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14 posts from December 2010

The Greatest Gift You Can Give This Season


Credit: jenrab

There is one gift that we all can give this season that is far, far, far greater than anything else. It is a simple gift to give... yet it is by far one of the hardest to give.

That gift is very simply...

our presence.

Not "presents"... "presence".

The act of being there, in the moment...

... with whomever we are with.

We live in an age of distraction.

There are so many new tools (or toys)... there are so many channels of communication... there are so many things going on. There are status updates to post, tweets to read... Oh, look, there's a butterfly....

We live in an age of "busy".

We all have busy lives. We work hard and long hours. We play hard. We have zillions of events going on for school or work or church or community groups or sports or friends or charities or nonprofit orgs or ... or ... or ..

We have deadlines at work and "to do" lists that can never be completed. Projects abound that take all of our "work" time and carry over into our "personal" time... we are always thinking about them.

We live in an age of "multi-tasking".

Our ubiquitous mobile phones are always within reach.

Always tempting us.

Always available for us to "just check one more email message"... or to scan our Facebook NewsFeed... or to reply to a tweet... or see what friends have checked in nearby on FourSquare.

We email while we drive... and check web sites while we are ostensibly in a meeting with other people.

We live in an age of continuous partial attention.

Always on. Always connected.

We don't want to miss whatever comes next. Whether or not it matters whether we miss that or not is a different question.

We are plugged in ... connected... wired...

... and almost never giving anyone our full attention.

And yet... in this attention-starved world, that is in fact the greatest gift we can give each other.

To be there.

In the moment.

Right then.

Paying attention to what others are saying or doing.

It is insanely hard to do, for all those reasons listed above.

I definitely struggle with it... beyond all those reasons above, as a writer, my head is always exploding with new ideas, and it often involves a substantial effort to consciously park those ideas to remain present.

Yet, if we can do it, that is the greatest gift we can give.

The presents will fade. The toys will break. The clothes will be outgrown. The jewelry will be replaced. The electronics will become outdated.

But our presence - or lack thereof - will linger.

Will you give that gift this year?

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Facebook's Campaign to Truly Be Your Home Page...

It is apparently not enough for Facebook that they are so many people's main portal to the Internet... their most-used site... etc. They seem to also want to be the home page in your browser, too! At least, that's what this bar tells me that now appears on top of Facebook when I go to the site:


If you can't read the image text, it says:

Drag this to your home button to see what's happening with friends as soon as you open your browser.

Translation: Do you really need to view any other site than Facebook?

Smart move on Facebook's part... encourage people to make Facebook their home page so that whenever they open a new window, odds are that they'll be sucked into what's happening in Facebook rather than doing whatever else they were going to do.

All Facebook, all the time...

Needless to say, I haven't personally made this change. I like my home page as it is (Google Search). But the war for the eyeballs will continue...

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2 Very Simple Ways to Backup All Your Bookmarks

delicious.jpgWith the word out today that Yahoo will be shutting down at some point in the near future (per TechCrunch and AllThings D), the buzz on Twitter tonight has been all about how to backup your bookmarks... and what other services to use. Having been a long-time user of delicious, with literally thousands of bookmarks over many years, I was naturally concerned and followed the conversations closely.

The net of all that is that there are two simple ways to backup your bookmarks today (and I've done them both).

First, you can simply go to:

You will get a HTML file that includes all your links and notes and, in the HTML source, all your tags.

Second, for the more technically inclined with access to the "curl" command from a command prompt, you can issue this command:

curl https://[username]:[password] > bookmarks.xml

which will get you a nice XML file full of all your bookmarks, tags and notes. This worked like a charm in a terminal window on my Mac. (Hat tip to @andrew_k on Twitter for this tip and to @pfhyper who retweeted it.)

Now that you have either or both an HTML or XML file you can then import those into some other service... or at the very least have access to your bookmarks. You obviously don't have the "social" aspect of, which is where so much of the power lies... but you do have all your bookmarks.

Note that in theory you should be able to issue these commands up until Yahoo! shuts down the service... so if you keep bookmarking sites in the weeks ahead, just remember to re-issue these commands from time-to-time to keep a local backup.

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Are Facebook Pages About to Get Notifications? Screenshots of the Preview I Briefly Had

Switch accounts in FacebookIs Facebook about to give us more control over our Facebook Pages? Including the ability to get "notifications" of when there is new content on our pages? For a few minutes today, I had this capability!

Alerted by a tweet from fellow New Hampshire-ite Leslie Poston, I flipped over to Facebook and discovered that there was now a "Switch Accounts..." menu option as seen in the image on the right.

When you click on that menu choice, you are taken to a new box where you can login as one of your pages.
Here is what my list looked like:


All of those are Facebook Pages where I have administrative access. I pressed the "Login" button next to "Voxeo" and was immediately taken to that Facebook page ... in a new view that showed me ONLY that page!

Voxeo Facebook page

Now, here is what is so HUGE about this:

Facebook (18)-1.jpg

Click on the notification icon... and HERE IS ALL THE ACTIVITY ON YOUR PAGE!


We've never had an easy way to do this before... we always had to scan down the page to see what was new. Very cool!

Clicking on the "facebook" logo in the upper left brings you back to your page...

And just as I was about to test out replying to people from the "Page" login and posting new updates... all of a sudden Facebook froze on me ... and I was looking at my regular personal wall again! Up in the "Account" drop-down menu, the "Switch Accounts" choice had disappeared...

Was this an "Oops, didn't mean to do that" by Facebook? A feature preview that escaped too early?

Whatever it was ... I WANT THAT FEATURE!

When will you roll this out Facebook? We want it NOW!

UPDATE: TheNextWeb has a post up indicating that Facebook released some (now-removed) prototypes.

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Great Content Matters! - The Atlantic on the Unknown Blogger Who Helped Explain WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks.jpgThe Atlantic has a great story out on "The Unknown Blogger Who Changed WikiLeaks Coverage". The Atlantic's article is a profile of Aaron Bady and his lengthy piece, 'Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; "To destroy this invisible government"', that did do much in explaining the underlying motivation of Julian Assange.

I remember reading Bady's piece back in the midst of everything going on and viewing it as one of the more intellectual and useful analyses of the underlying thinking behind WikiLeaks. Like I'm sure most readers, I had no clue who was behind the actual article - nor did I take the time right then to go learn more about who he was.

Given that the Atlantic piece is rather short, I won't steal their thunder and leave it to you all to read more. But I will quote this one bit:

And we should all be thankful that good writing can be recognized and quickly disseminated.

That is indeed the beauty of this new world we are in... anyone can publish their thoughts online, without the gatekeepers of the traditional media.... and maybe, just maybe, they, too, can wind up having the global impact that this one "unknown blogger" had.

Kudos to the Atlantic for getting the rest of the story.

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Video/Animation - How Our Perspective on Time Affects Us

Stumbled upon this fascinating video / animation from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) titled: "RSA Animate - The Secret Powers of Time". The abstract is:
Professor Philip Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. Time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world.

and the video is really an animation of a whiteboard drawing that goes along with the talk. It's brilliantly done, and I see that the RSA has several other videos with "RSA Animate" titles that look similar.

I found it a fascinating glimpse into a topic I've always been curious about... how the pace of our lives affects our interaction with those around us and even with ourselves and our inner thoughts.

Along the the way there was a brief side note about technology and kids that included this quote that I agree with:

We are underestimating the power of technology in re-wiring young peoples' brains.

All in all, I thought it was a good use of 10 minutes - stimulated a number of thoughts I want to follow up on. Enjoy:

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Do You Trust Your Friends? The Scary Way the New Facebook Profile Can Be Abused

This post - How the Redesigned Profile’s Recently Tagged Photos Panel Can Be Abused - should be read by anyone using Facebook.

Shortly after Bryan Person pointed me to the article, I took 5 minutes to create 5 images using Skitch on my Mac and upload them to Facebook. During the upload, I "tagged" myself in the images. The result is that when you go look at my Facebook profile those five images are (at the moment) what you see across the top of my profile:


I then looked at Bryan's Facebook Profile, which showed the five most recent pictures in which he was tagged:


With Bryan's permission (we were chatting on Facebook), I then simply went to each of my "photos" and tagged them as having Bryan in the "photo". The result was that now visitors to Bryan's profile get to see MY images and message:


Here's the thing:


I just simply had to go and tag him in those "photos" that I uploaded.

That's it.

The other aspect of this is that:

Those images will stay on Bryan's profile until either:
1) I remove the tags;
2) Bryan removes the tags; or
3) someone else tags Bryan in new pictures.

Your profile page displays the five most recent photos in which you were tagged.

Now, Facebook has long had this ability for users to "tag" their friends in photos (without their permission), but photos were NOT as prominently displayed on your profile. Sure, that picture of you from 1975 that you were tagged in might show up on your Wall or in your "Photos" area, but that was it... a few people might notice it, but probably not many... and when you then went and removed the tagging they would disappear.

Now it is front and center at the top of your Facebook Profile... for all to see.

Stand by for all sorts of pranks...

And... are you an advocate for a cause? Why not tag your friends in some "photos" so that your cause shows up on all their profiles?

Of course, if you do this too much, those friends may very well "un-friend" you... but until they do that there isn't anything they can do to prevent this display. Facebook does not have any way to "opt in" to being tagged. You have to remove the tag on each photo after you have been tagged.

As a Facebook user, I do find it annoying that my main presence on Facebook is not under my control. I would like my profile to be a place where I specify the information that I want others to see. Sure, you don't necessarily look at other people's profiles all that often... but when I send a friend request, the recipient probably will look... and I'd like them to see what I want.. versus what Facebook wants.

However, this is the proprietary walled garden of Facebook... and if you want to be inside the walls, you have to abide by their rules... which are basically that they can do anything they want and change how info about you is displayed on their whim.

Welcome to our brave new world...

P.S. Should you try this yourself, the trick is to tag yourself in the images in the reverse order, i.e. you tag yourself in the last image first, then in the 2nd-to-last, etc.

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It happened again today... I received a news release via email from a PR firm that had some great news in it about which I want to write (and I will). However, there was one fundamental problem:


Not in the email from the PR firm. Not on the company/organization's website. Nowhere!

Here is the thing:



When writing about news, I generally like to include a sentence along the lines of:

Today Company XYZ announced that ...

with a link to the news release.

Help me out here... give me a link and I'll link to it!

To me, this should just be part of PR 101. (And I do this myself... when I sent out a Voxeo news release this morning, I made sure that a copy was available for linking online from our news release page... and I'm also distributing that link in our media outreach.)

When you send me an email with a news release either in the email itself or as an attachment, please also include a link. Don't make me go search for it... if I care enough, I might... but odds are that I won't... and maybe that means I won't write about it.

Now maybe this means that you have to coordinate with whomever manages your website so that the news release goes live on your site at or before the news release hits the wire. Maybe this means that someone has to come in earlier than he or she normally does - or sign in remotely.

Do it!

Get that URL out there on your site. Or if you can't do that, at least send out the URL for where your news release is at the wire service you are using. (And I would argue to make it happen on your site so that you are driving the traffic to your site and content, versus that of the distribution service.)

And then send out that URL along with the news release!

Flickr photo courtesy of striatic.

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The Content Creator's Creed

Loved this tweet from Ron Ploof last week:


The content creators' creed:

We have an obligation to be interesting.

Ron said in a subsequent reply back: 'It came from a customer considering a company blog. He said, "So you're saying we have an obligation to be interesting?"'

We don't, of course, truly have that obligation.

We are free to go ahead and create the most boring, useless, trivial, mundane, unreadable and unviewable content.

We have that freedom.

There are no set "rules" that dictate what kind of content we must create online.


IF we want people to read, view or listen to our content...

IF we want people to share our content to others...

IF we want people to take action based on our content (visiting a site, downloading something, buying an item, signing up, etc., etc.)...

IF we want people to choose our content amidst the insane amount of content being created each day...

THEN... I agree with Ron...

We have an obligation to be interesting!

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Want to Build Twitter Apps? Recording, Slides and Source Code Available For My Webinar


If you missed the free webinar on Tuesday were I spoke about how to scale your usage of Twitter and social channels, Serving the Social Customer: Scaling Your Support For Twitter, Facebook and More, a recording of the webinar and the slides I used are now available from:

Additionally, all the source code for the Twitter apps referenced in the presentation is available for viewing and download and can be used with a free Tropo account. Additionally, you can download a free copy of VoiceObjects to try out the integration with IMified to link Twitter to your VO application.

Have fun with it... and I'll be writing more on the topic in the future!

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