Tag Archives: Los Angeles

The 3six5 Blog: 11/1/11

1 Nov

Earlier this year, I signed up to write an entry for the3six5 blog. Each day for 365 days, a different person writes a diary entry about their thoughts or experiences for their assigned day. Not only does it give a snapshot into an entire year as told by people around the globe, but also gives a platform for individuals to express and connect. Each author also includes their own photo or image. It’s a fantastic crowdsourcing concept.

Here’s my post about 11/1/11:

Griffith Park & The Hollywood Sign

Rabbit Rabbit! 11/1/11. A new month, a new day for auspicious beginnings.

So goes my internal pep talk.

Is it horrible to feel plagued by options?

After more than seven years in LA, it’s still remarkable to wake up to 80 degrees, blue skies and sunshine. My Chicago roots make me think this version of November is unfair, or somehow cheating.

My gut keeps nudging me that LA isn’t forever. Chicago is my home, where my family lives and misses me. I miss them too. But California has gotten under my skin.

I used to live in Santa Monica, 13 blocks from the ocean. It’s beautiful, but sterile. I moved to Silver Lake, trading saltwater air for a bedroom view of the Griffith Park foothills. The neighborhood is grittier and more hipster-y, and I love it. I’m more creatively engaged and invigorated.

But the mountains taunt me today. I broke my ankle four months ago and I’m still recovering from my surgery. While I’m grateful for being able to walk, I’m not quite ready to go jogging around the 2.2 mile Silver Lake Reservoir loop or hike past Griffith Observatory. An outdoor active lifestyle is one of my top 10 reasons for living in LA—along with In-N-Out Burger. Although I’m healing, seeing the mountains makes me feel trapped in my limited physical mobility.

But, really, my life is as movable as ever. Now that I (thankfully) no longer work in the film industry, I’m not tied to LA. The freedom of consulting is just awesome—I work when and where I want.

The tradeoff is that I’m usually alone. I live alone, I don’t have a central office (except my adopted coffee shop), my family isn’t here, and I just ended a long-term relationship. I love my liberating lifestyle, but I want to grow roots, too.

So I’m evaluating my options. I’ve given myself until the New Year as my deadline for making a decision. Weather and friends? Family and hometown roots? Will a change of scenery help me fill in the blanks for what’s next?

But I keep these questions in perspective. There’s a lot to explore beyond the mountains.

About the author: Julie Epstein (aka @tastyjules) is a Digital Strategist withAjax. Chicago-born & LA-living, she’s a live music fan, marathoner & foodie.

#flightvsbike: Social Media Takes on JetBlue for Carmageddon

19 Jul

In case you were hiding under a rock over the last several weeks, July 16-17 was Carmageddon weekend in Los Angeles. Ten miles of the 405 freeway, from the 10 to the 101, were to be shut down for 53 consecutive hours while contractors demolished and rebuilt the Mullholland Bridge. Thankfully the contractors completed the project 17 hours in advance — go contractors!

As a fun publicity campaign, JetBlue–known for online innovations–offered a limited number $4 flights, including taxes and fees, from Burbank to Long Beach over the weekend. The idea of taking a 15 minute flight across town is a customary LA daydream.

On Thursday before the pending doomed weekend, Slate journalist Tom Vanderbilt casually asked on Twitter:

This tweet sparked a fast and furious revolution amongst cyclists and Vanderbilt, who together concocted a challenge: Wolfpack Hustle, a non-professional yet avid group of cyclists, would race two friends from the same Hollywood residence to Long Beach on Saturday, starting at 10:55 am. The cyclists had to adhere to all rules of the road–no offroading, running lights, or knocking over pedestrians–while the two friends would go to the Burbank airport and fly JetBlue to Long Beach. Whoever reached the Long Beach aquarium first wins.

SPOILER ALERT: The cyclists won. By a lot. They already reached Long Beach before the JetBlue flight took off. There are great details of the contest on Slate and the cyclists highlighted key minute-by-minute tweets on Storify and LA Streets Blog.

Besides this being a totally fun exercise, #flightvsbike, which became a trending Twitter topic, is a great example of how individuals can use social media to engage directly with mega brands. From a brand’s perspective, #flightvsbike shows how publicity campaigns create and extend conversations via social media. I’m sure JetBlue spent a good deal of money on this marketing campaign, not even including the extra flight costs. But did JetBlue really care if — or honestly think they could — beat the cyclists? Probably not. Regardless, the friendly contest gave JetBlue’s campaign extra press coverage, surely adding to their social media ROI.

Personally, I think every day in LA is Carmageddon. According my unscientific survey of Google Maps, as well as screenshots that friends are posting of the freeways on Facebook, it seemed like traffic over Carmaggedon weekend was at an all time low.

Congrats to @wolfpackhustle! Thanks for making Carmaggedon fun to watch on Twitter!

Yelp, Clay Shirky and Me

15 Mar

It seems as though I am the Yelp advocate of the APOC crew.

Sure, I’ve been Yelp Elite since 2006. I currently have about 300 reviews (ok, 298, but I will get to 300 soon enough). I mostly review restaurants, though I also review bars, nightlife, services, arts and entertainment locations, etc. I also use Yelp as a guide for finding places to go and things to do. I found my mechanic on Yelp. I am discovering awesome local restaurants in my new neighborhood and keeping track of the best dishes to order. I discuss foodie topics on the talk threads, send compliments to fellow Yelpers on reviews that I think are Useful, Funny and Cool, and meet Yelpers in person at monthly Elite events at locales around LA. (Full disclosure: Yelp provides free food and drinks at these events).

Several of my classmates are skeptical about my involvement in Yelp, and about the Yelp platform in general. Why do I participate if I don’t get paid? Why do I trust Yelp? Yelp has been discussed in the news recently as an “extortion scheme,” as several local LA businesses have come forward in a class action lawsuit that claims Yelp asked for payment in exchange to remove negative reviews. My classmates Ruby and Christopher provide great insights on their blogs about the Yelp lawsuit. As an active Yelper, I wanted to add my own two cents to the discussion.

In Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky addresses the concept of “nonfinancial motivations” as powerful means to building trustworthy online communities. In Chapter 5, “Personal Motivation Meets Collaborative Production,” Shirky discusses the evolution of Wikipedia as a widespread, successful and informative tool. Anyone can launch a wiki page and anyone can edit, change and update that same wiki page, thus creating a mass “coordinating resource” (117) that is a dynamic “process” as opposed to a static “product” (119). Shirky claims that much of Wikipedia’s success comes from the fact that, “since no one is being paid, the energetic and occasional contributors happily coexist in the same ecosystem” (121). He devotes an entire section of this chapter to asking “Why Would Anyone Bother?” contributing or updating Wikipedia and offers three primary motivations:

1) “chance to exercise some unused mental capacities” (i.e., sharing knowledge);

2) vanity; and,

3) the desire to do a good thing.

This third motivation directly relates to my involvement with Yelp. Just as Shirky believes that “the ability to make nonfinancial motivations add up to something of global significance” (133), I believe that the individual desire to share knowledge is a good thing in and of itself. The idea of getting paid to write Yelp reviews undermines Yelp’s M.O. (and business slogan) of “Real People, Real Reviews”. It is the individualized nature of Yelp that promotes authenticity. I Yelp about what I want, when I want, as much as I want. Being paid would potentially drive me to tailor the quality of my reviews more positively towards paying businesses (or negatively towards their competitors). This would render the site basically useless, as the reviews would be sanctioned public relations stunts as opposed to genuine reactions from consumers. Thus, I believe the current lawsuits stemmed from misunderstandings about Yelp’s process, as opposed to Yelp subterfuge. I trust Yelp because it provides an open forum to discuss my ideas; I discuss my ideas because I want to share my knowledge; and given the positive reactions to my reviews by friends and fellow Yelpers, my knowledge seems to be valuable for the community. In my opinion, Yelp is the “shadow of the future” in action — without any real risk, I offer my genuine, authentic knowledge with the belief that others will reciprocate, which snowballs into an authentic community of local discussion and reactions. Such discussion is incredibly useful for businesses from a customer engagement and service standpoint, as they can evaluate, change and improve goods and services based on free consumer feedback.

To answer Shirky’s question: I bother because Yelp allows an open forum for me to be authentic, without being concerned about answering to “the man”. And this is why I will continue to be a Yelp advocate.

Now for shameless promotion (ie, reason #2: vanity):

Check out my Yelp page: juliee.yelp.com. Add me as a friend, follow me as a fan. I would love to hear your comments (and compliments!) on my reviews.

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