Friday, November 13, 2009


I had the pleasure to hear Chris Brogan of New Marketing Labs speak in Rochester the other day at the SM2Day conference - and the thrill to meet him in person (and even though he's quite friendly and I've talked to him on Twitter before, when he's behind a table signing books and there's a line behind me, I turn into bashful mush-mouth. Silly.)

He's an excellent, casual speaker and, much like on his blog, treated the presentation more as a conversation with the people in the room. You can look for video of his talk here.

There were a couple of things he talked about that, combined with other speakers at the conference and other things I've seen recently, struck a chord. These really center around connecting with people in marketing and communications efforts.

First, Remember Mobile -
Mobile phones are increasingly important in our lives. As Chris pointed out, we won't go more than 10 paces from our phone, even when we leave wallet, keys, etc behind. Research shows that higher and higher numbers are accessing social networks from mobile devices, and that more people are shopping on mobile devices, too. Companies need to communicate with their customers as people in this space.

Imagine the power of a conversation with customers as they're making a purchase decision via the social networks they look to for advice.

Second, Customer Service -
Conversations with customers need to shift from product push to customer service. To tending relationships. Enabling the people having conversations to resolve customer problems. This builds trust, appreciation for any brand.

Third, Make More Connections in Person -
Meeting Chris IRL, connecting with SMC Rochester folks who I don't see often enough at meetups because I'm a slacker and don't go. It's warm fuzzies. It gives that extra layer to stories and conversations. While connecting and storytelling in new media is powerful and revolutionary, even, the handshake still has a ton of value. That can be easy to forget as tweets pop up and pics are posted on Facebook - it's nice to be reminded. A bit like Drew Olanoff's talk at the 140 Conference in LA - reminding people about phone calls.

Some new storytelling thoughts coming in the next day or so. 'Til then - enjoy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The stories we tell shift with the language we speak

When I was a kid, my cousins had a game that intrigued me. We never played, but it became associated in my head with a spy-mystery who-dunnit where "The Brain" was actually a villain behind a vast bank of consoles and controls which he used to control the world. The metaphor stuck.

I have long been fascinated by how people perceive and process the world. What does that console look like for them? Do other people have the same type of running monologue in their heads - with the occasional conversation run-through every way possible - that I do? What's the impact of differences in culture, background, disabilities/ abilities? I think this is a large part of the appeal that Oliver Sack's works hold for me.

My brother is colorblind, with a red-green deficiency. To him, the lawn is orange. How does that impact his appreciation for stories where color plays a key role? Take that to an even higher level for my Uncle, who sees in black, white, and shades of grey. I remember how frustrated he got playing Trivial Pursuit, because he never knew which category he had landed on. In Island of the Colorblind , Sacks describes a society where color does not play a role (or just a very minor one). He also tells of colorblind artists who paint with such subtle shifts in greyscale that color-sighted people cannot distinguish the patterns that my Uncle, for example, would.

I just read an article by Lera Boroditsky, titled "How does our Language Shape the Way We Think?". Fascinating! She details experiments that compare and contrast perceptions between cultures with very different language structures. Like considering spatial orientation/ reference in English, where the reference point is our body, to a tribe where the reference point is the compass. Because their language is so tied to compass directions, they always know which way they face. Or how visual cues relate to perception of time in English, where time is tied to distance, vs Greek, where time is volume-related. Very cool. How does this impact how we tell stories? How and what we choose to mashup in online storytelling? Would love to hear folk-tales from the tribe that points to the compass.

Creoles themselves, as a language mashup, must get interesting. I'll have to dig more to see if they tend to stick to the same fundamentals, make new rules, or pick and choose from the source languages. Imagine being part of the emergence of a Creole tongue that not only is a new way of expressing yourself - but could be a total right turn in how you perceive the world, as well.

What have I read in Haitian Creole, in French, in translation that did not take into account these differences? Has it impacted my experience of the story?

Now I have to learn a lot more languages. Or at least understand how their rules are built to make sure I get these subtleties.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Just missing the bunnies

So I've been following the guys from Plaid on their summer tour through the heartland - Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, St Louis. I've been meaning to post about it - but haven't been thinking in longer hunks than tweets the last few days.

Anyway - their stop in the Windy City was awesome. I loved the creative workspace and startup personality of Threadless. The cupcakes, flavors, and pregnancy-craving inspiration of Bleeding Heart Bakery.

They bleed personality. Add all of this up and you get a successful business that's not afraid to be who they are, and speak to a niche audience. Loudly.
(Something more should learn to do)

Finally, I've long been a fan of 826 Valencia - The Pirate Store - and anyone who comes up with novel ways to encourage learning - especially reading & writing, so it was fun to see the Boring Store.

Thanks to Plaid for sharing their tour - every little bit - and the insights into success from companies big (Ford) and small.

BUT - I think the flames on the Flex need some bunnies!

Monday, July 6, 2009

I wear my friendships online....

Let me start with a bit of backstory. I have always been quite shy - but friendly. I try to get to know people of all types, but it takes me a while to work up the gumption to do so. The bashfulness combines with homebody instincts to keep me from many parties and nights out on the town. In high school, I'd strike up conversations with those seated around me - sometimes, if they seemed OK. I went to college with the aim to be more extroverted - and did make many friends I may not have otherwise - but still played the homebody a bit.

And so it's pretty much continued.

Now, I follow 424 on Twitter. I have 207 friends on Facebook. I'm connected to bunches on Friendfeed, LinkedIn, through blog networks, etc. There are people I consider friends, who I've never met in person. I exchange ideas, reactions, commiserations with many of these new connections.

The other day, I commented on someone's Facebook status - trying to give a bit of support to someone having a rough time, and the thought struck me. "I wear my friendships online." I can get closer to people faster without the shyness barrier that can emerge in person.

Not to say I don't have friends in person (or IRL) - they're just usually pretty hard won and so not as prolific.

So I started this post, to work out the thought. Because of bad habits around leaving tabs open forever, that was a week ago. Oh, well. Since I started, Ramsey Mohsen posted on "ambient intimacy", hitting close to what I'd been waiting to write...
The term ambient intimacy is more than just a definition- it’s a construct that helps make sense of why the usage of social media appeals to the masses. [...]

Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible.

@leisa summarizes it well; It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances. It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in whose lives we’re not able to participate as closely as we’d like.
Social media helps me get closer to more people. Some are those same people I tried to connect with in high school - easier to connect when social cliques are more in the past and instead we're just chics in their (gulp) mid-30s with a common element in where we came from. I like what this can do. It's probably a key reason why I'm still active in these spaces.

And I hope to run into some of these new friends IRL someday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Meet me on the steps of St Claude's

Ah,Paris. For those not watching my tweets, Facebook, or RoelleKids blog, I took an unexpected 2 day trip there last week. One day was spent in the back room of a facility, but the other we got to spend wandering the city.

One thing we noticed as we walked by various little parks, plazas, and almost any place with steps, was the people gathering just to hang. Picnics, bocce games, and people getting together to sit and chat and ... be. Why was this so novel? It seems like a really social, peaceful, great thing to do! Still, it seemed foreign to us.

In Rochester I can understand a bit why, since it tends to be such a car-based city. It seems like a car-focused culture is less likely to encourage casual hanging. I'm not interested in sitting if I have to drive to get there.... (Well maybe I AM, but I'm not totally the norm. And a campfire would be needed to really get me interested) But what about cities with parks, plazas, and steps that people can walk to, just like in Paris? New York, Boston, Chicago? I was actually hanging with my vendor (Meghan), who lives in Chicago, and she was as struck as I was. It just wasn't the same.

Maybe it's due, in part to that classic "American drive" - the one that leads to marvelous achievements, but also to stress levels through the roof, way too many work hours, overbooking non-work time w/ other commitments, running, running, running, doing, doing, doing. Sitting, relaxing, may be something the French lifestyle is just better suited to. As I type, it occurs to me that the 35hr work week may also have played a role in the number of people hanging out on a Friday afternoon.

I read Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam years ago as I started to think about the impact of social networking on relationships. Great book, but one of those where I filled the margins with counter-arguments. Written in the days of discussion boards and usenet groups prior to blogging, microblogging, and mainstream social networks, much did not seem valid or fully explored to me. And I still hear in headlines here and there how technology and social media are ruining relationships and community.

Personally, I think that's bull. Social media can give us a bit of that sitting on the steps bond w/ friends - hanging out, sharing the inconsequential, or maybe if the mood strikes debating deep philosophical issues. Where cars and stress and workaholism may have pulled us away from old world social gathering, I feel social media has filled a bit of a gap. It's so easy for people to blame the new guy. If you feel relationships are suffering, more people are stressed/ depressed, maybe think more about our choice not to hang just to hang, not to meet on the steps of St Claude's (btw, random name, DK if there even IS a St Claude).

Friday, May 15, 2009

A quick note on how not to appeal to me as a woman -

Copying here an email I sent to some friends -
I appreciate ShinyShiny and PopGadget. I appreciate some of the cool new flower designs and pink (most of the time) and green and cuteness like the Nissan Cube.

What really really irks me is "this is for chics so the techy side of things needs to be about weight loss and yoga" - Way to insult more than half of your demographic. GRRRRRRRRR


In the moment that seemed to say it all. Now I feel a need to explain a bit more.

I get highly offended when I am told something needs to be adjusted for me "because I'm a girl". I grew up with two brothers and lots of guy friends and I see no reason "girl" needs to equal "froofroo". When searching for colleges, I got highly offended by brochures for women's schools that said "We know girls can't perform to their top potential if there are GUYS around." Consider the gauntlet dropped, dude!

So, in my quick glance at the Della site, and its list of reasons why a netbook is the way to go, I couldn't help but focus on "calorie-counting, yoga tips, and planning dinner for your family". And I didn't have time to do more than gut react - There are a whole lot of elements to chics - and if you want to market to them, don't confine yourself to '50s housewife stereotypes. Then we get angry. And you might not like it when we're angry. ( ;-) )

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sharing is a circle

I'm back. Got a bit distracted there for a while. Over at The Roelle Kids, I talked yesterday about my themes for 2009. (Focus, Calm, Circle - soon it will be a mantra I've embroidered into my clothes...)

Circle ties back to much of the storytelling theme I'm working on developing here - when I get around to posting, that is. Yes, Circle is about sharing of all types and it's partially a reminder to participate and keep in touch. But it ties to my work and to anyone who hopes to engage in conversations with people, too.

Sharing is not one way. Any system, process, or habit that is built with only one direction in mind is at high risk of failure because it will be unfulfilling.

Push communications from companies that don't conceive of the possibility of dialogue are unrealistic and as bad as TV commercials, because you know the company is not listening in return.

Social environments that focus on sending your content out without easy reciprocation can become annoyances to the target recipients. Twitter and Friendfeed have value in the conversation. Facebook mastered the newsfeed to key users in on what friends are doing.
- I need to think about that more. I totally see how a social environment that is a circle is advantaged, but I need to figure out how blogging fits in.
- I struggle w/ comments as an exclusive means of completing the circle because they are so infrequently used.

(Well, I'm focusing on this all year, so you'll be able to see it evolve and flesh out further. Your thoughts are welcome. This is a good start.)

Neil Gaiman recently made a comment regarding the different reactions people can have to the same book - and the fact that we're different people bringing different experiences to the reading totally explains this. (Totally true - I'm pretty sure a large part of my negative reaction to Twilight is because I wrote very similar stuff while in high school (and while not too shabby, it was silly high school writing then, too))
Anyway, here's his quote:
"You bring yourself to a book, after all; every book is collaborative."

Collaborative, circle, conversation - it's all good.