468px-William_Gibson_60th_birthday_portrait.jpgWilliam Gibson is a genius.

 

I'll go further.

 

William Gibson is a God.

 

(If the blues-loving hipsters of the '60s could declare Clapton to be God, I can call Gibson "a God". The addition of the "the" makes all the difference...)

 

But I digress.

 

If you're unfamiliar, William Gibson is an author. His work is considered "speculative fiction"  He's credited with coining the term "cyberspace". His writings have influenced countless stories told in all media. Did you see Blade Runner? If so, you saw one of Gibson's myriad visions realized.

 

The opening sentence of Neuromancer, his multiple-award winning debut novel (and speculative fiction milestone) exemplifies his taut prose.

 

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

 

Stunning.

 

But I digress, again...

 

There are a lot of smart people out there. Some, however, are better at communicating their observations than others.

 

I call Gibson a God because he has a profound understanding of the zeitgeist and its implications for "normal" people.

 

Consider:

 

I think that marketing is increasingly what we do as a culture. We're much less of a culture that manufactures objects. Now we farm that out and work on the idea of it and selling it later. That's been one of the changes I've seen in the course of my life that I wouldn't have imagined....it wasn't all marketing all the time which [is] what we've gotten to in the 21st century.

 

There's an Internet meme that we're all curators, and that our online identities are carefully-selected, idealized versions of (some aspect of) ourselves. We're our own avatars.

 

It makes sense. Our lives are overwhelmed by data. In this environment, curating can be a powerful move. It can also be obnoxious self-aggrandizement.

 

Either way, Gibson observes:

 

When the 'I am a brand' thing becomes the folk wisdom how do you do science fiction? How do you do it If something that strange has become what kids tell each other in grade 7: "Gotta be a brand, man."

 

Indeed.

 

How do you do science fiction in that environment? Well, Gibson solved that; he's already written it.

 

But for us, gentle readers, how do we navigate our electronic lives, live "real" lives, and balance our identities? 

 

How do we establish and maintain our electronic identities in this stranger-than-fiction era?

 

It can go badly, quickly. Consider LeBron James. He wanted to be a "global icon".

 

He has. But for many observers, for the wrong reasons. When you're referred to as a "global icon for arrogance", that's bad. Is he still making millions? Absolutely. But I have to believe that valid criticism hurts.

 

And what of organizations? I'm just li'l old me. I think I have a handle on my online footprint. But what happens when that footprint is distributed without direction? Certainly, I lose control of the message. Probably, I lose control of the image. In either case, I lose control of my brand.

 

It is true that we "do marketing" increasingly as part of our jobs.

 

It is also true that we need to be mindful and directional with our activities, as individuals and organizations.

 

Mindless, directionless energy is a great name for a great punk rock album. It's not such a great method of managing our virtual lives.

 

How are you handling the challenge?

Raymond Whitney

Elegant Simplicity

Posted by Raymond Whitney Jan 18, 2012

Considering current events, I should be writing about PIPA and SOPA.

 

Maybe I should march somewhere.

 

wikipedia.jpgI should rage against Internet censorship and control.

 

But that seems futile. I don't see how my voice will add to the conversation. Far more influential and powerful entities and individuals are influencing the conversation.

 

So...

 

I'm here to write about something I might be able to influence. A little. In some small way.

 

Simplicity.

 

Here's a radical thought: simple = good. It's mom and apple pie.

 

Of course, I over-simplify. I know. Stay with me...

 

We marvel at Apple's design prowess. It's a kind of magic. It's elegant simplicity.

 

Achieving that elegance is extremely hard work. Few can do it.

 

But, we can be inspired. We can work to bring elegant simplicity into our products. Our designs. Our messaging.

 

The world would be a better place.

 

Our users would be happier.

 

Happy users = $.

 

10 Seconds

 

Consider: in the time it takes you to read this sentence, a website visitor will view, read, and (likely) move on from your web page.

 

Jakob Nielsen (guru, shaman, knower-of-all-things-user-centric) states it clearly:

 

To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds.

 

How do we get there?

 

Simplicity.

 

And Clarity.

 

Purposefulness.

 

And activity.

 

Christopher Butler identifies good design as being purposeful and clear. He Further notes that calls to action must be identified and prioritized. As an added bonus, the social aspect (sharing) can be enriching.

 

Looking at Things Differently

 

"When I had a problem, my mum and dad would tell me to look at it another way."

James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl

 

james.jpgIf you wish to be simple, be "anti-complex".

 

Instead on focusing on "simplicity", focus on reducing complexity.

 

That's the essential premise behind Jon Bolt's excellent Complexity and User Experience.

 

The best products don’t focus on features, they focus on clarity. Problems should be fixed through simple solutions, something you don’t have to configure, maintain, control. The perfect solution needs to be so simple and transparent you forget it’s even there.

 

Simple. Transparent.

 

It's Clarke's maxim made real.

 

It's hard work. We need to say "no" more often than we need to compromise.

 

We need to harden our hearts, focus on the goal (elegant simplicity), and cruelly eliminate distractions

 

The world would be a better place.

 

Clarity leads to understanding.

 

Our users would be happier.

 

And happy users lead to...

green-question-mark.jpgWe all run into them, at different times in different ways, often unexpectedly.

 

When we do, we scratch our heads, or stroke our beards, or drum our fingers upn the table.

 

We might hum a little, stare off into space, or nervously cough.

 

If we're feeling particularly audcious, we might close the office door and sit with a trusted colleague, pondering them.

 

But we don't often state them loud and proud and out in the open. We don't often look at the 800 pound gorilla, introduce ourselves, and get to know it.

 

For the most part, we've see than movie, and we know how that script ends.

 

We seldom ask the BIG QUESTIONS.

 

Perhaps more accurately, we don't seriously try to tackle the BIG QUESTIONS.

 

Well, this time, in this case, I'm asking, and I'm seeking an answer.

 

What Is the ACS Web Presence?

 

Attached to this blog post is a white paper I prepared for the Web Council. In the paper I explore this BIG QUESTION.

 

From the introduction:

 

What is the ACS Web Presence? For some time now I’ve been struggling to understand it.


The question comes up in various forms in myriad contexts.


    • It emerges when we identify duplication of effort—when multiple business owners pursue separate web initiatives that cover similar territory…
    • It appears when we consider how one site relates to another. And another. Oh, and that other one over there…
    • It's loud and insistent when we try to determine our approach to Social Media…
      • And Mobile…
      • And Email…
      • And...the list goes on…


So, what is it? Is it merely a catalog of stuff? Is it the impression we make on our constituents?


As usual, questions beget more questions.


I walked around the office. I issued a challenge. I sought perspective. In two minutes or less, name all the ACS-related web…things…you can. It’s not a test. There’s no right answer. Just tell me what you think. 

 

And I would follow up with: So, how would you characterize it?


What do you think people said?

 

Check out the paper. Comment on it here!

 

Share, and enjoy!

I just read a remarkable article in Wired by the father of a child whose son is on the autism spectrum and has a severe receptive and expressive language delay.

 

It's a stunning take on an under-reported aspect of that which we are beginning to grasp: Steve Jobs' legacy.

 

I don't have a vested interest in the subject. Thankfully, I am not disabled and while my eyes get worse every year, I can still use a computer.

 

Even so, the following statement captured my attention:

 

“Accessible” means “something everyone can use.” In pop culture and consumer technology, “accessible” sometimes means things that are easy for lots of people to understand or enjoy. In the disability community, “accessible” means something is open to people of all abilities, usually because it was designed with them in mind. And in both spheres, “accessible” can mean something almost anyone can both find and afford. Like anything else, Apple’s iThings can sometimes seem too complex, too presumptuous, too expensive. But really, even with their limitations, they're amazingly accessible in every sense of the word.

 

The author then quotes a 1996 interview with Jobs. In it he provides us with some perspective:

 

These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with other parents and support groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things can profoundly influence life. I'm not downplaying that. But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light — that it’s going to change everything. Things don't have to change the world to be important.

 

Steve Jobs is no longer present among us; yet he remains with us. And while most of us play with our iThings, it's centering to remember that those...things...also serve a greater purpose.

 

Share and enjoy.

Did you hear that?

 

Listen...over the cubicle wall...across the interwebs...do you hear the drum beating?

 

Look for it! In the magazines (you know, those paper-based things...), in the blogs, in the marketing collateral.

 

Do you see it?

 

"Social business."

 

Social-business hive.jpg

 

 

There, did you catch that? Look at that crazy PowerPoint slide!

 

"Social Business!"

 

What WAS that?

 

"SOCIAL BUSINESS!"

 

In the spirit of an older post of mine, in which I asked whether or not Faceook had jumped the shark, I'm drawing a line in the sand, burying my head in the ground, manning the barricades, and shouting "LA LA LA LA LA" whenever someone brings up the topic of "social business".

 

I'm so done with social business, already.

 

What's He On About, Now?

 

Silly twaddle, it's all silly twaddle.

 

Several of my colleagues are hooked by this new Social Business fad. (See, even I'm affected. I just used capital letters for "social business". Like it's a proper noun. Someone slap me!) It's "interesting", they state.

 

What, exactly, is interesting?

 

fast_company.jpgOn September 11, 2011, the Fast Company Expert Blog had a post, entitled "Move Over Social Media; Here Comes Social Business". The author, Drew Neisser, writes about IBM and "social business". From the introduction:

 

"IBM is moving itself and its clients well beyond social media into a new era of collaboration, insight sharing, and lead generation it calls social business."

 

Huh?

 

The article then lists "seven reasons why just about every company should be thinking about becoming a social business."

 

What?

 

Wait. Let's think critically. It's an "expert" article about "social business" and it never once defines the term!

 

The best he can come up with is IBM's consulting/marketing-speak.

 

<sigh>

 

Well, let's deconstruct their definition and see what we see.

 

"A new era..."

Sounds good. We're turning the page. We're moving forward...into the atomic age!

 

"...of collaboration..."

Great! We're turning the page and sharing, working together. Er, something just dawned on me...shouldn't we have been doing that all along?

 

"...insight sharing..."

Right! Share insights! By collaborating! Wait, um, isn't the definition of "collaborate" to "work together"? So, "insight sharing" is...redundant. It's embedded in the DNA of collaboration!

 

This is fun!

 

"...and lead generation..."

Ding! Ding! Ding! Winner, winner chicken dinner! Social Business is about lead generation! That makes sense.

 

Am I being cynical? Absolutely.

 

Am I being unfair? Not at all.

 

It may seem petty, but if you cannot define a thing, you're wasting time.


Jive Talking

 

So I looked around. Jive software (makers of an amazing suite of social media tools) have a video entitled: "Jive Software: Now Business is Social"

 

I watched it, figuring that a company whose bread-and-butter is Social Media (note the capital letters...) would capture it!

 

Oh, my, was I wrong. See for yourselves.

 

 

If the IBM example was silly twaddle, the jive video was a psychedelic trip to happy land. I won't deconstruct it here. (Sadly. It would be a delight to do so!) I will, however, edit it down for you (their words):

 

It's a fact of life, right? Something we all as grownups just have to accept. Work can be a drag...Yuck! Seems like you're out there on your own....And no one reads that brief you slaved over (like this blog...).

 

But what if work was SOCIAL?...again? What if we were all in it together? What if we were one big happy team?

 

So why can't we turn conventional wisdom upside down, reject the status quo, and make work SOCIAL again?

 

Why not take down cubicle walls, turn colleagues into friends, bosses into coaches, customers into believers?

 

We believe that work can be social again, and that means together we can all thrive.

 

Alternatively (my words):

 

Work stinks. People are mean. Can't we all just get along? If we do, we'll get lollypops!

 

<sigh>

 

Did you watch the video? Did you learn anything? Or, are you sort-of teased, sort-of confused, yet enthusiastic about...something?

 

One of those colleagues I mentioned earlier engaged in a thought experiment, and posed this definition:

 

"Social Business" is a new way of accomplishing tasks. It is the collaborating and working together to review, edit, and develop documents, policies, etc.  There is some overlap with the social media and networking, but there are some components that are unique and very compelling.

 

I respect my colleague. Tremendously. This person is a clear thinker and is genuinely struggling to come to terms with the term.

 

Social Business yin.jpg

 

Look! A happy, swirley, vaguely yin/yang-inspired info graphic!

 

In my mind, their definition misses the point.

 

  • It's not "new".
    We've been collaborating forever--just using different tools.

  • There's not "some overlap" with Social Media and Networking. (Again, the capitals)
    "Social business" is DEFINED by Social Media and Networking.

  • And what are these spectral components that are "Unique" and "compelling"?

 

I applaud the effort. I believe that my colleague--like me--is trying to make sense of a something that "They" are trying to promote.


My Attempt at a Definition

 

So, Mr. Smartypants, what's your grand contribution to the conversation? Are you just going to be a hater? Or do you actually have something to say?

 

I'll step up:

 

"Social business" is an umbrella term for an enterprise's engagement in social media activities that advance its core agenda.

 

How does that stand up?

 

It seems to mesh well with the way it's being used over at ZD Net. Rich harris's blog is titled "About Social Business". It uses this as its summary line:

 

Rich Harris delivers news on social media tools and trends and deep dives into business strategies.

 

Hmm.

 

Not quite there.

 

Let's do a little more research...

social_emerging.png

 

Attack of the infographic! Ballantine Beer and "social business", or...something!

There should be some rule somewhere that states:
as infographics grow in frequency they shrink in meaning.

Oops! There's already a definition!

 

Someone has some 'splaining to do...

 

Um, well, er. Yep. Someone, somewhere along the line, really messed this up.

 

You see, there's already a definition in common use! And it has absolutely nothing to do with what we've been talking about.

 

200px-Muhammad_Yunus,_World_Economic_Forum_2009_Annual_Meeting.jpgAnd the best part? It was coined by a Nobel laureate.

 

"Social business" was first defined by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus.

 

"Social business" refers to a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective within the highly regulated marketplace of today. It is distinct from a non-profit because the business should seek to generate a modest profit but this will be used to expand the company’s reach, improve the product or service or in other ways to subsidise the social mission.

 

So, a marketing yahoo somewhere failed to do some basic research and tried to re-coin a phrase. IBM has bought on to this definition, and Big Blue's profile is compelling the tech-savvy intelligentsia to hem and haw over "social business"--in an entirely different context.

 

So, What Now?

 

I reiterate: I'm so over "social business"!

 

I propose the following: save time, effort, and money. Don't let the "social business" fad distract us from the very real challenges we face.

 

Instead, let's focus on doing what we already do (serve our members and the greater scientific community) better?

 

Let's engage with our constituents.

 

Let's adopt tools to interact with people where they are--even when they're on the go!

 

Let's leverage the unique strengths of social media to reinforce and enhance our relationships with our communities, Local Sections, and Divisions.

 

Let's focus on challenges--not on buzzwords.

 

And no, I'm not in denial! I really believe that we should just move along...

 

nothing_to_see_here.jpg

Previously, I posted a copy of a white paper I wrote in 2010, entitled Social Media - Recommendations when Developing a Strategy.


I know you read it. I know you loved it! I know it left you wanting more!


I have been cleaning out some folders, and I came across these bits of research and other white papers.


These are quite good resources (despite being ~2 years old) to get started with a meaningful discussion of social media and web strategy!


  • How to develop a successful "Social Network Strategy" by Global Strategies llc

 

    • Outlines a process and identifies considerations for organizations considering enterprise strategy in social media


  • 2009 Social Media Use Survey Report Findings by Global Strategies llc
    • This survey of over 500 organizations presents a comprehensive view of the way membership organizations viewed and used social media.


  • Use of Online Social Networks Results of US User Survey (June 2009)
    • This survey is based on more than 420 social media users, from a variety of demographics. It presents a broad-based view of social media use, for direct comparison to the member-organization-focused survey by Global Strategies.

 

As always, share and enjoy!

Tiger.jpgThat was a shameless tease.
Admit it: you thought it was an opportunity to talk about Charlie Sheen!
(At least I have a photo to satisfy your expectations...)


 

So, what's this all about?

 

The scene: I'm sitting in a meeting. We're discussing the ACS Network, and we're studiously (and seriously) navel gazing.


 

We're asking serious questions:


  • How do we get people to engage?
  • How do we get their attention?
  • How do we make the Network vital, vibrant, valuable?

 

 

We hem. We haw. We offer this idea and that idea:


 

  • We need compelling content.
  • We need to draw people out of their shells.
  • We need to give people functionality (for this and that).
  • Oh, we already have that functionality?
  • Er...
  • Um...
  • We need compelling content!

 

 

It's serious conversation.

 

 

Maybe...too serious.

 

 

We're smart people (Come on, you didn't expect me to say that we're dumb!) But we're spinning our wheels.

 

 

Maybe we're missing something. Maybe our emphasis is on the wrong thing...

 

 

  • I ask myself: why do people use social networks?
  • I answer myself: to be social.

 

 

It's not flip or facetious. It's a serious answer.


What Does This Have To Do With Tiger Blood?

 

 

Wait for it...

 

When the meeting began, a colleague came into the room. We said hello. We exchanged pleasantries. We inquired about each other's kids. We lamented the illnesses of childhood and expressed our desire for spring to...spring.


 

We were...social.

 

 

Then we got to work.

 

 

Doesn't that make sense?

 

 

Let's deconstruct it:


 

  • We encounter one another.
  • We exchange "safe information"
  • We establish (or reinforce previously-established) comfort
  • We build trust
  • Then...we get to work.

 

 

Why is the ACS Network any different?

 

 

Field.jpgThe ACS Network is a field of dreams. We built it. And we would love for people to play there.

 

We want them to be serious...to exchange big ideas. To collaborate. To share. To be...professional.


But in this field of dreams, maybe they really want to play baseball...or cricket...or rounders...or rugby...or "Avogadro's Element Hunt"...

 

 

Maybe they prefer to refine their enology skills by discussing the chemistry of wine and cheese. Perhaps they'll create a group in which they'll discuss chemistry in the news and movies (and mock the luddites who get it all wrong...in the same way physicists mock science-fiction movies for neglecting the laws of gravity!).

 


Maybe they want to be social.

 


And maybe...just maybe...that's a good thing.

 


You see, maybe it's like real life. Maybe people will meet one another, gain comfort by conversing about "safe" topics, build trust, and learn from one anotherall online.

 


And eventually it might extend beyond "Social" and become "Professional".

 

Let's look at that model again:


  • We encounter one another.
  • We exchange "safe information"
  • We establish (or reinforce previously-established) comfort
  • We build trust
  • Then...we get to work.

 


It feels like the ACS Network community is working its way through the list. Getting "professional", or at least "[getting] to work" certainly won't happen overnight. Trust takes time. Maybe we'll get there; I don't know.

 


One thing I do know is that we can't force people to use the Network in any particular way. It's not ours; it's theirs. Social networks grow organically.

 

That written, it is our job to plant seeds and nurture growth; weed as necessary, and re-seed where appropriate.

 


We Are Stewards of This Field of Dreams

 


So, maybe our job is to encourage the social...and let people be people.

 

I believe they'll get serious...when they're ready.


 

And they will be...eventually.

 

 

So, maybe we were right after all: we do need compelling content!

 

 

Wine! Food! Sports! Restaurants! National Meeting socials!

 

And...in the meantime, I really want to know:

 

What is the chemistry of tiger's blood?

 

What do YOU think?

This is a re-post from a previous (and largely-ignored) blog.

Its style is...lacking. It is humorless. It lacks photos. (Any surprise that it was ignored?)

...we live and learn...

 

And...it's a year old!

 

THAT SAID...its content is rich and meaningful and a reasonable place to start conversations about Social Media.


Many more future posts will appear on this subject...and I PROMISE they will be more engaging reads!

 

Social Media & Engagement

People connect. People are efficient.


These qualities have led to the explosive adoption of social media by people of myriad backgrounds and interests. Social media is not a trend;  it is the new environment in which ACS must compete. Consider: MySpace  and Facebook are the third and fifth most visited websites in the world.


People adopt tools that work.


Social  media is a powerful tool through which associations have an opportunity  to engage its members and others with like interests. Part of social  media’s new paradigm is its emphasis on engagement, rather than membership. The extent to which a member is engaged is tightly correlated to their likelihood to renew and help expand membership.


Social Media White Paper (It's Attached!)

 

I was asked to research Social Media. The result was a white paper--Social Media-An ACS Perspective--that was distributed to the Web Council. It provides an overview of "social media", with the intent to stimulate thought and conversation about ACS and its social media initiatives.  Within it I provide an overview of social media, describing the current  (and constantly-evolving) environment. I also discuss social media in  relation to associations (generally) and ACS (specifically). The paper  touches upon future expectations of the social media environment, and it  provides some lessons learned by association professionals in the  field.


Finally, the paper presents some considerations  we should explore when developing a Social  Media strategy. Many  organizations have traveled this road before us. They have learned   lessons the hard way. These considerations are collected from  recommendations and helpful hints provided by those who have blazed the  trail before us.


Considerations for Moving Forward with a Social Media Strategy


General Approach

  • Get the right people on your bus (both staff and contributors).
    Some people get social media, and some people don't.
  • Start small.
    Listen first and experiment.
  • Measure results.
    How else will you know if you're making an impact?
  • Prepare for organizational change.
    It's a new world, your association must adapt.
  • Embrace failure.
    Failure is a part of any relationship. Learn from it and get better.


Listen

  • One  important consideration is that social media is driven by the  community, not the organization. As a result, listening is a key  recommendation.
  • “It's really important to know your audience or at least understand what they will not do.”
  • “An  important thing is to not always push forward the association goals  instead of the community goals. If you build the community the right  way, [those two sets of goals] are aligned, but they aren't always.”
  • “It  is not in people's nature to have a dialogue with their audience or  with their members. Associations would love to think that they really  listen and they really dialogue and have conversations, but they don't.  Most organizations do not.”
  • “Who's actually in charge of  listening? I think it's everyone's responsibility to listen, and in  particular you have to build it into your organization and your  structure.”


The Message

  • “Focus on the human aspect. Think of social media as a cocktail party. Be authentic, people can see phoniness.”
  • “Identify your organization’s differentiating factors, and work from there.”
  • “Don’t  slip back into old habits. The customer-centric nature means that any  accidental merging of traditional and social media approaches will muddy  the waters.”


Define Your Strategy

There is widespread agreement that an association must create a social media strategy.

  • “Set  up an organizational strategy that addresses how to manage the use of  all the many channels out there, especially when driving traffic away  from the organization's own website.”
  • “Understand the purpose  of [social media] tools and [ask] how you can manage staff time and  resources to ensure a return on that investment.”
  • "If you don't have a strategy, don't spend a single cent…you're wasting your money."
  • “It's  not about having the plan all worked out; it is about having the  flexibility to change as the circumstances change so that you can go  with the flow.”
  • “Make sure your social media endeavors are tied to your association's overall strategy.”
  • “Find  areas that have a lot of momentum and support behind them already.  Again, go back to the association goals that are really important to the  executives. Find those buttons that they really want to push.”


Some Questions That Are Worth Asking

There  are a number of questions that need to be addressed, as part of  defining a social media strategy for ACS. This list is a starting point.

  • What is our objective?
  • What is our level of commitment?
  • What are the available (human) resources?
  • What are the expected costs?
  • What social media platforms/sites best help us achieve our objectives?
  • How do we want to coordinate our social media efforts?
  • Who delivers/controls the message?
  • Who performs/controls the activities?
  • How do we plan to monitor the blogosphere for mention of ACS or topics aligned with ACS issues?
  • What level of content monitoring will we commit to for the ACS Network?
  • What policies and procedures do we need for ACS employees (to protect ACS from potential liability or embarrassment)?


Other Recommendations

  • Consider how to align social media activities with other activities, such as newsletters, email campaigns, and events.
  • Consider social media strategies within the context of mobile media/devices.
  • Periodically review initiatives.       


Final Thoughts

We  may not be able to answer all the questions collected here. Even so,  attempting to answer the questions and address the considerations listed  above is an exercise is well worth the time and effort.


Social  Media cannot effectively be tackled piecemeal. A considered approach  must be taken before expending precious resources. Success depends on  considered goal-setting, careful planning, constant monitoring, and  consistent management. In a very real sense, the future of ACS is tied  to Social Media. We need to get it right.

This isn't a "the sky is falling" post. Nor is it a "what's the new BIG thing" post.

 

And it definitely isn't some counter-cultural screed about the dangers of social media and the threat it poses to civilization as we know it. Although, you have to admit, that would be an interesting (and timely) argument to explore...

Rather, it's an honest question: has Facebook jumped the shark?


Jump the Shark in American Culture
ump shark.jpg

 

For those unfamiliar with the term, "jumping the shark" refers to the point at which a thing has reached the end of its popularity (or lifecycle, or usefulness). Yet, the thing lives on...

 

And on....

And on....


And its quality and relevence decline to the point of...silliness.

 

"Jump the shark" specifically refers to the American television show "Happy Days"a cultural phenomenon in the 1970sthat aired on ABC for 10 years. It was a top-ten ratings leader for several years.

In the middle of
season 5 (perhaps its popular high point) there was a three-part episode (an absurd idea in itself) set in California (far from the show's home setting in Milwaukee) where the Fonzthe show's iconic anti-herocommitted to jump over a shark pen...

 

...on water skis.

...wearing his leather motorcycle jacket.

 

Silly? Yes. Absurd? Absolutely. Bizarre? Oh, my! Bizarre in the manner only Hollywood writers can conceive.

It was wrong
on so many levels and in so many ways. So much so, that it inspired the phrase "jump the shark".


joanieandchacchi.jpgHere's a fabulous description:

 

It's a moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on...it's all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it 'Jumping the Shark.' From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same.

 

How bad did it get? Three words: "Joanie and Chachi".

But I digress...

And This Has What to Do with Facebook?

 

I log on. What do I see?

Same people. Usual messages.

Occasionally there is something new and interesting.

...occasionally...

Sometimes there is important news about someone (or someone related to someone in some way): a cancer diagnosis, a new job, a baby, a report on their bowel movement (Really? Did I need to know that?).


But how often does it change my day?

How often do I get "Wow!" or "Cool!" moments?

How often do I find myself engaged
really engagedin my Facebook reality?

 

Maybe I Don't Have Interesting Friends?

 

Of course I think they're interesting. My friends reflect who I am. I think I'm interesting...

 

...but are they?

Maybe (let's try this on) I have interesting friends, but maybe they live uninteresting lives?

 

Hmmmm?

 

Possibly. That's hard for me to judge. To do so would force me to look at my own life...and you know how icky that can be. 

Maybe (here's another one...) I have interesting friends who live interesting lives, but they're not
narcissistic enough to share it all online?

This feels closer to the truth. At least, it's what I want to believe is the truth.

 

How about this? Maybe we're busy, and the Facebook novelty has worn away, and the value proposition is no longer what it once was when we were all connecting and reliving those myriad pasts we shared. And maybe...just maybe...we have outgrown the dorm-room culture that inspired and engendered Facebook. Maybe my age cohort has moved on to something else...like raising our real-life children, advancing our careers, solving our everyday problems, and livingreally livingin the present, and not in some reminiscent past or vaguely-aspirational future.

 

Maybe It's Just Me

 

Maybe I'm becoming a crotchety, middle-aged, middle-class Westerner, living a comfortable life in a declining civilizationan individual absorbing the miasma of the times and experiencing cultural rot as it is reflected in a new medium.

 

And maybe this script ends with machine intelligence harvesting my body for energy.

 

neo-woah.jpg

 

Maybe I need to find a new, vital purpose...

Maybe I just need some coffee...

And maybe
just maybeI am sensing something that I will look back on in 10 years' time and say "that was real".

 

Maybe real-life connections are more important than virtual ones.

 

Maybefor my cohort and meFacebook has jumped the shark.

I was happily trolling YouTube, searching for videos to support my presentation on Website Accessibility. (White paper and summary available...share and enjoy!)


Plenty of videos are out there. This one, however, stood out.

 

The full version is seven+ minutes long. If you have the time, I highly recommend it.

 

Enjoy this excerpt:


 

 

And savor the whole thing:

 

 

I like it. I like him. I think he would be an interesting dinner companion. And he communicates several points extremely well.


As always...share and enjoy!

WhyCare.png


That's the way a lot of designers and developers feel about the sites they create.


They don't always care about accessibility.


But they need to start...for a variety of reasons (that I discuss in the attached white paper).

 

My white paper seeks to lay a foundationexposing a wide variety of stakeholders to the basics.

 

Its goal? It seeks to move us beyond the "why should I care" phase and into the "how do we do it" phase.

 

accessibilitybg.gif



Here's a brief overview...in the form of a dialogue.

 

Accessibility Primer


So, What Is Accessibility Anyway?


Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web.


Specifically, it means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web. It also means that they can contribute to the Web.


Is it just for the disabled?


Oh goodness no! Web accessibility also benefits others, notably older people with changing abilities due to their age.


Another point is that there is a technical value to having “clean code”. Well-structured, accessible code has a positive impact on Search Engine Optimization and makes the code more portable. It eases content reuse on additional platforms, such as mobile devices.


Is accessibility the same thing as usability?


Nope! But many people think so. Usability refers to ease of use, while "accessibility" refers to the ability to get at information.


I don't understand. 


An example would be a web page that only used graphics for navigation. The icons and images are intuitive, and the site scores highly on usability and user satisfaction tests.


Yes. However, because there is no encoded text to describe the images and provide context, a visually-impaired user would find the site completely inaccessible. Their screen reader would have nothing to report, and the user would be completely lost.

 

bunnyfoot-usability-cartoon-accessibility.gif


It's like using your finger to point directions to someone who is blind. It's...unhelpful (at best).


So, accessibility is about the ability to get to information. While usability is about how they interact with it.


That's it!


Really…I still don't know why I should care

 

There are three main reasons to care:

  • Common sense
    An organization wishing to serve its constituents will provide its users with the ability to access its goods, services, and information.


  • Standards
    The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) establishes guidelines


  • Legislation
    A legislative web is being woven

jdge.png

Of course...there's much more...

 

Read the paper. And...as always...

 

Share and enjoy!


[Business] intelligence is a contradiction in terms.
-Groucho Marx

 

Ok. That's not what he said (I substituted "Business" for "military"). But the joke still works.

 

You chuckled, didn't you?

 

You know that organizations tend to make decisions from the gut. It's what happens. We have faith in what's been done before ("We've always done it like this, so we're going to do it this way...").

 

We trust our instincts and experience.

 

But, where does it get us? Does this sound familiar?

 

gut feel_1.png

 

There's also--often--the element of control. Of power. Of "It's mine! Hand's off!". Well-intentioned people make decisions that--on the face of it--contradict reality.

 

cartoon facts 2.jpg

 

 

It's not necessarily a case of people behaving badly. It's often more a case of people protecting their interests.

 

So, Why Should I Care About Business Intelligence?

 

Business Intelligence helps us to develop our knowledge, so we can make better decisions.

 

It helps us to move from collecting data to taking action on that data--to applying our skill and experience to transform data into knowledge...and into wisdom.

 

dikw.jpg

 

It advances us along the continuum to...that's right...business wisdom.

 

Woah.

So, what does that look like?

 

Something like this:

 

 

i-have-data_3.png

Attached to this post is a .pdf of a white paper I authored for the ACS Web Council. It is a Business Intelligence (BI ) primer, designed to present to business interests an overview of BI and help establish a baseline for further exploration and discussion.


Read it. Consider it. Share it. And let's discuss it...

Hint: It's not these guys.


triumvirate_page2.jpg


The triumvirate is a thought model I use when thinking about online initiatives.


For a given challenge or project, I seek to understand it from three perspectives:


  • Business need
  • User need
  • Technology


These perspectives are frequently in conflict, sometime contradictory, and (often) difficult to ascertain. But, if you can grasp all three--holding them in your hand and rolling them about--you have a clear picture of what is possible.

 

Here it is, visually.

Triumvirate.gif

 

Ok. It's not the prettiest image. This is a blog, after all, not a design symposium! And yes, I know that it looks like the Starfleet logo! But it serves to help describe the interrelationship among the three perspectives.

STO_starfleet_logo_teaser.jpg

NOT the triumvirate...

 

How does this work?

 

It's simple. Learn. Consider. Synthesize. Understand.


  • Learn
    Begin with questions
  • Consider
    How does one of the answers related to the others? Ask questions about the answers.
  • Plot
    Put it together. Roll the ideas about. What does it mean when you plot your target in different places within the framework?
  • Understand
    See the picture and articulate it. Get to the point where decision is possible...and maybe obvious.


I realize that (as described) this view does not take into account things like practicality, resources, and timeframes. They're all part of the calculus. Often, they are the behind-the-scenes elements (the power behind the power) that define what actually gets done.

 

But that's for another post on another day...

 

(That's a teaser. It's designed to pique your interest. As Walt Disney is credited with stating: "Always leave them wanting more!")


As always, share and enjoy!

I've been in the Web game for a long time. Embarrassingly long.


I was first exposed to hypertext documents in 1990, and wrote my first one soon thereafter, as part of a technical writing course in college.


I wrote my first Web page in 1993, for an intranet at a publishing company.


I produced my first Web site in 1995, for a different publishing company. I put two magazines on the Web.


I thought I was cool.


I was a designer.


I trolled and provoked on email lists.


Then I got out of the game for a while. I worked as a technical writer. I became a user, a consumer. I figured I would let all the high-school-age hotshots have fun with that Java stuff. And let all the art students feed themselves with their fancy design.


I surfed. I eBayed. (I still trolled and provoked on email lists.)


I learned.


Then I got back in the game. What I had learned is that all this Web…stuff…was content. All of it. No words, no pictures, no Web.


Words. Images. How do we deal with that?


Content strategy…information architecture…page-level design.


Fun problems.


I was back in the game.

 

What This Blog Is About

 

This is a clearinghouse.


(I love Wikipedia and Wikitionary. Here’s one definition: “A clearinghouse provides widespread access to information and is generally thought of as reaching or existing outside organizational boundaries.” It’s much better than this… alternative spelling of clearing house)


Sorry, I digressed. If you read this blog, you’ll get used to it.


This is a clearinghouse:


  • This blog is to provide widespread access to information about the Web, with an emphasis on Web strategy.
  • It is outside official organizational channels.


What? You need to explain that last one…


Yep. I get it. It is on the ACS Network (an official organizational tool). I work in the Web Strategy and Operations group (so, “Web Strategy” is part of my job). I get it.


My goal is to shake the silos. Share information. Share thoughts. Have a conversation.


I am not writing as a spokesperson for Web Strategy and Operations.


I am writing as a…thinker. A seeker. As one who enjoys the exchange of ideas. Ideas that may lead to solutions that help us with our mission. That help us serve our constituents.


I will share my “official” work (white papers, reports, presentations). I will share thoughts. I will share articles.


I hope to receive feedback, questions, discussion, argument. Maybe I can provoke…constructively. Maybe we’ll unearth some amazing ideas.


Maybe… Maybe.


But to get there, you have to start…somewhere.