- 'Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed' inventor dies at 92 – The inventor of the "Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed," which brought weary travelers 15 minutes of "tingling relaxation and ease" for a quarter in hotel rooms across America during its heyday as a pop culture icon in the 1960s and '70s, has died.
- Vending machines for Gold? – While it's just a plan at this point, it seems that the idea is more about disruption and promotion than simply "vending."
- Let’s Embrace Open-Mindedness – My article published at Johnny Holland, considering the challenges in living up to the standard we set for ourselves. And there's a story about cheese, too!
- Why some cultural products and styles die out faster than others – To investigate how cultural tastes change over time, Berger and Le Mens analyzed thousands of baby names from the past 100 years in France and the US. (Because there is less of an influence of technology or advertising on name choice, baby names provide a way to study how adoption depends on primarily internal factors.) The researchers found a consistent symmetry in the rise and fall of individual names; in other words, the longer it took for a name to become popular, the longer it took for the name to fade out of popularity, and thus the more staying power it had compared to names that quickly rose and fell. The effect was robust, occurring in both countries and across various time windows.
According to the results, the quicker a cultural item rockets to popularity, the quicker it dies. This pattern occurs because people believe that items that are adopted quickly will become fads, leading them to avoid these items, thus causing these items to die out.
(via Lone Gunman)
- Steven Johnson in TIME on Twitter and innovation – The speed with which users have extended Twitter's platform points to a larger truth about modern innovation. When we talk about innovation and global competitiveness, we tend to fall back on the easy metric of patents and Ph.D.s. It turns out the U.S. share of both has been in steady decline since peaking in the early '70s. (In 1970, more than 50% of the world's graduate degrees in science and engineering were issued by U.S. universities.)…
But what actually happened to American innovation during that period? We came up with America Online, Netscape, Amazon, Google, Blogger, Wikipedia, Craigslist, TiVo, Netflix, eBay, the iPod and iPhone, Xbox, Facebook and Twitter itself. ..if you measure global innovation in terms of actual lifestyle-changing hit products and not just grad students, the U.S. has been lapping the field for the past 20 years.
How could the forecasts have been so wrong? The answer is that we've been tracking only part of the innovation story.
- New Yorker on the significant power of storytelling in the unfolding of the Parrot Flu outbreak in 1929-1930 – Press plays role in raising awareness, hype ensues (kill all parrots!), backlash ensues (Americans are hypochondriacs and there's no such thing as Parrot Flu), small but significant number of sicknesses and deaths (pre-antibiotics) occur, scientists triumph, National Institute of Health is founded. Curious to read this right after watching 1950s plague thriller "Panic in the Streets."
- The Global Digital Divide: No Profit From Developing Nation Users – Web companies that rely on advertising are enjoying some of their most vibrant growth in developing countries. But those are also the same places where it can be the most expensive to operate, since Web companies often need more servers to make content available to parts of the world with limited bandwidth. And in those countries, online display advertising is least likely to translate into results.
Last year, Veoh, a video-sharing site operated from San Diego, decided to block its service from users in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, citing the dim prospects of making money and the high cost of delivering video there.
“I believe in free, open communications,” Dmitry Shapiro, the company’s chief executive, said. “But these people are so hungry for this content. They sit and they watch and watch and watch. The problem is they are eating up bandwidth, and it’s very difficult to derive revenue from it.”
- Omegle: Talk to Strangers! – A social-networking site for people who are burned out on their friends and want to interact with people they do NOT know: "When you use Omegle, we pick another user at random and let you have a one-on-one chat with each other. Chats are completely anonymous, although there is nothing to stop you from revealing personal details if you would like."
- Airwalk footwear – In the mid-90's, Mann left the company. After his departure, the decision was made to "go mainstream" and focus on a more general audience rather than just creating shoes for sport enthusiasts. There was a brief rise in sales, but some people loyal to the brand found the mainstream designs questionable.
- What happens when underground brands go mainstream – Wharton marketing professors David Reibstein and John Zhang have been exploring how early adopters react when a product goes mass-market. When is there a backlash? When do early adopters switch to new products and when do they stick with the brand?
- Personas for Firefox | Dress up your web browser – Finally, a definition I can live with: Personas are lightweight, easy-to-install and easy-to-change "skins" for your Firefox web browser.
It’s fascinating how most successful products lead to an ecosystem of supporting products. The Crocs fad has provided the fan-base to support charms, little decorations that attach to the holes on the shoe’s surface and let the wearer further establish their individual identity within the trend of people who have established a unique identity by wearing Crocs in the first place.
Acknowledging that following a trend has a very different meaning in Japan, we bring you the Crocs family, who we saw on a bus in Kyoto, each with their own charms.
In addition to aftermarket personalization, many trends also generate a safety backlash meme (iPod muggings, anyone?). In Taipei, it’s dangerous to wear Crocs on escalators.
Manufacturers like Apple are very savvy about creating/controlling their aftermarket, but I wonder about the backlashes. Are PR people planting those stories or doing damage control or not realizing their significance?
Update: Karl Long on the Crocs backlash (safety and others) here