The Five Ps of Marketing

When I was in college, Intro to Marketing was taught from the marketing bible, Principles of Marketing, written by "the father of marketing", Dr. Philip Kotler. According to Dr. Kotler, the marketing mix was composed of the four Ps, a classification proposed in 1960 by E. Jerome McCarthy. As 40 years worth of marketing students can tell you, the four Ps are:
  • Price
  • Product
  • Place
  • Promotion

    Dr. Kotler has released the 13th edition of Principles of Marketing (I know I'm dating myself, but my copy is the 7th edition), and we can see how quickly marketing is evolving to keep pace with changing customer expectations and new technologies emerging to both fuel and fulfill those expectations.

    In recent years there has been discussion of adding a fifth P, and I've seen a multitude of possibilities proposed, including: Participation, Process, Physical Evidence, Passion, Post-Purchase Service and Perception. I don't see how the fifth P could be anything but People, and I'm surprised it has taken as long as it has to surface as a potential component of the marketing mix.  (There are some who would increase the number of marketing mix components to seven, but I'm not convinced it's needed.)

    The birth, adoption and rapid growth of social networking has increased the relevance of People in the marketing mix significantly. I see that playing out in two ways:
    1. People have always been the face and representation of your brand;service reps, sales people, clerks, waiters/waitresses, consultants, instructors, baristas, call center reps anyone with whom your customer has contact. And now, thanks to social networking, there is the expectation that to be credible, marketers can no longer hide behind impersonal mass media advertising, direct mail or email, but need to publicly self-identify as subject matter experts via blogs, web pages, social media pages, emails, Twitter, and videos to communicate personally with their current and potential customers. Customers are overwhelmed with and and ignoring advertising and traditional one-size-fits-all messages that bounce off into the ether unnoticed. In today's global and flat world where social networking connects us all, customers want to know who is behind the curtain, writing and sending those messages.
    2. Customer testimonials have always been the most effective selling tool available and that hasn't changed. Social networking has elevated the importance of your customers talking to each other —  sharing opinions, recommendations, and experiences. As a marketer, you need to use your social networking tools to build communities of connected, communicating and satisfied customers. It's critical that you respond very quickly and publicly to complaints or issues to show that you are listening, responding, and resolving.
    As you build you marketing plans for next year, remember to include your customers and yourself as the 5th P of the marketing mix. Your competitors won't forget.

    Twitter for the Casual User — How to Make It Work for You

    It's probably not surprising that I view and use Twitter as a business and professional communication tool, based on what I do for a living. It can clearly be advantageous to tweet professionally and/or about your business, as I wrote in a blog post a few months ago.

    Recently I've been asked what value Twitter has to the more casual user someone who's not promoting a business or using it professionally. Twitter is one of those experiences in life that is hard to explain (even though I'm going to give it a go here), but becomes amazingly clear once you understand the ground rules and try it out yourself.

    At its most basic level, Twitter is a social networking channel. Because there is a 140 character limit, it's ideal for sharing small bites of information and links. Twitter's reputation while not totally undeserved as nothing more than the latest way for the self-absorbed to overshare the mundane details of their lives ignores how well it enables the communication of relevant information quickly and succinctly. Are there people tweeting about what they ate for breakfast and what color shirt they're wearing today? Most likely. A communication channel is only as good as the content filling it. Garbage in, garbage out still applies.

    But when you ignore the garbage and focus on the "communication of relevant information quickly and succinctly" then that is when Twitter reveals its value. You can customize Twitter so that it delivers exactly the information you're interested in, and you never have to send a single tweet (40% of Twitter users don’t tweet every month but watch others tweet*). To create a road map through the approximately one billion tweets created every five days*, I've categorized tweets into six groups, with examples, to help new Twitter users navigate their way:
    1. News
      Every media outlet tweets. Follow BBC World News, the New York Times, CNN, CBS News, or your favorite news source. Most magazines also tweet. Usually you'll get the headline and a link to an article if you're interested in finding out more.
    2. Favorite celebrities, authors, actors, photographers, musicians or sports teams
      So many of them tweet. Anderson Cooper, Coldplay, Robert DeNiro, Annie Leibovitz, Maya Angelou or the San Jose Sharks hockey team are just a few examples. You can use the Who to Follow function in Twitter to search for the people or groups who interest you.
    3. Elected representatives
      Members of Congress (Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren in my case), governors (Governor Jerry Brown in California) and even the President of the United States all tweet to communicate with their constituents.
    4. Local businesses
      One of my favorite social networking success stories is about the catering trucks who tweet their locations so that their customers can find them. Mashable covered the trend in an article titled How Social Media Is Fueling the Food Truck Phenomenon. One example cited in the article, Kogi BBQ,  has 87,000 followers who follow five trucks.
      I can follow one of my favorite French restaurants, Left Bank, keep an eye out for sales and new merchandise at Nordstrom, or find out what local events are taking place with tweets from the San Jose Downtown Association.
    5. Favorite causes or hobbies
      Whether it's disability advocacy, organic gardening, nature conservation, micro lending, running, hiking or trumpet playing, you will find someone who is tweeting about topics that interest you. A few examples include the Harvard Art Museums,Yosemite National Park, or Knitting Network where knitters share patterns and information.
    6. Trending topics
      This is a daily Twitter feature that tracks the most frequently used hash tags. Including a hash tag in a tweet makes that tweet appear in topical searches, such as #Egypt, #Occupy or #accessibility.
    And here's the amazing thing about Twitter. You choose how you want to use it. You can set it up as a simple feed, where tweets on the topics you're interested in come to you, via your computer, tablet or smart phone, or even as cell phone texts. Or, if you want to connect with others who have the same interests, Twitter can help you do that too. You can respond to that person who has the perfect non-toxic aphid spray and ask for the recipe. Or you can tell the governor that you are opposed to the bill she is poised to sign. (Twitter has a very good Basics page to tell you exactly how.)

    With Twitter, you define your experience engage as much or as little as you want, and as frequently or infrequently as you like.

    * 11 New Twitter Statistics

    Stuff IBMers Say — Following a # Conversation on Twitter

    The last 24 hours have been a lot of fun and laughs tracking the IBM Twitter conversation about common IBM sayings, hashtagged #stuffibmerssay.

     The impressions were on their way toward a million (granted there are over 400,000 IBMers), several hours ago. I've shared the URL with a few friends, and no one was quite as amused by it as I was, lol. I'm not sure if you have to be an IBMer to really "get it", or if working for a large corporation would be sufficient.

    Two things about the thousands of contributions really struck me:

    1) I've not seen any metrics about this yet, but I would say there were more sayings about conference calls than about anything else IBMers obviously spend a lot of time on the phone working on teams that are spread across countries and across the globe. (For instance, I only have one other teammate on the West Coast. The majority of my team are on EDT or CDT. I work early hours compared to most other Californians.) We participate on calls at all hours, and have a lot of common sayings. (I'm going to be self-conscious now every time I say, "Who's joined the call?" or "I was talking on mute", lol)

    2) We use collaboration tools all of the time we are eating our own Social Business cooking, as the saying goes. I hadn't realized how ubiquitous so many of them have become that we don't even think about how we use them daily. Communities, team rooms, status updates, expert locators, full function instant messaging where you can drop in a screen grab or file, pull other people into a conversation, instant web conferences, you name it. We use these social collaboration tools without even thinking about it any more.

    At a glance, working for a company with 400,000+ employees spread around the world sounds large, intimidating, impersonal, distant. This Twitter conversation has shown me once again how social social networking, social business, social collaboration connects us all, personally.

    Google+ Re-Invites Brands to the Party — Can You Hear Me Cheering?

    The New York Times was one of many news sources reporting today that Google+ is now going to allow corporations to return to the social media network the ones they kicked out earlier when Google+ was first launched.

    Can you hear me cheering? No, I didn't think so.

    Google+ currently has 40 million users compared to Facebook's 800 million. Brands have flocked to Facebook attracted by the fast-growing and active audience. (More than 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day, according to their fact page.)

    As the New York Times article states:
    "Relationships with Facebook have proved to be valuable marketing and awareness tools for companies with pages on that social network. Ninety-six of the top 100 brands have Facebook pages. The fast-food purveyor McDonald’s, for example, has over 11 million “likes” and 1.6 million visits to its page. Overall, about 100 million online stories, pictures and other things are “liked” by Facebook users daily."

    Google, not surprisingly, would like a piece of that pie. As eMarketer reports:
    "US Social Media Network ad revenues are expected to surpass $3.90 billion in 2012 and a large portion of that money is going straight to Facebook. New numbers show that Facebook will likely earn 72% of social media specific ad spending next year.  That’s equal to 7.9% of total online ad spending."

     Google is hoping their new Direct Connect feature taking advantage of Google search will be, if not the Facebook killer, at least the Facebook equalizer. As the Google blog post describes it:
    "People search on Google billions of times a day, and very often, they're looking for businesses and brands. Today's launch of Google+ Pages can help people transform their queries into meaningful connections, so we're rolling out two ways to add pages to circles from Google search. The first is by including Google+ pages in search results, and the second is a new feature called Direct Connect. Maybe you're watching a movie trailer, or you just heard that your favorite band is coming to town. In both cases you want to connect with them right now, and Direct Connect makes it easy—even automatic."

    So am I ready to create a Google+ business-to-business page? No, not yet. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn keep me busy enough, and we are seeing results with relationships happening and communities being built. Google appears to be focusing first on the consumer market, and is going to have do a much better job of selling me on the advantages of their network for me to support it with scarce resources my time.

    How Do You Get Your News Today?

    I'm amazed by the speed in which the announcement of Ginny Rometti succeeding Sam Palmisano in January 2012 as IBM's president and CEO hit the Twitterverse. I saw the first tweets by IBMers Kathy Mandelstein (@katmandelstein) and Jon Iwata (@coastw) at 1:19 pm PDT in my hourly Twitter scan. They linked directly to the IBM announcement: Virginia M. Rometty elected IBM president and CEO. Minutes later, the New York Times followed with an article, and Fortune, CNET, Mashable, TechCrunch, etc. followed with tweets.

    Now granted, I am an IBMer, so obviously I'm very interested in news about IBM. But it made me realize again just how much of my news I get on Twitter and Facebook these days. I found about the death of Steve Jobs and the East Coast earthquake on Facebook. The Japan earthquake and tsunami and Egyptian revolution news came via Twitter. The earthquake in Turkey and Netflix's series of mistakes from Facebook.

    When social networking first grabbed my attention two and a half years ago, I was excited about the potential. I wasn't farsighted enough to see where it could go, but knew it was going somewhere, and it did tie in with my enjoyment of reading science fiction partly because I love the creativity and imagination authors employ to describe how everything, including communications, will continue to evolve and be used in the future. (Small side note: I recently discovered Peter F. Hamilton's work and am working my way through his Void trilogy after finishing the Commonwealth Saga. It's amazing (and a little scary) how easily you can see current social networking evolving into the Unisphere.)

    I'm not alone in getting my news from the social networking channel. According to the latest Pew Study on Media Attitudes, 1985 - 2011:
    Social networking has expanded the ways in which the public gets news and information. About a quarter (27%) of adults say they regularly or sometimes get news or news headlines through Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites. This rises to 38% of people younger than 30, but now spans a notable share of older Americans (12% of those 65 and older) as well. ... And when asked to describe what they like about getting news over social networks and Twitter, answers range from features of the technology such as speed, portability and brevity to ways in which the content is more customized, personal and topical.

    When you compare the statistics from three years earlier, Pew Study on Media Attitudes, 1985 - 2008, you can see how the "news from social networking" questions have evolved, since this was the only conclusion:
    Social networking sites are very popular with young people, but they have not become a major source of news. Just 10% of those with social networking profiles say they regularly get news from these sites.

    Will getting your news via social networking replace more traditional channels like television, newspapers and magazines?  Supplement, yes. Replace? Clearly not in the immediate future. But as the participants in the 2011 Pew Study reported, customization, personalization and topicality are growing more important to us in this flatter, networked world, and social networking does all three of those very well. :-)

    Image: nuttakit /

    Vacations, Prioritization & Social Media

    I'm one of those people who, as much as I want to go and need to go on vacation, have a self-inflicted excruciatingly painful week before I go.

    On Sunday, I start planning my week and creating a long list of all of things I have to get done, both at work and at home. Last Sunday, my master to-do list looked something like this:
    • Facebook Expert Hour invitation
    • New hero spot started
    • Mobile app article reviewed, signed off & delivered
    • Meet w/ Fran to hand over social media reins
    • MCE page
    • Pedicure
    • Cat food
    • Mop kitchen floor
    • Pack....
    You get the picture. A list of what I can realistically complete only with 33 hour days this week and no sleep.

    By Tuesday, I'm beginning to panic. Meetings get added to my calendar. I spend hours on hold with the insurance company. The list is getting longer, not shorter. One to-do gets completed and crossed off, but five new ones are added. Plus two committee meetings that I can't miss this week. I'm working until midnight almost every night. I have trouble getting to sleep because my brain won't stop churning away, and I refuse to get up and work more.

    And now all of a sudden it's Friday. I'll be on the plane in less than 24 hours. And it all becomes clear. I CANNOT get it all done. No one can. It was an impossible list to begin with, and I was setting myself up for failure to think it could all get done. And as that moment of truth dawns, I relax, and begin to prioritize. This task and that one really can wait until I get back. My colleague can manage this one. My web producer can text me when this one is done. One of the kids can mop.

    And it makes me realize how important prioritization is to social media channels. My main ones, for now, are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I'm flirting with Google+ and Tumblr and StumbleUpon and YouTube and Pinterest, and have some new ones bookmarked for further investigation. And while it's important to test these new ones out, and perhaps integrate them into my overall social media mix, it's not critical that it happens right now, this week.  The week I'm back will be fine. When you're spread too thin, and try to take too much on, either you won't get it all done, or if by some miracle you do, it won't be your best work.

    Prioritize. What a lovely word, releasing me. Aloha. :-)

    The Demise of Blogging — Fact or Fallacy?

    I slept in yesterday, and deciding to take advantage of my unusual, but obviously much-needed Saturday of leisure, I spent some time digging around about blogs.

    I'm a fairly new blogger who only this summer realized that I had things I could and wanted to say about social networking. What started out as a (successful) experiment at work — using social media channels to start conversations about accessibility and build communities — quickly became a personal passion where I'm energized about social networking's potential for personalizing the connections and interactions of our ever more automated and global world.

    No, I'm not this bad yet. But it's early still. :-)
     So I started my loosely defined investigation at BlogHer, a blogging site recommended by a colleague and fellow blogger who's been very supportive and helpful with my foray into blogging (Thank you, Laura!). I follow BlogHer on Facebook, so I stay current on featured blogs and topics. BlogHer is a social networking success story. Three women started the site in 2005 in response to the question, “Where are all the women bloggers?” They now have 50 employees supporting 27 million unique visitors a month who visit the site, 2,500 network bloggers, and a free-to-join directory of 22,000 registered private blogs. It's a vital and thriving community, where questions are asked and answered, and new knowledge and insight are gained daily. (And yes, my blog is one of those 22,000, lol.)

    Then I started searching for blog directories where I could register my blog, and that's when I realized there are hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of blog directories out there. Some of them are upfront about their commercial purpose they want several hundred dollars a year from you to list your blog in their directory (sorry, not happening any time soon guys.). But many of them will take a reciprocal link as payment, so I'm testing out a few of those.

    My search led me to wonder just how many people are blogging? I've read articles over the past couple of years that claim blogging is dying, but then I look at the success of Huffington Post and find that hard to believe. (Started in 2005 for an investment of $1 million by Ariana Huffington, HuffPost, as it's known, was purchased by AOL in the spring of 2011 for $315 million dollars).

    A little more digging (thank you, Google), and I found this illuminating blog post, Are Blogs Growing or Dying? by Oklahoma City University Professor Kenna Griffin. Professor Griffin spent some time analyzing the report, Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2010, and she came to this conclusion:

    In 2011, there are millions of blogs in the blogosphere, with nearly 1.3 million blogs registered on Technorati alone.

    Make no mistake, there still are personal blogs, with arguably the fastest growing blogging segment being Mommy Bloggers. But many of today’s blogs are corporate, organizational or niche, with a fair number of blogs acting as the sole storefront for entrepreneurs.

    And a quick peek at Wikipedia confirms Professor Griffin's conclusion: As of 16 February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence.

    Maybe I should have added blogs to my list of everyday categories of items where the choices are staggering in an earlier blog post, Overwhelmed by Choices — How Social Networking Can Help, Part 1.

    And so, with a hat tip to the brilliant and witty Mark Twain, I'm happy to conclude that, "The reports of blogging's death are greatly exaggerated."

    It's Like the Internet Itself is in Mourning — RIP Steve Jobs

    I was as shocked and saddened last night as the rest of the world when the news hit that Steve Jobs had passed away. And I was surprised by how emotional and sad I was feeling about his death — much out of proportion to what I'd think I'd be feeling about the death of a high tech CEO.
    I worked on a Mac for a few years, but have been a PC person for most of my life. We own some iPods and my daughter got an iPhone a few months ago, but we're not truly "Apple" people, in fact, I've always been amused by how militant "Apple" people were.

    And yet....

    It could be because he was only 56 — not all that many years older than I am. Or it could be because he was a local boy who made good — he grew up in the Bay Area, started Apple here and became a high tech titan, redefined what good design is, and helped make Silicon Valley what it is today. As a friend and former manager said on my Facebook posting about it, "...also the fact that we (you and I at least) were working in high tech during the early Apple days. We remember that special time in Silicon Valley history and have watched Steve Jobs and the evolution of Apple ever since."

    I'm kind of stunned and at the same time impressed by the outpouring of grief and remembrances on social media channels. Facebook has a new page and a new community, both called RIP Steve Jobs, and together they have almost 100,000 fans. I gave up trying figure out how to count the tweets hashtagged #RIPSteveJobs, #SteveJobs, #iSad, but I'm sure we'll be seeing some totals in the next few days.

     Not surprisingly, Apple's home page is now a tribute to their founder. And even Google quickly added a tribute to their home page.

    Time magazine stopped the presses to rework their cover story. President Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all had words of praise for Steve Jobs' legacy, and condolences for his passing.

    Fandango offered to donate up to $10,000 to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in memory of Steve Jobs if they got 10,000 likes on that post on their Facebook page, and they were well over the 10,000 in a little over 3 hours.

    There have been shrines and flowers and tears, and hundreds if not thousands of articles and blog posts about how personally people are feeling his loss from our world.

    I doubt that Steve Jobs could have known how his creativity and perfectionism and vision would be mourned. But he did know what was truly important, and that's a lesson we can all take to heart.

    "When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
    Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." ~ Steve Jobs

    Dual Passions: Volunteer Work & Social Networking

     I've recently read two articles that lay out the case for why it's important that you include your volunteer work in your resume/CV or LinkedIn profile, regardless of whether or not you're currently looking for a job.

    In an article from Fortune/CNN, Still not putting volunteer work on your resume?, the author says, "According to a new survey from LinkedIn, 89% of U.S. businesspeople have significant volunteer experience. Yet only 45% include it in their resumes. The same report tells why leaving it out is a mistake."

    And "41% of hiring managers say they consider free labor for a good cause to be "equally valuable" as other experience, and one in five has hired someone for a paying job because of his or her volunteer work."

    In the second article that caught my eye recently, Volunteer work helps Boost your resume strength, Nicole Williams, the author of the book "Girl on Top" and a spokeswoman for networking site LinkedIn, said, "...job seekers should make sure they include their volunteer jobs on their resumes and their online profiles to differentiate themselves from other job seekers."

    "The majority of people volunteer, and nobody's putting it on their resume," Williams said.

    I'm assuming (hoping?) you have a LinkedIn profile. Even if you love your job, couldn't be happier, you still need to take ownership of your personal brand and show up in search results when someone Googles your name. You owe it to yourself to keep your skills and your online profile up-to-date at all times. (Keep an eye out for my soon-to-published blog post on Personal Branding.)

    Updating the new volunteer experience & causes section in LinkedIn shouldn't take you more than a moment or two, and will look like this on your public LinkedIn profile:

     And if you're not out there volunteering, here's my personal plug for that: Get out there and do it! Volunteering is an amazing way to help your community, network, and truly realize your blessings. I find that when I volunteer, the benefits definitely go both ways. :-)

    The New Facebook — Powerful Social Connections or End of Our Privacy Forever?

    Oh my, there hasn't been this much build up and drama since the world was wondering "Who shot J.R.?" back in 1980. Well, okay, there was more serious drama this summer when we we didn't know whether the U.S. was going into default or not because our representatives in Congress couldn't get their act together.

    Today the question burning up the Twitterverse and social sites:
    • Is the new Facebook design going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, or the beginning of the end? 
    • Or rephrased: Is Facebook making amazing leaps and bounds into leveraging the full power and potential of social networking, or are they leading us down the path of losing any hope of keeping our data private forever?

    It depends on who you ask. If you talk to the 34,000 individuals who signed up as Facebook developers in a single day because developers get a sneak peak at the new timeline layout, or if you read the article in CNN Tech by Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable,You'll freak when you see the new Facebook, you'd be on the apple pie and motherhood side of the great Facebook divide.

    However, if you subscribe to the viewpoint of blogger Adrian Short, Facebook is going to be collecting every bit of private data you have no idea that you're exposing with its "frictionless sharing" so they can share it all with advertisers who will dish up even more tightly targeted ads, you'll be rushing toward the doomsday side — It's the end of the web as we know it.

    Facebook has crossed the privacy line almost every time they've added new features, and it's to the point where now it's clear they're pushing the limits with each re-design, waiting to see if the 750 million of us online with them will balk or go along with the changes. And I'm glad we have watchdogs like Adrian Short pointing out where Facebook is taking liberties with our privacy and our private data.

    I used this e-card from Someecards in an earlier blog post about the recent Facebook changes, and it's so true, I'm going to use it again (despite the typo, lol):

    No one is forcing anyone to use Facebook. It's a free, entirely voluntary service that's making its founder and shareholders some of the richest people and companies (on paper) in the world. And if they do cross the line on what they do with your personal data, you have every right to complain and push back. And, there's always the ultimate voting with your feet — delete your account and walk away.

    But excuse me while I go sign up as a developer — I'm eager to get a sneak peek at the new timeline. :-)

    *9/27 Update: Here we go again, but it's a good thing  — an article in the Wall Street Journal today where Australian technologist Nik Cubrilovi called Facebook out on their privacy intrusions, and Facebook is having to defend the liberties they're taking. Expect this feature to disappear soon. Facebook Defends Getting Data From Logged-Out Users

    Overwhelmed by Choices — How Social Networking Can Help, Part 1

    Last month I spent 12 hours in a car (6 hours each way) with 2 teens and their fully loaded iPhones®. I think among the 3 of us we had enough music to listen 24/7 for at least 12 days straight, with no repeats.

    I heard a lot of music called Dubstep, totally new to me, which Wikipedia defines as: "a genre of electronic dance music that originated in south London, England. Its overall sound has been described as "tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals." Some of it I liked, some of it I despised. We had some overlap in taste on some pop music, and a few of the non-misogynistic and non-sex-filled rap songs. It was an informative trip for me, music-wise.

    And of course they were less than thrilled when I took over the music for an hour each way, and plugged in my iPod® with the jazz, classic rock, Latin, and pop that I like. (In fact, they both put their earbuds in and listened to their own tunes during "my" time, but I digress.)

    Driving that long stretch of Highway 5 in Northern California with no distractions other than the teen music selections pumping loudly out of the speakers got me thinking about the plethora of choices we have today as consumers in every category. I could have spent days researching electronics, phones, furniture, clothing, appliances, but realized I had to limit myself (or this blog post would be a book, lol), so I chose four categories that were relevant to my life (and most likely to yours too):
    • Music
    • Groceries
    • Online books
    • Local restaurants
    So we start with music. Ignoring all the other sites where you can download or listen to music, I looked only at iTunes®, which Apple® touts as "the #1 online music store". And while I knew there was a lot out there, I really didn't get it. Did you know iTunes now carries more than 18 million songs* worldwide?
      I can hardly wrap my brain around that number. Doing a few calculations — if you did nothing but listen to music 24/7, it would still take you over 141 years to listen to that entire playlist. Apple has a program called Genius® that generates recommended playlists for you, based on your current library, its ratings system and collaborative filtering. But again, how on earth do you even begin to select music from 18 million songs? Staggering.

      And then let's take a look at the local grocery store. When my neighborhood store was purchased a few years ago by a big conglomerate, one of the first things they did was whittle down the number of selections. So instead of eight varieties of Special K cereal, now you can only buy two. Yet, the average grocery store in 2010 stocked 38,718 items. You could spend hours just reading the backs of an entire aisle of cereal boxes, trying to decide which box is the healthiest, cheapest, lowest sugar, most fiber, least preservatives, ....

      The third item on my list is electronic books. Do you own a Kindle yet?  I don't, and I'm back and forth on it, because I love the feel of an actual book in my hands, and I enjoy turning pages — I'm not sure I'm willing to give that up. My son got one for Christmas last year which he is enjoying immensely, and I have a quite a few friends who love theirs. My son and my Kindle-owning friends can choose from more than 950,000 books, including New Releases and 110 of 111 New York Times Bestsellers, all available on

      And now to my last example. I queried how many restaurants there are in my hometown of San Jose, California. Guess what?  4,084. So if I ate at two restaurants a day — say lunch and dinner, every single day, I should have eaten at all of them once in a little under 8 years. (I remember doing a similar exercise a few years ago about the number of wineries in California, and I know it was several years worth if you visited one a day. :-) )

      We, American consumers (and this is probably true for most first world countries), are flat out overwhelmed with choices in every part of our daily lives. How do you find new musical genres or artists? Select books or restaurants? Or choose what you want to cook/eat at home? I don't know about you, but sometimes I'm almost paralyzed by the choices. I want to close my eyes and do the eeny, meany, miney, mo selection process, which I guess is one way of dealing with it.

      And yes, you can ask around, call your friends, bring it up at the gym, but chances are those particular friends haven't been searching for a great vacation read, or some really crazy running music lately. So where do you turn?

      Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog post coming soon. :-)

      * From the iTunes website

      Like It or Hate It — Everyone Has an Opinion About Facebook's New Look

      So you woke up this morning, logged onto Facebook, and what did you see? Very little on your home page that looked the same as it did before you logged off for bed last night.
      Facebook users have been pretty vocal today about their dislike of change, and specifically the ones Facebook made overnight. We've seen a few little tests popping up recently, then disappearing within a few hours, but it appears they rolled it out, for at least all the US and Canada users, overnight. (I've not heard from my non-North American friends yet.)
      My only complaint is that the friend feed in the top right makes me feel like a stalker. My teenager says if you even go look at a friend's Facebook page to catch up on what they've been up to that you're stalking — which I feel is a little harsh — I'd prefer to think of it as catching up. :-) But to have it scrolling by you a mile a minute — every comment, photo, link, and like that each and every one of your friends is making every second of the day — now that is the definition of stalking in my book...
      I wanted to share a few of my favorite complaints that I've seen posted today: 
      HATE the New facebook News Feed
      Photo of signpost with signs that say: Lost, confused, unclear, perplexed, disoriented, bewildered. Underneath the title reads: Welcome to the new Facebook.

      And posted as a status:
      I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like Facebook spam. I do not like the new Facebook change, I do not like my friends rearranged. I do not like them in a row, down below or coming up and appearing slow. I do not like them by family, friend, city or state. I do not like the page to hesitate. I do not like the Facebook change, I do not like my friends rearranged! I do not like this new Facebook crap. Kill it, smash it, make it scrap.
      And of course, there are some "putting it all into perspective" cards already out from someecards (A hilarious and usually totally non-PC free e-card site when you have a few minutes to check it out):
      I'm appalled that the free service that I am in no way obligated to use keeps making changes that mildly inconvenience me.
      I bet the only person happy with Facebook today is the CEO of Netflix.
       **And unbelievably, I forgot to include the link to The Oatmeal's take on the entire thing.

      Here's a nice summary of the changes: New Facebook: 6 Things you Need to Know from a group called Lujare.

      And if you're really unhappy, there are also tips on how to get rid of the friend stalker feature on the top right of your page.  Hate Facebook’s Changes? Try These Two Apps!

      It's pretty funny when you think about it. I've been a regular and faithful Facebook user for over two years now, and I can't think of a single time that the fairly regular design and function changes have been embraced. And of course some of it may well be Facebook's highhanded and non-communicative approach — here it is — take it or leave it.  And I wonder if it's more a symptom of today's uncertain economy — another change in your life that perhaps you don't feel you have any say in?

      Just a thought.

      Is Social Media Becoming More Accessible to People with Disabilities?

      Two new and unrelated Mashable articles caught my eye today that make me hope that maybe, just maybe, social media channels are starting to think inclusively. People who are deaf or hard of hearing are excluded from two channels the hearing take for granted: voice-only chats and uncaptioned videos. And people who are blind or low vision miss a lot of context if there isn't alternative text (descriptive text read by a screen reader) on a photo or graphic, or a transcript accompanying a video.

      The first Mashable article is about Google+'s newest upgrades to Hangouts, that explains how it's even more sign language friendly than it was before. It turns out that whomever in the Hangout had the most background noise had the most face time, since it was voice (noise) activated. The new feature allows everyone to turn off their microphones, then whomever wants to “Take the Floor” hits Shift +s to request it. Slick.

      The second Mashable article talks about a new photo sharing platform called Fotobabble that adds voice to photos. The blog focuses on the marketing campaign enablement when someone uses the Facebook app, iPhone app or website to add voice to any photo, but I'm sure the accessibility community is looking past marketing campaigns and anticipating that the easier tools make it to make accessible content, the more frequently it will happen, naturally.

      Exciting stuff. :-)

      What Would the Social Media Landscape Look Like if China Could Play?

      I'm liking Google+. I asked a question, and in a short time had an answer: Yes, China has banned Google+ in addition to Facebook and Twitter (which I already knew about). I wasn't surprised, but really wanted to know.

      And then I realized what an interesting and potentially drastic change in the landscape we'd have immediately if the Chinese government unblocked its citizens' access to those three social networking channels.

      The Internet World Stats website tells us that there are almost as many Chinese language Internet users as there are English Internet users:

      Top Two Languages Used in the Web (# of Internet Users by Language)*

      IN THE INTERNET                     English                          Chinese
      Internet Users
      by Language                          565,004,126                    509,965,013
      by Language                          43.4 %                            37.2 %
      in Internet                            301.4 %                           1,478.7 %
      (2000 - 2011)                     
      Internet Users
      % of Total                            26.8 %                             24.2 %
      World Population                   1,302,275,670                  1,372,226,042
      for this Language
      (2011 Estimate)

      The formatting capabilities of Blogger aren't particularly sophisticated, but I think you start to get the picture. What we don't know is how many of the almost 510 million Chinese language Internet users are also fluent in English.

      I quoted these statistics in an article I wrote earlier this year on the IBM Accessibility website:
      • Facebook is expecting to reach 700 million users worldwide within the next month or so2. The average Facebook user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events3.
      • Twitter is growing almost as quickly. 460,000 new accounts are created daily, and 140 million tweets are sent each day4.
       According to an article in Tech 24 Hours, only 50% of tweets are in English as of earlier this year. Japanese is the second most prevalent language used for tweeting.

      And Facebook's press center has the following up-to-date statistics:
      • More than 70 translations available on the site
      • About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States
      • Over 300,000 users helped translate the site through the translations application
      These statistics make a strong case that while Twitter and Facebook started in the US, in English, both are making significant gains around the world in multiple languages. And if even a small percentage of Chinese citizens were able to access the big three social media channels tomorrow, I think it's clear social networking would be forever changed. Automated translation services and applications would suddenly be everywhere.

      A potential view of how that future may look: A friend introduced me to a short-lived sci-fi series called 'Firefly', that takes place in the year 2517, after the arrival of humans in a new star system (a series which I LOVED btw, even though I was warned they only filmed one season before it was cancelled). Due to the earth's political history leading up to 2517 (lots of wars, yadda, yadda), the people of the future speak and write English and Mandarin Chinese comfortably and interchangeably.

      Maybe it is time to sign up for those Chinese language lessons.... :-)

        * -- I've reproduced just the top two entries of Internet World Stat's table here for simplicity's sake, and the credit for the numbers is all theirs.

      Why "Do Not Disturb" Is My New Best Friend

      I've always considered myself a great multitasker and amazingly efficient — listening to a conference call, carrying on several IM conversations and answering emails — all at the same time, and not dropping a single ball. But with the advent of social networking, and my complete and total immersion in it, I think I've reached my limit — a self-induced ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I find myself jumping from task to task, checking Twitter, back to email, over to Facebook for news or comments, tweeting, answering an IM, sending an IM, and at the end of the day — not feeling like I've accomplished everything I needed to do that day. I've been writing more for work, versus editing, and I'm one of those reluctant-to-get-started kind of writers who just needs time to ramp up and do it, so that jumping around isn't particularly conducive to getting over the hump of committing to and typing those first sentences, and sticking with it as the ideas and words start to flow.

      If you've seen the Disney movie, Up, where Dug the talking dog constantly interrupts himself with, "Squirrel!", losing all focus on the conversation or task at hand, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. (If you don't, check out this YouTube clip.)

      This recent article in Mashable confirms what I've been feeling lately: Why Multitasking May Make You Less Productive.

      And I've independently come to the same conclusion as the author of the article: Scheduling blocks of time to focus on a single task with all distractions turned off (email alerts silenced, cell phone away, browser tabs ignored and instant messenger alerts hidden).

      So don't take it personally if you look for me on IM and you see my status as DND (Do Not Disturb). It's not you, it's me. :-)

      To Tweet or Not to Tweet? That is the Question.....

      I got some great questions from a reader about Twitter, and I thought I'd share my answers to her (expanded answers I should say, after giving it quite a bit more thought writing this blog post). Because a lot of people do ask these questions about Twitter. The value of Facebook and LinkedIn are obvious to anyone who's using them (I'm still reserving judgment on Google+), but Twitter's value is a bit less obvious to non-users.

      So the questions asked were:
      • Is someone that does not tweet irrelevant?
      • If so, why? What is the real goal of tweeting?
      So let me explain why I tweet, both professionally and personally, and we'll see how far down the path that takes us.

      I tweet multiple times a day as IBM Accessibility to continue to build and maintain our thought leadership in the Information Technology industry. It's an open, two-way communication channel available to our clients and prospective clients, partners, advocates, colleagues, plus anyone who has a stake in or passion for accessibility. It's also an amazing way to follow industry happenings — initiatives, market trends, worldwide legislation, conferences, white papers, new technology and much more. I easily scan 400 to 500 news items a day to sift out the nuggets of value (if you've ever been gold panning in the California gold country, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about, lol). Twitter is just one tool of many in our communications toolbox.

      So I strongly believe businesses, whether they're B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) that do not tweet (regularly and relevantly of course, otherwise don't bother) are missing a huge opportunity to communicate with their current and potential clients, partners and stakeholders, and are being left out of the conversations that are taking place about them and around them.

      Now tweeting personally — that's another story. I opened my Twitter account before I opened the IBM account over 2 years ago, so I could test it out, then left it alone for over a year, not really seeing the value for me at the time while I was spending my time establishing IBM Accessibility in the social media channels.

      I've only restarted tweeting personally recently, as I decided to start sharing what I've learned about social media and also follow and learn something new daily about this fast-paced and daily changing business. I have a lot of information to share — I've taught classes, meet with friends and former colleagues for one-on-one coaching about personal branding and social networking, and present within IBM on the topic. Twitter is one way for me to quickly scan and follow the leaders in the social media space, stay up on the latest info, and share my opinion. It's very slow to gain ground (and followers) when you're not Guy Kawasaki, especially when you already have a demanding, full-time day job. :-)

      So with that background filled in, let's look at question #1: Are you irrelevant if you don't tweet?
      My answer: No. Twitter is one of many social media channels, and it may not be the best way for you to build your network. You need to ask yourself what your goals are with Twitter. What do you want to accomplish? It's a lot of time and hard work to keep these hungry social media channels full of the content they devour (in a previous blog post I compared them to starving chicks, always squawking for food/content), so if staying current on LinkedIn or Facebook works for you, then that may very well be the way for you to go.

      So to answer question #2: What is the real goal of tweeting?
      I believe the real goal of tweeting is opening and maintaining a dialog with your clients and prospects, your colleagues, partners, and counterparts in your industry. It's again, not the only way, but just one of many social media channels, and one of many communication strategies available to you. So if you personally don't feel it will advance your career to participate, then tweeting is probably not worth the investment of your time. But, with a caveat — I'd recommend opening a Twitter account and following experts in your field and news media channels — you can learn a lot, and you'll answer your own question of whether or not Twitter will work for you.

      I think ultimately what I'd like to leave you with is this thought: Social media has changed the way we communicate, and will continue to do so. You need to keep yourself current on the trends, so that if at some point a channel such as Twitter starts to make sense for your personal branding strategy, then go for it. Nothing is carved in stone, and these are not forever missed opportunities if you don't take advantage of them now.

      Social media implications of today's East Coast earthquake

      I'm a long-time Californian, so I don't get too excited about earthquakes. Usually by the time I figure out that it's not a big truck driving down the street, it's over. Hurricanes and tornadoes are another thing entirely and scare me to death, so it's really just what you get used to, isn't it?

      I heard from a colleague on IM a minute or so after she felt it in Raleigh, NC, and I immediately flipped over to Facebook, and watched the comments pour in. A college friend who's now a news anchor for CBS Radio in New York City had it immediately. So did the Washington Post. And I watched East Coast colleagues and friends reporting in on it. And just this morning my manager, living in Manhattan, said that she'd never felt an earthquake before, and is laughing about being careful what you wish for. I also heard from a friend who's a recent California transplant to Raleigh who was amused and amazed by the reactions, as blase as I am about the earth moving in small quake. (With that said, I guarantee you I won't be blase about a big one. They really are no laughing matter.)

      I heard Twitter was down for a little bit, once again easily overwhelmed by traffic, but just take a look at all the posts hashtagged with earthquake. It's pretty amazing.  One of my favorites: REPUTABLE NEWS SOURCES ARE REPORTING: That during the office productivity dropped 100%.
      I'm sure that's very true.

      And Seth Godin quickly penned a few thoughts about it on his blog,Two earthquake-related thoughts about human nature, that I thought were pretty spot on in the bigger picture.

      But really my point is, social media made this human connection possible and easy. Communicating with friends and family in a broadcast manner just happened, almost naturally. So if you're one of those doubting Thomases who thinks social media is just a fad, here's another nail in that particular coffin.
      Two Three new updates I just can't resist sharing. There's a new Facebook page,  I felt the East Coast Earthquake on 8/23/11 with over 10,000 members already. And Time magazine has already collected what they feel are the best earthquake tweets in 'Laughter Shocks': 13 Best Tweets About the East Coast Earthquake.

      And the best so far, NPR reports that Feds Launch App Contest For Facebook 'Lifelines' In Health Emergencies, just yesterday as a matter of fact, since we're coming into hurricane season.
      "The idea is to make it easy for Facebook users to beef up their own preparedness and strengthen their social connections in case something goes really wrong, such as a pandemic or earthquake.
      The competition will run till the end of hurricane season on Nov. 4."

      Social Networking Digital Fatigue

      I've been ruminating on this New York Times article that caught my eye before I went on vacation last week. Other than posting vacation photos on Facebook, and a few hours answering office emails, I was unplugged for almost an entire week, but I realized today it had been percolating while I wasn't thinking about it, as things often happen.

      In the article, "For the Plugged-In, Too Many Choices", Stephanie Rosenbloom interviews a few social media uber users who are starting to feel digital fatigue and social media burnout.

      Those who are connected (77% of the U.S. population as of 2010) have hopped onto the virtual social networking bandwagon in droves. This article is the second time in recent weeks that I've seen these stats cited:

      Put another way: one in every four-and-a-half minutes spent on the Web is spent on a social networking site or blog. And last year the average visitor spent 66 percent more time on such sites than in 2009, when early adopters were already feeling digitally fatigued.

      The relentless pressure to partake of the newest networks was underscored in June with the debut of Google+, Google’s social networking site. According to Nielsen, social networking is now the most popular online activity, ahead of sending e-mails, searching the Internet and playing games. 

      I love my job and my personal social networking, I have to admit. I can talk your ear off about it if you get me started. I see the paradigm shift in communications, marketing, and branding that are happening with social networking every day, and the immense value of being involved. But, at the same time, I feel like my social networking, both for my job and personally, are incessantly hungry baby birds, constantly and loudly squawking for content, content, and more content.

      I'm to the point now that for work, where I'm the social media manager for IBM Accessibility and have spent the last two years carefully and thoroughly building a following, that I dare not leave my hungry baby birds unattended for more than 12 hours, and one of my amazing colleagues, Fran Hayden, (yay, Fran!) backs me up when I'm out of the office. I know my hungry content chicks are in good hands when I'm away and Fran's on the job. But I've gotten the impression that she's always ready to hand the reins back as soon as I'm online again. :-)

      I've mentioned this to several friends and peers, and they all agree I'm behind the times by not using an automated syndication service. I know there are a lot of them out there, but for now I'm resisting. I like tailoring my news, thoughts and messages to the channel I'm posting in: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, my blog, our internal IBM Connections communities.

      And at the same time, I'm also watching my Klout and PeerIndex scores for both my professional and personal accounts, and realize how easy it would be to get sucked into the numbers game, yet completely accepting the value of metrics.

      Have I hit the digital fatigue wall? Not yet, and I think I'll be safe from it for a while, as long as I disconnect and do my best to stay unplugged when I'm recharging my batteries on vacation. We'll see how I do in a few months on the beaches of Maui, lol.

      10 Quick Tips to Master Twitter

       Tweeting is one of those social media channels that works really well for some people, and for others just feels like a fire hose of information, often irrelevant. But used correctly, it's a great news source on whatever topics you choose to follow, and it's also a great way to build your online reputation as a subject matter expert on whatever topic(s) you choose.

      So here are my ten Twitter tips:

      1) Be relevant and post regularly. If you're going to tweet about high tech and backpacking, then stay focused on high tech and backpacking blogs, photos, opinions, articles, websites. Most of us aren't Justin Bieber or President Obama, so relevance is important to us non-celebrities. And if you only tweet once or twice a week, you're not going to be noticed.

      2) Thank those who retweet your tweets and mention you. It takes just a couple of minutes and it's the polite and neighborly thing to do, and it helps build relationships.

      3) Be judicious about who you follow as you're building your following. It looks very fishy (spam alert) when you're following 592 Twitter accounts, but you're only being followed by 2.

      4) Check links before retweeting them. Make sure they're legitimate and referring back to tip #1 above, that they're relevant to your topics of interest and expertise. Use a link shortener such as or tinyURL or you'll quickly run out of characters just on the link.

      5) Do hashtag searches on the topics that you're tweeting about. You'll find some content gems. And use #hashtags when you can. It makes your tweets easier to find for someone who's searching on that particular topic.

      6) If you find relevant tweets, RT (retweet) or HT (heard through) them, giving the originators credit.  It's the neighborly thing to do. Don't be surprised if you see the same tweets originated by multiple tweeters. Some days are very slow news days.

      7) Remember that you only have 140 characters. If you continuously max out your characters, those who want to RT you are going to have to edit. Target 120 character tweets, so that retweeters can easily add RT @yourname without going over 140 characters.

      8) Post your Twitter ID everywhere you can -- email signature, business cards, blog, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

      9) Add your Twitter feed to your blog if you have one and your LinkedIn profile (of course you have one, right?). It shows your expertise and relevance.

      10) Don't automatically add your Twitter feed to your Facebook profile. The hashtags irritate non-Twitter users, and why be limited by 140 characters when you can use 420 on Facebook.

      Happy Tweeting!

      More Americans Are on Facebook Than Have Passports (and What It Means to Our Brains)

      Yes, that is a true statistic, according to a report I found today from Social Times, where they created some bullets and presented some interesting statistics, which it turns out they grabbed from a huge infographic from the team responsible for a new and not-yet-launched site called Tripl. Check out the ginormous infographic yourself here, or I can summarize that part of it really quickly for you:

      155,000,000 Americans are on Facebook communicating with friends & family
      but only
      115,000,000 Americans own a passport and can travel outside the U.S.

      So if I'm understanding this infographic correctly, 50% of the U.S. population is on Facebook, yet only 37% have a passport.  (You know, if you haven't yet, take a look at it — it's an impressive infographic, I have to say. And there's a lot more information than just about Facebook and passports. You can find out what percentage of the social networking travelers connect to their social graphs while traveling, which airlines have the most Facebook likes, etc, etc.)

      And when I first saw that headline, I was intrigued. Wow, that's really something, right? But now that I've got it sorted out, pondered it for a minute or two, I have to say what I'm thinking, which is, "So what?" At the end of the day what am I going to do with that information? I can tell you. Absolutely nothing. At some point, I might say to someone in a conversation, "Oh, I saw these statistics online that showed that more people are on Facebook than have passports.", but I guarantee you that I won't be able to state the numbers right then and there, because they never actually settled in — I've bookmarked the article for if I ever need the information, so I'm done with it.

      An article in the San Jose Mercury News published on 7/14/2011, Google is changing your brain, study says, and don't you forget it, confirmed something that I'd been thinking, at least about myself, for quite a while now, which is that in our now 24/7 wired world, we no longer need to memorize or even know facts and figures if we can look them up. The article confirms this, saying:

      When we know where to find information, we're less likely to remember it -- an amnesia dubbed The Google Effect by a team led by psychologist Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University.
      Goodbye, soul-searching; hello, facts-at-fingertips.

      The finding, published in Friday's issue of the journal Science, doesn't prove that Google, Yahoo, or other search engines are making us dumber, as some have asserted. We're still capable of remembering things that matter -- and are not easily found online, Sparrow said.
      Rather, it suggests that the human memory is reorganizing where it goes for information, adapting to new computing technologies rather than relying purely on rote memory. 
      We're outsourcing "search" from our brains to our computers.

       So we're not getting dumber, we're just outsourcing some functionality. Whew, what a relief! :-)

      How Facebook Has Become Today's Village Well

      Hmm. I really never thought I'd write a headline like that. But I was catching up on Facebook posts, and realized just how true it is.

      Well before the invention of the printing press, news was passed along in letters by the elite to the elite, but for the common people — most of whom were illiterate — all news was communicated verbally, face to face. (It does make you wonder about the veracity of the news by the time the last person got it — thinking of how the game of Telephone always worked out when we played as kids.) And what better place to meet and share news of the day than at one of the common destinations of villagers — the community well. Water for the household was a daily need, and when you get down to it, so was the social connection — the life and breath of a village or community. Reputations were made or broken, alliances forged or dissolved, news and gossip were shared. All around the simple task of getting water from a well.

      Jump forward hundreds of years to our current lifestyle. Illiteracy, while still an issue, is the exception rather than the rule. Neighborhoods were built around the car and the wide streets it requires, not the footpaths and walkways that encourage walking and biking and neighborly interaction. Often neighbors don't know each other more than to wave in passing. Colleagues and friends are spread across the globe. But throw in this newfangled set of communication channels known as social networking, and all of a sudden, our large and disconnected world has become smaller, more connected, and more personal again. Many would argue that if it's not face-to-face it's not real, or it doesn't count, but I would argue that it does — we just happen to be connecting across long distances and different time zones, virtually. And communication is communication — whether it's face to face, by phone, by Skype, by handwritten letter or postcard, by email, or by social media channel. Sarcasm is the one tone or emotion that doesn't travel well via the online communication channels, but hope, joy, happiness, anger, disappointment — the entire range of human emotions travel quite well. (Sarcasm doesn't travel well across languages either, so it seems best used sparingly except for face-to-face interactions with close associates.)

      On the serious side of personal news, I found out a friend's father in another state had a medical setback, but is now doing well — via her Facebook postings. A colleague's mother passed away several days ago, and again, I found out from Facebook. I know when my father passed away seven months ago, one of the few people who'd actually been notified by phone posted her condolences on my Facebook wall, and it saved me the many, many calls I wasn't up to making or receiving the first few days, yet people found out about our loss, brought dinner, sent flowers, or sent along their thoughts and prayers, which made me feel connected and cared about in both my virtual and real communities.

       I love logging into Facebook in the morning — checking to see what's been happening while I've been away, and whose birthday it is, who from my past or present has tracked me down and requested connecting. I had a birthday last week, and of course Facebook told all of my friends. And I have to admit, it's a great feeling to have so many people all over the world acknowledging your existence and wishing you a wonderful day, lol.

      Am I giving up face to face interactions or phone calls? Not on your life — I cherish all of my personal connections, it just doesn't matter to me whether they're sitting at the table across from me, or sitting at a computer across the world. We're still connecting, and that's what it's all about.

      No Internet Access is a Pain in the Derriere in Addition to Being a Human Rights Issue

      I'm always amazed how dependent we are on our Internet connection, and it's never brought home more than when my connection at home is out, as it seems to happen about once every 18 months. I had a notice on my door two days ago that my phone company was going to be upgrading equipment in my neighborhood, which was also obvious by the spray painted instructions on the street next to my driveway.

      I called the phone number on the flyer, and talked to the tech who answered, telling him that I worked at home and really needed to not lose my connection when he was tearing up the street and installing whatever he was installing, and was absolutely assured that my service would not be interrupted.

      So of course today I'm on the phone with a colleague, getting ready to select images together for a video we're working on, and boom! No phone, no Internet. I call the tech (smart to save his number, lol), and ask him if he's working on my street. No, he says, not him. (I suspect he was down about 4 blocks at the big box which is where the problem always is). And then I had to dig up the old printed phone book to find a number to call for phone service, because I have no Internet to look up the number. After going through menu after menu, after menu, online tests, waiting on hold, I was informed that yes, I do have a technical problem, and the technician can be out to my house as soon as tomorrow at 8 am. The window of course is 8 am to 7 pm. Really? An 11 hour window? Well, I never did talk to a human, but my automated response experience was lengthy, but satisfactory.

      So now I'm on my second visit to Starbucks today (thank you Starbucks for free wifi!), until my battery runs out again (I made it 2.5 hours earlier today).

      But in addition to not being able to work — no email, no Internet access, no social media, no collaboration, no calendar to figure out who I'm supposed to be on the phone with when, but really just no anything, I realized I also can't easily transfer money between my accounts, look up a doctor to see if he's on my insurance, pay my daughter's remaining camp deposit, or post on my Team in Training blog. I have a smartphone, but you know, I'm seriously not even considering doing all of this stuff on it because — 1) all of my bookmarks are on my computer and 2) it is slow!!!! Reminds me of the bad old days of dial up.

       Because I work in accessibility I'm well aware of the United Nations report released earlier this month that declares Internet access is a human right. The first few paragraphs of the article in the link state:

      A United Nations report released Friday declares Internet access a human right. Presented to the General Assembly, the report by UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue states that, "the Internet has become a key means by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom and expression."

      As LaRue highlighted, Internet access can be particularly valuable during times of political unrest, as evidenced in the Arab Spring uprisings. LaRue emphasized the power of the Internet as a communication medium and said in his report that, "given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states.
       And of course, you think, yes, that's right, it is! And not just for all of the amazing things you can do with social media channels and the Internet: expressing your human rights, overthrowing corrupt governments, saving lives in Japan, and connecting with your friends and colleagues all over the world, but darn it, every day mundane things like Internet banking, looking up phone numbers, making online purchases (thank goodness I purchased my case of Gu endurance sports nutrition last night before I went to bed), reading the news, and a multitude of other things. It's amazing how much of our lives has moved online.

      When did Internet access become so ubiquitous that it's now a human rights issue? I think I blinked and missed it. :-)

      The Paradox of Privacy and Anonymity

      Last week I was on a monthly call with my mentor (if you don’t have a mentor in your organization, I highly recommend you get one – I find my mentor’s insight and suggestions always invaluable – I never finish a call with her without having jotted down several websites to check out and names of people to network with), and in the course of our discussion, I mentioned that I recently spent some time one evening Googling myself and checking what information is available online about me. While we were on the phone, she Googled herself and quickly found herself on the Spokeo website, which had ranked high in her Google search listing. She was unhappily surprised that her Spokeo listing was so complete, including the names of her husband and kids. She immediately filled out the form to remove herself from their database. Before I removed my Spokeo entry, I remember it linking me to my siblings, parents, and including a guesstimated mortgage balance and salary.

      But as Spokeo itself points out, it’s just an aggregator – it gathers information from third party sources such as phonebooks, social networks, real estate records, online maps and marketing surveys. So removing yourself from Spokeo only deletes your Spokeo entry – not the information in all of the other databases you’re in. (However I still recommend you do it – here’s the page.)

      Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /
       I posted the same information about the need to Google yourself on a regular basis on my Facebook page later than night, and again, had an interesting conversation going. One friend pointed out that she found all sorts of information about her father on Spokeo, yet he almost never was on the Internet, and certainly was not sharing any personal information if he was online. Another friend shared that she'd found she was labeled as belonging to a particular religion based only on her last name, even though she wasn't affiliated with that religion, and she would have never filled out anything claiming that she was.

      I think I’m fairly savvy about how judicious I am about sharing information – even though we all know (or should) that there is no true privacy on the Internet. My Facebook privacy settings are set to friends only. I never answer marketing questions about my salary. My mortgage balance is known only to my bank and me. From my LinkedIn profile, you can easily find out which companies I’ve worked for, and for how long, and I’m fine with that. Yet the sources Spokeo used had it all anyhow.

      This ability to sift through our online presence and extract information about us is a marketer’s dream, and as a marketer I can appreciate that. (Google, Facebook and LinkedIn are appreciating it too, since ad revenue is the reason their income and market valuations are so high.) No longer do we marketers have to pay huge sums to saturate the marketplace with our messages to get the number of impressions we’re seeking. Instead, we can market to consumers personally, entirely based on an analysis of each person's online presence. The advantage to you (and me) as consumers is that we no longer have to wade through pages and pages of irrelevant products and services to find the specific topics we’re interested in. Individually targeted marketing is our new reality.

      And here’s where I get to the paradox. How could the online world where controlling the release of our private information is a constant struggle concurrently create an environment where the availability of anonymous posting has spawned anonymous cyberbullies, called trolls?

      I enjoy reading articles, blogs, and opinion pieces online, and I’ve always enjoyed reading and learning from other readers’ reactions to and opinions of the articles and news. But, I’m noticing an increase in that kind of obnoxious troll behavior in the comments of many blogs and news articles — the most amazingly racist, homophobic, and mean-spirited venom spewing from someone’s keyboard – and all because the author can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. Are there really that many maladjusted souls out there? Or is it the modern day, online equivalent to the mob mentality — the groups responsible for lynching, witch burning and the like?  Mob members feel free to ignore normal societal behavior constraints due to the protection gained by the inherent anonymity of a mob — activities that they would never take part in if they could be identified individually. Where because the troll’s (or mob member’s) neighbors, family members, boss or colleagues are unaware of the troll’s participation in the hatemongering, the troll feel free to get away with it.

      I started this blog post last night and I found a spot-on supporting article this morning on Twitter (thanks @eric_andersen), which gives a psychological viewpoint on how the anonymity of the web affects those who troll: Anonymous alcoholics? Study finds web trolls get a feeling of abandon similar to drunks.

      Similar to other advances in technology there always seem to be the potential for good and the potential for evil, and the Web and social networking are no exception. There are so many potential positives: collaboration, crowdsourcing, learning, teaching, exchanging viewpoints, and connecting with people across the globe. But we still need to remain vigilant about the flip, darker side – constantly checking on and controlling the sharing of our personal information, and working to disable the mob mentality that encourages web trolls.