Stories, moments, people and ideas of interest from within the worlds of innovation and design, spotted and written about by Helen Walters, design writer, editor, and ideas editor at TED. Attitude, errors and opinions obviously all the writer's own.
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July 17, 2012
"During World War II, the Red Cross had comfort stations for soldiers overseas, with free coffee and free doughnuts. Then, in 1942, the Red Cross started charging for the doughnuts. Soldiers have held a grudge ever since."
Sweet NPR story on how changing the rules half way through the game can have unintended consequences, or, in this case, really grumpy veterans holding a grudge. As the story concludes, there’s a lesson here for modern businesses: “For all the Internet companies out there looking to charge for your service — take heed. Changing categories is really difficult.”
"Doctors at his clinics were paid a flat fee for each opioid prescription they wrote—typically, $75 to $100 a pop. To help maximize their efficiency, doctors were given prescription stamps they could use quickly, over and over. It was common for physicians at American Pain to see 100 patients a day, he says. At that rate a doctor would earn roughly $37,500 a week—or $1.95 million a year."
American Pain: The Largest U.S. Pill Mill’s Rise and Fall tells the story of Christopher and Jeffrey George, twin brothers who opened their first “pain clinic” in Fort Lauderdale in 2008 and both of whom are now in jail for racketeering conspiracy. It’s a fascinating, sobering tale of an industry whose denizens pushed the boundaries of the law as far as they’d possibly go, and then pushed them just a little bit further. Of course, their choices then had on impact on many, many other people, not just those looking to get their painkiller fix. As the quote above shows, physicians and doctors were lured into the web by being paid astonishing amounts of money for rubberstamping prescriptions. This, of course, is not ok, and most doctors would have no truck with such a scam. But the fact that so much of this article is almost nonchalant — “of *course* this happened,” is the note sounded by one of the brothers in an interview conducted in prison — shows how important it is to imagine the dark side of any new service right from the get go. You might not want to use a new power for evil, but you can bet your life someone out there will. And on that rather hopeless note…
"Another big ad agency wants an inspirational talk to their Creatives, won’t find the tiny fee. This is how artists survive. Shame on them."
— Agencies and companies often hold “salons” to inspire their assembled troops. Some companies make a fairly tidy reputation for doing so (I’m thinking of things like the authors@Google events, which started back in 2005.) But there’s a difference between an author touting his or her own published work in the name of marketing and selling books, and agencies calling in artists to get them to show off amazing work… and then not paying a dime for the privilege. The above tart tweet came courtesy of British public artists, Greyworld (see my previous post on their most magical work), whose leaders just experienced this very situation. They followed up with a longer rant on Facebook. It’s good to see the growing confidence and independence of artists and designers who used to believe they had to rely on the largesse of the bigger agencies that so often commissioned their work. The worm, as they say, is in the process of turning. And frankly there’s no quid pro quo if one party doesn’t get no quid.
The RSA sure started off a trend with its animated narration style of video. This one was (not made by the RSA and) made to complement a new book from The Economist’s Matthew Bishop, and Michael Green, authors of In Gold We Trust: The Future of Money in an Age of Uncertainty. Their provocative question: “Are we on the verge of a revolution in the technology we call money?” Given the revolutions we’re seeing bubbling up in so many sectors of society, it would seem foolish to brush this off without further thought.
I really enjoyed reading this piece by Michael Pusateri explaining why he won’t be attending the South by Southwest Interactive conference this year. I was never able to attend SxSW in its early years, and I was resolutely unwowed the one time I did go (in 2008) for exactly these reasons. But I hadn’t thought of it in the terms that he outlines here, which I found interesting and a useful way to think about conferences—and choosing which ones to attend. The differences according to Pusateri, then, are that at business conferences, you’ll find:
Focus on making money
Trade show marketing booths
Product launches & announcements
Press attending to report on events rather than participate
Formal sponsored parties
At conferences aimed at individuals, on the other hand, you’ll find:
"If a professor assigns books that cost more than $50 per student, per semester–take the excess, multiply it by 100 and subtract it from their salaries. If less, add the total as a bonus. Make the professors bear the weight of the external negative effects they have on the economy (and my pocketbook). On average I would say that most of my professors would take hits ranging from $2,000 to $10,000."