Size 8

Nestleed Among the Candy Bars

I know the candy and checkout lane knick knacks are positioned by big box analysts and managers to encourage spontaneous purchases. “I didn’t intend to buy a Milky Way and a root beer, but they were right there. Practically jumped into my cart.” However, here is a case where shoes found some host who ushered them into this primo location. Size 8. Now, in shoe stores, socks and shoe laces crowd the checkout area. But what kind of store–maybe a sock store?–would feature shoes in the checkout lane?

Aisle Mich

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz lately about the Buy Michigan Now program. There’s a related festival in Northville this weekend. We didn’t make it over there, but the local television news coverage has portrayed it as a Michigan products showcase, with products amounting mostly to local foods, fashion, art.

This is the second annual festival, which means the BMN group has been around for a couple of years. Their web site challenges visitors to take a pledge. Nearly 5,000 people have done so to date. Like many pledges, with this one people promise they will think differently, that they will speak positively of Michigan:

I hereby pledge to play an active role in building a strong, vibrant, and diverse Michigan economy. I will be a part of the solution by speaking positively about the state, learning about our products and services, and making a concerted effort to buy from Michigan businesses. I will Think Michigan First!

I suppose this kind of thing will become increasingly common as we (all?) square with the consequences of economic dissipation–a products and services onslaught from elsewhere, too frequently from anywhere else but here. Despite the emphasis on economic stimulation via spending and consumption (also this fee structure for landing in a database), programs like these are reasonable attempts to affect how people think about the local. Granted, BMN is more Long Here than Long Now. But it’s a start, even if what the planet (and Detroit by proxy) really needs is more Long Here and Now.

It starts me thinking about related improvements. Ignoring for a second the spatio-categorical inertia common to all major grocery stores (specialty food markets seem willing to tinker with this), it would make sense for grocers to reconfigure ever so slightly around buy local programs like this one. BMN provides a PDF grocery guide, for example (Why is Bell’s not on the list?). But just think: if, instead of carrying the list around, I could walk into a store and pass through an area where products all came from the state I live in, I would be much more likely 1) to recall those products as viable options and 2) to purchase them. But radical rearrangement is at odds with an existing infrastructure unsuited to relocating some subset of dry goods, frozen foods, produce, and meats (even if Meijer already does something like this for a “Lunch on the go” cooler curiously positioned in the middle of aisle 7 or 8). Another route would be an added layer of labeling: big blue stickers on Michigan products (faceted classification for grocery products). And another would be some sort of intelligent environment device­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­–an app for the smartphone–that adds locative snapshots to a illuminate a product’s trail before arriving at the store and, while it’s at it, puts it in the context of a couple of recipes. Still a few years off (bad news for the ‘N’ in BMN, if so), yet redefining encounters with products in the spaces where we typically find and buy them might make appreciable progress toward a $10 per week spending habit that would, so the BMN promotional materials argue, scale all the way up to $38 million if adopted across the state.

Google Speedreader

I’m an avid skimmer of Google Reader. On most days, I periodically login and use quick keys to flip through 100 or so items. I might read one or two of them, start another few items, publish one or two as shared items. The key is to use it as productive digression, not to get bogged down with it as an obligation or labor-intensive duty. When I miss a day or find the feeds creating an insurmountable backlog, it’s easy enough to mark all as read.

This morning I noticed Google Reader’s down-counting ticker kept hitching–stopping on a number and no longer counting down, no matter how many times I pressed ‘N’ext. For months I’ve had Helvetireader working through Greasemonkey in Firefox; figured that must be it. But even after I deactivated Greasemonkey, the ticker continued to act up, firing only for the first few items and then sticking. The ticker would stop on a number (e.g., 80), and the fed RSS items would continue skipping down the page, many of them reruns. The service wasn’t broken, exactly. But it was (and remains) up on the blocks. Somebody is tinkering with it.

I caught a few clues on Twitter during the day (Thurs., a day I usually spend at home, half fathering, half professing) speculating about whether Google had activated Pubsubhubbub, a nearer to real-time relay process for RSS deliveries. Then, a few minutes ago, both in Google Reader and via Will Richardson’s Twitter stream, I saw this entry from The Next Web, “Has Google Reader Just Gone Real Time?” Possibly: Google is adjusting Reader so it will turn around RSS-fed content momentarily. Until now, Google Reader-fed material was delayed, arriving anywhere from 30-90 minutes after the content was first published. Google’s demure response (cited in The Next Web piece) is unsurprising in light of reactions to Google Buzz. But an upgrade to Google Reader that nudges it toward the ever-unfolding now is an intriguing, promising development, nevertheless. Moving Reader toward the now may dislodge assumptions about its readerly orientation and help us come to terms with it differently as a writerly/receivable mechanism–a platform for collaborative filtering (like Delicious networks) and threaded conversational annotation (both of which take GR well beyond a flat consumption practice). I’m encouraged to see some new energy routed Google Reader’s way. In fact, while it’s much too early for me to be decided about Google Buzz, if it makes any appreciable impact on Google Reader, all the better.