Monthly Archives: February 2012

ReThink: Web Security

We all hate them. Those annoying boxes that prompt us to “enter the following characters into the box below,” the characters which appear to have been scrawled by a two-year-old. Known as CAPTCHAs, they are designed to stop spambots from infiltrating secure systems by “proving” that the user is actually a person and not a computer program. However, their irksome qualities are coming to an end, thanks to rethinking being done by Are You a Human. Now, taking part in making the web more secure is fun, because Are You a Human uses games to prove your humanity instead of presenting you with intelligence-insulting, undecipherable script. It’s one more way innovation is improving our world, one booted CAPTCHA at a time.


ReThink: Accounting (Again)

Here at UnConventional, we believe that rethinking is a never-ending process. You might have noticed, therefore, that we rethink some things two or three or ten times, because one good idea deserves another. Today, we’re again rethinking accounting and taking a look at a company taking the next step in making accounting easier, simpler, and more user-friendly.

The reality of cloud computing is well upon us, and this holds no less true in the realm of accounting. Most new accounting products are in fact web-based programs that operate independently of any one computer. Xero is every bit in line with this new paradigm, but they have taken things a step further. Now, not only is keeping the books simple, intuitive, and manageable from any computer, it’s manageable from anywhere. Xero has unleashed the power of our mobile devices in the pursuit of cleaner, simpler accounting. No more receipts, no more missed transactions, and no more surprises. It’s one step closer to a world without clutter, confusion, and complexity, leaving our hands and minds free to work in our business, not in our accounting.

ReThink: Energy Generation

The old energy paradigm is changing. We used to burn fossil fuels to create steam to turn turbines and then throw out the exhaust. Now, through such technology as cogeneration (which is actually quite old, but coming back into vogue), the potential of traditional energy sources is magnified. Waste heat is captured and put to use until it is completely useless, significantly increasing the efficiency of the energy conversion process and reducing emissions along the way. Cogeneration and its kindred technologies are on their way to becoming a vital component of our future comprehensive energy solution.

ReThink: Parks

Parks traditionally are ground-level green spaces within developed areas or large tracts of land preserved from further disturbance and opened up for the public to enjoy. The High Line in Manhattan is all of these things, except for one aspect: it’s thirty feet in the air. Built on the remains of an antiquated elevated railroad that cuts through the bustle of New York City, the High Line is a linear park that has repurposed what used to be an eyesore into a sensible blend of design, nature, and nostalgia. Now, anyone can enjoy 1.45 miles of relative tranquility in a park that looks, feels, and is like no other.

ReThink: Shoes (Yet Again)

Although UnConventional has rethought shoes twice before, shoes are always worth rethinking, so here’s the latest iteration of pedestrian innovation. And despite what seems to be a backward step (no pun intended) from our original shoe-related UnConvention, this one is worth mentioning for a specific reason, made all the more important by the promised magnitude of its production run: waste.

Until recently, the trend with running shoe construction was increasing cushion, stability, and resulting structure. We are witnessing a reversal, however, in the recent pursuit of lighter, freer, minimal-construction shoes, and Nike, not to be outdone, has released the Flyknit, the shoe that fits like a sock. Inventing brand-new manufacturing techniques, Nike has created a shoe with a seamless woven upper that reduces the shoe’s weight and, equally importantly, its waste. No cutting, no stitching, no scraps, no waste; the Flyknit is a step closer to a sustainable, high-performance shoe that leaves the competition begging for…less.

ReThink: Architecture

Architecture has always fascinated people, and fantastic architecture has awed the masses for generations. Yet good design has traditionally been limited to those places that have the means to realize their architectural dreams. Architecture for Humanity wants to change that paradigm. By enlisting the help of thousands of architects, AFH seeks to bring elegant, purposeful, sustainable building design to places that otherwise could not afford such attention to planning and building concept. From the tsunami-devastated villages of Sri Lanka to the slums of Nairobi to the hundreds of soon-to-be-abandoned US military bases around the world, AFH is bringing world-class architecture to reimagine broken, derelict, and abandoned spaces worldwide, serving the manifold needs of people from every walk of life.

ReThink: Branding

No business can grow and prosper without an identifiable brand. However, branding is an expensive and time-consuming process, something that small companies cannot afford to do well, if at all. Now, thanks to Brands for the People, branding is simple, inexpensive, and attractive, making branding a snap. Focusing primarily on startups, Brands for the People allow clients to submit their product or business to multiple brand designers, who then propose different brand ideas. Clients simply select the branding they like best, and presto! the brand is created. And because Brands for the People requires their clients to be companies dedicated to doing good, the brands created do anything but add to the noise of modern, invasive, degrading branding. No fluff, no fat, no nonsense; it’s branding the way it should be.

(Note: Despite the high-quality video on their homepage, Brands for the People has decided to limit its exposure by not allowing it to be embedded in other websites. Hence, the above, dated, lower-quality video will have to suffice.)

ReThink: Brokerage

Traditional investment opportunities are rather limited for the public investor. Stocks, bonds, CDs, and derivatives of each pretty much define the extent of available places to profitably park extra money. However, SecondMarket is blowing open a number of previously semi-closed markets, such as private company stock, community bank stock, bankruptcy claims, and a variety of fixed income and private equity securities. Though probably not appropriate for Joe Stockholder, significant opportunities are available for the savvy investor as well as for sellers of its eclectic investments. In an age of mind-numbing complexity, SecondMarket is making access to the full spectrum of financial instruments simpler for all.

ReThink: Recycling

Back in the day, recycling was something associated with tree huggers, hippies, and your crazy Aunt Nellie. Today, thanks to increasing awareness of the environmental impact of our lifestyle, recycling is in vogue. However, despite the headway made against the throw-away culture we’ve grown accustomed to, we have a long way to go before recycling is as natural as tossing our refuse in the dumpster. The people at Recyclebank recognize that fact, and they want to make it easier to think green. By offering rewards for recycling and taking other green initiatives, Recyclebank encourages individuals to rethink their consumption habits and take steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Now, the reward of recycling is not only a lighter conscience, but a heavier wallet as well.

ReThink: Accomodations

Every night, tens of thousands of comfy beds lay cold and dormant, unused and forlorn. The beds are sad because they are so cold and lonely. The owners of those beds are sad because the beds are not making any money. Worse still, sleepers in hotels are sad because they are paying an arm and a leg for a generic, uncomfy bed in a cookie-cutter hotel. Airbnb saw all of this sadness and decided to do something about it. Creating a place for beds and sleepers to meet, Airbnb allows unused beds to be used and sleepers to find unique, affordable places to sleep. Anyone can list their unused bed (or room, or apartment, or house, or guest house, or condo, or teepee, or yurt) to people in need of a place to stay. Beds are happy because they get slept in. Bed owners are happy because they make money on an otherwise unused bed. And sleepers are happy because they found the perfect place to stay at just the right price.

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