Making Viral

Nice video, ey? A seemingly amazing feat of engineering. Is that dude crazy? Or did he have superior preparation and testing before he slid down the slide?

It got thousands upon thousands of view when first released, and, undoubtedly, had its share of critics and hoax-hounds. Turns out they were right: it was a crafty move by an agency for Microsoft Deutschland

Marketing giant MRM Worldwide, who created the campaign on behalf of Microsoft Germany, issued a statement saying: “We really enjoyed the discussion about whether our film was real or not.

“At the beginning we didn’t want to tell at all, but after reading several people’s comments, who were seriously thinking about trying this on their own, we decided to reveal officially that we used some digital magic to make the film.


The spoof was created in a series of stages: first an MRM employee registered a website for make-believe engineer “Kammerl”, where the viral was hosted from.

For the footage itself, a stuntman was used to slide down a slope, secured by a rope.

This was added to an animated sequence of a body flying through the air, with another real shot of the stuntman jumping into the pool at the end.

The entire sequence was then meticulously edited to make it look like a single take.

MRM said the point of the viral campaign was “to entertain people and to demonstrate the unbelievable possibilities of good planning”.

“With Megawoosh, we developed a viral campaign for Microsoft Germany which generated unbelievable response in communities, in just a few hours,” it added.

I’m not sure this type of manufactured viral program is in the best interests of the customer. Sure, it got heaps of short-term attention and response — and it was probably cost-effective. However, I’m not convinced this makes a lasting, favorable impression for Microsoft’s efforts in Germany.

Beanie Baby Bubble

Enjoyed reading Karen Blumenthal’s piece in the WSJ yesterday:

In this decade, we have had more than our share of big-time booms and busts: the tech bubble, the housing bubble and, this year, what Warren Buffett has called the Treasury bubble.

For some years now, I have been a student of these extreme financial cycles. In the 1980s, I witnessed firsthand the Texas real-estate bubble and covered companies crushed in the junk-bond bubble. I wrote a book about the crash of 1929. And to my terrific shame, at the top of an inflated market, I once paid $50 for a $5 Beanie Baby named Peace.

In studying what drives bubbles, I’ve come to believe that they follow fairly regular patterns. If we could learn to recognize these, we might be more astute in reacting and adjusting our own behavior. And even if we can’t see beyond the excitement they generate, there are underlying lessons for investors.

The lesson: sell when it’s on the way up.

Glazed and Confused

That’s right, “Glazed and Confused.” It’s a type of donut made and sold by Psycho Donuts in Campbell, California. They also sell Cereal Killer, Mood Swing and Headbanger (formerly known as Massive Head Trauma) donut varieties.

Love it. Great concept and very creative — an they’ve only been in business for six months. All in a down economy. I think they’ve got a chance at franchising, too. Nice T-shirts, too.

Mental health advocates find their marketing insensitive, and they’ve got a point. Chief Psycho Jordan Zweigoron agrees and he’s changing things around:

Sooner-than-later changes to Psycho Donuts could be the beginning of the end of a months-long controversy between the shop and the mental health community.

Psycho Donuts owner Jordan Zweigoron announced he’d be making some changes to the shop after taking sole ownership at the end of July, but gave few details about exactly what he would do and when he would do it. But last week, Psycho Donuts’ transition began with a revamped Web site that, among other things, includes links to several mental health advocacy groups and changes to product names.

The names of two of the more controversial doughnuts, “Bipolar” and “Massive Head Trauma,” are now known as “Mood Swing” and “Headbanger,” respectively. There’s also now a “Jekyll and Hyde” doughnut.

“It was becoming really something of a polarizing issue,” Zweigoron said of the controversy that began when the shop opened in March. “We had to do some soul searching, and it came down to two things: We had no intention of offending anyone, but we also didn’t see ourselves as a mascot for free speech. Some supporters wanted us to adopt that model, but what we really decided was we wanted to be the most unusual doughnut shop on the planet.

“A lot of [the changes] were things that I planned to do all along,” Zweigoron added. “It wasn’t about giving into demands, but more about in order to be the most unusual doughnut shop in the land, you have to keep innovating, and that’s my intention.”

Watch him defend himself on Fox Business Channel last week. When I visit the South Bay area, expect me to visit this establishment.

Here’s a typical day at Pshycho Donuts, seen in a video from May, 2009…

Digest-Size Debt Load

Reader’s Digest is filing for bankruptcy? Why? Such a strong publishing organization, it practically had a license to print money. Well, then again, so did many other print media.

Was it the cost of paper and postage or was it the Internet revolution? Partially, yes. I’d think most would agree the company was overly leveraged:

I remember wondering why it was a good idea to take a struggling company and load it up with leveraged buyout debt. But buyers were there for the debt, at interest rates that were not very high, and the deal was done.

Today Reader’s Digest said it will skip interest payments on a bond issue and file a prepackaged bankruptcy. The deal will give equity to some creditors, and slice debt from $2.2 billion to $550 million. The L.B.O. investors are wiped out, and creditors take large losses. Some creditors have agreed to put more money in. The publication will stay in business.

Add “The Digest” to the modern pantheon of P.E. failures.

Desert Riches

I can’t help but to think of Frank Herbert’s Dune series when I came across this massive project. It’s called Desertec and it intends to harness solar thermal energy from the Sahara:

The DESERTEC Concept describes the perspective of a sustainable supply of electricity for Europe (EU), the Middle East (ME) and North Africa (NA) up to the year 2050. It shows that a transition to competitive, secure and compatible supply is possible using renewable energy sources and efficiency gains, and fossil fuels as backup for balancing power.

A close cooperation between EU and MENA for market introduction of renewable energy and interconnection of electricity grids by high-voltage direct-current transmission are keys for economic and physical survival of the whole region. However, the necessary measures will take at least two decades to become effective. Therefore, adequate policy and economic frameworks for their realization must be introduced immediately. The role of sustainable energy to secure freshwater supplies based on seawater desalination is also addressed.

In order to find a viable transition to an electricity supply that is inexpensive, compatible with the environment and based on secure resources, rigorous criteria must be applied to ensure that the results are compatible with a comprehensive definition of sustainability. A central criterion for power generation is its availability at any moment on demand. Today, this is achieved by consuming stored fossil or nuclear energy sources that can provide electricity whenever and wherever required. This is the easiest way to provide power on demand. However, consuming the stored energy reserves of the globe has a high price: they are quickly depleted and their residues contaminate the planet.

With the exception of hydropower, natural flows of energy are not widely used for power generation today, because they are not as easily stored and exploited as fossil or nuclear fuels. Some of them can be stored with a reasonable technical effort for a limited time-span, but others must be taken as provided by nature. The challenge of future electricity supply is to find a mix of available technologies and resources that is capable of satisfying not only the criterion of “power on demand”, but all the other criteria for sustainability too.

Deutsche Welle did a nice report on the project last month…

Awesome project. How can you argue against it? The U.S. should attempt something similar in the Southwest.


From the guy that brought you, a film called “Lemonade.” Here’s the trailer…

3D Etch-A-Sketch

Well, not exactly. But this Gizmodo post did make me think of Ohio Art’s product — and what it could be doing to enhance it for today’s new age.


Interesting. CNET is reporting people will never buy computers without keyboards (iPhone, XBox, PS3, Kindle). And Silicon Alley Insider is judging the Crunchpad will fail:

The device has no local storage, and does not appear to have a slot for add-on storage like a SD card. That means you must have Internet access to do anything with it. That’s impractical in places like New York, where people spend a lot of time underground; on a plane; overseas; etc. An Apple tablet (or even a Kindle) has some functionality when it’s not connected to the Internet. The CrunchPad seems it will have none.

The device has no local apps, and only runs Web sites and Web apps. This, again, tethers you to an Internet connection for even the simplest function, like skimming an old email, reading an e-book, or looking at a to-do list. This also means that app performance will also depend on your Internet speed. While similarly priced netbooks are selling like hotcakes, they also include local storage and support for Windows apps, and we think netbook owners also spend at least some time using non-Web apps.

Apple’s marketing machine is stronger than CrunchPad’s. Most normal people are only going to buy one touchscreen tablet in the next year or two — if any. We assume Apple will find a way to make its offering seem sexier to a mass audience. For instance, syncing with iTunes so you have movies you can watch on a plane. Or reading an e-book in the subway. Plus, Apple will spend millions on its ad campaign. CrunchPad probably won’t have that option.

To be sure, there are definitely some cases where the CrunchPad would be adequate, such as goofing off on the Web from your living room couch, living on a wi-fi-blanketed college campus, etc. And if it’s really priced at $400, it’ll probably sell a bunch of units to curious Silicon Valley-types, coders and hackers, rich people, the geeks who also bought the XO educational laptop, etc.

An Apple “iPad” would be cool. With the iPhone, the concept of a touch keyboard has proven to be acceptable by many, and, I would argue, even sucked people in by its simplicity.