International Relations – A Personal Undertaking

December 4th, 2014 by admin. No Comments »

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

(Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 159–167)

When we are confronted with something or someone influential or disruptive, it is perhaps unrealistic to expect that person or thing to completely, immediately, and profoundly change us. There is much within each of us that is already great and wonderful, so why must we transform, when a tweak might suffice? Nobody can rightly expect another to become a rabid evangelist for post-impressionist art, just because they saw and enjoyed Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”; one isn’t bound to become a born-again Christian by dint of the fact that one reads a verse of the Bible, and admires its social logic, inconsistent as it might be. Shakespeare’s quote above applies on so many levels, not least of which being how the largely Christian West and mostly Islamic Middle East view one another. How are we to build and maintain truly sustainable and meaningful business relations if we don’t believe that we can relate to one another, on a personal level?

The world within which we live is much larger than the world in which we might be each choosing to live. It’s high time we embraced the opportunity to explore and recognize the shared truths that thrive behind the facade of the “other”.

Chinese philosopher Laozi once wrote “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (Tao Te Ching, chapter 64). I wonder how many blessings we might extract from this journey of a million smiles…

Next time you travel abroad, assume that the similarities between you and your counterpart are greater than the differences, and work outward from that core position. You may be surprised to find that the result is more profitable for all concerned.

Adtendite a Perito – Beware of the Expert

October 23rd, 2014 by admin. No Comments »

I find it sadly fascinating how many consultants tout their credentials as nextgen connectors, supremely well-versed in the art of customer engagement and retention (by their own admission), and uniquely placed to counsel the rest of the business world on how to manage the relationship with our client and customer bases. My fascination stems not so much from the fact that there now seem to be more of these “experts” than there are scriptwriters in Hollywood, but from how unwilling these “gurus” are to include others in their “dialogue”. They publish prolifically, and have answers to every question posed, but god forbid someone else offer an insight or counterpoint. I follow many of these self-anointed “thought leaders” as many of my own partners and clients often ask me what I think of this speaker or that panelist (call me a glutton for punishment), and have regularly noted how they edit both the comment section and main body of their postings, to adapt to market changes as well as erase anything but adoring support and fawning interest. This is not engagement, it is Push marketing, a 20th century device that has limited appeal nowadays.

Three things may happen upon the publication of this post:

  1. Nobody reads it.
  2. Somebody reads it and leaves a favorable comment, useful link, or insightful addendum.
  3. Somebody reads it and leaves a less than favorable comment.

In the first scenario, which may well manifest, given the glut of opinion pieces on LinkedIn, Tumblr, and other online soapboxes (blogs such as this one included!), there is naught to do but soldier on.

In the second scenario, I will append a grateful thanks for their kind attention and contribution and, if relevant, add additional remarks of my own to keep the conversation going.

In the last scenario, it would be my obligation to remove the comment ONLY if said comment is downright rude or offensive, or completely irrelevant to the discussion. If the last of these was the case, I would give the individual the courtesy of a note explaining my action and the reasons therefor. If, however, the comment was simply a counterpoint to my observations, and respectfully put, I would welcome and respond to it. After all, isn’t that what engagement is all about?

So, to all you gurus, experts, and thought leaders out there in LinkedInLand, Tumblrtown, and Blogburgh: if you are among those who “trim” your postings and comment sections like a textual topiary bush, please stop. You do yourselves and your readers a disservice. Censorship should only be ever exercised with extreme caution, and only when no other option exists.

Today (or a little while from now) it’s drones delivering your books…

December 2nd, 2013 by admin. No Comments »

It Really Is This Simple.

November 21st, 2013 by admin. No Comments »

Facebook Embedded Posts Are Available To Everyone As Of Today

August 21st, 2013 by admin. No Comments »

Facebook never intended for its brand to represent a single site called So, when everyone and their Media auntie started moaning about how Facebook was losing users, simply because a few people were no longer going to to check their newsfeed, the folks at FB HQ just smiled quietly. Why? Because Facebook is not in the business of hosting a global chat-room. It’s mission is to connect everyone around the world, wherever they are, and however they choose. Thus, we have Facebook Connect, whereby your FB identity follows you all over the Web, and brings your friends with you. It also represents Facebook’s underlying play for ubiquitous presence across the Interwebs.

Facebook has deployed other platform and channel agnostic tools and utilities that integrate their brand more firmly in to your daily Net activities, not least of which is today’s release of Facebook Embedded Posts. Now bloggers, site builders, and other content publishers have been advised they can embed Facebook Page content in to their distinct destinations:

As of Wednesday afternoon, it wasn’t quite working. Even the Facebook Developer blog posting on this subject only shows links:
What is supposed to happen is that FB Page posts are directly embedded in one’s blog posting, and you, the reader, can interact with the post directly, without having to be redirected to Facebook. You can Like my Page (please Like me! Pleeeaaazzzze!!), add a comment, and share the posting, all without leaving the comfort of my site! When and if it works, this will certainly be one more rung in the ladder of Facebook’s climb to ubiquity across the most used and most inhabited ecosystem in the world, the Net.
Until then, as is often the case with Facebook releases, some iteration is required. I’m not complaining, since everything Facebook has given me has been free (if aggregate data  collection is not seen as some sort of tariff). However, many users don’t like this “Release then iterate” model of feature rollout. I wonder how they’ll react this time.

Chances Are…

May 18th, 2013 by admin. No Comments »

As of this evening, the Powerball lottery jackpot will exceed the $600,000,000 figure. Everyone’s going bananas. While nothing would make me happier to see one of my friends win (talking to you Hickey, Andrews, and all the others who are posting about it on Facebook!), I think it worth noting that the odds of winning the Powerball lottery are 1 in 175,223,510.

You’re more likely to die as a pedestrian than win the jackpot (1 in 701 chance, until municipalities get their act together and start more enthusiastically embracing the concept of Complete Streets, pedestrian zones, and other advances in urban living).

You have a better chance of being a movie star (1 in 1,505,000), getting struck by lightning (1 in 134,906), or becoming President of the U.S.A. (1 in 10,000,000).

So, before you rush to buy a ticket that you’ve never thought of buying before, bear in mind that you have a much better chance of becoming the “leader of the free world”, getting drafted to the NBA after college (if you’re a high school senior basketball player, the odds are 1 in 6,864,000), or making a hole in one on a par 3 hole (something 1 in 12,500 amateur golfers will accomplish, but still sounds like directions for knitting to me).

If All The World’s A Stage, Why Do So Many People Keep Missing Their Cues?

May 15th, 2013 by admin. 1 Comment »

The Actor’s Equity Association (AEA) is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and one of its initiatives is to provide members with fancy new gold credit card style membership cards, replacing the former paper-based version. My reaction, when I heard this, was one of disappointment. Every initiative taken by an organization today has consequences and implications that reverberate across multiple sectors. In this case, the AEA failed to take advantage of a priceless opportunity to enhance member services, increase member engagement, and exhibit a very simple but impactful degree of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).

More than 7 years ago, the Census Bureau determined that there were nearly 1.5 billion credit cards in use in the U.S. A stack of all those credit cards would reach more than 70 miles into space — and be almost as tall as 13 Mount Everests. If this number of credit cards were thrown away every three years, the stack of credit cards would reach almost 43 Everests high after a decade. These plastics do not biodegrade in landfills. Not so fancy.

Actor’s Equity is not a lone offender, though. When SAG and AFTRA merged, the new union had an opportunity to revisit its longstanding use of plastic credit card member IDs, but opted to stick with the short term functionality of plastics, long-term sustainability be damned. The Producers Guild and other industry organizations are equally guilty. My frustration would be less justified if there existed few alternatives. However, companies such as Discover Financial services are offering cards made of BioPVC™ and other biodegradable alternatives; well-established technologies such as mobile apps present a plethora of creative and operational opportunities; and other technologies such as NFC offer yet more potential, as their adoption becomes more widespread. So why the lack of innovation or sustainability best practices? Is it an absence of imagination? Aversion to change? Financially motivated obduracy?

As current Chair of my city’s Sustainability Commission, I have benefited from the past four years, learning about the negative consequences of unsustainable practices (both in business and personal life), as well as about the positive implications of Green and other more sustainable commercial and community options, be it through renewable materials sourcing, alternative energy programs, commercial district redesigns, and many other areas. Many initiatives in sustainability offer up more than a single-pronged benefit or solution. It’s not just about environmental conservation, or clean air, or recycling. It’s about positioning ourselves, our businesses, and our communities for a more environmentally, socially, and financially robust future.

Had the AEA decided to explore options for member identification, other than the current plastic card tradition, all sorts of exciting avenues to member engagement and empowerment might have been revealed. Imagine a mobile app (what actor does not have a mobile phone?) that represents not only the individual’s union identification, but also a resource for direct connection to their credit union, membership affiliate discount programs, health insurance tools, personalized pension and 401K insights, dues status (and mobile payment processing), and much more, besides. The cost savings to the AEA and their members alike would be enormous, the raw materials no longer needed (plastics, papers, etc) would be mountainous, and the ability to connect more dynamically with membership would elevate the usefulness, value and – by extension – collective bargaining power of the AEA.

To those who would argue that they would not wish to entrust such data to a mobile device that might lose power, break, be stolen, or otherwise be compromised…I suggest they note that more wallets are stolen and lost than mobile devices. The Baby Boomer generation may not be able to acclimatize themselves to the notion of a cardless society, but I personally am quite excited by the idea of saving money, time, and materials – simply by aggregating the contents of my wallet into a well-protected, institutionally insured, cloud-based ecosystem that poses no more risk to our identities than we currently face today. The promise that lies in such innovation far outweighs the risks, and I can think of no better collective to act upon this promise than Actors themselves. This opportunity seems to have been missed, but I sincerely hope that other organizations might think a little more expansively about each initiative they take, going forward. The smallest tweak might offer far greater rewards (and savings) than they might imagine.

Something New To Muse Upon

March 19th, 2013 by admin. 1 Comment »

My parents rock.

Here below is an excerpt from a recent news publication:

“Miss Porter’s School, a college preparatory school for girls established in 1843 and located in Farmington, Connecticut, is about to become the new home for a large work of art by famed sculptor Andrew DeVries: Calliope (1¼ life-size torso; see photo).
Harold and Julie de Wolff? commissioned Calliope in 1998 for their home in Portugal. Some time ago, they decided to return to the United States and began downsizing for their retirement years. They have generously arranged to donate Calliope to Miss Porter’s School to honor her family members who were graduates of the school (the first was in 1875, Julie graduated from there in 1953).”

Graduates of Miss Porter’s have gone on to prove the inescapable truth that well-educated women in leadership roles are just as capable and accomplished as their male counterparts (and, in many cases, better). I pray that, by the time my daughter grows up, the only differences between the sexes will be those worthy of mutual celebration.

The beauty of this work is unquestionable. So is the fact that the absence of a head and arms, while reminiscent of many antiquities damaged over the course of time, also elicits in me a strong desire to know more about the face, head and mind that is not seen; to learn of what those invisible hands may be capable. The strong chin that is visible suggests a proud and visionary woman, and my imagination will imbue her with far more worthy grace and strength than bronze may ever capture. This is not a static work of objectification, but a question posed in metal. I look forward to the challenge and invitation it presents to the generations of women (and men) who will pass it by.
Read more about Miss Porter’s School history here.
Read more about the muse, Calliope, here.
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I voted 6,000 times today.

March 5th, 2013 by admin. No Comments »

Today was election day in Burbank, California. I walked in to my Polling Station, and was – as usual – crushed in the sweaty masses of nobody who had bothered to come vote. According to the volunteers manning the station, only 15% of residents were registered voters, and less than half had so far turned up (with less than 2 hours before the polls closed). Assuming the final tally might be an ambitious 10% voter turnout, that means my lone vote in a city of just over 100,000 represents 1,000 statistical ballots. When you consider that my wife and two neighboring families do me the honor of trusting my research at each election, and generally vote as I recommend, this means that my voting behavior accounts for a representative voting bloc of 6,000. I should be thrilled at the power I wield, but instead find myself dismayed – once again – at how lethargic and uninvolved Americans are in the process of influencing the communities in which they live.

Elections in the United States of America are like an Annual KKK Minority Recruitment Drive: sparsely attended. Yet most voters do not stay away out of fear or strong disagreement with the values of the candidates. I would understand the current pitiful voter turnout statistics a little more if they were a reflection of citizens driven by a fervent compulsion not to vote. I don’t believe, however, that laziness can be defined as a “fervent compulsion”. A nation with ample time to build Pinterest boards, post photos of food on Twitter, spend hours watching reality TV, and lurk randomly about the Facebook universe has no excuse for not taking the 10-30 minutes it takes to vote (unless, admittedly, you live somewhere like Florida).

I honestly have no data-driven knowledge as to why the USA posts such shameful voter turnout figures: at the Federal, State, and Municipal level. I leave it to others to hypothesize on that matter. If I had my druthers, I would follow Australia’s example, and make voting an obligation of citizenry. It’s a small price to pay, to ensure that our elected officials and proposed programs are elevated or obliterated by a truly representative bloc of the citizens they affect.

In the meantime, I continue to vote…for two reasons. First, I see it as my right and obligation. If I want to participate in this program called citizenship, I must be engaged in the process that governs and guides it. Second, I don’t ever want to be one of those people who complains about “the System”, only to be reminded that I abdicated my right to complain, each time I opted to stay home and watch the latest episode of [insert one of many possible examples of mind-numbing TV drivel], instead of taking the short walk or bicycle ride to my local polling booth.

Everything I’ve voted for in the past six Burbank elections has come to be. That’s how powerful I am with my thousands and thousands of virtual votes. So why do I feel so utterly powerless, as our political system continues to demonstrate a lack of maturity, leadership, gravitas, and vision for which I never voted? When our elected officials represent only 10% of us, they are rarely going to feel empowered to demonstrate the type of leadership we need. No matter what measures, programs, resolutions, or politicians I select, when I enter the polling booth, if I remain in the minority, these issues and figures will do just as the majority of their constituents…in this case, little to nothing.

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10 Things To Finally Admit To Ourselves About Social Media

September 27th, 2012 by admin. 5 Comments »

I was recently messaging with a colleague, discussing the finer points of republishing content posted on a Facebook Page, when we got on to the topic of crediting sources. The conversation got me thinking, and following are some of those thoughts, for what they’re worth:

  • Sharing content is cool, giving credit for the source is even cooler.
  • Illegally sharing hundreds of films or music tracks online is not cool, no matter how you cut it. Everyone uploads or downloads a song here or there, or surreptitiously catches an episode they missed of their favorite series, but wholesale mass theft of content is just that – stealing.
  • Trolling is for idiots.
  • Flame wars are for fools.
  • Cat pictures should be limited to Furcadia.
  • If you’re redistributing a Twitter post that someone else made, it’s called a “retweet”, and there’s a button for that. It is not called a “cut and paste and pretend I thought of it”.
  • Don’t tweet, post, or otherwise publish content just to be the first, coolest, or any other attention-grabbing reason. For most of us, High School ended a long time ago. Try limiting yourself to publishing content which you SINCERELY believe will Inspire, Challenge, Educate, or Empower (my version of Tony Hsieh’s very compelling ICEE philosophy for tweeting).
  • Empire Avenue, Klout, and Kred are Casual Games. They have no other functional value (with the exception of advertising). Don’t pretend otherwise. This may change one day, but for now it’s all just about as useful as milking a virtual cow. Enjoy the diversion, but don’t make any more out of it than that.
  • Your follow count – be it on Twitter, Facebook, Quora, or elsewhere – has no metric value other than to tell you how many people clicked “Follow” or “Like”. Relatively few of them actively read your content, so suck it up and get on with your REAL life.
  • Once in a while, something you post will publish at *just* the right moment, and the content will resonate at *just* the right frequency with the community in to which it is launched, sufficient to go viral (for whatever short period and distance it does so). Take a moment to enjoy the moment, and then get on with your REAL life.

Social media is engaging, immersive, sometimes even addictive. However, it is counterproductive when it becomes anything more than a utility. If you manage online communities for a living (or as an important aspect of your identity), then social engagement (a term I coined in 2005) will understandably hold a central place in your daily life. Everyone else, look upon it as you would the telephone or television: a game-changing innovation that serves to bring the world closer together, and facilitate communication, education, information, and commerce. Used in moderation, it represents an extraordinary leap forward in personal expression, global connectivity, and cultural rapprochement. Used to excess, it erodes the intellect, dumbs down the conversation, and reduces us to yabbering consumers of junk, and little more.

Great tools and platforms have been (and continue to be) developed. Let’s use them with a modicum of wisdom and restraint. The promise they hold is immense, but only if we use them responsibly.

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