Tuesday, November 27, 2012

At Last...

Small change for those who regularly read the blog...I am moving all of my future blogposts to my Tumblr account.  For those who aren't aware, I currently write five blogs, in five different voices, it seems.  I'm hoping to consolidate all to one voice, at one location.

It should probably also be noted that my online presence will start to be more streamlined, too, at least for the holiday season (and I'm hoping beyond).  At present I post all over the map, constantly trying to catch up, constantly trying to remind others that I'm still there and still listening.  My life has turned into more of what "it looks like" than "what it is."  Moving forward, most of my postings will be on Tumblr, and even those will be limited.

I'm still here, reading everyone else.  Believe it or don't.  I'm also out finding life.  The mentality that I might "miss something on the 'net if I don't tune in" has moved to "I might miss life if I don't limit my internet time."

Thanks for reading.  Onward.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Politics and Technology Make For Strange Role Models


Whether you are a fan of following the current Presidential race, or enjoy discovering what's new in technology, you'll be lucky enough to see it in action.

Okay, sometimes you will...for better, and sometimes for worse.

More and more we see in the news how this candidate is responding to the other candidate about that topic, when the candidates aren't even in the same room.  (It makes me wonder what the candidates are going to talk about when they do have their debates, if they hash it out in the social media and in advertisements ahead of time.)  The art of politics seems to be how well you answer--or dodge, as the case may be--the other guy's accusation.  There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of innovation or new ideas proposed.  Just a back-and-forth tennis match.

The same thing goes for technology.  This morning Kindle announced the unveiling of its (pardon the clichéed terminology) answer to the iPad and Google Nexus tablets, with all kinds of bells and whistles that are supposed to make it competitive with those tablets in the sheer existence of features that Apple and Google didn't think of.  Two weeks ago Apple was awarded a $1.5 billion settlement for Samsung's answer to the iPhone.  All of these tech companies are answering each other with tablets that sort of look alike but have new features that we never thought we always wanted--like a timer telling me when I'll finish reading a book.  (I can't say that I want to know that information, Mr. Bezos--the idea makes me feel like I'm back in college, reading under a gun.)

Meanwhile, no one company can seem to make earbuds that don't get caught or tangled in everything.

There are rules still waiting to be broken...not answered for.  There are needs that still need to be met.


Every morning in my email inbox, in my Facebook feed, in my LinkedIn feed, and in my Twitter stream there are postings of link after link on how to get ahead in my job search.  Here are just a few examples of "advice" or "tips" that I get on how to "get ahead":

  • "Nine Phrases You Should Never Put on Your Resume" (Monster)
  • "Five Ways to Leave a Lasting Impression During a Job" (LinkedIn)
  • "Going Over Two Pages [On Your Resume]?" (Twitter, FindEmployment)
  • "Here are tips to boost your confidence" (Twitter, Mary Anne Dorward)
  • "How to Transition From the Corporate World to Freelance" (Google Reader, The Daily Muse)
"How to..." "____ Tips to..." "What You Should Do If..."

Isn't every job-hunter reading these?

As I read them I'm finding that most of the "lists" are common sense, some of them are arbitrary rules that make no sense and have no explanation offered for them, and none of them strike me as innovative.  The lists that strike me as particularly unhelpful are those where the candidate is given tips on "how to stand out."  A standard list on how to stand out?  

Again, there are rules waiting to be broken...not pat answers to the question of where the next opportunity is, no standard solutions.

Time to slim down my reading material and do a little innovating of my own.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


On any given day in San Francisco there are certain neighborhoods--the Haight-Ashbury, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Mission, and the underground transit stops along Market Street, to name a few--where street performers and panhandlers congregate.  If you go out with the sole purpose of finding them you won’t have to look hard.
What will be difficult is remembering one after you’ve seen so many.
In my time, two of them stand out--a hammer dulcimer player at he Embarcadero BART station, and the Bush Man at Fisherman’s Wharf.  The dulcimer guy got a 5-spot from me for lugging a temperature-sensitive, heavy, stringed instrument down into the tunnel, and the Bush Man got the 5-spot for scaring tourists, including me.  He made me aware of my surroundings.
The rest of the performers and panhandlers I don’t remember; they’re not all alike, but they are all weird.
I was thinking about them as I read an article over the weekend in the April 9th issue of the The New Yorker about the Miami Marlins.  In the article writer Ben McGrath profiles the new spangled stadium, the new players, and the new manager, Ozzie Guillen.  For those who aren’t familiar with Ozzie, you’re probably living in the same ignorant state of nirvana as those who don’t know who Nyjer Morgan is--the parade of sports figures who want to be known inside and outside of Major League Baseball for something besides baseball.  Ozzie’s extra-cirricular activity is his mouth, and his blatant disregard for tact or humility.  Most quotes from employers of such characters are along the lines of “Aw, that’s just Ozzie being Ozzie” and then we’re all to go on, dismissing the behavior as that of a celebrity who became famous by utilizing precisely that behavior.
What separates Ozzie from the other pack of weirdos (and maybe includes Nyjer as well, since he uses his San Francisco visits to anger fans who are from the community where he was born and raised) is that while he just had a mouth in Chicago, he apparently possesses a megaphone in Miami.  As of Tuesday morning, Guillen states he “has to live in Miami” and that he misspoke and that he meant to say that he’s surprised that Castro is still alive instead of saying that he admires him.  The question begs, “then why didn’t you say that?”
I have to wonder, too, how such a market-specific topic came up in the Time interview.  Was this Time’s question?  Or Ozzie’s offering?  Who’s pushing the buttons here?  I imagine the Marlins were seated to get all kinds of nationwide attention before this happened, which would explain why Time might have posed the question, or that Ozzie wanted to keep the national spotlight, which might have explained why he made the comment.
At the end of this hoopla another question is begged by the comments in the social networks, “Why should we care what Ozzie’s political positions are?”  In a utopian society, we wouldn’t, but utopian societies aren’t run by the consumer of the end product.  (If they were, I could watch the Nets or the Padres on Time Warner Cable.)  Ozzie’s consumer base is over 50% Cuban-American, and that consumer base is also no longer living in Cuba for a reason, and that reason is not because they too admire Fidel.  Well then, you say, boycott the games.  If only it were that simple.  Because the “Florida” Marlins had such a low fan turnout for their previous seasons, the new venue is mostly subsidized by the Dade County leadership.  McGrath explains in his profile that the mayor of Miami lost a recall election because of it.  So, whether you agree with the new venue, the name change, Ozzie’s politics, or if you aren’t even a baseball fan; if you live in Dade County, you’re a consumer.
And if you’re Cuban-American, you’re probably an infuriated consumer in Dade County.
In another passage in the New Yorker article McGrath talks about all the bells and whistles on the new Marlins stadium, bells and whistles inserted because the general manager and the owners believe that the Miami fan prefers to be entertained than watch baseball.  “Come to the ballpark--look at me, look at me!”  One of the team mottos is “Did you see that?” and Ozzie’s placement seems to have been to add to the theatrics even before the Time article.
It all reminds me of the collection of the fantastic selection of weirdos who I don’t readily remember...unless they make the impossible happen or they scare me into awareness.
I wonder which of those two categories best fits Ozzie in Miami...if either one fits him at all.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Yelp, Revisited

Here she is again, beating the social network drum...
I am a regular poster on Yelp, an online site for reviewing businesses.  I post on Yelp despite that many of my fellow posters are half my age and despite the controversy of review manipulation to make numbers look better for some businesses over those of others.
My San Francisco Yelp experience (where the site began, too) has been mostly one-sided--the equivalent of a review in a bottle.  Once, someone acknowledged my review of a favorite burger joint and offered to make the experience better.  No one else in the Bay Area said boo, save for other reviewers who enjoyed my particular brand of scrutiny.
But San Diego County has been different.  Managers/owners are consistently checking their reviews, and listening to the voice of the customer with concern and gratitude.  The gratitude part comes from offering up the feedback in the first place--patrons in San Diego county tend to save their thoughts for FourSquare (a tracking device, for the most part, that can be activated on your phone), which isn’t that hard to believe, since Yelp doesn’t allow for review posting on its mobile edition.  You can save a draft of your review on your iPhone, but you have to go on like on a computer to publish that draft.  I have a feeling this gap in connectivity and the general lack of locked on cell phones here contribute to fewer reviews here.
I’m not picky...my favorite social media aspect is connectivity with others, and when that happens I’m happy enough.  When it happens with the business management, however, it takes on a feeling of having been heard.
Imagine...being heard by a business...so that you’ll go back...because that business seems to listen to you...
It’s not just a fairytale.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mind the Gap

Oh, what a motley crew is starting to collect on the social networks.  First there  was Netflix raising their prices.  Then there was Bank of America and Verizon adding fees.  And, most recently, there was the Susan G. Komen Foundation making funding changes.
Some of the actions of these organizations were reversed.  Some weren’t.  But all seemed to be missing an important component--a proactive approach to customers and contributors.
One would think, with large organizations like these, that public relations consultants or social-networking gurus would have been hired years ago to use innovation and market knowledge to gauge ahead of time through sample studies what kind of reaction new policies would get.  One would think that organizations of this size would find a way to “float” an idea to customers and/or contributors without flat-out presenting it or dictating it.  One would think that organizations of this size would find a cleaner way of presenting their initiatives than the approach of shoot first, apologize later.
What kind of person might fill such a position for a company of this size?
  • Someone with strong customer service skills;
  • Someone with strong analytical skills, in order to analyze trends, news sources, and social networking to determine best practices;
  • Someone who has the courage and support to bring their input to the boardroom;
  • Someone who has the communication skills to articulate and be diplomatic about keeping customers and stockholders (or donors) happy.
I wonder where these companies could find someone like that, says this blogger as she reviews her experience and skills and sighs.
Even more importantly, I wonder what company will do the shoot first, apologize later tactic next?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Followers

Last week I found an article in LinkedIn (via Forbes), that struck me as interesting.  The article talked about how good leaders are created by their charges just as much as they create winning teams.

Oddly enough, I've never considered the fact that I may have contributed to my past supervisors or leaders.  My perception of not having contributed to their growth as leaders comes from the fact that very few of them show interest in how my story continues.  I'm usually the one reaching out to see how they are and what they are doing, and not the other way around.  Does that mean, according to Forbes contributor Mike Myatt, that my leaders of the past are missing the complete picture?

Maybe I'm taking this too far, but the co-author of the article, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Devine of the US Army, stated the following that led me to that conclusion:

In most literature leaders are openly encouraged to understand how their own traits, strengths, weaknesses and habits affect their relationships, decision making, style, etc. What I think is not addressed is the criticality of a leader’s ability to reflect and understand the impact that the people he/she leads has on his/her own personal development and growth.
In other words, for a leader to truly be great, he/she must accept and understand that the people they have the privilege to lead will indelibly shape the kind of person and leader they become. If you are good at the profession of leadership, then you habitually form close relationships with your team members. This inevitably causes you to internalize and incorporate the team’s traits as surely as the team will internalize your behaviors and disposition.

I can't say that I blame my leaders for the lack of follow-up; as Devine states, "the literature" teaches leaders to focus on what they bring to the table and not what the table brings to them, and maybe I don't warrant the follow-up in the eyes of those who used to lead me.  But for years I've thought of myself as missing something by wanting to know how the people I used to lead were doing.  I've been told by other leaders to let bygones be bygones.  But these people lent something to me, too, I inwardly respond, biting my tongue.

And maybe it's not a good idea to spend so much energy trying to focus my connections on just those who led me, but those who followed me, too.


Since I left Grainger in April I have kept in touch with my former charges at Grainger in San Francisco, and with a couple of folks on Facebook at the Oakland location.  Two days before I left for Southern California I got a call from one of the employees at the Oakland office, and the phone was passed around from one former follower to another.  I was a big phone channel proponent at the Oakland office, and I asked about their stats.  Were they still working to lead the district in stats?

Yes, they answered me proudly.  We still lead the district.

Nine months after I left, I still had an effect on them.  I contributed.  Only a follower would have been able to tell me that.  And they called me to tell me that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Purpose of a Business Page, Social-Networking Style

I spend a lot of time on the social networks these days looking for patterns in the cosmos that might improve the participation of my writing group members and the experience that they have once they visit.  More and more, I see a posting on other business and organizational pages that looks like this:
“What do YOU want our Google+/Facebook/Twitter postings to share?  How can we make this page better for you?”
I, um, hate to ask this, but isn’t that like asking customers of, say, a bakery why they came into the store to start with?
At the same time, I can see the conundrum.  Figuring out what gets people to participate on social network pages is roughly on par with figuring out how to cure cancer or eliminate the common cold.  But asking outright?  Isn’t that action displaying a complete and total lack of imagination?  After all, if we give you, the business or organizational page, the answer, then everyone will do it.
So it’s a lot of trial and error...and probably re-assessing online presence.
With the writing group, there seems to be three ways to get the group interested:
  • Feature one of the participants’ projects;
  • Say something controversial (note:  this also has the potential of dropping connections);
  • Actually listen and respond to dialogue that participants bring up themselves, instead of treating it like a formula.
Oh, that last one was so hard to learn, especially since there so many articles about the “right” way to social network.
The thing is, I’ve found that if the participants start the dialogue and are strengthened by the moderator, they tend to stay longer and they tend to see the business or organization as one that recognizes their contributions.  In other words, loyal customers.
For that reason, I’m sticking with the last option, which is a remarkably simple solution, if I do say so myself.  Or, I should say, if my participants do say so themselves.