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There’s no denying that consumers like to talk about the brands and products that are part of their lives. That’s why there are sites such as RedesignMe, Hollrr and — most recently — The Chicken. It’s also why Dutch brand Weltevree just launched a social network of its own dedicated specifically to fostering conversation among its local users and suppliers. Weltevree’s products include a popular, outdoor bathtub known as the “Dutchtub” along with an oven designed for outdoor cooking. Launched just last week, the company’s “World Wide Local” is a new digital platform on which users and suppliers of such products can connect with each other by sharing their local experiences and findings. For each product Weltevree sells, the map-based site indicates where in the world fellow users and suppliers have signed on. A click on any of the associated dots on the map leads users of World Wide Local to a description of the user or supplier in question along with photos. Users can also search on more general categories such as “local traditions” and “extreme conditions.” The company explains: “By creating, Weltevree answers questions such as: Who will buy a Weltevree product? How does the Dutchtub perform in the Norwegian snow or on a waterside in Miami? Can the Stonestove warm up my soup?” In this era of transparency triumph, there’s clearly no stopping the discussion about your brand and products. Why not be the one to help make the conversation happen? Spotted by: Katharina Kieck We’ve been writing about product life stories for several years already, covering everything from bananas to furniture to fashion accessories. The latest spotting? A brand-new clothing line based on fabrics hand-woven in India that will give consumers a way to track each item all the way back to the weaver. Eschewing mass-produced fabrics altogether, The IOU Project is now gearing up to launch a line of clothing assembled by craftsmen in Europe using unique, hand-woven Indian textiles. Each piece of clothing will be unique as a result, as one might expect. Perhaps even more important, though, is that The IOU Project plans to track each garment for every step of the way, making the resulting product life story accessible to the consumer via QR code. Consumers who buy the items will also be invited to upload pictures of themselves wearing them. The brainchild of Madrid-based fashion designer Kavita Parmar, the line is due for launch in early May, according to its Twitter page. Parmar shared some details in a report on Pikaland: “The idea was to create easy classic pieces with a lot of beautifully made details. Of course, since each piece is unique it has its own QR code that takes you to the entire story of the product, the video/pictures of the artisan who made the fabric in India and the artisans who made the garment in Europe.” A video on YouTube explains the project’s premise in greater detail. Still not convinced that storytelling can be a winning strategy? Then check out some of the numerous other examples we’ve covered. Next, get tracking and sharing for a product life story of your own! (Related: Online marketplace showcases African artists and their storiesObjects’ stories, trackable & brought to life onlineTracking & tracing fashion brands’ product stories.) Any reader of online discussions will be familiar with the heated debate that often ensues. Hoping to ensure that these debates don’t get out of hand, Korean LiveRe adds a degree of accountability by re-posting users’ comments on online discussion boards directly to their social networks. The service — created by Cizion — can automatically re-post to Facebook and Twitter accounts any comments or messages left on online boards. For example, if a user were to publish a comment on the message board of an online newspaper, the comment would also appear on their Twitter or Facebook profile. The service both helps to spread a user’s online activity to their friends, while also reducing the risk of offensive commenting on message boards, as these comments would no longer be anonymous. LiveRe — named from a combination of the words “Live” and “Reply” — is appealing for both the ease and transparency it offers the world of online messaging. If you host a website with a message board, is it time to look into services such as LiveRe and Facebook Connect in an effort to keep things clean? Spotted by: Joy Woonhyung Kang Anyone who’s ever tried to brew their own beer at home knows that it can be a tricky and time-consuming process, often with variable results. Aiming to offer a simpler and more reliable alternative, New Zealand-based WilliamsWarn just launched a personal brewing machine that can produce customized, commercial-quality beer in as few as seven days. The WilliamsWarn device is an all-in-one brewing machine that was designed to solve no fewer than 12 of the key problems frequently encountered by home brewers, its makers say. Included among those, specifically, are the carbonation process, temperature control and clarification. Instead, the machine is based on an innovative design and patented process that aim to ensure minimal oxidation while making beer brewing simple and quick. Developed with the help of government funding from the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI)’s TechNZ business support programme, the WilliamsWarn device is currently available only in New Zealand at a price of NZD 5,660 plus GST. However, the company hopes to soon expand to other countries as well. One to partner with for beer lovers in your part of the world? (Related: Beer-brewing kits for homes with limited spaceTruck offers mobile bottling for DIY brewersTap your own beer at bars.) Although it’s not a side the public often sees, the sports world can often be just as demanding for a player off the field as it is on it. For professional players, securing a good agent is key to career success. Hoping to ease this burden on aspiring stars, we recently came across Need A Sports Agent. To begin, aspiring young sports men and women can sign up on the website and create their profile. When doing so, they can enter details such as their chosen sport, their physical details, their sporting history, details of previous coaching received, as well as any athletic honours and achievements they have been awarded. They can also specify whether they have played for their region/county, whether they have represented their country, and whether they are prepared to play their sport abroad. With their profile set up, and any additional images and videos uploaded, they can then purchase one year membership to be listed on the site, currently available with 50 percent off at GBP 19.99. Once listed, they will be visible to the website’s registered agents. When creating an agent profile, agents can list the sporting disciplines they are interested in representing, past and current clients, and any certifications they have received from regulatory bodies. For the same price as player’s membership, agents can then view lists of the website’s registered sports men and women, as well as viewing the Need A Sports Agent’s featured sports player. The site also hosts a private messaging facility which allows agents to contact players directly, and there is a blog with advice for aspiring sports stars. There are also plans to introduce a chat feature for sports players to chat and share their knowledge. We’ve seen online marketplaces in the past for a whole hosts of products and services, and it’s encouraging to see an area that is often so difficult to access being opened up in this way. One to be inspired by! (Related: Matching platform for sports teams & sponsors.) Spotted by: Henry Powell Pop-up and roaming restaurants have both graced our virtual pages on numerous occasions before, but it wasn’t until recently that we came across anything quite like Dishcrawl. Whereas most of the ventures we’ve looked at before have focused on a single location and set of culinary experiences at each event, Dishcrawl targets foodies with an experience that promises to let them sample four restaurants in a single night. Launched last year, California-based Dishcrawl now serves New York, Montreal and various cities in California, with regular events featuring a select set of restaurant experiences. Participants begin by buying tickets to an event in the city of their choice. Then, the participants meet at a designated spot that evening — locations are revealed two days before the event — where they don a Dishcrawl button and proceed to the first of four selected restaurants. The ticket prices for events in California, for example, are USD 26 — which covers the cost of all the food the participant cares to sample as they progress from restaurant to restaurant. As well as the company of fellow foodies, participants can enjoy a chance to hear the featured chefs discuss their work. Just recently Dishcrawl added a “Lunch in 60” series to its offerings as well, giving participants a full meal at a local food truck, a chance to meet the chef and an hour-long social experience for USD 10. Coming soon from Dishcrawl will be events designed for singles, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News. In addition to the obvious lure for participants — a chance to discover new places while enjoying a social experience — Dishcrawl offers restaurants benefits at least as compelling. After all, what better way to win new customers than through a little well-packaged tryvertising? One to partner with or emulate in cities around the globe! (Related: Dutch company takes pop-up dining to the great outdoorsUrban adventure game culminates in a secret dining experienceIn Italy, secret pop-up restaurant gives directions via SMS.) Spotted by: Jim Stewart It’s a fact of life that people’s needs change over time, and that’s as true in housing as any other industry. Aiming to create condominiums that are flexible enough to accommodate some of that change, Canadian architectural firm Sweeny Sterling Finlayson & Co. has created a new, modular design for living spaces that allows them to adapt when needed. Created with developer Parallax Investment Corp., FlexNatür is a system for condos by which residents can buy living space in increments and then combine or divide up those increments to suit their current needs. So, rather than committing to a condo with fixed square footage and a preset floor plan, residents instead can buy a certain number of units of space, with room to reconfigure as their needs shift. Thanks to their raised floors, for example, units can be reconfigured without penetrating into the concrete substructure. Self-contained utilities, meanwhile, make it relatively simple to redirect plumbing. And instead of concrete walls, loads are carried on solid concrete columns, enabling walls to be shifted fairly painlessly. The cost to transform such a condo is “less than a third of the cost of major renovations to a home,” according to a report on TreeHugger. The FlexNatür concept is currently implemented in Toronto’s Downtown condominiums, among other projects. All those in architecture and design: be inspired! (Related: New building block design serves multiple purposesEco houses snap together using Lego-style blocks.) Spotted by: R Steinberg The subscription model continues to gain popularity among convenience-minded consumers. However, it’s rare that we see the concept applied to more high-minded goods. Now, however, Papirmasse is a venture from Canada that delivers 12 pieces of art throughout the year for just USD 60. Each month, Montreal-based Papirmasse chooses a new, emerging artist to feature and asks that person to design a print for one of its upcoming issues. On the issue’s backside, meanwhile, it prints a short story, essay, graphic novel excerpt or poem. The result is “a magazine, piece of art, and social experiment all rolled into one,” in the site’s own words. Each issue is printed on archival paper in varying sizes and formats. Subscriptions are sold on a yearly basis for USD 60 so as to keep costs low; back issues are available as well. From open source magazines to periodicals presented on audio LP, it’s clearly an era of experimentation in the publishing industry. The incorporation of original, affordable art, meanwhile, adds a compelling twist. One to watch! (Related: Limited-edition art by yearly subscriptionOriginal art, priced for all.) Spotted by: RP There’s no doubt that technology continues to provide ever-more immersive gaming environments, with the latest graphics and gameplay offering unparralled realism. A new game called Tweetland however, has plans to harness technology to build a gaming environment determined by social networking activity. The game — currently seeking funds on Kickstarter with an target of USD 7,000 — feeds off tweets from around the globe and pulls them into a user’s gameplay experience. For example, in the Route 140 racing game, a tweet reading “I’ve just seen a meteor” from someone on the Twittersphere will result in a meteor landing on the track for the gamer to dodge. The game has been programmed to respond to tweets mentioning a variety of objects and events, such as car accidents, shooting stars, volcano eruption, fireflies and zombies. A video of the gameplay can be seen here. The other Tweetland game currently in production — Love City — feeds off tweets about love or hate, with the player’s gun being loaded with “hate” tweets to combat enemies generated by “love” tweets such as “I like hugs”. Both games feature retro graphics and an original soundtrack. The Kickstarter funding will be used to develop the game for both the web and mobile devices, paying for the dedicated servers to run the Twitter integration correctly and to buy software licenses. Rewards are on offer for backers, such as a place in the game displaying the backer’s name, and access to a beta version of the game before a full launch. For those who can’t wait for that, a sample of the Tweetland world in action can be previewed on their website. The Tweetland world is an intriguing proposition, and it won’t be necessary for user’s to own a Twitter account to play in it. The game’s innovative use of Twitter is one of the more interesting that we’ve seen, and pushes the boundaries for what can be achieved with social networks. If you’re thinking of boosting your brands online presence, this should be food for thought! (Related: In London, public transport travel gets gamifiedFinnish library uses games to crowdsource indexingPlatform adds gaming elements to any website or application.) Spotted by: Katharina Kieck As product customization becomes ever more popular with consumers, it is inevitable that items as personal as notebooks are also being altered to suit individual tastes. Rather than fighting this in an effort to preserve their classic black finish, Moleskine have recently launched a marketplace that embraces artists’ interpretations and redesigns of their notebooks. Artists on the marketplace all take original Moleskines for their canvas, and redesign them using carving, embroidery, painting, screen printing, sketching, and many more techniques. They can then put their customized notebooks up for sale on the marketplace for others to buy. Visitors to the site can browse the marketplace and search it by notebook model, materials and techniques used in the redesign, or, if the notebook is being bought as a gift, by the occasion it is being bought for. Payments are then made via PayPal, and the notebook is shipped directly from the designer. The website also hosts a “Meet the artists page”, where visitors can view the profiles of the Moleskine re-designers and like them on Facebook. In the site’s own words, “The Moleskine Artist Marketplace aims to match what people are looking for with the talent of our users. We are creating this platform to help satisfy the growing demands of our consumers while channeling the revenues directly to our creatively dedicated Moleskine community.” Just as Apple opened up to allow the public to create apps, sometimes it’s worth taking a gamble that puts your audience in the driving seat. Other brands around the world take note: This is a model that inspires brand loyalty and helps build a sense of community. So be courageous, and see what rewards you could reap! (Related: Puzzle books given a design makeover.) Spotted by: Katharina Kieck