Category Archives: Communication

Spin Magazine Demands Twitter User Give up his Name

Long-time community member, friend and past Gnomedex attendee Eric Rice has used the name Spin on Twitter and other sites for about four years without any issues. Rice is a technology fanatic who lives in Portland – and someone who has nothing to do with the music industry beyond being a listener. That little tidbit didn’t stop Spin Magazine from issuing a cease-and-desist order this week, demanding Eric stop using the Twitter handle. The company claims that he is being confused with their brand and taking away their customers.

In the letter Mr. Rice receive from the company’s lawyer, the Spin Magazine claims that he has “caused a significant amount of confusion among our client’s customers. In particular, individuals looking for our client on Twitter and instead getting redirected to you.” The missive goes on to state that Eric is violating their trademarks, and that “It not only confuses our client’s customers, it also dilutes the value of their well known trademark. Accordingly, we hereby demand that you cease and desist all use of our client’s trademarks.”

This could very well be one of the biggest loads of bull-hockey I have ever heard of. Eric is in no way trying to compete with or pretending to be Spin Magazine. He isn’t exactly stealing their Twitter followers, either: the company account has just over 83,000 followers while Eric’s own account has about 4,000. He’s had this account for FOUR YEARS. Not once in all of that time has he sent out a message discussing anything remotely in relation to that magazine, website or company.

The business claims that “people don’t bother to search on Google for our Twitter handle.” Okay, perhaps not. However, it is linked prominently on their website. In my opinion, anyone who simply guesses at a company’s social media account name is pretty silly. Additionally, when they arrive at Eric’s page instead of Spin Magazine’s, it’s obvious very quickly that they are in the wrong place. Anyone who is sending out a Tweet to a person or business without knowing the proper name is – well – a dork. That’s the nicest thing I can think of to say. By the way – if you do a Google search for the words “Spin Twitter,” the first result is Spin Magazine’s account.

Look. If Eric were trying to scam their customers or gain followers, I could understand their issue. Were he attempting to impersonate someone then there would be a definite problem. But I honestly don’t see any evidence of him violating a trademark or hurting anyone at all. I think it’s ludicrous for a company to think they can bully someone like this into giving up a name they have a long history with. What are your thoughts?

Is Your Blog Human Enough?

You already know that content is king. The topics you write about – and the way you pen the articles – will make or break you. There are thousands of excellent writers out there. Hundreds of people likely create the exact same type of content that you do each day. How the heck are you supposed to stand out when there is just so much already out there? I think that one thing you should look at first is humanizing your blog.

You need to put you into your blog, no matter what your subject is. Allowing your readers to get to know you through your words will create much stronger connections. Adding pieces of your personality and life to each piece can cause others to truly relate to what you’re saying. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about technology. Why do you have to be dry and boring, only “reporting” a bunch of facts? Who is going to want to read that drudgery?

How are you going to accomplish this humanization? It’s a lot easier to do than you might think. When you start typing something out which discusses the latest tech news, throw in your opinion. You don’t have to be an expert about that particular product or service to have an idea of whether or not you’ll benefit from it. Ask questions… ANY questions. Your readers will jump to answer them, trust me. You should also try to give your answer to said question within your blog post. These inquiries open up dialogue which also ends up making you seem more of a real person to the community.

Figure out your tone of voice and use it at all times. Each and every one of us has our own tone and style. Trying to write in a different way WILL come off as forced when the words are on the page, just like it is when we are speaking out loud. Your words and thoughts need to flow freely. Readers will pick up on that instantly, and your pages will feel like “home” to them.

Above all, be unique. The easiest way to do that is to just be YOU. There is no one else on this planet just like you. Therefore, you are unique. Let your personality shine through, even if you’re discussing a boring or dry subject. Inject your sense of humor or style into the article, and you’ll find that a whole mess of new people will automagically start showing up on your site.

How Does Social Media Apply to You?

I dare you to take five minutes and scan the headlines on Alltop’s Social page. You’re going to see a heck of a lot of articles with words in them that probably don’t make sense to you. Unless you’re in a league with the likes of a Scoble or an Arrington, do you really need to know what your ROI is? Does it matter if you haven’t collected a million followers yet? Who really cares if what you’re doing is “viral” or not? The fact of the matter is that only a small percentage of users need to care about these things. The rest of you out there use social media simply to be social.

Hat tip to C.O.O.K.S Social Media B2B RealTalk for this excellent picture!

Yes, it’s important for companies to have a social media presence. They need to understand the terms floating around and how those words might apply to them. Bloggers have to build communities on Facebook and Twitter in order to continue growing their presence. Even though there are millions of those types of people on social sites, they still account for a fairly small percentage of overall users.

So how does social apply to you? I pray you don’t simply Tweet about your dinner, your cat’s hairball or your ingrown toenail. Even if you happen to be some random individual, social networking sites can still be a substantial part of your life. There are so many ways you can be using these types of communication in order to make your day easier, keep in touch with your family and even to make new friends.

Facebook’s Events feature is a great tool. Use it to plan cookouts, birthday parties or graduation celebrations. You can keep track of the invites and RSVPs, details such as addresses and other important information and even figure out who should bring the potato salad. Events works well for small Tweetups, too, should you ever decide to reach out to those in your community you only know through Twitter.

Having a million ways to share photos online is a HUGE bonus of having a Facebook or Twitter profile. Let’s say you’re on vacation. It’s the kids’ first time meeting Mickey Mouse, but Grandma couldn’t be there. Grab a phone, snap a picture or twelve and immediately post it to your favorite image service. Granny and Aunt Linda and Uncle Harry and cousin Ron can all see what you’re up to instantly. There’s no more developing film and making copies of prints. Gone are the days of having to scan or email snapshots so that the family can share your life. It’s all done literally in real-time these days… thanks to social sites.

How many extended family members are you connected to on Facebook? Think a moment about how often you communicate with them on the site. I’m willing to bet it’s a lot more often than it used to be when you relied on snail mail, telephones or even email. We are actually talking to our family members far away on a much more regular basis due to the ease of connection on these wonderful social pages.

You can use Twitter or LinkedIn to find your dream job. Facebook can be leveraged to maximize the amount of time you spend talking to your friends and family when you’re busy as heck. Each of these types of sites can bring something very crucial to your life, my friends: communication and connections.

What Should Your Profile Say About You?

Earlier this evening, I noticed several people asking MySpace Vice President of Marketing Sean Percival to rate their profile on Twitter. At first, I snorted rather snidely at some of his answers. He handed out very low “grades” to people whom I thought had pretty nifty taglines in their “about” section. Giving Mr. Percival the benefit of the doubt, I went back and really paid attention. He’s actually right, y’all. Most of us suck at filling those sections of our profiles in. We need to stand out from the rest of the crowd.

You have only 160 characters to sum up yourself, your work and your life on Twitter. How in the hell can anyone be expected to explain to the world who they are and what they do with that limitation? I know that many of you simply link off to your website, blog or another about-type page. I don’t much care for that though. I don’t want to have to click through to figure you out. I want you to do the work for me!

Seriously, though, most people will use that short bio as a means of judging whether you are worthy enough to follow. They won’t take the time to click a link and get more information. Your profile or tagline needs to place you into a nice, tidy box – even if you don’t fit into one. Be creative and funny – but make sure you give a good sense of what you are, do and stand for.

Above all – you have to sell yourself. If you want to build a community which feeds off of your love for cooking, you might want to mention food in your bio. If you prefer more of a geeky crowd, it’s safe to say you shouldn’t mention bunnies and flowers in your message. The point is that you’re going to have to figure out how best to describe you in a way that will make other want to connect with you.

Don’t just tell me you’re a social media junkie. Tell me WHY you are – and how you use that to make a difference in this world. I’d rather not see your profile claim that you are a lover instead of a fighter. Instead, try telling me what you’re passionate about, such as saving the whales or rainforests. Be more specific. Using broad, general terms is going to turn people off. There are millions of generic people out there. We want someone exciting to follow, right?

Take a look at your own social media profiles. Be hard on yourself. Figure out how you can sell yourself to us better than you already are. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, and make sure to listen with an open mind when you receive it. After all, those already in your community know you best!

Are Journalists Biased?

Everyone who is anyone in the blogosphere has read the stories about Mike Arrington and his investment policy update. We’ve read hundreds of offshoot posts and Tweets, all of which point fingers and take sides. You’ve seen the articles proclaiming that the author would never, EVER! allow themselves to be compromised or biased in any way. They are journalists, after all! Real journalists remember not to allow anything to enter their head while they compose beyond their subject matter. Nothing. Ever. Right?

The problem is that no one knows anymore what – exactly – the definition of journalism is. Dave Winer reminds us that it doesn’t actually matter:

“All the people participating in the “journalist or not” debate are insiders. Insiders get access to execs for interviews and background info. Leaks and gossip. Vendor sports. Early versions of products. Embargoed news. Extra oomph on social networks. Favors that will be curtailed or withdrawn if you get too close to telling truths they don’t want told.”

In his telling of this hot story, Tim Carmody points to Dave’s words. At the end of his narrative, Tim asks: “Are you in, with the compromised? Or are you out, with the truthtellers and true believers?” Those two questions jumped off the page at me. They brought me out of my self-avowed silence on this entire situation. I had chosen to stay silent for a reason: it’s not my place to judge any person other than myself. I certainly have no right to say what is “okay” for Arrington to do – or anyone else involved in this chronicle.

Tim’s questions aren’t actually fair. I truly believe there is not one single writer/journalist/blogger out there who is NOT compromised in some way. We all have a bias or two, whether we admit it or not. We are influenced every moment of every day – by our belief system, by the people we surround ourselves with and by life’s experiences. We may try our best to never allow these things determine the way in which we write, but it happens. Does this make us bad people? Hell no. Do our individual biases cause us to be less trustworthy as writers? Not always, no.

There is a HUGE difference between someone intentionally writing a story in favor of a company if they’re receiving kickbacks from said business and the person who softens their words when writing about the startup their significant other works at. The latter is still telling the truth – they simply choose to do so in a nicer/different way. This doesn’t make their piece inauthentic. It makes it warm and fuzzy. The former, however, is likely selling you a pile of utter crap. I know it’s difficult to tell the difference sometimes, and this is where transparency comes in. The people who tell you that they may have some type of bias are usually the ones you can count on. The ones who hide their partiality are the ones you likely need to read with a grain of salt.

Anyone who tells you that every word they write is 100% never influenced/biased/compromised by something is lying to themselves. I don’t care if you’re “in” or “out,” you need to be honest with yourselves – and your readers. Let’s remember that we’re all human, we’re all imperfect and we’re all biased. I still refuse to choose some “side” in this entire debate. For me, there’s nothing to choose other than to do my best to continue being forthright and making sure my community knows that I believe every word I write.

At the end of the day, that’s all any of us should ask for. Hold yourself accountable, and others will naturally follow suit.

What Would Life be Like Without Social Networking?

Someone asked me this earlier on Twitter. You would think it would be simple one to answer. After all, social networking is still in its infancy, right? Wrong! Social networks have been around since before the Internet was actually – well – the Internet. Stop thinking that these words only encompass sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Once you do, many of you will realize that you’ve likely never lived a moment of your life without some form of social networking.

As defined: “A social network is a social structure made up of individuals (or organizations) called “nodes”, which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.” Of course, these networks exist offline, as well. For the sake of this post, we’re going to pretend we are only referring to things found on the Web.

Back in the late 70s through the early 90s, you could connect with others online via a BBS. This is nearly FORTY years ago these things started becoming popular, y’all. The service was used to upload and download software or data, read news and bulletins and exchanging messages with other users. Oh, and there were also games to play against yourself and other members. Hm… this sounds an awful lot like an early version of nearly every social site out there today, doesn’t it?

Social networks are evolving, sure. Sites are coming up with new features and better ways to connect. That supposed innovation comes with a price, though… a huge lack of any form of privacy. We have evolved into a generation of people who claim to care about our privacy yet who continue to post nearly every aspect of our lives online for the world to peruse. We check in and tell others where we are every moment of the day. We send out statuses and messages telling them what we’re doing, who we’re talking to and where we may be headed next. We share nearly everything.

To me, this is the main difference between networks of today and the ones from 30+ years ago. It’s not about the difference in platforms. WE have changed. Yup – Facebook looks slick as hell compared to an old BBS. Twitter is faster and simpler to use. But at the very core of each type of service – where are the true differences – the real innovations?

You should stop asking yourselves what life would be like without social networks. They’ve been around for many more years than you thought, and they aren’t going anywhere. What you should ask yourself, instead, is “How am I going to change the way I use these services throughout my life?”

Is Email Becoming Obsolete?

Email is one of the oldest and most iconic initial components of what the world came to know as the Internet. While email is believed to have been around in one form or another since around 1965, when multiple users of a time-sharing mainframe computer needed an easy way to communicate, there is no question that it has exploded in more recent history as users in homes across the world dialed in to what is now considered the largest single mass of information in existence.

As social networks and other methods of keeping in contact with people are being created, the question comes to mind as to whether or not email may actually become obsolete in the near future. For me, email remains one of my primary methods of communication. It would take something extremely innovative and absolutely universal to make email obsolete.

Email addresses, as they are currently evolving in integration with newer communication platforms, could be more likely to replace your phone number than go the way of the dinosaur. Think about it, what’s the one identifier most social sites use to identify you? You log in to Facebook with your email address, password resets on almost every site out there requires email, and updates regarding various online accounts are generally forwarded to your inbox as a primary means of notification.

So, what would it take to topple this massive mode of communication? It would take something incredibly universal that every man, woman, and child in the world would have immediate access to which is not tied to any single corporation, government entity, or interest group. It would have to be absolutely rock solid in how it functions, from host to client. Email, in its present form, is still unmatched in this regard. If Facebook went away tomorrow, you wouldn’t be able to transfer your account to another service of your choice and still maintain all the contacts and connections you presently have. With email, one bad provider can be swapped out for a new choice in a matter of hours.

Stop Doing Follow Friday Wrong

Only two hours into the day on the East coast, the #FF Tweets are already flowing through my stream. I tend to not pay much attention to these, as they seem to be the same every single week. It’s not that I don’t want to find new people to talk to – I do! But you’re doing it all wrong, guys. Those boring demands could end up making me unfollow you, instead.

Fun fact! Follow Friday was originally started by Gnomedex speaker Micah Baldwin.

Don’t send out a message telling me to #FF as many names as you can fit within the 140 character constraint. When you do this, you aren’t adding a single bit of value. Why should I follow Kimmie or Ron or Mary or Blake? What is it about these people that make them so spectacular? Choose instead only one person to promote. Give me their name, and explain to me why I absolutely need to pay attention to what they are saying.

Asking people to send out a #FF with your name attached is even more wrong than spamming me is. Hello? Have you ever paid attention to a single thing any social media expert has ever said? Being this self-serving is going to cause your numbers to drop faster than almost anything else I can think of. The Internet is not all about you, no matter how good or deserving you think you are. If someone out there feels that you have something to say that others need to hear, they will automatically tell their followers – without you begging them to do so.

Along those same lines, what’s up with RT’ing every #FF post which has your name in it? The people who will see this are already following you. They don’t need to be told to do so again. I had hoped the purpose of this was to get your followers to also follow the others mentioned in the same Tweet. Sadly, I asked a bunch of users for clarification. Each and EVERY one of them said they did it to show that someone felt they were worthy of following. In other words, they were showing off. *facepalm*

Lastly and most importantly, remember something my Community Manager Kat once said: “Community isn’t about connecting people to you… it’s about connecting them to each other.” THAT is the sole purpose of Follow Friday: connecting people to each other. This, in turn, creates more conversation in your own neck of the woods. Use your powers to connect users to each other instead of trying to gain more followers for yourself. You’ll be amazed at the results.

I promise.

Jealousy Will Eat You Alive

No matter what line of work you choose, there will always be someone who does it better than you. You will find more prolific writers, smarter code monkeys and better designers. Finding someone to look up to is good, as is a little healthy competition. Jealousy, however, can eat you alive – even online – just as it did back in high school. That despicable green-eyed monster will do nothing more than bring you down and incapacitate you.

I don’t care how good you are, there are people out there who are better. It’s a fact of life. You’re never going to be “the” best, no matter how hard you try. You can – and should – strive to be the best you possible. Pushing yourself is a good thing. Trying to go beyond any limits you see yourself as having is fantastic. Striving to be exactly like the guy on the next blog – or better than him – is a complete waste of your time.

Who wants to read something that is already being done elsewhere? I know it’s insanely hard to find something unique and different to write, design or create every single day. Take something you find interesting and build on that. Add your own spin to it and do so in a way that brings it to life even more. Allow others to see your personal touch in everything you do, instead of thinking “oh, that’s exactly what I saw on Johnny’s site earlier.”

Being jealous of those who do things differently or better is plain ridiculous. What good will that do you? I see this happening constantly, even within our own community at times. So what if Sally writes better than you do? Are you putting forth your best effort? What more can you possibly ask of yourself?

The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to be Sally or Johnny. No one expects you to be the best, so you’re disappointing no one but you. We already know that there will always be more and “better,” so we don’t expect perfection everywhere we go. You’re the one putting that pressure on yoruself. It’s certainly not us.

The next time you feel yourself becoming jealous of what someone else does or has, remember that the only one who matters is you. When you look into the mirror at night, are you happy with what you see? If the answer is no, then reevaluate what YOU are doing, how you’re doing it and what you can do to make things better. Measuring yourself against everyone else isn’t going to cut it. You are the man (or woman!) in the mirror.

How to Communicate With Others

When was the last time you actually made a phone call for no other reason than to simply talk to someone? How long ago was it that you sat down and wrote a letter to send through the postal service? These forms of communication were the way we connected with others for many MANY years, and they are apparently a dying art form these days. I admit that I haven’t done either of these things in far longer than I can really remember. There are just too many other ways for me to get ahold of someone, do business with them or reach out to make a connection.

Why would we send a hand-written missive and pay money for a stamp, only to have it arrive several days later – if at all? We can sign into our email program of choice, type out our thoughts and have the completed message show up in the other party’s inbox within seconds… for “free” (not counting the cost you already shell out for your Internet connection).

Even though most of us have cell plans which include unlimited calling (or at least during nights and weekends), it’s still easier to use other means of speaking with others. I’m sitting at my computer working most of the day, so it’s just simpler to click that button on Skype when I need to hear another person’s voice. Heck, I’ll admit it: I don’t much like having to voice chat anyway. If there is business communication to be done, I prefer handling it via email. This allows me to keep track of the prior portions of a conversation for future reference. It also lets me be in control of when I reply.

Using voice communication can actually be a burden. As I just mentioned, you have the burden of being “on” during every moment of a conversation. Your attention shouldn’t wander… you need to focus right then and there. If you’re buried in a project, having to stop and take calls can be a huge downer. With an email, you can put off your response until you have the time to dedicate to the person trying to get your attention.

How do you talk to others? I have a feeling that social networks will actually be near the top of the list for many of you out there, along with email and VOiP services.