Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: Social Media 101: Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online

Social Media 101: Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online Social Media 101: Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online by Chris Brogan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brogan's look at social media is a rather useful book for those first coming to social media as well as those who are intermediate users to pick up some tips. He provides a lot of different ideas on how to grow your social media once you have determined what use(s) you have of social media. The book itself is adapted from numerous blog posts from his blog. Therefore, you can get various bits of his advice for free. He claims to clean it up for the book, but his interpretation of cleaning it up is pretty loose as he repeats many different concepts, sources, anecdotes and sites throughout the book. In fact, a conscious reduction of these repeated points could have shrunken the book by 1/3. That being said, there is handy content in the book worth reading.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Politics in Social Media: Memes, Public Talk, and Snacking

As you know from previous posts centered on politics, I'm doing a lot of thinking and reflecting about courses of action that are important to me.  Within that, it means I am also starting to think differently about how I engage and act politically in social media.  I will always contend that social media is a powerful and important tool; one that has inevitably changed my life for the better, making me a better communicator, more thoughtful and sensitive person, and better aware of the world around me.  But it has me thinking differently about certain aspects of it that I need to change my approach on.  Here are some of those different approaches that are currently on my mind.

Memes

Moving forward--I'm largely done with memes.  Neutral memes that may be amusing and interesting are probably not off the table but memes in general, I'm done using.  We all like memes because they are perfect analogy machines, distilling our issue into something that is a picture and handful of words.  However, memes do not really encourage or make for better dialogue between people with differences but rather allows one to state their claim, relying on the (often faulty) logic or limited facts of the meme to be proof positive.  They are shields with which to stand behind but generally non-starters for actual conversation.  They're used as proof-positive, often with the implication that if we just share them around enough, everyone will finally get it.
Word cloud of this post in the shape of a word balloon.

In order to critique the idea at the center, one has to engage in a long and drawn out explanation which often takes time and often, the original poster is not interested in hearing.  Not only do they take time but because the meme has framed the point, one is often trapped in having to contend with the present frame, which because of its distilled nature often is a challenge to do so in an engaging way given the person who posted it feels strongly enough about the meme to post it.  

So for me, I am refusing to engage in the meme-wars.  They aren't constructive in the end I believe and therefore would rather spend my time sharing more constructive ways of publicly thinking.  That being said, I am still going to speak up when I see memes that marginalize or alienate people--not as a means of engaging the person who posted it per se (though I hope they are willing to listen) but to make sure others who see the post (especially people that might be a target of the post) know that not everyone feels that way.   

Public Conversation vs Private Messages

Social media has been fantastic in putting me contact with a great many people and enjoying the opportunity to have many interesting conversations and debates.  But in moving forward, I think I shall be trying a new tactic.  We know that when it comes to beliefs, we are often likely to dig in deeper when we are publicly challenged because it becomes that much harder to admit if our thinking is wrong in some capacity.  We stake ourselves as intelligent, professionals, or just aware and so to be shown otherwise in public means that we are likely to avoid it.  Thus, I can imagine for myself and others that as I dig into a conversation deeper and deeper, trying to defend my beliefs, I'm reluctant to give ground or to really hear the other person.  But maybe, if I move the discussion to a more personal nature--to just me and the person via private messages, email, phone calls or face-to-face, it changes the conversation.  It moves from public to private and creates better opportunities to hear one another.  

So my goal is that when I engage in conversations that seem in direct opposition to things I believe in, I will initially post my public response (agian, believe it is important that others see it that it will be an opportunity for those neutral OR those that the post targets feel supported) but if the conversation goes into a more protracted discussion, that I move that into a private realm for me and the person to better understand one another.  

Snacking Social Media

I plan to reduce my social media usage.  I still plan to use it regularly, even daily but I need to shift away from the mindless scrolling, the endless search for interesting content, the constant look for something.  I need to be more strategic and focused in going on social media--seeing it as a place to check in regularly but not constantly.  I want to hear the different voices of people I am connected with but like others, after this past week, I'm realizing how much I'm drowning in it and I'd rather not be so inundated.  So I plan to start planning spots within the day to tune in but to stop grazing while doing other things and recooperate time to do some of the actions that I am in pursuing as a result of where I find myself politically.  

Subordinated into that is going to be a reduction in how often I explore differnet news outlets; especially that includes clickbait or over-dramatic responses to what they present as news (on the left, Mother Jones, I'm looking at you; on the right, Breitbart news, I'm not having it or any "news" space that have a bajillion article links along the side and at the bottom to other tabloid news).  For me, these sites are not useful; I want to know what happened but I'm so damn tired of the hyperbolic rhetoric--that's what got us here; it won't get us out.  So I say goodbye to them.

These are some of the actions in my daily practice that I am pursuing.  What about the rest of you?  How might your relationship with social media change given your experiences over the last few months?  



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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review: How to Thrive in the Digital Age

How to Thrive in the Digital Age How to Thrive in the Digital Age by Tom Chatfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great book that provides a range of perspectives on living in the digital age without losing it in the digital age. He performs a good balance of viewpoints about the benefits and the perils along with great additional resources to follow up with (my nerd moment of the book was listening to the different recommended reading and realizing that I read at least half of the books).

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review: 50 Digital Ideas You Really Need to Know

50 Digital Ideas You Really Need to Know 50 Digital Ideas You Really Need to Know by Tom Chatfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chatfield's book is a purely distilled text of the major ideas and elements of digital media one would need to know or might want a bit more clarity on. Chatfield lays out clear yet sufficiently complex ideas so that this feels less like a "Just for Dummies" book and more like an adult introduction. This works well because for neophyte and professional alike, there is apt to be plenty to learn (or just better contextualize). Again, one of those texts that should be an essential for any digital native or immigrant.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Review: Infinite Progress: How the Internet and Technology Will End Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger, and War

Infinite Progress: How the Internet and Technology Will End Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger, and War Infinite Progress: How the Internet and Technology Will End Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger, and War by Byron Reese
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's alieving to see a text that celebrates what technology has done and has the potential to do. I don't know if I find the entirety of Reese's writing to be possible as he bypasses and largely ignores the environmental issues that seem to impede our chances of attaining a nearly utopian future, but I applaud his argument in so far as it connected the dots in how technology can reasonable diminish a great deal of harms to human existence.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Review: Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age

Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Doctorow lays out a very good discussion and exploration into the realm of copyright and the problems it presents in the modern age. Doctorow's approach is philosophically interested in that he explains that the systems created by publishers, record producers and others have made it extreme hard for people to actually own things to the degree that they can do anything they want with them. He calls for reform of copyright law, emphasizing that the failure to do so is likely to increase theft and resistance since companies often are limiting the individual's ability to do things with their supposedly own property. All of this has significant implications as we move into a future of driverless cars, embedded wearable tech, and increased automation

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Friday, April 1, 2016

That LinkedIn Pic...

As many know, I am an advocate of social media.  I use it a lot and encourage others to do the same.  I also regularly teach workshops on how to use social media for personal, professional, and organizational uses.  I enjoy the opportunity to help others with social media and connecting with others.  I also enjoy helping people increase their professional opportunities through social media and have done workshops on that as well (as can be seen by the SlideShare below).  Recently, while on LinkedIn, I realized that there was some good advice that I could pass along to people looking to maximize their profile impact and it had little to do with most of the content.  I am going to take this blog post to discuss the most important part of your LinkedIn Profile:  your profile photo.




So the first thing you need to know is that you really do need a profile picture. It's not enough to just have your name on LinkedIn. There are many times when I'm looking at LinkedIn profiles and I only realized who the person is because of their profile picture. It's also relevant when you have a common name. If I see 3 John Smith's, how do I know which one is the one that I'm friends with? Yeah sure, I can go and look at all three profiles but a much simpler way for me to know is to see the profile pics. So for most people, you should have a profile pic. There are some exceptions, of course, but typically those exceptions have to do with people who need to keep themselves and their information private. But then again, those people usually aren't going to use social media.

Okay, now that we know you should have a profile pic, what should the picture contain? These are some of the must-haves!  

First, the shot should be of you. You should not have a photo of your dog or cat. Trust me, I know this is tempting but it doesn't quite work for LinkedIn.  In truth, the photo should only be of you with no one else in the actual picture. Again, if a person is looking at you for some particular reason, they will actually want to know which one is which. You also don't want to distract anybody from you if you are the subject of their search.  You are the center of attention; so don't provide any distractions.  

Your photo should be taken in either a neutral location or a relevant location. By neutral, I mean a very simple background, such as a white wall, a building, or some other non-descript background. If you were to do a relevant location, be sure that it is clearly relevant. Sometimes, this is really easy. For instance, you might be a track coach and therefore, take your picture at the track. If you are some kind of manager, then a picture within an office space is probably a good shot.  

Don't take photos of yourself in ambiguous environments such as in the woods (unless you are seeking a job as a park-ranger or the like).  Taking photos of you in interesting places may sometimes work but it is a gamble.  I've seen some photos of people in interesting places. One person looked like they were in the midst of some kind of race, maybe a marathon. But I don't know that this entirely sits well with somebody trying to check them out professionally. Sure, it hints at a deeper person than just what their professional life is like but I could also see it distracting from the message in the content of the person's profile.

Your picture should also be of high quality. Do not upload a pixelated picture of you to  LinkedIn. Nobody really wants to see a vague and hard-to-distinguish image of you.  If I can't determine your eye color on a close-up shot, then it's not a good photo.   Upload a picture that is well detailed. The photo should also be taken in a well-lit place. Don't make people should not have to strain to see you.

Your photo should also be a reasonably close shot of you. This means it should either be a mid shot from the waist or ribs or even shoulders up or a headshot.  Do not take a picture where it is hard to see you in the photo or it's hard to make out your face.  

Word cloud of blog post on LinkedInBe sure to smile in your picture or at least have a welcoming look. Again remember, this is about first impressions. You generally want to smile when making first impressions.  Along those lines, your face should not be obstructed. In some cases it might make sense. But mostly your face should be clear and identifiable. You want people to see you;  that is the point of using a social media platform based on professional networks.

 Just a little bit more about things you probably shouldn't include as your profile pic. I've seen a couple people include their wedding photos or family photos. These are definitely not professional photos for your profile. It's great that you got married and have a family but that is not necessarily relevant to the job that you may be hired to do. Another pic that you would generally avoid is obvious selfies. There are probably a decent amount of profile pics on LinkedIn that are selfies. However, it's not necessarily obvious or clear that they are. For instance, my current profile pic is a selfie--but it isn't particularly obvious.  It just looks like a close up photo.  However if the picture looks like a selfie, then you might consider having somebody else take a better picture of you. The selfie itself isn't necessarily a problem. It's more about how our culture perceives people who take selfies. Again, this is a first impression. You want that first impression to be professional. Selfies don't really show professional.

In the end, you want to treat your LinkedIn profile picture like the image you want to present to someone at your first interview for a job.  Besides being an opportunity for a good first impression, it is creates the opportunity for a good second impression, should you be called for an interview.  When you show up looking professional, you've now represented yourself twice as a professional and that could be enough to give you a lead.


What other tips or ideas do you use when priming your LinkedIn profile to be eye-catching?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, March 25, 2016

So You Wanna Blog? Part 2

In my first blog post in this series, we took a look as some of the ways you might approach blogging.  In this post, we're going to look at some of the more technical features and some things you should do with your post.  Now, I say should and all I really mean by that is if you want to maximize your viewership, there are definitely some things I recommend. 


Blogging Platform

But first, let's talk about platforms.  There are a bajillion blogging platforms out there.  This blog runs on Blogger.  But there's also WordPress and Tumblr and many others.  Platforms matter and while I chose Blogger because I am a heavy Google-product user, if I had a time machine, I would go back and choose WordPress.  Largely I recommend WordPress because it has better SEO (what is "SEO"--search engine optimization, which basically means, it gets better positioning in search results.  You would think Blogger does but apparently, it's WordPress.  I would imagine with its popularity, this is also potentially true of Tumblr.  Still, I did appreciate in the earlier days, the simplicity and ease of Blogger.  I'm a bit bummed that it seems like they are no longer doing much in terms of upgrades to the platform, but it still does the trick for now.  If I were to rank the easy and usability for neophytes, it would be Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress in order of easiest to hardest.  


What Goes Into a Blog Post?

What I'm going to talk about here is certain content to include in your blog posts that will likely improve its visibility on the internet.  Now, I mentioned before that you should blog largely for yourself and not worry about building a readership per se.  That's still true, but figure it this way:  it shouldn't stop you from at least making sure you've created a pathway to your door, just in case people want to stop by your house.  


Titles

You should make sure to include titles for each of yours.  Interesting, titles that include numbers get more readership (e.g. 7 Things You Should Know About Blogging, 99 Problems But My Internet Connection Ain't 1).  Titles should be relevant, indicate if it is part of a series, and be playful.  
Word cloud in the shape of a cat of this blog post.
Add cats, whenever possible!


Images

Including images is a must for your blog if you want to attract attention.  The images bring in people for two reasons.  The first is that it increases search visibility for general searches, but it also increases traffic to your site when people do image searches; your image may show up.  However, the best way to secure or increase image-related traffic is to make sure you do two things.
  1. Be sure to name the file relevant to what it is.  
  2. Be sure to use alt-image tags.
For the first one, by naming the image file something relevant "bookshelf.jpg" if it is a bookshelf is that this can be used as some of the information used to produce the search results.  That is, the file name helps the search engine classify it for when someone searches for it.  Alt-image tags work along the same line but there is another great reason to use alt-image labels: they help people who have visual limitations.  The alt-image text is a description of the image.  Often, folks with visual limitations use screen-readers to read text on the screen.  When the screen-reader encounters an image, it will read the alt-image text.  
In acquiring images, I have two recommendations.  The first is to use Creative Commons to find images that you can legally include on your blog and not potentially violate copyright.  I also recommend using Tagxedo to create a word cloud for your post, which as you can see on this blog, I am a big fan of!

Design

The blog design including the side bar, heading, and text should have a consistent and clear design.  I tend to prefer sans-serif fonts and a strong contrast between font color and background.  Otherwise, even I have trouble reading what I wrote.  Additionally, a consistent design of fonts, spacing, layout makes it easier for readers to determine where to focus attention.  


Headings and Subheadings

Along the lines of consistent and clear design, I encourage using headings and subheadings within the blog.  Besides providing good navigation for the reader, headings also serve another purpose with regards to SEO in that they also become ways of improving rankings of blog posts in search engines. Of course, like so much else within blogging, these should be used but not abused.   


Links


Linking is often the lifeblood of blogs and also contributes to improving a blog's SEO.  Any given post should link to other content such as points of reference, material being discussed, alternative points of view, or even funny asides.  It's also useful to encourage exchanging blog-links with other blogs or responding to and linking to other blog posts.  While some of this is used to create traffic, the other half is equally important:  providing elaboration, details, or supplemental material for your particular post, so that you can focus on your content, and use other resources to reinforce it.  
  

Tags/Labels

Tags and labels are merely a way of classifying your blog posts.  As you can see to the left of this blog post, there is a word-cloud of labels based upon popularity of given tags or labels.  I find this is a useful means to communicate to readers about the content of the blog as well as myself to consider just where my energies are largely focused.  

Ok, so those are some of the basic things to consider with your blog to maximize readership but most of these recommendations also speak to creating a well-designed and well-thought out blog.  

I don't know that I have a third in this series, but if I do, I will let you know!  Thanks for reading!



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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Review: Who Owns the Future?

Who Owns the Future? Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is not as emotionally charging as Ensler's but it is equally important for the world today. As a well-known technologist of the 1980s and 1990s, Lanier has much to say about the modern interconnected world and his concerns about it. Continuing on from his last book, You Are Not a Gadget, he explores the world of mega-servers, their powers to influence the world and the impact that can have on human affairs, particularly the world of economics and trade. His biggest concern is that the information individuals are willing to give companies, as he claims, "for free" is setting up a system that will inevitably come back to bite us in our collective asses. He offers up a new approach to the exchange of information that takes place every time an individual sits at a computer and accesses the internet. His idea would be to create a system of micropayments so that everyone is given something for every piece of information that another person, company, entity uses.

Some people might not fully understand but every time they interact with a computer, there are numerous note-takers recording much of what you do in terms of what you click, what you look at, how long you look at it, etc. Many have argued that Google and the like do much more in terms of surveillance than NSA ever could. Lanier believes individuals should be paid for such information, even if it is micropayments (with the belief that it will amount to some small streams of revenue given the amount of information that is actually collected on us). I do like the idea but I find Lanier still fails to prove his point. His most basic argument is that companies are taking information from us without our consent and without due compensation. Yet, that's not entirely true. In many cases, we are exchanging services. I provide information about me and in return, I get use and access to tools that I would not have had otherwise. He never substantially addresses this. Otherwise, it's a fantastic and thought-provoking book.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review: Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government

Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government by Aneesh Chopra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aneesh Chopra is among several books out in the last several years that highlights how technology, when leveled appropriately could overwhelmingly transform our government and make it work smarter while simultaneously making it significantly less expensive. Throughout his book, he offers ample examples that he has encountered in the writing of this book as well as many that he was involved with personally. He identifies reasons and strategies for improving government service with a variety of tools that are proving successful on the local, state, and national level. In the end, the book proves inspiring and insightful about a better and more useful path for citizenry and government that is less dominated by the simplistic politics of political parties and more successful with doing and getting results.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review: Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age

Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age by Alice E. Marwick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alice Marwick provides an insightful and fascinating look at understanding social media, culture, and class identity in this book. Through her text, it's quickly evident that though social media presents itself as this utopian world of access and connection, there are many misrepresentations and much gesturing that more than creates a distorted view of what social media is and how we use it. These questions of access, presence, and celebritism create different outcomes and rather than diminishing class boundaries, often reinforces them. It's an essential text for people looking to understand social media either in general or for professional and personal use.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

So You Wanna Blog? Part 1

I’ve been blogging here for about six years (here's my very first blog post).  I’ve come to really enjoy it and find it a useful means of exploring different ideas, sharing interesting things, and engaging in occasional dialogue.  I’ve had a variety of ideas about why I blog over the years but have largely settled into blogging as a practice of writing and reflecting for myself and if others join me—hey, that’s great!


In fact, it's taken years to figure what my blog is about and how to best use it.  It’s largely about coming up with prompts for myself—which to the general reader is probably a bit eclectic:  what I'm reading, things I'm seeing (wow--now that I think about it, that's pretty boring--oh well, I still enjoy the act of blogging).  

Getting Started...or Not

The hardest part of any blog has been keeping it going.  Most blogs die quick, lonely deaths in the first months of their creation. I stumbled a lot with my blog in the first few years.  I’d post a few things and then not come back for weeks (even months!).  But three things happened that helped me get a focus. 
  • Thing #1:  I took a course where we were required to blog regularly.  So, now I had to post regularly on a topic (what I was learning) and thus, began a series of posts called, “Adventures in Learning." his led to:
  • Thing #2:  Realizing that serial posts are useful and if there are things I do regularly, I can make them into series that I regularly post about.  From this followed:
  • Thing #3: I decided to do year-long projects or my 365 Projects—where I attempt to do something every day for a year. 

 Now, I have an abundance of things to post about, whether it’s short stories, photos, running, or different recommendations.  This means I’m rarely at a loss of what to write about and the bigger challenge is about time. 

What to Blog About

Word cloud of this blog post
However, I recognize that my focus is really an out-of-focus approach.  My blog is a smorgasbord of content and I’m sure that dissuades some readers from subscribing.  That's where I work best but that might not be where every blogger works best.  If interested in blogging, my first recommendation is to brainstorm what you want to write about or what you want to explore through your writing (recognizing that they are two different things--the first creates you as more of an authoritative voice and the second as an explorer and sense-maker).   You might consider blogging on that which is directly tied to what you do in a professional sense (highly recommended for people trying to improve their employment opportunities) or to something completely different (the internet can always use more cat blogs--really, I'm a firm--and biased--believer in this).  

When you have a topic or area you want to explore in hand, you really should brainstorm the hell out of it for numerous different ways you can write about it. Here, I highly recommend Chris Brogan’s blog and his book, Social Media 101.  He has a series of different posts/chapters that help generate topics.  Ultimately, you need to come up with both 1-shot posts and series of posts that you could produce with it.  

For instance, if you were into Canadian comics, you could do any of the following:
  • Themed-posts tied to several classic or modern titles.
  • Compare and contrast of a title from the past and present.
  • Weekly or monthly close-reads of specific titles series or just a random title each month.
  • Top 10 lists (Favorite 10 moments in Canadian comics, 10 best artists in Canadian comics, 15 times I wanted to give a character a hug, 10 Facepalm moments when reading Canadian comics, 10 things you find in every Canandian comic).
  • Reviews of different authors' life-works.
  • Interviews with Canadian artists & authors.
  • Contrasts of Canadian comics with other countries' comic output.


Basically, you want to have a bunch of different ideas for posts and particularly easy-to-repeat posts (e.g. weekly reviews), so that you can spend less time thinking of what to write about and essentially, create a writing schedule of what you want to cover and when.  

Keep Committed, But Don’t Get Committed

My next recommendation is to not go hog-wild.  Don't be overly ambitious in your writing and try to do 5 posts a week.  Start slow with a post a week or every other week.  Ease into the rhythm of posting but make sure you make a commitment to do it regularly and schedule accordingly or it's likely to fall by the wayside.  In truth, most blogging platforms allow you to write and schedule the post to be published at a future date.  Take advantage of this and if you feel like you can write 10 posts in a single day, then write them and schedule maybe 2 a week.  This gives you 5 weeks to produce new content.   For instance, this year, I've already written about 150 of the blog posts that will be published.  By pre-loading them, I know that I have content for much of the year and can focus on other things (like teaching, learning, working, etc).  Spread out the blog posts until you know what kind of consistent rhythm you can have with your blog.    

Another consideration is to not be afraid to recycle or connect to your content elsewhere.  For instance, whenever I have something published on another site, I’ll include a snippet here .  These are easy posts and help you to turn your blog into your ongoing writing portfolio.  It’s also useful because you may have readers interested in checking out other work by you. 

Do It For Johnny!—No, No, Do It For You

Another consideration is to realize that in many cases, you will not have a huge audience.  It will take time to get an audience.  As I've said, I've been doing it for about 6 years and am only now getting about 8,000-10,000 visitors a month.  Many of them come to my blog and leave rather quickly.  So I tend to encourage people to not think about blogging for anyone else but themselves.  If others show up, great, but in the meantime, it's your own thing.  There are definitely ways you can expand your audience but I always recommend you focus on writing and worry less about the audience.  Otherwise, you're constantly hunting for numbers and that game gets old quick.  

So that's my first go round with this topic.  Keep an eye out for my next post, where I covered some of the content you might want to include in your blog posts.  If you don't want to miss it, then mayhaps you should sign up for the newsletter?

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review: Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years

Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a fan of Tom Standage's work. He captures history in some rather fascinating ways and connects it to the everyday life of people in unexpected ways. Writing On the Wall is no different and of course, more dear to my heart as he meticulously traces the history of the characteristics of social media far back to ancient times. He identifies the various ways in which humans use and engage with social media today (along with the how the mainstream culture questions, values, and devalues these exchanges) and finds their historical analogues. We find Circero telling his informers to write him letters even when there is nothing new to write as well as the graffiti-laden walls of ancient cities, not just filled with irrelevant messages but advertisements, lovers' exchanges, and other content that holds meaning. It is an argument that I greatly appreciate since I also see that though there is change of format, there has not necessarily a change in the style, approach, and meaning of human exchange.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In many ways, it is a valuable read that provides some insight into the blogosphere and modern news media. However, it's also at times feels more like bravado than confessional and there is definitely elements of trustworthiness when it comes to Holiday's self-proclaimed feats. But all that being said, he does emphasize the superficiality of an online media system that relies on page-clicks and ad-views, and not reliable content. In fact, I think his argument that getting the news wrong is almost as valuable as getting it right because it means a site gets more stories and thus more page-clicks (and therefore more revenue) is probably not far off the mark at times.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last month, I talked about iRules as an essential text for any parent or anyone who works with youth and looks to mentor them with social media. Well, Boyd's book is a counterpart iRules. Where iRules provides a first-hand account that explores how a parent can navigate challenging conversations with youth, Boyd's text provides a much wider and research-oriented context from teens' points of view about what they are doing and why. Boyd does well in swimming through the misinformation, the fear-speak, and the generational differences to help understand what is really going on. It's a solid read for anyone who wants to better understand that our youth are not lost and destined fro disaster.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread— The Lessons from a New Science

Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread— The Lessons from a New Science Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread— The Lessons from a New Science by Alex Pentland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pentland paints a fascinating picture about the ways information moves in the world of big data and how we can use that to better understand how people act and influence one another. It's not the first book to talk about this idea but it does pull together the various research already done and the research he has done to understand the big underpinnings of this emerging science such as how to measure, how to understand cause, effect, and correlation in this new landscape. It's a great read that isn't too heavy but grounded in solid examples that can help people understand how new ways of knowing how people interact are emerging every day.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mayer-Schönberger offers an interesting look at what the world can look like with the increasing use of big-data t reveal correlations and connections of access. There is certainly much to be concerned about as he points out in using big data to identify correlations over causations, but there is much to gained and it will be a tightly-walked line (if done right). The book helps to better explain what is meant by "big data" and the myriad ways it can be used (or has been used) to improve the world.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review: iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up

iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up by Janell Hofmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big skeptic of books about technology and social media that work from any vantage point that implies they are irrelevant, detrimental, or outright harmful. That is, many works are written from a fear-based approach that denies youth's agency and often overplays supposed innocence. Hofmann doesn't do this and that is refreshing. Her guide addresses a variety of concerns around how to raise healthy children with regards to technology but the center of approach is dialogue, choice, and responsibility. It's clear she advocates (and does so in her own family) for a clear structure and coming together about how technology is best used. Equally important, she calls out much of the BS that other guides or parents seem to forget. She's truthful and at times, says things like if cellphones were available when she was a teenager, she too would succumb to the selfie crazy. That is, it is not a representation of the downfall of society but just a byproduct of teenage life. Her genuiness makes her book much stronger than many of the other preachy tomes out there. If you're working with youth or are a parent (or will be a parent), this is the book to get to help you and your family navigate tricky waters.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Compassion and Fatigue in a Social Media World

Of late, I'm feeling a bit wiped.  I know this has a bit to do with the good ole work-life balance, but I'm also struggling with how I continue to engage with the world and the things that I fundamentally know and believe about the world and I would be curious to hear how others grapple meaningfully with these challenges.


Horrific Event Cycle

Breaking News!

Much of this happens as a result of the hyper-narrative of events.  What I mean by this is that for several years I've noticed there is a series of cycles around any major news story--especially those which are controversial or horrific that goes something like this:
  1. Horrible event happens.
  2. Immediately responses to horrific response that mix empathy, anger, and shock.
  3. Quickly followed by responses criticizing those people and how they responded, which often invoke shame, hypocrisy, and ignorance coupled with bigotry (knowing and caring about this group, but being ignorant of other groups--especially marginalized groups).
  4. Shortly followed by responses criticizing the critics and damning their insensitivity to the "real tragedy."
  5. A response by the critics about the insincere responses of the previous responders.  
  6. All of this then gets rolled into critics who provide a meta-commentary, which allows them to comment on larger issues.
  7. The meta-commentary then is reacted to by all the other critics as twisting words, reductive thinking or some other problem.
  8. These continue to spiral until another horrible thing happens at which point said commentaries, meta-commentaries, etc are folded into, evoked, or mocked because of the seriousness of the new thing.
Meanwhile, there is a never-ending round of "gotcha" and "told you so" memes that are generated and circulating are meant to purposely incite or offend various people, all in the name of freedom of expression and minimalizing complex and nuanced issues that require substantial thought and consideration.  All of this unfolds sometimes within hours, though usually days of the original event.

It's hard for me not to engage in various levels of commentary because they are often infused with ideologies or are clearly evoking similar past events.  Whether it's another terrorist attack, a mass-shooting in a public space, or even a manufactured story purposely meant to rile the dominant culture about a supposed threat to their power and prestige, they all come at us in series of articles, news clips, and memes that beg a response; that beg a need to identify inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and misinformation.  


Just Ignore It

IWISH I HAD

This cycle is exhausting to witness and partake in.  The media only enhances it with the outrage cycle to produce stories that aren't stories but still suck us in to discussing it (e.g. the Starbucks cup).    And it is hard to avoid engaging in it to some degree.  To remove one's self from social media doesn't work because it is still likely to be present in news stories, on the television news, and on one's news feeds.  To attempt any level of awareness in the world and to not be blasted by it, seems all but impossible.

I often hear people say, "Just ignore it."  In fact, I've lost several "Facebook friends" due to my failure to ignore the nature of their posts.  But I generally can't ignore it.  If I see something wrong--something that alienates or marginalizes already vulnerable populations, then I am compelled to say something.  I have trouble letting it slide as to me that seems to be a sign of my own bigotry.  That is, if I fundamentally believe in the humanity of all people, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, etc, then to chose to only speak up for groups that I more closely identify with seems to reject that idea outright.  I can't pick and choose; I'm either vigilant in supporting all groups to the best that I can, or I'm just playing favorites and that means reinforcing or refusing to confront my own innate bigotry.

There's also something about ignoring that I find disconcerting and impossible for me.  I know some of the nicest people can happily and purposely ignore something.  They will even say, "don't tell me about that" so that they can avoid cognitive dissonance around something in their lives (e.g. the horrific and unsanitary conditions of the animals we eat, the environmental and human degradation of the coffee we drink, the human abuse and exploitation of children and adults for other commodity items like clothes, diamonds, and chocolate).  It's very hard to turn off that switch for me and I don't want to turn of the switch per se.  I don't want to numb myself or allow myself to ignore it because so much harm is done in the world by our ability to ignore those things which we are not directly affected by.  


Ignoring Is a Privilege

Racism: The Elephant in the room

If I'm not African American, then I don't have to think about what it means to be black, the inherent inequalities at every step of the criminal justice system for African Americans, the numerous other social and cultural inequalities, and how that will impact me.  Therefore, when people on Facebook, especially police officers, openly mock, blame, or disregard often with inherent racist posts about #BlackLivesMatter, I get the privilege to ignore it, on the assumption that it is not my problem or it doesn't directly effect me.

If I'm not transgender, then I can ignore the various memes posted by typically hereotsexual men and women that mock Caitlyn Jenner or any transperson of any variety for that matter.  I can enjoy the mockery taking place.  I don't have to think about what it means to be trans in a culture that regularly kills people because they don't fit into a simplistic gender, sex, or sexuality system.  I get to laugh at the post; it doesn't increase my internalized fear for my safety every time I use a public bathroom.

If I'm not Muslim, I don't have to think about what it means to belong to a world religion that like so many other religions, have people who are practicing some bastardized form of it and committing horrific acts in its name.  I don't have to constantly walk a line between faith but also communicating that "I'm not 'them', I swear" because people and news media's reductive thinking can't or chooses not to distinguish between terrorist organization and world religion.   I don't have to tattoo the American flag on my forehead to avoid questions being raised about whether I should be here, what kind of threat I represent, or what am I doing personally to prevent other Muslims from becoming terrorists, like I'm personally responsible and representative of all Muslims.   Instead, I can talk about deporting "them," torturing "them," or even nuking "them" like they are an infestation because I belong to a culture and government that has committed genocide on other peoples, so what's one more. 

Ignoring is a privilege afforded to those whose lives are not directly effected by whatever is being ignored (In truth, it does effect all of us as bigotry, injustice, and violence perpetrated upon one group opens up the opportunity for it to happen to all of us).  I don't sit well with knowing I have privilege based upon factors that society has deemed more valuable despite such privileges being entirely a matter of birth (e.g. race, ethnicity, class, gender, sex, sexuality, etc) and therefore, when there are ways I can address my own innate privilege, I do my best to do so.

But How to Engage?


That is the question I grapple with.  I don't want to dissent into a Bug's Bunny "Rabbit Season/Duck Season" debate but of course, it so often does happen.  I see a post or comment that is troubling, inaccurate, or misrepresents peoples or beliefs and I find it important to respond.  In truth, I'm trying to respond to the person, but often the nature of the post makes it clear, they are being purposefully incendiary; it's their American right, of course (insert commentary about who and when "Americans" get to assert such a right).  

I often respond often knowing the person who posted it will not listen, respond, or hear what I have to say and if they do, it's from a position of snark or just disregard.  I often try to be respectful in my tone (though I do fail at this).  Sometimes, I am met with the same respect or the person can identify with the concerns I raise.  However, even if this never happened, I'm still compelled to do it because others need to see it. 

I provide whatever response I do because I see the need for others who see that post to know that there is a different way; that there are alternatives.  I know it's important to voice a counter-view because, it has helped others seeing the same post better understand their own issues with the post or just to know there is an ally out there.  I regularly hear from people that appreciate me speaking up to something they were afraid to or unable to comment upon.  That this happens by being networked to the person posting the offensive content makes it all the more important because it means that post, regardless of its problematic content has actually helped others become more understanding and aware.  


There's Always Housekeeping


Friend Options on Facebook
The desire to delete "friends" or unfollow people who post such content is strong and I know many will do this or simply unfollow or block posts.  I am often tempted with these options, but I feel it is just another form of ignoring.  I don't have to see the bad stuff--I can block the content and not the person so I don't have to engage with it.  Inevitably, I will know it's still there, but I can continue with my blissful feed of posts filled with health advice, pop culture interests, and cute cat pics.  That just doesn't sit well with me.  It seems to me that if I don't have the tolerance to hear what they have to say at all, then I need to consider why be friends with them at all and why do I expect tolerance but do not give tolerance.

Deleting friends doesn't seem like an option either and it's not because I don't want to offend those people or fear that I will eventually end up with no friends.  Rather it's that I make conscious decisions to be "friends" with people and I recognize that they will definitely not like everything I post, I should not expect any less from them.  More important, these are good people.  Yes, they may post things that are problematic, but on the whole they are good people with family and friends, often doing many good things in the world (caring for loved ones, donating to charity, volunteering, etc).  That is, the issue I have with them is singular but they are multi-faceted.  Deleting them seems to be another form of reductive thinking that I don't want to participate in.  


Butttt....How Do YOU Deal?  

suggestion box

I've shared the above to give people a sense of what I'm doing and why, because I'm hoping there are others out there who have similar views and approaches.  I'm curious to hear about your tactics, ideas, and ways of negotiating being a compassionate human in all its forms while being challenged by the problematic and often vitriolic rhetoric in the form of posts, memes, and articles on your social networks. 

I certainly will continue to engage in the ways I find are best to do so.  I will also find a means of reconciling the need for breaks for mental care with the concern of my privilege to be able to break away from it.  But I am curious to know how others negotiate these challenges.  What tactics do you employ?  How do you often do you engage with content that you find problematic?  How do you engage with it?  How do you avoid burnout?  How do you survive burnout?  



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