Monthly Archives: August 2007

Immediacy vs Deferred Gratification

I’ve been thinking about this for a while- Why is it so easy to make grand plans about what I should do, yet so hard to execute some times?

I think it comes down to immediacy vs. deferred gratification – what’s happening now versus looking into the future towards your goal, and stopping behavior that will impede your path towards that goal.

A candy bar today looks like a small treat, a good thing, not the devil impeding your way towards weight loss. Getting distracted, willingly or not, and procrastinating things you should and can do to make your life better-somehow, going to the movies seems innocent and pleasure filled, while sending out more book proposals seems unappealing and likely to lead to rejection, so why bother at all?

Yet in the end, it’s those things we’re willing to put sustained effort in, see through to the end, that gives us a sense of accomplishment and success.  Seth Godin’s book The Dip is largely about deciding when you should see something through the bad times, and when to giveit up as a lost cause.

This feeds into my theory on ADHD, which is that people with ADHD are really great at the first 90% of a job or task, but closing the job, bringing it to completion- that’ the real problem.  And that last 10% makes all the difference between failure and success.

I talk openly about getting diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and what recognizing that has done for my ability to push through the hard times and see more things through to completion.  I now know that when I don’t feel like doing something or I am avoiding something I think is hard or mildly unpleasant- here’s a danger zone.  If I let those little speed bumps slow me down, I will never get anywhere at all.   It thenis easier to psych myself up to just “do it” and get it done, and I feel SO much better afterwards, it’s always worth that extra effort against enertia.

With Planning Podcamp Philly , I’ve learned all those small steps along the way are like planting seeds; you never know when the plant will bloom, but when it does, it’s amazing.  It has shown me that little bits of hard work over time lead to bigger and better results in the end, and that friends are always willing to lend a hand if you let them know what’s going on.

So thanks to all my friends, supporters, Podcampers, and more.  Just remember- you’re in it for the long haul.  Not all returns are instantaneous.


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Why Fine Line Distinctions Are Important

Listening to NPR today, covering the Attorney General resignation, one of the 9 fired Asst US Attorneys mentioned how the Attorney General would remind everyone at conferences that they worked for the President.  This fired Assistant US Attorney said that was wrong;  they worked for the People, for Us, not just the President.

This points out that fine line distinctions can make a huge difference.  The Attorney General was a long time friend of the President’s, and very loyal.  He would support the President at any price.

However, we have something in this Country called three independent branches of Government.  There’s the Judiciary, the Congress and the Executive branch.  This system was designed to provide checks and balances in power, rather than make any branch of Government subsidary to another.  This is important, and the foundation of our democracy.

The Attorney General’s position is a political appointment by the executive Branch, but their job is to enforce laws enacted by Congress and to make sure the interest of the State is represented in Court.  Just like any State Attorney in a State.  The Attorney  (as all of us who have attended law school know) are charged with upholding the Constitution, as is our President.  We all take vows to uphold the Constitution- the obligation is to the State and its citizens, not individuals, not  to any one person holding any one office.

Sure, we all feel loyalty to friends and mentors that help us on the way.  We want to do what is best, and we feel obligated to protect our friends.  I admire these qualities.  But when your job is to serve the People and uphold the Constitution first, your loyalty to someone who looks at the Constitution as a nuisance must come second.

I worry that the greatest roblem that has occurred in this Country is that some of our political leaders have forgotten they do not serve only special interest groups.  They do not serve with themselves and the friends in mind.  They have been duly elected by the People and serve at the pleasure of the People. They need to look at their job as a fiduciary one, one where you do what is best for others, like a parent, not what is solely in your own interest.  To serve the public is a privilege, not an opportunity to grab all you can for you and yours andlet everyone else rot.

This also means it’s a tough job.  You’ll never make everyone happy.  You have to make decisions about what is fair and right, and receive a lot of criticism for even the most mundane actions you take.   You have to raise money to run a campaign, and all those people think they own you and your agenda.  It’s not easy.

But the Attorney General’s ultimate downfall was making an error thinking that his alligence to the President was the same as his alligence to the Constitution and the People of the United States.   The loyalty to the person is to be admired; but the loyalty to the office, the loyalty to our Country and the Loyalty to uphold the Constitution and its ideals, rather than constantly looking for loopholes, was the downfall.

It’s a fine line distinction, but it can make all the difference in the world.

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Changing Media Formats

I am in the middle of planning for PodCamp Philly, Sept. 7, 8, and 9.  One of the interesting presentations that’s in the works is by Quincy MacDonald, of McGraw Hill, talking about how Traditional Media (publishing) and New Media can work together.  Want to know what to do to find a publisher and write a book proposal?  These sessions will be great for you!

This reminded me of a conversation I had with relatives recently.  My father in law wondered why my kids weren’t reading the newspaper every day.  To me, the answer was obvious- we don’t get the daily paper anymore at the house and thus it’s not part of my kids daily ritual the way it was for me or for my parents.

Instead, we pick up the weekend paper, often the Sunday New York Times or Philly Inquirer, but we don’t get the daily paper the same way my folks did when I was kid.  I read the New York Times daily online and I am a premium subscriber, but I don’t think my kids “see” me reading the paper the way I saw my folks read the paper every day.  I get my information from NPR, some broadcast news, and the internet.  This is what my kids will know as they grow up, and it will undoubtly influence the choices they make when they grow up.

This is what I see as the largest threat to newspapers- that many kids aren’t growing up withthe newspaper as part of their daily morning ritual.  They can get sports scores by RSS- they don’t need the paper in the same way we did growing up, and therefore, it won’t be a Need or a Necessity for them when they are adults.  In contrast, our kids see us reading books and magazines at every turn.  We seem to use an excursion to the bookstore like some people go to the movies, and thus books, magazines and bookstores are part of my kid’s daily vocabulary and vernacular.

I’m not sure what newspapers can do to lure me back and make the paper part of my family again.  Time contraints and costs make this an item that’s easy to cut out of the budget, especially since I can access and print most of the information  I might want at home, without the bulk of all that extra paper around the house, especially when at least half of it goes unread on a daily basis.

What do you think?  Is the biggest threat to newspapers this one, or is it that we aren’t used to paying for content, there seems to be a ceiling on what we’re willing to pay for “disposable” news, so the revenue stream for newspapers is limited?    I don’t know for sure, but would love to hear what you think on this.

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I am the lead organizer of PodCamp Philly, a New Media UnConference being held at Drexel University September 7, 8, & 9, 2007. I got the UnConference bug after attending PodCamp Boston in September of last year, and my world was largely transformed by the people I met and the things I learned there.

A post about PodCamp Boston 2 that came through my google alerts identified an Unconference as meaning “unorganized conference”. As someone who is putting together an unConference, “unorganized” is the last thing I can afford to be. In fact, putting on an event like this tests all of my organizational skills to their limit on many days.

I wonder whether there’s a better name than Un Conference for these events. Unconference in some circles is pseunonymous with Unorganized and UnProfessional. But my experience with Unconferences is not that in the slightest. The best part of PodCamps are the informality, peer to peer conversations, and sharing of knowledge and new ideas that happens both inside and outside of the presented sessions.

I don’t need a big name to KeyNote and get me to show up. Sure, I’d love to hear what Andrew Baron from RocketBoom has to say about things, and I’d be simply blown away to hear Seth Godin speak. I love hearing CC Chapman talk; I love to hear Mark Blevis show me tricks of editing that make my productions values higher every time I podcast. These guys are names in Podcasting, but through UnConferences, they are now my friends as well. While the sessions are important and even worth paying for, the   people you meet on the New Media Playground (to quote CC) is the real payoff.

I don’t know whether a name like “peer to peer” conferences  or Conference Conversations, or In-conferences, meaning informal conferences might be a better name than an UnConference.     I hate the impression that an Un-Conference is Un-important or un-professional or not worth the time.

In fact, UnConferences have totally changed my opinion of the  bloated corporate conferences I’ve been to as an attendee, speaker and Spouse of an attendee in the past.  Those conferences that are the functional equivalent of a several-days long golf outing.

I like the fact that there are not barriers between presenters and the audience at unconferences.  It’s more conversational, more participatory, more collegial. I think everyone- presenters and audience a like learn at unconferences- it is not a one-way conversation at all.  And this is how everyone learns best- asking questions, developing a dialog, making everyone think a bit harder about what they do and how to apply the knowledge in new circumstances.

If you haven;t attended an Unconference, I urge you to come check out PodCamp Philly at Drexel Sept. 7, 8, & 9.  The “new media playdates” or networking/social events are going to be terrific, as well as the content of the conference itself.  And if you miss it, you’ll be able to hear some of the content when it’s posted on our site after the fact, but you’ll have missed the most important part of an Unconference- You and participating in the experience itself.

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Thoughts on Cult of the Amateur

I’ve been reading Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen.  This is basically a rant book, saying that the democratizing of media production is eviscerating our culture.  I disagree, and would say podcasting, videoblogging and blogging are actually arising because of the poor job main stream media has done in protecting our cultural values and reflecting different people’s point of view.

Let’s take a brief look at TV.  How many reality shows do you see? How many original story lines do you see?  Let’s look at Hollywood.  Because of the money involved, they would rather make new movies based on children’s comic books and cartoons than listen to and risk anything on original voices and story lines.

Mr. Keen decries that consumer generated blogs are poor quality and we should leave them to the professionals; conversely, user generated content is making it so no one can make a living at creating content for a price.  Yet people are seeking to get their POV heard, because they don’t see anyone else  talking to or about them.

I think if we were hearing more voices in traditional media- be that newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, or movies that didn’t sound like the same old stuff we’ve heard for years, or a commercialization of some phenomena or trend, there would be less need to produce your own internet TV show.  I have friends that do this- part of it is they like it; part of it is I’m sure it serves as an online resume of their work and talent, or as Mr Keen would argue, lack thereof.  But I doubt people are really losing their jobs in Hollywood as a direct result of Goodnight Burbank or TikiBar TV, Something to be Desired, or Galacticast.

I’ll write more about this as i go through the book, for now, I am just annoyed at the book.  I seriously believe that if Main Stream media had not gone to the “quick and dirty” low production value, not valuing anything that looked like a quality story line years ago; if they took chances on new voices rather than always choosing the safe, bland vanilla, non-remarkable thing over and over, internet TV and Podcasting would not be as popular as they are.

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If Content Rules, then….

I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading, and Thomas Friedman’s added content to The World is Flat 3.0 is one of them.  There’s a great section about using social media tools for educational projects that reflects what is my every day reality of collaborating with people I know across the Country and across the Globe.  I’m also reading Cult fo the Amateur by Andrew Keen, and these books have me thinking.

Do we buy newspapers and magazines for their content or for the ads?  It should be the content, right? So what is the purpose of the ads, and how did we get into such an ad-centric and ad-dependent culture?

I’ll assume that the ads provide money to the magazine to help defray printing costs, and pay the overhead at the magazine or newspaper.  But why not charge more for the content and reduce the ads? When I open up a book, it doesn’t look like a NASCAR with brand names all over the cover or inside the covers.  It may have some information about the author’s other work, but no advertising per se.  I pay for the content, not the ads.

I suppose it’s an endless cycle at this point.  Newspapers have come to depend on the ad revenue to such an extent that when Ebay or Craig’s List starts siphoning off business, newspapers get hurt.  But is this in part the fault of looking to ad revenue to subsidize hard news, rather than charging for the content itself in the first place?

So let’s transfer this argument online.  Most blogs, according to the Cult of the Amateur, generate little in the way of ad revenue.  I don’t even bother with ads or pay per post, because my intent here is to serve myself, not someone else, or blog solely as a revenue generating venture.  Are ads something to defray the costs of hosting, akin to the old media model, or because we are too chicken to ask people to pay for content?

I don’t know the answer to any of this- it just struck me that we worry so much about ad revenue, ROI, promotion and targeted audience that we sometimes forget about content, quality and value.  We seem scared about standing up for the value we do add to ventures.

Is this true?  As we move to a conversation and community based system of communication between companies and customers, are we all just focus groups?  What ads work, and which ones are a waste of time and space, no matter how creative (I’d put the ads for TV shows on eggs in the grocery store on that list, personally.)  What do you think?

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How New Media Has Changed My Impression of Customer Service

Being an “Internet Girl”, as I tend to refer to myself these days, has totally changed my expectations in real life. I expect stores and products to impress me. I expect them to work a little harder for my business, because it’s just as easy to cut them out of the transaction and buy the item online. Likewise, online retailers need to make it easy for me to shop and figure out what the specs on a product are, because if something similar is available down the street, I’ll go for instant gratification instead of waiting and paying shipping. I am a fickle, multi-platform consumer with disposable income, but if you want me to spend my time, money and attention on you, you can’t be so-so anymore.

I spent a good portion of today, driving from car dealership to car dealership, looking at potential replacements for my mini-van. We looked upscale and downscale. Some products speak for themselves- the brand story works, and the dealership experience matches or even surpasses the brand impression. Other dealerships seem to care less. And I will preface this that I was shopping for cars with my eldest child along only- no spouse. Since I will be the one driving the car and dealing with service, this meant I was getting the impression of how they would treat me, not my spouse or anyone else.

I was totally shocked when in the Honda dealership, loaded with salespeople and women salespeople at that, I waited for a salesperson who never showed themselves, looked at the cars in the showroom, and left, feeling that my business wasn’t worth their time or effort. No matter how much I like the car, if that’s the way they treat me now as a potential customer, there’s no way I am buying a car from them. They haven’t done anything to earn my business, and since the product is essentially interchangeable with others in the market, that one is now off the list. Bye-bye, Union Honda of Delaware!

Compare that experience to the one at the Lexus dealership. I walked in, was greeted promptly, went and looked at several models I was interested in, got the literature I wanted, got all my questions answered. I found out they drive a loaner to your home, drop it off, and pick up the car in need of service. If you have to wait at the dealership, they offer you a 10% discount for having to wait.

The BMW/Mini dealership offers cappuccinos, tea and other refreshments, along with computers and phones in office-like set-ups for customers who need to wait; they have free loaners and a really quick drop-off process for service that’s been handy for Matt’s Mini Cooper.

The local Toyota dealership has a play area for kids, free popcorn, coffee and donuts, computers and phones, and is likewise pleasant and efficient in all aspects of service. The salespeople are equally pleasant and not pushy or sleazy.

I even went by the local Mercedes dealership. This was like walking into a fine jewelry store or country club. Chippendale chairs in the office areas. Waiting area that looked like the first class lounge in an airport or the lounge area at a country club. The salespeople were solicitous, polite, engaged, helpful, and genuine. They looked up the trade in value of my car online and showed me what it would be right then and there. They were professional and did not make me feel odd because I was there without my husband, or driving a beat minivan.

I came away from this experience feeling like customer service makes most, if not all of the difference these days.  I go to my local coffee shop more often than Starbucks because I like the employees there better; I’ll buy a car from a dealership that treats me well up front and offers good service on the back end as well (which is also why I won’t buy another Suburu anytime soon.) If I’m going to buy something locally rather than on the net, I want the experience to be personal.  Face to Face- create a relationship to keep me coming back, and make me eager to recommend my friends.

And if you don’t, I’m afraid the competition is going to eat you for lunch.  Maybe not today, but soon, and forever.

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