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Sep
17
2010
Social Media Gets Turned Off Maranda Gibson

Social Media Gets Turned OffIf you’re a student at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then you are unaware that your Facebook friends have harvested plants, gotten into Mafia battles, and checked in at the local grocery store.

The university has blacked out social media sites for the last week.

The experiment began on Monday as a way for students to begin seriously considering the way they spend their time on the Internet. It was recently reported that the average user in the US spends more time on Facebook than on Google.

Eric Darr said the experiment is not a punishment for students, but the hope is that their university students will seriously consider the way they are using their time. Darr also added that he can’t believe that this week has caused such controversy on Twitter, Facebook, and even late night talk shows.  Some have gone as far to accuse the school of infringing on people’s rights.

The hope is that the block will show students that stepping away from the computer can be a good thing for their overall grades and class attendance. Even Mashable is interested to see if the school reports any increase in attendance, but Adam Ostrow adds that he doesn’t think the blackout is feasible in the long term. “You really can’t disconnect people from it in the long run without creating some real inefficiencies and backlash.”

Students can still check via their smart phones and Darr is okay with that. “I want an honest reaction to the experiment.” The reaction has ranged anywhere from a typical “eh-whatever” college student reaction to those who are finding it difficult to coordinate their social activities without access to Facebook and Twitter.

While the blackout won’t last forever, it does open up some interesting questions, like what is the time we spend on social media sites taking away from?  Are we slaves to social networks? I’ve only recently started to make myself “go offline” for one hour a day, and frankly, towards the end of that hour, I’m really excited about checking out the latest status updates or Twitter postings.

As far as a university goes, maybe if they attendance increases while social networks are down, it could be something that any school might consider shutting down during critical weeks like finals week. The next question I would ask would be when it became a university’s responsibility to teach you how to manage your time and be a dedicated student.

No matter what universities decide to do, the social blackout has caused controversy and stirred debate about how we manage our time on social networks, and how this time affects our daily activities. 

Sep
15
2010
The Digital World Pivots Around Me Chilton Tippin

Maybe Galileo had it wrong when he said the earth gravitates around the sun.

Today, I arrived at work ready to consume my news. I didn’t flip open a newspaper. I didn’t look for a remote to watch Good Morning America. I didn’t grab my iPhone to first turn to the New York Times or The Washington Post to sift through 100 stories that I didn’t want to read in order to find three that I did. I opened up my Google alerts, then checked my Twitter, then checked my News Feed on Facebook. Here I found stories that I had seeded the internet for, that my friends were taking part in, or that my friends had, because their preferences parallel mine, recommended to me. Hmm, my news seems to revolve around me.

On Twitter today, I stumbled across a link to a NYT article by Nick Bilton. Bilton writes, “If you pull out your smartphone and click the button that says locate me on your mapping application, you will see a small dot appear in the middle of your screen. That’s you.” After this, Bilton pointed out that as you move, your proxy, that little dot on the map, stays still; it’s the map that moves to keep up with you. Hmm, my mapping application likes to keep me in the center of the world.

As I jumped from link to link to link on Facebook today, I noticed an advertisement for Dallas- Cowboys-colored M&M’s that kept appearing on each page: my profile, my Facebook home page, my cousin’s photo album of her trip to Amsterdam. The ad was following me around! And it wasn’t the only advertisement stalking me. I seem to be the virtual host for a “Groupon” ad that pops up in the strangest places: “Deal of the Day: sushi half-off,” the ad tells me when I read The NYT, CNet, and the Wall Street Journal. Hmm, my advertisements seem to orbit me like officious peddlers in a Chinese market.

Bilton explains that this new online universe, the one that is geared toward the individual, is the way of the future. It’s a world where people don’t buy maps of the zoo, of Paris, or of the state of Missouri, they buy maps of themselves; maps that go where they go and change with their changing locations.

The same goes with the consumption of information. Consumers are now their own gatekeepers. They decide which news comes to them through their acquaintances, through their preferences, and, in advertising, through the trail of cookies they leave on Web sites as they surf.

“Now you are the starting point,” he writes. “Now the digital world follows you, not the other way around.”

The Internet has spawned a new generation that forces media to bend to each individual’s preference. My friends don’t watch Modern Family when it comes out Wednesday night. They watch it on their smartphones during class.

This generation wants the media consumption experience hyper-personalized. Therefore, content creators need to be diverse. Content should be consumable on televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets. The new generation wants the digital experience. They want to comment, to like, to get involved. They want to be in the center.

Galileo may have been right when he said the physical world orbits the sun. As for the digital world, it gravitates around me.

Sep
01
2010
Your Brain on Technology, A Saturated Sponge? Chilton Tippin

Last Sunday, I found myself sunk in my couch, arranged with a plate of chicken and rice for dinner, a drink in one hand and a remote control in the other. I had a blanket over my legs and my iPhone on the cushion next to me. I was ready to watch my favorite television shows on HBO. Gradually, however, a thought began to inch into my mind. Like a tick, this thought began to discomfit me. I wanted my laptop. I could see it in the other room. It beckoned me. How was I supposed to surf the Internet during my shows without it?

I observe situations like this almost everywhere I go: I notice it on the elevator when I grab for my iPhone to avoid interacting socially with the strangers in my proximity; I see it at the gym when exercisers flip through television channels as they pump their legs on treadmills; I see it at dinner parties when my friends lower their eyelids like poker players to tap out texts during a lull in conversation. It appears that now, with cell phones in our pockets and with Google algorithms primed fantastically to feed us answers to our questions, the tiniest windows of time are being filled with media. And while this media can turn moments of downtime into productive blips, a long-standing debate over the pros and cons of constant connectivity is becoming more volatile.

A study from the University of Michigan tested the capacities of two groups of people to concentrate and learn information. Before studying identical information, one group took a stroll in nature and the other group took a stroll in an urban setting. The nature group learned significantly better, leading the researches to conclude that processing a lot of information, characteristic in urban environments, causes the brain to tire. Therefore, giving the brain time to recoup, as it did in the natural environment, enhances its capacity to learn.

Perhaps even more alarming is the assertion by Harvard-educated scholar, Nicholas Carr, who wrote an article called, “Is Google Making us Stupid?” In the article, Carr explains that the rapid functionality of the Internet—with pop ups, links, email notifications, and a tendency toward shallow consumption of information—is actually rewiring the circuitry of our brains. Carr writes, “My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

Carr contends that our ever-malleable brains are constantly being remodeled as nodes are unplugged and new circuits are routed. Since our brains adapt so quickly, the old channels that used to serve higher concentration on, say, books or creativity, are becoming eroded. This erosion, some scientists suggest, could lead to attention deficit disorder or depression.

It’s not all bad though. Camped on the other side of the debate are people like Wired Magazine’s Clive Thompson. In his essay, “the New Literacy” Thompson argues that people are reading and writing far more than they did during the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s when television was the main medium. Thompson writes, “Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text…they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.”

Thompson also points out that the new type of writing, geared toward reaching an audience, requires concise and communicative prose, a positive step away from the esoteric pontifications of writers before. In his assessment, this democratizes the language. Where people used words like esoteric and pontification, they are now tending toward words like lofty and preachy—which the average reader understands. For Thompson, Twitter updates and text messages are a far cry from defilers of the English language. They are the promoters who bring regular people into it.

Taking the argument even further is writer and NYU professor Clay Shirky, whose idea of “cognitive surplus” posits that the low cost and the ease-of-sharing associated with the Internet has been a boon to creativity. In a TED presentation, Shirky explains that advances in technology have opened up vast amounts of free time for human beings. Until the Internet, this free time used to be eaten up by passive entertainment like television or video gaming. Now that the Internet is available, Shirky says, a shift has occurred in that humans with free time are devoting it to creating.

“The very nature of these new technologies fosters social connection—creating, contributing, sharing,” Shirky said in an interview with Wired Magazine. “This lets ordinary citizens, who’ve previously been locked out, pool their free time for activities they like and care about.”

Shirky says the free time we have for creating, or “cognitive surplus,” is poured into everything from the trivial site lolcats.com, where people post funny pictures of cats, to serious political activities like Ushahidi.com, where people update and map instances of social suffering. Though some sites are less substantial than others, they still spark peoples’ creativity.

More importantly, when people collectively collaborate on the Internet new feats of humanity and knowledge become attainable. Shirky sites Wikipedia as an example. The articles, the edits, and the arguments behind the articles represent about 100 million hours of human labor. Wikipedia, the most extensive encyclopedia, was built virtually for free through collective cognitive surplus.

So where does this leave us? Are we doomed to being shallow-thinking automatons ruled by Google, or is the Internet helping us dig deeper to reach new potentials of creativity and collective conscious?

Most are inclined to think it’s a combination of both. These are the typical convulsions of new technology. Plato lamented the invention of the written word, saying it would supplant the need to exercise memory. Yet, he couldn’t see the vast historical repository, the potential for teaching, the aid in deeper contemplation that the written word brought about.

This past summer a group of neuroscientists from both sides of the argument went on a rafting trip down Glen Canyon, Utah to study the effects of nature’s respite on the brain. At the end of a lengthy New York Times article, the scientists remained unconvinced either way. They felt relaxed after having been in nature, to be sure. However, they said the adaptability of the brain allows our circuits to become exercised and better able to cope with the barrage of information that we are constantly immersed in during our urbanite lives.

At the end, they recommended the Golden Mean: if your thinking gets cluttered, go for a stroll without your earbuds and your iPod.

Maybe instead of getting up for my laptop, I should’ve given my brain a rest by eating my Sunday night meal in the sanctity of my own thoughts.

Sep
01
2010
Hallmark Moment Maranda Gibson

This morning, the news came down the wire that AT&T U-Verse customers would no longer have access to Hallmark Channel programming. Crown Media has stated via press release they are happy to re-start negotiations with AT&T. Talks broke down over new carriage agreements sometime last week, and as of 12:01AM ET, the Hallmark family of channels went dark. We’ve all seen these stories before, where renegotiations are going on, and both sides are urging customers to contact the other company to demand they do not lose programming.

This situation has been no different except that the Hallmark Channel has found a way to use social media to their benefit, even though they negotiations have still fallen through and the channels have been blacked out. They sent a very powerful message through Facebook and Twitter, both on their sites, and the AT&T U-Verse site.

Starting with the Don’t Take My Hallmark Site, Hallmark drove traffic both to their site as well as the AT&T pages, urging customers to comment and share their concerns. The results have been impressive:

  • Over 1500 comments urging AT&T to keep the family programming channels.
  • 4,580 FaceBook likes to the U-Verse related posts on the HallMark Channel fan page.
  • Multiple tweets and conversations with current fans of Hallmark.

Despite the failed negotiations to continue carrying programming for AT&T U-Verse customers, Hallmark more than doubled their traffic to their social sites and web site, and all since August 26th when they started the campaign. The number of likes they have gotten from the campaign and the comments on their pages will undoubtedly remain, and the Google search for “Hallmark Channel” have their Twitter, Press Page, and FaceBook on the first page of results. What can you learn from Hallmark Channel’s campaign?

  • Call to action. Not only did Hallmark tell their customers what was going to happen, they told them what to do about it – go to the AT&T U-Verse fan page and let their thoughts be known.
  • Monitoring. From the looks of things, Hallmark was prepared for social media to hit the ground running. Not only were they looking for mentions of their company, but they were directing their people to use it to get the message out.
  • Gave a reason why or why not. Every couple of months, battles like this arise, but Hallmark was quick to state what the negotiations were NOT about, taking to Twitter to clear up rumors they wanted more money. “It wasn’t Hallmark demanding big $$$ that got the networks taken off. We’re actually very disappointed that this happened. Thank you”.

What do you think? Did Hallmark hit a homerun here, even though they are no longer carried on U-Verse, they did get a HUGE turn out through social media and can show their results right on their Facebook page. Did they win or lose?

Note: You can check out the individual press releases from Hallmark and AT&T.

Aug
31
2010
The Amazing Dr. S Maranda Gibson

One of the funniest memories I have of college was the day I showed up for class and changed my mind. You see I was a freshman at the time, drunk off the ability to set my own class schedule and have freedom on if I came to class or not. One afternoon, I went to class with my friend from high school and before class started, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s blow this pop stand and go get some lunch.” We grabbed our purses and American history books, and we high tailed it out of there. On the way down the hall, we came face to face with the professor of that class. Oops. We did not plan our escape and when he asked us where we were going, we sputtered out the first thing we could think of, “Just to the bathroom!”

I’m sure he figured out we ditched after about twenty minutes. If it didn’t, then Dr. H is still standing in the halls of McBrien waiting for us to come back. Now I know what you’re thinking – How could the history nerd walk out of an American history class? The answer is simple – Dr. H was the worst public speaker of all time. Don’t be surprised. He was a nice man, I’m sure he was a very smart person, but he simply was not an engaging professor. Here kids, read this syllabus. Here, let’s all read chapters from our history books out loud. He was dry and I barely passed his class by the skin of my teeth.

On the flip side of the coin, I had a World History teacher, Dr. S, who was the most engaging professor I have ever come across. Every day in her class was exciting. She always had some sort of story about the historical figures we were discussing – like how Napoleon is the reason there are three buttons on military jackets. His men were always wiping their runny noses with their sleeves and soiling them. Napoleon added another button to the sleeve so that they wouldn’t be able to wipe their noses.

Dr. S knew how to use little interesting tidbits to engage us and in comparison to Dr. H, I passed her class with flying colors. When it comes to engaging with your audience there are some things you can do to be like Dr. S.  She made sure that: 

She was incorporating facts we may not know. Sure everyone knows who Napoleon is, but the button thing – had no clue. Dr. S knew that the key to getting her audience to retain information was to tell them something new, instead of just repeating old information we’d heard since 1st grade.

  • Try to introduce your participants to new information or updated facts that will benefit your attendees.

She was communicating with us, instead of speaking at us. We were a part of the conversation and not just observing a lecture. She lobbed questions at us, surprising us by calling on those who may not be paying attention.

  • Have a conversation with participants and don’t just tell them things. Even if they are quiet and listening intently, you can still get them involved by using humor or asking questions.

She had the best tone of voice. Dr. S loved what she did, and you could tell by the way she spoke about history. She was never anything but enthusiastic while teaching us. Every time she opened her mouth, there was love and passion for the subject of history. It’s something I learned from her.

  • Remember that if you’re going to speak about something, it should be something you’re passionate about – your tone of voice is the most powerful thing that you have to get your audience’s attention.

Dr. S was a great professor, and above all the super cool things she told me, she was also memorable and I wanted to take her classes again. When it comes to hosting presentations and events, becoming memorable and enjoyable is what is going to keep people coming back for more. What are you doing to make your presentations unforgettable? How are you like Dr. S?

Aug
30
2010
Communication Trends Maranda Gibson

Take a look at what you’re doing today to get a hold of your customers and friends. Is there anything that you’re doing right now that you hadn’t thought of doing a month ago? (Perfect example – FaceTime) How about two?  What about a year ago? How much has the way you communicate changed in the last 15 years? I know the answer – a lot. Things keep changing and eventually, there will be some avenues of communication that will be in a museum somewhere one day. Here are five communication trends I am starting to see.

  1. Social Media – Probably the biggest trend in past years is the growth of social media as not only a platform to communicating with friends, but also as a way to reach customers. It’s being used for everything right now – advertising, customer service, and marketing. It’s taking away the need to send an email to your cousin or to pick up the phone and call a local business to get an answer or help. You just send out a tweet and hopefully) the business will respond promptly.
  2. Decline of Emails – Currently, the use of emails as the preferred medium in an office is on the decline, despite the availability of emails through the mobile technology. The reason for this could be related to a couple of things:  more companies are adopting IM technologies that provide a quicker means of response and idea sharing, or it could be because companies are encouraging social media relationships with customers.
  3. Travel is stressful and expensive, and companies are cutting down on expenses. To keep the flow of business, there’s an increase in use of conference calls to get employees together, and saving the air travel dollars for special reasons.
  4. Less Tech-Speak – I’ve found that more places and people are coming down to their customer and client levels when it comes to sales.  Speaking above your customers head doesn’t mean that you’re going to get that client. What’s probably truer is that you’re going to confuse them, and if they are confused, they won’t want your services. More companies are trending to speak on a level the customer can understand.
  5. Decline of Automated Systems – While there are still plenty of these out in the world, I’ve noticed a slow decline of auto mated systems in the past six months. More customer service lines are opting to use the automated system to gather an account number and name, and then patching you into a live person.  In fact, a few have even done away with the auto operator on the whole. I hope this is a trend that continues.

There are a ton of other communication trends happening out there.  What have trends have you been noticing and embracing in your own communication?

 

Aug
30
2010
AccuConference Announces Fax to Email Service Chilton Tippin

AccuConference would like to announce the unveiling of our new option, fax to email — a service that will enable customers to receive their faxes via email.

Fax to email is all about the streamlining of our customers’ communications. It’s a practical application that will convert faxes to PDF’s that will arrive in our customers’ inboxes. These faxes are archived digitally, allowing customers to sort, store, print and review them as if they were a typical email.

For less than $2.50 a month, customers get a dedicated, uniquely assigned fax number. In addition to fax-to-email conversions, it allows customers to receive faxes in an electronic Web format, which puts them at customers’ fingertips and makes them viewable from any browser. Fax to email also grants access to a customer site where customers can log in and view all of their faxes and calls.

Fax to email is a modern opportunity that chimes with modern businesses in the information age. With so much inflow of information, the ability to organize and archive digitally is essential.  The fax to email service fulfills that need.

Aug
27
2010
What's Your Superpower? Maranda Gibson

I am five feet tall, and my husband is a man who is well over the six foot mark. Now, as adorable as we look together, he’s also quite handy to have around. Whenever I need something that’s on a shelf, I just ask him to come get it for me, and since I’m pretty dang short, I am often calling for his help. I do it so much, in fact, that he has determined that he has the worst super power in the world.

He’s naturally good at getting things off tall shelves because he’s a tall person. For him, it’s nothing, but for me it’s the greatest thing in the world.

Have you ever considered what your super power might be?

I was reading the latest Escaping Mediocrity and watching on Twitter as @SaraRobinson struggled with this post. As part of her coaching she is supposed to name ten ways that she can be a rock star for her clients. It’s easy right? Not so much. She ran into a couple of roadblocks while trying to figure out what her super powers are – mainly, she didn’t want to brag and she mostly just considers herself to be a normal hardworking person. It’s so hard for us to admit what our super powers might be. What matters is if we can identify them and how we are using them.

If I look at myself, I realize that I have been writing ever since I could pick up a pen and make letters. Somewhere in my Papa’s attic is a box of composition books that contains some of the worst stories ever. I always liked to write and I just thought it was something that made me special. Writing has always been something that I was good at. I’ve taken that skill and turned it into my career (which is pretty sweet).

You superpower is something that simply sets you apart from everyone else and when you are trying to get clients to come to you – it can be the thing that makes you the one to do business with. Everyone is trying to find a competitive edge and yours can be as simple as a talent or personality trait you’ve had all your life.

Sit down and think about something that just seems to come naturally to you. Are you a great speaker? Are you comfortable in social situations that might drive someone like me to the brink of a nervous breakdown? Once you’ve identified your super power, how are you using it to set yourself apart from the others?

Think about that, and then comment below or find me on Twitter and tell me what your super power is and how you’re using it.

Aug
16
2010
Facing Your Fear Maranda Gibson

This past Friday night, I did something very out of character for me. I turned off all the lights and watched a scary movie. Not just any scary movie – the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Since I was five, I have been deathly afraid of Freddy Krueger. As a child, I couldn’t see Robert Englund or I would burst into tears. My brother wasn’t allowed to wear his striped sweater because it made me cry. When you’re five, you rationalize things in a very strange way. For me, it was about a man who came in your dreams, and I would have nightmares about him. It was very real for me.

What I found after watching Nightmare was that Freddy was lame. Maybe it was the cheap 1980s graphics and special effects, or perhaps it was Johnny’s Depp’s hair, but I am no longer scared. I don’t plan on going out and renting all of the Nightmare films, but I won’t need to hide my face from him anymore.

Did you know the number one fear of the average person is public speaking? The old school of thought would tell you to picture everyone in their underwear to kick this fear, but I have to be honest – that just tends to make things seem more awkward. Here are a couple of ways you can approach facing your fear – and everyone can keep their pants on.

  1. Don’t try to ignore the fear – it never makes it any better. You’ll be much more productive stepping up and facing the fear.
  2. Take small steps. If you have stage fright, it’s a bad idea to throw yourself into the running for speaking at something like SXSW. Start smaller, like a chapter of a local business group or even your church. Get used to being in front of people before you really put the pressure on.
  3. Remember that nervous people will sweat. Sounds gross right? Tough luck – sometimes, nerves can overshadow the power of your deodorant, and there’s nothing quite as embarrassing as being “un-sure”. You might think about wearing dark colors, just to lessen your worries by one.
  4. Eat something! It’s easy to not eat before you do something you’re afraid of, because you’re a tightly wound ball of nerves, but if you don’t eat, I promise you won’t be happy. Don’t pass out on stage.
  5. Think positive thoughts about yourself. Don’t just focus on your speech contents, but on yourself – are you having a good hair day? Are your shoes amazing? Did you buy a new outfit that you really love? It’s all about confidence and giving yourself a little boost will help you get out there and face your fear.

When I was watching Nightmare, I had a five year old part of me screaming into a blanket and hiding her chubby little face. I recognized her, I respect that scared little girl, but I was determined to conquer my fear. It paid off for me and Freddy is just a movie character. If you can overcome your fear of public speaking you can open all kinds of doors for yourself. Have you already battled your stage fight and overcome it? What did you do that first time to help ease your nerves?

Aug
13
2010
Where Does Communication Go Bad? Maranda Gibson

Communication is tricky. Having developed a friendship with someone over the internet, I learned over time that I would have to ask if there was a hidden meaning to the word because I can’t hear her say them, so I’m not sure what she meant. We do a lot with our tone of voice when communicating with others so taking that out of things, it can cause confusion.

Tone isn’t the only place that communication can go wrong. Communication is such a broad term that, to put it bluntly, there are a million different ways to mess it up. Here are some of the biggest offenders that can cause communication to fail – at least as far as I’m concerned.

Email / IM / Chat / Etc. -- They are, in my humble opinion, part of business. In this day and age, if you are not working with these kinds of services, then you’re falling behind. The problem is that when communicating through these forums, you lose all of your tone – and tone is so incredibly important. A good rule of thumb is the first time you have to ask yourself “I wonder what he/she means by that” during an email or chat conversation, it’s probably time to pick up the phone to finish the conversation.

Distractions – Things like the TV, your cell, or computer. At my house, I always forget that my hubby can look at the TV and listen, just like I can text and listen at the same time. It leads to a lot of those “You’re not even listening to me, are you?” moments. This is easily overcome by turning off whatever it is that is distraction.

Spelling / Grammar – Cruise on over to FailBlog and check out how quickly a spelling error or using the wrong context of a word can send a message spiraling out of control. Use your spell check or get someone to read over emails or newsletters before you send them out. Abbreviations – Once, a long time ago, I asked my boss a question in IM and his response was “Y”. I didn’t know if he meant yes or why, and it required me to get up to clarify, adding an extra step in our communication process. It’s best to just spell words out in their completion to avoid any kind of confusion.

Implied Meanings – Making someone guess what you mean is no fun when you’re on the other side of it. If you mean something, come right out and say it – don’t make people guess.

Those are just a few of the things that can make communication go wrong and how you can get around them. What kind of things have you experienced that has made communication go wrong and how do you fix them?

 

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