It’s about engagement

Listen to the words of this song; try to get by the violence in the video. I've gone with this video rather than a live recording because it's official and I know the way this label works with artists, and I trust this video is the artist's vision. What I hear in Michael Franti's "Rock the Nation" is taking responsibility for moving things forward in a positive direction. I advocate non-violence.

I was elected Monday night to co-chair of the Civic Engagement Task Force, a piece of 40 Below I've been involved with since it re-launched in October of 2007. It's a two-year volunteer role, and it's a challenge I look forward to.

These are the primary things the task force does.

The Involvement Fair. At least once a year – sometimes twice – the task force hosts an involvement fair. If you're familiar with the concept of a job fair – candidates with resumes walking around talking to a bunch of companies who have paid for tables and sent their HR teams out – this will look familiar. Except the people at the tables are outreach officers or volunteers of local non-profits, and the people walking around aren't bringing resumes, they're looking for a way to connect with the community.

Connecting people to board opportunities. The task force works with volunteer organizations who are looking for board members to find people in the community who fit their needs.

Introducing people to each other and to organizations in the area. We meet monthly in various locations, and frequently have a speaker introducing an organization she or he is involved in. It's a great way to get to know who's out there.

Here's my challenge to you. Where do you see a need in the city? What push do you need to get involved? How can we help you? Get in touch in comments.

How to have a tweetup

There were over 20 people at the Syracuse tweetup Thursday at Recess Coffee. There is no science to setting up such an event, and getting people face to face is not brain surgery. Here's how this one came about.

Picking a date and time. Ask on Twitter. People seemed generally to think Thursday would be a good evening for them, and some mentioned specific dates. You're not going to please everyone, so you have to just pick a date. Most people get out of work between 4 and 6, so 5:30 seems like a good starting time, figuring that some people will arrive early and some people will arrive late, but nobody has to go home and urge themselves out the door after they've kicked off their shoes.

Picking a place. Again, you're never going to please everybody. But there are things everyone wants in a location: parking, something to eat and/or drink, and – something we learned from the last tweetup – someplace where they don't have to shout over loud music and loud dinner conversations. Since Recess Coffee is smallish, I called them three weeks ahead of the date and asked if they would mind if something on the order of 20 of us showed up (the worst thing we could do for them would be to scare away anyone who would normally be there, if we were going to show up once). They said sure, and most people bought coffee (or peanut butter hot chocolate), and we're good to go back, as long as we give them some notice.

Why? We're already connected on Twitter, why do a tweetup? Personalities and ideas tend to germinate in person, especially when people get to talk for several minutes and exchange business cards. And when great minds get together and create great things, everybody wins.

Who's in to plan the next one? I'll help!


If memory serves, the following people were at Thursday night's Syracuse tweetup. If I missed you (and I likely will miss someone), @ me and I'll get you on the list post-haste. If you're on MySpace, friend our hosts, Recess Coffee.

@beaslee (Nicole)
@billpfohl (Bill)
@bradfordmorse (Bradford)
@bradintheam (Brad)
@burrito19 (Beth)
@dagsly (Frank)
@Gaelen2 (Pat)
@itsahero (Rachel)
@JayClewis (Jay)
@Jill_HW (Jill, with Tom)
@JoshShear (Josh)
@kelvinringold (Kelvin)
@kitschqueen (Susan, with Jason)
@Mitch_M (Mitch)
@paddyshaughn (Patrick)
@philatsun (Phil)
@samskelton (Sam)
@tdog4494 (Tim)
@toddengel (Todd)
@tracytilly (Tracy)

No, Twitter won’t cut down on your face time with people

I mentioned last week that I use Twitter more than other social media platforms. There's a reason.

Throughout this year, I've met a whole bunch of locals I never would have met. At our first Twitter social, I met this guy and this guy, and this woman, who does this, this woman, who does this, and this guy, who does this.

I then met this guy, this guy, this woman and this guy, and I met this woman, who does this, really well. She led me to this woman, who is awesome at this – and I finally managed to meet her yesterday.

And then I left dinner and met this woman and this woman.

I've also met this guy, who asked me to speak to a bunch of journalists (alongside this woman and this woman), and I met this guy and this guy while doing that.

Twitter has also introduced me to this guy, who had me speak to these folks, where I met this guy, this woman, this woman and this guy.

On Thursday, the local Twitter community will meet again, this time here (at 5:30 p.m., if you'd like to join us) – I'm hoping to, at the very least meet this woman and this guy, and possibly this woman. I'm also expecting I'll meet this guy at some point in the not-too-distant future. Oh, and this guy, too.

For those of you who are worried that spending too much time on a network like Twitter is going to cut down on your face-to-face time with people, you need to re-think that. Would I have met these folks if not for Twitter? Possibly. But it's a pretty simple tool that costs exactly nothing to expand both your social and professional networks. Seriously.

Catch me on Twitter or LinkedIn and let's chat if you want help getting started.

Chasing your passion

I'd say I'm not a big fan of motivational, go chase your dream, up and at 'em, how to win at business and life books, but really I don't read them, so I don't know for sure that I'm not a fan.

And then I found Gary Vaynerchuk on Twitter.

The dude has passion, and he has a dream. The passion: Wine. The dream: Buy the Jets.

He has personality, he has energy, he has a foul mouth, he has hustle, and he's all about getting himself out there. He's got a site about himself, a wine shop and wine review site, a discount wine reseller and a gourmet food shop.

He's fun to watch, and, even if it is the freaking Jets on his spit bucket, what's not to like about a guy who knows which wine to pair with Lucky Charms.

I won't say his book Crush It changed my life or is going to change my life. But it certainly is an invigorating read (and a quick one – one person I passed it along to read it over two lunch breaks), and you definitely hear his voice come through (which makes sense, as he dictated the book – he readily admits that the written word is not his strongest medium).

But if you have passions and goals, Crush It will cue you in to some social media platforms you might not be using, and you'll learn how he built a veritable empire from a small liquor store.

And because I wouldn't be following his advice if I didn't do this, here goes:

Follow me on Twitter
Join me on LinkedIn
Become a fan of my amazing cancer-fighting beard

Now, have a great Friday, read the book this weekend, and get moving.

How I use various social media platforms

Or, why I didn't follow you back or accept your friend request.

Something social media networks can learn from libraries: browsing. When you're In the same way you might accidentally stumble across a good book while you were looking for another one entirely, you can stumble across interesting people serendipitously.

The great thing about social media is we all get to use it differently. Sure, various social networks have various target uses, and not every network is for everybody. And, as Buckminster Fuller alluded to, we can't be all things to everyone, and when we try, we end up being very little to pretty much nobody.

For those who are thinking of jumping into a new network – or for those who have jumped and aren't real comfortable – here is how I use various social networks. The way I use these networks may not be right for you, but at least I can put some ideas in your head.

Twitter. I use Twitter the most of any social network. While I don't tweet every time I get up for another cup of coffee, I definitely mix the personal and mundane with the professional and awesome. I've made good connections with great people, spoken to a couple of groups, made new (real-life) friends, found a massage therapist and more on Twitter.

It can be overwhelming, but so can a river. And I wouldn't avoid looking at a river just because it's big and fast moving. If I miss something on Twitter, I miss it. But by and large, I've been happy with Twitter. Here's how I set it up.

I use TweetDeck, which allows me to divide my Twitter stream into columns. On the left, I have the column that shows people responding to me – that way I catch them early, and can talk back. I have other columns for my inner circle of people I want to make sure I catch everything from (or as close as I can get), people who are local to me, people who tweet about social media, and people who tweet about journalism – and then one column with everybody.

As I find another group to break down into, I will create another column (at this rate, it looks like it will be cancer-related topics, since I'm starting to follow people who people might be good to know for the fundraising project I'm working on.

Facebook. I've become particular about who I friend on Facebook. If we're friends in real life (not associates, not co-workers), I will certainly accept a friend request. If it's possible that we could have a friendship or at least a friendly working relationship, I'll probably friend you, and if that doesn't develop, you'll probably fall off during some purge or other.

Facebook has been great for connecting with people from high school. Thanks anyway. If we weren't actually friends in high school, and your name kinda sounds vaguely familiar, why would I want to be your cyber-friend now? For some people, Facebook is about how many "friends" they can amass – I tend to keep it to people I don't mind sharing with, and who I'm interested in hearing from and about.

So don't be offended if you cold call me and I ignore your Facebook request. Get to know me in real life first.

LinkedIn. I use LinkedIn purely for professional connections. If we are currently colleagues, I absolutely will not connect with you on LinkedIn – you don't need to know what I'm doing on the job front, and I don't need to know what you're doing.

On the other hand, if we're in the same industry, I'll accept your LinkedIn connection in hopes that we may be able to someday have a mutually beneficial professional relationship. It's not a place for me to be social; it's truly a professional networking space for me.

Flickr. I barely use Flickr. I've turned to Twitpic, which integrates with Twitter.

What do you do if someone doesn't respond to you, doesn't accept your connection request, or doesn't follow you?

Nothing. I'm confident in what I'm putting out there. If someone has no interest in what I do, that's OK. Other people do.

The one rule I do have, though, is if you Direct Message me on Twitter (which you can only do if the party you're sending the message to is following you), you better be following me back, otherwise, I'm going to unfollow you. Don't try to reach me through a channel I'm not able to reach you through.

Early thoughts on Google Wave

I had a friend a little while ago tell me she thought I was a good candidate to test out Google Wave, the new collaboration tool Google is developing. There were a limited number of invitations sent out, and since I do a fair bit of collaboration, enjoy testing new tools, and could decide whether it was a good tool to use in the office, I accepted.

I had no idea what I was holding. My invitation came with eight other invitations. I held onto my invitation for four or five days before I had a chance to sit down with it, and the second I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to take it for a test drive later that day.

Bad idea. All of a sudden, people I had never heard of were asking me for invites. Like 30 of them. At 7:00 on a Sunday morning.

I soon discovered essentially what this cartoon says (via Jill). There's nobody there unless you invite them.

I ticked off my invites – my boss, obviously; two guys I expect to collaborate with at some point anyway – and then...well, there were lots of people who wanted them, and not that many. I managed to give them away in as fair a way as I could think of. And without accepting an offer to hack any databases. Since I had a few of those.

So, now I've got connections on Wave. What does it do?

It essentially allows three things on one screen: document sharing, synchronous conversation, and asynchronous conversation, and it does it all in one browser window.

I'm not as wowed by this as I could be. The open conversation (or "wave") gets very long very quickly. It's only searchable via browser search, although thankfully you can thread the conversations. You can search your waves to see which ones have some term in them, but not the one you have open.

This isn't an immediate problem, but get a few people in there for a few days, and then have one take a couple of days off – catching up is almost impossible.

I'm also not impressed with the way embedding documents and some widgets work, but to be fair, I haven't put forth much effort to make that part work for me.

At this point, I'd be content to stick with an IM or IRC chat for the synchronous communication, email for asynchronous communication, and Google Docs for the document sharing. The good news for Google is it already has all three, with the Google Docs, GMail and GChat. And if there's ever good archiving for GChat (both text and video), they have everything you need.

From a usability standpoint, Wave is pretty good, though Google needs to swap the "Done" and "Delete" buttons; people are used to the button at the lower right of the form being the action button. I've also heard that Wave needs a better mobile app, but (a) I haven't tried it out and (b) my guess is they'll make sure people are happy with the desktop app before they refine a mobile app.

If you're using Wave successfully and want to show me, I'm open to it. (and then leave me a comment or send me a reply on Twitter to make sure I get it).

I Joined Twitter – Now What?

I put this together for work; but you're all welcome to it. If your work environment is more strictly professional, e-mail me and I'll send you the file so you can edit some of the, umm, looser language out.

I Joined Twitter - Now What?

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Saturday with Dobbs: Social media edition

Mike Dobbs is the first person I can count as a professional mentor.

When Wayne convinced me to join him at The Westerner (which could really use its own Web site), Dobbs was the faculty adviser for the student paper.

After my first op/ed appeared (which, clearly, had not been through his screening), Dobbs walked into the office and told me it would be OK if I used the word "butt" instead of "ass" next time.

I'm still a foul-mouthed little chucklehead, as the saying goes, but that's neither here nor there.

After my first semester on the paper (a spring term), Dobbs was dismissed from the college for using too many semicolons in a press release (that's my story and I'm sticking to it), and by October I was interning for Dobbs at Reminder Publications, where he would later become managing editor and I an editor.

Eventually I moved up to Syracuse, and discovered that he comes up here once a year for Cinefest, which I must have known, because I worked between six and 12 feet away from him for three years.

Since Cinefest happens in Liverpool, he had gotten in the habit of going to Ichiban, until I brought him to Dinosaur for the first time. And now the second, third, and, Saturday, fourth times.

Dobbs handed me his new book (that's two years in a row, by the way, there's been a new book to hand me), and we hit the Dino, talking about the state of the media in the Pioneer Valley and here in Central New York.

Because the Saturday schedule wasn't a ton to his liking, we had a bunch of time, so we went over to Edward Thomas and discussed social media opportunities.

We talked Twitter and Facebook, and came up with some ideas to maybe make Pioneer Valley Central easier to run.

There were a lot of what-ifs discussed, but let's just say I've learned that if I were ever in a position where it were necessary, I could survive on doing some social media consulting. That's a great feeling, especially coming from someone like Dobbs.