Narcissistic Grasshoppers

After a few weeks in the Twitterverse, I now understand why Twitter is the oft-cited method for Narcissists United to proclaim their superiority to the world. I mean, you have thousands of people reading your every 140 characters. We're talking phenomenal cosmic power. To be honest, I wish I could put master or guru of something in my bio. I'm starting to feel left out. But, besides the fact that I'm not master of anything, it isn't an effective way to build relationships.

As it turns out, the marketers and techs who have a real following are actually the most understated. They let their vast knowledge of and passion for their work speak for them. Take Radian6's Amber Naslund, for instance (@ambercadabra). Her interview with Jason Baer (another awesome dude whom everyone should follow, @jaybaer) was chock-full of great advice on building community, delivered in such a humble, cheerful way that everyone listens. Like Jason said, her "passion for people shines through."

I think the most valuable thing I've learned over the past few weeks of my Twitter/blog infancy is that while there are a lot of bad ideas out there, it's impossible to find the good ones by ignoring people that don't tout themselves as "expert." (Or those that truly aren't expert at anything and don't claim to be). That's encouraging to me, since I am what academics call a newbie. Great ideas can come from anywhere. Filtering them out puts everyone at a disadvantage. Not because everyone is brilliant all the time, but because those who aren't well-established provide opportunities to those that are to step away from what they already know and see a problem from a fresh perspective.

That is why my goal with this blog will be to provide the best information I can about digital newspapers (ours included) and just plain old good advice from people much wiser than me. My advice for today? Sit back and relax. Say to yourself, "I do not know everything." Watch you some Kung Fu. It's OK to be a grasshopper.



Thought I'd add a post-script to my last entry:

I don't know if twitter-hopping is the official Twitter term for jumping from followers to followers of followers to foll... you get the idea. However, "twopping" just didn't trip off the tongue like I'd hoped, so that was the best I could do. Don't hold it against me.



I was twitter-hopping yesterday and I came across this article by Lisa Barone, co-founder of Outspoken Media. In it, she gives four reasons why any blog, your blog in particular, is failing. Fortunately for me, mine hasn't really gotten off the ground yet, meaning I'm a failure only because I haven't posted much of anything. However, I thought she had some valid points to make about engaging your audience on a personal level.

For anyone who took even one business class in college, this should be common sense. And yet, with the rise of social media, we are witnessing the decline of meaningful individual interaction. That seems counterintuitive, I know, and it's a generalization, certainly. But it's much easier to avoid lasting relationships if you can sign out when the going gets tough. That's what I was thinking about while I was reading Aaron Strout's blog post yesterday, in which he presents a clever analogy between marketing and dating. He argues that business should be entirely about personal, lasting relationships with your consumers (duh). That should be easy, right? I mean, now it's possible to have real-time relationships with hundreds of people scattered all over the globe. But possible does not mean preferable.

Social media has been a boon for a lot of people. Without physical cues, the power of persuasion is based more and more on linguistic prowess--judging from Twitter, something that is sorely lacking. However, rather than embracing the opportunity to cultivate their soft power, many people have instead used social media as an excuse to blast as many people as they can find with their message, ignoring any nasty results.

Dwight Eisenhower said that leadership is the ability "to get people to work together, not only because you tell them to do so and enforce your orders but because they instinctively want to do it for you...You don't lead by hitting people over the head; that's assault, not leadership." (As quoted in The Power to Lead, by Joseph Nye Jr., which is a decent little book for anyone interested in a very basic analytical introduction to leadership studies).

All of these things come down to viewing your customers as people. That's hard to do when you will never meet most of them, and you don't really have time to get to know his favorite color or the name of her ferret. But if you'd like to win friends and influence people, it has to be done. To borrow the dating analogy, consumers are not just playing hard-to-get. They're completely out of your league (at least, you should treat them like they are). Trust me, arrogant charm is not unique, but sadly, time and effort seem to be heading that direction. So make that your shtick. Not a color scheme or killer social networking skills, but your concern for the well-being of your consumers. If you can do all that without getting in their way, you will be a champion "woo-er." But don't pat yourself on the back just yet. Because if you forget for a moment that consumers are the most important half of your relationship, the romance will be gone. And so will you.


Lights Out

Power outages. How fun are they? I mean, who doesn't want to be without light, water, phones or air conditioning? And if you're stuck in an elevator, well, that just adds to the adventure of it all, especially if you're the two guys bringing lunch for everyone. Well, at least they won't starve to death. Nor will I, actually, since I'm on the right side of the elevator doors. That is, until the generator powering the airlocks, ahem, automatic doors shuts down in half an hour and we're all stuck in here. In the dark.

But wait! What is that light at the end of the circulation hallway? It's a phone... it's an iPod... it's, it's... it's got a web browser? It must be the almighty iPhone come to save us! What? You mean it doesn't have an application for prying elevators open or teaching you to read electrical diagrams? Well, that's disappointing. The least it could do is make me lunch. Hey! That'd be a handy feature. Apple, you should get on that. You know, you never think of all the neat things you wish you had until you're in a life-thwarting situation without them. Maybe if we threatened all the techno-geeks with imminent danger, they'd come up with better apps.

All right, I think two paragraphs is enough vaguely caustic wittiness for one day. But seriously, let's talk about the iPhone. I will not deny that it's a useful tool, cliche though it might be, and darn it, touch screens are just plain fun. However, it lost some of its charm this afternoon when I remembered that it is, in fact, just another phone with an internet connection. And a slow one, at that--granted, that may be due more to the location than the technology.

Anyway, while the city was busy reliving its pre-Edison days, a man came in looking for a particular article. I thought, what a great chance to use the e-edition! So, I unlock my keys, hit the shortcut on my home screen, and... I wait. And wait and wait and wait some more. Note: 3G does not exist in Abilene, TX. Not to worry, though.

Apparently, someone way back when decided since they didn't have a tool that could help them store, organize and cross-reference issues all in one place efficiently, they should make one. Hooray for human innovation! The result? Nope, not a computer. A very large yellow book that contains all of the ARN issues printed for the last however many decades (I'm sure it's less than that, but who's counting?).

No longer shall I scoff at man's ability to compete with advanced technology. The aforementioned gentleman found the article, picked up the corresponding paper, paid and left before the first page had loaded. It is true that the ability to trawl the vast depths of the internet in milliseconds is usually much simpler and more convenient than walking to the library, but I think that it's made us feel superior to prior eras for the wrong reasons. 80-year-old librarians have skills that I will never possess because I won't have the opportunity to develop them. That big yellow book might seem primitive, but it fills a need and, today at least, it did it better than the best that trendy, mainstream America has to offer.

Isn't that the point of any tool? If it makes humans more productive, it has value, which is why the internet is such an incredible creation. We should be careful not to lean too heavily on our technological crutches, or we may entirely forget how to walk. Or worse, how to entertain ourselves when the lights go out.


Inaugural Post

Testing one, two, three. Can you hear me now?