Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Open Letter to SOPA Supporters

I've been thinking a lot about SOPA this week. I even watched some of the hearings which was really discouraging. If you're not up-to-speed, watch this 4 minute video:

Or, if you want a funnier version, watch this video by The Colbert Report.

I read a post by Dave Delaney this morning which links to Seth Godin's list of corporations, lawyers and boards who want to break the Internet. As I read through that list, I started to get really fired up. You should contact your representatives about this. But how about taking it a step further? How about contacting the companies directly responsible? Here's my open letter to them. If you agree, please send it along to them or create your own. As always, please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Dear Media Conglomerate:

What is your legacy worth to you? What do you believe about freedom? Please don't let short-sighted greed destroy both.

Your lobbying and support of Protect IP and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a sad and desperate move. I used to think this legislation was about piracy. Now I think it's about control. Old media is passing away. New media will not be centrally managed. You were born in an era where creators of art needed publishers to survive. Today, those creators are the publishers. Just this week a comedian made over $500,000 in 4 days on his own. You weren't needed. Your control over media selection and distribution is a thing of the past.

The free-market economy (which you have benefited so greatly from) only works when entities are allowed to be born while others adapt, pivot or die. Just like Blockbuster and Barnes and Noble, you're at a crossroads. You have to adjust in order to survive. By that's not the direction you're going, is it? Instead of playing fair and adjusting your business to serve the changing needs of your customers, you're trying to change the rules. You incentivize government staff members with cushy jobs to draft legislation in your favor. You are spending money to create a system which gives a scary amount of control to the government (and those with a strong team of lawyers). Doesn't that go against the ideals of our founding fathers? How is that not corruption? Do you think small businesses like mine can afford to police our servers or risk being shut down because of one criminal? Do you really expect us to put our trust and the welfare of our families and customers in the proper interpretation of this vaguely worded bill?

I watched some of the hearings this week and it was almost embarrassing. Some of the biggest supporters said things like "I'm not a nerd" and "I don't understand all the technical details." When faced with clear concerns from expert nerds who do understand the details, they could not give a concise response. It's almost like they are pushing this bill forward as quickly as possible because of some other agenda or force behind the scenes.

Could that be you?

Is piracy a problem? Yes. Are there ways to solve it using the free-market economy and not arm-twisting our government officials to pass legislation they don't understand? Yes. Look at how much the music industry has changed in the last 5 years. Delivering products in the way customers want will help the piracy issue. Prosecuting criminals will also help. It's naive and irresponsible of you or the government to think this legislation will fix the problem. Hackers and geeks understand this stuff way better than you ever will, and they will always find a work around to do the evil things they've pre-determined to do. What we can do is arrest them for breaking existing laws and use them as public examples of thieves stealing from artists.

Please, understand the long-term affects of what you're doing here. It's a scary place to see your control over something slip away. Show us your integrity by rising above that fear and adapting to the new realities of media distribution. Don't erode our freedom. Don't destroy your legacy in our minds. How can we do business with you if it costs us our freedom?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How Living on a Boat for Two Years Shaped My Life

Edit 2016-08-25: this post now lives on Steemit! Join up and give it an upvote. Thanks!

I have concerns about our culture and its need for "comfort" above all else. Entitlement is running rampant. How are we building character?
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
Romans 5:3-4
Adventures - my home in 1994
When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents ran into financial trouble and we had to sell our house and move on to a 48-foot sailboat named Adventures. Sounds exotic, but it was anything but. We were out on a mooring and had a nasty El Niño that year. I can remember the rain soaking me to my socks while picking up family members at the dock via our dingy. You could say we were early adopters though, since we were the only ones I knew who had pagers. To get home, we had to drop a quarter in the 15th street pay phone, send a code of "15", and hope whoever we paged wasn't taking a nap.

There were 5 of us on board. My brother was off to college, my sister and I were two years apart and my little brother (11 years younger) was there along with my parents. We didn't have much money and sometimes used the oven to heat the boat. I got used to reading and doing homework by oil lamp. I'll never forget the cold showers. By a sick twist of fate, I also broke my arm in half that year (I still have two plates and 11 screws in there). We had no TV and little entertainment. Prior to 1995, I hated reading. But that summer I started with Tom Clancy novels and the Dark Tower series and ended up reading 13 books. I found a love for reading that has served me to this day.

I learned how to make due with what I have. I learned some of the true values of life. One Christmas on that boat, having no money, we all wrote each other letters detailing how much we love, respect and appreciate one another. To this day, that was one of the best Christmas I've ever had.

Real life, the love you have for family and friends, doesn't change whether you are with or without money. What does change (if you let it) is your character and your sense of entitlement.

That's a lesson I could only learn having been with money and without it. True character can't be bought or borrowed. It has to be earned via the experiences of life. Don't complain about your circumstances. Instead, look for opportunities to implement perseverance. Take note of the character you're building and ask yourself if it could be built any other way.

You can only know what you're made of when you're truly in the fire. Don't jump out too quickly. Comfort isn't always worth the price you'll pay in the long run to miss out on the character you need.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Story of a Self-Replicating Post

We need to do away with the term "go viral" and replace it with something else. I want to encourage people, not give them a cold.

If you're into social media, you've probably read a bunch of blogs about how to write something that "goes viral" and you may have actually tried it. Did it work? Chances are, it didn't. I've often thought if I could just craft the perfect Tweet, I'd get hundreds of RTs and everyone would think I was... significant? I think that's what I was going for, but that's a different post for another time.

I realized this week, there is a lot more that goes into it than just the content. Take Sunday's post on Klout, for example. I thought it was a good post but I didn't get any retweets about it when I published it. Afterwards, I tried an experiment to inject myself into some relevant conversations by searching for Klout on Google+ and contributing some comments. Two of the posts I found were on a site called In order to comment, I had to make an account. Later I noticed you could add your blog RSS feed so I did that, updated my profile and went to bed.

Monday morning I started seeing some tweets about my post... but they weren't going to my blog, they were pointing to my article on Social Media Today! I was so stoked! I had been published. Monday and Tuesday of this week were so much fun. As of this writing, there are over 1,360 views and 360+ tweets on the article in less than three days! That may not be "self-replicating" to you, but for me that's the closest thing I've ever done.

How did it happen?

We've already established it wasn't just the content. Few people know about my blog, so positioning is important. Social Media Today (I've discovered) has a pretty loyal following of people that trust their content and want to share it. Granted, the content was relevant and did tie into some important emotions around trust, self-worth and a sense of identity... but remember, the content itself didn't cause it to spread. It was more than that. It was also timing and luck.

There's a lot of buzz about Klout right now. Did I try to "jump on that bandwagon" like many of the "go viral" posts suggest? Honestly, I didn't. I had once tweeted a picture of my Klout score dropping and when I noticed it jump up again I snapped another shot and thought, huh, that would be interesting to blog about.

That was it: positioning, timing and dumb luck.

Are there professionals who can bust out incredible content everyone needs to share every time? Maybe. Seth and Simon come to mind, but they have an established brand to lean on. There may be some tricks to it, but I honestly don't think anyone has it fully figured out. Who can say for sure what's going to get shared?

So moving along with our story, I asked a friend if I should reply to everyone who shared my post and thank them (which I try to always do for this blog). She told me how when her guest post went huge, she did thank as many people as possible. I work for myself and I can make the time, so I thought... what the heck. How long could it take?

Today I spent hours individually thanking over 200 people on Twitter.

Was it a good use of my time? Maybe not. I've got a company to help run, a team to lead and customers to serve. But I also thought, how many other opportunities will I have to reach out to hundreds of people on Twitter and thank them? I used a search tool, organized all the names in a spreadsheet (because I'm a nerd), and started thanking them one at a time.

It was time consuming but I think it was valuable because I learned more about Twitter. I've been learning a lot about Twitter lately because I want to better understand social media and how more people can be served by my business through it.

You may find some of my observations today amusing:
  • Some people tweet way too much without saying anything.
  • Resharing Mashable is not a social activity.
  • Your Twitter feed should be more than an RSS feed. Tell me what you think.
  • If you call yourself a social media coach and you're not "social" online, you're doing it wrong, and you're leading people nowhere.

Beyond what I learned, I also grew and stretched. I had some great conversations via Twitter extending the ideas already discussed. I also got some new followers. Most importantly, people encouraged me to keep writing. I got a sense that my ideas mattered to real people and they thanked me for writing them.

At the end of the day, that's what causes something to get shared. Someone has to care about it.

Some comments I'd love to see below:

What's a better term than "go viral"?
Have you ever had a post self-replicate? What was it like for you (and can you share the post with us)?
Do you feel some people are missing the "social" part of social media and just using it as an RSS feed?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Don't Trust Klout

There was a lot of hubbub on the interwebs when Klout recently changed their scoring algorithm to make things more accurate. The problem is, they still haven't figured it out and according to this ZDNET article describing the craziness, your score does actually matter for your career and possibly the level of customer service you receive.

Since I first heard about Klout, I've been worried people may use it as a sort of online "credit score." I worked for Dave Ramsey for almost 4 years and completely agree with his opinion on the "I-love-debt score". Unfortunately, people still use credit scores like they matter.

Your Klout score really doesn't measure how good of a "friend" you are or how healthy your online relationships are. Much like a credit score, this "score" isn't really trustworthy and doesn't really matter. But it will be used like it does.

So why is that a problem? Like the author of the ZDNET article above, my score (and probably yours as well) can get screwed up without a moment's notice. If people make decisions based off that score because they trust it, where does that leave us? I changed nothing in my online activity and consistently saw my score tanking:

For a while I figured the new algorithm thought I was "doing it wrong." I was a little curious about no Google+ activity showing up for my account and confused because I hadn't changed anything. Prior to the algorithm changing, my score was consistently going up.

Then all of sudden this happened:

I'm still not seeing any Google+ stats, but how come I'm "doing it right" again? That's obviously not the case and to Klout's credit, they are up front about their issues:

That's all from last week alone. As it stands right now, I just can't trust the score. More and more systems are integrating with Klout but if the number can't be trusted, is that a good thing? Twimbow, for example, has it conveniently available every time you view someone's profile:

So am I Klout basher? No, not at all. If I didn't think it was important, I wouldn't waste time blogging about it. Klout has taught me a lot about Twitter and social media in general, but they still have a lot of work to do. For example, their "influential topics" is laughably broken. They are now trying to get users to do the work the computers are failing at by giving each other "+K". I think that's a good idea, but please don't share all of them with your Twitter stream. That gets annoying really quickly.


Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of.
noun.  confidence - faith - credit - reliance - belief
verb.  believe - confide - rely - credit - hope

My point here is that the score can't be trusted. Don't let it turn into a credit score. If you want to know how well you're doing with social media, count the number of smiles and laughs you have between friends. Count how many times a conversation goes from online to offline and back again via your posts.

If your score is low, don't be discouraged. Dave Ramsey's credit score is 0 and he's perfectly OK with that. Learn what you can from it, but don't let it determine your social value online. Klout claims to measure your influence online. It simply can't do that today and so for now, by the definition, I don't trust it.

What do you think? Can Klout be trusted? Does "scoring" social media influence have any value?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Blogging Is the Mental Projection of Your Digital Self

I read a great blog post recently which uses Simon Sinek's Start with Why idea (check out this Ted Talk if you haven't already) and applies it to blogging. Stanford Smith, the author, challenged readers to comment on why they blog. Since I'm fairly new to treating this blog more seriously (can I even say that while being hosted on blogspot?), I was happy to at least have an answer:

I blog to encourage others.

But it's more than that... I blog because it's an extension of who I am. Like The Matrix, it's the mental projection of my digital self. In real life, when I hang out with some people we discuss world view, faith, belief, marriage, parenting and relationships. With others we talk about e-commerce, the latest technology trends, entrepreneurship and working from home. In all those situations, I want to encourage others because that's who I am and who I want to be.

My friend Kenny tweeted this the other day and I'm still stoked about it. It's one thing to think you're an encouragement, but it means a lot more coming from someone else. But I'm not always an encouragement. In fact, I've hurt many of my friends deeply because of my passion and lack of wisdom in situations where I think a bulldozer is needed but a scalpel or just a listening ear would have been better. I'm still learning and this blog is part of that process.

This blog is part of my why. I want people to live life on purpose. I want to encourage them to find why they were born and go after that purpose with everything they have. If telling my story along the way helps people do that, then I'll keep telling my story to whoever will listen.

In this blog you'll see me writing about things I'd probably talk about if we were having lunch together. As best as I can accomplish it, this blog is a representation of who I am. You may disagree with my ideas but that doesn't mean we can't learn from each other.

Do you have a personal blog? If so, share a link and let us know what your why is. Is your blog an accurate representation of who you are?

As always, I appreciate your other thoughts because your ideas help me grow.