Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘social web’

29 DECEMBER, 2008

A Little Awkward


How to socialize the hipster way and get a discount at Starbucks along the way.

iPod earbuds on, passing people by without eye contact, drifting through the metropolitan maze in your own little bubble. Sound familiar? It’s the Large City Syndrome, and we’ve all got it to some extent. So how do you de-strangerize and rekindle that “social being” side of your existence?

A Little Awkward logo A little awkward is a quirky, inspired, distinctly hipster project that aims to encourage interaction between strangers in the city, coordinating low-key meetings between those who want to meet new people in urban environments.

The project is the work of two students at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Alex Abreu and Stella Kim, for the annual students’ ITP (Interactive Telecommunications Program) show.

The way it works is brilliantly simple: To create a meet-up event, you specify the expiration time — could be 30 minutes, could be 3 days — and give a quick clothing description. Then, the system matches you up with someone else in your area who’s looking for an encounter at that time and each of you gets a text message with the nearby location of the meet-up (which the system picks out for you), the time you have to get there, and the other person’s clothing description so you can spot them right away.

How It Works

Besides the undeniable cool factor and good times potential of the project, the founders are also contemplating some interesting marketing partnerships — namely, hooking up with specific venues in an area to sponsor the project. In return, A little awkward would push people to those venues for meet-ups, offering users perks like coupons or other exclusive discounts at the local partner hangouts.

50% off a Starbucks Chai Latte in good company doesn’t sound like a bad plan for a Sunday afternoon.

We just dig the idea of jolting people out of their urban routine and allowing them to surrender to chance and uncomplicated fun and all those things that somehow gave way the grown-up reality of work and rent and mandatory Friday night dinner parties.

via 3-Minute AdAge

24 NOVEMBER, 2008

6 Signs the Apocalypse Cometh


Shortcuts to obesity, paid shamelessness, D.C.’s constitutional right to bitch-slapping, and a potent antidote to it all.

It’s been the year of tectonic shifts, good and bad. A very real recession is upon us, a presidential election just made history in more ways than we can count, and the climate crisis has reached catastrophic proportions. It seems like (almost) everything good and holy is falling apart.

But because the devil’s in the details, we’re seeing the signs of the apocalypse in all sorts of places — some serious, some not, but all a what-have-we-lived-to-see cultural forehead-slapper.


You can now order it from your TiVo or right inside Facebook.

Domino's on TiVo

Because picking up the phone or typing a URL into your browser is too much work.


@guykawasaki Check.

Yep, we don’t get it either.


Elected U.S. officials score 44% on a simple civic knowledge test.

The uninformed commonfolk who elected them score 49%.



It’s not how we roll.


Chief Proposition 8 strategist Frank Schubert Check.

Don’t get us wrong, we have a couple of Mormon friends who are among the coolest people we’ve ever met. Which makes it all the harder to reconcile why their kind would try to deny others the basic human right to happiness they’ve been afforded themselves. Some, ahem, multiple times.


The Big Three CEO's Big Three auto execs fly private jets — 3 separate ones — from Detroit to D.C. for their hearings before the Senate and House to beg for an additional $25 billion of taxpayer money, get bitch-slapped for ridiculously timed display of corporate excess.

Oh snap.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yep, the world has gone mad. But we like to think that for every preposterous, shameless, or downright idiotic drop of apocalyptic poison, there’s an even more powerful antidote.


  1. Yes We Can.
  2. Yes We Can.
  3. Yes We Can.
  4. Yes We Can.
  5. Yes We Can.
  6. Yes We Can.

06 NOVEMBER, 2008

Blooper Troopers


Droops, bloopers and what geeks, babies and whales have in common.

Coolness often comes down to how well you handle the uncool stuff that inevitably happens. On the intertubes, that stuff is known by one infamous, universally hated number: 404. Today, we look at those coolest error pages that manage to inject some irreverent fun into all the frustration.



This lovable big droop extracts an “awww” from even the most cynical and web-raged of us, making us wanna hug him and tell him it’s okay.



Who can get mad at an awkward know-it-all geek? Okay, plenty of people. But this one aptly walks the fine line between know-it-all self-righteousness and it’s-all-in-good-fun self-derision.


In terms of “personality,” Mixx has long been our favorite of the social bookmarking platforms. Their irreverent humor comes through here with both the clever pun and the sheer hilarity of the video.


Twitter Error Page

Most of us have been hit with the dreaded “Twitter down” message. And, come SXSW time or another major live blogging event, we’ll no doubt be hit again. (And again. And again.) But nothing softens the “Grrr!” like a simple image of serene empathy. Bonus points for using pastels to dampen the reds and yellows you’re feeling.


This one goes all the way with a flash animation. Watch this little guy as he jumps around, wiggles a reprimanding finger at you, then finally gives up on your obvious idiocy and stomps away.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There you have it, a cool error page can make the difference between “ugh” and “heh,” and works wonders for fostering that elusive devil’s-in-the-details emotional connection we have with our favorite sites.

We’re actually quite disappointed with the lack of clever 404 pages in some of our favorite, should-know-better web dwellings. (Wired, PSFK and Creativity, we’re looking at you.)

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07 MAY, 2008

5 Ways to Get More of Life in the City


Ideas that claim our urban space back from the gruesome grip of commercialization, concrete and the general ugly of the city.

Urban clutter is easily the biggest pitfall of city life. There’s just too much stuff out there. Consumer psychologist Barry Schwartz calls it “the paradox of choice” — the more that’s available to us, the more frustrated we get with it all and the less likely we are to enjoy or even choose any of it.

Luckily, we’ve got 5 ways to help you navigate all that choice clutter, nail those special city gems, and get the most out of all your social activities.


Here’s the thing about friendship: it’s all about compromise. Especially when making social plans — you want one thing, your friend wants another, so you kinda have to meet each other halfway. Well, now you can do it — literally.

Thanks to, a nifty Google Maps mashup, you can let an algorithm pick your hangout — so there are no ego gauntlets involved. Here’s how it works: you simply plug the starting-point addresses of all the people in the would-be get-together, say what you wanna meet for (like, coffee or ice cream or Italian), and the app spits out a handful of establishments that offer just that in the area halfway between the attendees’ addresses, complete with directions and contact info.

See? Compromise and complete geographic fairness make everything taste better, we promise.


Okay, so maybe you’re a bit more of a control freak. You wanna know the place you’re headed is up to par with your refined palate and sophisticated expectations. Heck, you want nothing short of a fab experience.

Sit back, relax, and let fabsearch do the work. The human-powered engine pulls content you can’t normally find on the Interwebs from editorial icons like Vogue, British Harpers Bazaar, Town and Country, New York Social Diary, Vanity Fair and other give-it-to-you-straight, Zagat-sans-the-fluff sources. The fabsearch team is damn serious about it, too — they spend months sifting through old magazines to really hone the recommendation quality and bring you the ultimate best of the best in hotels and restaurants.

You can search by source or by location — and by “location” we really mean location: from Abu Dhabi to Aspen to Atlanta, they’ve got you covered. We checked out their Philly recommendations and, we must say, these guys are dead-on.

via Give it a shot for your locale and see how your favorite going out staples measure up. Thrillist


But what if you’re out on the town with that all-important extension of yourself — your laptop? Looking for those precious free wireless hotspots can be a hassle, especially if you’re traveling in a new city. Guess what: there’s a way that you can not only find a solution but also be a part of it.

FON is the world’s largest WiFi community, aiming to make WiFi universal and free. The concept is simple: you give some, you get some, and everyone gets a ton. All you do is get a La Fonera community router (just $29.95) and hook it up to your home internet connection. Obviously, you get WiFi at home — but that’s not the point.

The point is that La Fonera is your membership ticket to the FON worldwide community.

This means whenever you travel, you have free access to the FON WiFi that thousands of other users, or Foneros as they call themselves, have shared. And they’re everywhere.

The entire network is 100% safe and, best of all, not only do you get free WiFi across the world, but you can also make a bit of cash whenever non-Foneros connect to the FON network.

But, really, we just dig the idea of claiming our urban web space back from the nasty, unscrupulous monopoly of present.


The bigger your city, the more frustrating that “paradox of choice” thing can get. Which is why those of us in the biggest metropolitan beehives need a bit more help with a bit more stuff — not just dining, but also shopping, nightlife, style, travel and various insider perks.

That’s what Urban Daddy is all about — currently in four of the world’s most culture-overloaded cities (New York, L.A., Las Vegas and San Francisco), and also available in a broad U.S. National edition, the exclusive daily email magazine offers city life pickings carefully curated by a team of professional cool hunters.

And just so you get the level of exclusivity we’re talking here, Urban Daddy is currently invitation-only. But the good news is you can swallow your pride, sign up for their waitlist and hope you’re soon invited to sit at the cool kids’ table in the huge cultural cafeteria that is city life.


One of the great things about city life is that it offers a music experience you can’t get on iTunes: anything from wait-in-line-for-hours megastar live shows to intimate indie gigs in neighborhood cafes. Navigating all the options, of course, is a whole different story.

Luckily, there’s BandsInTown — a cool service you may remember from pickings past that lets you know about upcoming shows by your favorite artists whenever they pop into town. A little IP address birdie tells the algorithm your location, so all you do is say what music you dig. It then spits out a tag cloud of bands and artists, letting you narrow things further by show date (tonight only or not), distance from the city, max price range, and label type (unsigned, indie or major). On top of that, you can also filter results by genre or tag.

It’s all free, super nifty, and it’s telling us Rilo Kiley are playing right across the street on June 5, so we diggidy mucho. Check it out and get ready to show your friends who’s boss in music town.

Missed parts 1 and 2?

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