Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Rant

Every year, it's the same thing: PC holiday greetings and terms (it's Christmas break people, stop trying to pretend otherwise), mass consumerism as a display of affection, greeting cards, Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving (it started earlier than that this year) and it goes on...

Now before you think I'm the Grinch who stole Christmas (a day late mind you) or a cane-shaking 90 year-old kvetching about the younger generations (I'm 22 folks), let me explain why all these things are bothersome.

I like gifts.

I like having an excuse to give people gifts.

I like the winter season--holidays and weather and all.

BUT I don't like what happens in the name of all of this gift giving...

Giving meaningless gifts just cause you can or you feel obligated (this is not a gift card rant though I suppose some of that logic applies).

Credit card debt.

Political correctness in the name of inclusion. (People have different holidays because they have different beliefs; we don't need to make it out to be all the same to demonstrate mutual respect.)

What was the point anyway?
If it's a season dedicated to showing people in your life that you care, there are plenty of other ways if you're broke. Cook a big friend and family dinner. Write a long letter to someone near and dear. Buy gifts when they make sense--as an inside joke or because it's something the person wants or needs. There's no reason to put yourself into debt to prove you care (and if your friends don't get it, get new friends).

If it's a season underscored only by potlatch and consumerism, maybe I am the Grinch.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What's the difference between a post and an article?

Yesterday I asked a question on Twitter. Today I'm still thinking about it.

I asked, What's the difference between a post and an article?

And here are the responses I got:

@fairminder (Jim Spencer of JBSPartners): research, focus, length, accuracy, supporting evidence, editing, revising, proof reading and sometimes a second pair of eyes

@LewisG (of bizsolutionsplus): Isn't a post something we place on a blog, often much shorter than an article which we find in traditional media or perhaps web site

@dJdU (Rich Hilliard): articles are forever, posts last only for the lifetime of their "container" (usually someone else's article)?

@jackhodgson (Jack Hodgson): good question. or "message" for that matter?

I asked the question because I had generally thought of posts as relating to blogs or online media and articles as relating to print or more traditional media forms. But sometime yesterday I found myself reading an piece online and I thought to myself, "this article is really interesting." I caught myself then wondering if this piece was also in print or if the publication was online only.

I considered the outlet to be an authority on the matter I was reading. So now I'm wondering if the answer is more subjective. Does the post / article distinction have less to do with the location of publication and more to do with the pub's authority or credibility?

What do you think?

Monday, December 17, 2007

With Twitter Down

I have no one to talk to directly; I don't have instant gratification for my fleeting thoughts. But perhaps that's not a bad thing.

Often times, the links I share through twitter, could also make interesting blog posts. Yet, because I've already shared them, I don't feel the need to write more than 140 characters about whatever the topic of the link was. (Note: I have no intention of creating all link posts--and if I ever do, please feel free to yell at me.)

Hopefully, with Twitter on hiatus, I'll write more shorter posts. Hopefully. Hopefully.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Social Media Buffet

I am one of those people that goes to a buffet with that gotta-eat-my-money's-worth mentality. Sometimes, I'm meticulous about trying each and every tasty looking morsel. Then other times, I pile on the usual favorites (i.e. mashed potatoes) and eat and eat until I'm so overstuffed I can't eat any more. Wait a second. Take a deep breath. Go back for thirds.

There are long periods of time where I avoid buffets all together--either because it's not worth the cost or because it's not healthy.

Social media is a buffet. With the best of technology and relationships, social media allows you to snack and sample (as Jeremiah Owyang suggested), over do it or skip it for more diet friendly options.

Eating healthy in social media requires a balanced diet of community engagement platforms (Facebook, Twitter, a blog, etc) and real-time networking (i.e. human to human time). Knowing that, and putting it to good use are two different things. If social media is a buffet, I fall into the binge and purge pattern of social media consumption--interested, engaged, participating, overloaded--stop. Ignore it all for a little while. Start over.

This seems to be my natural pattern for social media--binge and purge. So I'm looking for good ways to maintain a steady level, while still leaving room for breaks and snacking elsewhere. It feels funny to structure social media into my day--it's not organic to plan for X amount of blog posts or Z amount of time on Facebook or Twitter, etc. What do you think?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

So Much for Current Content

I just looked at my blogger cue and my notes from the events I've attended recently and realized I've been bad, well at least as far as social media goes. I've been holding content in the wings, greedily attending events without so much as offering the briefest of hat tips.

So here goes nothing... Since the end of last month, I've attended Podcamp (three or four sessions still left to post on), an event on new media at BU, a PRSA Boston event, Jeff Pulver's Real Time Social Networking, a NEDMA event, and a breakfast with Jeff Pulver and friends. All great events, with great people and better discussion.

Will I get to posting on these events? Hopefully. But I wanted everyone to feel some link love, so I would feel less like the quiet kid from tenth grade English lit--greedily taking in everyone else's thoughts and contributing nothing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Quaker Breakfast Cookies

Most mornings, I start my day with an over-sized cup of coffee and small container of yogurt. Within about two hours, I'm hungry again. And 10:30am is not an acceptable lunch time.

So today, I wandered through the cafeteria / lunch room area to refill my mug, hoping to stave off the hunger for another hour with coffee. In my walk-through, I found a Quaker Breakfast Cookie on the table, an indication that it's up for grabs.

It wasn't until I got back to my desk that I realized that I was holding the exception to every rule my parents had ever tried to teach me about healthy eating. There really weren't that many rules, but I'm pretty sure cookies were not allowed.

What a brilliant marketing concept! It's a cookie, so it's going to taste good. But it's Quaker, so it'll be good for you too. Trick the customer into thinking their getting away with something naughty, and nice!

Yummy, yummy, cookie in my tummy.

Any other good examples of fun marketing trickery out there?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans' Day to a 20-Something

a person who has served in a military force, esp. one who has fought in a war (

I don't have any living relatives that served in this country in wartime. I had a great uncle that was a Pearl Harbor (deceased prior to my birth) and my grandfather's time in the Marines was between wars.

I was taught to appreciate those who fought for a country and died for our country. I was taught to thank the men and women in uniform for their service. And I did and still do. Yet, in years' past, I've lacked a personal connection to the holiday because I really didn't know any veterans.

This morning, when I thought about the holiday, I thought more about the current war. I realized that I do actually know living veterans--and more than knowing them, they're my peers, my classmates from high school and college, and soon my extended family... This year, my cousin started classes at West Point.

Though I won't begin to speculate on where the arms of the American military will be in four years, I worried for my peers. My elders already have my respect, more so as veterans, but their experience, coupled with their place in time, conveys touches of wisdom that I may never understand. It's most striking to me that these peers of mine, former classmates and my younger cousin too (maybe), have and will likely continue to endure the most physically and emotionally taxing experiences one life could--solely to maintain our feelings of safety and security at home. Perhaps it's the worry and fear that makes us most grateful.

They have my respect, respect beyond their years. But this year I didn't just think about appreciating what the veterans of this country have done--I thought about what they will do and who I will know and how their experiences will effect them.

What will the veterans from my generation see? What will they protect me from?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Taking the Weekend Off

My mom got to town on Friday and I know I've been silent since then.

FYI-- more posts coming soon!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

One Post a Day

Where's the Balance in My Day?

I've been struggling to get one post a day (as per the condition of NaBloPoMo)--I find that between work and sleep and eating, there aren't really that many hours in the day. Social media is demanding! (So is that 9 to 5 work structure--Though I know the arguments in support of posting at work, I feel guilty when I do because it takes me away from client related work time.)

I've found that when I get home from work, I don't want to be latched to my laptop. I'm fighting with myself to sit down and write. On one hand, I do want to write and post; on the other, my vision is going fuzzy from starring at a screen all day at work! And on top of that, it seems alocking myself, away from my roommates and boyfriend, so I can engage with this social media beast.

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

There's plenty more I'd like to cram into my day, on top of work and a blog post. But I keep coming back to one thing cutting into another-- facebook or in-person. The gym or more sleep?

How do you structure your day in away that you get a little bit of everything that's important (without sacrificing a night's sleep)? Any suggestions?

I want more from my 24 hours!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Just Starting Out with Your Finances

Awhile back I wrote a post on adult world words. As I was collecting words that I found take on new meanings in this post college adult land (can we trademark a theme park?) , a friend of mine suggested debt. It wasn't initially what I had in mind with my post--I was looking for funny. But debt was and is a very true adult word, so it made the list.

Amanda Gravel (@amandagravel) posted a comment asking how to avoid that whole debt situation. I balked at the question initially, because I don't really feel 100% financially stable. (I wonder how many people really do after graduating from college.) But I recently found myself reading Kiplinger's Personal Finance (for a client) and I came across some great resources for us young folks trying to figure it out.

I have to admit here that I am not one of those people that balances my checkbook in paper. I don't have a spreadsheet of expenses. I have a general idea of the bottom-line and I try to be thrifty. Budgeting seemed like a luxury to me, working from paycheck to paycheck. But these are some good guidelines to keep your finances in shape.

These numbers are percentages of take-home pay (after taxes):
30% Housing
15% Food (both at home and take-out)
10% Utilities and other housing expenditures
10% Transportation
10% Debt repayment
10% Savings
5% Clothing
5% Entertainment
5% Misc. personal expenses

Now, I have a pretty refined sense of guilt that spills over into my finances. Budgeting for clothes and entertainment sounded a bit crazy to me--probably because I always feel like those purchases are guilty indulgences (and $30 at the movies is madness!). But it's honest and important to factor in the money you should be spending to keep yourself amused, and warm.

This is just a start for managing your finances. And if you're in college still, you're probably going to be spending more money on books than on debt repayment. However, you should try to outline a budget, if for no other reason than to get a sense of how you spend your money. You'd be surprised how quickly the morning Starbucks add up--and if you know how you're spending, you can plan creative ways to save (like buying a coffeemaker and putting the money you save towards next semester's books, or a night out).

I'm definitely not a financial expert, but I'm figuring this out as I go. So Amanda, and everyone out there, if you have any questions or ideas, leave 'em as a comment. We can try to figure this all out together.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Podcamp: Pistachio on Presentations

Day two of Podcamp started off bright and early with a session lead by Laura Fitton (@pistachio). "Presenting... (The People Formerly Known as) Your Audience" was the title of the session and understanding the nature of presentations was the game.

Laura began by telling us that media, even in this new media landscape, is about audience. It's not about you. And consequently, you should remember that podcasts--any form of media--are shows and conversations. You have to ask and listen, be active participants in the entire process.

Most importantly--Love your audience!
Show your audience some love with:
production value
tight editing
getting (and incorporating) feedback
providing entertainment
making them think
informing / educating
giving 'em something

You're providing content and you should actively be seeking out an audience that matches your content. Get out of your fish bowl and find them where they live.

During the her presentation, Laura had everyone take out a business card, pass it to the person sitting in the next chair over and call the person's voicemail. Your voicemail is a presentation of who you are to--and most of us cringed at the thought of being judged by it!

Laura had this mnemonic device in her slides:

I think it succinctly summarizes her points about how to engage an audience in a presentation in only four words.

The session concluded with members of the audience sharing tactics for getting their respective audiences to engage. People suggested asking friends and family to comment to break the silence. The diecast audio podcaster said he found some of his audience in local diecast enthusiast club meetings... The take aways were to make the audience feel comfortable and find them where are.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Podcamp: Blogger Relations and PR 101

One of my colleagues at Topaz, Doug Haslam, led a discussion with Bryper (Bryan Person) on blogger relations and some other stuff (that the session's really long title was supposed to convey)... Really the session was PR in the new media landscape and it was led by two people who are down in the trenches on a regular basis.

The session began with examples of failures.
Bryper works for Monster and shared a story about blogger relations going amiss in Ireland. I hadn't heard this whole issue before, but I guess a Monster employee in Ireland send out a mass spam email. A well-read blogger received the email, got a nasty response from the person who sent it and posted about it. Then some Monster employee thought it wise to comment on the blog post from work--and the IP address was traced and exposed... The post and the comments attracted a lot of attention--the post got over 500 diggs.

@dougH shared a story of a past Topaz client. The client got some unfavorable coverage and an employee took matters into his own hands... Astroturf happens. But the company didn't think think it was important to apologize for the employee and state their blogger policy (apparently the employees weren't supposed to commenting on behalf of the company). It took them entirely too long to realize that the blogger was, in fact, worth apologizing.

What's the point?
Find online conversations and join them! Using Google, RSS, Newsgator, Feed demons, Google reader, you can keep track of all of them.

New PR= Old PR
Form pitches don't work because PR is about relationships.

PR people can stimulate conversations. PR people can be involved in conversations on behalf of a client. But you have to be honest about who you are.

The take away (yet again): Transparency. Why is this one so hard?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Participating in NaBloPoMo

I'm participating in the NaBloPoMo--National Blog Posting Month, in which you post at least once a day for the entire month of November.

They have a series of entertaining bagdes you can put up on your blog to announce your participation. I liked this one best because it's ridiculous.

Awhile back, I was pointed to this post called "Are You an A-List Bloglebrity?"--it contains a rating scheme based on the (sometimes contested) Technorati ranking and authority. You type in your URL and find out how cool you are in social media terms.

I made the D-list.

At first I couldn't decide if I was proud or embarrassed. But I knew I didn't post enough to move up in the social media ranks.

So let's see that happens if I post once a day for a month. Maybe I'll be a C-list blogger in the end. Maybe I'll be happily typing away and not notice the ranking system. Either way, I'll have posted a lot.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Comment Rant (amended)

When I set up this blog, I set it up for pre-moderation of all comments. So first I received an anonymous comment to my The Brookline Public Library Recycles...Books post, then another on to this rant about promotional sounding, unsigned comments (which I've now amended). The second of which was considerably negative, so much so that it won't be published.

Now, there are many things I found irritating about the original comment:

First and foremost, sign your name. Clearly you want to engage me in one way or another; clearly you care. If you want me to take you seriously, tell me who you actually are. Transparency is the word.

Now, the link I was pointed to, and the comment itself for that matter, is written for someone that has some sort of say in libraries--"Let us sell your discards and donations." --I'm not a library; I don't have a stack of books to discard. I walked by and saw some in the recycling can. You want to impact change--talk to the Brookline Public Library.

Finally, the comment refers to ways to purchase books. When did I mention buying books? The post was about recycling books and then I suggested ways the library could have better handled their unwanted material. If you, the anonymous commenter, wanted me to add to that list of options you should have written the comment in such a way to convey that goal.

The second comment was a bit more inflammatory--it's funny how people think the internet is a black hole of anonymity and therefore regular rules of conversation or etiquette don't apply. It is for this reason that I'm establishing a set of guidelines for my approach to moderating comments:
  • Tell me who you are (transparency)--if for some reason you can't, tell me why
  • Talk to me (create dialogue)--don't sound like a salesman or an obvious promotion, I work in PR (I get that all day)
  • Talk to my audience (be relevant)
  • Be respectful--name calling isn't okay, even behind the veil of the Internet

***this post has been modified from the first version I published the morning of November 2nd.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Beth Kanter on Social Media Metrics

Beth Kanter's session on metrics began with a definition of metrics--the attributes or factors that are important for you to determine results or make improvements. She cited this definition from Jeremiah Owyang (an Forrester analyst and blogger) and went on to say what metrics are not; when we're talking about metrics, we're not talking about a scoreboard or a report card.

Ultimately, metrics don't exist in a vacuum. You need measurement--the process of determining result of strategy--to bring meaning to the metrics and the strategy as a whole.

The most substantive take away from this session is that measuring social media metrics is not like Martha Stewart; metrics for social media are not and can not be perfect. So you have to get comfortable with ambiguity and using the numbers you can get.

That being said, what are the basics?
Page views
Visitor info
Time on site
Bounce rate (only view single page before leaving site)
Traffic and content
Entry and exit pages
Click analysis
Search engine entry

How do these become meaningful?
In the session, Beth referred to 5 Rays from Scoble's white board. Those rays are themes to take into consideration for measuring social media success. Beneath each ray are some general ideas of how to measure it:

Who's reading
Unique visitors
Engagement =interaction+attention
Click on
Length of stay
Shape of conversation (qualitative analysis)
Post to comment ratio
Conversation index-> posts / trackback + comments
RSS subscribers (feedburner, et al)
Repeat visitors
Memes and their intensity over time
Question: authority
Digg, Techmeme, Technorati
Linked to goals

*There are plenty of metrics tools available--webtrends, google analytics, clickstream, feedburner, typepad. That could be another post in and of itself...

Final points: Conclusion

Don't be use metrics as therapy. Don't be a metrics detective.
Do link metrics to goals, strategy and decisions.

I wish it could be more precise! But social media is like life--a little vague at times...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lesson in the 3 Conversations of Personal Branding: FREE HUGS

Mitch Joel offered this video as an example of the three conversations of personal branding.

Though you can see how internal communication, one-to-one communication and one-to-many communication are involved in the creation of this video and the creation of this movement. I chose to share this YouTube video as an example of simple social change that one person can impact.

What would the world be like if you could walk up to someone and get a free hug on a bad day or just because you felt like it?

I want to live in that world!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Six Pixels of Separation of Self: Building Your Personal Brand with Mitch Joel

First session I attended, bright and early Saturday morning, was Mitch Joel's talk on personal branding. He compared the idea of a personal brand to toothpaste out of the tube--it's already there, may as well slap some branding on it!

He walked the audience through personal branding in three conversations:
1) internal conversation
2) one-to-one conversation
3) one-to-many conversation.
What's the purpose of these conversations?

We say a lot without saying a lot. You should know your story the same way PR folks are taught to know your brand messaging. When you're out there communicating that story to others, you need to listen more than you talk--think of the difference between advertising and [good] PR, one way versus two way communication. You need connections and community to gauge your brand--your personal brand is more than you, it's how you're perceived.

Six Degrees of Separation?
1) establish yourself as an expert
2) be seen and known as a leader
3) be known as an innovator
4) separate yourself from the competition
5) gain professional stature
6) build your image

Build your brand by investing in yourself and community. It all sounds like self help, but I keep wondering how much of this I would say, slightly differently to a client.

But returning to me--Mitch got me thinking about the huge differences between how I define me and how other people in my life define me.

How do you define you? Just you? Is there one thing you can point to as the most important thing?

Lots to think about!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My First Podcamp--Overview

Today was the final day of Podcamp Boston 2--an unConference for social media types. And I have a lot of thoughts I'd like to share with everyone out there.

I went to a number of great sessions, including Mitch Joel on Building Your Personal Brand, Beth Kanter on measuring social media success, Doug Haslam and Bryan Person on PR in social media, Laura Fitton on presentations and your audience, Neil Gorman gave a session entitled, "Broken Toasters, Will Shatner, And Podcaster Burnot," and finally, there was Isabel Hilborn's "Crappy Web 2.0 Marketing."

I'm planning posts on my reactions to these sessions, but also to the space between these sessions that lead to some pretty interesting conversations too.

However, tonight is game four of the World Series, so my TV is on. And my typing is consequently is my attention...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

MySpace Strikes Back: Is Facebook Fazed?

Last week, MySpace got two major media hits for something besides predator scandals. Last week, MySpace got AP and the Wall Street Journal for two unrelated pieces of business news. Interesting, amid the continuing talk of a Facebook buyout.

The first MySpace announcement this week came over a partnership between that News Corp. holding and Skype (AP coverage here). The VP of product development for MySpace emphasized that the internet telephony technology would be fully incorporated into the MySpace experience.

Also in the AP story, but under the Skype news, MySpace signed a licensing agreement with Sony BMG. The agreement will allow for users to include video and music content in their profiles and the two companies will split the ad revenue. This announcement intentionally harkons to the original MySpace idea as a place for bands, though it's got all the spirit of "monetize your web 2.0 content" seminar, with the added bonus of major label quality.

In other MySpace news, Wall Street Journal tells us that games are coming soon (full story here). According to the WSJ piece, causal games accounted for 360 million in revenue last year. No doubt, MySpace is looking to share in the wealth.

Summation and thoughts: With Skype, a music / content deal and games, MySpace is formalizing what the open API did for Facebook. For Facebook, the API enabled users to add fun and greater personalization to their profiles. Personalization has never been lacking from MySpace, but News Corp is working to keep its social network market share and eyeballs for the ads, so it's adding in the fun. Has Facebook noticed the renewed MySpace effort? Perhaps. Will it slow Mr. Zuckerberg down?

Why don't you tell me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Comcast Customer Service: A Mixed Bag

Half a week of frustration and all I got was this lousy modem... Well, the modem works now, after three long-winded customer service calls, a more than an hour long visit to the COMCAST store and five days of waiting.

The frustration from the beginning. It took two days to coordinate an appointment with Comcast and my roommates' very different schedules. Two days of, "well, that could work," "err, I don't want to miss class," and "you know what my work schedule is like..." We finally got this appointment nailed down and everything seemed fine--the man came in, set up the cable and left the self install kit for the internet (modem, install CD, the whole shibang).

Minor problem though-- the Comcast man gave us modem that was still registered to its passed user. Meaning, much to my annoyance, that we couldn't use.

What happened next is where the customer service goes amiss. My roommate, armed with the account number and the modem, calls customer service. The woman on the other end of the phone tells him there's nothing she can do and that he'll have to go somewhere--to a help desk out of range of public transportation.

Comcast screws up so we have to go out of our way to fix it? Real winning customer service from this one.

I called in a day later, irritated by the poor treatment and further aggravated by my lack of that high speed internet I was promised. The man on the other end of the phone sounded slightly delayed, like he wasn't quite following what I was telling him. He walked me through my options--another Comcast man could come out, but that couldn't be before Wednesday, or we could go to that help desk I mentioned.

Again. Comcast screwed up, so I'm the one having to go out of my way to fix it. Strike two.

Next day, another one of my roomies makes way to the help desk (he's got a vespa, so he didn't have to walk). He's got to rush from Comcast to a meeting and asks me to confirm exactly what's involved, so he doesn't waste any of his time.

This time the lady of Comcast refunded a week of high speed internet I hadn't received to my account, without being asked, to make things right. And she went over the whole help desk protocol. Score one for the Comcast lady!

But wait-- Comcast managed to err yet again. Roommate gets to help desk. He waits in line. And he waits in line. He waits for over an hour as the sole attendant in the crowded place tried to up-sell every single person in line.

We finally get the second modem home. And guess what? It doesn't work.

Roommate one tinkers with it for awhile before admitting defeat. So in the end, he's back on the phone with Comcast. This time it's something that can be fixed remotely, some program needed to be put in place. At the end of this call, there's much rejoicing and laughter... You see, this call was on speaker phone with four tired people who desperately wanted the 'net and a Comcast man with a noticeable Canadian accent. We were giggling at everything.

That was the conclusion of the modem trouble. Comcast gets mixed reviews. It would be nice if they could get it right in the first two or three times and not create a greater inconvenience to the customer. Right?

In the end: Yesterday while I was writing this post, I received a call from an unfamiliar Boston number. I wasn't by my phone and there was no message left. I called the number back and discovered it was Joe from Comcast letting me know about some sort of software outage or larger issue in my area. I don't know if it makes me feel better about the whole thing that they called to tell me why. It's nice to know they were paying attention.

But it would be equally nice to not have spent so much time waiting, in line, on the phone and generally for the service in the first place.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Words that Flutter

Saw the link to this image on a friend's Google chat away message and felt it was worth sharing.

It reminded me that I hadn't posted in awhile and that I haven't given much of myself to my blog (and my readers) lately. The nature of blogging is to share words that flutter through your mind...

Words that flutter. Extraordinary.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Google Analytics Finally Works!

Thanks to some help from @mdy on Twitter, Google analytics finally works on this blog.

In case you don't know, analytics allow you to tell how well read your blog is, how many unique pageviews you've had, the average time on the site, etc.

If you're having trouble setting up analytics on your blogger blog, check out this website. It was @mdy 's suggestion, and it made all the difference.

Thank you Twitter, mdy and Andy Wibbels--now this blog has measurement!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Words from the Post-College, Adult Land

Since I started working a real job, I've noticed a new kind of vernacular...

I vaguely recall the booming voice of my dean at the first section of the class that was requirement for all incoming freshman. "And you will learn to speak this new language called adult." He meant we'd stop using the word "like" incorrectly and sound less like a valley-based high school soap.

But there really is an adult world vocabulary and I've decided to start a list of post-college words here:

The third definition from seems most appropriate:
3. power or ability to act or to influence people, events, decisions, etc.; sway: Being the only industry in town gave the company considerable leverage in its union negotiations.
Often times people talk about leveraging things as if to say they're using X experience to get Y result--I mean to say that the goal is as important as the thing being leveraged in adult speak. It makes me feel like I'm playing on a teeter toter.

This definition from seems most relevant:
1. Economics Relating to or involving all stages from production to sale: vertical integration.
But I think people use the word verticals and mean potential business leads in adjacent spaces (not necessarily on the production to sale track). I think of Vertical Horizon, the one hit wonder from when I was in high school.

This word compliments of my friend Josh, who recently graduated from Boston University. Graduating from BU and debt seem to go hand in hand, but debt does seem to be a sickeningly adult phenomenon. The only thing you can incur debt for as a kid is overdue library books... Welcome to life--pay up!

Feel free to add your own in the comments section. I'll add more as I think of them too...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Finding People in the Blogosphere: Blast from the Past

I'm absolutely amazed. Five or six years ago, when I was looking at colleges, I visited the University of Washington's daily paper. At the time, I was editor-in-chief of my high school paper (Cat Tracks) and I thought it was super important to establish a relationship with the staff at the paper before choosing a school--Really, it was a practice I should have been more diligent about keeping up, because I hardly set foot in the newsroom at BU in my four years there.

In any case, one of the people I met at the U-Dub newsroom googled my name and came up with my blog. And he left me a comment on the most current post he found--a post on new year's resolutions (one of which was to post more, which I don't seem to be doing that well at).

In such close proximity to the new year, it's really nice to be reminded of what I thought was really important six years ago. I loved writing, which is why I was applying to journalism programs. At the time, I remember feeling like journalists could expose important truths of history in the making by being the first eyes on the seen. I believed, as I still do to some extent, that the fourth estate was and is charged with the upkeep of the first amendment more so than the government that founded that right. That responsibility necessitates unbiased reporting.

It's funny how a blog can connect people who haven't spoken, or even thought about one another, in six years. I would expect such interactions to take place on Facebook or MySpace, but my blog has become an unexpected vehicle for reigniting past connections--and a way to remind me of the changes I've made in the past few years. What an unexpected way to start my day.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


What can I do better this year?

Post more frequently on this here blog... I've got to learn to play through the pain and rock the writers' block!

Lead a healthier life. I need to eat better. I need to exercise.
But doesn't everyone say that?
I feel like if there's a list of the most used, canned new year's resolutions, diet and exercise are number one and two on that list.

Study. I miss school. This year, I want to read more about random archaeological digs, traveling, and whatever sounds good. Basically, I want to read all the books I didn't have time to read while I was in school.

There are many more things I can improve on. I could be more spontaneous. I could more thoughtfully choose my words. I could do a lot of things.

I could hit sent on this post before I ramble on for too long... Right. Done.

Yom Kippur: A Year in Review

Yom Kippur. A day for introspection. A holiday dedicated to atoning for a year's worth of sins with the hope that you'll be reinstated in the book of life.

Praying and reflection are compulsory. Eating is prohibited. Drinking water is also disallowed (except for those with a medical reason). It's a day to be uncomfortable. And it's a day to wallow in self loathing.

Let's not kid ourselves. It sucks.

Sure, you can sugar coat it. Reflecting on the negative gives you time to think about being a better person and how you can go about achieving that ever-repositioning goal.

But let's face it. We have sinned.
We have lied. We have killed. We have gossiped. We have cheated.
Whether we did it intentionally or not, everyone has sinned (against g-d or against fellow man).

Atoning for it all communally reminds us that we're charged with keeping everyone in the right. "We" being the operative word.

Yet, all of those things will happen again next year--with or without a self regulating community.
We will kill. We will lie. We will cheat. We will gossip.

And it will all happen again year after year. So what's really the point?

Of the 613 commandments in the old testament, how many of them really bother you when you disobey? What of the old testament really strikes a cord of moral awareness?

It changes every year for me. This year I had a few thoughts that really stuck with me though, so I thought I'd share them...

First, a question by way of example. If two people are arguing and one is sticking to his moral principles and the other is hurt emotionally consequently, what's more important sticking to your moral guns or repairing the damaged feelings.

Second thought--reflecting on regret. Every year I struggle with this one. Does repenting imply regret? Is it false repenting or disingenuous to repent if you don't regret something?

Final thought here. People are allowed to break the fast for medical reasons, such as illness, pregnancy or being to small (children under nine aren't allowed to fast). But people who can't fast for medical reasons feel terrible about their inability to participate. Guilty. Really, not being able to keep the fast is a reminder that something isn't quite right. Aside from eating with them, how can we make people feel whole?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September the Eleventh: Reflecting in Parts

The Day Of
Shock. Dull shock. We watched the coverage in every class. By midday, we were numb with speculation and forced perspective. What does it mean? Are we at war? The pervasive question without an answer: why?

After One Year
My senior year of high school was the first year after September 11th. We had a memorial assembly on the football field, with flags and singing and all the usual patriotic fanfare. But the decor was less important than the reactions of the crowd. Nine hundred high school students sat quietly during a moment of silence that was actually universally observed.

Two Years Later

Freshman year (college). An uneventful day for memories; I remember little. Classes had just started. I was anxious to fit in.

Three Years Passed

Sophomore year. A moment of silence across campus. Flags at half staff. Uneventful, as far as I can remember. Except one question-- is it too early to be making a 9/11 movie?

Four Years
I was studying abroad in Israel my junior year. A whole new perspective on terrorism. At Hebrew University, you have to pass through airport style security to get to class. People don't mess around with safety. That summer, there were major terrorist threats and attacks across Europe. In London? How did I feel safer in Israel?

The Fifth Year Later

Five is one of those big memorial numbers. People like multiples of five. But college goes on regardless.

Year Six--This Year

I followed the tweets of people recounting the day of, concerned family and fear, speculation and interrupted interactions. How would modern technology have changed the response to 9/11? The report on the war in Iraq was announced on the 10th so it would appear in the papers the 11th. Everyone has a political agenda to campaign for...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Sweetness from the Ancients

A long, long time ago, in a country far away, I worked on an archaeological excavation at a site called Tel Rehov.

Toiling in the dirt is more than fun. And we found our fair share of buried treasure--Please note that in the context of an excavation, a broken pottery vessel is, in fact, buried treasure. It's a connection to the ways of the ancients, so regardless of how pretty (or dirty) an artifact is, it's bagged and tagged and studied.

Now, structures that are preserved in their original location, so they can be examined in the context of the space they filled or defined. Structures, AKA features in archaeological speak, can be anything from walls to hearths. Generally speaking, an experienced archaeologist can tell you what something is just by looking at it. (Identifying walls may seem like an easy job, but I would encourage you to try it sometime before making any snide remarks about needing experience.)

That being said, it was a bit odd to come across these cylindrical features during excavations. Initially, the lead archaeologists on the site had no idea. Who would have guessed they would have found beehives? Check out the AP story.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Moment of Cyberslacking

I'm dedicating this moment to Corinne Heller of Reuters who reported last week that employees spend one-fifth of company time engaging in cyberslacking.

It certainly brings a new life to that old AIM phrase, "wanna cyber?" Why yes, I'll cyber-slack with you. Let's meet at your favorite slack-off spot--Are you a facebook or Myspace kind of guy? Quick! I'll update my profile and you can comment on it on my new advanced wall. Then, someone will see it and send me a direct message on Twitter. We can guess who it'll be. Ready. Go!

Yeah, right.

All of these modes of cyberslacking can be used as a benefit to the company or firm, but perhaps that should be kept for the next edition of cyberslacking.

Coming soon to a portal near you: Cyberslacking--Friend or Foe, and Friend?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Comcast Cuts Service without Warning, Reason

I came across this article while I was at work, entitled Comcast or Concast? You decide. Apparently, Comcast and Sprint can now ride, guns-blazing, into the piss poor customer service sunset...

As BusinessWeek's Olga Kharif reported on her blog in early July, Sprint sent cancellation notices to roughly a thousand people. These notices were sent to customers that frequently called the customer service regarding their bill or other general information (click the link to see a sample letter).

Now, TelecomTV tells us that Comcast, the largest internet service provider in the US, is warning its customers not to use too much bandwidth--without telling its customers what how much is. If a customer then surpasses the undisclosed limit, that customer can be cut off and or suspended from Comcast's service for a year.

Moreover, apparently while the service is suspended, customers have been charged for services not rendered and unable to get anyone in the corporate hierarchy to pay attention.

I'm glad to see customer service is alive and kicking!

How do these two customer service idiots compare?
  • Sprint cut customers who were costing the company money in support services and staff time.
  • Comcast is cutting people off for a service they are paying for without telling them why or how to avoid it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Brookline Public Library Recycles... Books!

I manage the recycling at work. Once a week or so, I bag up all the cans, plastic and glass walk next door to the supermarket and cash in the bottle deposits. Little did I know that Massachusetts doesn't require deposits for all recycle-able bottles and cans. So, I'm always left with a pile of recycle-ables that I feel guilty just throwing away. These nonredeemable recycle-ables end up in the backseat of my car.

Sometime last week, I was walking down the street in Brookline and realized that everyone's recycling was out on the street. So I grabbed the bag of nonredeemables from the car and set out down the street to add it to someone's pile.

At the corner of the street, I found the perfect spot--a large plastic recycling can, complete with a lid. I popped the lid opened and found a whole garbage can full of books. These books were not torn or unreadable; these books were not missing pages or water damaged. There were history books, ranging from Japanese civilization to Israeli political structure; there were children's books, classic children's books with the gold binding; there were popular paperbacks including Harry Potter, The Scarlet Letter, and Tom Sawyer.

I couldn't believe it. The library was recycling perfectly readable books. It's sacrilege!

Suggestion Time
This question seems pretty obvious, but I'd love for people to participate in this:
What could the library have done with the books instead?

1) Donate the books to charity;
2) Hold a fundraiser;
3) Craigslist--curb alert even!

Your turn!

Friday, August 24, 2007

My sweetener packet talks to me

It's not that I hear voices when I rip open a pack of Splenda for my morning coffee. But those bright yellow packets speak. They speak in fortune cookie, childrens' rhyme wisdom and I'm sure I'm not the only one listening.

"Find a packet, pick it up, and all day long you'll have good luck."

“A car in every garage and a packet in every cup.”

“Every sweet deed you do will be repaid to you tenfold.”

My Splenda packets are inspirational and filled with sweetness. My Splenda packets are in line with that form of marketing that requires consumer attention to be grabbed and stimulated. Momentary amusement has become a product differentiator… Other sweeteners don’t talk to me.

This amusement factor is hardly new. In fact, it’s a line out of Snapple's playbook. Flip-the-cap factoids became such a part of Snapple’s branding and image that the Snapple website includes a section devoted to Real Facts!

It's easy to see how momentary amusement can be a product differentiator in food products--eat the ice cream off the stick and solve the riddle, Splenda packets, Snapple lids, Taco Bell sauce packets... Point being, food doesn't last that long. A momentary differentiator is all you need.

But will this form of product differentiation hold out? Or is it another tool in the kit that makes your product seem quirky and playful?

Really--is it just something to amuse the people who design the labels? Be honest!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Universal Car Care?

Having just recently bought a car, I found myself in need of insurance. My parents were planning to add the car to their existing policy, thinking that would save me a few bucks. But that dream was squashed because, apparently, insurance policies can't cross state lines. Something about state rights to write laws; something about different requirements in different states. Right. Translation: What a pain!

Perhaps it's because it's campaign season, but I liken this car insurance issue to the debate over universal health care.

What's the purpose of universal health care?
To raise the national baseline for health care.
To protect hospitals and ultimately states from covering the loss in unpaid / un-pay-able medical expenses.

How many car accidents happen in a year in which one or either party does not have medical insurance?

How many car accidents happen in a year in which one or either party is driving with a suspended license or without insurance because they couldn't afford the upkeep?

Join me in support of universal car care laws!
Facilitate greater competition in the car insurance market. With universal car care laws, all companies would be able to do business nationally. (I just spent a substantial amount of time trying to find insurance providers my dad knew, none of which offered coverage in MA.) SDIP--some sort of point system that calculates your insurance premium in relation to your driving record--should be standardized! An accident is an accident in any state. It's going to count against you when you're looking for an insurance policy--shouldn't it always count in the same way?

What would you like to change about the way insurance is dealt with?

It's Been Days...

... since I've finished a post.

I keep starting posts and wandering away from them. So I'll try to finish a few stories before bedtime.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

My Sketchy Craigslist Experience: Strangers in a Strange Land

I need a car. I don't like to admit it; I was hoping to borrow my boyfriend's car forever, rather than own one for myself. But I need a car to get to work five days a week. The commuter rail just doesn't do me right--driving takes 30 minutes in the morning, the rail system takes three times as long.

So I was scanning Craigslist for cheap cars, looking for something reliable to get me to and from work. That's all I really need. I found an old civic that seemed promising so we packed up to go look at it.

Now, I'll admit the car wasn't in the greatest shape. And we knew that before we left to test it out. The looks of it and it's location should have told us not to bother. But we had a mission, a need to appease.

We got to the car and it was as ugly as we expected. Though the car was originally all white, the hood and the trunk were black--replaced for one reason or another. Oh, there was always a reason. In fact, we got in the car to test drive it and there was a reason for the pull to the right (one tire with more air than the other), a reason for the door being in pieces ("it's in my garage"), a reason why it couldn't be driven too fast, and a reason why the A/C didn't work (apparently, if you disconnect the A/C, you get three extra miles to the gallon).

So with all those reasons, it didn't take much to imagine how I was feeling about the civic when I got behind the wheel. Then I got to experience first hand all the clicks, grinding and rubbing noises the car made. Turn the wheel and it sounded like the wheel was rubbing against the quarter panel, only it wasn't that consistent. I wanted to check it anyway, so I asked where there was a big grocery store, thinking I could make use of the parking lot and give it a thorough look-see.

The owner asked me to pull into a gas station. The car was on empty, so I decided I'd run in and get something to drink while he filled up the car. I got my drink and we were talking about the car situation, without realizing the owner had come in to pay and could hear us. By the time we had paid for my drink he had left.

Yes. I said left. We didn't believe it at first. We walked around the gas station in all directions to give him the benefit of the doubt. Then, to remove all doubt of his intentions, he came back and said he needed to show the car to someone else, that he'd come and get us in half an hour, that we had wasted his time.

His time? He stranded us at a gas station! Moreover, a gas station in a town we had never been to. Time? Let's talk about safety and respect!

Roughly half an hour later, we arrived back to the car we had parked outside of this man's house. The spotted civic was parked out front too. Our car was untouched (thank goodness).

Sure we thought of all the nasty things we could do to the car, though he would have just spray painted it again, and we entertained all the spiteful notions we could muster. But can you imagine actually stranding someone at a gas station in an unfamiliar town?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Pounce on Pownce? Or Tweet for Twitter?

I have a Google alert set up for the word Pownce. So everyday, I get a sizeable list of articles and blog posts that mention Kevin Rose's new project... Mostly, I skim through a bunch of people offering Pownce invites through their blogs (alright, I have some invites too; leave a comment if you're in need).

Pownce, like Twitter, is a microblogging service with some snazzy features--like file sharing (limited to a certain amount of space, with a larger amount for the upsell). To that end, Pownce seems to have more options for functionality (file sharing, link posting, etc.), but I'm still tweeting for Twitter.

Twitter is simple microblogging service. You have 140 characters to make your point; short and to the point; terse. It doesn't have the bells and whistles that Pownce has, but if I found a need for 'em or I would have crossed over. Moreover, all my friends are on Twitter. And there isn't much motivation to move to another similar service and rebuild net communities that are already in existence elsewhere.

FYI- I'm sandyk at Pownce and skalik at Twitter. Be advised I'm on Twitter all the time (even now) and I only check Pownce once a week, if not less.

Jargon Jar: Microblogging
I think of microblogging more like instant messaging to the masses than to blogging. Instead of sending a direct message to one person, you post to a microblogging site (Twitter, Pownce, et al) and every one of your friends / followers sees it. Most sites have direct message options, it's the exception rather than the rule.

Generally speaking, microblogging is a tool for quick, often up-to-the minute, updates. Posts range from what the person had for breakfast to shout outs to new friends or followers and syndicating blog posts (i.e. "check out my post on this at").

Shameless self promotion is encouraged... But I suppose when you work in PR, you ought to expect promotion of all kinds.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Occasionally, one is faced with a moderate to intense personal situation--emotional, interpersonal, medical or what have you-- at work. Everyone has his or her own coping mechanism, but I'm intrigued by the different work ethics or philosophies used to address these "personal" or "private" troubles while at work.

I've come to this question a few times in my "professional" career. (I don't know what other sorts of careers I've had; I don't think my high school fast food experience counts as a career move, at least I hope not...At any rate, the question:) But is there a correct way to deal with a personal problem while at work?

There are many perspectives from which to approach this question. Here's the lay of the personal trauma land:

Control Freak
To this person, any evidence of a problem at home could be construed as a side of weakness. You must, as always, maintain constant vigilance in warding of second-guessers and other forms of critique.

Check it at the Door!
For whatever reason, this person was taught that emotions don't belong at work. So while you're thinking about your dog that just died or your mother who is sick or whatever could be bothering you, you should, regardless of how worried or concerned you are, check it at the door.

Emotional, so What?
This is the guy or girl that would be crying at her desk, unabashedly. Perhaps after whimpering for a bit, once people had noticed, he might remove himself from his cube and go to the bathroom or outside for some fresh air. But the mentality here is, life is. You get emotional and deal however you need to--and who cares about everyone else?

Combination Treatment
Combo literally goes through the stages of emotional distress, and everyone listed herein, dealing with a stressful, emotional situation. Combo is in limbo, emotionally and egocentrically unsure. This person wonders, "Is it alright for me to feel this way?" Then momentarily encompasses the control freak, or emotional, so what. Difficult to predict this one, but usually the course of thinking, though not action, will be the same.

Did I forget anyone? How do you manage your emotions at work?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Am Not Unique!

Turns out this blogging thing is quite popular. I launch my blog and a day later the Globe calls Boston the top blog city. How exciting it is to be a statistic!

Apparently, "Greater Boston had 89 posts per 100,000 residents," which beats out all those other wired, tech savvy, well-educated places... How many of those are there anyway?

Jargon Jar: Blog
(I'll have to make a cool graphic for that later.)
The term blog comes from mashing together the words web (i.e. world wide web) and log. A blog is an Internet based journal put out there for all to see. Blogging--the verb meaning to create or maintain a blog-- enables citizen journalism, where anyone can start or join a conversation.

Some blogs now are highly regarded news sites, which initially stirred up a debate on journalistic integrity. Check out TechCrunch or BoingBoing to see examples of popular blogs. It goes both ways however, now traditional media outlets are sponsoring / hosting blogs--these often take the form of digital opinion columns.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Important Meeting Preparations: Iron Shirt, Stuff Packets... Straighten Hair?

This morning, I woke up early to prepare for an in office client meeting. If it sounds official, that's because it was; it was the first big meeting with a new client and it was my first client meeting where I had an actual role, a line item on the agenda. I was to talk about part of our PR plan, sound intelligent and look the part. So naturally, I planned to dress accordingly and straighten my hair.

This morning, I stood in front of the mirror, clad in a terrycloth robe, straighter in hand. My hair was unruly as ever. The curls were frizzy and kinked. There were fly-aways in all directions. Straightening it would make me look neater, I thought.

But really? And then a hodgepodge of thoughts trolled through my mind simultaneously--a neat appearance is confidence inspiring; professionalism is important; accurate, honest interactions are a must in PR; straight hair is more mainstream; mainstream is feels safer... Oh! I was lost in my own self pondering. Not too lost--I managed to straighten my hair and get to the office early to finish the final meeting preparations.

Let's go back to the hair raising issues though (sorry, I couldn't resist)...

Is there something confidence inspiring about straight hair? Does Marsha Brady have one up on me because she was born with easily managed hair?

Why do I associate straightening my hair and make-up with professionalism? It seems to me that these things conceal me, perhaps enhance what's already there, but cover other things that are. Example: foundation erases blemishes, but blots out freckles. My hair falls straighter, but that's not how I identify myself.

Then again, I know people like the way I look with straight hair...

Ladies (and Gents)--tell me what you think!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Simpsonized Me

Now, I'm a Simpson. Burger King, as a promotion for the Simpsons Movie, created SimpsonizeMe. The site creates aless than accurate, but still funny, Simpsons-style likeness of you.

Give it a try (and share your simpsonized selves here)! You submit a picture, tell it whether you're a chick or a dude, state your age and -poof- a yellow you appears... You actually get to pre-set your color too. In essence, you get to choose your ethnicity. Though I didn't think of it at the time, I could have chosen brown and set my background to the Quik-E-Mart. I didn't notice any Krusty color option... That might warrant further investigation!

All the time I spent making a Sandy Simpson got me wondering if there are other websites that allow you to generate cartoon versions of yourself. Does anyone know of a site that can make me into a Jetson? I want to be Jetsonized!

Meet Sandy Jetson. ... Her boy Elroy.

Sandy's First Blog

I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog for quite some time now. First, I debated the name. Naming a log of your thoughts seemed to be a highly personal matter--or at least that was what I was telling myself at the time as a way of putting off actually starting this thing. Vetting the name through friends only created further room for wiggling out of actually blogging. "Are you sure you want to name your blog that?" "That's a dumb name."

Maybe this "sandying" business is dumb too. But no more excuses!

This is my blog. I'm planning to post here often. And I plan to try to post in themes (i.e. topics that I intend to write on regularly).

Possible themes, you ask? Here's the working list:

MyNews: I, like everyone else who has a blog, will blog about me--hence the name of the blog.

PRoper-ganda: Bernays, the father of public relations, said that what he did was propaganda, and that he just "hoped it was 'proper-ganda' and not 'improper-ganda.'" A very witty little woman I went to college with named our PRSSA chapter newsletter PRoper-ganda and I would be remiss not to mention my title borrowing (much PRSSAmor).

Middle East Mash-up: Not so occassionally, the coverage of the area is, well, amusingly disparate. Three different stories covering the same event will recant three radically different stories. And don't get me started on the bias!

Jargon Jar: posts of random mumbo jumbo I hear at work, in the news or anywhere that may need explaining for me and others.

And there will be more to come, as I have many more interests I like to talk / think / write about. But this is a good start; it's an introduction really.

Welcome to my blog. Visit often.