FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Let the Strangeness That is the Presidential Inauguration Commence

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Regardless of your politics, mega-events like next week’s Presidential Inauguration tend to bring out the weird. At its noblest, the inauguration is an inspiring symbol of the grandeur of the Republic and the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.

But lest we forget, it’s also a giant party. Drunken revelers famously trashed the White House at Andrew Jackson’s, although history has long forgotten who committed the first presidential party foul. For real history geeks, the Senate website has a good rundown of inaugural highlights. My favorite so far: President John Quincy Adams’ precedent-setting decision to wear long trousers rather than knee breeches to his 1825 inauguration.

This year, of course, features its own quirks. Salon has a good slideshow of the most random inaugural souvenirs, including your very own inaugural dog sweater. In more urgent news, there is a looming shortage of Port-A-Potties for this year’s festivities.

And here we were thinking the Fiscal Cliff was a crisis.

But the winner for inaugural weirdness goes hands down to Victoria Devine, who is pioneering the job of social media butler as part of a lavish hotel inauguration package. The job is what you might expect. Devine tweets, sends Facebook updates and Instagrams the entire weekend – although hopefully no anguished statuses about searching the National Mall for a Port-A-Potty.

Although, come to think of it, that’s not a bad opportunity for crowdsourcing. Or maybe some kind of geo-tagging app.

Startup wizards, you know what to do.

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Photo Credit: joewcampbell


Freaky Friday: Weird of the Day – Tri-Freakta – The Hermit Kingdom Revisited, Smart Silverware and Digital Parenthood

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Man, 2013 is off to a weird start. So weird, in fact, that we’re bringing you a triple dose of FreakyFriday, all crammed into one freakishly compact post.

1. Google chief searches North Korea

First, the seriously freaky: In our last episode we touched on Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s visit to North Korea. As an update, Schmidt did right by Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” credo and called on the Hermit Kingdom and its leaders to embrace the Web.

I don’t know if anyone is hopeful that the world’s most authoritarian regime will find much use in supplying its people with a massive, open source of information that encourages personal expression. But, hey, somebody had to say it to Kim Jong-un’s face, because I don’t think the guy has a Facebook. Either way, Eric Schmidt walked around North Korea looking at things, which is apparently what you do in North Korea if you’re important, at least according to Tumblr.

2. The age of smart cutlery is here

The gadget powwow 2013 International CES was held in Las Vegas this week. In the last couple years it has actually been just as popular to write about why CES isirrelevant – and there is a strong case when Apple and Microsoft don’t even bother to attend – but, all the same, it’s usually good for at least a few interesting tech curios.

Our favorite this year: the smart fork. Yes, the HAPIfork is a utensil designed to help you lose weight by letting you know when you’re eating too fast. The HAPIfork is making at least some people sad. The news and culture site Salon declared that the smart fork is a sign that civilization is doomed. We’re not prepared to go that far, but hey, the fork goes back to at least the eighth or ninth century, and it’s been working pretty well ever since.

You should probably stick a fork in this idea, and into some healthy food, if you want to really lose weight.

3. Parenting 2.0

This is destined to become a question on Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me. A Chinese father, tired of his son playing video games instead of looking for a job, hired virtual hitmen to assassinate the kid’s character in online video games – the idea being that eventually he would get tired of constantly losing and quit playing.

It’s an ingenious example of crowdsourcing, but, alas, it didn’t work.

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – App Promises Make You Productive through ‘Self-Blackmailing’

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

These days, we have about as many apps and devices to keep us productive as we have cat pictures and social networks working to sabotage that productivity. From time-tracking devices that gauge how long we’ve spent on certain no-no websites to the practice of “lifehacking” to find out how we pass every minute of every day, we have tons of high-tech ways to get our butts in gear and get things done, no matter how much time we want to spend looking at Ryan Gosling memes.

But is blackmail going to far?

A new app, now in Beta testing, called Aherk! thinks not. Its website touts it as a service that uses “goal-oriented” blackmailing to get users to achieve certain carefully laid out objectives, or else.

Or else what? Well, therein lies the fun part. When you set a goal with Aherk!, you also upload an embarrassing or compromising picture of yourself. If you don’t meet your goal in the timeframe you prescribe for yourself, the app automatically uploads said embarrassing photo to Facebook.

But how the app determines you’ve met your goal is, if anything, even weirder than the punishment for not doing so: it crowdsources. Your Facebook friends all get to vote as to whether the goal has been met. In other words, there’s plenty of potential for your friends to stab you in the back and get the app to upload your picture anyway, even if you have achieved your initial goal. That is, if you have really mean friends.

We think one of the funniest aspects of the app is the potential to match your embarrassing picture to the achievement you’re aiming for. For example:

  • Looking to lose weight? How about a picture of you at your worst angle, gobbling up your favorite food. Better yet, a close-up of all your chins.
  • Want to call Mom or Grandma more often? Try choosing something you’d never ever want your sweet granny to see. We’ll let your imagination do the rest.
  • Trying to be more productive at work? Upload a photo of yourself partaking in your most embarrassing habit, whether that’s playing Magic: The Gathering or watching one of the “Real Housewives” shows.
  • Want to be neater? Snap a pic of your house at its most disgusting – we’re talking crusty dishes in the sink and cockroaches in the cupboards. Nasty.

What do you think? Would the prospect of public humiliation make you more productive?

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