Mar 15

Watching Your Kids Grow Up

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Last weekend I took my two daughters to the library.

Before we left the house, my youngest raced up the stairs to her bedroom to grab one of two dollars she owned so she could rent Big Hero Six.

The last time we were at the library, she tried to rent the same movie, but the librarian informed her it would cost one dollar. So this time she came prepared with fifty percent of her personal wealth.

Watching her stand in front of the librarian’s desk anticipating the request for that dollar made my heart swell. She looked so mature; so sure of herself. That dollar in her hand was just a dollar, but it represented something more than just the trading of goods.

It represented her taking the first step on the path toward a self-sustaining existence, one where she would be perfectly capable of doings things on her own.

At the tender age of five, she thinks she can do more by herself than she actually can, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop her from trying, even if it means that every little step toward independence she takes is another step away from the little girl I love so dearly.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to ensure our kids are growing in mind and spirit along the way, as their physical selves tend to run a few steps ahead. They’re growing up right before our eyes, but I think we don’t understand how quickly unless we look at pictures from the past and are surprised by the change in their features.

The little girl standing next to her mom at the library will soon be away at school, fending for herself during those first uncomfortable weeks. My hope is that the first dollar spent by herself — her independent self — goes a long way in helping her learn to make decisions on her own when she’s out in the world alone.

It’s funny, but I think spending that money was more about the act than it was about what she got in return.

The movie is due today and she hasn’t bothered to pull it out of the library bag.


Mar 15

5 Ways Automotive Brands Should Use Meerkat Right Now


Have you climbed aboard the Meerkat app bandwagon yet?

I won’t fault you if you are not. After all, it came out less than three weeks ago.

But in mobile app time, that’s an eternity. And the smart brands are starting to use it because, well, it’s awesome.

What this baby does is stream live video. That’s it. You synch the app to your Twitter feed, turn on notifications, and are then notified when one of your Twitter followers (who also uses Meerkat) is streaming a video. From that point, you can watch the live stream, re-tweet it to your followers from the stream, “like” the stream, and interact with the host and the audience through the chat function.

(I streamed myself making my lunch this afternoon just to try it.)

It’s dead simple to use and, I believe, marks a turning point in how brands  can interact with their audience on a more intimate basis, as well as their target media.

The nice thing about the app is that it comes with a built-in audience, so a brand doesn’t have to spend time cultivating a new one. Once said brand (we’ll refer to it as “Brand X”) is signed up for Meerkat, the app automatically pulls in those followers who are also on Meerkat and adds them to the list of followers. Those users are now notified every time Brand X is streaming live and they can join instantaneously.

Obviously, this app, like most others, is going to be heavily investigated by brands as a way to reach their audience. Bu

Since I work in the automotive field, I thought it would be cool to look at some ways automotive brands can use Meerkat right now to enhance their reputation and give their company, and their employees, a more human feel.

1. Unveil a new vehicle. If you’re going to unveil a new product, why not stream it live? Meerkat has a scheduling feature that allows you to notify your fans that something is going to happen on a specific date. Brand X can either pile on to an already existing reveal at an auto show, or they can do the reveal from the safety of an undisclosed location. The audience can interact with the unveiling as the silk is pulled off the vehicle.

2. Interview executives. Us PR people always want to control the message. What better way to do that than by Meerkat-ing (?) an interview with the head honcho. Instead of a list of pre-ordained questions, the interviewer can pull from the questions being asked by the audience. Of course, the threat of a hostile takeover is always looming, but the questions don’t sit on the screen. If you’re a forward-thinking brand, you should at least consider it.

3. Speak with engineers & design. So Brand X just unveiled the latest model to roll off the assembly line. Wouldn’t it be cool to immediately speak with the engineers and designers who made the car a reality? Set them up in a room away from the crowd and stream the interview, once again fielding questions from reporters and consumers who couldn’t make it to the show to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into designing and building a car.

4. Surprise Streaming. If Meerkat takes off, there will be a period of time where users will feel a sense of excitement when they’re notified Brand X is streaming live. If they haven’t been notified in advance, than the anticipation will rise. What are they streaming? Is it a big announcement? They’ll have to tune in to find out.

5. Extreme Testing. All automotive companies put their vehicles through their paces to make sure they are built to last in extreme conditions. What if Brand X set up a live stream of a vehicle in the wind tunnel? Or, being tested out in the desert? I’d tune in for that. It’s something we don’t see every day, but automotive aficionados might find it extremely interest. And, who knows? You might secure a few new customers.

Just like with most new apps, it will take some time to get used to how it works, especially when you consider that it might be a challenge to justify the brand’s existence on the platform because it’s difficult to measure the metrics. But what’s business if not taking calculated risks?

Obviously, this goes waaaaaaay beyond automotive, but that’s what I know, so I thought I’d start with this industry.

Have you downloaded the app yet? Taken it for a spin? I’d love to get your take. I think they’re on to something.

Feb 15

That’s What He Read – “Pardon My Language” Edition


That’s What He Read is a look back at five of my favorite articles from the past week. It covers all topics, but you’ll usually find the focus on writing, social media, and storytelling. Enjoy!

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck (Mark Manson) – I need to stop giving a fuck. I love how Mark Manson puts it: “We all have a limited number of fucks to give; pay attention to where and who you give them to.”

The 10 Most Important Life Lessons To Master In Your 30s (Quartz) – If your 20s is when you start to put down your personal and professional foundation, than your 30s is when you start building on top of it. Saving money for retirement, paying more attention to your body, giving friends and family your full attention…all of this (and more) becomes a priority, as it should.

Maternity Leave Policies in America Hurting Working Moms (New Republic) – The image at the top of the article is NSFW-ish, but it’s necessary. (And eye-opening.) According to University of Massachusetts sociologist Michelle Budig, American woman’s earnings decrease by 4 percent for every child that she bears.

How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justin Sacco’s Life (New York Times) – This is a fascinating look at not only how Ms. Sacco’s life has changed since her tweet, but how others have been affected by the horde of social media users who think it’s their life’s work to out others for stupidity.

There’s No Bullshit Like Brand Bullshit (The Ad Contrarian) – This is worth a read, even if you don’t agree with his statement. It is kind of ridiculous that we would ever think a brand actually wants to be our friend when, in actuality, we just want a good product. It’s accurate (I think) to say that if Pepsi went away, most “fans” would switch over to Coke without a second thought.

Read anything really, really good this week? Share with us!

Feb 15

That’s What He Read – “Punxsutawney Phil Can Go To Hell!” Edition


That’s What He Read is a look back at five of my favorite articles from the past week. It covers all topics, but you’ll usually find the focus on writing, social media, and storytelling. I try to add some color to spice it up, but I usually fall flat on my face. Anyway, enjoy!

Time to Reassess Real-Time Marketing (Scott Monty) – We can blame Oreo for this mess. They capitalized on a combination of luck and preparation to fire off the ‘tweet heard ’round the world’ during Super Bowl 47, and now every brand thinks that setting up a War Room will help them capture that same bolt of lightning. Well, there’s a reason why the saying revolves around lightning and not lightning bugs. The bolt is much harder to catch, as was evident this year.

10 Ways Facebook Has Ruined Your Life (Mashable) – My first thought was “Only ten?” But this list nails all it. In the grand scheme of things, a lot of this is not important to our every day lives, but if you’re spending so much time using something, you should at least enjoy it, right?

How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets (Salon) – This article is over two years old, but I found it while perusing the House of Cards subreddit on Reddit and it’s fascinating. Essentially, as the headline suggests, Netflix used Big Data culled from 29 million of their streaming video subscribers to learn how they watch TV to create better content for their audience. House of Cards is/was the first show to exploit that data. I’d say it worked.

How Top Publishers Are Using Snapchat (Digiday) – Count me among the many who like Snapchat’s new Discover feature, and it appears I’m not in the minority. But just how many people are in this group? That’s tricky. See what one publishing executive had to say: ““I can’t tell you what the numbers are, but they’re fucking incredible.”

The Hidden Cost of a Flexible Job (The Atlantic) – In my humble opinion, if your workplace offers a flexible work arrangement but you work late often to give the impression that you are, indeed, working, then you’re doing it wrong. And so is the workplace that breeds this type of activity. If I didn’t have a client, I could work from home every single day and not miss a beat. It’s a perk I readily enjoy and am glad it’s offered. But if it ever gets to the point where i’m working late just for the sake of keeping up appearances, then I will gladly forego the ability.

What did you read this week? Anything good? If so, share it with us!

Feb 15

What LiveJournal Taught Me About the Internet


Beki Winchel, who runs #NostalgiaChat on Twitter every Sunday night, asked a great question of the group recently: What were the first social media sites you used? What were your experiences?

Some said AOL chat rooms. Others said MySpace.

For me, it was LiveJournal.

It was my first exposure to a real social network, before social networks became ubiquitous.

Looking back, I learned a lot about the way the World Wide Web works from the time I spent “journaling”.

Words Are Dangerous 

I started using the site in 2002 which, in internet years, might as well be when Christopher Columbus discovered America.

There was no Twitter. No Facebook. No Instagram. No iPhones. Nothing.

My start date on the site is confirmed because I still have access to my account – all 1,393 entries still living behind a password-protected wall that holds my secrets at bay.

When I began chronicling my daily activities to an audience of zero, I was single, just out of college, waiting tables for a living, and staying up until 3 a.m. on a regular basis.

I didn’t hold back when it came to writing what I was feeling. I’ve seen some people say drama was a huge part of LiveJournal, and I can’t disagree with that statement.

A girl I was dating broke up with me, in part, because of something I wrote and made public.

A friend became an ex-friend, in part, because of something I wrote and made public.

I was stupid back then. I thought that what happened on the internet wouldn’t interfere with my “real” life. Oh, to be young and naive again. We all know what that type of thinking will get you nowadays.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Justine Sacco and Connor Riley.

Even when you think nobody is looking, somebody is always looking. Don’t assume they are not.

In other words: don’t be stupid.

People Are Not Always As They Seem

I guess you could say I was catfished before catfishing was a thing, although it might be a bit of a stretch to say that since nothing of value was taken from me (besides my trust).

I don’t remember how I came to know this woman, but at some point along the way, she began leaving comments on my journal; notably, on some of the more personal posts. She provided keen insight into my fears and I looked to her as someone whose advice was valuable.

For the sake of clarity, let’s call her Beth.

Over time, a friendship began to emerge. (Or, rather, something that resembled a friendship. When two people have never met in person, is it a real friendship?)

That led to late-night AOL Instant Messenger conversations that were full of of angst and self-pity. Beth was a good sounding board and I felt like I could tell her anything, in part, because we had never met.

Over time, our conversations got more personal. Beth told me about her problems at home and how she was trying to juggle a long-distance relationship — with another guy who she had never met in person, if you can believe that — and I offered the best advice I could.

Nothing went beyond AOL conversations, although, if I’m honest, I didn’t find her unattractive. She sent me one picture during one of our marathon chat sessions that, unintentionally or not, kept me engaged.

I even bought her a David Gray t-shirt at a concert. Size: extra small. I shipped it to her. She paid me back. Nothing to it.

I had no reason to believe Beth wasn’t who she claimed to be, but some of my friends did.

Your Tribe Will Come Through For You, So Build One

It was during a break in a training session at a previous job when I checked my personal e-mail and realized the woman who I had been talking to was a fraud.

Well, sort of.

She wasn’t the woman in the picture, and the size of the David Gray t-shirt I bought for her was just to keep up appearances.

Another LiveJournal friend, who was part of my “tribe”, had done some digging. She also knew Beth. And something happened that tipped her off to the idea that Beth wasn’t who she claimed to be.

She started an e-mail thread with two other friends (whom I knew in person and also happened to be active on LiveJournal) about her suspicions. She thought (rightfully so) that we should be made aware of our friend’s lies. We bandied back-and-forth about the possibility, but it wasn’t until she unearthed real evidence that we gave it serious thought.

After more investigating, we found out that Beth was not really Beth, but a woman who, to the best of our knowledge, just wanted to be accepted. Why she pretended to be someone she wasn’t is anyone’s guess.

Who knows how long the charade would’ve gone had my friend not looked into the inconsistencies in her story.

We’re Going To Spend Time With People We Like

Like I said above, just about the only thing she stole was my trust in people I encounter on the internet. On the flip side, it led me to realize I couldn’t believe everything I read on the internet. This was at a time when a lot of people did believe most of what they read. We were still very new at this.

The community I had surrounded myself with  — people whom I explicitly trusted — came through when I needed them. It was nice to know that group of people had our best interests in mind.

If LiveJournal taught me one thing, it was that the future of the internet would be built around spending time interacting with people we like, which is evident on our Twitter feeds and Facebook posts.

Life is short. There’s no sense in forcing yourself upon those who might not accept you.

I no longer use LiveJournal. It represents a part of my life from whence I’ve moved on.

But it’s still there. My posts locked away, only to be seen by me.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll revisit them, if only to be reminded of the person I once was.