Reads of the Week: December 7, 2012

I didn’t go to ASAE’s Technology Conference this week because I was too busy and too cheap, but I almost felt like I was there – minus the hugs, good conversation and drinks. You know why – Twitter, baby. Following the hashtag (#tech12), I got the highlights from the two keynote sessions with Brian Solis and Dion Hinchcliffe, the town hall with Reggie Henry, and several sessions featuring association technology experts and smarty pants. It’s not exactly like being there but it’s good stuff. Thanks to all the attendees who shared their notes on Twitter.

Ok, everyone, I’m asking you to hold me accountable so that I follow the practice I preach. This week on the Avectra blog I wrote about making time at the end of the year for Me Time – strategic reflection, planning, and reading for professional/personal development. Somehow between celebrating the holidays both here and in Massachusetts, I intend to find time to do all those things on my to-do list that I have pushed off week after week, month after month. It will mean saying “no” when I don’t want to (sorry, clients!), but this is critical work – an investment in my career and expertise. Are you with me?

Maybe during Me Time, I should start a daily habit of using Google+. I’m on there but completely inactive. But, according to this presentation by Gideon Rosenblatt that Maddie Grant shares on her blog and at #tech12, Google+ is the place for me because I’m not only a content creator, I’m a content curator, here and on Twitter. Maddie also shares a bunch of other great resources about Google+. Ok, Maddie, ok, I’m on it.

Here’s a post by Krista Kortrla about crazy companies. “These crazy companies actually involve every single person in their business to create content.” Oh to be crazy. She discusses the many ways that content marketing transforms a company and its culture.  

Looking for blog ideas that will grab the attention of your audience? Even if you don’t have a “local” audience, try tweaking these to fit your audience’s interests – the emotional hooks should still work. NPR Digital Services’ Eric Athas and Teresa Gorman wanted to find out why some local stories received more “likes” and comments, and were shared more than others. In this Nieman Journalism Lab article, they present their findings – “data-backed trends we discovered in an analysis of content geotargeted to four cities…over a span of three months” – and share the nine types of local stories that cause engagement.

At one of my association’s affiliate services roundtable, a lot of questions were raised about SEO, so I invited a fellow member to come in and talk to us about the basics. This post by Diane Huff, Trusted SEO Resources for Small Businesses, would have been handy as well.

Many of us will resolve to develop new habits in 2013. Isn’t it interesting how humans are always striving to improve ourselves? I don’t see my dog doing that. Here are six simple rituals to help you reach your potential every day from Amber Rae at Fast Company. I do #1-4 already but have never made #5 and #6 intentional habits. I think about them sometimes, but not daily. So many habits to develop!

That’s it for now, Happy Friday!

Downward facing dog, heh, a nap sounds better.
Downward facing dog, heh, a nap sounds better.

Reads of the Week: November 30, 2012

Tomorrow my Twitter avatar will don her Santa hat, a sign the holiday season has officially begun. I expect to add about five pounds to my already slightly voluptuous (I like that better than “overweight”) body during this season of abundance and excess. Unfortunately, many people can’t even afford to put dinner on the table, forget feasting.

You can spread your holiday blessings to those who have less by contributing to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina’s Holiday Meals Drive. Any new, lapsed or increased gifts will be matched by the Stewards Fund, so it’s a doubly good time to give. If you’re not an NC resident, I bet your local food bank would appreciate your donation too.

Here’s one for the association crowd by ASAE’s Joe Rominiecki at Associations Now about the Member Concierge at the California Dental Association. Every association needs a Member Concierge! It’s time to focus on the basics and hire someone who will welcome, listen to, and keep in touch with new members and then share what they learn with the rest of staff. So smart and well worth the budget investment.

I still see a lot of blogs that illegally (and unethically) use someone else’s photos. Yeah yeah yeah, they don’t know any better. Well, that’s why I feature posts like this every once in a while. Nobody really wants to do the wrong thing, do they? Sssh, spare me the truth. Rhonda Hurwitz shares 5 Ways to (Legally) Use Photos in Social Media on Your Blog.

Staying up on my soapbox, you all know how much I love Twitter. It’s not blind dumb love, it’s based on cold calculating logic – I learn and connect. Donna Kastner agrees: No Time for Twitter? You’re Missing a Professional Development Feast. Come sit down at the table!

Lauren Sinclair and the team at MultiView agree too. They love the knowledge nuggets they get from Twitter. “Twitter also gives executives the chance to learn from and have dialogue with various association thought leaders,” like, they mention, my pal, KiKi L’Italien, the host/moderator of the weekly association Twitter chat, #assnchat. Love that hashtag!

“One of the first things you learn in Google’s Power Searching class is that if you know about the magic of CTRL+F then you are in the top 10 percent of all searchers. That made someone like me, who uses the word find function on the regular a little cocky about my searching skills.” Me too, Rebecca. In You Google Wrong! at The Atlantic, Rebecca Greenfield shares a bunch of helpful Google searching tips.

How many people are in space right now? I often wonder about that, don’t you? Well, wonder no more. There’s a website for that!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Reads of the Week: November 16, 2012

In one corner, a company that made a mess of customer service and then made it worse with social media. A moving company threatened to sue my friend’s wife because she wrote a negative Yelp review about them. The company also purchased positive Yelp reviews, deleted negative Facebook updates, and doesn’t seem to know how to dig itself out except by digging deeper.

“The beautiful part of the Internet is that everyone can now be a publisher. The scary part of the Internet for a company like <name> is that you don’t always know who you’re sending crazy intimidation letters to and how they might respond,” says Phil Buckley, the guy in the other corner. They picked the wrong guy to piss off, Phil happens to be an SEO and Online Reputation Management (ORM) expert. He has a lot of friends, and many of them are also ORM experts. The experts think this makes a great case study – you can’t buy that kind of publicity!

And, Happy Birthday, Phil!

Jeff Cobb at Tagoras is in the midst of updating their Association Learning Management Systems (LMS) report. He and Celisa Steele have been talking to LMS vendors and participating in demonstrations of platforms. He’s identified four association learning technology trends: “I can already see that there are at least four areas in which some very significant progress has been achieved over the past couple of years. I’m labeling these broadly as integration, convergence, mobility, and analytics.” Exciting times for associations with the educational innovations that await!

As our use of new social and digital platforms and technology evolves, irksome issues crop up, well, they’re irksome for some, not all. A sports reporter was “reprimanded” by the University of Washington athletic department for excessive tweeting during a basketball game. Sam Laird at Mashable writes, “As the ability to provide real-time updates becomes more and more common — and as the line between reporter and spectator becomes increasingly blurred — should the rights to live updates be protected to the same degree as TV and radio broadcasts?” Another example of an organization having a tough time giving up control? Or are their rights being infringed? I tend to side with the reporter on this one.

One more Twitter item: can we all just agree that you should never retweet something without first reading it? Good. I’m glad you see it my way, you’re a good citizen.

How different would the world be if everyone had access to high-quality education and a bigger world of ideas? Call me a dreamer, but I think we’d have less crazy extremism, ignorance, and poverty. Maybe the $20 Aakash tablet made by Suneet Tuli’s company, Datawind, is a step in that direction. Christopher Mims at Quartz reports that India’s government wants to distribute Datawind’s tablet to India’s 220 million students. It would be cheaper than buying textbooks. Tuli wants to educate the “ignored billion.” He says, “Our effort in all of this was to use technology to fight poverty. What happens when you try to make it affordable at this level?”

“Calling all publishers, editors, and content creators: If you’re creating content for a business, you are marketing. But you might be missing out on all that you can achieve with your superb content if you are not content marketing.” That’s the rallying cry of The Content Marketing Manifesto by Monica Bussolati, her recently released e-book – a call to action you should heed if you run a business or organization. I’ve only skimmed through the book because I’m planning to read it this weekend, but I can already tell I’m going to be reading along saying “Yes!” out loud, and probably learning a good deal as well, and as usual, from Monica.

Blogs are one of my favorite content marketing tools, but they’re also a great way to think out loud and become part of a larger conversation, according to Seth Godin. “No single thing in the last 15 years professionally has been more important to my life than blogging,” says Tom Peters. He goes on: “And it’s the best damn marketing tool by an order of magnitude that I’ve ever had.” Well then! Maddie Grant found this short video of Godin and Peters talking about blogs. It’s only 1:38 minutes, come on, click!

For those of you who read last week’s post and had doubts about an old band led by two guys in their late 60s: I’m happy to report that The Who exceeded my expectations, and my boyfriend’s, whose expectations were much lower. They did the entire Quadrophenia album, followed it up with five Who classics, and then a quiet version of Tea & Theater with just Roger and Pete on the stage. The highlights of the evening: Roger’s voice and efforts to get every note and scream right; Zak Starkey’s Moon-like melodic bombastic drumming (he is so damn good); video solos by, rest their souls, John in 5:15 and Keith in, what else, Bellboy; the mesmerizing Quadrophenia instrumentals; and being in the same room as Pete. Long live rock.

Happy Friday!

Young Zak Starkey with godfather Keith Moon (credit unknown)

Reads of the Week: November 9, 2012

This is no ordinary Friday. Tonight we’re driving two hours to Greensboro to see two old flames from my childhood – Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. The remains of The Who is on tour doing Quadrophenia, the album that started my love affair with them. And anyone who knew me in high school, college or beyond knows how crazy I was about that band. I expect to be ridiculously excited and emotional for a few hours. Long live rock!

Is one of your employees a social media rock star? Alexandra Samuel writes at the Wall Street Journal about the “newest management headache: the co-branded employee.” These employees show up to work with a public identity (personal brand) and huge following of their own. How do you make it work for both of you? She advises establishing guidelines and expectations. I think it also helps if management is knowledgeable about the digital world so they don’t have unreasonable expectations.

Not another Lance Armstrong story! Yes, but this story by Mathew Ingram at GigaOm is really about “the democratization of content.” He references an excellent David Carr article in the New York Times to discuss an example of “disruption in journalism.” Except for a few bold voices, traditional journalists accepted Armstrong’s victories and joined in the adulation. Even when suspicions were raised, they didn’t push the matter. But bloggers did. “Amateur or citizen journalists using Twitter and little-known cycling blogs as their platform were the ones who were the most responsible for bringing the story to light.” I follow these “citizens” on Twitter and can vouch that they’ve been writing about Armstrong’s deceit for years.

John Hagel wrote about The Paradox of Preparing for Change – maybe Armstrong should read this. “I love paradox. Here’s an example: the best way to prepare for change is to decide what isn’t going to change.”A childhood full of change – moving nearly every year to a new country – taught him how to prepare for change. He says, “Decide what isn’t going to change, especially in three key domains: principles, purpose and people.” His advice works for organizations too, not just little kids following their dad around the world.

Have I already mentioned how much I love ASAE’s redesigned, heck, reborn, Associations Now website? It’s a magazine, a blog, original content, curated content, news — it’s fantastic. Andrew Hannelly at TMG Custom Media – the company behind the new website – shared “the strategic framework guiding the launch.”

In Associations Now, Joe Rominiecki discussed a basic yet rare association practice – sharing what you know about members. Imagine if everyone on staff could benefit and learn from conversations with members. Wouldn’t capturing and sharing that knowledge lead to better practices and programs?

Finally, here are two stories from our correspondents in the future. Neal Ungerleider at Fast Company asks, “Could your company’s IT department or dev team soon be drafted as digital soldiers in an ongoing cyberwar?” I’ve often wondered how the federal government would cope with cyberterrorism or cyberwarfare on their own. If our technical or physical infrastructure is threatened, wouldn’t they want the best minds in the country working on the problem? Wouldn’t we all want that?

And in the scary-because-it’s-too-believable department, imagine terrorists or evil empires hacking DNA to create and deliver personal bioweapons. Andrew Hessel, Marc Goodman and Steven Kotler at The Atlantic start their article with a story that will give you the creeps, and, what’s worse, they show how that scenario isn’t so far-fetched. “We are entering a world where imagination is the only brake on biology, where dedicated individuals can create new life from scratch. Today, when a difficult problem is mentioned, a commonly heard refrain is There’s an app for that. Sooner than you might believe, an app will be replaced by an organism when we think about the solutions to many problems.”

But don’t worry about any of that right now, it’s Friday, cheers!

My college art project, a drawing of Pete — told you I was crazy about them.

Reads of the Week: November 2, 2012

The morning after Sandy hit I read a post by John Herrman about how we use Twitter during disasters. “Twitter’s capacity to spread false information is more than canceled out by its savage self-correction. In response to thousands of retweets of erroneous Weather Channel and CNN reports that the New York Stock Exchange had been flooded with “three feet” of water, Twitter users, some reporters and many not, were relentless: photos of the outside of the building, flood-free, were posted. Knowledgeable parties weighed in.” Wisdom of the crowd?

Andrew Razeghi at Fast Company asks whether we should hire someone for what they know or whom they know. IQ or Klout score? He uses Edison and Tesla as examples of success (or lack of it) based on the strength of networks – Edison had a strong one, Tesla didn’t. “This difference between innovating privately and innovating out loud is one of the most significant differentiators between successful innovators and those that fail. It largely explains the success of new venture accelerators, corporate new venture groups, and even academic researchers. Those with the most robust, engaged, and diverse social networks win.”

Does this sound familiar? You’re excited about the potential that content marketing will bring to your company, but once you start thinking about what it will take, you feel overwhelmed and defeated before you even begin. Don’t despair. At Copyblogger, Eric Enge provides “9 tips on how to build a lean content marketing team in a way that might just make the size of the task a lot more manageable.”

Do paywalls work? Mathew Ingram at GigaOm says “the New York Times is clearly something of a bellwether — and in particular, a sign of whether paywalls can (or can’t) make up for the ongoing dramatic decline in advertising revenue. Unfortunately for anyone in the industry who was hoping for a definitive answer, however, the paper’s latest financial results are a mixed bag.” Association professionals will be interested in reading what he thinks about the membership model as an approach.

Anna Caraveli is one of my favorite association bloggers. She has written before about the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), a virtual professional network of veterinarians, not an association, that has “a growing membership of 49,000 and healthy profit margin.” How do they do it? Anna describes seven “practices from VIN that will help you translate aspirations and promises into new capabilities for engagement, relevance and innovation by embedding them in your organization’s DNA.”

The company that controls William Faulkner’s works has filed suit against Sony Pictures Classics, because Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen, included a line from As I Lay Dying. Dave Itzkoff at the New York Times says, “It hinges on a single scene in the film, when its time-traveling protagonist, played by Owen Wilson, states: ‘The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.’” I read somewhere that one of Faulkner’s relatives is behind the lawsuit. I guess nobody ever explained Fair Use to him or her. This one should be thrown out, I’m sure every author, dead or alive, and lawyer would agree.

Finally, a feast for your eyes. Phillip Davies at The Guardian takes us behind closed doors into London’s hidden interiors. The photographs by Derek Kendall reveal “an amazing architectural heritage that rivals some of (London’s) most visited and celebrated sites.” Wouldn’t you love to take a tour of these secret places? Imagine sipping on an ale in The Black Friar!

Happy Friday!

I want to visit this Black Friar some day. Photo by den99 (Flickr).

Reads of the Week: October 26, 2012

Just scanning this collection of 99 creative life hacks will make you feel clever. This weekend you will find me wandering around the house peering at wood with walnut in hand.

Fellow liberal arts majors: no regrets! Yes, I know all kinds of very important people go on and on about STEM, but now, a STEM to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and humanities, and mathematics) movement is emerging. In A Tech Geek on Why We Need the Humanities, Jason Got says, “Our ability to design machines that improve our lives depends upon our ability to understand what humans are, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed. That’s the domain of Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, and Radiohead – whether they come to us through word of mouth, parchment, iPod, or Twitter.”

When I search for something, I hate seeing the results dominated by content mill links – vacuous text created by offshore labor making a dollar a post. Jim Hornthal calls this waste-of-my-time “faux content” in a GigaOm article, Creating Order from Digital Chaos. But there’s hope: “Fortunately, there is a growing band of innovators who have taken up the challenge and are tackling those issues — with startlingly similar approaches. Their universal mission is to employ relevant, expert-based pattern recognition to generate a useful consumer outcome.”

Mitch Joel jumped onto one of my regular topics – the fall of Lance Armstrong. I swear I’m not someone who enjoys personal tragedy, but Armstrong has been the most arrogant bullying asshole in cycling for the last dozen or so years. He had it coming. Before the USADA published the tell-all affidavits of his ex-teammates, Lance used Twitter to scoff at his accusers and brag about his accomplishments. Now, all is quiet. Mitch says, “When things are good, social media was Armstrong’s best friend, but went things went south, it suddenly became the bane of his existence. It is both his silence mixed with a very vocal public…that is defining his brand (whether he likes it or not).”

My favorite art read of the week posed an interesting theory for the selection of artworks stolen recently in Rotterdam: it was the work of a rogue Symbolist collector. Morgan Meis at The Smart Set came up with this idea based on the one painting in the stolen bunch that didn’t seem to fit. His article includes a good explanation of symbolism as well as photos of all the stolen paintings. If you want to learn more about symbolist art, the Met has a good introduction. Then, check out the symbolist collection in the Google Art Project.

Like I needed another rabbit hole of art to explore with the Google Art Project only a click away, but here’s another one: The New York Times led me to this new productivity-killer that operates on the Pandora principle: “With 275 galleries and 50 museums and institutions as partners, has already digitized 20,000 images into its reference system, which it calls the Art Genome Project.” Their Twitter account is fun to follow, you never know where you’ll end up and what you’ll see.

Happy Friday!

Harlequin Head by Picasso – one of the paintings from the Triton Foundation collection that was stolen in Rotterdam

Reads of the Week: October 19, 2012

The coolest thing I saw all week, no contest, was Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic free fall skydive. Nothing beats that. Red Bull has two short videos of the event: a 1:30 minute highlight version and a 4:30 minute full recap version. Both are exhilarating to watch.

If you publish text, video, and photos on the web, please understand how copyright works. I’ve been a little loose a few times with screenshots of YouTube videos, but other than that, I try to stick to the rules, it’s only fair.  However, I’ve seen lots of blogs using copyrighted photos, and I bet it’s because they just don’t know any better. My most popular post of all time explained the basics of copyright, so if you’re not clear, be a good social citizen and check it out.

Here’s the worst case scenario when you infringe on someone’s copyright. A blog hosted by EduBlogs, a client of web hosting firm ServerBeach, had posted a questionnaire copyrighted by Pearson, an educational publishing company. ServerBeach received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violation notice from Pearson. Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica explains what happened next: instead of dealing with the complaint in a rational way, ServerBeach shut down all 1.45 million education blogs hosted by EduBlogs.

And here’s another one. Jeff John Roberts at GigaOm writes about copyright trolls hired by “image owners (who) are brandishing the nuclear option against everyone — from small blogs to careless interns.” This could happen to you if you use copyrighted material and the owner gets sore about it.

I love politics. I hate politics. That’s life inside my head during election season. I guess what really drives me bonkers is the partisan hatred. The self-righteous arrogance that too many people on both sides have toward the other. No wonder I’m an independent, but not undecided.

Chelsea J. Carter at CNN says this election tests Facebook friendships. An election should never test a real friendship but I can see how it would test your tolerance for being around someone who talks politics all the time. According to Pew Research Center, “Nearly one-fifth of people admit to blocking, unfriending or hiding someone on social media over political postings.” I’m part of that one-fifth. I’ve hidden people for now. I’ll bring them back later. Her article mentioned a Facebook page: Nobody Cares About Your Political Posts. Really. Like. There’s more to life than politics.

All this political drama might just be an exercise in someone’s lab. According to physicists at the University of Bonn, “they may have evidence that the universe is a computer simulation.” Have we finally discovered who the They are? Hmm, maybe someone is watching you.

And if that didn’t spin your mind around enough, have you read this Newsweek piece by Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, about the after-life experience he had during a coma? I hope this guy is on the level. Pretty wild.

I read a disturbing essay last weekend by religious scholar Sarah Sentilles in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin: The Pen is Mightier: Sexist Responses to Women Writing about Religion. No, I don’t normally read the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, but I was led to it by one of my literary blogs. She writes about the sexist responses her recent book received from male critics. Then she goes on to discuss the more pervasive sexism existing in the literary world, and speculates about the reception her essay will receive: “I expect to be called whiny and strident and annoying and grating and hysterical and uninformed. I expect to be told I don’t know what I’m talking about.” Why does this persist? It makes no sense to me.

Art geeks will enjoy this one. Bence Hajdu creates new works from paintings by Old Masters, like David, Boticelli, and Fra Angelico. They’re eerie and wonderful in their abandoned state. See for yourself at Hyperallergic.

Happy Friday!

into the light by mindfulness (Flickr)

Reads of the Week: October 12, 2012

Let’s start with a freebie! Jeff Cobb has a slew of great ideas about lifelong learning and he practices what he preaches, so it’s not a bunch of hoo-haw. He’s offering a free Kindle version of his book, 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner – but today is the last day to download it, so chop chop!

“Lifelong learning” may sound cliché to some, but it’s a necessary mindset and practice to survive and thrive in our ever-changing world. If reading isn’t your thing (gasp!), then check out the webinar Jeff is doing today at 1pm Eastern on 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner.

Content marketing sounds so smart in theory, but how the heck do you get it done when everyone on staff is already stretched thin. John Bell has some ideas in Getting Internal Experts to Create Content.

Over at Marketing Sherpa, Courtney Eckerle is ready with more advice, seven steps, in fact, for creating and optimizing content in any size organization. With her post at your side, you will start to think, “Yeah, we can do this.”

If your organization wants to become an industry source for curated content – and frankly, why wouldn’t you? – you must check out Leo Dirr’s post: How to Consistently Out-Curate Your Competitors. It’s packed full of tactics and content sources – one of the most thorough I’ve seen.

I am such a sucker for serendipity. The more you’re open to it, the more you get. I love this post at GigaOm by Mathew Ingram about the effect social media has on his real-world serendipity. This could happen to you!

This book intrigues me, but I already have too many unread books: Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson. Is this really the future? We’ll see. I’ve noticed lots of reviews lately for this book, but the first one I read was by Andrew Keen at Barnes & Noble. So I better not link to Amazon, huh?

If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of professional cycling, especially of the American team Garmin-Sharp founded by ex-pro cyclist Jonathan Vaughters as an alternative to the predominant doping culture of most professional teams. Many of my favorite cyclists used to dope and have ‘fessed up and cleaned up. Others, I still wonder about. Omerta in the cycling culture is strong, but beginning to crumble.

For years, there’s been suspicion about Lance Armstrong’s doping habits. But he’s used his money and prestige to paint any accusers as liars or disgruntled employees or teammates. If you want to know the truth about Lance and his team director Johan Bruyneel, you can read through the recently released USADA report, or check out the salacious bits shared by The Daily Beast.

Even better, read the book ex-doper and former Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton co-wrote with Daniel Coyle. I read the whole thing the weekend it came out, it’s an easy read — The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs. That pretty much describes Lance.

I’ll leave you with some music inspired by my Coursera modern poetry class. Hat tip to Brain Picker for this one: Emily Dickinson’s poetry set to music by Israeli singer-songwriter, Efrat Ben Zur. Sort of Cocteau Twins meets Massive Attack meets Patti Smith, or something like that.

Happy Friday!

emily dickinson poetry set to music - I am Nobody

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