Trendspotting: Messengers of Cool

How new digital networks help hipsters around the globe hunt for the next big thing

Around 100 times a day, a message lands in Reinier Evers' In box, bearing the promise of something new and cool. Sometimes the sender is describing a product that's suddenly generating local buzz, like lipstick-size aromatherapy tubes in New Zealand or cone-shaped pizza in Italy. Other times it's an innovative retail concept, like customized-candy shops in Australia or American T-shirt "delis" where designs are personalized like sandwiches. The correspondence comes in from trendspotters everywhere--a coffee shop in Istanbul or a library in Taipei--all part of Evers' network of more than 7,000 volunteers, most of whom have never met--and will never meet--their...

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