Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why Reading is a Flawed Dying Technology with Ed Castillo

Presenter: Ed Castillo, CSO, NY, TBWA\Chiat\Day
Hashtags: #DodoMedium

The title of this talk was just too good to pass up. Castillo admitted right off, he named the talk purposefully to get people riled up. Folks are touchy about reading; it's a sacred cow. Before anyone could light a torch and grab a pitchfork, he clarified: Curling up with a book is an artistic experience. That's not what he is talking about. He's talking about reading as a form of communication.

First, is reading dying or is it simply flawed? Castillo asked, are you reading less? If the answer is yes, that is support for the idea that reading is dying. He argues that it is also flawed.

If the intention of writing, speaking and gesturing is to communicate, then writing just isn't as good as other visuals. Writing is an imperfect medium for communicating. It's a point that is hard to argue with. We know the best form of communication is typically face-to-face. Little of what we are communicating is in our words alone, so how can writing do our message justice.

Castillo said, "I’m not trying to burn down the libraries..." If that's a reference to the future of books versus other media, I say, "Don't worry about us, Ed, we're way ahead of you."

Libraries have been thinking about the evolution of communication and our role in the changing media landscape for decades. But often we cling to traditional styles in our own communications.

In libraries, we use writing as a default mechanism for relaying information. How and when could we find other ways to communicate? I think there are a number of obvious answers worth exploring, but I also think this question could lead to some interesting discussion about new opportunities to communicate with our users. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tweet Like a Roman with Tom Standage

Presenter: Tom Standage, Digital Editor, The Economist
Hashtag: #RomanTweet

This was one of the SxSW "Future 15" sessions, which I love as a presentation format. Normal sessions are one hour, but Future 15s pack four sessions into an hour session. It forces speakers to get to the best information quickly. If a session turns out to be less than stellar, you only have to wait for 15 minutes. If the session are great (and usually they are) you get four times the sessions in one sitting.

"Tweet Like a Roman" wasn't as professionally educational as some, but it was super fun and very interesting. Standage spent his 15 minutes explaining how early communication was actually social media. For example, Romans depended on social distribution of media. They used abbreviations to keep messages short. They used tablet-like devices to record messages. They also used social connections to get ahead.

Standage gave a TEDx talk very similar to his SxSW presentation. You can watch him pack an hour's worth of information into 16 minutes below. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Travel Must Haves: Airplane Edition

I'm taking a weekend break from the SxSW updates to blog something a bit more personal. John and I are in countdown mode for our next trip (Ecuador!), and being the organizing geek that I am, I already obsessing over what to pack.

We're 25+ countries in to our mission to see the world, so you'd think I have this down by now. But every place is different, and we learn something new about travel each time. I was looking for posts on "Travel Must Haves," and I was a bit disappointed. I just kept thinking, my existing list is better than these. So I thought I'd share.

The complete list is pretty long, so I'm breaking it up. Here are must haves for the plane. I think you'll see my themes are stay warm and hydrate.

  • Snacks: Depending on the length of the flight, I pack a couple granola bars to sandwiches and sides. I get hunger-rage, so keeping my blood sugar level is vital to a happy flight. Seriously, if I got hungry enough the flight marshals would probably get called in. Rules are always changing, but typically you can get your food through security no problem as long as it's not a liquid. 
  • Water: Dehydration is what makes you feel icky after a flight. You won't get a bottle of water through security, but you can buy it after the checkpoint (or fill up your own at a water fountain) and bring it on the plane with you. I've had some international carriers prohibit this, but it's always worth a shot. 
  • Fuzzy Socks: Even on the shortest flights, I bring a thick pair of sock to change into. Those planes are cold! Fuzzy socks keep me warm and comfy. 
  • Neck Pillow & Blanket: Sure they'll provide these, just try not to think about where they've been. For longer flights when I know I'll want to sleep, I bring my own. I like an inflatable neck pillow (to save room in the bag) and a small throw-sized fleece blanket. 
  • Hand Wipes & Hand Sanitizer: Have I mentioned that planes are dirty, groody places? I wouldn't recommend washing your hands in the lavatory, much less your face. Hand wipes and sanitizer are a must to feel good and stay healthy. Use them before eating anything and any time you start feel grimy. 
  • Lotion, Moisturizing Spritz & Lip Balm: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, any way you can. These are essential for longer flights. I have this wonderful moisturizing aromatherapy face mist, I can't fly without it. Add some lotion and lip balm, and you can exit a 14 hour flight without feeling like the cryptkeeper.
  • Reading Material: Just duh. Don't underestimate how much you can read on a flight/trip. I once plowed through 8 books in a 2 week trek across India. E-readers are great for packing an assortment of books and magazines without bursting your carry on (or your baggage weight limit). 
  • Earbuds: Again, where have those prepacked headphones been? Answer, you don't want to know. Bring your own. Pro tip: pop them in with or without music to get the guy next to you to stop talking to you. 

So what am I missing? What are your must haves for the plane?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Compelling Image in the Age of Social Media: a Workshop

The number of workshops offered at this year's SxSW was greatly expanded. These hands-on sessions tended to span two or more time slots. It's hard enough to choose sessions, so to give up multiple time slots, a workshop needs to be pretty darn special. I was glad I gave up two and half hours of my first afternoon for Marty Coleman's photo mini-class.

The name of the session was a bit misleading. We talked very little about social media. It was actually a basic photography class using only smartphones.

The phone you carry around everyday has a better camera on it than any digital camera we had access to 10 years ago, but for some reason, many people don't trust their phone cameras. I don't know if early cell cameras tainted their view, or if they just haven't mastered holding the tiny panel still while tapping the screen.

In my office, we're already using our smartphones to capture a lot of the images we share on the Library's accounts. The intern team is particularly good at this. They'll see something interesting while they are walking into work, snap a photo with their phone and then upload when they get into the office. This workshop helped me realize that with a little instruction and a little motivation, all our employees could be contributing great images for our accounts.

If you've ever taken a basic photography class most of the lighting and composition techniques you learned will apply to smartphone images. Get good front lighting, look for interesting angles, and play attention to your composition.

We did a handful of quick photo exercises, but my favorite was looking for compelling images of empty spaces. If you've ever tried to put together a quote on photo, you'll appreciate this one. These popular social media postings work best when the majority of the picture provides a neutral canvas for your words.

Hashtags: #sxsw #compelling

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Austin Kleon Keynote

The keynotes at SxSW tend to be big picture, fairly basic and more on the inspirational versus informational side. This was true of Austin Kleon's opening keynote. For me one of the best things to come from this talk was discovering Austin's site

Kleon talked about the process of creativity and the importance of sharing not just the finished product but also the work that got us there. He claims that opening up and sharing your process brings you closer to an audience, adds value to your work, and makes you better at what you do.

He had a great insight for sharing behavior online. He said, when you share other people's work treat it with the same amount of respect you would treat your own work. I really like this concept, and it seems like a nice frame to promote ethical behavior online.

Hashtags: #showURwork

Monday, March 31, 2014

Workplace Redesign with John Hagel

It took me nearly nearly a year to get through posting notes from last year's South by Southwest, and now it's time to start over. Here's the first in many installments from my SxSW2014 adventures.

Presenter: John Hagel, Chairman, Center for the Edge, Deloitte
Hashtags: #WPRedesign

Hagel gave a great talk about work environments and his take on how we should be thinking about our employees. He said most businesses and organizations understand a need for talent recruitment and retention. The missing piece, Hagel argues, is talent development. What would the work environment look like if our top goal was to maximize talent development.

There was a lot of great food for thought in this talk, but my favorite part was his take on passion in the workplace. Hagel suggests what we need are passionate explorers. These workers have a long term commitment to a domain. They have a questing personality, and they actively seek out new opportunities. They have a connecting disposition: they seek out people to help when confronted with a challenge.

In the US, study found 11% of workers have this. "Engaged Employees" are happy with their jobs but often they don't want to change. These are not the same as "Passionate Explorers." Passionate explorers are often frustrated because they focus on how things could be improved.

Intrigued? The entire talk is now online. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Data, Storytelling and Breaking Through the Noise, SxSW 2013 recap

With information overload, how does your brand break through the noise? How do you earn trust in a fragmented 24/7 media world? Storytelling can reset legacy brands, launch unknown brands and reach consumers in ways that go beyond the noise. Unfortunately, most brands will suck at storytelling because they won't do what good storytelling requires. Stories have conflict and villains, winners and losers. They have personality and flaws, great highs and severe lows. And today, stories are supported and in some cases driven by data. Whether your brand is B2C or B2B, data can help shape the story you want to tell.

In this session, the panel explored how data driven stories can have significant impact for connecting with the audiences you want to reach.

This was one of my favorite sessions at the 2013 SxSW. You can read more about it at Storify.

Hashtags: #BrandStory

  • Coca-Cola is using the site to turn visitors in super fans and ambassadors. The Coke rep claimed that "Journey" tells stories. It's not a shill for Coke. They run no advertising, not even Coke ads.  
  • Target produces behind the scenes video, Bull's Eye View, to feed the "infolust." The Target rep stressed that you need support from the top because it is a commitment to continue producing and providing access. You don't want to lose audience and hurt the brand. 
Take Aways & Library Applications:
  • Panelist introduced the idea of an "Expression Index." For example, EI= [Views x 1] + [Facebook Likes x 4] + [Comments x Y] + etc. Can we examine our expression index? What are we already doing in this vein? What else could we do?
  • Use data to decide which stories to tell. Ask "will people share this?" That is your filter.
    At the Library, we have conversations about share-ability in our content development. We have some data we base this conversations on. How often do we need to be collecting?
  • A visit is not a visit. What do they do there? How many stories do they view? How long are they on site? How much do they share?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Alcoholic Designs Organization, Shenanigans Ensue: SxSW 2013 recap

Much of how we “do work,” has changed in recent years, yet little has changed in how we design organizations. Our antiquated organizational and management models are ill-equipped to marshal the intangible assets so integral to how we create value today - things like diversity, creativity, identity and dissent.

Interestingly, Alcoholics Anonymous is not organized in any formal sense and is sometimes referred to as a benign anarchy, yet it has grown consistently since its beginning and has been incredibly successful. It has done this without a highly paid CEO, branding consultants or social media gurus. AA seems to have some valuable lessons for us as we work to architect organizations better able to thrive on today’s terrain.

Hashtags: #organize15

Take Aways/Library Applications:
AA has no CEO, no chief marketer, and no marketing budget. But you can always find an AA meeting; it's been running successfully since 1935.

It has:
  • Clarity of purpose:
    It helps alcoholics stop drinking. Simple enough. In our organizations, what looks like resistance is often lack of clarity
  • Choice-it's powerful.
    How do we put choice in the workplace? Our speaker suggested volunteer meetings. This tells you what is important to people and what is not. 
  • Principles over personalities
    It's not able who you are or what your title is. What is important is why we are here. 
  • Truth
    Do you have headquarters truth and ground truth? That is dangerous to the organization. 
  • No management
    Can your organization reduce the role of management?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day from Edmon Low

It's been a while since I've shared one of the Library's videos here, but our latest offering is getting a lot of attention. Our spring featurette is a spoof on "The Bachelor," and it's hilarious. The feedback we're getting is that this is one of our best efforts so far.

I'm particularly proud of the consistently great acting our intern team provides. They really put themselves out there and get silly for us.