mergermania:

After deciding to join forces with the design and animation studio I Shot Him, we weren’t about to issue some boring press release. No, sir. Instead, we ordered a Mergetron 9000 and began imagining an entire universe of mergers that could exist as part of #MergerMania

Visit cultivatedwit.com to learn more of this most holy union, and be sure to like, follow, friend, subscribe, and pledge unending servitude to Cultivated Wit for more amazingness soon to come! 

Help Us Build Out & Legitimize Whiskey Friday (So Much As You Can Legitimize Something Called “Whiskey Friday”)

If you’re seeing this post, it’s likely you are already familiar with Whiskey Friday (aka #whiskeyfriday). However, the sad truth is that many less fortunate whiskey-drinking souls are not. 

We aim to fix that. 

As a quick aside, Whiskey Friday began as a semi-formal tradition when we worked at The Onion. We drank whiskey (or whisky). On Friday. At work. It grew from an internal de-stresser to a physical hub of community that attracted comedic, media, technology and just generally interesting folks. We even brought in Macallan and Johnnie Walker to do tastings. Since those days, Whiskey Friday has grown as an informal activity within office parks and friend groups across the world with us at Cultivated Wit sporadically organizing more public versions in cities we live in or visit (Academy Award-winning composer Michael Giachinno recently stopped by Whiskey Friday Los Angeles).

In a recent company meeting, we talked about how we could spread whiskey friday more consistently across planet earth. In this blog post, we share the highlights of that discussion and seek your input and help in building out this community.

Aside from the obvious reason (alcohol), Whiskey Friday is so appealing to build out because its whole purpose is bringing similar creative/tech people together in a welcoming environment. No name tags. No speakers. Just cool people and booze. Whiskey Friday has spawned dates, hires, creative collaborations, friendships, and probably coups.

Logistically speaking, here is what we’re hoping to create: 

  • A weekly event in multiple cities (New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco & Chicago already being on board)
  • A small collection of people in each city (4-6) will serve as organizers and hosts, to make sure at least one person is holding down the whiskey fort each week. We need a simple way to communicate with these city leaders.
  • Interested drinkers (and non-drinkers, for that matter) should be able to find out where WF will be held in their city that week with relative ease, whether that be through an email, SMS, calendar push, or some combination. The host committees for each city will control this messaging.
  • We would also like to have a central database for all Whiskey Friday fans, so if we ever want to message them all with updates, news about more cities entering the fold, or alert them that the whiskey revolution has begun and we all need to arm ourselves… with casks… we can do that
  • Lastly, there is a centralized page within CultivatedWit.com that serves as Whiskey Friday HQ (WFHQ) demonstrating the total scope/power of WF and how to assimilate. 

We see five groups of people in this world:

  1. Those who know about WF, live in a city where events are held, and already participate in them.
  2. Those on our WF list, but don’t live in a place where they can physically show up to events.
  3. Those who may be familiar with WF, but they don’t know why or where it comes from or that other people out there are WFing all around the world.
  4. Those who drink, maybe even like whiskey, but have no idea WF is a thing that exists in the world.
  5. Those who don’t drink, but still enjoy socializing and meeting cool human beings. 

In an ideal world everybody in groups 3-5 moves into one of the first two categories, and then we build out a way to engage everybody in groups one and two seamlessly and enjoyably. Maybe it’s Meetup. Maybe it’s Facebook (probably not because well freedom). Maybe it’s Eventbrite. Maybe it’s something you know about that we don’t.

Why are we telling you this? Aside from being extroverts who tell everybody everything (because social media), there are ways you can help. You might want to bring Whiskey Friday to Omaha. You might have tech suggestions for connecting people in the ways we mentioned above. You might just be drunk and want to say “Hooray booze!”

Whatever you think you can lend, please let us know. Comment on this post or email us directly at answeringmachine@cultivatedwit.com with your ideas. We’re pouring out fresh glasses of the future. How will you take yours?

Read, Watch, Play: Something smart, something stupid & a Harlem Shake to see you through the weekend

It’s not just Friday, it’s Whiskey Friday. Before we begin pouring that magical elixir of life over cubes of frozen water, we wanted to share a few good links to carry you into the weekend. 

READ: Our friends at the Nieman Journalism Lab posted this interesting piece yesterday on making tools vs. finding tools. We could go on and on about what’s in there, but instead we’ll just say if you work in journalism (or media in general) and consider yourself a progressive thinker when it comes to tech and where the industry is headed, give it a read.

WATCH: You thought we’d be above posting a Harlem Shake video, didn’t you. Yeah… we thought we’d be above that, too. But then our hilarious and maybe-slightly-just-a-little-bit twisted friends at Thing X made their version. It’s got gas masks and humping and just watch it.  

PLAY: To achieve your weekend quota in page refreshing, play around with Plooky a little bit. It’s all the strangest Wikipedia pages in one refreshable machine. Among our first few pages loaded were the 1957 BBC spaghetti tree hoax, extreme ironing, and this annoying 452 sq. inch public park in Portland

And with that, merry Whiskey Friday to you all!

The Real, Actual, Living/Breathing Human Being That Is Tim Hwang

Photo by Jesse Chan-Norris

Tim Hwang builds bots that try to trick you into believing they are real. Sorry, that’s a frightening way of introducing somebody. Tim Hwang wants to have fun, save the world and make people happy… using bots that try to trick you into believe they are real.

As we begin a mission to identify more people doing creative things with technology, highlighting Tim is no-brainer. Craig and I met up with Tim (@timhwang) at a coffee shop in San Francisco last week to talk social bots, comedy on the internet and nuclear power plants. We’ll spare you a magazine-length profile—that’s been done—and instead act like the blog that we are. Here come some fucking bullets!

  • Okay, so social bots. Tim gave a 50-minute talk about his Twitter bots, so we won’t pretend we can summarize them in one bullet point, but basically they are automated Twitter feeds designed to successfully infiltrate communities without being called out on their bot-ness. Infiltrate carries a negative connotation, but let’s use the next few bullets to consider the positive potential of bots like this…
  • Happiness injectors. It’s not hard for a program to take the emotional temperature of a given group, recognize key words or phrases that suggest sentiments are drooping downward, and try to insert a little joy into that space.
  • “Social scaffolding” was a term Tim used that I particularly loved. Imagine bots trawling around to find every advocate on Twitter trying to curb gun violence in Chicago. Slowly (or very quickly) it could befriend them all and begin making them all more aware of one another. Eventually, the bot can simply disappear with its target community now more unified. (see more: Pacific Social Architecting Corporation)
  • What’s the toughest test for a pre-programmed set of automated prompts and responses? Asking it if it’s a pre-programmed set of automated prompts and responses. To overcome that, Tim has created bots that drift out into the vast expanses of Twitter and accuse humans of being bots. However the humans respond is fed into a database, better enabling future bots to defend themselves like a human.
  • Tim started ROFLCon back in the days before Tosh.0 and other shows that further blur the line between internet famous and real famous. His next idea is for a conference called PonziCon.
  • We talked for awhile about a continually expanding genre of internet comedy that is building real online identities for not-real companies or services. Then casting them out into the internet and hoping for a bite (very much the mantra of Tim’s Hype Up Weekend last year). Along these lines, make sure to check out the Tacocopter
  • Tim is a member of the Berkman Center For Internet & Society. We got to visit it in Cambridge in January, and the folks there are constantly exploring the internet in ways few others are. You should pay attention to them . (They’ll know if you don’t!)
  • And lastly, completely unrelated to anything mentioned above but equally awesome: Tim helps run the Bay Area Infrastructure Observatory, a group of people who take monthly tours of anything with a massive infrastructure. In January they toured a nuclear power plant, this month they’re visiting San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management (911 call center) and March will be a trip to poke around the expansion of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.


You should follow on Twitter (@timhwang) and on his web site (brosephstalin.com). We appreciate the hell out of him chatting with us, and if he winds up participating in our next Comedy Hack Day *cough April 6+7 in SF cough* we’ll be excited to see what he can create. 

(Photo by Jesse Chan-Norris.)

tumblndice:

Two things I love (PIxar & the NFL) collide in these amazing illustrations by a Pixar animator depicting 22 match ups from this past season. Not surprisingly, they’re incredible.
(Discovery via Will Leitch)

That sound you hear it Brian fawning like a giddy child.

tumblndice:

Two things I love (PIxar & the NFL) collide in these amazing illustrations by a Pixar animator depicting 22 match ups from this past season. Not surprisingly, they’re incredible.

(Discovery via Will Leitch)

That sound you hear it Brian fawning like a giddy child.

Momma Bird/Baby Bird: SF Data Visualization Meetup Edition

This is Brian typing words at you. 

The three of us often find ourselves listening to interesting people or participating in conversations about the future of bla bla bla. In an effort to share some of the mental spoils of those encounters with all of you, I present the momma bird/baby bird approach wherein we regurgitate tiny bits of half-digested knowledge worms back to our readers. 

Precious, isn’t it? 

Last night I attended Visually’s Data Visualization meetup at Trulia in downtown SF. Scott Murray, assistant professor of design at USF, spoke about interactive visualizations and Mike Jeter, creative director of I Shot Him, spoke about animation, storytelling and women shooting their husbands. 

Here come the wormy bits!

  • Murray spoke at length about process, calling 2013 “the year of process.” Specifically, he encouraged people in burgeoning fields (like data viz) to open up and share their process more so collective tides can rise.
  • You may have seen the NY Times’ amazing 512 Paths To The White House graphic last November. If stuff like that makes you tingle with excitement a little bit, other sites worth monitoring would be Chartsnthings (blog of data sketches from NYT graphics dept.), Visualizing Data, Flowing Data, The Guardian’s Data Blog,  and National Infographic which shares charts, graphics, maps and all sorts of other visual goodies from National Geographic. 
  • Check out the animation put together by I Shot Him and Visually on Mexican drug cartels. Jeter spoke at length about the power of well-told stories, specifically in their ability to reach an audience in a way that advocates often struggle to achieve on their own. Animation (comedy, art, you name it) inspires people to share and spread a message in ways that data alone cannot. 
  • Further proof: something as boring as updated SF parking regulations can still be made cheery and pleasurable to learn about. 
  • Lastly, loved Jeter’s visual depiction of how advocates/clients typically communicate what it is they want to say and the role of good story tellers to straighten that out and make a clear connection between the advocate/client and the audience. (Trouble uploading the pic I took, but will post it later)

Special thanks to the great people at Visually for playing host. I didn’t list them above as a resource for great graphical goodness, but obviously, that’s what they’re all about. Be their friend. 

What creative digital comedy startup is working with the MIT Media Lab? THIS one!

O hai, this is Baratunde writing things BTW.

"Hey. We’re doing this thing in Detroit. You should come."

At 8:35pm on July 30th of last year, that message popped up in my Google Chat window. The “We” was the MIT Media Lab. The “thing” was a weekend of applied brainstorming and innovation with IDEO and Detroit community leaders focused on solving some of that city’s problems. The sender of the IM was MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito. I was in.

Pictured above: A slide from one of the IG Detroit teams.

The weekend I spent in Detroit gave me a great taste of what the Media Lab is up to: expanding beyond it’s walls, creating networks, considering problems of innovation on the ground in places that could really use them. So when Joi and the Lab invited me to be a “Director’s Fellow,” I was also in. The idea of working with The Lab in any way was exciting (I first visited as a college senior considering grad school and later returned with a TV crew to tape segments for my 2009 show on Discovery Science Channel, “Popular Science’s Future Of.”). Any excuse to hang around the lab and sound smart was worth it. The other fellows are ballers (people like JJ Abrams, Shaka Senghor, and Christover Bevans) but I was especially excited about connecting Cultivated Wit to the lab’s work.

We’re all about exploring the intersection of comedy, creativity, and technology, so it was that on Friday January 10, 2013, I and my co-founders Brian and Craig visited the Media Lab in Cambridge to talk about our work; to learn what current students were working on; and to avoid staring too long into the eyes of creepy shit like this potentially artificially intelligent being.

Pictured above: weird MIT shit.

This writeup by Media Lab student Matt Stempeck covers a lot of the public conversation Joi and I had, and this video is the actual conversation (because who doesn’t have a spare 90-minutes to watch a web video!?) But if you’re afraid to leave this page because you don’t trust yourself to find a way back, the most interesting parts of the chat for me were:

  • Comedy as a “user interface for getting your head around difficult topics.”
  • Can humor help people care about issues or places they might normally avoid?
  • Are people funnier now because of the Internet?
  • Is there a future in machine-based or machine-driven comedy, and what effect does that have on traditional human standup and other forms of comedy? (think of Damn You, Autocorrect)

As we roamed around the lab we also got a chance to spend time with the Civic Media team which is doing things like analyzing the role of women in our media; visit with the folks helping young children learn to code; and getting a demo of a piano that lets you play piano with an older version of yourself playing piano. After this last demo I suffered a mild nose bleed due to the breaking of various laws of space-time.

Pictured above: Xiao Xiao teaches and learns from Xiao Xiao.

Also, we ate Fish Assholes at Joi’s house. I’m not going to explain that any further.

In terms of future collaboration, the possibilities are endless but one thing we’ve confirmed is that we’ll be bringing Comedy Hack Day to the lab in the future. Joke-telling robots? Who knows.

- Baratunde

What happens when Google releases maps from within North Korea for the first time? The internet happens. 
In this case, Google+ reviews are beginning to trickle in for the Hwasong Gulag. Highlights include: 
From spelunking in the naturally illuminated caves, to woodworking, to construction and more, Hwasong truly is a treasure to behold. (…) Enrolling is as simple as speaking your mind
Best gulag in town.
Praises and blessings to the great and venerable Leader for allowing me to stay in his dwelling of happiness
Slightly reminiscent of The Onion’s $8 Billion Dollar Abortionplex making its way onto Yelp. Are there other great moments from the world of fake internet reviews? Let us know in the comments. 
Oh, and lastly, follow Cultivated Wit on Branch to look in on our communications with one another, where stuff like this usually pops up first. 

What happens when Google releases maps from within North Korea for the first time? The internet happens. 

In this case, Google+ reviews are beginning to trickle in for the Hwasong Gulag. Highlights include: 

  • From spelunking in the naturally illuminated caves, to woodworking, to construction and more, Hwasong truly is a treasure to behold. (…) Enrolling is as simple as speaking your mind
  • Best gulag in town.
  • Praises and blessings to the great and venerable Leader for allowing me to stay in his dwelling of happiness

Slightly reminiscent of The Onion’s $8 Billion Dollar Abortionplex making its way onto Yelp. Are there other great moments from the world of fake internet reviews? Let us know in the comments. 

Oh, and lastly, follow Cultivated Wit on Branch to look in on our communications with one another, where stuff like this usually pops up first. 

sobeyondrepair:

I <3 the gay internet so, so much.

sobeyondrepair:

I <3 the gay internet so, so much.