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Archive for January, 2010

New strategy…

After an amazing few years permanently on the road strategizing, speaking and consulting with the never-ending pirate road show, I was recently presented with an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, and I’ve just taken on the role of Strategy Director at Syrup.

Syrup is a full service creative agency based in New York and Stockholm, with clients including Puma, Christian Dior and Bottega Veneta, responsible for some amazing work including the Hope.Act.Change campaign for Obama and the Ecomagination campaign for GE.

I’ve been consulting for Syrup on a few things since 2008, and have always been blown away by the quality of the work they produce. As Strategy Director I’ll be putting the ideas and research I’ve been doing these last few years into some fantastic projects, including all Puma’s work around the World Cup (check out this recent collaboration we did below with artist Kehinde Wiley).

The never-ending pirate road show will, of course, continue. I’ll be dividing my time between Syrup, speaking, consulting and other projects (including book two, and a new fiction project). It’s a lot of fun talking with all kinds of people and organizations about the cool things they could be doing, which is what I’ve done for the last two years. It’s going to be even better to be able to put some of those plans into action with one of the best creative shops in the business.

My gmail address, numbers etc will remain the same, but you can also get me at matt at syrupnyc.com, so please feel free to drop me a line.

Thank you for your continued support!

Over to Mr Wiley:

Making Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up”

Thanks Alex

This about sums it up


This and the fact that the iPad is choc-full of some of the most restrictive DRM ever to hit a consumer product. Defective by Design calls the iPad “a computer that will never belong to its owner.”

They’re sending this to Apple:

“Mr. Jobs,

DRM will give Apple and their corporate partners the power to disable features, block competing products (especially free software) censor news, and even delete books, videos, or news stories from users’ computers without notice– using the device’s “always on” network connection.

This past year, we have seen how human rights and democracy protestors can have the technology they use turned against them. By making a computer where every application is under total, centralized control, Apple is endangering freedom to increase profits.

Apple can say they will not abuse this power, but their record of App Store rejections and removals gives us no reason to trust them. The iPad’s unprecedented use of DRM to control all capabilities of a general purpose computer is a dangerous step backward for computing and for media distribution. We demand that Apple remove all DRM from its devices.”

Sign the Defective by Design petition here.

Everything is OK

This was my day:

Red Sands

photo by xtinalamb

I developed an unhealthy obsession with the Maunsell Forts when I started researching the book. Built as gun towers in WW2 (by the guy who would go on to design first the oil rig), the forts were later taken over by the first generation of radio pirates in the 1960s. I never thought I’d get the chance to climb around on them (they are now completely off limits to the public), but today, as Ice Cube once noted, was a good day.

I’m back in the UK for the weekend with VICE, hosting a show on the history of pirate radio for VBS.TV. Early Saturday morning we drove down to the east coast to explore Red Sands, probably the world’s most impressive sea fort that’s still standing.

We spent the day with Tony and Robin, two first generation pirate DJs who used to broadcast from the forts in 1960s. Back then Red Sands was considered to be in international waters, being more than three miles off the coast, so pirates could play music from there without having to worry about things like getting caught. There were other risks, like falling in the sea and dying, but as Tony explained to me, he ‘never really thought about it.’

It was a weird feeling climbing aboard Red Sands. There’s rusting pieces of history everywhere you look, both from the forts’ original use as artillery platforms and from their re-purposing as pirate radio stations. They are much roomier inside than you’d think – sort of like the Tardis (Dr Who even paid a visit to Red Sands back in the day). They’re bleak, dark, industrial and dank, but something about them is hypnotizing.

I knew I was going to bug out when I got on board, being a huge fort nerd and all, but the rest of the crew were just as stoked as I was. The whole experience is like nothing else. The way the forts come at you through the fog on the approach like the AT-AT walkers in Empire Strikes Back, the sounds of creaking metal and sea gulls and chiming buoys, the second set of forts at Shivering Sands sitting like dots on the horizon five miles away (which I visited a few years back, but didn’t get to climb on). All the other stuff out there; shipwrecks, wind turbines, ruined piers, container ships zipping by in the background – nothing about Red Sands or the surrounding waters seems real.

Inside there were twelve rooms in all; bathrooms, bedrooms, a kitchen, all battered by the elements, but still in good enough condition that Tony, who lived out here for four years in his twenties (and is now 62) still comes and sleeps on the fort sometimes. It was cool talking to first generation British pirate DJs, swapping anecdotes standing on the roof of the fort, although Tony and Robin made all my pirate stories from the garage/grime scenes look super lame. The conversation went something like:

Me: “Once at Ice FM there was some beef and a guy pulled a knife!”

Them: “Oh. Once seventeen thugs invaded the fort and we chased them away with grenades and flame throwers.”

Me: “Um… At Ice FM, we used to get tons of girls texting the studio and sometimes we’d go meet some up at McDonalds after the show!”

Them: “Awesome. We had boatloads of nubile female fans coming to the forts to sleep with us. Literally. Boats. Full of women. All the time.”

Me: “Ummm… We had a 30 foot antenna and sometimes we’d get our signal out as far as Essex! Plus I used to get like 100 texts per show!”

Them: “We put a 200 foot antenna up with a crane and had eight million listeners, junior.”

Everything about the way the first generation of pirates operated makes the rest of us who followed look a little weak. But Robin and Tony were really cool and very aware of the legacy they left and the culture they help create. Talking to them I realized the thing all pirate DJs seem to have in common is the sense of contributing something positive. The pull of pirate radio isn’t the buzz of not getting caught – it’s the buzz you get from doing community service. To play some records which are being ignored. To support a scene, help it grow and live in the world. I’ve never met a pirate DJ that considered themselves criminal and wasn’t proud of what they did.

Tony and Robin are still out on the forts today, as part of Project Redsand, a non-profit trying to restore the forts to their former glory. They’re doing what they’ve always done: a community service. Same thing they did more than forty years ago when they risked life and limb to bring rock and roll to the UK.

The show will be up on VBS sometime in March.

AIDG’s Catherine Lainé, live from Haiti

Boing Boing posted a great interview with my friend Cat Lainé, Haitian-America tech activist who runs the amazing non-profit AIDG with her husband Peter Haas. Both Cat and Pete are on the ground in Haiti right now. As Cat explains the situation in Port Au Prince is beyond dire, as we’ve all seen and heard by now. Cat’s brother, who lives in Port-Au-Prince, is not yet accounted for.

I don’t know many people more resilient than Cat and Pete, and it’s pretty amazing to hear Cat explain how the Internet, cellphones and social networking is helping people on the ground in real and meaningful ways. If you can, please donate, details are below. AIDG does incredible work at the best of times, and in the worst of times, they are vital. They are also looking for volunteer engineers – details below:

Got this update from Cat this morning:

We have established an operations center in Cap-Haïtien with our partner SOIL to serve as a hub for coordinating volunteer efforts and supplies coming into the country, especially those coming in through the port of Cap-Haïtien and the Dominican Republic (one of the few open routes into Haiti these days). Our presence in the north, away from the destruction zone, has allowed our communication and logistic abilities to continue relatively intact, which has been extremely useful in coordinating efforts on the ground with other partners and aid groups.

As an immediate priority, we are recruiting and mobilizing teams of engineers and other technical experts to directly support relief efforts of key partners. As I write this, we are preparing to send our first teams of engineers into Haiti to support the medical response efforts of Partners in Health, an organization that, as we previously noted, is having a significant impact here. We are particularly interested at this moment in placing French or Creole speaking civil and structural engineers. If you are, or know, an engineer that might be interested in volunteering in Haiti, please send a resume or CV to helphaiti@aidg.org.

AIDG will also be helping to coordinate the distribution of a large number of cookstoves in affected areas. Even before this week’s disaster, AIDG was in discussions with several leading stove groups (including Prakti Design, WorldStove, and Trees Water People), and in fact had been planning to host these groups at a conference in Cap-Haïtien next week to strengthen our collaboration in Haiti. Our focus has obviously shifted in the past couple days, and the group is now mobilizing very quickly to bring in as many stoves as possible, while at the same time developing local manufacturing capacity.

Aside from these immediate response priorities, we are also already hard at work developing a longer term strategy for supporting reconstruction efforts in Haiti, including a collaboration with our friends Architecture for Humanity to promote the development of low cost earthquake resistant housing. More details on this will follow in the coming weeks.

As you can imagine, we have all available hands on deck right now to support the response in Haiti. But WE NEED YOUR HELP to make sure we have the resources to continue these efforts. These next weeks are critical for us and for Haiti, and we are asking you to make a donation, whatever you can, to support our work here. Every dollar helps, and every dollar will have an immediate and direct impact in the wake of this tragedy.

You can make a secure donation online here:


Or if you’d like to mail us a check, you can send it to the following address:

AIDG P.O. Box 104 Weston, MA 02493

We can’t thank you enough for all of your support.


The AIDG Team Cap-Haïtien, Haiti

Walt Disney’s Creative Organization Chart

walt disney flow chart

@Issue (via Josh Spear and Jeff Staple) points to this chart Walt Disney Studios released in 1943, explaining how the company made movies. I love how the entire organization is built around the story rather than chain of command, (though as the chart says, this isn’t about authority). Seems like a much better way to create something great and acknowledges hierarchy often takes a back seat in the creative process, something totally at odds with silo thinking that dominates the studio system today.

As @issue points out, maybe this is a model other businesses should look at. In ideas based economies, we’re making processes, not products. What you really stand for and the way you tell that story is becoming more important to every type of organization. If that story really drives what you do, it makes sense that it’s creation be the central focus of everybody there and you build work flow around it. And if your story isn’t at the core of what you’re doing, you might be doing it wrong…

Big version of the chart here.

It’s Graffiti Markup Language Week!

GML = Graffiti Markup Language from Evan Roth on Vimeo.

Not quite shark week, but almost as awesome:

This week has been declared by The Free Art and Technology (F.A.T.) Lab as Graffiti Markup Language Week, celebrating the projects developed with the use of a specialized XML protocol dedicated to capturing the motion data created by tagging. Allowing graffiti writers to share, study, and catalog their tags, the Graffiti Markup Language has led to the development of the Eyewriter tool for individuals with ALS and the graffiti analysis iPhone app DustTag.

via PSFK.

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