May 272011

I recently saw this post from an artist complaining that Urban Outfitters stole her design. I am a huge supporter of local and independent designers. I love de-constructed, re-constructed, up-cycled, original, vintage fashion, though I feel the whole thing was blown way out of proportion, including UO removing the necklaces from their site*.

This reminded me of many tech companies with items that are first-to-market, but ultimately get superseded by another company’s similar but better product (Microsoft’s surface -> iPad, Sony Walkman -> ipod, Atari -> Nintendo). The cycle of development is even faster in the fashion industry than it is in tech. In tech, ideas are cheap and the devil’s in the execution. In mid-range fashion, the opposite is true. Cheap labor makes for cheap (and fast) execution**. Ultimately, though it’s the entity that moves forward that stays ahead.

Companies can take an idea and make it cheaper, or better or both. Ever wonder why those Luis Vuitton bags have their LV symbol ALL OVER their $1000+ bags? It’s because you technically can’t copyright a specific bag design, but you can copyright a logo. This doesn’t stop all those cheap chinese companies from replicating the design and using an ‘LT’ logo instead. This happens to EVERY high-end fashion label. Ruffles on the runway eventually turn into ruffles at Urban Outfitters. This quote from The Devil Wears Prada sums it up perfectly.

But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin.

Check out these videos for more examples of ‘stealing’

I feel badly for this girl, but she could have something that Urban Outfitters doesn’t – speed and creativity. If she constantly comes out with new designs, it doesn’t matter so much who’s trying to copy her. She could even become (*gasp!*) a trendsetter.

‘Stealing’ designs is definitely a bad thing to do, and speaks volumes to the stealer’s inability to innovate. It’s great to point it out and shame/embarrass them. It’s even better just to come out with a superior product and stay ahead of the curve.

* In fact, I remember seeing California necklaces with a jewel at San Francisco at least 3 years ago in several local shops. State necklaces exactly like this artist’s; more state necklaces, and more. Another example of ‘copying’ fashion I love is when Lady Gaga supposedly copies her bubble dress from Chalayan. Sorry, but the bubble dress is a classic staple from burlesque. The only reason why this story got so much attention is that the internet creams itself over underdog stories and itches to avenge oppression from ‘the man’ (and because nobody like Urban Outfitters. It’s just hipster clothing for the masses, and we consider ourselves superior).

** I’m qualifying mid-range fashion because couture & high-end fashion is technically difficult execution that requires a huge deal of skill, is often handmade, and is incredibly refined in many subtle ways, just like cars. Actually, every industry is rife with copying the innovators.

 Posted by at 10:55 pm
May 262011

I’ve been working on a new company cofounded with friends, SnappyTV. We give you the ability to share clips of television in near-real time from when it airs. Here’s a thoughtful piece from our CEO about our business and the tv-web space.

So today has been a very good day.

One of our video clips from the French Open was featured on the Yahoo home page (eeeep! bouncy bouncy) and …… THE SERVERS DIDN’T DIE! We have somewhere around 1000 views a minute and our entire site was purring. I assure you, this is an impressive feat of pure scaling awesomeness.

Here’s the clip that was featured and the corresponding story.

I’m surprised it got so many hits, considering it has nothing to do with pandas or boobies, although it is a tennis player (Sabine Lisick) crying in pain, so I guess it’s got that going for it.

 Posted by at 4:43 am
Jun 012010

I made this video for a new company I’ve been working with called They do tv & movie recommendations and they have a free iphone app. I’ve been playing with it and it’s pretty cool. It was really fun coming up with which tv shows & movies to spoof. Some of them are more recognizable than others. Can you guess them all?

It took an hour to gather all the props and get my hair like this, and I only shot about 10 seconds of footage. Video is tough!

Spoof tv for

You should definitely try out their service and check out their web site here. It’s still in private beta, so use invite code bee.karen to get access. Let me know what you think!

 Posted by at 5:50 pm  Tagged with:
Mar 102009

It’s around that time again, when my twitter feed is flooded with conversations about sxsw. Many claim that Twitter was put on the map by SXSW 07, when throngs of geeks and bloggers used the service to praise and criticize panels and to find out where the partying was happening.

My first tweet!

Fortunately, Twitter has become much more stable since then, and is now a pretty reliable service. I got curious to see if I could find my first tweet. They still have the data! Check out the little video I made about my first tweet.

I want to know what was your first tweet? Tag your tweet #my1sttweet. It’ll make it much easier to search for your tweets. If you’re not on twitter, you should join!

If you’re not going to SXSW this year, and do not want the constant barrage of tweets from your friends, try Twitter Snooze to silence them for a few days.

EDIT: Looks like Twitter doesn’t keep the data for all users depending on how many tweets you have. Try finding your earliest tweet. :)

Dec 282008

It’s been pretty cold lately (as in, 40 degrees at night! gasp!) and I’ve been trying all sorts of method to stay warm. I regularly wear several layers of socks, but I can’t bring myself to put on these adorable pink booties.

Let’s talk about booties on youtube

Even though the above video is not filmed in HD, it is available to watch in “high quality”. To get the higher quality video on youtube, I’ve been encoding my movies with the h.264 codec using ffmpegx (a mac gui for the command line).

ffmpegx with h264 codec selected

When the site detects this codec as the encoding of your video, it can play your video as is, instead of converting it to an flv*. Some codecs cannot be played by the flash player, which is why they are converted and that process decreases the quality of the video.

*more specifically, the files are converted using the on2vp6 codec. There is a big difference between a codec and a format, but for simplicity, h264 videos -> mp4 extension; On2VP6/Sorenson -> flv. Further reading at wiki pedia

Nov 192008

Austin… what can I say? It was really weird. The story for Austin is full of silliness and definitely worth checking out. Watch episode 1 to get a taste of the absurdity:

Lost in America-Austin:cookies! (ep1) from Karen on Vimeo.

The other episodes are on my vimeo channel and a behind the scenes post about Austin here. Photos and more photos in case you’re not sick of us yet.

Nov 142008

The biggest problem with having a limited paypal account is that they have the records for your credit cards. You cannot use the credit cards on paypal even if you try to pay as a guest user & don’t sign in. I wish there were something better than paypal (in functionality and ease of use, and at least close to equal in adoption rate). After several iterations to remove the swear words and condescending tone, this is what I sent to them.

From: Karen Nguyen
To: Paypal

Dear Paypal,

I do not understand why you think my account is a nonprofit. Several months ago I sent an email to the support group requesting that my account be downgraded from a business account to a personal account. I do not have a business, and I no longer deal with finances for a nonprofit organization. I received an email confirming that my account was downgraded. Now, my account is limited and I cannot send or receive payments. I tried looking through the profile settings and did not find a way to change my account category. I also did a search and it did not have anything helpful to my situation. Could you please help explain how to fix my account?

PayPal requires accounts within the charity / non profit category to provide us with some additional information regarding their organization. Upon a recent review, your account was identified as falling within this classification. Until we can collect this information, your access to sensitive account features will be limited. Please take a moment to provide us with this information so that we can restore your access as soon as possible.

And now, I wait some more.

Apr 092008

Flickr now has video. YAY!! I love the play in place thumbnails. Click the bottom left play button on a thumbnail to see the video play without going to the view page. This puppet video they flickr peeps made is adorable.

Most cameras these days come with a video feature. I use Divx converter to compress all my videos before posting. My canon sd700 creates giant motion jpeg files and they would take forever to upload if I didn’t compress them.

There is a 90 second time limit on flickr videos, which isn’t a lot of time. I’m a big fan of short format content (looooove commercials) so the restriction is just an opportunity do a lot in a little chunk of time. Sometimes the good stuff is a few seconds into the video. For quick and easy trimming I use quicktime pro. I’ve also tried mpeg streamclip and it’s also quick and easy to use.

Here’s a little video I made today so I wouldn’t esploder.

And more chicken dancing at the Pownce brunch.
The royalty free music is by Kevin MacLeod. Pretty much all the music I use is from that site.

Go Flickr Video! Weeeee!