Archive for November 2010

I Helped. I Bought. I Had Fun: The Real Power of Social Media

Tonight I had a total hoot, spent 20 bucks, and helped a charity I believe in — all while sitting in my attic answering my work email.

How? Through the power of social media tools like Twitter and uStream, and the awesomeness of the people they connected me to, namely @Robin2go and her kitchen co-hosts on the live Web show, Chicken and Stars.

In the course of an hour-long uStream show filled with opinion and frivolity (DRINK!) I kept myself entertained by interacting with others in the audience and also bought a new skin for my Netbook from a company called Gelaskins – a company I had never heard of until folks in the audience started commenting on how cool @reginaldgolding’s laptop looked.

Even cooler than @reginaldgolding’s laptop is Help Attack, a fantastic tool that he mentioned during the course of the show that turns people’s Facebook and Twitter status updates into donations for their favorite causes. Now every time I tweet, Save the Music gets a nickel. How cool is that?

How did this happen? Why did I happily fork over real money to companies and apps I’d never heard of? It’s simple but oh so complicated: awesome people + tools to connect them + awesome products or ideas = me opening my wallet.

See, if I had gone to Gelaskins and their products sucked, I wouldn’t have bought one. And if Help Attack wasn’t a great idea and simple to use, I wouldn’t have signed up. But likewise, if I hadn’t heard about either of these worthy enterprises from @Robin2go, I would have been much less likely to click the “Order Now” button.

You see, Robin is — of course — a real person. About as real as they get. She is a real person who I’ve really met and who I really really like. That would be true with or without Twitter. But with Twitter, I can spend the evening with her (DRINK!) even though she is in central PA and I am in western NY.

I’m not really sure how traditional marketing works in this scenario. No amount of marketing can turn a crap product into an awesome one, and Robin isn’t a “message” or a “value proposition.” She’s a friend.


Three Haisku: The Amazon Pedophile Scandal

After hundreds of complaints were posted to Facebook and Twitter, quietly removed from its Kindle store a guide to pedophilia called “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct.”

At first Amazon stood buy its decision to allow the self-published book to appear in its store, saying they “support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.” But now today, the book is gone. With no further word of explanation from Amazon.

What I’d like to know and haven’t been able to find out is whether Amazon has also deleted the book from the Kindles of the thousands of people who bought it. That’s one they did with an unlicensed electronic edition of, ironically, George Orwell’s 1984 last year. I love my Kindle, but it is one of scarier possibilities lurking behind this model of electronic publishing: that one company can decide that I am no longer allowed to read the book a purchased from them.

Writing a haiku
Containing the word “pedophile”
Is no easy feat.

A guide to child love?!
What did they hope to kindle
But the mob’s torches?

C’mon Amazon!
What would a real bookstore do?
Not carry the book.

A Video I Love and Why: The Holiday Card from Red River College

In answer to Tim Nekritz’s invitation to describe a Web video you love and why, may I humbly submit the 2007 holiday card from Red River College in Winnipeg, Canada. (I’m thinking Tim will appreciate the Canadian reference.)

Maybe it’s because the thought of a president’s holiday e-card hits a little close to home this time of year, but I just love this clip (points deducted for having comments disabled, though). And here’s why:

1) A president with a sense of humor about himself is a wonderful thing.
President Jeff Zabudsky is one game guy. In this Office parody, Zabudsky pulls an all-nighter to finish signing his 5,000 holiday cards. What ensues is a night of Red Bulls, Tim Hortons, and video games with students that I think many of us who work in higher ed can’t imagine our presidents participating in.

2) It’s sweet without a trace of smarm.
Maybe it’s because he’s Canadian, but Zabudsky just looks like a such a nice guy, a cool boss, and a caring president. And his version of the Office looks like it must be a fun place to work. Fun in not to be underestimated as a workplace virtue.

3) There are so many little touches that just hit.
Again, maybe this just hits too close to home, but every time I see the “this year we’re doing an e-card!” bit, I laugh out loud. Ditto when the president blows off his all-nighter to play Halo and shouts, “Who da President?!”

4) It’s homespun and that’s OK.
Sure, the secretary flubs her line a little. And there are a couple transitions that take a second too long. But less-than-polished production values does not equal unprofessional. This video was well-thought-out, mindful of its audience, and damn side better than most “e-cards” I’ve seen.


Sarah Palin’s America — Um, I Mean, Alaska

I don’t know what channels I’m watching lately, but I can’t seem to escape the ads for the new TLC series Sarah Palin’s Alaska which starts later this month.

Now I know that Sarah Palin is not intended for people like me, and I know that she is not pitching her show to me and my fellow latte sippers. And yet I cannot help but find her pitch as grating as mama grizzly claws on a chalkboard.

When watching the ads, I can’t help but complete Palin’s unspoken subtext in my head.

“Family comes first here.”
Unlike here in New York, where we raise our children for fuel.

“I’d rather be out here being free. ”
Cuz if you’re not gutting fish on a glacier, you hate freedom.

“I’d rather be doing this than in some stuffy old political office.”
At last, Sarah Palin and I agree on something. I would rather you our were on a glacier gutting fish, too! You’re right, Sarah — politics is stinky and stuffy. Never forget that. The next time someone tries to take away your freedom and put you in some stuffy old political office, you just say, “no siree, mister.”


Sunday Snapshot — Bridge Night

hand of cards
I play bridge. Badly, but yes. I don’t drink Harvey Wallbangers and eat devilled eggs while I do it, but I play bridge.

I am getting better. I don’t overtrump my partner nearly as much as I once did. And I’m even getting good at counting trump. I’m still a pretty conservative bidder. In the above hand, my partner and I did end up in spades, but we didn’t bid high enough to win a game. Rookie timidity.

Saturday Snack — Jefferson’s Airplane

Egg sandwich

The Jefferson’s Airplane is the best breakfast sandwich at the Boulder Coffee on Alexander St. It consists of eggs and ham, with banana peppers, American cheese, and a spicy cajun mayo. Nomnomnom.

Unflattering Politician Photo of the Week: The Morning After Edition

President Obama looks sadC’mon, little camper! Remember what we used to say? Yes we can! C’mon, you can say it: yes we can! Yes we can!

Oh fine, nevermind then.

Seriously. In this shot from President Obama’s post-election press conference in Thursday’s New York Times it looks like he just had to put down his dog Bo with his Pappy’s hunting rifle.


Three Haisku: Cooks Source

So apparently the editor of Cooks Source, a New England regional — and until yesterday obscure — cooking magazine, thinks that “the Internet is public domain” and that writers should be thrilled to have their work lifted wholesale and without permission or compensation. This led to a very entertaining day on the Twitters yesterday, as writers and bloggers pounced and the social channels exploded — if only briefly.

Read the backstory and some analysis from Robin2go.

Anger a writer?
If a writer’s in the right,
A writer will write.

What was that you said?
“The Web is public domain?”
Oh, hell to the no.

Cooks Source to #crooksource
All in less than twelve hours?
Respect the hashtag.


On Daylight Saving Time

I despise Daylight Saving Time. To paraphrase Ford Prefect, time is an illusionDaylight Saving Time doubly so.

This outdated construct, which ends this Sunday, was supposedly intended to increase the amount of sunlight that industrial workers experience by essentially tricking them into waking up earlier. It was also an attempt at saving energy during World War I by reducing the amount of time people relied on artificial light. Today all it really does, in my view, is screw with our natural rhythms so that people will shop more.

Every year, Daylight Saving Time kinda sneaks up on me, and every year it freaks me the heck out. When there is still sun in the sky at 9pm in western New York, that is just freaky.

I admit that part of this aversion to DST comes from the fact that I love night time. I love the dark. Night is exciting and fun. Ever since I was a kid, I could not wait for the sun to go down so I could go outside and play. Lighting bugs, shadow monsters, epic games of kick the can — all are much more fun in the dark.

The website, has an interesting take on the issue. “If we are saving energy let’s go year round with Daylight Saving Time. If we are not saving energy let’s drop Daylight Saving Time!” Seems reasonable to me.

So on Monday, when I leave work and step out into the real, dark, night, I will probably be alone amongst my colleagues in celebrating the darkness. I just wish this happy state of affairs was not interrupted once a year with reminders to move our clocks ahead and check our smoke alarms.

The Goddess Watches the Mid-Term Elections (so you don’t have to)

I have to be honest and admit that I have not been paying as much attention to the political scene as I once did. After last summer’s healthcare town hall screech-fest, I just kinda lost my liking for it. But the pizza is in the oven, and the wine is on the table, and I feel like it’s going to be a long night.

7:01 – The one hope the Democrats had to pick up a GOP Senate seat is gone right out of the gate, as the first Tea Partier of the night — Rand Paul of Kentucky — is projected the winner. Paul wants to get the federal government off our backs, but would criminalize abortion in all cases, including rape and incest. So he’s one of those guys.

7:30 — More projections. With 0% of the precincts reporting (huh?) Rob Portman wins the Senate race in Ohio.

7:40 — CNN’s “Best Political Team on Television” is more like “The Most Dysfunctional Committee Meeting on Television.” They’re  jumping all over each other, speaking all at once, not even listening to each other, and just waiting to get their turn to be the cleverest kid in class.

8:00 — “Everyone remembers Christine O’Donnell. She’s the candidate who said she was not a witch. She’s not going to be a US Senator either.” Ooo, that’s cold, Wolf. As cold as a witch’s tit.

8:45 — CNN projects the gun-totin’, rootin’, tootin’, cap-and-trade shootin’ Joe Manchin is the next Democratic senator from West Virginia. That’s a relief.

9:00 — New York polls close and — surprise! — Schumer, Gillebrand, and Cuomo are in. In sad news, the awesome Rochester mayor Bob Duffy will now become the pointless lieutenant governor of New York.

9:46 — Christine O’Donnell’s concession speech is a long list of things she asked her opponent to do during what I’m guessing was a very awkward phone call.

10:20 — Haven’t heard much about my home state yet. My parents’ Bucks County, PA, district has once again been held up as a bellwether race for the soul of the suburbs, or something like that. All I know is it’s one Irish Catholic running against another.

10:40 – Well, crap. I asked for news from PA and I got it. PA governor goes to GOP, Senate race 50-50. C’mon, West Coast! I need some good news.

11:00 — OK, gotta switch over to the Daily Show.

So after a bottle and a half of wine and a GOP takeover of the House, I think it may be time for bed and the hope that the Republicans stated top priority of repealing the meager healthcare reform bill stays the stuff of nightmares.