Category Archives: thoughts

Dear kid’s school:

We just spent $200 (a month before the holidays, in the worst economy I’ve seen in my lifetime) to send my daughter on this mandatory 3-day field trip, close to $100 more to outfit her with all the required items on the list, and another $200 so my wife can chaperone, because there’s no way in hell we’re sending our 9-year-old on an overnight trip without us. To top it all off, the destination is some sort of Christian retreat/ministry. Can I get a “W.T.F.”?! (This is public school, by the way.)

Supposedly, the curriculum will focus on environmental and ecological issues. Let’s hope they stick to that and don’t get too Jesusy on us. I’ve encouraged my (Jewish) wife to be skeptical and speak up, especially if anyone needs to be reminded about evolution, or separation of church and state…

Expectations are high. Do not screw this up.

Update: I got a text message at 9:47 am that the bus finally arrived to pick them up at the school. They were scheduled to depart at 7:00. Not off to a good start…

The Newseum ain’t all that new

ABC News reported recently on the opening of the Newseum, the museum of and monument to the news, which celebrated its grand opening this month in Washington, DC.

Inside, via print, video, audio and digital media spread over seven floors of exhibits, galleries and theaters, the Newseum aims to tell the story of world news coverage through the lens of an ever-changing industry.

It is a fair bet that the Newseum is unlike any museum you have visited before.

Hold up. “…unlike any museum you have visited before“? It really annoys me that they totally neglect to mention that the Newseum lived across the river in Arlington, VA for years before this grand (re)opening. I loved that place. A mysterious concrete globe, reminiscent of The Daily Planet from Superman’s Metropolis, nestled among the condos and office towers along the Potomac, overlooking Georgetown. I worked a couple blocks away, back in those dot-com glory days. And when I wasn’t too busy animating the company logo in Flash, playing Star Trek pinball, or downloading gigs of music from Napster, I would take a walk up to the Newseum and check out the exhibits.

One of the first things you’d see (at least coming from the direction that I did) was several sections of the Berlin wall, covered with colorful scrawls of spraypaint, standing tall and firm, but rendered ineffective in their new setting. A pedestrian ramp led you effortlessly past the once great barrier, toward the monument to freedom of speech and the press that waited at the top of the hill. Interesting statues and artifacts lined the way, including a boat that carried a boy to the U.S. from Cuba, and some relic from the days when women fought for their vote, which I can’t remember the details of. My favorite was at the top, actually past the entrance I think, on the plaza at the base of the tall glass tower that housed the Gannet Company. It was an assemblage of dozens of clear planks of glass, arranged in a long, ascending curve, that refracted the sunlight into a swarm of rainbows. I’m sure I have photographs of it all on a Geocities website somewhere…

The arrangement inside echoed the spherical shape of the exterior, with a 2-story globe in the center atrium, encircled by layers of spiraling LED news scrolls. Various galleries and interactive “air studio” exhibits filled the surrounding areas. Rooms full of Pulitzer-winning photographs and other news memorabilia were among the attractions, and mobs of school kids would hustle around the place, maybe interested, maybe just excited to be on the loose for an afternoon field trip.

The new version, in DC-proper, right down the street from the White House, is reported to have “seven floors of exhibits, galleries and theaters”, and I’m sure it’s awesome. But they shouldn’t forget their roots, when they were a scrappy young player, on the outskirts of town, honing their game and prepping for the big-time. I know I won’t.

Photos c/o dbking and mj*laflaca via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Taking social stock

A recent blog post by Seesmic‘s Loic Le Meur yesterday discussed the “social graph”, mapping the various services and softwares used in publishing and maintaining an online presence. It got me thinking that it’d be a fun thing to attempt. So, I’ve made a map of all places I create content or maintain a profile, and grouped them into basic categories. I’d like to do some additional connectors, to indicate flow of content from place to place (eg: stories shared on Google reader get populated into a feed on my site and my Facebook profile) but I haven’t taken it that far yet. I did add some color coding, to indicate the frequency and level of involvement I have at each site. Check it out: (click the image to see the whole thing)

This sort of inventory can be a useful step in managing one’s web presence, which is a topic I’ve been thinking about today, after viewing some slides from an Aquent/AMA webcast I missed last week, on managing your content, something I need to focus on more.

Social Graph Central is a new website that’s been created to collect various social graphs. Why not draw yours up and add it?

Update: improved color coding and added flows between items: (click the image to see the whole thing)

*Personality not included

Rohit Bhargava has come up with a very interesting way to launch his book.

He put out the call to bloggers to email him 5 questions about his book or its topic, and he will personally answer each one, which the bloggers may post – as an exclusive “virtual interview” – on their site.

Pretty clever. I submitted some questions yesterday afternoon, and just received the reply. If he’s doing these in order, he must be nearing the finish now (I was #46 of 55). What a marathon! Here is my interview:

  1. In the course of discovering its personality, a company that serves many different demographics and offers a variety of different products may find itself with a multiple personality disorder. How do you go about distilling the personality down to core attributes that will appeal to a wide spectrum of customers?

    The best way to do this is to focus on passion. What are your employees passionate about? What is your company trying to do that is significant? The experience of personality disorder is one that I have seen at many companies as well, but it tends to come from focusing on SKUS instead of a higher vision. Target is not about all the different departments and range of products they offer, it’s about accessible fashion and style. The best way to distill down is to use the main techniques of smart branding – something that I focus on in Chapter 3 of the book.

  2. Surely, what you do carries more weight than what you say. (The current corporate trend of claiming to be eco-friendly comes to mind.) But just saying you have a personality isn’t enough. What are some good examples of companies doing something effective to communicate their personality?

    There are some great examples of this, because you’re right … actions speak far louder than words in this instance. One example is Zappos accepting customers returns and going the extra mile to please customers (which is their big selling point). Another great example from the book is James Dyson, who says that he is all about invention, but also talks about producing more than 2000 prototypes of his new vacuum that didn’t suck before he found one that did (of course, sucking is what he was going for).

  3. Large corporations often have dozens, even thousands, of employees whose actions directly or indirectly shape the customer experience. For maximum effect, like a chorus, everybody must be “singing the same tune”. How can large companies effectively communicate internally, to get everyone tuned in to the right personality?

    This is a very good question because it focuses on a central problem that many companies struggle with which is the issue of control. If you tell them to let their employees have a voice, this objection typically comes up. The best way to counter it is to first challenge the assumption that they all need to be “singing the same tune.” They don’t. For example the story someone in manufacturing might tell would be far different from the product designer. The point is that they are all targeting different groups of audiences as well. The main idea is that smart companies should arm them with the facts and let them help to spread those. Isn’t that better than your employees talking to others about your brand (which they already are) without knowing what the right message to send is.

  4. Many companies sponsor online communities, in order to provide a social and educational space for customers (and potential customers) to interact. The hope is to create trust and goodwill toward the sponsor company, and support its brand image. Certainly, credibility of the information can be called into question, when representatives of the company provide content. What do you find is a good level of involvement, or important ground rules to set, to ensure that sponsor contributions are perceived as credible?

    First and foremost, there has to be a natural link the goes beyond just self servicing. A great example of that is the social community that Nike build around the Nike Plus partnership with Apple. The site offers great value to runners in planning and tracking their runs and even lets you do competitions. Nike is the provider and clearly the sponsor, but in this case gets great value out of the site because they offer it as an extension of their brand.

  5. You’ve come up with a very interesting way to promote the release of your book, and it is – in itself – a good example of the shift in marketing from one-way communications to two-way conversations. (And we’d like to thank you for this opportunity.) Do you feel it has been a successful experiment so far?

    You’re welcome! It has been tough to keep up with this volume (this is interview # 46 for me today!), but I would absolutely say this has been a great value, and it will likely generate even more value as people start talking about this experiment with others. Thanks for agreeing to be part of it!

One tested cure for writers block

Robert Genn discusses jogging (err, walking) the mind by getting outside:

When your studio work comes to a block or a problem, you need to put down your brush or send your laptop into sleep mode, and
grab your hat. If you walk briskly, blood will soon be checking out the remote corners of your cortex. As if you are in the company of a miraculous goddess, blessed answers materialize like gifts.

Read the rest of his latest post at The Painters Keys.

Re: [PANMA] Keeping Up

Originally posed to the PANMA community:

To take Ken’s comment as a leaping off point: “it would seem that no one cares about other people’s bookmarks any more than people care what others have in their cd collections”
Let’s suppose we want our collections to be nicely organized, and highly presentable, whether or not many of our friends will ever end up perusing them…

I’d love to hear everyone’s suggestions for publishing links, aggregating feeds, and compiling items.

For example, I’ve been “keeping up” using Google Reader (to answer the original question), and clicking “share” on all items that I want to appear on my personal aggregate page. Typically, if I come across a page outside of Reader that I want to share, I post it to my Facebook account. Since I have Google Reader tracking my Facebook shared items, I can share it via Google once it shows up in the feed (which I think violates Facebook’s Terms of Use).

I wonder what is the most efficient way to filter the vast info-flow through my particular lens of interest and then have some degree of control over the presentation of the resulting content. If Google let you add css to your shared items page, that would be a heck of a start… Actually, Tumblr looks promising, but I haven’t played with it much yet.

…additional thought: on these posted items pages from Google and Facebook (btw, can you see my Facebook feed if you are not a logged-in user?), the images displayed are still hosted by the source site. Isn’t that bandwidth hijackery?

Internet life’s burning questions… :-)