Monthly Archives: March 2012

Ginny’s Supper Club. Red Rooster, Part Deux

A few nights ago, I took a meeting with one of the owners of the Red Rooster and GTM Central, an Atlanta-based creative agency, in the recently opened Ginny’s Supper Club.

We were meeting to talk about the programming for the latest entrant to the New York night life scene.

For those of you not in the know, Ginny’s is located in the recently renovated downstairs of the Red Rooster, the posh restaurant of celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson.

If you missed the announcement about it’s opening, that’s okay. It was quite low-key.

Sure, it was mentioned in a bunch of online publications.

But unless your a foodie or aficionado, Ginny’s formal opening probably flew under your radar.

Red Rooster has become the de facto go-to destination uptown, and celebrity-spotting – as well as fine dining – is the order of the day.

Can you say swanky?

While Red Rooster has become known for it’s exceptional menu, high fine art and extensive music catalogue, Ginny’s is looking to brand itself as the spot for great food and exceptional live entertainment.

Think of Ginny’s as a juke joint or a speakeasy, and you’ve got the picture.

They’ve got a separate dinner and drink menu – I had the roasted duck. It was delicious!

And the mixologists at the bar are on par with any in the city.

There was a Brazilian band playing bossa nova the night I was there, and the place was packed – literally standing room only.

Roberta Flack is performing at Ginny’s on April 14th as part of their Jazz Masters Series, and the line up for the spring and summer is equally outstanding.

If you’ve only been upstairs, then I strongly encourage you to head downstairs and experience Ginny’s yourself.

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The New Face of Africa. Face2Face Africa

I’ve just been invited to a launch party for F2FA magazine, a globally distributed print magazine published by Face2Face Africa, launching in the spring of 2012.

The launch party is next weekend, March 30th at Pranna Lounge, and I’m more than a little excited.

F2FA or Face2Face Africa, is the brain child of Isaac Boateng and Sandra Appiah, two Ghanaian-born entrepreneurs, who wanted to put a new face (pun-intended) on how Africa is perceived.

Per their mission statement “Face2face Africa is a powerful, riveting, and refreshing media force that serves as the voice of Africa and represents Africans positively on a global level.”

And Sandra’s Linkedin profile describes Face2Face Africa as follows:

Face2face Africa, an online magazine launching in the first quarter of 2011 with a mission of Restoring Africa’s Image. The initiative was started by young Africans residing in the United States who realized that it was their time to make a difference in Africa.

From my interaction with the founders, F2FA impressed me with a singular focus on their mission of reframing the perception of Africa and Africans.

When I spoke to them a few months ago, during their search for the right person for their first cover, they described the F2FA magazine as a vibrant, multi-niche, high-end magazine.

They wanted the magazine to be the vehicle which used creativity to explore the many facets of African politics, culture, entertainment, fashion, lifestyle, and the different methods Africans were employing to inspire change, progress, and development on the continent.

That’s a mouthful!

Their online magazine currently features stories about African artists, musicians, designers, authors and standouts from all walks of African life.

And if their online version is any indication of things to come, I’m confident that the print version will equally impress.

The launch party next weekend promises to be a star-studded affair.

Not that I’m in to celebrities.

But we (my partners and I) were instrumental in getting the personality that graces the inaugural cover (I can’t tell you who it is, but they’re reeaaalllyyy popular), so I’m also excited for that reason as well.

Although some would question the wisdom of publishing a print magazine when the big boys are folding and closing up shop, opting for digital subscription models, F2FA believes they’ve got a niche.

And they are planning on releasing an app to satisfy readers who want to access F2FA magazine from the convenience of their mobile or tablet devices.

So they’re definitely looking to cover all bases.

If you’re interested in attending their launch event, follow this link to get your tickets.

But you’d better hurry, they’re going fast!

And make sure you stay up on F2FA…they’re the new face of Africa!

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I took a day off (from blogging) and now I feel…bad (not really).

I blog. Therefore, I blog.

So yesterday was the first day that I didn’t keep my 2012 blogging resolution of posting every day.

Yeah, I was running around between meetings…

And yeah, I had a class to teach at PAL Harlem Center…

And yeah, I was providing last minute tech support at the Red Rooster…

And I did spend several (valuable) hours (when I could have been blogging) driving around the city…

But there were at least two to three good hours yesterday, when I could have plopped myself down and banged out a post.

But I didn’t feel like it.

There.

I said it.

Yesterday, I simply didn’t feel like blogging.

And for no reason in particular.

I had loads of stuff I could have written about…

Like my meeting with Cheray Black and Q’tyashia Arrington, the founders of The Social Climb, a niche job search engine they’re launching this month…

Or even my meeting with Kembo Tom of GTM Central, the NYC/Atlanta/LA based creative agency that created the Smirnoff Master of the Mix

GTM+Je t'aime=GTM Central

I could even talk about my increasingly deep forays into Pinterest

This is my Pinterest page. I've started a few boards.

But I chose not to.

The hours whittled away and I didn’t make a single keystroke.

As midnight drew closer, I thought that perhaps I should throw something together just to keep on schedule.

The martial arts in this movie is incredible!

But then I started watching True Legend, and put it off.

Interesting movie. But too predictable and really poor casting.

And of course, since I had another movie I hadn’t seen in my Netflix Instant Queue, Knife Edge, I had to watch it.

That was a mistake – too predictable.

Anyway, as I sit here, reflecting on my active omission, I realize that this post is pure fluff.

I’m not really saying anything.

I’ve just got to blog.

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Filed under Smack talking

No. I’m not at SXSW, or WMC or Ultra Music.

I’ve got a major ‘tude.

Why?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Instead of getting my party on in Austin at SXSW…

…or shaking my groove thang in Miami at the Winter Music Conference or the Ultra Music Festival

…I’m staring at this computer screen in NEW JERSEY

blogging

…with a stank attitude.

Now I know that I should be taking this in stride.

I’m a grown-ass man!

I can’t be bawling over a change-of-plans.

Sh*t happens and sometimes you’ve just got to go with the flow.

Sure, I had planned on attending at least one of this month’s many music-related festivals.

SXSW was off the table because I was doing WMC and Ultra.

So I was sore, but not that sore.

I was going to make it up with a few days in Miami for Winter Music, shoot back to NJ for a quick spell, and then head right back for Ultra.

There were dates at a couple of hot spots – Bardot, Settai, the Shore Club – and I was going to be at them all.

I had Louis Vega, DJ Spinna, and Rich Medina on my agenda….

But noooooo…..

I’m ‘manning the ship’ as it were….

I won’t bore you with the details of why there will be no boogie fever for Stephen.

Suffice to say, duty calls. Duty schmooty!

Read: I drew the short straw.

So instead of giving you a play-by-play and regaling you with my stories of dancing the light fantastic, I’m ruminating (like a petulant child) over what I would have done, had I actually attended.

To wit…

Doesn’t that look like fun?

If you’re at either SXSW, WMC or are planning on attending Ultra Music, whooptee-effin’-doo for you!

But not to be a pure hater, here are a few links to Fusicology, which has, hands down, the BEST listing of the who, what, when, where and why for most major music events.

For the unofficial list of events at WMC, check out their Alternative Guide to South Beach.

SXSW Music officially started today, and you can get all the info you need right here.

However, I’m missing it all.

But my partners are there.

‘Working.’

Yeah right!

Damn you short straw!

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The Tech Gap: An Infographic

This weekend, I received an unsolicited email asking me to share an infographic which examined the state of the tech industry.

The infographic was titled “Is Tech Racist?” and provided several compelling statistics in an effort to answer the question.

One statistic highlighted the disparity in funding between black and white-founded startups.

The median amount of funding internet startups received in the US differed drastically, with white internet startups receiving $2.3 million, and black internet startups receiving $1.3 million.

Asian startups received about $4 million, dwarfing both white and black internet start ups, and mixed raced startups received about $2.2 million in start up capital.

The infographic also highlighted the percentage of internet startups founded by race.

87% of internet startups were founded by whites, 12% by Asians and only 1% were founded by Blacks.

There were other statistics, examining different aspects of the tech industry, providing compelling support for the position that the tech world, in general, excludes people of color.

Rather than continuing to summarize the data, here’s the infographic in full.

Infographic

Since I hadn’t necessarily intended to start of the week talking about the state of the tech industry from the perspective of race, I decided to do a little research to see if there were any contemporary discussions on the topic.

Most of what I found was from 2010, after CB Insights, a private investment research firm, published a report on online startup companies.

The Network Journal published an article examining the disparity, as did a number of other publications, but the issue doesn’t seem to have any current coverage (aside from the fact that this disparity still exists).

In an effort to get a better understanding of why the infographic had been prepared, I reached out to Jenn Ghee (who forwarded it to me) to get some context, but I haven’t heard back.

I’ll be sure to update you, in the event she does.

But what do you think about this?

Is this an issue that concerns you?

Are there any strategies for closing this gap?

If you’ve got a perspective, I’d love to hear it.

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Filed under opinion, technology, Uncategorized

The Road We’ve Traveled (isn’t far enough)

I just watched Obama’s (just shy of) 17 minute video/commercial/short film directed by Academy Award®-winning director Davis Guggenheim on YouTube.

The video, which was posted on BarackObama.com and YouTube yesterday, provides an overview of the past four years of Obama’s presidency.

According to the description on YouTube,

This film gives an inside look at some of the tough calls President Obama made to get our country back on track. Featuring interviews from President Bill Clinton, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Elizabeth Warren, David Axelrod, Austan Goolsbee, and more. It’s a film everyone should see.

Here’s the video.

Whether you’re a fan of Obama or not, the video makes a persuasive case that President Obama brought us back from the brink of disaster.

I’m certain that few would doubt that former President Bush left the country is a bad way.

The video uses the condition of the country as the starting point for making the case for Obama’s success.

But despite the eloquent narration of Tom Hanks, will this video really have the desired impact?

The Washington Post provided an insightful review of the video and it’s intended purpose.

How many people are going to view this video and come away with the desired impression of Obama?

Will people see this video as a summary of success or pure propaganda?

Regardless, it’s clear that Obama’s re-election efforts will have to confront a more basic issue (again) in 2012.

Race.

Trolling Facebook yesterday, I came across the following bumper stickers:

Really?

Re-Nig? Wow. I. Am. Speechless.

Will the video be able to put a dent in the attitudes and opinions of folks creating propaganda like this?

I doubt it.

No matter how well the Obama campaign casts the past four years, some folks just don’t give a damn.

For them the issue is as simple as black and white.

Despite all that Obama has done, what’s clear is that the road we’ve traveled isn’t far enough.

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Enough with the Acronyms! Plain English please.

Enough with the jargon. Plain English please!

The other day while giving a presentation, the client asked, “what does RAID mean?

We had been talking about servers, storage and protocols for preserving and backing up data – not roach spray.

And RAID had been introduced because it would continue to function even if one of the drives were damaged or inoperable.

Eventually, we explained that RAID was an acronym, which stood for “redundant array of independent disks.”

It’s a form of storage technology that combines several drives into a single unit, making it robust and reliable (and relatively inexpensive as servers go).

Reflecting on that meeting, I was struck by the frequency with which we tech types use acronyms as if they were common parlance.

The reality is that there is so much alphabet soup out there, that it’s difficult for techies to keep up, much less lay folk.

So today’s class will focus on defining some of these acronyms, and building your technical lexicon.

I’m sure you’re familiar with SMS (short messaging service), MMS (multimedia messaging service), DRM (digital rights management), CPM (cost per thousand impressions), yada yada.

Here are four terms you may not know, but should.

LBSlocation based services.

Tech speak: LBS is an information or entertainment service, accessible with mobile devices through a mobile network which uses information on the geographical position of the device. We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.

The Borg can use LBS to find you.

Plain English: LBS is a system which lets you send and receive information from your mobile phone, based on where you happen to be at the moment. Common uses of LBS include finding the nearest ATM machine (BoA), tracking a package (Fedex) or locating a specific destination (Google Maps).

NFCnear field communication.

Tech speak: NFC is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity.

Plain English: NFC is technology that makes life easier and more convenient for people by allow them to make transactions, exchange digital content, and connect to electronic devices with a touch. Common uses of NFC include opening a car with your phone (ZipCar) or exchanging contact information (Bump).

APIapplication programming interface.

Tech speak: API is a source code-based specification intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other.

Plain English: An API is a way of putting data into and getting data out of a system, without having to manually type that data in yourself. APIs are simple tools developers create to help other developers make the most effective and efficient use of their code. Many mobile apps out today employ APIs which let you register or log in using your Facebook or Twitter credentials.

GUIgraphical user interface.

Tech speak: GUI is a type of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices with images rather than text commands.

Plain English: A GUI makes it easier for people to learn, use and implement, through the use of icons, graphics, and menus. Think Apple.

So the next time you hear a techie waxing eloquently in technical jargon, you no longer have to nod your head knowingly (while totally ignorant to what’s actually being said).

You can jump in that convo and throw a few around your damn self!

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Filed under digital advocacy, opinion, technology

Curious? Check out Curious Brain.

I just had a really cool meeting with Kenny Engels, the CEO and co-founder of Curious Brain, an app development company out of Dumbo (Brooklyn).

Curious Brain not The Curious Brain. There's a difference.

If you’re not familiar with Curious Brain (not to be confused with The Curious Brain – which is Michael Paredrakos’ interesting blog – the SEO is messy, I know), I’ll forgive you (this time).

They’ve flown pretty much under the radar to date, but that’s all about to change.

I can’t go into the details now, but suffice it to say, there are big tings a’gwan over there.

What I can tell you is that Curious Brain is a boutique shop, with several inspired mobile apps under their belt.

With kids apps, music apps, parenting apps, Curious Brain’s stuff makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

I took a look at their site, which contains a small sampling of their work.

Curious Brain's quirky and clean website.

They make elegant apps.

According to Kenny, what separates Curious Brain from other app development agencies, is their focus on design.

Indeed, the principals of Curious Brain are steeped in technology and design – dude was looking through a THICK stack of wireframes for a project they’re working on right now.

But I digress.

Paul Frank features prominently in their portfolio.

Julius, you silly monkey!

Several of the apps they’ve developed incorporate the aesthetic sensibility of the designer, and users interacting with the apps are completely immersed in the signature world of Paul Frank.

TouchCords, a proprietary suite of apps they developed, is another example of Curious Brain’s penchant for combining elegant design with technical functionality.

TouchCords teaches guitar chords and fingering on your iPhone.

TouchCords is an iPhone guitar reference and practice companion that helps users learn proper fingering and chord techniques.

The free version of the app, gives users the ability to see and hear proper chording, by showing them where their fingers should be placed on a realistically designed fretboard.

As is my custom, I downloaded one of their apps to take for a test drive.

Julius Funkit is loads of kiddie fun!

They’ve got a Julius FunKit iPad app, and since my kids harass me constantly to play with my iPad, I grabbed that.

It’s a $.99 premium app, that let’s kids “match”, “count”, “dress up”, or “stack” different graphics on the screen.

20120314-212918.jpg

Julius hops about in response to the correct placement of items on a picnic table in “match”.

20120314-213148.jpg

A ‘Rad’ panda (?) responds similarly in the counting game.

Players earn badges for successfully completing each game, providing incentives for kids playing.

In addition to making apps, Curious Brain provides game development, character development, UI, content platform design and development, as well as a host of virtual instrument and custom design services.

Kenny’s background in music and mobile, perfectly informs the direction of Curious Brain, and the brain trust (get it?) at the agency (which includes a couple of Harvard grads), complements his formidable skill set.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out their website or like them on Facebook.

But don’t do it for me.

Do it if you’re curious.

I couldn’t help myself.

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Filed under apps, branding, iPad, iPhone, mobile, technology

Harlem Stage at 30. Weaving together Harlem’s past, present and future.

I recently took a meeting with Harlem Stage around the planning for their 30th anniversary.

Harlem Stage has been one of the nation’s leading arts organizations devoted to the creation and development of new works by performing artists of color.

And they’re a fixture for the artistic community in Harlem.

According to their website,

Harlem Stage is a performing arts center that celebrates and perpetuates the unique and diverse artistic legacy of Harlem and the indelible impression it has made on American culture. We provide opportunity, commissioning and support for artists of color, make performances accessible to all audiences, and introduce children to the rich diversity, excitement and inspiration of the performing arts.

Located on Convent Avenue at 135th street, Harlem Center is a diamond in the rough.

With programming in music, dance, theater, film (like Weightless showing March 14th), education, and family, Harlem Stage has something for everyone.

Rich Medina threw down at Harlem Stage!

Last year, Harlem Stage hosted Rich Medina, twice, bringing his unique music style uptown for Harlem residents and HS patrons to enjoy.

The meeting I took today, was about one of Harlem Stage’s current challenges: how to properly convert thirty years of content, photographs, videos, audio recordings, posters, brochures and flyers, and make that content accessible to staff and patrons alike.

With the 30th anniversary gala quickly approaching (May 21, 2012), Harlem Stage is rapidly moving into the digital age.

They’ve been gearing up to bring 30 years’ worth of archival content to life, making it’s rich history available for the masses, to search, share, and enjoy, in a dynamic and interactive form.

We’re one of a number of experts being asked to help Harlem Stage craft a solution to bring this project to fruition.

And we spent much of our meeting discussing the nuts and bolts around properly digitizing, tagging, preserving/storing, and distributing/sharing Harlem Stage’s voluminous archived content.

We also talked about the opportunities that exist for Harlem Stage to make optimal use of that content once it’s ripped and tagged.

Optimally, we’ve impressed the powers that be, and demonstrated that we know what we’re doing.

At the very least, I hope that we were able to expand their understanding of what’s possible.

I, for one, am excited about the potential of working with them, and I’ll definitely keep you posted on our progress!

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Filed under Uncategorized

Kony2012: The Flip Side of Viral Success

20120312-144148.jpg
The internet has been atwitter (no pun intended) with Kony2012, the 30 minute documentary style video, highlighting the situation in the landlocked East African country of Uganda.

For years, children in Uganda have been kidnapped, taken from their families and forcibly enlisted in the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony.

The video, produced by Invisible Children, a not-for-profit advocacy group based out of San Francisco, California, highlights the plight of Uganda’s children and has become an internet sensation.

If you haven’t seen the video yet, here it is:

According to their website

KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.

But despite their laudable intentions, the success of their video has create somewhat of a backlash.

There are questions regarding the authenticity of this call for the apprehension of Joseph Kony, who hasn’t been particularly visible for years.

There are also questions regarding how Invisible Children has utilized the donations they’ve received and how much of the money they’ve raised actually aids children in Uganda.

The last organization to come under this kind of scrutiny, as a result viral or successful social media, was Wyclef Jean’s organization, Yele.

In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, Yele received millions of dollars from online and mobile donations.

Overnight, Yele went from being the relatively obscure non-profit organization of a hip hop musician to one of the lead aid organizations responding to the crisis in Haiti.

There was, however, an unanticipated (and unwanted) flip side to the success of their campaign.

The intense response caused folks to focus not only on the crisis in Haiti, but on the various aid organizations receiving these funds.

Yele, which didn’t have the best track record, found itself under intense scrutiny, for their questionable use of funds and even more questionable accounting practices.

At the end of the day, the story stopped being about helping victims in Haiti, and became instead, a story about how Yele’s principals were ‘helping themselves.’

As Invisible Children find themselves in similar cross hairs, I’m certain they didn’t plan for this type of scrutiny from the success of their video.

They should be buoyed, however, by the fact that this scrutiny will (eventually) pass, and they can get back to making advocacy films.

Hiring a PR agency may help too.

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Filed under digital advocacy, opinion, social media