The Ten Best Ideas from BlogPotomac

My recap from BlogPotomac is now up on the company blog.

The short version:

  1. Shel Holtz: I don’t know how you establish a long-term community around a movie.
  2. Shireen Mitchell: Watching on TV is different from being there in person, and social media can fill some (but not all) of the gaps.
  3. Shireen Mitchell: The way Congress responds to advocates who use social media will determine how it’s used.
  4. Scott Monty: Your network is a social media monitoring tool.
  5. Scott Monty: Social media can serve different purposes for different departments and in different regions.
  6. Liz Strauss: As soon as you’re hired, you’re no longer a customer: learn to listen.
  7. Amber Naslund: Using company resources but only building your own brand means both the company and you suffer when you leave.
  8. Scott Monty (yet again): Have a social media succession plan.
  9. Shashi Bellamkonda: Reach out to other internal evangelists.
  10. Doug Meacham: Invite your community to spend downtime with you.

Go read on Advocacy Avenue to find out what they all mean.

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Slash versus backslash: does precision matter?

This is a slash: /
This is a backslash: \
So it bugs me when people say as “xyz dot com backslash whatever.”

I know where it comes from: Windows directories really are separated by backslashes. It’s hard to adjust from that to the web, invented by Unix users.

So why do I care? I care because I like precision. I’m a programmer, so a misplaced semicolon or quotation mark often causes all kinds of errors. I learned grammar, so “it’s” instead of “its” rubs me the wrong way. Punctuation matters.

I read most of my text on blogs, where it may or may not have been proofread. I use Twitter, where people abbreviate and leave out words to fit into 140 characters. I’m seeing more and more typos in books and newspapers, as publishers don’t have time or copyediting staff to catch them. And here the Internet was supposed to usher in a golden age of text.

I wonder sometimes how long it will be before I stop caring. I think it’ll be a while. I’m still most impressed by people who can express themselves fluently in standard written English.

Note: Actually, that isn’t quite true – I can only evaluate the grammar in English, but I’m impressed by the ideas in the blogs I read in French as well. I was pleased to find I could decipher most of a post in Portuguese the other day, too…. Global Internet, here I come.

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Politics Online Conference writeups

I was lucky enough this year to be able to attend parts of the Politics Online Conference, run by the Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet at George Washington University. It was a great event, with interesting topics/speakers and impressively competent logistics (I helped stuff name badges into holders the Saturday before, and pretty much everything else was ready to move into the space then, banners and boxes and all).

If you want to read what I learned from speakers including Senator Claire McCaskill and Obama campaign Director of New Media Joe Rospars, my posts on Amplify’s Advocacy Avenue blog (oh yeah, we changed the blog name) are:

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News and not-news

In these days of news organizations slowly and quickly and very quickly falling apart, I’m starting to catalogue types of reporting that really should be done by citizen media instead. Josh Korr at Publishing 2.0 thinks of scrapbook news; I’m leaning more toward inane trend stories.

Case in point: why did at least three major news sources decide today to publish stories about the Facebook 25 things meme? The New York Times, Time, and my local, normally-serious Washington Post all fell prey to this; anyone would think the meme had a gifted publicist. But how did I find out about two of the three stories? From a friend’s Facebook status. (The Post one I found on its website, in my daily “read the 15-25 stories I might care about” scan.)

I quite like the meme, as long as no one expects me to complete it – my friends’ random facts have been amusing (especially the 25 completely fictional “facts” one person shared). But if you care about the story, you know it’s happening because it’s on your news feed, and if it’s not on your news feed I can’t imagine you care about the story. So why spend precious journalistic resources on this? Is this the kind of content people will value enough to pay for?

Sure, it’s content that got me to write a blog post. And maybe that’s what newspapers and magazines value now. But eyeballs are one thing, and money to support your foreign bureaus is another, and I wish the people I rely on for news had a better idea how to keep delivering it.

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And what I learned on the Japan/China trip, from Slideshare

What I Learned on My Fall Vacation

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: japan china)
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Japan/China trip photos on Flickr (finally)

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Survey time again

Remember last year? It’s that time again.

I took the Web Design Survey - and so should you!

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Podcast roundup – broken glasses edition

My glasses have been horribly scratched for at least a year, and I’d finally decided that within the next couple months I’d get myself an eye exam and some new glasses. Then last Tuesday my glasses weren’t just scratched, I couldn’t see through them properly. I think my left lens partially shattered in place.

So until I can get new glasses (on a considerably accelerated schedule), I’m not reading very much. Yes, I’m near-sighted enough that the computer screen 18 inches away is blurry. Yes, I’ve made the text bigger. No, it doesn’t help enough.

So instead I’ve been listening to all the podcasts I’ve collected and then proceeded to ignore over the last year or so. Some have been more interesting than expected. And the winners are:

  • Chicago GSB Podcast Series – These are speeches/discussions at various events, so most of them are around an hour long. Normally I don’t have time to listen, but every time I do they’re interesting. The particular episode in this case was on CEO Goalsetting (MP3), including discussion of baseline goals, stretch goals, bounties, motivation, and what really works in a large company and in a startup. One panelist was the current CEO of Liz Claiborne, whose unenviable turnaround situation I’ve followed (for instance, see today’s Washington Post story on the men’s line), so it’s interesting to hear how he’s trying to change things.
  • Deloitte Insights Podcast – The show descriptions included when you subscribe to Deloitte’s podcast are abbreviated versions of and much less inviting than the pages devoted to each episode, so I’m not sure why they don’t include the full text in the feed. Regardless, the episodes themselves are excellent, with thorough conversations by experts. I listened to Embracing Disruption: How Consumers Are Transforming the U.S. Health Care System, and while I know a fair amount about the trends (researching medical information and providers online, shopping around for care or being told you ought to, etc.), it was a very comprehensive discussion. Participants in next year’s expected health policy debate should listen to this one.
  • McKinsey on High Tech Podcasts – Unlike McKinsey’s Global Institute and Finance podcasts, this one is interviews rather than audio versions of McKinsey Quarterly articles (which I’d really rather read/skim – better to do interviews with article authors like HBR sometimes does). The interviews look forward to potential new markets, since they’re on topics being researched by McKinsey’s high tech practice group, such as the Software as a Service episode I listened to. For me, sitting in an internet job and reading blogs of independent / small company web workers, SaaS seems everywhere, but it’s at the very early stages of corporate adoption. This was a good introduction to the benefits and where the market may go, though I was surprised there wasn’t more discussion of privacy/security issues with keeping data “in the cloud”.

I guess there’s a theme here of smart people having in-depth discussions of complicated business topics. Other podcasts in this category, not listed above because I listen to them more regularly:

LBS’s podcast doesn’t qualify because it’s too short; MIT’s is about selling the school rather than discussing research. Are there any more Serious Business Idea podcasts I should be listening to? Tell me now, before I can read again!

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Review: Personality Not Included

(book cover)If you write a book called Personality Not Included (Amazon link), you’d better include your own personality in its pages. Rohit Bhargava has definitely succeeded in that – and in writing an entertaining book with some serious advice about how companies can attract customers.

First the disclaimer: I enjoy Rohit’s blog, and I met Rohit at (and got my copy of the book in the swag from) Blogger Social earlier this month, so I’m predisposed to like it. In addition, Rohit ran a brainstorming breakfast there around ideas for marketing the book, which was a lot of fun – and an excuse to visit Greenwich Village – so I was invested in the book’s success before reading a word of it.

However, I’m sure I’d have enjoyed Personality Not Included if I’d picked it up because of the chickens on the cover. It’s written conversationally, more in the style of a blog than a formal business book, and it includes stories from a wide range of industries to illustrate its points. The main chapters are a smart description of why facelessness used to be an advantage, why it isn’t now, and how you can reform your company.

One of the best things about Personality Not Included is the footnotes. Again probably influenced by blogging, Rohit has included references to other books, magazines, and blogs where they’re related to his points, not just in a bibliography at the end. He’s willing to be the authority for some ideas but to send readers elsewhere when it will benefit us to hear from someone else. And good number of the footnotes are funny asides that make him seem like a real person, perfectly demonstrating how sounding authentic gains the sympathy of a customer.

The part I’m expecting to be most helpful to me is the Techniques, a list of ten “stylized ways of marketing” that can show off your organization’s personality, including Participation Marketing, Insider Marketing, and Useful Marketing. None of the techniques is a new idea, but it’s great to be able to run down the list and think “Would that suit this next campaign?” for each one. Each includes a “step by step” section as well as examples. Bonus techniques will be posted on the book website soon, and I’ll be keeping the list close to hand.

On the other hand, I’m not really sold on the Guides & Tools, the last 50 pages of the book. Too much of that seemed repeated from the chapters – though that may be by design, as the Note to the Reader at the beginning of the book suggests you don’t have to read from front to back but can skip around. The Guides & Tools do expand on the earlier material; I was just hoping for more concrete advice (maybe a blog series on rewriting backstories?). The chapter five set on Beating Roadblocks is the exception, with excellent suggestions.

This book is written for people who want their organizations not to be ordinary. As it says, “There are millions of profitable, ordinary businesses around the world.” But ordinary businesses are vulnerable to extraordinary ones, and extraordinary businesses are the ones with a “soul of your brand that people can get passionate about,” a personality. If you aspire to be loved and not just profitable, you’d be smart to pick up Personality Not Included.

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Blogger Social profiles – compiled

I’ll be going to Blogger Social in New York in a week, and in preparation I’ve been reading (and helping write) Steve Woodruff’s series of Socialite profiles. Now, for easy downloading, here are:

The 48-page full-size PDF (5MB) and the booklet PDF (4.8MB).

The booklet (courtesy of my new software toy CocoaBooklet) can be printed double-sided and stapled in the middle to make a cute little pocketable guide.


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