Category Archives: participation

Interview: TOMS Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie

TOMS shoes, a company started in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie from his Venice, CA apartment, has quickly become a social movement – a phenomenon quickly propelling the shoe brand into the hearts and minds of consumers and social activists alike. Gaining momentum on college campuses and through social sites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s now a top-selling shoe at popular department stores like Nordstroms.

TOMS “One for One” business model means that for every pair of shoes purchased, another is given away to a child in need. And now, four years after it was founded with a goal of giving away two hundred and fifty pairs, TOMS is celebrating giving away the one millionth pair – something Blake had never anticipated happening when first starting out.

Thanks to generous support from the good folks at AT&T, I had the opportunity to travel to Argentina for the One Millionth Pair Shoe Drop. The group consisted of just over 30 folks from the TOMS staff, partners from AT&T and Gowalla, members of the media including noted photographers and videographers, and Blake’s parents – two of the most incredible folks I’ve had the chance to meet.

Over the course of a week, we delivered and placed TOMS shoes on the feet of hundreds of children. We traveled around the Argentine state of Misiones visiting rural villages and schools,  hand-delivering shoes and engaging with children in an effort to prevent disease and create a memorable moment in a child’s life.

I had a chance to speak with Blake about the impact of social media, where the name TOMS came from and what’s next for the revolutionary company. Check it out!

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Buy TOMS shoes here

Music Video as Interactive Art: Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire, seminal indie band with the #7 record in the country (previously at #1), has teamed up with director Chris Milk and the good folks over at Google Chrome Experiments to create an interactive music video for the single We Used To Wait.

The first of it’s kind, the video utilizes Google maps + HTML 5 video, audio and canvas to present a multi-window, choreographed experience.

Simply enter the address of the house you grew up in and the feature takes it from there.

The experience was designed to work in Google Chrome, but seems to work in Safari too.

I’d rather not spoil anything – check it out for yourself, here!

Playlist Manifesting: What Makes a Great Mixtape?

Every single one of us can be a DJ . We each have the ability to be an influencer, a critic – a purveyor of fresh musical content for the masses.

From an accessibility standpoint, It’s becoming easier to queue up songs and create deep playlists based on the music we love. Between music blogs and social sites, we can preview tracks from established and brand-new artists. We can easily create playlists on the fly, spreading them far and wide to share our respective tastes and express our mood to the world.

Thanks to music blogs, we have the ability to hear upcoming singles at the same time (or even before) traditional musical tastemakers do. And we’re not restricted by FCC rules or political embargos.

The great news is that online music services are consistently getting better and the catalogues are becoming deeper.  We can share tracks, solicit feedback, re-share what our friends have liked and even collaborate with them.

We are eager to share and eager to please.

With all of this newfound access, content will still prevail. There’s still an art to crafting the perfect mixtape – a perfect rhythm and balance that tells a story and will make your friends hunt you down for more.

For what it’s worth (and so I’ll stop babbling to strangers about this at parties), I’ve sketched out a few thoughts on what I think creates great playlist. As a DJ and musical programmer with several years of community + college radio experience,  I feel that I may be able to speak semi-intelligently on the issue (ha).  And if I really have no clue what I’m talking about, please feel free to call me out in any way you see fit (a playlist battle, perhaps? double ha).

Without any further ramblings, here within please find 7 general tips for giving your best set ever.

#1 Grab ‘em from the get go.

Traditionally, a DJ mix starts slowly then builds to peak at about 3/4’ths of the way through. While this may work on a dancefloor, a digital mixtape has different needs. You’ll want to grab the ear of the listener right away. This is ‘specially important in an online world where users don’t stick around for long.

With that said, this doesn’t mean you should put all of your bangers up front. It’s not a tempo thing. Instead, think about starting with something that’s simply really, really good. A banger can be the equivalent of shouting “WAKE UPPP!!” Not many people like that.

You can open your mix in a very subtle way (for example, a classical piece or a clever acoustic cover). Whatever you think is comfortable yet arresting.

The goal here is two-fold. #1 get their attention, and #2 set the mood.

Whichever way you choose to go, the opening track should set the tone for the rest of the mix.

#2 Pick a variety of songs – but stay consistent to your theme.

I have a friend who works in music supervision. He loves trendy indie bands on the folksy, whimsical tip.  And while his mixtape selections are amazing – I always learn something new – in the end it sounds like one long record by the same band. Ultimately, unless he’s hitting fans within his niche directly he’s gonna lose people. The mix is too steady and listeners will easily get bored and go away.

Choose a variety of songs from different decades and genres. This opens up your work to a larger audience with a wider variety of taste.  Mixing it up also keeps listeners on their toes. It keeps it interesting.

The way to tie it all together is through your theme – whether it’s by mood, subject, or purpose.

Continue reading

Part 5: Getting to Know You

The other night was quite windy in here Santa Monica. It was 4am and I was wide awake and totally spooked.  I randomly posted how I was feeling to Twitter and noticed shortly thereafter that other west-siders were awake and acknowledging that they felt the same way.

This exchange comforted me somehow. It made me feel less neurotic about being freaked out by something so simple as wind.

It’s scary to think that everything I post is on record somewhere, but to participate I realize – like in a real world relationship – that it helps to open up.

I noticed that after posting more opinionated tweets or describing certain situations that my number of followers dramatically increased.  Offering up stuff I was working on, like  DJ mixes, helped too.

Make the experience personal and memorable and people will follow.

Just like the real world, the Twitterverse is full of amazing individuals who love to share their creations, thoughts and opinions.

Get to know your tweeples. Send them messages, read their blogs. You’ll become flattered by the types of people who follow you, and become inspired to offer more.  It makes participation more meaningful than communicating aimlessly in an anonymous online world.

Part 4: We’re the Best of Friends


A few weeks ago I had an interesting conversation amongst friends in the dark corner of a Chinatown Bar.

Of all things one could discuss on a Saturday night at 1a.m. we got to chatting about, well, chatting. Specifically, on voicemail, e-mail, IM, SMS, FB and Twitter.

Leave it to the nerds.

As biggest nerd ever, I thought more about this over the course of the next few days.

While the aforementioned mediums make it easier to communicate, while we participate we’re sacrificing the human experience and encouraging alienation from others.

My friends know that I generally dislike voicemail. It’s rare that I leave them and admittedly barely listen to them.

They’re like an awkwardly scripted one-way time capsule from the past. Why not leave the same message in real time – circa now?

In 1995 I signed up for my first email address. In the interest of self-disclosure for the sake of this story I (gulp) became semi-addicted to AOL chat rooms.

This was back in the day when we were all on dial-up – and paid for internet by the hour.

Like most people, I was beyond intrigued with the notion of chatting in real time with anyone from anywhere in the world. For a angst-ridden teenage girl growing up in the midwestern suburbs it was my portal.

Ironically enough, I quickly became friends with someone who happened to live nearby. We immediately bonded over our mutual obsession of music, media, the arts, and local underground parties (ok fine, “raves”).

There were no rules. We’d chat anytime of day or night when both of us happened to be online. There was no limit to the range of topics we’d discuss.

Over time, our lives became closer and he felt like a real friend.

One year we briefly met in person by total accident. We chatted for a few awkward moments until my friend pulled me away. “Who is that guy?” She asked.

She didn’t even have an e-mail address at that point so maybe she wouldn’t understand…or would she?  I tried to explain.

“Ok, anyway…”, she replied. “Wanna get some frozen yogurt?”

When I moved away to college our friendship continued.

He’d give me feedback on various art projects and tips for acclimating  to a newly vegan diet. I’d give him girl advice and let him know what I thought of his latest remix. We’d crack jokes, share URLs and pontificate the meaning of life years later as I procrastinated writing those 30 page papers in grad school.

He moved to Los Angeles, I moved to Boston.

We became friends on MySpace, then Friendster, then Facebook.

I moved to Los Angeles.

We slowly became friends In Real Life. Bonded by our mutual common interests, I’ve found myself on more than one occasion chatting with him poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel or under the skylights at LA hotspot Bardot.

My male companions give him the hairy eye wondering who the dude is I’m chatting conspiratorially alongside.

15 years later, we still communicate on IM. Now, we also communicate via SMS and e-mail too.

And sometimes, we’ll even drop the other a Voicemail.

Are our lives intertwined? Somewhat.

Will we ever connect on a deep and meaningful level? Probably not.

As part of different spheres, our interests overlap on a social level only.

Yet for someone I’ve hung out with for maybe an hour total in person, he probably knows more about me than anyone.

Communicating on IM can build a form of friendship. We’re missing the part that hanging in person brings – the adventures, atmosphere, lingering conversations, observations, body language. These things bring meaning to a surface-level friendship and make it come alive.

Can a real friendship be fostered online then, when all we have is type?

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