Random Thoughts & Observations Backwards and Forward

by Marianne Richmond on December 31, 2006

 Last year I titled my end of year post Lies Damn Lies and Lists. I suggested that I could put Stop Procrastinating at the top of any of my resolution lists and used the fact that I was writing about the number of people writing lists rather than writing a list as an example of procrastination.

This year, I could use the fact that I am writing about this on New Year’s Day versus New Year’s Eve as an example of procrastination or unachieved goals. Instead, I am just going to revise my definition of procrastination to mean that I am thinking about it before doing it; or merely in fortuitous agreement with The Trusted Advisor who suggests making a Gratitude List versus a Resolution List.

In lieu of a resolution list then here is a random look back at 2006 from MY perspective which will include a bit of gratitude and knowing me, a few complaints ( or as I like to imagine them, observations) By random I just mean in no particular order (just blame continuous partial attention and age for the latter, I do).

So randomly, some observations about other end of year observations…

At this time of year, there are always quite a few Best of lists being published…Gawker even has a Definitive Best of the Best of the Best of Lists (so far). Since the post was written on December 26th the so far was perhaps worthy of the best qualifier of the best of lists.

43 Things has the definitive posts on New Year’s Resolutions. It includes a "how to" post on writing achievable goals, and other New Years Resolution writing tips and a 2007 top resolution list according to readers of 43 Things. Of course setting goals and being supportive of goal setting is what 43 Things is all about. To note, Stop procrastinating is #5 on the 43 Things list. Other goal setting places, Super Viva, Tools to Life (Beta…seems ironic).

As I am writing this (this was yesterday when I started this), Fox News is blithely alternating coverage of the hanging of Saddam Hussein ( or should I say the (hanging Saddam Hussein?) and the lying in state of Gerald Ford in the Capital Rotunda; If I were compiling a list on the ironic parallel news events of the year, this would have to be at the top. I guess add in a little dose of Michael Jackson at James Brown’s funeral with the Fox headline: Michael Jackson, Homeless and Alone and you have more irony, if not absurdity. It gives the truly homeless a bad name.

Last year the Edge Annual Question was "What is Your Dangerous Idea?" The dangerous ideas included one from Daniel Goleman, , Cyber-disinhibition. His "idea" contained the thought that the internet is having a negative effect on the quality of our interactions.

Cyber-disinhibition is probably most simply explained as bad manners on the internet. As Goleman explains, "The internet inadvertently underlines the quality of human interaction, allowing destructive emotional impulses freer reign under specific circumstances." His concern (or dangerous thought) was, " the Internet may harbor social perils our inhibitory circuitry was not designed to handle in evolution."

As Goleman explains it, our brains are wired to connect in real time with ongoing feedback. On the internet, he says, this is not possible; so that in the absence of being able to read signals from others, our natural inhibitions don’t intervene to keep us from behaving inappropriately.

I didn’t agree with his premise then and I still don’t. David Poque of the NYT does agree…or at least believes that on-line manners are declining rapidly. He writes, "But instead of finding common ground, we’re finding new ways to spit on the other guy, to push them away. The Internet is making it easier to attack, not to embrace." there were 483 comments to his article, mostly supporting his premise.

Maybe I have had too much Kool-Aid this year and am judging the Internet by blogs, but I think online connections are making the world smaller, increasing the scope of our "visibility" and therefore decreasing anonymity, and in fact redefining "real time." Not that there aren’t rude people online or rude comments on blogs. There were many discussions about this all year, see Kathy Sierra, Signal vs Noise. I just think as an over all rule of thumb, rude people are rude online or off.

In January of 2006, the Pew Internet & American Life Project documented the Strength of Internet Ties and indicated that "Rather than conflicting with people’s community ties, we find that the internet fits seamlessly with in-person and phone encounters."

Even more interesting, in November, the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future declared a major shift in social communication and personal connections on the Internet. They found that 43% of Internet users who belong to online communities feel "as strongly about’ their virtual communities as they do their "real word" communities."

My conclusion? Goleman argument though logical, is simply incorrect. Similarly to Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam which concludes that social capital is declining in the US and that we are becoming a nation of strangers, Goleman’s premise seems to disregard the social web. It is my observation that social ties are growing stronger, thanks to blogs and online communities and that looking forward to 2007 and beyond, this will continue. An additional bonus is a Renaissance in writing. It seemed that cheap long distance was killing letter writing; now in a sense it is verbal conversation skills that may be declining.

This year’s Edge Question is What Are You Optimistic About? I wonder about the significance of danger to optimism?

Other interesting end of year lists:

Other noteworthy concepts from 2006:

Ted Leonis of AOL gave the Day 1 keynote at the WOMMA Summit in December and made the statement: “Marketing isn’t just to people anymore. You have to market to algorithms.” He is right and it is one of those model changing statements.

The significance of the marketing to algorithms and people comment was captured by Max Kalehoff. He writes that "marketers must re-build their consumer decision making models….and replace them with all behaviors that create halos of meta data which algorithms process, mediate and disperse to others." He continues with the observation that algorithms are defining our lives and changing the consumer mental models….no algorithms, no engagement.

Leonis gave an interview in November 2006 with the Washington Post that highlighted one of the key reasons for a corporation to blog, in an algorithm world. He started blogging because he didn’t like what he saw when he "Googled" himself. On January 4, 2006 Ted wrote a blog post on why he was blogging; it was the connection, the social dynamic.  He said, "Blogs are one of the next steps in the continuing social dynamic that makes up the online world, and they are perhaps the single best device yet invented to spark new conversations and launch new ideas…In short, your personal blog is a way to leave your footprints in the sand."

Rex Hammock explained the Google version with a nod to Mark Cuban: "Ted Leonis is a blog pimp..{by} creating a blog and posting regularly {he could} game the Google algorithms with what he wanted the results to be."

Nicholas Carr named this style of blogging "defensive blogging" and stated that Leonis wasn’t trying to engage the community in conversation but to manipulate the flow of information for his own benefit. Whether Ted Leonis’ strategy is viewed as a ride on the Clue Train or a derailment, the outcome is an answer to "why blog?" He Googles like he wants to and he has a platform for addressing and diffusing AOL screw ups. Ironically, Google doesn’t seem to get the latter, Mario at Marketing Nirvana notes.Sam Decker has a post that delineates the other 16 points that Leonis made.

Conferences and Conference Blogging

I had the opportunity in 2006 to live blog at WOMMA Wombat 1 &2, The Forrester Consumer Forum, and the WOMMA Summit. The experiences go on the Gratitude List….the opportunity to meet so many awesome bloggers face to face and to learn so much from both hearing the speakers but also in discussions that followed. At the risk of being un-bloggy I am not going to provide a list of names because I know I will leave someone out…

 Sam Decker has a post that talks about 15 Ideas to Create a Great Conference. They were all great suggestions. Nicole Simon offers some suggestions on conference connectivity. Live blogging at conferences is a great concept…it just needs to be planned into the conference, not at the conference from both a technology standpoint as well as an audience standpoint; in other words, who the audience will be: attendees and/or non-attendees. This will make a huge difference in the logistics and the content and I think really fulfill the potential.

I think the most important concepts from all the conferences were : influence/influencers, relevancy, engagement, experience, attention and measurement.

And…

My oldest son turned sixteen this year which means he is driving; it is one of those mother liberating milestones that begins with he slept through the night, followed by such momentous occasions as end of baby carrier, end of diapers, end of car seat, he is in school all day….it feels strange at first, disorienting even. Not that you miss hauling around the baby carrier or buying diapers but it takes some getting use to. The driving thing is the same. You think how you are going to manage to be in all those places at one time and then you realize, he can drive himself, yippee!

My neice found out that she and her husband are going to have a baby in July. That makes my younger sister a grandmother, my mother a great grandmother and me a great aunt. Well, I am still getting used to the driving…

New for 2007, a MacBook and a Blackberry Pearl from T-Mobile. Sony customer service/tech support is dreadful and Sprint’s is worse; I am sending my 6 month old Vaio to Sony this week and hopefully they can fix it; I don’t have much confidence. I am stuck with a Sprint contract (exact time TBD by yet another argument with the ironically named retention department…seems they gave me an increase in minutes and fixed some other of their mistakes never once mentioning the words, we are extending your contract; then I get a little love note from them with the words, extending your contract.)

T-Mobile customer service so far is awesome….AppleCare was closed last time I had a question. Time will tell. As Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote in regards to the Microsft Vista laptop debacle, "Ultimately all these companies are probably a lot like cell phone providers. Which is the least ugly one in the room? I wouldn’t chose at all if I didn’t have to."

Best wishes for 2007 to all…start your engines!

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