Tag Archives: trend

The Rise of Beards and the Fall of Social Media

Google-search-hipster-beard

Perhaps the rise of the hipster beard, handle-bar mustache, oversized glasses, craft brew, fixie (fixed-gear bicycle), thrift store sweaters, indie folk and pickling is a sign. Some see it as a signal of the imminent demise of social media, no less.

Can the length of facial hair or jacket elbow pads and the end of Facebook be correlated? I doubt it, but it’s worth pondering. Though, like John Biggs over a TechCrunch I do believe that the technology pendulum will eventually swing back towards more guarded privacy — if only as the next generation strikes back at the unguarded, frivolous, over-the-top public sharing of its parents.

Then, we can only hope for the demise of the hipster trend.

From TechCrunch:

After the early, exciting expository years of the Internet – the Age of Jennicam where the web was supposed to act as confessional and stage – things changed swiftly. This new medium was a revelation, a gift of freedom that we all took for granted. Want to post rants against the government? Press publish on Blogspot. Want to yell at the world? Aggregate and comment upon some online news. Want to meet people with similar interests or kinks? There was a site for you although you probably had to hunt it down.

The way we shared deep feelings on the Internet grew out of its first written stage into other more interactive forms. It passed through chatrooms, Chatroulette, and photo sharing. It passed through YouTube and Indie gaming. It planted a long, clammy kiss on Tumblr where it will probably remain for a long time. But that was for the professional exhibitionists. Today the most confessional “static” writing you’ll find on a web page is the occasional Medium post about beating adversity through meditation and Apple Watch apps and we have hidden our human foibles behind dank memes and chatbots. Where could the average person, the civilian, go to share their deepest feelings of love, anger, and fear?

Social media.

But an important change is coming to social media. We are learning that all of our thoughts aren’t welcome, especially by social media company investors. We are also learning that social media companies are a business. This means conversation is encouraged as long as it runs the gamut from mundane to vicious but stops at the overtly sexual or violent. Early in its life-cycle Pinterest made a big stink about actively banning porn while Instagram essentially allowed all sorts of exposition as long as it was monetizable and censored. Facebook still actively polices its photographs for even the hint of sexuality as an artist named Justyna Kiesielewicz recently discovered. She posted a staid nude and wanted to run it as an targeted advertisement. Facebook mistakenly ran the ad for a while, grabbing $50 before it banned the image. In short the latest incarnation of the expository impulse is truncated and sites like Facebook and Twitter welcome most hate groups but most draw the line at underboobs.

Read the entire article here.

Image courtesy of Google Search and all hipsters.

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MondayMap: Grey or Gray Matter?

infographic-spelling_bee_chart

The dumbing down of the United States continues apace. While 9-15 year-olds participating in this year’s national spelling bee competition seem to have no problem with words like “syzygy”, “onomatopoeia” and “triskaidekaphobia”, the general adult population is in dire linguistic straits.

An analysis of online search queries by Vocativ and Google Trends highlights some rather disturbing misspellings of rather common words. Though, what makes the survey so fascinating is to see the variations mapped by state. Sadly, around a dozen states had the most trouble with the word “grey”, including California, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan and North Dakota. Arkansas, on the other hand, should be proud (or not), that its residents have the most trouble with the word “diarrhea” (US spelling), while residents of Idaho can’t seem to spell “antelope”.  Texans get hung up on “beautiful” and those living in Wyoming can’t seem to spell “jelous” [sic].

Read more from Vocativ here.

Infographic courtesy of Vocativ / Google Trends.

 

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The Decade of the Selfie

skineepix

Two recent stories are indicative of these self-obsessed times, and of course, both center around the selfie. One gives us some added insights into SkinneePix — a smartphone app that supposedly transforms you into your thinner and more attractive self. The second, shows us that perhaps, just perhaps, the selfie craze has reached its zenith — as politicians and royals and pop-stars show us what their bed-heads and double chins look like.

I’d like to hope that the trend fizzles soon, as have thousands of flash-in-the-pan trends have done before. Yet, what if this is just the beginning of an era that is unabashedly more self-centered? After all, there is a vast untapped world of selfidom out there: audio selfies of our bathroom routines; selfies that automatically rate your BMI; selfies that you can print in 3D; selfies that become your personal digital assistant; selfies that text other selfies; a selfie hall-of-fame; selfies that call your analyst based on how you look; selfies that set up appointments with your hair stylist should your hair not look like the top 10 selfies of the day; selfies from inside the body; a selfie that turns off your credit card and orders celery if you look 5 lbs overweight; selfies of selfies.

From the Guardian:

If you thought Prince Andrew or Michael Gove’s attempts at selfies were the worst thing about the craze – think again.

There is now an app which is designed specifically to make you look skinnier in your selfies. Acting as a FatBooth in reverse, SkinneePix promises to make it look like you’ve shed 5, 10 or 15 lbs with just the click of a button.

The description reads: “SkinneePix makes your photos look good and helps you feel good. It’s not complicated. No one needs to know. It’s our little secret.”

It’s already the norm to add a toasted haze to pouty selfies thanks to photo filters, and some celebs have even been accused of airbrushing their own pictures before putting them up on Instagram – so it was only a matter of time before someone came up with an app like this.

Creators Susan Green and Robin J Phillips say they came up with the app after discovering they hated all the selfies they took on holiday with friends. Green told the Huffington Post: “You’ve always heard about the camera adding 15 pounds, we just wanted to level the playing field.”

They do say don’t knock something til you’ve tried it, so I handed over 69p to iTunes in order to have a poke around the app and see what it’s really like. As it boots up the camera, it flashes up a little message which range from “Good hair day!” to “Make me look good”.

You can’t alter group pictures such as the now infamous Oscars selfie, so I snapped a quick photo at my desk.

Read more here.

From the Telegraph:

RIP The Selfie. It was fun while it lasted, really it was. What larks and indeed Likes as we watched popstrels Rihanna and Rita Ora and model Cara Delevigne record their tiny bikinis and piercings and bed-heads and, once, an endangered slow loris, for posterity.

The ironic Selfie remained fun and fresh and pout-tastic even when it was ushered into the august oak-paneled annals of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The egocentric Selfie weathered President Obama taking a deeply inappropriate quickie at Nelson Mandela’s funeral with the hottie Danish PM whose name we have all forgotten, and David Cameron.

The stealth Selfie even survived the PM being snapped barefoot and snoozing on the bed of his sister-in-law on the morning of her wedding day.

And the recent Ellen DeGeneres Oscars Selfie, with every celeb that ever there was jam-packed together (and, astonishingly, in focus) pretty much qualifies as the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts album cover de nos jours.

But then, as is the inevitable parabola of such things, this week the entire phenomenon took a nosedive and died a million pixellated deaths thanks first to Ed Milliband’s blurred, sad-sack Selfie, in which he’s barely in the frame. Bit like his political career, really.

Then came the Parthian Shot: Prince Andrew’s royal snap in which the west wing of Buck House was eclipsed by his Selfie-satisfied porky chops.

And with that, a cutting edge trend turned into the dire digital equivalent of dad-dancing.

Cause of death: Selfie-harm.

Read more here.

Image courtesy of the Guardian / Skinneepix.

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Fast Fashion and Smartphones

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Teen retail isn’t what it used to be. Once dominated by the likes of Aeropostale, Abercrombie and Fitch, and American Eagle, the sector is in a downward spiral. Many retail analysts place the blame on the internet. While discretionary income is down and unemployment is up among teens, there are two other key factors driving the change: first, smartphones loaded with apps seem to be more important to a teen’s self identity than an emblazoned tee-shirt; second, fast-fashion houses, such as H&M, can churn out fresh designs at a fraction thanks to fully integrated, on-demand supply chains. Perhaps, the silver lining in all of this, if you could call it such, is that malls may soon become the hang-out for old-timers.

From the NYT:

Luring young shoppers into traditional teenage clothing stores has become a tough sell.

When 19-year-old Tsarina Merrin thinks of a typical shopper at some of the national chains, she doesn’t think of herself, her friends or even contemporaries.

“When I think of who is shopping at Abercrombie,” she said, “I think it’s more of people’s parents shopping for them.”

Sales are down across the shelves of many traditional teenage apparel retailers, and some analysts and others suggest that it’s not just a tired fashion sense causing the slump. The competition for teenage dollars, at a time of high unemployment within that age group, spans from more stores to shop in to more tempting technology.

And sometimes phones loaded with apps or a game box trump the latest in jeans.

Mainstays in the industry like Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters and Aéropostale, which dominated teenage closets for years, have been among those hit hard.

The grim reports of the last holiday season have already proved punishing for senior executives at the helm of a few retailers. In a move that caught many analysts by surprise, the chief executive of American Eagle, Robert L. Hanson, announced he was leaving the company last week. And on Tuesday, Abercrombie announced they were making several changes to the company’s board and leadership, including separating the role of chief executive and chairman.

Aside from those shake-ups, analysts are saying they do not expect much improvement in this retail sector any time soon.

According to a survey of analysts conducted by Thomson Reuters, sales at teenage apparel retailers open for more than a year, like Wet Seal, Zumiez, Abercrombie and American Eagle, are expected to be 6.4 percent lower in the fourth quarter over the previous period. That is worse than any other retail category.

“It’s enough to make you think the teen is going to be walking around naked,” said John D. Morris, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets. “What happened to them?”

Paul Lejuez, an analyst at Wells Fargo, said he and his team put out a note in May on the health of the teenage sector and department stores called “Watch Out for the Kid With the Cough.” (Aéropostale was the coughing teenager.) Nonetheless, he said, “We ended up being surprised just how bad things got so quickly. There’s really no sign of life anywhere among the traditional players.”

Causes are ticked off easily. Mentioned often is the high teenage unemployment rate, reaching 20.2 percent among 16- to 19-year-olds, far above the national rate of 6.7 percent.

Cheap fashion has also driven a more competitive market. So-called fast-fashion companies, like Forever 21 and H&M, which sell trendy clothes at low prices, have muscled into the space, while some department stores and discount retailers like T. J. Maxx now cater to teenagers, as well.

“You can buy a plaid shirt at Abercrombie that’s like $70,” said Daniela Donayre, 17, standing in a Topshop in Manhattan. “Or I can go to Forever 21 and buy the same shirt for $20.”

Online shopping, which has been roiling the industry for years, may play an especially pronounced role in the teenage sector, analysts say. A study of a group of teenagers released in the fall by Piper Jaffray found that more than three-fourths of young men and women said they shopped online.

Not only did teenagers grow up on the Internet, but it has shaped and accelerated fashion cycles. Things take off quickly and fade even faster, watched by teenagers who are especially sensitive to the slightest shift in the winds of a trend.

Matthew McClintock, an analyst at Barclays, pointed to Justin Bieber as an example.

“Today, if you saw that Justin Bieber got arrested drag-racing,” Mr. McClintock said, “and you saw in the picture that he had on a cool red shirt, then you can go online and find that cool red shirt and have it delivered to you in two days from some boutique in Los Angeles.

“Ten years ago, teens were dependent on going to Abercrombie & Fitch and buying from the select items that Mike Jeffries, the C.E.O., thought would be popular nine months ago.”

Read the entire story here.

Image courtesy of Google Search.

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Predicting the Future is Highly Overrated

Contrary to what political pundits, stock market talking heads and your local strip mall psychic will have you believe, no one, yet, can predict the future. And, it is no more possible for the current generation of tech wunderkinds or Silicon Valley venture fund investors or the armies of analysts.

From WSJ:

I believe the children aren’t our future. Teach them well, but when it comes to determining the next big thing in tech, let’s not fall victim to the ridiculous idea that they lead the way.

Yes, I’m talking about Snapchat.

Last week my colleagues reported that Facebook FB -2.71% recently offered $3 billion to acquire the company behind the hyper-popular messaging app. Stunningly, Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s 23-year-old co-founder and CEO, rebuffed the offer.

If you’ve never used Snapchat—and I implore you to try it, because Snapchat can be pretty fun if you’re into that sort of thing, which I’m not, because I’m grumpy and old and I have two small kids and no time for fun, which I think will be evident from the rest of this column, and also would you please get off my lawn?—there are a few things you should know about the app.

First, Snapchat’s main selling point is ephemerality. When I send you a photo and caption using the app, I can select how long I want you to be able to view the picture. After you look at it for the specified time—1 to 10 seconds—the photo and all trace of our having chatted disappear from your phone. (Or, at least, they are supposed to. Snapchat’s security measures have frequently been defeated.)

Second, and relatedly, Snapchat is used primarily by teens and people in college. This explains much of Silicon Valley’s obsession with the company.

The app doesn’t make any money—its executives have barely even mentioned any desire to make money—but in the ad-supported tech industry, youth is the next best thing to revenue. For tech execs, youngsters are the canaries in the gold mine.

That logic follows a widely shared cultural belief: We all tend to assume that young people are on the technological vanguard, that they somehow have got an inside scoop on what’s next. If today’s kids are Snapchatting instead of Facebooking, the thinking goes, tomorrow we’ll all be Snapchatting, too, because tech habits, like hairstyles, flow only one way: young to old.

There is only one problem with elevating young people’s tastes this way: Kids are often wrong. There is little evidence to support the idea that the youth have any closer insight on the future than the rest of us do. Sometimes they are first to flock to technologies that turn out to be huge; other times, the young pick products and services that go nowhere. They can even be late adopters, embracing innovations that older people understood first. To butcher another song: The kids could be all wrong.

Here’s a thought exercise. How many of the products and services that you use every day were created or first used primarily by people under 25?

A few will spring to mind, Facebook the biggest of all. Yet the vast majority of your most-used things weren’t initially popular among teens. The iPhone, the iPad, the iPod, the Google search engine, YouTube, Twitter, TWTR -1.86% Gmail, Google Maps, Pinterest, LinkedIn, the Kindle, blogs, the personal computer, none of these were initially targeted to, or primarily used by, high-school or college-age kids. Indeed, many of the most popular tech products and services were burdened by factors that were actively off-putting to kids, such as high prices, an emphasis on productivity and a distinct lack of fun. Yet they succeeded anyway.

Even the exceptions suggest we should be wary of catering to youth. It is true that in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg designed Facebook for his Harvard classmates, and the social network was first made available only to college students. At the time, though, Facebook looked vastly more “grown up” than its competitors. The site prevented you from uglifying your page with your own design elements, something you could do with Myspace, which, incidentally, was the reigning social network among the pubescent set.

Mr. Zuckerberg deliberately avoided catering to this group. He often told his co-founders that he wanted Facebook to be useful, not cool. That is what makes the persistent worry about Facebook’s supposedly declining cachet among teens so bizarre; Facebook has never really been cool, but neither are a lot of other billion-dollar companies. Just ask Myspace how far being cool can get you.

Incidentally, though 20-something tech founders like Mr. Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates get a lot of ink, they are unusual. A recent study by the VC firm Cowboy Ventures found that among tech startups that have earned a valuation of at least $1 billion since 2003, the average founder’s age was 34. “The twentysomething inexperienced founder is an outlier, not the norm,” wrote Cowboy’s founder Aileen Lee.

If you think about it for a second, the fact that young people aren’t especially reliable predictors of tech trends shouldn’t come as a surprise. Sure, youth is associated with cultural flexibility, a willingness to try new things that isn’t necessarily present in older folk. But there are other, less salutary hallmarks of youth, including capriciousness, immaturity, and a deference to peer pressure even at the cost of common sense. This is why high school is such fertile ground for fads. And it’s why, in other cultural areas, we don’t put much stock in teens’ choices. No one who’s older than 18, for instance, believes One Direction is the future of music.

That brings us back to Snapchat. Is the app just a youthful fad, just another boy band, or is it something more permanent; is it the Beatles?

To figure this out, we would need to know why kids are using it. Are they reaching for Snapchat for reasons that would resonate with older people—because, like the rest of us, they’ve grown wary of the public-sharing culture promoted by Facebook and Twitter? Or are they using it for less universal reasons, because they want to evade parental snooping, send risqué photos, or avoid feeling left out of a fad everyone else has adopted?

Read the entire article here.

Image: Snapchat logo. Courtesy of Snapchat / Wikipedia.

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Bring Your Parents to Work Day

Some businesses open their doors to the children of employees, enabling kids to get a taste of cubicle life. Some businesses even let their employees bring pets into the office. Now, a growing number of companies is urging prospective recruits to bring their parents to job interviews and corporate events.

(A few words of advice if you’re a millennial looking for a job — by all means bring mom and dad to the interview, but leave the boozy uncle and the grandmother who speaks her mind back at home).

From the Wall Street Journal:

Paul From was used to meeting the spouses and children of employees at company events. As chief executive of Central Wire Industries, a manufacturing firm based in Perth, Ontario, he has long held regular baseball games to get to know his employees better.

But in the past five years, he has noticed his 20- and 30-something employees have started bringing new guests to company socials: Mom and Dad.

Millennials—people born between 1981 and the early 2000s—are much closer to their parents than previous generations, and they have gained a reputation for being coddled by so-called helicopter parents, say researchers who study Millennials. But when they started joining the workforce in the early 2000s, managers balked at parents getting involved in their kids’ workplace struggles or job searches.

That was then. Now, some firms have begun embracing parental involvement and using it to attract and hold onto talent and boost employee morale.

One of them is Northwestern Mutual. Michael Van Grinsven, field-growth and development director at the Milwaukee-based financial firm, says the company does everything it can to accommodate the parents of college-aged interns, including regularly inviting them to the office for open houses.

“It’s become best practice,” Mr. Van Grinsven says, noting that parents can influence their children’s career decisions. Some Northwestern Mutual managers call or send notes to parents when interns achieve their sales goals and let parents come along to interviews and hear details of job offers. They may even visit parents at home.

Mr. Van Grinsven says the efforts have paid off: The number of interns meeting the company’s benchmark for success in sales has risen more than 40% since 2007, a productivity improvement that he attributes in part to more parental support.

In May, Google Inc. held its second annual “Take Your Parents to Work Day,” hosting more than 2,000 parents at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. Participation numbers showed that the event was valuable to employees, the company says.

It may be on the rise, but parental involvement in the U.S. doesn’t begin to match countries in Asia and South America, according to a 2013 study from the global accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

The study, which surveyed 44,000 people from more than 20 countries, found that just 6% of recent college graduates surveyed in the U.S. wanted their parents to receive a copy of their offer letters. That’s well below the global average of 13% and much less than some other countries, where it was as high as 30%. The study also found that just 2% of young employees in the U.S. want their parents to receive a copy of their performance review, compared with the global average of 8%.

Nate Kruse, a financial representative and college unit director at Northwestern Mutual, says that including his parents in the hiring process made them more supportive of his career choice. His mother, Deb Kruse from Hildreth, Neb., says she met her son Nate’s intern coordinator at Northwestern Mutual when he stopped by her house to introduce himself in 2008.

Since then, she has attended several company events, including the company’s annual meeting for employees and their families. Once she attended an intern open house to answer questions from other parents.

“My parents were unsure at first,” Mr. Kruse says. “But seeing the office firsthand allowed them to be that much more confident with the company.”

Read the entire article here.

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