Sunday, August 28, 2011

How To Blog

Update: Who am I to talk? I who have published a total of 8 posts in a year. I think this kind of conundrum is one I'm not tormented with alone. That of dispensing advice and failing to live by it or to even effectively carry it out. I would love to say I try. I would be lying.

Fight on.
Sit down, and write.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Some Thoughts On Influence and +K

In everything I learn and read, I try to find ways to relate to other things I have learned or read. I call this association of things "connecting the dots," and while the term in and of itself may not be totally original, the practice it seems is far less common.

"Woe is me!"

+K is like Respect. You have to earn it.

When new tools come out in the social media space or in technology in general I always try to connect the dots from the online world to the real world. What do we do offline that we're mirroring with this new technology? In the real world, we assign influence to a person based on a widely-varied number of factors. They may have an impressive education, or be smart, or know "important people" (why that is in quotes is another blog post), or be a great singer, or they may have built something unique or written something thought-provoking. Regardless of why a person is assigned the label of "influential," it is something that other people have given them and not something that they necessarily commanded in and of themselves (aside from Kanye). Their position as an influential is something that has developed over time, through focused thought and endless toil. It is also built on their frequency of accuracy. You don't see too many influential scientists who are wrong all the time. Or who disregard the scientific method. In this way, I guess, influence is like what some people say of respect. To get it, you have to earn it.

This brings me to Klout's latest release, +K. Disregarding the chicken/egg question with Google's +1 (which came first?) I have to admit I was initially both put off and intrigued by the idea of people ranking each other using such an arbitrary system. But I realized after a chat with @bryanjones (holla on Twitter if you haven't already) that no only is assigning influence to a person relative to the assigner, but so is the medium with which they choose to make it known. What matters is the weight the person viewing the recommendation assigns to both the recommendation and the medium.

How does this work in real life?

For example, it may not matter much at all if I +K my aunt's (a professor of neuropsychology) profile on Klout. 1) I'm not in the field of neuropsychology so my opinion matters little there and 2) members of the field of neuropsychology may assign little if any value to a +K 3) She would probably have low numbers anyway because she only uses LinkedIn, so what good would my +K on any topic really do here?

 But let's say her field as a whole regularly used social media, and my aunt as a member of this field did too. Then, it is likely that they would put great thought into rewarding +K to another, so then it means something. Or maybe a better, real life example is, if her dissertation were cited in a neurogeek journal as inspiring a new theory or form of research, then that would be the kind of influence that matters, since it means something to her, the person citing her and the reader.

You've got issues.

I guess that's where +K loses me. For starters, no one's agreed that Klout is the standard of influence for anything, social media in particular. Sure, it's great that they're working on an algorithm, and especially great that they now add LinkedIn networks into the equation, but if we assign no value to a Klout score in the first place, who cares about a more fleeting +K?  They're still a for-profit company with active competitors like PeerIndex and Twitalyzer. They still have to find a way to make money from the data we give them with each +K. What will this turn into?

Also, don't we need a standard by which to measure? Especially if +K's are to be "social currency" (different than social capital? Yes. Way cheaper.) what value can we assign if there's no standard to hold them up against? Even the dollar had the gold standard at one point. Will we get to a point where we measure social net worth?

There's also the point of gaming the system. One of the comments on this post refers to "social media optimization" (what we at @bizzibiz also call it btw) and alludes to this opening the door to the potential for "black hat" practices on social media sites. I've already heard of people verbally asking for a +K. In and of itself that may not be a bad thing but if we are eventually using Klout to measure influence (I'm optimistic and hope they'll fix some of their more leering issues), how are we to know which +K's are authentic and which are bartered for something else, like a linkback? If I'm currently influential in soccer and food, what's to stop me from DMing a few of my tweeps to get a enough +K's to livetweet from the Gold Cup?

Despite my misgivens, I'm going to be toying with the +K feature this week, but don't worry, I'm being picky.
Oh and on an unrelated note: Check out this video!

Digital Life: Today & Tomorrow from Neo Labels on Vimeo.

Spiff over and out.

Have you used the +K feature of Klout? What influences you? (either IRL or online)
Share below!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Holy Move Spaceman! (A post 3 months in the making)

So wow, there is sooooo much to tell you all! If you follow me on Twitter, you're probably aware that I just made a two day road trip with a couple other guys from Ohio to my new home, Scottsdale, AZ.
Goodbye Ada! ROAD TRIP!! Lol w/ @TobyDeardorff and @blburkholder. There's prolly >12 hrs of sleep between us, but we're slap happy lolSun Feb 27 11:58:14 via √úberSocial

A few of you know why, but like most things of this nature, I had to keep the news on ice for a bit until all of the details were worked out. But now they are, so here's the story. You won't hurt my feelings if you'd rather not read this lol.

K sweet, so for the past year or so I've been working with a great group of guys at a startup called BounceFire. It was started by my buddy Zach Ferres while he was still at ONU studying and stuff. There's a blog post out there somewhere that tells the whole story of how the company was founded, our rebranding from BounceHost etc. I'll find it eventually. So anyway, I was on board as the social media strategist for clients, and while here I've also worked on email marketing, a ton of copy writing, and internal communications for BounceFire. It's really been a blast, mostly because I always heard professionals at PRSSA conferences in session say that PR is an executive function and we need/recently gained a "seat at the table," and my first real job experience is working directly with the company's president. What's also dope is that Zach and the other guys are really open to my ideas and committed to making sure we provide not just great websites, but great marketing strategy that supports that site. I'm all about that kind of holistic approach.

So we niched to SEO, Internet marketing and website development. We did well, kept our clients happy and worked to graduate so we could see what kind of company we could build together. While we were doing all this Zach entered an entrepreneurship competition (GSEA) and went pretty far which was great. While at the first competition here in Scottsdale he met Jim Piccolo. Jim is a serious entrepreneur, and at that time (like last September I think?) he was fleshing out his idea for a new company that would franchise businesses. It must have been love at first sight or something because Jim really liked the BounceFire business model and more than that, the culture. Zach is all about Agile web development (ask him about it but get comfortable, because you'll be there for a while) but also likes a relaxed company culture. We were all pretty much working remotely and rockin it out, using Skype, although over the summer I was in Dublin in our office at the DEC quite a bit.

So initially we were just working with Jim's company BizziBiz on some stuff but we've recently been acquired under BizziBiz to do product fulfillment for the whole company. So that's what I'm doing out here; building social media and email marketing strategies for small businesses, similar (well pretty much the same) as I was doing at BounceFire, just on a much more intense scale lol. I'm stoked about this new chapter of life though, and I'm really looking forward to getting used to the weather down here. (no more #snohio!) My plan is to be back up and blogging regularly (thinking 2-3 posts a week but we'll start slow lol).

There's a ton of things I want to do out here a lot of growing I have yet to do and I'm really excited for the future.

Oh and also, our thing at BizziBiz is being the "superhero" for businesses, which means all of our email addresses are some superhero at bizzibiz dot com. I chose Spaceman Spiff, from Calvin & Hobbes. Mostly because he has some cool adventures and he's the imaginary escape for a kid just trying to find a way to deal with his world. Spiff is essentially a creation of necessity, to help Calvin cope with sucky classes (kindergarten is hard yo) and the bad food his mom cooks. But for me, Spiff is all about imagination and tackling what you don't want to do using your own creativity. I love that. So that's the dude I picked. Plus he's got some cool sayings like "The creature is a GURL!" and "1, 2, 3...LIGHTSPEED!" haha Expect me to drop some of those in from time to time. It's kinda corny but it's growing on me lol

So for now, this is where I live. Scottsdale, Arizona. It's going to be a heckuva ride.

HERE!!!! The drive to end all drives is OVER!! Cc @TobyDeardorff @blburkholderTue Mar 01 04:57:49 via √úberSocial

Monday, May 9, 2011

Branding = Protection

I know this is only one aspect of why branding is so important, but I feel the need to explain this particular part...
  • Brands essentially need to shore up good will in case something goes wrong
    • Building trust keeps you in business.
    • When you have an issue, you need to be able to be trusted to fix it.
    • Something will go wrong.
  • Brand loyalty is because customers believe from previous experience that you have the best product or service or they like whatever else you do that solves their problem. 
  • That's why building a relationship is so important. 
  • Because when something goes wrong, you have to cash in on that good will and if you can't be trusted to fix the problem, you can't be trusted. 
What am I missing here?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Memory vs. Imagination

I'm currently reading "Burn This Book," a collection of essays by numerous writers, edited by author Toni Morrison. In the third essay, David Grossman quotes the late writer Natalia Ginzburg when she says
At the moment someone is writing he is miraculously driven to forget the immediate circumstances of his life...But whether we are happy or unhappy leads us to write in one way or another. When we are happy, our imagination is stronger; when we are unhappy, our memory works with greater vitality. 
He goes on to say that "the power of memory is indeed great and heavy, and at times has a paralyzing effect." This to me was a crucial point and an intriguing thought to chew on. Is memory really the opposite of imagination? Enough so that it can debilitate writing ability or at the least, tone of voice? Thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense.

[photo courtesy of GangaSunshine via flickr]
Children, in their innocence and minimal life experience, show grand imagination. They draw pictures of trees in green, but also purple, orange, red and blue, depending on how they feel at the moment. Or they come up with clever games to amuse themselves, simply because nothing is inhibiting their thought patterns or better yet, no rules are guiding them. They create whole worlds of illusion, simply because there's nothing in their mind telling them that they way they imagine things isn't the way things really are.

Adults who struggle with imagination usually have a lot on their mind, at least in my experience. There's bills and jobs, news of the tragedies throughout the world or even the distractions of entertainment. For an adult to tap into their imagination, it takes forgetting every rule they live by. It takes breaking rules and reforming norms and taboos. Children imagine because there are no rules. You can't break something that doesn't exist.

In my own writing, I often look to other outlets of creativity to spur my own ideas. Whether it's other writing, art or listening to music, my imagination begins with the questions that others struggle to answer.

But what if I could imagine without those influences. How much more creative would I (or all of us really) be without the experiences I've/we've had or the rules to which we adhere? What problems could we solve if we just took them completely out of the context where they reside?

In his post on web design, Mark Boulton talks about how web content is design around the limitations of the page. But the idea of a page is from the traditional layout of print media, be it books, magazines or whatever. On the web, really these restraints do not exist, so he proposes reconsidering the design of websites to form around the content, rather than the constraints of a 2560 x 300 px page.

To me that's a fantastic start to thinking a different way. Shaping the object to the subject, instead of the other way around. I don't know how I'm going to use this yet but I think it is a unique way to go about creating, whatever it is you create.

Oh and btw, Burn This Book is fantastic. If you get the chance, pick it up. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thoughts On Practical Intelligence

One of my favorite things to do growing up was to pretend I was using the bathroom and sit on the toilet for hours at a time reading books. As the middle child in a family of five kids, there was no where else in the house where privacy was a given and I could sit in peace and quiet for as long as I wished, or at least until someone else needed to use the restroom haha.

Most recently, I've been delving into Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" and I'm very much enjoying it. I became aware of the book a couple years back, during my first internship, when it was assigned to one of the other interns for our summer reading project. He made it sound fascinating, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Time just wasn't on my side, because I've been too busy to read much as of late, aside from blog posts.

My favorite section so far has been the one on geniuses and how their environment and circumstances contribute to their success, outside of their innate intelligence. Gladwell distinguishes between two different types of intelligences in the book: analytical intelligence and practical intelligence.

As you can probably guess, analytical intelligence is the kind that demonstrates itself as strength in math and science, primarily. It allows a person to solve problems such as equations and apply formulas as solutions. Things such as logical reasoning and efficiency are also the results of a highly analytical mind. Analytical intelligence is also able to be measured by IQ, so it is inheritable (about 50%) and natural.

Practical intelligence however is more a product of nurture, an intelligence gained from exposure to experiences and situations that allow a person to gain knowledge of how to act. In Gladwell's words:
It is procedural: it is about knowing how to do something without necessarily knowing why you know it or being able to explain it...It's knowledge that helps you read situations correctly and get what you want...the presence of one [analytical or practical intelligence] doesn't imply the presence of the other...[it's] knowing how to "customize" whatever environment you're, for your best purposes.
This really stood out to me because I feel like this explanation is precisely the skill set that strong public relations students learn during their college years.  When we say "I'm a people person" what we really mean is that we have a solid grasp of how to practically navigate conversations and situations to benefit both ourselves and those with whom we interact.

What I find truly fascinating is how we seem to be able to recognize those who have learned this skill, and those who have not, and sift our relationships with our peers until we have a group of  like-minded individuals. Most of the people I enjoy talking with have this practical intelligence quality (and most of them enjoy a hefty dose of analytical intelligence as well).

I was telling a friend of mine recently that when I was younger, I felt like some kids had been giving a handbook (how I thought of practical intelligence) when they were born that allowed them to navigate social interactions with more ease than I. I told her that I felt cheated by not having received this instruction, and that I had to learn it on my own, through watching other kids and adults.

Obviously, I've since gained this knowledge, or I wouldn't have recognized it when I read about it. Practical intelligence (man I love having a name to call it!!) has been something I've thought about for quite a long time, mostly because of my own deficiency in math and science. I always knew there had to be another skill set that was equally as valuable. In school I learned to cultivate it. And now I know what it's called.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears - I'm Broke

Not for long ;)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Some Thoughts On Creativity

Working in public relations, I'm often around a lot of creative people. Our mixed media industry thrives on ideas, and often times, a good idea is more likely to be acknowledged than a record of attendance or good grades in school. Creativity is the ability to think of what no one else does. To come up with a truly unique idea or point of view that makes others reconsider their own viewpoint. But as great as out of the box thinking and brilliant ideas arriving from chaos sounds, true creativity is based in a very methodical and logical process. Critical thinking: the ability to analyze a situation, problem or fact and break it down into its essence, and then to figure out why it is important or not important. Critical thinking involves asking endless questions and never being satisfied with given answers or established ways of doing things. Critical thinking is all about perspective, and a lot of ideas seem to be unique because of the unique perspective of the person who presents them.
The skills needed for creativity are really basic, and so anyone, trained or untrained, can be creative but not everyone is. Most people do not take the time to ask the amount of questions it takes to fully understand why something works or doesn't work. Creativity is an investment not of monetary value, but of time. The return can be monetary, sure, but the initial investment is the time and energy put into asking an endless barrage of questions and seeking to truly understand why things are done the way they are, and to discover if there is a better way of doing them. Creative people inherently adapt to change. They tend to congregate and thrive in areas that embrace change, which is why one can find a high concentration of creative people in places like San Jose, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Chicago. These places have become incubators for creative people, as they are home to lots of architecture, art and cultures that in affect create a global perspective for those who choose to admire them. And these are also the places from which our most celebrated contributions to the world come. The world-renowned movies, the technological advances, the fashion, and the food from these cities are just a few of the products dependent on a strong creative culture. That need is facilitated not only in the places from which these products hail, but also in the support they receive in other parts of the country.
 Even though our nation is one of consumerism and capitalism, we still highly value ingenuity and creativity not only in art and fashion, but also in things like business and food. Our entire culture is built on creativity; entrepreneurialism is business' creative outlet, and it also creates jobs and opportunities for collaboration with other businesses. So not only does our society embrace creativity, we embrace and celebrate it, because it is an integral part of our very way of life.