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6 posts from September 2008

FIR Listener Contest underway - make a video, get a conference pass!

Would you like to go to the Web 2.0 Expo Europe in Berlin in October? Or a conference about online video in Los Angeles in November?

If so, simply send in a video to the For Immediate Release Listener Contest and you'll be entered to win! Shel and Neville are holding this contest and giving away these conference passes. (Note: It's the conference pass only - no travel or hotel.)

It's simple to enter... just "create a video that conveys a thought, a concept, an idea in an imaginative way". Upload it to one of the zillion video sites out there and send the URL in to FIR. That's it!

More info is on the FIR contest page... let's see what you can do!

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The Decline in Formality: Where have all the neckties gone?

As someone who has been involved in public speaking, training, PR and other aspects of marketing/communication for close to 20 years, I've come to appreciate that the manner in which you dress does have an impact on how you are perceived by your audience. Working for much of the 1990's in the suit-and-tie culture of Boston, I've also watched the changing fashions for men... as suits have given way to first "business casual" and now seemingly to simply "casual". Not everywhere, of course, but in general.

Still, I admit to being a bit surprised when I saw the news conference last week in New York City announcing the Google Android handset made by HTC and operating on T-Mobile's network. Here you had top executives from Google, HTC, T-Mobile USA and T-Mobile Germany all sharing the stage... and what's missing?


Now, granted, the main force behind the press conference is Google with its very casual San Francisco Bay Area culture. And when the two Google founders took the stage at the end of the conference, they were predictably casually dressed.

But T-Mobile? (a.k.a. the mobile subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom?) And HTC out of Taiwan/Asia?

Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised given the success of Apple keynotes... :-) Or some of the recent Microsoft product launches I've seen... or for that matter many of the conference keynotes I've seen recently.

Still, I admit to finding it an interesting sign of the times. Four high-level executives at a New York news conference (the land of lawyers and finance)... all wearing what looked to be close to suits - but without ties.

I know that ties are still worn in many industries and in many regions of the world. But I somehow wonder if their time is limited. I recall reading earlier this year that the industry association for tie manufacturers shut down. (Two links: here and here.) You see ties increasingly rarely... perhaps it's only a matter of time before more manufacturers either close or are absorbed into larger ones.

Count me as one who laments the fading of the tie. Sure, in many ways they are silly pieces of fabric that you would loop around your neck. Sure, if you didn't have the right size neck collar on your shirt, wearing a tie could be uncomfortable. Sure, it was one more thing you had to do to get dressed in the morning. (and how many of us always got the tie right the first time we tied it?)

But still, there was something about wearing a tie... putting one on marked the transition into "work mode"... just as taking one off at the end of the day marked the transition out of work and into a more casual time. There was also something about the degree of "respect" you were showing for whomever you were meeting. You were getting "dressed up" for them... not just meeting them in regular everyday clothes.

I think it's sad, in many ways, to see the fading. Is it a pendulum swing? Will the next generation rebel against the total casualness of many business environments and bring back the tie? Or will the necktie simply join the formal hat as a vestige of a bygone era...

[I, of course, work out of a home office where wearing a tie would admittedly be a bit ridiculous. But even when I travel and speak at conferences, I've found myself more often wearing the jacket-and-black-shirt motif versus a necktie. I do, though, have something like 50 ties lurking in a closet...]

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Microsoft Research hires danah boyd...

Very cool to see that Microsoft Research has hired research danah boyd. News is up on danah's blog and also at Read Write Web. While danah received a good deal of attention about a year ago with her work on "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace", her writing on her blog and in her other research.

Pieces like this one, "Understanding Socio-Technical Phenomena in a Web2.0 Era", are good to see out there. We need people out there investigating and analyzing the societal and cultural aspects of how all these communication tools and media are changing the conventions by which we all communicate. So it's great to have someone like danah boyd employed in a capacity to further her research.

Congrats to danah and Microsoft Research! (And welcome back to the Northeast US!)

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Paying Yourself First - Starting the day with blogging...

A few weeks back I found myself on a Friday realizing that in the entire week:
I had not published a single blog post.
Not one. Not on any of my blogs. Now, just to put this in context, please do realize that I'm currently writing across eight blogs:

The last one is a podcast versus a blog - but I didn't put out a podcast that week, either. Now I did twitter and I did manage to send in my weekly 5-minute report to For Immediate Release, but that was it.

Now you would think with eight different blogs out there - and with part of my role at Voxeo being explicitly to blog (i.e. I am being paid to blog!) - you would think I would have written at least something somewhere! But I didn't.

Why not?

Simple really...

I wasn't "paying myself first".

That's a term I first heard used in this context by Jeremiah Owyang a bit over a year ago but it accurately captured how I had been working at the time and I enjoyed the succinctness of Jeremiah's statement.

You see, I've been blogging now for over 8 years ever since starting a "diary" at a little known open source site called Advogato back in May 2000. I moved over to LiveJournal in 2004 and then to my current suite of blogs over 2005-2006 (and then launched Voxeo's blogs in late 2007). At this point I've literally written thousands of blog posts across all those blogs. When I've been at my most prolific, it has largely because I've done what Jeremiah succinctly captured in his post:

I've paid "myself" first.

I've set aside some time at the very beginning of the day when I would just write. Write something... in some blog. Invest the time then to add content to the various sites where I write.

Before getting sucked into the screaming black hole vortex of e-mail... before getting sucked into all the many customer-facing projects on my plate... before getting sucked into the Twitter stream or RSS feeds... before getting sucked into whatever IETF mailing lists I need to be monitoring and documents I need to edit... before getting sucked into IM conversations...

Before all of that daily maelstrom, taking a moment to just... write.

I'd been doing that long before I saw Jeremiah's post but just hadn't really realized my own pattern (or named it). I remember seeing his post, realizing that it was essentially what I did and being pleased to understand it was something others did as well. (The ever-prolific Chris Brogan has mentioned in the past that this is also his pattern.)

When I've followed that pattern, I've found that I do post with some regularity. When I don't, as I didn't that week a while back... well, it's way too easy to get sucked into the vortex that is daily life....

I find it's extremely hard to do if you don't make a focused effort... it's way too easy to start plowing through email, scanning through IM group chats or, even worse, scanning through the Twitter stream... start doing that and of course one thing leads to another and pretty soon you wind up consumed in all the regular daily work flow.

After realizing that, I decided to change my own schedule a bit. My daily routine no longer lets me write early in the morning as I used to do (largely because a certain young member of the household snaps wide awake at 5:30am :-) ) but I have now taken the step to block of the first hour of my work day in my calender simply to... write. We'll see how that goes. Now obviously I do spend other blocks of time writing... but the goal of the morning block is to ensure that I do write every day. That's the theory, anyway. We'll see.

What do you do to keep up with writing? Do you block out a specific time? Do you "pay yourself first" and start in the morning? Or do you block out time late at night? Or do you just write whenever it strikes you to do so? (Or have you not thought about how you write?)

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Business Week's "CEO's Guide to Microblogging" - and my part of the Debate Room piece

Want to explain microblogging at sites like Twitter to your upper management? or clients?

Business Week just published a "CEO's Guide to Microblogging" that may help with that task. The package of articles consists of:

All in all I think it's a useful package of articles to have out there. It doesn't necessarily break new territory for readers of this blog or listeners to "For Immediate Release" but it gets it out into a "mainstream" publication like Business Week that does get a good bit of reading from the CxO / management crowd. Taken all together, it does show how some businesses are starting to use Twitter and microblogging in general to help in their work. For that alone, it's good to have out there and should go far to help explain what value there is in this wacky Twitter thing that we are all participating in. :-)

A WORD ON 'The Debate Room' PIECE

As you'll note, I'm the author of the "CON" side of the Debate Room piece "Twitter Distracts and Annoys". It was a bit odd in one sense due to the "double negative" aspect of my part. When some folks learned I was writing the "CON" side of a Twitter article, they were a bit surprised... but the CON side of this piece was actually the PRO-Twitter position. You can see that in the comments to the piece as well, where folks talk about being "pro-twitter"... which means they support the CON side of this Debate Room piece. Fun, fun, fun.

The piece itself was interesting to write. Readers will see obvious similarities between that piece and my articles back in December 2007, "Top 10 Ways I Learned to Use Twitter", and April 2008, "Revisiting the Top 10 Ways I Learned to Use Twitter". The largest challenge, of course, was to reduce all that writing into a piece of about 200-250 words. I rapidly learned this fact:

Writing a 200-250 word article is the journalistic equivalent of '140 characters'.

Darn tough to do.

My first version came in around 450 words and, to me, read quite well. But as followers of my Twitter stream knew at the time, I had to slice that by half. I got it down to around 325 words... sent both versions to the BW editor who ultimately edited it herself to bring it in around 290 words or so. Overall, I was quite pleased with how she edited the piece.


In reading the entire piece, I find that I do actually agree with several points of Ilise Benun's "PRO" side of the debate. Obviously I disagree with her outright rejection of Twitter. I think that's a bit short-sighted without understanding the value that can be found in Twitter. Especially if she is with a marketing organization.

However, I definitely agree that Twitter can be abused in a rude way. As several people noted in the comments, there does seem to be an increasing degree of "rudeness" in our society. You can see it all around us with people who talk loudly on their cell phones in restaurants... or in theaters or movies. Should we really require those announcements at the beginning of events reminding people to turn off their cell phones? Shouldn't that be common-sense? At a movie theater, should they really have to display a screen reminding people to be quiet and not talk to each other during the movie?

Aren't those things called... um... "good manners"?

Likewise, it certainly can be rude if someone you are meeting with is constantly checking their BlackBerry for email... or tweeting or reading tweets.

But those aren't issues with the tools, they are issues with the PEOPLE!

We do need to be respectful of each other... to pay attention to the people we are with... to have that real contact Ilise mentions. But that's a choice we all make. Do we take that cell phone call when we are in the middle of talking to someone? Do we spend the meeting looking down at our blackberry sending out email? Do we spend the time we are with one viewing and sending messages on Twitter?

It's our choice - and it's up to use to choose wisely.

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Twitter and Follower Reciprocity (a.k.a. To follow (in return) or not to follow)

twitter-danyork-20080908-1.jpgWith Twitter, or for that matter any other microblogging platform, do you follow everyone who follows you?

I tried. Back in the early days of Twitter... a year-and-a-half ago or so... whenever someone followed me I almost inevitably followed the person back. We were all trying to figure out what this new medium of "microblogging" was all about, so I followed most of the very early adopters as we all joined into this grand experiment.

But somewhere along the way I had to stop the immediate reciprocity. As Twitter has grown and more and more people have joined the service, I found there was no way that I could really follow all those who started following me. I simply didn't have enough attention to share. I watched (and marveled) as folks like Robert Scoble, Jeremiah Owyang and Chris Brogan all started following thousands of people. (They still do: Scoble follows 21,000+, Jeremiah almost 6,000 and Chris over 12,000.)

I realized over time that my usage of Twitter was a bit different from that of Scoble and others. I outlined the 10 ways I learned to use Twitter first in December and then again a bit more back in April. For me to use Twitter in the way I do, I like to focus a bit more on the people and services I follow. I do like to scan down through them... and for me that meant following fewer people.

The "Replies" tab in Twitter also helped. I could use that to see who had replied to me publicly with "@danyork" and from there I could learn about people that I might want to follow. (Now I have the same functionality in Twhirl and pretty much never go to the actual Twitter web site... but the purpose is the same.)

The increasing amount of "spam" Twitter accounts has also killed any kind of immediate reciprocity, at least for me. When you can tell just by the name that the account is there purely to sell you something, it's a very easy decision to NOT follow that account. I've found that the spammers are getting a bit less brazen and sometimes when I do look at someone who is now following I find that even with a "normal" name... they are still a spammer.

So what do I do these days when I get a follower notification in email? Or if I see someone publicly replying to me on the Replies tab?

IF I have time (and that's a big "if"), I will go take a look at the person's Twitter page. (And if I don't have time, I sometimes let the notices accumulate and then look through a batch at once... or sometimes admittedly I just don't have the time to look at them.) What am I looking for?

  • What are they tweeting about? - If the person is tweeting about things that are of interest to me - and especially if they provide links to interesting articles I haven't seen before - I may follow them then. If all they tweet about is their lunch or what TV show they are watching, I'll usually pass.
  • Do they have a website URL in their profile? - What is the site they link to? Do they blog? Are they doing something interesting or with an interesting company or organization?
  • Who are they? - If they are a friend or someone I know in some context, I'll often add them.
  • Miscellaneous - Sometimes I may add someone purely because I'm not following anyone doing the kinds of things they do... or I think their posts are funny or interesting... I don't always have a solid reason.

Basically I'm trying to figure out... why should I let this person have some of my attention?

It sounds harsh... but to me the reality is that we all have only so many minutes in the day and we all have a zillion other things we are trying to do. If I am going to start following someone... why?

I try to look at folks who follow me... but I often can't... and so over time the ratio of people following me to people I follow has continually grown and grown. I feel bad, sometimes, too, when I wind up talking to someone and they say "I follow you on Twitter but you don't follow me."

What do you all do? What criteria do you place on people you follow on Twitter? How do you respond to follower notifications?

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