The New Fashion: Design It Yourself

The New York Times: “Jimmy Choo is planning to unveil its latest innovation: not a new heel height or shape, but a collection of crystal clip-ons, buttons and bracelets that can decorate pumps and clutches and peep-toe ankle-laced stilettos (even slip-on skater shoes) … to luxe up an otherwise simple pair of shoes according to individual desire.”

“This follows the introduction of Gucci DIY stage 2, a service in the brand’s flagship store in Milan that allows customization of jackets, tuxedos, coats and shoes. Then there’s Opening Ceremony’s new ’embroidery station,’ a sewing machine tucked away in the SoHo store where customers can personalize shirts and jackets with patches and graphics. The service will soon expand to hand-painting, airbrushing and hand embroidery.”

“Theoretically there are protections built in to the customization process, in that the options have been approved by the designer and there are advisers on hand … At least when it comes to the Jimmy Choo offering, nothing is irrevocable since everything is removable … Gucci has preselected the places where DIYers can choose to put their desired patch or initials or embroidery, and Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony … mused, ‘If someone wanted to go really crazy and embellish everywhere, would we say, You can’t do that? We haven’t so far’.”

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The Bestseller Code: Algorithmic Hits

The Bookseller: “Jodie Archer, a former publisher and consultant, and Matthew Jockers, co-founder of Stanford University’s Literary Lab, have built an algorithm aimed at proving that mega-hits are predictable. The system, which analyses theme, plot, style and character to predict whether a manuscript will be a bestseller, has looked at 20,000 novels using “cutting-edge text-mining techniques”. The duo’s efforts are charted in a new book, The Bestseller Code to be published by Allen Lane in September.”

“The authors claims that it is correct ‘over eighty percent of the time.’ However the selection of The Circle, which according to Nielsen BookScan in the UK, has sold 43,638 copies in paperback since spring 2014, and never appeared in the Top 50 or any of The Bookseller’s fiction charts, could prove controversial. The Eggers book—the novel which scored 100% on the algorithm—is described as ‘the single most paradigmatic bestseller of the past 30 years’.”

Jodi Archer comments: “The maverick editor that wants to do something new, to start a new trend, that’s not going to happen using technology.” Yet she says that the algorithm will
“actually be very good” at identifying likely best-sellers.

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Is Bud ‘Light’ on Women’s Pay?

The Washington Post: “In its newest national TV ad, the world’s biggest brewer portrays itself as a staunch defender of paying women as much as men … But the ads highlight an awkward reality for the beer giant — and the rest of corporate America.”

“In the Bud Light ad, (Seth) Rogen and (Amy) Schumer discuss how women must often pay more for the same things, a problem consumer advocates call the ‘gender tax.’ When Schumer says women are charged more for cars, dry cleaning and shampoo (among other things), Rogen says, ‘You pay more but get paid less? That is double wrong!’ Shumer says: “That’s why Bud Light costs the same, no matter if you’re a dude or a lady.”

So, The Washington Post asked “Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Belgian beer conglomerate that brews Bud Light, whether it pays the thousands of men and women in its workforce equally … The company won’t say. It declined to provide data on how many women it employs, how much those women are paid, and how that pay compares to their male colleagues.”

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The Algorithms of Bias

The New York Times: “Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine-learning algorithms that underlie the technology behind many intelligent’ systems that shape how we are categorized and advertised to.” For example: “Users discovered that Google’s photo app, which applies automatic labels to pictures in digital photo albums, was classifying images of black people as gorillas. Google apologized; it was unintentional.”

“This is fundamentally a data problem. Algorithms learn by being fed certain images, often chosen by engineers, and the system builds a model of the world based on those images.”

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Spirit Airlines: Operations = The Experience

The New York Times: “Spirit Airlines is ready to shake off its bad-boy streak and grow up a little … the new chief executive, Robert Fornaro, six months into his job, says he is ready to put a new face on Spirit and a new emphasis on customer service. The makeover also includes toning down the frat-boy image, cleaning up the cabins and maybe even getting more of the planes to arrive on time.”

He comments: “There is a big change in terms of focusing on our operations. This is how we want to be viewed: on time, friendly, clean and efficient.”

“Mr. Fornaro … argues that he can improve on-time and complaint ratings without incurring higher costs … By paying to improve operations, he said, the airline would cut down on expenses in other areas, like fees it incurs when it has to reimburse passengers for canceled flights. It would also cut down on overtime needed to pay staff who work longer hours because of delays. ‘If we run a better operation, we’ll have lower recovery costs,’ he said.”

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Project Sync: Home Depot Streamlines Shelves

The Wall Street Journal: “Instead of filling its warehouse-style racks to the ceiling with Makita drills, rolls of Owens Corning insulation and cans of Rust-Oleum paint, Home Depot wants fewer items on its shelves and it wants them to be within customers’ reach … It is a shift happening across the retail sector as companies try to figure out ways to profitably serve the growing needs of online shoppers while making their network of stores less of a financial burden.”

Home Depot has “instituted ‘Project Sync,’ a series of changes that include developing a steadier flow of deliveries from suppliers into its network of 18 sorting centers … When the shipments get to stores, workers move them right to the lower shelves, eliminating the need to store and retrieve products from upper shelves using ladders and forklifts … Savings can be used to have more workers on the floor or finding orders for shoppers who are picking them up.”

“This also keeps stock from collecting dust out of reach. ‘You would stack it high,’ says Jessica Thibodeaux, manager of a Home Depot just outside Houston, ‘but it wouldn’t fly’.”

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Indie Bookstores: Something Better Than Amazon

The New York Times: “The pronounced stock shortage inside the Librairie des Puf … is not the result of an ordering mistake, but the heart of the shop’s business model. There are books, but they are not delivered in advance from wholesalers. They are printed on request, before the customer’s very eyes, on an Espresso Book Machine … It is a radical reinvention of a store that first opened its doors in 1921.”

“Independent bookstores … are beginning to carve a path out of their business’s decade of decline. ‘It’s an industry which is very much starting to rebound,’ said Nick Brackenbury, one of the founders of NearSt,” which “aims to help local shops adapt to the needs of the modern customers by making local shop inventories ‘shoppable’ from a smartphone, allowing customers to search for titles, find local stores that sell them and see routes there.”

“We just want local stores to be able to offer customers something which is just better than Amazon,” Mr. Brackenbury said.

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Binge-Watching: A Key to Artificial Intelligence

National Post: “MIT says a computer that binge-watched YouTube videos and TV shows such as The Office, Big Bang Theory and Desperate Housewives learned how to predict whether the actors were about to hug, kiss, shake hands or slap high fives — advances that eventually could help the next generation of artificial intelligence function less clumsily.”

“The computer got it right more than 43 per cent of the time. That may not sound like much, but it’s better than existing algorithms with a 36 per cent success rate. Humans make the right call 71 per cent of the time.”

Hamed Pirsiavash, a member of the research team comments: “Humans are really good at predicting the immediate future. To have robots interact with humans seamlessly, the robot should be able to reason about the immediate future of our actions.”

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Cannes Job: The Facebook (Data) Invasion

The New York Times: “Google and Facebook have upended the old order by taking ownership of the new one, claiming nearly two-thirds of the $60 billion online advertising market last year and on course to take more this year … Therefore, the word of the week in Cannes was ‘duopoly’.”

“While Google has usually been the chief villain … Facebook seemed to have assumed the role of Frenemy No. 1. Two hours didn’t go by here without some top executive telling me about how Facebook’s ‘walled garden’ makes it a new intermediary between brands and their customers, and between newspapers and their readers. That gives Facebook the potential to steal them all away if it ever chose to do so. (It says it won’t.)”

“When Facebook is the mediator between advertisers and their customers, ‘They become Facebook’s customers first and the brands’ customers second,’ leaving the question, ‘Who owns the customer data?’ The nearly universal complaint in Cannes was that Facebook was not doing enough to share that data, leaving an informational imbalance that, combined with Facebook’s digital market share, gives it asymmetrical negotiating leverage.”

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