Posts Tagged ‘linkedin’

Some Things I Learned From THE CLUETRAIN MANIFESTO

June 20, 2009

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I’m not sure I learned that much from this one. It’s 10 years old and it very much reads like a manifesto, occasioned by the buzz surrounding Thomas Petzinger Jr.’s 95 Theses. (Self-aggrandizing or ironic reference to Martin Luther?…I think it’s a little bit of both, however intended.)

Petzinger’s theses pertain to how business should be done, given the fallen barriers and hyper-networking of the Internet. They include “Markets are conversations”;  “Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.”; ” Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.”  After the theses, the book seems a little padded out by what read like a series of really long blog posts about the direction business, marketing and PR are heading. Ideas here aren’t really supported or described with any depth.

I don’t think that is the point of this book, though. Instead, it simply tells us that how we do business has changed, and we better accept the change. And tells us with breathless fervor. In place of depth, there is a lot of energy. In a way, it’s an inspirational book, one of the more complicated ones to be sure.

Here’s the story: To Petzinger et al, the Web functions like our collective “return of the repressed.” What was repressed: our voice and our sense of work as craft. We’ve been repressed by the industrial age the resulting corporate culture that seeks to remain branding compliant, impersonal, and risk-mitigating.  The language of doing business acquired a very distinctive banal and slippery impersonality. (“It’s not language, it’s camouflage.”) Our work is no longer an expression of ourselves, but simply adhering to guidelines. (There’s no specific reference to that other manifesto writer, Marx. Nonetheless, his spirit pervades. For example, he made the same observations on alienation in the workplace.) 

The Web happened the way it did in part because we’ve been silenced or mediated by that impersonality, and we wanted the means of our self-expression back. It’s the quasi-Marxist online revolution. We wanted to express ourselves in voice and in craft, and we want to experience the authentic voice and craft of others.  This is what people want (supposedly) since this is how markets were first created, with people talking in open air markets about who has the best camel our how awesome their clay pots are. We got away from that because we wanted more control. But that control was stultifying. The Web returns us to the early days of the open-air market. (There is a really nice pithy summation of this historical account, but oddly it doesn’t come until the end of the book.) 

Those companies who refuse to allow its business (its people) to speak authentically and use work as an expression of themselves, they are doomed. Corporations (who are by nature incapable of personality) are already on their way out, according to the Cluetrain folk.

Will the Internet return voice and craft to individuals? It’s nice to think so. So you end the book feeling pretty inspired and hopeful. Which is nice. But like any manifesto, it tends not to hold up to real scrutiny. There’s another book that needs to be written.

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The Yoga Challenge: Day 11

June 18, 2009

Today was my first attempt at forest Forrest yoga at the Lotus in my self-imposed challenge to make the most of $20. (Am I putting myself through this just because I’m cheap?)

Forest Forrest yoga has a lot of the same poses I’ve been doing for the past 10 days.

However, one of the main differences with forest Forrest yoga: you hold the positions for much longer. There isn’t a lot of the “flowing” movement as in the Prana and Ashtanga classes I’ve taken. Instead, you spend a lot of time holding still in a warrior stance, or in a crunch with your feet by your ears, breathing to different parts of your body.

I imagine you’re meant to hold these poses as still as a tree (thus the “forest”?).

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At best, I managed a very trembling tree.  

Also, the new (and really helpful) forest yoga instructor didn’t use possessive pronouns in his instructions. It was a lot of “put right elbow past left knee” and “place left hand in front of left foot.” Distracted me more than once. Insufficient attribution throws me off every time.

Nonetheless, it was a nice change from the flowing class. Limited flowing meant limited sweating. I wasn’t leaving a pool of my secretion as has been my wont.

I finished feeling pretty good, even feeling as though I wasn’t challenged enough. 

6 hours later, something in my lower back is telling that I was challenged enough. Tomorrow could be a disaster.

The Yoga Challenge: Day 10

June 17, 2009

I was a little pessimistic about my chances of making it through class today, even though I would only have 4 more days to complete my self-impose yoga challenge

Thankfully, it was a basics class and it was crowded. Meaning, I would do only 60 minutes with no handstands and moving at a slower pace. 

Also, as I fumbled to stand on one foot, hook my forefinger around the big toe on the other foot while straightening that lifted leg to the side, the yoga instructor said, “As long as you’re taking a step on the path, that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter how big a step it is, because the path is endless.”

Hearing this in any other context would have frustrated or confused me. At this point, it was great comfort and encouragement. It gave me the will to get through another class.

There are many instances when the instructor gives instructions or encouragement that I don’t fully understand, but nonetheless get. There’s the instruction to “open the heart,” which I do somehow (I think). And there’s talk of “breathing to” different places in the body. Don’t know what this means, but it feels like I’m doing it.

It could just be the exhaustion wearing down my rationality and demand for complete comprehension. Yoga is a zen koan for the body?

Tomorrow I try forest yoga for the first time. In a 90 minute class. It will be a rough 4 days. But yoga-rough.

Some Things I Learned From Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational”

June 16, 2009

Picture 25I just finished Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, which is in the recent tradition of popular behavioral economics-type books (which includes Freakonomics, Buyology, Logic of Life, Nudge…all which are pretty worthwhile). Ariely focuses on the predictable ways in which we are ridiculous.

Here are a few insights/ideas that struck me:

  • Decoy Effect: Ariely describes how we don’t choose on the basis of absolutes (“How good is this thing?”) but instead focus on the relative advantages of one thing over another (“Is this thing better than that thing?”). As a result, our preference to make comparisons between things that are similar can influence when we’re confronted between two options that aren’t similar (and furthermore how pricing strategists take advantage of this preference). For example, it’s difficult to compare(and thus choose between) similarly priced vacations to Paris that’ll include free breakfast and one to Rome that will also include free breakfast.  However, if you introduce a third option, a trip to Rome without free breakfast (the decoy), people will tend to choose the trip to Rome with free breakfast over the similarly priced and breakfasted trip to Paris. He uses the alarming example of a kitchen equipment store that couldn’t sell the one bread machine model they had. The solution: add another bread machine, but one that’s 50% more expensive. As a result, the original model start selling. He also notes how you can use this decoy effect for evil in singles situations by hanging out with a friend slightly less attractive or witty. By comparison, you come out far more appealing than you would otherwise. The way to overcome this effect is to think more broadly.  Sure the cheaper bread machine is more appealling, but do you really need a bread machine period.
  • Endowment Effect: This effect describes how we tend to value what we own more than others would. Areily proves this phenomenon with a few of his own experiments (BTW … If I were a student of M.I.T., I’d be really weary about becoming duped by one of this guy’s “experiments,” most which occur on campus and involve some degree of manipulation … but they’re still fun to read about.) Ariely connects this over-valuation to our fear of change and of loss. It’s a psychological myopia that it would be best to be detached from. Perhaps with yoga? 
  • Imprinting/Arbitrary Coherence: Apparently, when it comes to pricing we’re like goslings. Just like when a gosling hatches and unquestioningly assumes the first moving thing it sees is Mom (called imprinting), just so do we uncritically accept the price of a new product we’ve never seen before. After which, they assume an “arbitrary coherence,” meaning however arbitrary the initial price was, once established and “imprinted,” it will shape the present and future price (thus its coherence). Phenomena like this debunk the traditional notion that the market forces of supply and demand determines optimal price. Since free markets won’t maximize our utility, government regulation becomes really attractive.

These was also a chapter on how we split the world into 2 parts, one where market norms rule, and the other where social norms. For a really neat take on the latter, I strongly suggest The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde, which talks about the gift economy and how it functions in creative production.

The Yoga Challenge: Day 9

June 16, 2009

Things are not looking up, yoga-wise.

Today was my most difficult day. It was up to 82 degrees in Madison. I was (probably) the oldest and (definitely) the malest member in class. Having never taken a yoga class before, I have been doing 60 to 90 minutes of yoga a day for 8 straight days. 

We begin with some aerobic-type dancing, which … aside from the weirdness of being the oldest dude bouncing around a room of ladies … has me in a sweaty downpour 5 minutes into class. I can usually enjoy the first 15 minutes in relative dryness.

And then we happen go through the most difficult poses for me: back bends, handstands, dolphin pose, handstands from dolphin pose. No big deal really, since I can’t hold any of them on the slick my mat quickly became. 

The good news: Only once I felt a cramp coming on. Maybe I am getting more flexible. Although I am feeling some new sensations in my shoulder I probably shouldn’t.

There’s something in my self-imposed challenge that is not exactly in keeping with the spirit of yoga practice.

Overzealous ambition and deadline pressures are the very things you’re supposed to leave behind during practice. I’ve constituted my practice of them. I invoke what I should be detaching.

And perhaps it’s just that yoga practice is not exactly in keeping with my character. I’m competitive, driven, goal-oriented, etc., and it doesn’t seem yoga rewards monomaniacal rigor. I tend to be more in mind, than body, and I’m to seamlessly connect the 2 in yoga practice. 

These are probably the very reasons I should be doing yoga, even though it’s getting tougher. 

But I just got to make 5 more days …

Some Things I Learned From Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail”

June 11, 2009

Picture 26I finished up Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More and a few of its insights have stuck with me. It’s one of those cultural trends-analysis books that actually makes me feel good about the direction the world is heading. 

It’s all about the rise of niche markets. With the lessening of the barriers of distribution and to information, basically a company can sell anything and the customers will find it. As customers, we don’t have to subsist on “blockbusters” (the short tail), but can pursue our more arcane interests. And companies can survive (and even thrive) on providing for these interests.

Picture 29Short tail on the left, long on the right…and it goes right forever.

Anderson was approached by the CEO of an audio jukebox company. These jukeboxes are loaded with 10,000 songs. The CEO asked Anderson what percent of those songs sold at least once per quarter.  Anderson thinks of the 80/20 rule (where 20% of the products offered accounts for 80% of the sales) and says 50% because he knows he’s dealing with the different digital world. The answer: 98%. 98% is the new 80/20.

Which really surprised me. Are people really going for the deep cuts on Like a Prayer? “Promise to Try,” anyone?

As a result, this is changing the types of business starting up, and the goals they’re setting for themselves. The music industry, despite what its more bloated and luddite CEOs say, does not need to rely on putting out bland “hits.”

For example, the Rock*A*Teens were this band from Atlanta in the early 90’s that I heard about, but never listened to. (I think I confused them with Atari Teenage Riot, which I knew I didn’t like.) I now have a membership to eMusic, a great online music subscription service that specializes in indie rock.  The Rock*A*Teens kept getting recommended to me for my taste in jangly, ecstatic, lo-fi, sweeping garage rock. I gave it a listened, and now I’m obsessed. Baby, A Little Rain Must Fall is A*mazing and I’m on my way to getting their entire discography.

Picture 27One of the many treasures in the long tail.

Would I ever find this album in a record store?  An album from an obscure and defunct 90’s indie band? Highly unlikely. Anderson notes how a record store needs to sell at lease 4 copies of a CD a year just to make it worthwhile to carry. Otherwise, it’s far more lucrative to give that space over to Lady GaGa remixes or yet another repackaging of a Beatles album.

And much less, would I ever think to pick it up? Even more unlikely, given the weird association I made between them and that Atari band, and since I ‘d probably be drawn to the new releases in the store, anyways. 

However, with eMusic, where it’s online and the tracks are digital, it’s not much for them to offer it while making it extremely accessible to me. They can offer such obscure albums because they aren’t challenged by space or distance. And they can even draw attention to it with recommendations.

(Bonus, I just checked their Wikipedia entry while writing this and discovered that the R*A*T’s frontman Chris Lopez is currently in the band Tenement Halls, also on eMusic and it sounds just as promising as his previous band … I just downloaded their 2005 album and count me a fan of these guys, too. Oh, the discoveries and bounties in the long tail!)

Long live the long tail.

Some Things I Learned From Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”

June 11, 2009

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I just finish Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, which I think ranks between his Tipping Point and Blink. It’s really short, so it feels a little light on content. But it’s still a Malcolm Gladwell piece, meaning it has really interesting ideas conveyed with surprising and compelling examples. 

Here are the few ideas that struck me, that I can’t wait to drop at my next cocktail party:

  • Mitigated Speech: The chapter “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes” describes the central role mitigated speech (the ways in which we soften the meaning of what we’re saying…for example, when your boss says, “We should probably rewrite this report,” it’s mitigated speech meaning, “Rewrite this report, now”) plays in cockpit conversations just before a plane crashes. Gladwell reviews transcripts from black box recordings to show how mitigated speech gets in the way of the clear and direct communication that needs to happen in desperate situations.
  • Power Distance Index (PDI): The same chapter continues to describe how mitigated speech can be a function of one’s culturally-inherited notions of authority. Gladwell brings in a study that measured a country’s deference to authority, and then ranked those countries. It turns out, those countries with a high deference to authority, or PDI, (Korea and Colombia) correlate with the amount of plane crashes its pilots have.
  • Transmitter vs. Receiver Orientation: The more deferent you are to an authority figure, more that communication between an authority and an underling has a receiver orientation (meaning the onus is on the listener-underling to figure out what the speaker-transmitter is trying to say…which to me explains the impenetrability of French and German philosophy, both countries with high PDI’s). Countries with low PDIs (U.S.), communication has a transmitter orientation, meaning the onus is on the speaker to make himself understood (which explains my own mania about being understood). 

The overall story the book tells is about how context and contingency play the determining factors in one’s success. Bill Gates is a success not because his personality guaranteed he would be successful, but because he had certain material advantages and got lucky.

However, in our culture, we personalize success in such a way that we fail to recognize the role context plays. Thus, we have debilitating notions that one’s success has everything to do with the kind of person they are. If one is not destined to be successful, they’re doomed. However, if we give someone the same advantages and surroundings of a successful person, their chances of achieving increases significantly.

This is very much a nurture argument, but not without tipping its hat to nature.

My Story, Briefly

June 11, 2009

Who I am:

I have 8 years professional experience with in-house marketing and writing-based positions in Madison and Chicago. After honing my marketing and writing skills at these great associations and corporations, I have acquired a significant body of work and the writing/editing/marketing experience to go on my own. 

I have been pretty versatile in the content I’ve created, from medical case studies and technical product descriptions, to print ads and music reviews. I’ve written both for business-to-business and business-to-consumer publications. I am sensitive to the target audience and adapt messaging accordingly.

In addition to providing creative and on-strategy content and concepts, I am also highly self-motivated, reliable, and easy to work with.

image for site

My recent clients include:

  • GE Healthcare
  • Rising Medical Solutions
  • The Isthmus

What I’ve written about:

  • Medical Imaging Technology
  • Live music
  • Pop culture
  • Insurance
  • Technology Features

The kinds of content I’ve created:

  • Case studies
  • General articles
  • Brochures
  • Surveys
  • Product descriptions
  • Company one-sheets
  • Direct mail
  • Web content
  • Sales tools
  • Company newsletters

A general version of my resume can be accessed here. Don’t hesitate to ask for references and a collected portfolio of my work. Examples of my work are also posted on my blog’s main page on the right side menu. I’m also on LinkedIn.