Facebook never intended for its brand to represent a single site called Facebook.com. 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 Facebook.com 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The value of news in the digital age runs in inverse proportion to the amount of time since its release.
If a news item is published at 1:00pm PCT, it has half as much value by 2:00pm, as it did when it was first posted, and only a quarter remaining value by 5:00pm. Obviously, a more accurate measurement of shelf life would take in to consideration the online network on which the news was published, the original posting time (early morning posts tend to get wider reach than early afternoon), and several other factors.
Some media companies, such as the New Yorker and Wired magazine, have recently determined that this is largely because they are giving their news away to 3rd-party providers for free, unreasonably diluting the brand value of their offering. Their solution is to terminate those relationships (as they did earlier this week by removing access to their content from such renowned platforms as Flipboard).
Other media companies are laying off reporters in droves, as they desperately try to save their way to prosperity, under the same “bricks, mortar, and paper” model as ever. talk about lunatics running the asylum…
I think there’s a much simpler solution and, as ever, it all comes down to content.
Consumers don’t place the highest valuation on a distribution channel, platform, or app, but rather upon the content itself. Flipboard may well fail, if too many content providers remove access via that platform. The UX is unquestionably appealing, but who cares that the library is pretty, if there’s nothing to read therein? That said, if content providers restrict access to their content too zealously, minimizing consumer ability to share and spread the appeal of that content, they will effectively squander the “early release” value of their content, and vastly diminish its value, by extension.
Before I propose what I consider to be an enormously simple solution, let’s accept and agree upon some basic truths:
- Good news comes from good reporters. Not (bless ‘em) good printers, nor good truck drivers. Journalists such as Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) and Lisa Napoli (@lisanapoli) are demonstrating that direct connection to their “readers” vastly increases the spread of their content.
- The Paywall method of news delivery is a clumsy protectionist system that works only in the absence of better paradigms.
- People will get their news, and entertainment, one way or another. If you stand in their way, they will work around you. If you develop a solution that is a win-win for everyone, they are more than likely going to work with you.
Taking in to account the aforementioned and obvious fact that news has highest value early in its lifecycle, and marrying this with the fact that netizens place high value on content that raises their network visibility, it stands to reason that those wishing to take on the mantle of “influencer” will be prepared to pay for “early access” to compelling media content. If it costs $4.95 to have a big headstart on the rest of the web, when it comes to news and other media, I know many who would gladly pay. The difference between this scenario and the current paywall system is that my solution does not exclude all other netizens from access to the content. After a sufficient time delay, content could be released to the wider public, free of charge. It’s an exercise in transparency and digital openness, with a nod to commercial necessity. If you want to access content in the first hour of its publication, you need to be a subscriber. If you want access within the first 2 hours, you must be either a subscriber, or have access to the link via a subscriber (further elevating the viral power of full subscribers, and cementing their loyalty to your media brand). If you are willing to wait until the end of the day, so be it. The model needs refinement, but the concept is sound.
Take for example Nicholas Kristof’s latest Op-Ed piece, entitled “My Iranian Road Trip”. As is usual with his work, the Twitterverse and Facebook ecosystem have exploded with activity, as this video goes viral, and spreads around the web. The New York times has a paywall up on their site, so only subscribers can see the video. However, because this is the ONLY option offered, someone has kindly reposted (at least until the NYT reports it!) the video, free-of-charge, on YouTube:
The New York Times gets no love nor revenue out of this scenario. Nicholas Kristof gets his story out. The readership share the YouTube link, and ignore the NYT site altogether. Were my solution in effect, nobody would likely be compelled to waste their time extracting the video content from the NYT site, and reposting it, knowing it would be freely available in a matter of hours. Instead they would be focusing on positioning themselves as first line influencers, sharing the NYT site link and thereby their subscriber access with their own network. Subscriptions would rise, content “piracy” would be mitigated, brand value would be strengthened, and the value of viral media would be elevated in a manner consistent with both the ideals of an increasingly transparent society, and the realistic needs of any business. My scenario recognizes the need to shift from a “control” mentality to a “collaborate” one, recognizing that the core value is highest at point of publication and readership (journalist and consumer), and everything in between is either conduit or obstacle.
I’ve been invited to a private event at the Los Angeles Times building tonight, hosted by Muck Rack (@Muckrack) and the LA Times. It’s been labeled as “a casual cocktail event for a few select journalists, PRs and news junkies to talk about journalism in the age of social media”. I’m eager to see what this constituency makes of my “crazy idea”…
Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents said that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, this is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA . It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.
8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS – 1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters. 2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications. 3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph 4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of 'lie, ''play,' and 'run.' 5. Define case; illustrate each case. 6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation. 7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic. 2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold? 3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare? 4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000.. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals? 5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton. 6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent. 7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft.. Long at $20 per metre? 8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent. 9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods? 10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided 2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus 3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War. 4. Show the territorial growth of the United States 5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas 6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion. 7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe? 8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication 2. What are elementary sounds? How classified? 3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals 4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?) 5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule. 6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each. 7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup. 8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last. 9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays. 10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend? 2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ? 3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean? 4. Describe the mountains of North America 5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco 6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. 7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each. 8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude? 9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers. 10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.
Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete. Gives the saying ‘he only had an 8th grade education’ a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? What it also has done, is spur many netizens to vociferously proclaim the decline of our educational system, by comparison.
Do you believe today’s educational standards are poor, by comparison? Have you considered that there is no requirement for English Literature in the above test? Where are the algebra and geometry? World History? US Government? Foreign Languages? The 1895 8th grade test looks immensely daunting, until one considers that much is not covered. Add to this the fact that none of us would likely pass our contemporary High School tests, without the usual cramming we did “back in the day”, and the criticism of today’s standards in education, based on this test, begin to lose their impact.
There’s no denying that many of our children are not learning as well nor as much as they ought. I believe, however, that instead of pointing the accusatory finger at all that the “system” is apparently failing to accomplish, we would do well to question what we as parents are failing to do, in order to actively engage in the responsibility of enriching the mental, cultural, social, and psychological state of the next generation…
The acronym for the day is SOCIAL, or “Suitably Overt Customer Interaction And Loyalty”.
Many of my new clients express frustration at Twitter, decrying it as a shadow play with little substance and no value to their corporate brand needs. In those cases where Twitter conversation would be a useful mechanism in brand building, it doesn’t take long to lay out the many reasons why such engagement has value. It takes more than a few minutes, however, so when a brand demonstrates the value of Twitter engagement in literally a few minutes, I want to celebrate the case study.
This afternoon, in between meetings, I stopped by a Chipotle restaurant, to grab a chicken burrito (one of my occasional not-too-guilty pleasures!). I’ve enjoyed the experience at this restaurant for several years now, with its proven mix of marketable ingredients (organic, sustainable, carefully prepared, etc) and fast friendly service. I was surprised and disappointed, therefore, when I was served today by a somewhat lackluster team of servers with little enthusiasm, who doled out minute portions, and then back-filled my burrito with copious amounts of lettuce, in order to disguise the miniscule mix of “main” ingredients. To make matters worse, they left my burrito sitting open on the counter for a lonnnng time, while they went off in search of the lettuce, such that it was stone cold when I finally bit in to it. I was in a hurry to get to my next meeting, so I hurriedly vented via Twitter, and carried on my day, disappointed, but focusing on other matters. Here below is my tweet:
Within less than a minute I got this reply on Twitter:
Keeping with my shark analogy, I decided to bite, and – while listening to a particularly monotonous Q1 earnings call, I filled out an online customer feedback form. I hadn’t even finished the call, when I received an email from a customer service rep at Chipotle (copying a grand total of 13 other Chipotle employees!) apologizing to me for my experience, and detailing the actions the company intended to take to ensure that the restaurant where I had had my unfortunate experience improve its service with all due haste. That I was also offered a free burrito was a nice “icing on the cake” gesture that I appreciated. I was most struck, however, by the clearly demonstrated urgency and seriousness with which Chipotle’s online customer service team responded to my offhanded “vent”. In a matter of minutes, this individual disenchanted customer was converted in to an admiring partner in their success. I immediately tweeted my reaction:
And was instantly answered:
That short exchange cemented the brand’s humanity and intimacy, which is all too often a casualty in a very noisy retail marketplace, especially in the food services sector. It took Chipotle less than 20 minutes to fix a relatively small problem, but that 20 minutes also served to reestablish and strengthen a relationship with one of their most valuable brand stewards, the customer.
So, when you’re next wondering whether an investment in social engagement is worth it, take a look at the cost of all your ad buys, and the time you spend interfacing with your agencies, and the weeks you spend percolating messaging, and then perhaps you’ll realize that the ability to have quick and direct conversations with your end-user is of far greater value than you previously imagined: 20 minutes, perhaps 8 times daily, exponentially multiplied by the knock-on goodwill generated…there’s real power in doing things right.