A Little Comic Relief

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Image by ikelee via Flickr

Ahhh, “Dear Abby“…what ever happened to that in this age of near real-time social media…anyway, here’s one thats worth a chuckle (but not worth the e-mail bandwidth its probably taking up!).

Maybe this is a way to reduce traffic on the Internet, just post funny stuff up on a blog and send friends the links not giant emails.  🙂

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Dear Abby:

I have never written to you before, but I really need your advice. I have suspected for some time now that my wife has been cheating on me.  The usual signs; phone rings but if I answer, the caller hangs up.  My wife has been going but with ‘the girls’ a lot recently — although when I ask their names, she always says, “just some friends from work, you don’t know them.” I always try to stay awake to look out for her coming home, but I usually fall asleep.  Anyway, I have never approached the subject with my wife.  I think deep down I just did not want to know the truth, but last night she went out again and I decided to check on her finally. Around midnight, I decided to hide in the garage behind my golf clubs so I could get a good view of the whole street when she arrived home from a night out with ‘the girls.’  When she got out of the car she was buttoning up her blouse, which was open, and she took her panties out of her purse and slipped them on.  It was at that moment, crouching behind my golf clubs, that I noticed a hairline crack where the grip meets the graphite shaft on my 3-wood.  Is this something I can or should try to fix myself, or should I take it back to the pro-shop where I bought it and try to get a refund?

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Lots of “Analysis” on how to “use” social media, is it missing the point?

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Social Media Friends

Social media is creating quite a long tail of industries – lots of software companies, consultants, new modes of public relations, etc, etc.  Some of them focused on getting you into using social media, which is great, and many of them aspiring to help you “use” social media for your business.  The latter point is what I find interesting.

I’ve spoken on the topic of social media before (with assistance from the self-proclaimed “Bonafide Marketing Genius” Marta Kagan – FYI, I’m glad she has the confidence in herself to tag herself that way b/c she’s one of the few I would actually agree with) and I think the biggest point from my talk and others that I’ve seen (like Marta’s deck) is that this all is an excercise in sociology.  There are so many technologies that one could use, so many things that you could do, but in the end what is happening to the web is just another means of connecting, interacting, and getting to know people; not unlike joining a social club (like a sports team, a cultural center, or whatever).  In fact, just as you have “different circles of friends” offline (work friends, drinking buddies, sports friends), you’ll develop the same thing online and your community will drive you to the tools.

That’s where the idea “use social media” sticks in my craw a little bit.

I’ve had this blog since 2004 and I’ve interacted with many many people thanks to it.  It’s mainly an outlet for my thoughts, creativity, and passion (wine, technology, and marketing) and I’ve made a serious number of friends in the wine industry because of it.  My goal was to do exactly that, get to know people in the wine industry.  One of the major things its taught me though is that the only way to truly understand what this “social media” thing is all about is to get out and do it.  BUT – do it with a genuine desire and understand that its a means to reach out to a community (blog in particular).  Its not a sales tool and its not a PR tool for social media any more then going to a conference is a PR tool for you.  What I mean is you can go to a conference, chat with people, network, find people that you can stay connected with.  If you contribute to the conference (effectively contributing to the ‘community’ that the conference is bringing together) then you can get noticed and in that sense you get some good word-of-mouth publicity.

But here is how to think of “use social media” (Ugh!).  Its a sociological, human based filter.  Its not a broadcast engine like the “information super highway” or the “series of tubes”.  Doesn’t matter what tool/site you use, first and foremost your community has to be on that site and/or using that tool.  There is always a “critical mass” that needs to be achieved before the tool gets useful.  Kind of like a party, its not really fun until there are a bunch of people you know there.

Once your community is there, interacting, chatting, whatever then the dynamics of what happens is facinating.  Things start to get “useful” and the human filter is formed.  It becomes a situation where the community is as close as a bunch of office mates even though they are all over the world.  I literally consider the community I interact with on Twitter my “virtual office mates” and I genuinely like interacting with them.  The reason is that you can contribute (chat, answer questions, and otherwise participate) just like you would any other office.  In the case of Twitter, it becomes just like a hallway conversation in an office.  You can ignore it for a while, pop your head in with a little bit of nothing to say, put out some information or useful tool to the community, or you can put out a serious question to the group and get some solid answers.  Pretty much how you would for any office with cubilcles and hallways.

The best part of all this is that when the community reaches critical mass of people in a certain technology/tool who genuinely like to talk about a particular topic, forming an open community, thats when the best things come out.  If you contribute something to that community that is truly useful, it will get passed on to everyone very quickly.  People will decide if what you said is interesting, show their friends and, if its applicable, their friends may pass on the information to their other “open communities”.  The network effect takes over and your information has just become “viral” (i.e. it will spread not only in the current ‘circle of friends’ but to other ‘circles of friends’).  More importantly, the human filter took over and since that useful piece of information you generated is actually VERY useful, it will get passed on for a while (or very funny, or very interesting in some other way – the latest on Twitter was a streaming video of puppies, not useful, just very Zen).

So if you find an open community or want to know where there is critical mass already for a community you want to learn about (for instance – the wine community is embracing Twitter and Social Networks) on one of these tools the best way to “use social media” (I hate the term because it makes me feel like “use your friends”, but I guess there isn’t a better way to say it) is to contribute in significant ways.  Add to the community but more importantly be YOURSELF.  If people like you, they like you.  If they don’t, guess what…they don’t.  There isn’t alot of advice that can be given there that your parents should’ve taught you before Kindergarten.  Thats the funny truth of this “social media” craze.  The fundamental sociological point is that this is making friends.  Because even if you contribute something that spreads from network to network like wildfire, when those people check you out and “follow you” on Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever, then they start to get to know you in a more personal way then anyone over 25 ever thought possible.  If you’re obviously contributing to promote your business it will come across.  If you genuinely approach this medium (regardless of technology) as “getting to know people” in the way you’ve always done then you’ll not only have that “viral hit” you won’t be an online “one hit wonder”, you’ll have friends who can help you when you’re down, connect you to others, help you build business, get emotionally invested in your brand…. i.e. you’ll be a part of a community and how you do that is something your Mom and Dad shoulda taught you.

FYI – if you’re doing it for a business/brand it doesn’t matter – if people don’t like your personality, they won’t like your brand.  These things have a way of piercing the corporate PR veil.  Want an example?  Supposedly Cisco “gets” blogging.  Read their blogs and you tell me what you think….

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Hope is the engine that drives humanity…

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Image by Renegade98 via Flickr

I’m sure there has been plenty said about the impending Obama presidency but I’m going to say my $.02.

Its really hard to describe what this means to me, to many many people for that matter.  Its not the end all be all, but its a milestone that seemed impossible two years ago.  Barack Obama, a black American, taking the head of the most powerful office in the free world.  Its not coincidence that the world looked at this as an instantaneous moral and morale boost – we just, as a collective nation – looked past everything and did what the majority of citizens (majority by popular vote) thought would be best for this country and that happen to mean putting a minority into the oval office.

A country that can do that should be able to speak rationally with other cultures and religious states, shouldn’t it?  Should be able to be open to listening to all sides of a debate and making a good decision shouldn’t it?  Clearly should be able to give the minority voice of other nations the ear they want when all they want is an ear to listen to them to restore their dignity, shouldn’t it?

Thats called hope.  Instantaneous, street credentialed hope.  For that I’m incredibly pumped for this country.  I don’t feel like cringing when I think about my president going and speaking to other nations.  I don’t have that feeling that I have a loud, obnoxious friend with me in a fancy restaurant who I love dearly but I just know he/she’s doesn’t belong in an environment that people want to be civilized and not sloppy drunk.  That is all gone today.

For me personally, I guess even expecting him to win I wasn’t expecting alot of feelings I had to bubble to the surface.  My father is my hero and he taught me basically if you’re at a disadvantage, well then too bad, you just have to work harder than the others.  Energy you waste complaining could be energy that could be putting you ahead.  Something I took to heart never complaining about the disadvantages of being black in America because I’m pretty confident in my abilities.  But even so, there is a bit of an unspoken limit to what could be accomplished.  Or at least there was one.  That hit me yesterday.  How can there be a limit?  Even with people trying to hold you back or not giving you the same chance, Obama is the president, anything can happen.  Truly.

Thinking about the people who died just on the faith that this day would come if they marched, took beatings in non-violent protest, and even lost their lives so that I could see this day and my kids would be in a different world.  Lost their LIVES on faith in this country’s ability to adjust and the hope that their efforts would make this time possible…that hit me yesterday.

My kids…I hugged my daughter (she’s been sick).  And I did cry a little.  She doesn’t have to know that limit.  She’ll never know that limit.  I’ve always thought racism was so ignorant that it was comical; something just ripe for satire.  I truly appreciated things like The Chappelle Show and Wayans Brothers productions (like Hollywood Shuffle) because they used comedy to highlight the absurdity of racism.  I love that.  But the racism takes on a whole new level of rediculousness when the leader of the most powerful nation in the world is a black man.  My daughter is 3 years old.  I have a sincere hope that could come true now – that she really won’t understand how people could be seriously racist.  That hit me yesterday too.

I think thats how I look at it.  The people that I struggle with now will be long dead and buried by the time my girls are my age.  And while it feels good for me now to see all this worldwide credibility restored and faith in our own democracy’s ability to adjust restored, its really when I think about the things my daughters will never know is when I can find the energy and enthusiasm for life.  I often think about how technology will change things, in fact I think about it constantly.  Think about how my daughters will never wake up at 6am on a Saturday to watch their favorite Saturday Morning cartoon because they can just pull it up.  In fact, my 3 year old has a hard time understanding why if “Dora” can play in her room, why can’t she continue watching it downstairs on the TV (yeah, DirecTV DVR, why the f*** not?).

Today I can think about more significant things that I didn’t really think about because I didn’t see this happening and I didn’t know when it would.  Not knowing that limit or perception of limit.  Dealing with racism (as its clearly not gone) but having a very different perspective as the racism shouldn’t be a limit on what she can do anymore than any other corporate political situation.  No more excuses – yes, “the man” might be holding you back but YOU are the only one limiting yourself because being black isn’t even an excuse for not being the f***ing President of the United States anymore!!

No more excuses for not achieving.

To me personally, it inspires me further to understand the wine industry because the lack of minorities (not women obviously) still puzzles me.  I mean, I get the demographic thing and the “snooty” thing but thats changing with social media, folks like Gary V, new generations coming in, etc…yet for some reason this industry is simply monochromatic.

No more excuses…

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