of the past, or can it be the way to our future? 

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Garbage In = Garbage Out

I don’t actively judge people for watching reality television. However, when the topic comes up and I have to admit that I don’t watch any of it, I’m immediately tagged as being an intellectual elitist. 

Why is this? Why is it ok for you to judge me for not watching something I don’t care for? When I ask people why they watch reality television, the most common answer is “it makes me feel better about myself.” I am here to disagree with that statement.

Here are my top 5 reasons why I don’t think watching reality television is all that cool:

5. Reality Television celebrates stupidity. We now live in a world where nearly one in five girls say they deliberately underachieve in maths skills to avoid being bullied. What if we started to celebrate achievements? Shouldn’t it be as big of a deal to be the best at something smart as it is to be the best at something athletic? 

4. Reality television says that underachieving should be rewarded. I understand that not everyone in the world can be the smartest person in the world BUT I’m also not sure we should encourage the idea that that you can be famous for doing nothing. 

3. Reality television says that fame equals success. Outside of reality television, I’m pretty sure fame follows successfully achieving a goal, it isn’t the actual goal. Wait, is this the same as #4? it might be, but it is a really, really important point. 

2.  Reality television says you don’t have to worry about the long game. Just be famous right now, grab all the money you can and then…? What are all of these reality television ‘stars’ going to be doing with their lives in 20 years? Do they all make enough money to be living happily ever after? Do they all have to go on club tours to remote cities forever? Do they all become actors in straight to DVD movies?

1. Reality television means missing out on the world. All of this reality television means you are missing out on learning about things that will actually make you a better person, instead of just making you feel better for a moment. 

Here’s 5 suggestions for things to do that are just as entertaining (if not more) than watching reality television:

5. Read the Internet. Mental Floss and Brain Pickings are two great choices for learning about stuff you didn’t even know you wanted to learn about. 

4. Think of something you’ve always wanted to learn about. Learn it. Be proud of yourself. Weird, right? 

3. Go old school with the radio and figure out your favorite NPR and CBC programs. I like to download Q podcasts and take them with me for train rides and walks outside. 

2. Get physical. Set a goal for yourself and see it through. A half marathon or 100 push ups – any goal that is attainable with effort. Putting the hours in to achieve it will make you feel far better about yourself than sitting on the couch. 

1. Make something. Do you find yourself drawn to a certain kind of reality television shows? Why not act on your love. Cook, bake, sew…(ok those are the only three I can think of right now) your way to being better than what you see on television. 

So there you have it. The reasons why I don’t watch reality television. It goes deeper than that – I think most of the women in those shows set bad examples for young girls (a heavier post). It also goes way up into the shallow end –  I get really bored about five minutes in to most shows. 

How many times have I just typed out reality television? Ugh.