We are wacky! We have orange balls!

A weary Valley journalist perked up at the most hopelessly perfect PR pitch:

I'm strangely impressed and entertained. Not by the client but by the sheer over-the-top zing of this pitch, for so many little reasons. This piece is a milestone in pitching history. Henceforth all pitches for my consideration must include

1) Ego-stroking mention of my recent article about a different topic.
2) High-res photos of client with 10,000 orange balls.
3) Futurist quotes from CEO.
4a) Cellphones, 4b) PDAs and 4c) pagers.
5) Office furniture. I use this stuff myself. How did they know?
6) "Infotrons."
7) A Flickr mashup.
8) A description of Google in China as "potentially problematic."
9) An anagram from last week's episode of Lost. They forgot this one, dammit.

Here's the pitch.

Dear [redacted],

[Some details redacted] MAYA Design, based in Pittsburgh, PA, is an unusual and very interesting company for its dual personality. It's an active consultancy with a list of important clients, but MAYA is just as much a research house, engaged in figuring out the future of information and our interactions with technology. What's more, MAYAns are a bunch of really creative, very quirky people. For example, their CEO, Mick McManus, filled his office with 10,000 orange plastic balls to illustrate the number of emails he received in a week (Great pictures at www.maya.com/local/gould/mickoffice/maya_mick_office.zip). His point?

Oh boy, what could it be? The answer, and a hell of a lot more press release, after the jump.

"We now have 6 microprocessors for every human. Sooner or later we're going to have a trillion information devices, and most of them will be talking to each other and to us. But there is a huge problem when it comes to fulfilling the vision of interoperability in "smart" environments — the tyranny of large numbers.

"The near-term hassle of dealing with a few smart information devices is nothing compared to the future hassle of dealing with whole rooms, or even buildings, filled with smart information devices, furniture, walls, floors, white boards, etc. (Not to mention all the PDAs, cell phones, and pagers that individuals
bring into the building.) Just imagine a desk being even one-tenth as difficult for a non-technical person to use as a PC, and you get the picture. Usability, installation, configuration, and maintenance issues will abound in a world of pervasive computing."

Some of their recent projects are excellent examples of MAYA's focus on usability and information design. Among other things, engineers at MAYA have created a Mad Libs-like building block system of "infotrons" to make it easy for non-programmers (albeit with a little HTML knowledge) to insert highly sophisticated elements into their websites. It works thus: wannabe webmasters choose an infotron with the action they need - for example, one that pops up a message whenever anyone arrives at the site. They then type in their message, insert it into the HTML code for the page, and voilà, a message appears. Another example: If they want to show photos to friends, users can link three infotrons: one that pops up a username as soon as the page loads, a second one that goes to flickr and grabs all public photos with that username, and finally the third, which outputs the photos as a slide show. Want to make it possible for your friends to do the name thing (on your site) with their pictures? Just change the first infotron to one that asks for their username. Really easy.

The other importance of MAYA's work? Conflict mediation. Unlike Google, which - because of its technology - must legislate "correct" answers to questions, often important ones, MAYA's Geobrowser allows for arguments. For example, in Google Earth, Google has to take a stance on whether Taiwan is part of China or its own country. They have no choice, as their system admits no ambivalence. At the same time, any decision made is politically charged and potentially problematic. MAYA's Geobrowser is designed so that no one has to make judgements about Taiwan's status. Instead, the argument is duly noted in the piece of information u-form) that refers to Taiwan. The user can then choose whether they want to accept Chinese authority on the matter or see Taiwan as a free state. The specifics of how this is done are best explained by MAYAns themselves, but there are any number of examples that can illustrate the point.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of the breadth of thought going on at MAYA. I'd be happy to organize a quick interview with some of those involved at if any of this interests you, and I look forward to hearing from you.



Emily Mason
Account Executive, Publicist
Ricochet Public Relations

Bonus points if you can figure out what work Maya actually does.