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31 posts from November 2012

What Happens When All Communication From A Country Is Disrupted?

What happens when all communications into and out of a country is completely disrupted? We're seeing that right now with Syria. As I wrote on CircleID yesterday, all Internet access is down... and reports say that all communication via cell phones and landlines has also been terminated.

What happens when a country just completely... drops... off...

It's scary, really, to think about. And we're seeing it play out right now. The links are still all down.

My thoughts are definitely with the people there in the country. I hope things are okay... and that the connections get restored soon.

Crazy times...

Finding My "Barriers To Blogging" Apply To Audio Podcasting As Well

In thinking about how I might do more audio podcasting, I found myself hitting many of the same barriers I wrote about with regard to blogging... so I made this recording:


Can A Blog Post Be A "Work In Progress"?

Are we stuck with the mental model of blog posts as pieces of content that are just published and then not touched again?

Or can we treat a blog post as a "work in progress" that will continue to evolve and expand over time?

I have been asking myself this question in relation to my quest to tear down some of my own barriers to doing more blogging. The model that we have had since the early days of blogging has been one more similar to traditional news media - you write an article, you publish it, you move on to your next article.

You "fire and forget."

Sure, you might go back and update the article if something was wrong or if later information changed the story a bit, but even in the latter case it is often more common to write a new story with the updated facts and then link to the new story from the old one.

But what if we just posted a blog post as a first draft knowing that it would change and evolve over time?

Almost something more like a wiki. ... perhaps a "blicki" :-)

Where you post knowing full well that you will be editing... and then you do so.

Interestingly, I have been seeing news sites doing this. In the rush to be the first one out with a story to get the tweets and retweets and links, they will publish a stub story with "more details to come" - and then they will in those details in the subsequent minutes and hours.

Can we do that as individual writers though? Can we give ourselves permission to post a partially done piece? And can we have the discipline to go back and update it?

An Implied Contract?

To expand on this a bit (and practice this kind of editing myself), I wonder:

Do we have an implied "contract" with our readers?

Do they expect that the content will not change from when they first read it?  Or at least not change dramatically?

Many of us, myself included, seem to feel there is this implied contract and so when we do go back and update a post, we'll often put those updates at the top or bottom of the article with some kind of marker like "UPDATE:" to clearly show what was been updated.  Or we will use strikethrough to indicate that text is removed.

But what if we just wove all the updates in together to make a cohesive article?

Would readers find that troublesome?

What if the initial content is only a few paragraphs... and then over time it evolves into a lengthy document going on for several pages?

What about the "integrity" of a piece?  If someone else quotes an article or references an article as containing a specific quote or bit of information... but then the article gets modified so that that quote or content is no longer there... what does that mean for the original reference?

For these reasons we tend to think of writing that gets posted online as "fixed"...  but what if we move away from that and let posts evolve over time?

What About The Aggregators?

In the comments to this post, Michael Richardson asks "what will my aggregator think?" And indeed that is a good question. Many people read blog posts in aggregators / news readers / other clients that often pull copies of the articles down onto the local system for the user to read. However, once the article is retrieved, the aggregator may or may not go back and retrieve the article again. And so the user may be sitting there reading an article that is now outdated.

Even with my own aggregation site,, where I aggregate pointers to all of my writing, I have it set to pull in the RSS feeds from all my sites and store the contents in that WordPress site. (The site is not indexed by search engines to avoid "duplicate content" issues.) Now, in the particular syndication plugin I use, I have set it to merge in and overwrite any changes that come in from the RSS feeds. So as I update this post, the changes should be reflected over on that site. But I don't believe that was the default setting. I think the default was to ignore any changes in the RSS feeds... so the aggregation site would be out-of-sync with the real content.

For all these reasons, it's not clear to me that we should move away from the way we work today. But could we?

I don't know... it's a shift in thinking.

What do you think?

P.S. You may also be interested in reading "Subcompact Publishing" by Craig Mod. It's a long piece that is exploring a different question, that of our mental model of a "magazine" online, but a similar kind of thought experiment...

Fashion Designer Chris Benz, Copyright, Photography - And Watching The Social Web React

Jessica nicholsRight now a part of the social web is in full reaction mode to what they see as a strong injustice... and we can watch it unfold right now in Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more.

Photographer Jessica Nichols has laid out her case in a lengthy post that begins:

I have been fighting an infringement of my work since July and it is time to share my story. Fashion designer Chris Benz used my Loads of Ranunculus photograph without my permission and without compensation on his Spring 2012 line.

She goes on to show photographs, including one where a reader matched her photograph pretty much identically to one of Chris Benz's purses.

Having received no response from Chris Benz or his sponsors, she has put out a call to action for people to let Benz and his corporate sponsors know what they think through their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. That post was echoed by others and spread into social networks. I saw one such post of support on Google+ where it was spreading virally through friends of mine.

And it's happening... I can see the comments on Chris Benz's Facebook page filling up... and the "Posts by Others" on the Saks and Lancôme pages seem to have posts there.

As a (casual) photographer myself, I certainly understand why Jessica Nichols is upset - and I do hope some resolution can be found sometime soon.

In the meantime, the social web is responding... and unless there is a response from Chris Benz and his sponsors sometime soon, I don't expect it to go terribly well for them...

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WordPress 3.5 Nears Completion - First Release Candidate Now Available

WordpressLast week Andrew Nacin of the WordPress core team published an update titled "The short road To 3.5" that outlined exactly how close the team is to having a final release. The next day, in fact, the first "release candidate" of WordPress 3.5 was made available for download.

As noted in both posts, as well as the WordPress 3.5 schedule, the goal is to go through a couple more release candidates and then have the final release on December 5, 2012 - only 9 days away!

Whether or not the core team hits that goal will really depend upon how much testing they get (and they are looking for more people to test WP 3.5!) and what the status of the major issues are as the date draws closer.

For communicators/marketers, WordPress 3.5 continues the ongoing series of improvements to the WordPress "user experience" to make it even simpler and easier to use. I don't know that anything in 3.5 necessarily rises to the "MUST HAVE IT NOW!" category, but certainly the improvements look good. I am particularly interested in the rewritten media subsystem that will apparently allow for much simpler insertion and handling of images. One thing that has always bothered me about WordPress' media handling was the dialog boxes around setting a "Featured Image". From the tickets, this seems to be one of many improvements.

New WordPress Multisite Goodness

Another feature I'm looking forward to for new installations is the ability to set up WordPress Multisite in "subdirectory" mode versus "subdomain" mode. To date, Multisite has only worked when you used a subdomain as the base for all blogs. For instance, you might base the blog at:

and then your individual blogs would be:

This works fine (and is still in 3.5), but if you want to integrate your blogs into an existing web site, you weren't able to easily use Multisite. Now, with 3.5, you will be able to install WordPress Multisite into a subdomain, so that your base can be:

and then your individual blogs can be:

This then allows you to continue using your main domain for SEO or branding purposes, but still have all the power of WordPress Multisite with regard to letting different groups have their own blogs with separate users, access control, etc. ... and all the other goodness you get from Multisite.

Now, this option can only be chosen when installing WordPress Multisite, so it doesn't help existing installations... but any new servers can be spun up in this mode if that works better.

The Normal Caveats Apply...

If you want to know more of the details of what will be in WordPress 3.5, the Beta 1 announcement had all sorts of good info. There's also a ticket with a rough list of changes in 3.5. All of that info should eventually make its way to the Codex page on WordPress 3.5 as the release date nears. There are some really good changes for developers that ought to improve WordPress performance and help in so many other ways.

You should, of course, not just drop WordPress 3.5 onto your production site, even after it has been fully released. There are changes to the underlying systems and so you should really test it with your theme(s) and plugins to make sure that they all work before you make it live. You also of course want to backup your system and make sure that you have the ability to restore if you need to do so.

WordPress also has a "WordPress Beta Tester" plugin for the more adventurous who want to run a site testing out the newest releases. Again, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this for production servers given that things will break during the normal course of development. Rather than use that plugin you can also just download the 3.5 release candidate and try it out.

I'm looking forward to seeing what this new release brings and to trying it out on my own systems. Kudos to the development team for their hard work and aggressive schedules!

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The Challenging Intersection Of Facebook And Religion - And The Blurring of Public and Private Lives

Facebook religionFacebook creates a challenge when it comes to religion (and politics) for many of us who also use Facebook in a professional / work environment. I fervently believe that a person's religious views are their own private matter. Each of us should have the right, in my opinion, to hold whatever beliefs we want and to practice (or not) our religious views in whatever manner we wish.

For us to work together in a business setting, our religious views shouldn't come into play. In an ideal world, your choice of religion (including "none") shouldn't bother me - and mine shouldn't bother you. In the real world, of course, where we are imperfect humans, these choices, when known, do very often have impacts.

The reality is that there isn't really any reason for us to know the religious views of the other people around us in a professional setting.

Of the hundreds of people I've worked with in the corporate world over the past 20 years, before the world of social media I probably knew the religious views of only a very few. Usually it only maybe came up in a side conversation - or it was someone who was very open, or who was very involved in church fundraisers, mission work or other public activities. In a few cases I have worked with people who were also ministers and were public about that.

But for probably 99% of the people, I have had no idea - and that's perfectly fine.

Facebook, though, makes this complicated.

The Twin Taboos

Way back in 2007, I wrote about how the twin taboos of politics and religion were entering the workplace because of the many people who were then signing up on Facebook and "friending" other people at work... and filling out the various form fields on their Facebook profile with their politicial and religious views. I wrote in part:

A strong "born again" Christian may see that the problems of the world are because people have not accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior and need to do so. A strong atheist may see that the problems of the world are because of the very existence of religion and that it is the root of all evil. These are deeply-ingrained views:

Politics and religion are part of our core identity that helps form who we define ourselves to be.

When that part of our identity is confronted by a polar opposite, we naturally react. Conservative Christians will have second thoughts about atheists, and atheists will have second thoughts about conservative Christians.

Five years later I still see that article as on target. You can substitute, of course, any religious affiliations in that part I quoted. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists... pick your religion. Even within a "religion", different sects may have widely divergent viewpoints and deep emotional attachments. (Ex. Protestants/Catholics in Northern Ireland or Sunnis/Shiites in the Middle East)

With the emergence of the TimeLine replacing the "Wall", Facebook moved those religion/politics fields a bit. You have to click an extra link to actually find them, so their prominence is much less... but the TimeLine also created new challenges I'll mention below.

The Blurring Of Our Lives

The underlying issue is that we are engaged in a grand experiment of blurring all the various facets of our lives together, something I wrote about in 2009, asking whether this improved co-worker connections or just felt creepy. We all have many different contexts in which we interact with people. We maintain various different personas for each of those contexts. How we interact with our co-workers in the office may be very different from how we interact with our friends at a local bar which may yet again be very different from how we interact with people at a church or in a community group. As I said then:

This is particularly true with the divide between our "work" and "personal" lives. Sure, we've always shared some parts of our personal life inside the walls of our "work" environment. We've talked to our co-workers... gathered at water coolers or in break rooms or cafeterias. Some people have shared very openly about what they are doing and we've learned much about their overall personality. Others have remained very private and shared virtually nothing. To some degree, we all have a facade that we construct that is how we appear to our co-workers.

Yet the fundamental problem is this:

We have ONE Facebook profile.

All of those different people see one common Facebook profile. (Similarly they see one common Twitter stream.) And so when we write about religious issues or our religious views, or when we "share" images or content from our church into our NewsFeed, all our "friends" see the info.

There are more subtle, ways, too. When a friend posts a set of photos from a recent church service, I now learn of his affiliation. Or when another friend "checks in" at their church, I learn of her religious views.

Interestingly, the Google+ social network tries to solve this by letting you set up many different "circles" and then sharing information only out with certain circles. While a great idea in theory, choosing the circles with which you wants to share info adds time to a posting that most people don't seem to have... pretty much everything I see posted to Google+ seems to go to all of someone's circles and often even is posted as "Public" for all to see.

I asked in that 2009 post these questions:

What if the person sharing the "revealing" information is a co-worker? Do we understand yet how (or if) this changes our relationships? Do I gain more respect learning of a serious childhood illness now overcome? Do I lose respect for that co-worker when I learn of the drunken binges they go on each month? What if I don't like their politics or religion? Does any of this change the way I interact with the person? On one level, how can it not change my views of that person? - but can I/we move beyond that?

Have our "culture" and "conventions" caught up with the degree of information our tools now let us share?

Where is the line between information we share with co-workers and our "personal" lives? Is there even a line? Or is the very concept of such a line just a quaint anachronism of another era?

Three years later I'm not sure we're any farther along in answering those questions. Perhaps we will not be for many years to come.

"Frictionless Sharing"

In fact, in the last couple of years Facebook has made this even more complicated by removing the "friction" from sharing information... in other words, they have started sharing information about you without you being involved.

The classic case of this is sharing when you "Like" a page. Click the "Like" button on a page, such as that of your church, and... ta da... that will show up in the NewsFeed of many of your friends - or the "Ticker" running in the upper right corner of their Facebook window in a regular web browser.

Similarly, if you "Like" or comment on an item on your church's web page, that action, too, goes out into your newsfeed.

And if you've linked any location-based applications into Facebook, like FourSquare, that activity goes out into your NewsFeed:


The end result is that from all sorts of angles you wind up passing information about your religious views and activities out into your Facebook friends - sometimes consciously through postings, check-ins, etc.; and sometimes more inadvertently "leaking" through likes, comments, etc.

The Professional Challenge

The challenge, as noted earlier, is that if you use Facebook and connect with people from your work, sharing your religious (or political) views can potentially impact those relationships. We certainly saw this in the most recent U.S. election, where many people posted (or shared info/images) very passionately related to either the Obama or Romney campaigns. Those posts, at least the more venomous of them, may have caused some people to block others... or to unfriend them... or to simply lose some degree of respect for others.

This is particularly a challenge, too, if you are a "public" face of a company or organization. Whether you are an executive, a spokesperson or even just someone writing online for a company or organization, you become connected to that entity. Now if you are also sharing your religious views in ways that are easy to find, it could become problematic - do you wish to potentially alienate some % of your potential customers?

Moving it to a global scale, there are many parts of the world where religion plays a much larger role than others. Given the current conflict in Gaza, how well will parties from the other religion be received? If you interact with people on a global scale, you may need to have an even more heightened awareness of cultural sensitivities around religion.

Now let's be honest, though, and note that MANY (most?) work connections on Facebook may not even notice or remotely care about your religious views. "Meh, whatever..." is a commmon enough view. Particularly here in North America or in western Europe where the strength of religious concerns in society is nowhere near what it once was.

But what if someone who does care about your religious viewpoint happens to be your company's largest customer? Or your manager? Or your employee? Or CEO? Are you willing to take that risk?

Splitting Your Personality

In reaction to all of this, some people use multiple Facebook accounts. I have friends who have one Facebook account that they use for all their professional/work "friends" - and a completely separate Facebook account that they use for their close friends and perhaps family. One Facebook account is their "work persona" while the other is their more open and candid persona.

While this works, it does require a rigorous degree of discipline. You have to make sure you are in the right account before posting. On a mobile device, where I'm often posting to Facebook, this may require using separate apps for each account. For instance, one friend uses the Facebook app on an iPhone for his "work" account and the Hootsuite app for his "personal" account.

It can be done... but my worry, and the reason I don't do it myself (yet, anyway), is that it seems FAR too easy to mess up. Forget which window or app you are in and... BOOM... that more private post gets seen by all your work colleagues.


The Counterpoint

The counter-argument to what I made above is that by being open and talking about your religious views (or at least not suppressing them) is that you may find new opportunities and connections. Rather than finding a percentage of people alienated by your views (or perhaps in addition to that %) you may find a % of people who actually embrace your religious views. Work connections may come forward with the information that they, too, share your views. Or they may be curious and want to know more. A learning experience may emerge that may lead to greater understanding.

Others with whom I've had discussions along these lines in the past have pointed out that by sharing, even if only through Likes or comments (i.e. nothing direct like posts), you are allowing yourself to be "whole" and true - that you are thereby giving yourself the permission to be who you really are both online and offline. Others have argued that if someone is not willing to work with you due to your religion, do you really want to be working with them?

Another group contends that the "Millenials" and others entering the work force today just expect that sharing of this kind of information will occur... and they are just going ahead and sharing it all, while we of the older crowd are writing over-analyzing articles like this one.

All good points, certainly, although I would note that in work contexts we don't often get the luxury to choose who we will work with as customers, co-workers, partners or vendors. Sometimes we do - often we don't.

What To Do?

I don't know.

I struggle with this myself. I've been online for over 25 years, since the mid-1980's, and have been writing prolifically since around 2000. Yet in all those many years of writing, tweeting, podcasting, etc., I don't know that you could find many, if any, references to my religious views in any of my writing. Ditto with political views, although I will admit to being a bit more forthcoming on that front in this past election within the walls of Facebook.

I don't believe either of those viewpoints should have any role in my current professional and work personas.

Yet I'm a pretty hardcore political news junkie (living in New Hampshire it is hard NOT to be!) and have had a lifelong passionate interest in religion and spirituality. Offline, I'm active in my local church, yet I don't bring any of that activity online - and I do struggle with that.  On a simple level, I would like to "Like" my church's Facebook page... but in doing so I start crossing that divide and blurring my own lines.

I have had any number of colleagues who are very open about what they believe and what their religious views are.  I've had many, many more who have kept that information to themselves.

As we continue this experiment in merging our lives together, this kind of information sharing will become increasingly unavoidable. Unless, of course, you choose simply to not participate, but even that will become harder as more of more of our communication moves online and into "the cloud."

There is certainly the potential that this increased sharing can lead to more connectedness between people and better communication and understanding... yet the potential is also there for increased division and fragmentation.

In the words of Facebook, "It's Complicated."

If you've read this far, what do you do?

Do you keep your religious and/or political views offline and/or private? Or do you not worry about any of it and just let all of that information hang out there? Will this kind of sharing become more expected and "normal"?  How will it change how we interact with each other? Or will it not? How will our cultural norms evolve?

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The Problem Of Trying Blogging From An iPad Using TypePad

Yesterday's blog post epitomizes one of the problems I have with creating blog posts on a tablet that work with TypePad, the service with which I started hosting this site way back in 2005.

All I wanted to do is have an image that was right-justified with the text wrapping around it. Instead I got this:

Rightjustified not

(Which has now been changed to be correctly right-justified, but through the regular desktop web interface, not to the mobile interface.)

In order to write more regularly, I've been trying out using the iPad as a writing platform. It's been working well for sites hosted on WordPress, but not so well for TypePad.

Because the TypePad app is fairly useless on the iPad, I wrote the post using Blogsy, a fairly interesting and useful blogging app for the iPad. However, try as I might, I could not get Blogsy to right-justify and wrap the image. The issue seems to be that Blogsy would only send to TypePad the <img> tag with this attribute:


Now this might be fine if the CSS for my theme on TypePad defined a class like that, but it doesn't. I tried multiple times to edit the raw HTML in Blogsy to add the simple inline CSS to the IMG tag of:


However, Blogsy kept removing that style attribute when sending it to TypePad. Now, maybe there is some setting in Blogsy that I couldn't find that would pass along CSS attributes... but if so, I have no idea what it is.

Trying other apps to correct the problem... as I mentioned, the TypePad app is fairly useless on the iPad. It is only an iPhone application and so while you can blow it up to take over the whole iPad screen, it is still an iPhone app and doesn't make use of the iPad's screen nor of its improved keyboard. More importantly, it only lets you create new posts - there is no way to edit or modify existing posts... so there was no way to get in and modify the post to add this style attribute to the image.

Next, I tried the "mobile" website for TypePad, but it doesn't seem to work so well on the iPad. I tried to get in and modify the post above and wasn't able to easily do so.

Finally I tried logging directly into the "regular" TypePad website on the iPad. It looked like it might work as I could get into the HTML view (which was the only view, actually) and add the style attribute. But when I went to try to publish the updated post, the Publish button didn't work.

In the end, I had to go to my desktop system and login to the regular TypePad web interface to make this change.

This is a perfect example of what I referred to in my "Barriers to Blogging" series as "Getting The Tools Out Of The Way". A whole chunk time spent... simply to get an image to be right-justified. :-(

Now to get the tools out of the way in this case, I may again search for a better blog post editor on the iPad. Another option, of course, would be to move this blog off of TypePad and over to one of my WordPress servers (where the tools work better)... but that's a much longer process. Still, it is another answer.

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Now Amazon Rolls Out Pages And Posts, Too?

As if companies and brands don't already have enough places to establish their presence online, now comes word that will let you create a URL with your brand name where you can promote your products and other information. You also will be able to create "posts" for your page similar to a Facebook Page.

Amazon spells out more details in the FAQ for "Amazon Marketing Services", including the fact that these pages are free to create and that there is a verification process for brands. It notes that in building your Amazon Page you have a choice of three templates - and that Posts can also be cross-posted over to Facebook after you link your Amazon Page to a Facebook account. It also notes that there is "Amazon Analytics" to show you the interaction with your page.

I have not yet explored setting up a Page myself, but I can certainly see the value for any company selling merchandise through Amazon. I expect we will see a rush for brands wanting to own their own brand name at For marketers this becomes, though, yet one more place to potentially establish a presence.

What do you think of this move? Will you establish your own Amazon Page?


Thank You

Today, for most of the seven billion people in the world, it is just yet another ordinary day.  Nothing special... just another day.

But for those of us living in the USA it is our "Thanksgiving". It is a public holiday that most people get off. And it is for me the holiday that in so many ways I enjoy the most.


Simple ... because it has not yet become over-commercialized. Tomorrow, of course, is an epic nightmare of consumerism and crass commercialism (and the participation in which I avoid as much as possible).

But today, for the most part, is a collective... pause

Throughout our nation (and around the world for those living abroad) people gather with friends, family, loved ones. Most businesses are closed (except for many restaurants, convenience stores and some gas stations).  People eat (often large quantities), play, relax and enjoy each other's company.

It is a moment to revel in that gathering... to reflect on how we are thankful for what we have... to help out those who need help... to pause in a sacred moment and give thanks.

And so I take this moment... here... on this site... to thank all of YOU out there.  All of you who continue to read my articles... to listen to my podcasts... to read my books... to watch my videos... to hear me in presentations... to read my newsletter... to engage with me on social media...  thank you!

Thank you also for challenging me... for asking me tough questions... for giving me feedback... for doing all those things that help me to grow and learn and become even better in what I do and help me learn how to be of better service to you all.

Thank you.

For the 6.7+ billion of you for whom today is a perfectly normal day, I hope you have an excellent day. For those of you celebrating US Thanksgiving, I hope that you all are able to gather with those you love - and that you are able somewhere in the madness to pause for even just a moment and reflect on all that you have to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. It's not all rosy, of course.  Many people cannot be with their family and friends. Many people do not have food, homes, or the money or means to travel to visit people. Even "normal" family gatherings can be filled with tension, drama and crisis.  It can be a quite bleak and depressing time for many.  For those of us who are able to celebrate, the question becomes, too... what can we do to help others?  How can we translate our thankfulness into action to help those who are struggling?  Can we dedicate part of our lives to helping other people have something more to be thankful for?


My Report Into FIR #678 - Facebook Mobile Sharing, Barriers To Blogging, and Social Media with Israel/Hamas

In this week's For Immediate Release episode #678 on Monday, November 19, 2012, my report covered:

If you are a FIR subscriber, you should have the show now in iTunes or whatever you use to get the feed. If you aren't a subscriber, you can simply listen to the episode online now. There is a TON of other great information in the weekly episode relevant to those involved with PR, marketing and other forms of communication, so I'd encourage you to give it a listen.

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