You’ve Got to Read This: August 2, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve written a curated post. If you or your organization have trouble finding time to write a post or figuring out what to write about, consider publishing a weekly curated post. As a reader, I love them – my favorite bloggers filter their information stream and select some of their best reads of the week. It’s just like Twitter but instead it’s all in one place and delivered via my Google Reader.

So how do you find great content? Well, it’s funny you ask. Mike Stelzner wrote about eight ways to do just that on Social Media Examiner.

I’ll let you in on my little secret for having great content to share on Twitter. You can scoff if you want but it’s been working for me for years. I explain it all in my post about tweeting like a real tweep.

Bob Leonard shares good basic advice on how to repurpose content you already have – speeches, white papers and sales presentations. He also explains how to find and curate content.

Now you might be thinking, “Nice, but how do I find the time to do all this stuff?” The Nonprofit Blog Carnival, hosted this month by Britt Bravo at Have Fun Do Good, gathered several posts about time management. I haven’t yet dipped into it but wanted to share it with you. I’ll pick a few favorites for a future You’ve Got to Read This post.

Or, you might be thinking, “Ok, I get the need for fresh useful and interesting content. But I don’t have time to write.” No problem, you can tell your story through a ghostwriter. The Winn Group (more accurately, their ghostwriter) explains what to look for in a ghostwriter. But, psst, you don’t need to contact them to find a ghostwriter, give me a holler instead.

If you write about social media, you might wonder how to spell some of its newfangled lingo. ReTweet or retweet? Fear not, Kerry Jones of Bluegrass Media gives us The Grammar of Social Media. Turn it into a one-pager and tack it up on your bulletin board.

And now for something completely different, the most awkward 404 page on the Internet (love it!) by Steve Lambert. Save this one for when you have several minutes to watch, it’s worth it.

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Steve Lambert helping lost website visitors

You’ve Got to Read This: February 10, 2011

Innovation starts with self-critique (which is why it’s so rare), says Peter Linett. Go against your type, don’t put on “an exhibition that feels like an art museum designed it” or “a concert format that feels like a symphony orchestra designed it.” His litmus test for innovation: “I ask myself whether it feels like it was designed by that kind of institution, within its traditions, values, and personality — its comfort zone.What does a conference or work meeting look like that doesn’t feel like an association designed it?

Kivi Leroux Miller reminds us that we are not our target audience. Before communicating with that audience, do all you can to put yourself in their shoes – research, listen and seek advice of those who are like that audience. Just because you’re in charge, doesn’t mean you get it.

It kills me when an organization doesn’t get the fact that helping their staff connect to their members, prospects or customers is the smart thing to do. Janet McNichol writes about making association business cards social media-friendly but her advice works for any organization.

Lindsey A. Zahn has a very informative post on the Palate Press site about website scraping, copyright, fair use and wine bloggers. I’m seeing more and more sites that scrape content without permission and then get higher page ranking and increased advertising revenue. Bottom-feeders! As one commenter puts it, “it just pisses me off that our hard work and content is contributing to someone else’s bottom line.”

Please, don’t hire a social media director,” says Dion Algeri. He’s right. Too often organizations start their journey into social media by hiring someone to do social media. Instead hire someone to collect, curate, repurpose and create content. Hire a chief content officer. Ok, you don’t have to call it that, but focus on content as a tool to create conversation and connections.

In December I wrote about the Smithsonian’s censorship of a video in a National Portrait Gallery exhibition. In case you were wondering if anything was done about that ignorant decision, ArtInfo tells us, well, yes and no.

If your appetite for resources on nonprofits and social media is not sated, Beth Kanter shares a bunch from the Zoetica Salon, including posts on editorial calendars, strategy tune-ups, benchmarking and more.

I’m riveted to the news from Egypt. We (they, it’s all the same now, isn’t it?) are either on the cusp of something amazingly positive for that country, although the obstacles are formidable, or we are in for a huge disappointment if the military regime holds onto power. They are so intertwined into the political and economic infrastructure, it’s hard to imagine them ceding power at all. I created a Twitter list of  29, at last count, Egyptian activists and journalists worth following. Respect.

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Image by Nick Bygon

You’ve Got to Read This: February 3, 2011

Joe Pulizzi at Junta42 shares a great idea for many organizations that’s also a natural fit for associations, and more imperative than ever since many have been losing traction in this area — Starting a News Service for Your Industry. Chief Content Officer? What a cool job that would be!

Social media can be a catalyst for positive organizational change. In this fascinating interview with Arthur L. Hue, author of Social Media at Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organizational Performance, at Thomas Clifford’s blog, we learn how using social media can foster staff engagement and motivation. Hue also believes it will be the key to recruiting and retaining Millennials.

Maggie McGary at Mizz Information is one of my favorite bloggers because she cuts through the bull, asks tough questions and gives solid advice. Her recent guest post on Socialfish is an example of what I mean — Five Reasons Why Facebook Will Never Replace Your Website.

An interesting article by Neal Gabler, Everyone’s a Critic Now, is another in a recent flurry of writing about the state of criticism, including a blog post from me. Gabler writes about the strange critical consensus on 2010’s Top Ten lists and the battles between high and popular culture. Be sure to spend some time reading the responses from critics. The whole argument about cultural elitism has really struck a nerve with me lately. I love being part of the “age of cultural populism” that Gabler describes, but I really detest the way some populists disdain the tastes of others, and vice versa.

Thanks to Adam Haslett’s recent article, The Art of Good Writing, I’ve added yet another book to my wish list — How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One. Haslett’s article itself is a treat for literature and word lovers.

My Greensboro pal, Danielle Hatfield at Experience Farm, shared a good post with her Twitter friends by Kathryn Williams, Working from Home: A Survivor’s Guide. Kathryn obviously knows the benefits and downfalls of a home office. Yes, I’m in yoga clothes right now but that’s because I plan to roll out the mat soon. Really.

If you’re an art lover who doesn’t have a big travel budget, you’ll love the Google Art Project. You can browse through 17 major art museums, including the Met, Frick, MoMA, Tate Britain, Rijksmuseum, Uffizi, Hermitage, Reina Sofia and Alte Nationalgalerie. Wow, studying art history is nothing like it used to be!

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Glad she's safe! ~ flickr photo by Paul Mannix

You’ve Got to Read This: January 18, 2011

Clay Shirky’s Foreign Affairs article, The Political Power of Social Media (registration required), is a fascinating read that rebuts and shreds Malcolm Gladwell’s view about the power of social media to facilitate change. Shirky doesn’t like our Administration’s “instrumental” approach — social media used as short-term action-oriented political tools with the focus on computers rather than phones — because it “overestimates the value of broadcast media while underestimating the value of media that allow citizens to communicate privately among themselves.” He prefers an “environmental” approach using social media as “long-term tools that can strengthen civil society and the public sphere,” a role that media has played throughout history — providing access to conversation. His discussion of the conservative’s dilemma, formerly known as the dictator’s dilemma, reminds me of the fear of loss of control that many organization leaders have about social media.

Why not give Malcolm Gladwell a share of the spotlight too? In this 2-1/2 minute video (transcript provided) on Big Think, he discusses the creative urge to collect and consume what we come across, to not edit the chaos, but to embrace it. For who knows what nuggets of inspiration might lie within?

I would love to see organizations take to heart Soren Gordhamer’s Five New Paradigms for a Socially Engaged Company. Creating the organizational culture that will bring about these changes? That’s the challenge. Take for instance #2, Mindset. Yes, it would be great if staff had the right mindset for innovation. But how can an organization facilitate that when an employee is juggling a to-do list that’s three pages long. Nevertheless, these are important cultural concepts that must be absorbed.

My pal Jeff Hurt, a prolific writer and brain, explains Why People Join Social Networking Sites. Oh, you thought you already knew? Well, you might be half right, but let Jeff take you a little deeper to the root causes – motivation you need to consider when developing your community strategy.

I have a feeling that Josip Petrusa’s post, Attracting Millennials to Your Event and Why You’re Failing at It, will be the seed of one of my future blog posts. His reasoning applies to more than only events, think organizations too. Boomers may not like reading this, but his perspective is good medicine and rings a bit too true.

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Manila protest January 2001 ~ flickr photo by M.a.c.a.r.o.n.i.

You’ve Got to Read This: January 11, 2011

You can’t go far on the web without tripping over a productivity expert, or lifestyle guru but that’s another story. Unlike many productivity posts, this list from Lifehacker of ten ways to upgrade your morning routine is well worth reading. It includes a few ideas I hadn’t seen before — ideas that make sense and are doable.

My mornings have been more productive lately not only because of the push-ups that Lifehacker encourages, but also because I’m using time blocks to schedule my day. Beth Kanter introduced me to this idea in her post Time Management for Nonprofit Social Media Professionals. She shares a video that Chris Brogan made explaining how he uses time blocking.

My friend Lynn Morton explains why sometimes a timely and relevant post must override your editorial calendar. She talks about “piggybacking onto (a) collective experience,” like a conference or new trend. Editorial calendars are a must when blogging but often it’s the inspired thoughtful post discussing a hot topic that brings readers to your blog, and energy to your fingertips.

Here’s a short and not-so-sweet but necessary read: Michael Hyatt’s Why I Stopped Reading Your Blog. I squirmed a bit when reading it because it made me realize that even though I think I’m a pretty good blogger, there is still a lot of room for improvement. No more 500+ word posts!

I’ve talked to people who are hesitant to spend time on social media platforms because they’re uncomfortable putting their life out there for all to see, or they dread finding themselves in awkward situations. There are ways to make social media work for both your personal and professional lives. Angela Connor explains how to “take back your power” by developing a personal social media policy and shares her policy with us.

It can’t be helped, my final suggestion is another post by Lynn Morton – she’s on fire! Like me, Lynn is returning to her yoga practice. She explains the yoga concept of being present and gives ideas on how to apply that presence to your social media tactics. It’s not a woo-woo post, she provides solid social media advice.


You’ve Got to Read This: January 4, 2011

I took a break during the holidays to enjoy time with my family and friends. I didn’t read much online but caught a few outstanding blog posts and conversations, particularly Joe Flower’s post and resulting comments about his decision to not renew his ASAE membership and a follow-up post by Maddie Grant. I’ll go into this topic further in my post this week at SmartBlog Insights.

The Blizzard of 2010 hit Massachusetts last week while I was visiting my family. My hometown got a foot and a half of snow so I spent several hours shoveling. Newark NJ mayor Cory Booker also spent many hours with his shovel and mobile Twitter application. Amanda Hite wrote about his tweets to constituents throughout the storm — a “new standard for politicians.”

I didn’t make official resolutions this year (yet) but I’m thinking about changes I want to make in my life: make my health a bigger daily priority instead of taking it for granted; and make more time to think, read books and nurture my creative side. I discovered some of Virginia Woolf’s resolutions, thanks to a tweet from Ayse. I especially like, “to fill my brain with remote books & habits.” What a cool glimpse into her head.

The Virginia Woolf tweet trail led me to Tracy Seeley sharing the LA Times’ list of the literary resolutions of 37 writers and readers. Here’s one I’ll steal for myself, “To converse more with my books. To write in the margins.” There are even more entertaining resolutions in the list. Do you know of any other historical or literary icon’s resolutions? I’m sure I could google this but rather hear about your favorites.

I bet many of you have at least thought about fitness or wellness in the last few days. “This year I’ll exercise at least 30 minutes a day,” or “This year I’ll get out into nature more.” If this sounds familiar, and if you live in North Carolina, you’ll love Joe Miller’s blog, Get Going NC. He writes about hiking, running, cycling and other fitness and wellness topics.

This is the best thing I’ve read lately on writing blog posts. Carol Tice gives 40 simple writing tweaks for better blog posts. Bookmark it and keep going back to it; I just did.

Ali Luke shares several good ideas on ProBlogger on how to improve your writing by getting outside the blogging bubble. Perhaps you’ll find some fodder there for New Year’s resolutions?

You’ve Got to Read This: December 21, 2010

One of the many things I love about the Christmas season is how it brings out the generous side of people. In a timely post Bob Bessette shares some ways we can blog for good. He definitely got me thinking about how I might use my writing skills to help out a local charity. Another way to help out good causes is to sign up to be a micro-volunteer with the Sparked network where you can “turn your spare time into social good.” Once you sign up, select causes and identify your skills, Sparked will send you email alerts when an organization needs your help.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the ideal time to reflect and reset. I’ve written at SmartBlog Insights about setting time aside at work to reboot. Carol-Anne Moutinho shares several ways to help your nonprofit staff unleash their creative energy. Her ideas can work for any organization at any time, so don’t skip this one.

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untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection) by Dan Flavin at the National Gallery of Art, photo by EB Morse

Here’s a fascinating case about the perennial question — what is art. A British art gallery importing disassembled artwork by Dan Flavin and Bill Viola for an exhibit was taxed by customs at the standard 20% rate, instead of the 5% artwork rate. Customs classified Flavin’s work as “lighting fittings” rather than art, and the European Commission later agreed. As the post notes, this shows how “modern” art can still bewilder some people, just like in 1926 when Brancusi’s Bird in Space was classified as “Kitchen Utensils and Hospital Supplies.”

I haven’t suggested a Twitter follow in this series yet. I get a lot of good reading suggestions from Justin Levy’s @jlevymedia account. This isn’t his personal account, but a feed of posts he finds worth sharing, a mix of social media content and posts that appeal to freelancers and other creative types.

Jeff Cobb at Mission to Learn saves the day with his list of ten last minute gifts for lifelong learners. As a self-identified lifelong learner myself, I can vouch for the accuracy of this list. I’m reading a book by Natalie Angier, The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, and she recommends buying a dissecting, or stereo, microscope (that would fall under #4, Experiment, on Jeff’s list). They’re not cheap, but maybe you can find one at a yard sale, that’s where I’m looking. She says it’s “a modest price to pay for revelation, revolution, and — let’s push this envelope out of the box while we’re at it — personal salvation.” Wow. Check out Jeff’s list for your own personal salvation.

I thought it was rather generous of Santa’s agency to publish his brand guidelines for all to see. Lots to learn here about that jolly old fellow. Yet I must warn you that Santa spelled backward, atnas, is not Lithuanian for chimney, as far as I can tell. Yes, I’m just gullible enough to check things like that. However, I’m sure the rest is all true. Merry Christmas!

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flickr photo by LadyDragonflyCC

You’ve Got to Read This: December 14, 2010

One of the first posts I read this morning was by Lisa Johnson on the Food Blog Alliance. She writes about women, blogging, the ‘free’ issue and negotiation. If you’re a woman blogger or solopreneur, you’ll find lots to chew on here.

Chris Lake shares 25 reasons why he will leave your website in under ten seconds. If you have either autosound or a pop-up, I will leave in under two seconds, never to return. I’m amazed at how many so-called blogging experts make you click on an obnoxious pop-up before you can read their content. Are they really experts? I don’t know because I never stay to read their stuff. Yet the jerks must be making money from someone if they continue to use those ploys.

Arik Hanson wrote a very helpful post about finding content for your blog, 24 Ways to Feed the Blog Beast. Arik’s tips are excellent, but if you still find it difficult to overcome blogger’s block, it could be a symptom of a larger problem. You might need to sit down and think about your strategy. Who is your target audience? What are your blogging objectives? I’m revisiting these questions too as I shift my professional focus away from social media and toward freelance writing. My pipeline is suffering because I haven’t found the time to wrestle with these issues.

If you know what you want to write about but you lack motivation, read this rant from John Scalzi, Writing: Find the Time or Don’t. “I keep inspired to write because if I don’t then the mortgage company will be inspired to foreclose on my house.” I love his message, shut up and do it. Need more inspiration? “And if you need inspiration, think of yourself on your deathbed saying “well, at least I watched a lot of TV.” If saying such a thing as your life ebbs away fills you with existential horror, well, then. I think you know what to do.” Yes, sir!

We’ll be inundated with posts about the approaching new year, but the good ones are worth sharing. Here’s one that appeared this week by Linda Formichelli, New Year, Fresh Start: 9 Ways to Recalibrate Your Business in 2011. It’s a mix of big picture and practical tasks to add to your to-do list.

Are you a supporter of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks? If you are, please tell me why. I’m curious. I get the freedom of speech argument, and if you read my post last week where I wrote about the Hide/Seek exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, you already know that. I understand the importance of transparency, I’ve written about that lately too. But national security and diplomacy often require secrecy; I don’t mind that. Not everything needs to be transparent and for good reason. When I read Why I Don’t Care About WikiLeaks, I got the feeling that Jay Dolan might be of the same mind. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out his blog’s holiday header.

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