Status Skills, Obsolete Or Not

The notion of status skills isn't exactly new. As Trendwatching's report stated in September of 2006:

"In economies that increasingly depend on (and thus value) creative thinking and acting, well-known status symbols tied to owning and consuming goods and services will find worthy competition from 'STATUS SKILLS': those skills that consumers are mastering to make the most of those same goods and services, bringing them status by being good at something, and the story telling that comes with it."

When I first read that, I interpreted it as a growing, collective desire to acquire new skills. But after reading this Kottke post, I'm revising that original interpretation to include any skill, new or old... er, obsolete. I feel compelled to, because I may know more of these obsolete skills than I do these.


R.I.P. Paul Tilley

The first work we presented together was work that went on to win at Cannes. It was my big break, so to speak. Paul led the traditional side, and I led the digital side. We became fast friends around the whole thing. I'll never forget how Paul invited me to the podium at an agency meeting and said "I'm a little bit country, and he's..." (motioning to me)

"A little bit rock and roll."

I didn't even think about it before I said it. We enjoyed playing off each other's wit, whether we had an audience or not. The smart-assed remarks were almost lyrical at times. You don't get that from people who aren't passionate about what they do. That's what made him a friend to me, more than anything else. We just happened to work on some of the same projects.

Sadly, Paul took his own life this past weekend. You can read reports of the tragic incident yourself here, here and here.

If you're a religious type, please say a prayer for his two daughters. I can't imagine the loss they're feeling and will feel growing up, having had such a big personality for a father. If you can make a donation, the family has asked that donations be made to District 39 Education Foundation, Music Education Fund, 615 Locust Road, Wilmette, IL. 60091-1968.


We call that "sampling", Hillary.

Well, sampling may not be the preferred term in political circles, but that's basically what it is.

If Deval Patrick doesn't have a problem with it, why should anyone else? It's not plagiarism if it's used with permission, whatever it is. Beside that, Hillary hasn't exactly written all her own material. Is she implying that she utters nary a phrase that's been uttered by anyone else in the history of mankind?

Folks might not boo her if she were a little more "with the times". And maybe not such a divisive bellyacher, when her political career seems predicated on her husband more than her own merit. (Total pot-shot added to justify use of this image.)

[Image sampled from The Carpet Bagger Report]


Ego, Not Infotechnology, Is Source Of Overload

This morning my inbox at work had an email from AdAge, with a link to an article by Steve Rubel called Too Much Infotechnology Can Lead To Overload. I wanted to see what Rubel had to say about it, because my opinion of this phenomenon goes against what most people in my industry seem to think. Like most of the articles about the imaginary "infotech overload" afflicting folks in their forties and fifties, is a fluff piece at best. Rubel's got it all wrong when he blames technology for the overload:
Over the last decade, Americans have become hopelessly addicted to information and busyness. We have all overheard people bragging about their back-to-back schedules and massive e-mail inboxes. We crave information and busyness because it makes us feel wanted, needed and, above all, important. However, too much of a good thing is never ideal.
So, being needy is a good thing?

I used to work with a guy whose blackberry was a constant source of self-esteem. He swore he was busy busy busy, but he never did much but fuss with that device. Take the blackberry away and he's still an asshole looking for anything to do but work (part of the reason he's no longer a co-worker). Rubel would blame the blackberry and email. The root of the problem lies elsewhere.

I bring this up whenever I read anything that claims "today's target audience leads a hurried and harried lifestyle". I have to call "bullshit" on it. We're actually less busy than we used to be, despite our best efforts to prove otherwise. We have DVRs and voicemail, Roomba's and automated bill-pay options. We can time-shift a lot of things for which we used to make appointments -- but most of us are still terrible at time management. That's why the GTD folks are making so much bank right now.

But technology is not the problem. The people who insist every little alert is an excuse to drop everything are. It's called an instant message, but you are not obligated to address it this instant. When your phone rings, it only indicates that someone is trying to call you - not that you need to stop the world to take a call. If this kind of busyness makes you feel important, consider a career as a secretary or administrative assistant. But don't blame the technology for your own inability to cope and adapt.

And maybe try not to waste article inches on this stuff, especially considering the subject matter. Rubel's entire premise is that infotechnology leads to overload -- but all of his evidence supports the notion that human ego, however enabled by information technology, is truly the source of the problem.

Would Rubel's article have the same effect if he were complaining that his iPod holds too many songs to listen to in one sitting, or that his DirecTV has too many channels? When you boil down the article, it's a bit of whining about feeling overwhelmed by all these emails one might otherwise use to validate one's own sense of self-importance. If having options is a symbol of status, the truly hip will be the ones who exercise the option to opt-out at least as often as they opt-in. But that's an idea considerably less ingratiating to the bulk of Rubel's marketing industry audience.

There is no information overload, but, as has been true throughout human history, there are a few too many egos getting in the way of common sense.


More Photo Credits

Time for another shameless self-promotional post in which I continue to imply my fascination with and fondness for the Creative Commons.

Just discovered that I'm credited, but not properly linked-to, for this photo I took of Ennio Morricone performing at United Nations Headquarters* . Any ideas what language this is? The ".sk" domain is the Slovakia registrar, not that I can read a word of it. I'm guessing they got to my photo via this re-posting of it on the Wikimedia Commons.

Morricone at United Nations HQ

And then I spotted this German site linking to a photo I took of Casa dos Bicos (House of Pointed Stones). I imagine they found my photo via this Wikipedia page about secular Renaissance architecture in Lisbon. Incidentally, we were informed by locals that the building's diamond-shaped stone protrusions were originally tipped with actual diamonds. There are more detailed pics of it in my Flickr set from the Lisbon trip.


* [see My Trip To United Nations HQ]

Guitar (NOISE) Hero

Wandering through Wired's blogs over coffee this morning, I didn't stop on anything until I found this on The Underwire. As soon as I think of a name for the band I want to be in with Scopeboy, I'm emailing him. His Tesla-coil guitar, my chopped-up samples... it could be the kind of sweetly hellish noise that makes men weep. Wicked.


Shouldn't It All Be Yellow?

That's right, yelllow. Unless you want to be technical, in which case it would all be gray.
[img via boingboing]

Anti-Social Bookmarking (what del.icio.us is now)

If you've read PYLB for a while, you've probably noticed that I've been experimenting with del.icio.us (which, like Flickr, is owned by Yahoo!) to display my links on the sidebar of this page. It seemed like the one social bookmarking tool that served my purposes. But in the past week, it's been on the fritz. As I type, the linkroll script supplied by del.icio.us is displaying my tagroll. That's a significant error, and it's making me think del.icio.us was a bad choice. (Then again, we have no reason to expect stability from anything Yahoo! does these days.)

So, are any of you using social bookmarking services? Which ones? How do you like them? I'd love to know, because it's a pain to keep converting all of one's bookmarks from one service to another. I just want one that works, simply, and easily plugs into my site and my blog. If I need to ditch del.icio.us and head elsewhere, where should I turn?


Pretending To Ask Is Not Asking

Reading Kottke this morning got me to this article by ABC columnist John Allen Paulos. As an irreligious citizen myself, I think it's great to see some attention given (finally) to the most under-represented minority group in this country: atheists.

ABC deserves congratulations for courting the godless reader, but there's one giant, glaring thing wrong with this article. The questions posed to candidates are fictional. The article only imagines asking these questions instead of actually asking them. If only there were a news outlet with correspondents covering the presidential race, correspondents who could ask these questions of the candidates... a news outlet like ABC perhaps?

(Their) god only knows why they haven't thought to stop pretending and start asking. Well, their god and their Mickey.


I Hate Advertising.

I used to cite this as the reason I started working in advertising over eight years ago. The day after Super Bowl XLII, however, I feel as though I am now capable of a much deeper, consuming, educated and validated hate.

Now, most of my readers know that I'm not a sports fan. The Super Bowl has never appealed to me. I simply don't care who wins what game, and never have. I've got more productive things to do. Suck it, sports.

Equally unappealing to me is the predictable practice of mindless pandering in advertising aired during sporting events. Mindless, meaningless messaging that borders on offensive. Some that goes past offensive to just plain obscene - and not in the pornographic way that can turn a guy on. I'm talking about the kind of obscene that turns your stomach because it reveals the hideous truth: brands and their advertisers believe us all to be complete imbeciles. Yes, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it's essentially true.

Consumerist called last night's orgy of advertising "a tame batch of disappointment". Personally, I think it's disappointing that we still look to television spots aired during one football game as the shining moment in every year of advertising. We dutifully tune-in to watch the same formula at work year after year, spot after spot: derivative creative product aimed at appealing to the lowest common denominator.

I realize I may be echoing what Bob Garfield has to say about my chosen profession, and about the questionable merit of its contributions to society. Now, the day after the Super Bowl when I've had the chance to see the popular commercials online, I have to agree with Bob whole-heartedly. Check the reports aggregated via BuzzFeed to confirm that the over-inflated spectacle of Super Bowl advertising was, in fact, quite underwhelming.

There's an old saying in advertising: "I know half of my advertising budget is wasted, I just don't know which half." It's probably the half you spent on that inane Super Bowl spot, Mr. Advertiser.

Removed from the over-amplified, over-hyped context of the big game broadcast, the spots I watched online failed to surprise or delight. They sure as hell aren't selling me anything, either. In fact, they're informing me which marketers are deserving of my complete desertion. If I see an ad for a product I use, and that ad paints said product's users as the too-often heralded lowest common denominator, I'm going to stop buying/using/letting people see me with that product. That's not because I work in advertising; that's because I refuse to reward insults with patronage.

But I'm a minority. That's why I shouldn't watch the Super Bowl. It only reminds me why I hate advertising.