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Original articles from Ari B. Adler.
 
Your Tickler File is Now Just an Email Away
What used to be a set of folders in a drawer or a cluttered To-Do list is now an email reminder system that's as simple as, well, sending an email.

Foursquare: It's Not Just a Game Anymore
Foursquare, the location-based service that caught on as part of the gamification surge in social media, can do more for you than help you best your friends in check-in points or oust them as the mayor of a local hangout. You can also use it to track your travels and, thanks to a relatively new service, you can use it as a history journal, too. I've used Foursquare for a long time. I enjoy the deals offered for check-ins and the fun diversion of finally being named mayor of a location. But I've found it even more useful after I've taken a long trip and needed to remember where we visited. When I'm trying to put together a photo album or share experiences with friends and coworkers, I use Foursquare as my memory enhancer. After a week on the road, trying to piece all your memories together can be tricky.

Sobering Military Statistics Are Updated Daily
As we approach the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States, there will be plenty of discussions about those who lost their lives that day. But did you know that the Department of Defense provides a daily update of those who are still losing their lives because of September 11? It's a sobering website to visit because it helps put into perspective the sacrifices being made by the men and women who wear a U.S. military uniform and who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One Website Brings 50 States to Life
Sometimes, we get so caught up in the latest technology and slickest new user interface that we forget to share some basic resources.

PCs Aren't Dead, Just Evolving
A report by Business Insider wonders if the PC is going to die after it hits 30 years of age. That's ridiculous — it's called "evolution." The article is suggesting that since the 30th birthday of the IBM personal computer is now upon us, and IBM has moved on to other things, that obviously the PC is dying out. It also purports that the death of the PC was caused by tablets and smartphones. As many of the reader comments have pointed out, this is a ridiculous notion. After all, tablets are still computers. Smartphones are more computer than they are phone. And what about the laptops and netbooks that are abundantly in use across the world for both personal and business computing?

If the 'Plus' in Google+ Stands for Something More, What Is It?
If the "+" in Google+ stands for something more, what is it? That probably depends on your industry and what you are looking to get out of the new social media offering. Business Insider recently had an article asking if Google+ has already peaked. I hate that kind of premature prediction story anyway, but it's probably more annoying for me to see the ones about Google+ because they often compare the new outlet to Facebook. Will Google+ kill Facebook? That's doubtful, but it doesn't matter. Maybe there is room in my social media world for Facebook and G+, the way there is room for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn already.

Apple's Lion Has My Vote
I upgraded the operating system on my MacBook about a week ago and so far I'm impressed. I've actually found myself gravitating more toward my laptop than my iMac desktop because of some new features. The iMac is still running Snow Leopard and will be for some time.

Sometimes Not Disconnecting on Vacation is a Good Thing
I took a family vacation last week to Washington, D.C. and while I made a point of disconnecting from work, I did not disconnect from my gadgets or my online life. Some folks say you need to take vacations and some have suggested you need to at least scale back your online use while you're gone.

Have You Checked Your Google Dashboard?
Google+ is quickly becoming a topic of discussion among the early adopters of social networks, but when was the last time you checked your Google Dashboard? Did you even know you have one?

The Power of Music and Statistics Could Be Unstoppable
At the U2 concert I attended last night, I caught a glimpse of the power music and statistics, realizing that when used properly, it could be an unstoppable force. U2, the Irish band that burst onto the scene decades ago and has continued to grow in popularity and influence across several generations, puts on an amazing concert. They also ask many questions that make you ponder the world.

Apps Saved the Day When My Laptop Died
I was at a conference recently when my laptop died. I've become reliant upon a laptop at conferences for several reasons, not the least of which is that I can take better notes faster while typing than I ever could imagine doing by hand anymore. I also am able to multitask by sharing conference highlights via Twitter and, in between speakers, quickly catching up on email to make sure I'm not overwhelmed by it at night. So I had quite a shock when I started up my MacBook and got the spinning gear of doom.

Dear New Networking Site, It's Not You; It's Me
I've written before about the potential for social media and networking saturation, wondering at what point our status updates would simply be about updating other sites. Nearly two years later, I think I'm there.

Save the Words!
I think I'm a pretty smart person overall, but I'm no logarithmotechny. Because I'm willing to admit my educational shortcomings, my personality is far from senticous. I've just done what I can with my educational opportunities to obarmate against doing something stupid. The key really is learning to rogitate about things you don't clearly understand — such as this paragraph.

Would Personifying Machines Improve Their Acceptance?
In the science fiction shows and movies that feature a more utopian future, the human race often is waited on by robots, androids and other machines that have advanced features and personification. The U.S. Postal Service seems to be leading the way there.

Did Social Media Help Charlie Reclaim His Sheen?
Charlie Sheen was booed off stage in Detroit and given a standing ovation the next night in Chicago. That probably says more about instant feedback via social media than what two different audiences thought. In Detroit, Sheen's "Torpedo of Truth" tour flailed about helplessly while the audience members who bothered to stick around became more irate. Amid boos and demands for a refund, Sheen came and went from the stage trying to make the best of a failed stand-up routine that he later proclaimed to be "an experiment." Contrast that with his next performance, one night later, in Chicago, where he received a standing ovation. The social media streams I follow on Twitter and Facebook were lit up with comments, tirades, critiques and love letters to Sheen.

Quoting from Social Media is a Growing Trend
Mainstream media is still struggling to find its niche in the digital world. It’s little wonder then that we are seeing more quotes and references to information being pulled from Twitter feeds and Facebook status updates. It begs the question, of course, on whether or not this is an accepted practice. Whether it’s going to be an industry standard or not, it is clear that elected officials need to be aware that what they tweet may soon be taken for their official position on issues.

Government Transparency: Is It TMI?
The push is on to make government more transparent, but some might argue that there are things better left unseen. After all, no one really wants to see how sausage is being made, no matter how tasty we think it is. The same might hold true for government spending.

Email Says 'I'm Not Dead!'
Recent news reports would have you believe that email is dead to us, with sharp declines in use by almost everyone, especially teens. But like the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, email's reply is, "I think I'll go for a walk."

Digital History Doesn’t Come with Memories
The digital world has allowed us to become more connected, networked, and in touch than ever in history. We are able to produce, reproduce, and store more information in smaller spaces. The information we have is in searchable databases and can easily be copied and shared with friends across the globe. But what kind of memories can you enjoy with a digital file? I recently attended the Fitzgerald family auction in Grand Ledge, Mich. They had a tremendous amount of memorabilia from one of the most historic families in Michigan’s past. Frank D. Fitzgerald was secretary of state and governor of Michigan in the 1930s, among many other things.

Catholic Church Preparing Missionaries for Digital Continent
When it comes to embracing change, the Catholic Church isn't usually at the top of anyone's list. But the power of social media may be mixing things up yet again in ways we never imagined. The Catholic Church is encouraging its religious leaders to prepare for missionary work to the "Digital Continent" known as social media.

Opposed to Social Media? I Pity You
I’ve written before about how Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites are helping us connect with people. Because of social networking, I am now connected to more people in more ways, and from more diverse backgrounds and interests, than I could ever have imagined. Yet some naysayers still question the power of social media, the importance of social media and the need for social media. I’m done wasting my time trying to help those who simply refuse to embrace the power of technological change.

The Internet Shares News, It Doesn't Produce It
Asking people if the Internet is their number one source of news compared to newspaper, radio, or TV is a bit silly. It’s akin to asking people 50 years ago if the public library was their leading source of news.

WordPress's Customer Service Shines
Whenever someone asks me what blog platform the should be on, I never hesitate to recommend WordPress. It's really rewarding, therefore, to have WordPress do something unexpected that is another great reason to recommend their product. I've been thinking about doing a 2010 wrap-up on my personal blog but haven't had time to do the number crunching. Imagine how excited I was to receive an email from WordPress in which they had done all the work for me and laid out a review of my blog! It even included a button for me to click that posted a draft of the overview to my blog dashboard that was all set for a final edit and posting.

Proud to Be a Connectivist
The old adage of “it’s whom you know, not what you know, that matters,” is very important these days, and what a person knows is just as essential essential in the long run. Personal connections may offer only the opportunity to prove that knowledge. If someone shows up and can’t perform, they aren’t going to get anywhere. But connecting with people online and offline is how people will succeed, how they can be there for their friends, and how they can help their communities achieve success.

If Info is Power, Digital World is the Generator
If information is power, then the digital media world is now the power generator. I began thinking about this as I started my new job last week as the press secretary to incoming Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger. I’ve worked in Michigan politics before and some of the reporters whom I came to know over the years while I was a press secretary in the state Senate are still going strong. Nevertheless, I just had to edit my sentence about reporters I know, changing the word “many” to “some.” The reality is that there just aren’t many reporters left covering the Capitol. I recently had Michigan Gov. John Engler’s press secretary, John Truscott, come share some tales with my students at Michigan State University.

Lady Gaga and Other Celebs Swear off Social Media
According to news reports, celebrities including Lady Gaga, Ryan Seacrest and Alicia Keys are swearing off of social media to raise awareness of AIDS. This is a huge mistake. Lady Gaga alone has 7.2 million followers just on Twitter. So, in an attempt to raise awareness and increase donations to AIDS funding, she is not going to say anything to all of those millions for a while?

iKids Aren't Something to Fear, Just Manage
Several reports available lately are indicating that the "digital natives" we know now are nothing compared to the generation nipping at their heels. USA Today recently reported on families whose young children, including some as young as two, have started using iPhones, iPads and other electronic devices very early in life. I've seen more than one report indicating the iPad might be one of the hottest selling items for families at Christmastime this year. Now, according to a survey by the SmartyPants research firm, Facebook's brand affinity ranking among kids ages six to 12 jumped 85 positions in the past year and is now a Top 100 brand among kids age nine to 12. SmartyPants also reported that the shift in Facebook's ranking from 2009 to 2010 is among the most significant increase of the more than 270 brands evaluated.

Will Privacy Die With a Bang or a Whimper?
I was having a conversation with a younger colleague the other day about various privacy issues when she said something startling: "I'm a Millennial. I know privacy doesn't exist." So many of us have given up some, or perhaps most, of our privacy in the name of networking or staying connected with friends and family.

Don't Leave the Company Condom in Your Wallet
Every time I turn around lately there’s another blog post talking about the importance of a social media policy for organizations. The posts often speak about how they can protect employers and employees. They talk about what should and should not be included. Take a look -- there are dozens of free examples available now via any Google search. Nevertheless, there seems to be one key ingredient missing from all the social media policy advice.

Click Here for Bullsh*t
Have you been asked to "orchestrate real-time networks" or "strategize e-business metrics?" If so, you need to visit the Web Economy Bullsh*t Generator. Then you can tell your boss your plate is already full with "streamlining magnetic e-markets." When it comes to the Web, too often we fall into the trap of speaking gibberish because it sounds impressive even when it's not really saying anything at all.

The New Conference Greeting: Can I Scan You?
"Can I scan you?" It's not something you'd normally expect to hear while attending a conference, but thanks to a great marketing move by PR Newswire, I heard that line a lot at a recent conference. I was attending the Public Relations Society of America International Conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month and PR Newswire was one of the vendors on hand.

2010: The Year Flash Drives Became Candy
One way to take the pulse of what’s coming and going in the consumer electronics market is to see what the sweepstakes prizes are at national conferences. I’ve been at the Public Relations Society of America International Conference in Washington, D.C. for the past few days. Vendors abound and they were all trying to get the attention of attendees by offering prizes for those who stopped by a booth and listened to a sales pitch.

Keeping in Touch With the News
I had a friend ask me about my iPod Touch yesterday, wondering if I liked it and how I used it. It got me thinking about how we should all do a better job of sharing the second answer a lot more. The first answer is a resounding yes and I think you'd find most people end up addicted to the functionality and access to information provided by either their iPod Touch, iPad or iPhone. Android users would probably give you a similar answer -- the power of these new smart phones and what they can deliver to the palm of our hand is amazing.

This One Time, at Brand Camp ...
What is your personal brand, how does it interact with your employer’s brand and, in the end, which one should get the trump card for your attention? That was the key theme I came away with from Brand Camp University last week. Coordinated by Hajj Flemings, author of The Brand YU Life, and Brandon Chesnutt from Identity PR, Brand Camp filled an auditorium at Lawrence Tech University in Southfield, Mich.

Shaving Away Irritations via Twitter
Back in September, I wrote about the Edge Shaving Gel company using Twitter to help relieve irritations by providing people with surprise gifts. The marketing execs say the campaign was a success and are planning on revisiting it in the future.

Is the #backchannel in Detroit the Future or a Failure?
There's a movement in Detroit television news that is drawing on the power of a community it helped create. The question is, will the power accomplish anything? There is a movement in Detroit television news that is drawing on the power of a community it helped create. The question is, will the power accomplish anything? I attended TEDxDetroit yesterday, and one of the speakers was WXZY TV 7 anchor Stephen Clark.

Is Blogging THE New Media?
Are bloggers part of the social media realm, or are they moving closer to mainstream media? Is blogging actually the new media? Does it matter? I recently wrote a post arguing that blogging isn't social media. There was a good discussion started about how to actually define social media and the media in general. The next day, Lauren Novo posted a blog entry in which she defends bloggers from those would think they lack writing talent.

A Shave Gel Company Is Marketing at the Edge
Want to get the edge on your latest irritating situation by venting about it on Twitter? The marketing team at Edge shave gel is hopes you’ll say yes and are willing to help promote their brand in exchange for a shot at relief.

Cheese Ages Well; Data Doesn't
It's a sign of the times to receive a white paper on social media issues and dismiss it with a declarative, "Ugh, this is eight months old!" That's the text of a tweet I sent yesterday after that very thing happened to me. A colleague knows I'm the resident social media proponent at my company and they sent me this paper thinking it might give me some more ammunition when dealing with leaders still hesitant to embrace the new frontier. As I started flipping through it, I noticed a few stats that seemed interesting, but wanted to double check the source of the report. That's when it hit me.

Quick Review: The New Twitter Still Lacking
I was transferred to the new Twitter sometime this afternoon. After a quick review, I can tell you that it's nice. It offers at least one new feature I like, but it's not pulling me away from Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. A few breathless reviewers already have suggested the new version of Twitter's Web interface could spell doom for third-party clients. I don't thinks so.

Is the U.S. Road System the Forerunner to Social Media?
Recently, I was asked if I had a "concise, easy-to-understand definition of social media." So, I pulled together previous research I had done for various projects. Looking through everything, I realized the definition has been changing over time and will continue to change. I also realized we may never truly agree on a single definition. I took that research, mixed it together with some of my own thoughts, and came up with a rather academic-sounding answer. I'm not sure it's easy to understand, which is the biggest problem with all new developments -- getting people to understand it so they don't fear it. This concept of defining social media has been on my mind for the past few days, and I discovered yesterday that there are a lot of parallels with the road system in the United States.

Complaining About Icons Is the Real Symbol to Hate
Apple recently released iTunes 10, and so far the major complaints are about the built-in Ping social music network and some graphic design changes. I might write about Ping in another post, but at this point I’m content to just ignore it because I really don’t need yet another way to be socially connected. I think I’ve reached social saturation. As for the graphic design changes, the people complaining about them really need to use their computers to find things that deserve to be complained about and addressed. Yes, Apple changed the iconic iTunes symbol to a new design. Yes, it appears to be different from the other icons on a Mac’s dock. But so what?

Keeping Political Operatives Honest Could Be a Full-Time Job
The Michigan Truth Squad is trying to keep political operatives a bit more honest. It turns out that could be a full-time job.

WKAR: Old Media That Has Turned the (Online) Page
WKAR, the public radio and TV station at Michigan State University, has figured out how to smoothly embrace new media and the conversion to online broadcasting.

Social Media Points the Way to the Voting Booth in Michigan
As the election races heat up this fall, you are bound to hear some sabers rattling on Twitter and Facebook. In Michigan, for example, Democrat Virg Bernero and Republican Rick Snyder are battling it out for the Governor’s Office and both are active in the digital world. According to Cullen Schwarz, communications director for the Bernero campaign, the current Lansing mayor’s gubernatorial campaign was actually launched because of social media.

It’s a Good Thing People Didn’t Hang Up on Telephone Technology
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, nearly one-third of adults in America don’t use the Internet because they are “just not interested” in it. As you can see in the chart from Silicon Alley Insider, there are plenty of other reasons, too. Reading through the list, I couldn’t help but wonder if people felt that way about telephones long ago. Imagine the list if the survey had been conducted back in 1900 or so. I'm glad the majority of people didn’t hang up on telephone technology when it first started to invade our lives. OK, maybe I do whenever a telemarketer bothers me, but that’s a different blog post for another day.

Lansing, MI Visitors Bureau Puts Itself On the Mobile Map
With a new mobile Web site and downloadable apps, the Lansing (Michigan) Convention and Visitors Bureau is focused on Tourism 3.0. The bureau describes its new offering as putting "Greater Lansing in the palm of your hand." The bureau's Web site notes you can, "Turn your smart phone into a location-aware travel guide loaded with maps, info on nearby events, entertainment, dining, shopping and more." While the mobile Web site is handy, the real beauty of their new program shines through on the free apps, available now for iPhone, iPod Touch, and Blackberry users. An Android version is reportedly "coming soon." With location-based technology, the mobile app is broken into key sections for use: a welcome screen, a guide to the area, a calendar of events, a location-based "what's nearby" page, and the CVB's Twitter feed.

Why Are Organizations Not Taking Advantage of an Amazing Communications Era?
Why, then, do so many organizations and businesses fail to take advantage of what technology offers them to supply great customer or constituent service? Let's face it, if you're sending a form e-mail to constituents or customers, make sure you include the line, "Plus, we don't care about you." It's the message you're transmitting anyway, so you might as well just come right out and say it.

Sometimes Piles of Manure Contain Gold Nuggets
Sometimes you find something great while you’re digging through what appears to be a pile of manure. I’m not suggesting you go digging through piles of manure, of course, but I wanted to set the stage for a discovery I made today that started out with a frustrated gasp. I have found many more Web sites are starting to add “Share This” types of buttons and services. While there is some advantage to these, the number of places to share is growing dramatically. This means that a simple “Share This” button is now a cumbersome list of logos and funny-sounding names with a lot of missing vowels. To make matters worse, a number of sites have decided to move their “printer friendly” buttons into the sharing chaos area.

Maybe Natural Selection Will Improve Social Media
Is your life an open book? According to the website openbook, it is if you are one of the 500 million users on Facebook.

Customer Satisfaction of Online Sites Shows Wear and Tear
Considering the results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index released Tuesday, it appears the "ooh, shiny" features of online sites are starting to show some wear and tear. During the past couple of years, for many of us at least, online services have moved from their original state of being just cool new things to try. Rather, they have become a piece of our personal and professional lives upon which we rely heavily.

A Zoo's Perspective on the Social Media Jungle
I recently wrote an article for Ragan.com about the use of social media by zoos, focusing primarily on the success being enjoyed by Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Mich. For that story, I interviewed Jake Pechtel, Potter Park’s “Swiss army knife” of online activity.

The First Amendment: All for One Will Keep One for All
As we have each gained the power via the Internet to become our own publishing houses, those of us in the United States are now more indebted than ever to the Founding Fathers who saw fit to add a Bill of Rights to the Constitution. There’s a great interview of Ken Paulson, senior vice president for the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center, from 2003 where Paulson discusses the importance of the amendment. Now we each have the ability to “sign" the First Amendment, adding our name to the list of those supporting this crucial piece of American history. The First Amendment Center is one of the founding supporters of the 1 for All campaign

Are Phones Becoming Less Important as Phones?
I have to admit, the thing I use my mobile phone for least is making and receiving phone calls. The Oatmeal has 10 great reasons not to talk on the phone if you want a good laugh, but I’m sure I am not alone, based on the new phones really being more minicomputers than anything else. According to Pew Internet research, “Of the eight mobile data applications we asked about in both 2009 and 2010, all showed statistically significant year-to-year growth.” When David Pogue of The New York Times was crowd-sourcing a column about iPhone apps recently, I responded with, “There should be an iPhone app that switches your iPhone to the Verizon network so you can make calls, you know, with your phone.”

Politico Now Delivering Tech Updates
Politico, an American political journalism organization, is now offering a newsletter aimed specifically at giving you bite-sized glimpses of government news affecting the digital world. Called Politico's Morning Tech, the online newsletter brings a variety of stories regarding everything from federal agencies and the latest initiatives by the White House or congressional leaders to news coming out of Silicon Valley companies.

Digital Pictures Versus Common Sense
The rapid spread of digital cameras has made for an amazing transformation into a society of rude paparazzi with a lack of common sense or courtesy. I’ve been noticing this more lately in the past year or so, perhaps because of all the advances in digital movie cameras and the increased quality of photos available on mobile phones.

Beware Digital Ageism
It's a big mistake to use generational stereotypes when talking about this new digital era in which we live. The subject came up this weekend in conversation with a group, and we decided that doing so really amounted to nothing more than ageism. We agreed that the two stereotypes we tend to hear the most are about "grandma and grandpa" and "kids today."

Government Protection From the Internet? No Thanks!
The U.S. federal government is meddling in the affairs of the Internet, deciding to investigate Facebook privacy issues and trying to provide the president with an Internet “kill switch.” It seems Congressman John Conyers simply doesn’t have enough to keep him busy and needed a committee hearing to land himself in the news again. This kind of fear mongering and grandstanding can only lead to something bad.

Social Media Batting Cleanup for the BP Oil Catastrophe
Eric Schwartzman at the On the Record Online Podcast had a good interview with U.S. Navy Public Affairs Officer Jim Hoeft about the social media communications efforts surrounding the BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Lt. Commander Hoeft is coordinating communications for the government’s Joint Command Center. It’s an interesting look from an insider’s perspective on the first national crisis to occur in this era of mainstream social media.

Facebook Gained Users During Privacy Flap
Remember the big dust-up over Facebook privacy and how whole bunches of people were going to quit? Not only did May 31, 2010 go down in flames, Mark Zuckerberg and crew apparently get to dance on the ashes, too. According to the Web site of the group that organized “Quit Facebook Day,” more than 36,000 people vowed to quit. Note that doesn’t mean they actually quit, but rather that they have committed to quit, at some point, when they don’t feel the need to be on Facebook anymore.

Mail Service Puts Your Social Media Life in a Nutshell
We’ve all received the e-mails and tweets proclaiming someone has finally found the solution to bring order to the chaos known as our social networking life, and we all know that, generally, such claims are too good to be true. This time, however, I may have found something to believe in. Nutshell Mail, recently acquired by Constant Contact, has a free product that can help you manage your social networks through your e-mail inbox. It’s an impressive piece of work and after using it for about two weeks, I am officially labeling it "awesome."

Twitpic Adds Face-Tagging, but so What?
Twitpic has added face-tagging, but it seems there would be limited use for it other than to alert people that you’ve tagged a photo of them -- people who probably already knew it existed.The feature was added about a week after the ability to group photos by event, which seems to be a useful thing to do. Let’s face it -- pun intended -- if I take a picture of someone and post it to Twitpic, it’s so I can share that picture on Twitter. When I do, I am going to reference the person in the tweet. That means the subject of the photo will already know it exists and that they are in it.

Will Gmail Going Normal Dethrone King Yahoo?
Google announced recently that within a couple of months, users will have the option of using "normal" e-mail with their Gmail accounts. However, it has a long way to go to dethrone Yahoo! as king. Apparently, some people don't like the way Google threads e-mails into conversations in Gmail. I'm not sure why they don't like it. It's a feature I've found to be very useful and one of the reasons I switched from Yahoo as my primary e-mail service.

Google Labs Can Help You Find More Tweeps
Having Google Labs available is like having your own version of James Bonds' Q living in your computer. It's no secret if you read any of my blog posts or follow my Twitter feed that I'm a big fan of Google and the Google Labs. Part of the reason is because every time I turn around on the Internet, I discover some new, cool gadget they've been working on.

Personal Responsibility Is to Blame for Facebook's Privacy Woes
Enough already with the "Woe is me, Facebook stole my privacy" rants I've been reading online the past couple of weeks. Our society has lost touch with individual responsibility, and that is the root cause of Facebook's dilemma. I agree, Facebook's privacy settings are too deeply hidden and too complicated. It was great to hear the news from Mark Zuckerberg that the privacy settings are supposed to be easier to use.

For Immediate Release: Some Great Advice
The For Immediate Release podcast often has some great content, but the best I've heard since I started listening was the recording of a keynote address by Manish Mehta of Dell.

Google Brings Government Data Into Focus
If the old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words" is true, then a graphic display of a dataset must be worth a million. Thanks to Google, you can see what I'm talking about. Often when dealing with public relations, media relations, or government relations projects, I've found the need to take something that sounds confusing and make it jump off the screen or page.

Is the Real You a Disappointment?
For years, celebrities have had to deal with being a brand and being a real person, but the two didn't always have to mesh. Thanks to social media, many of us are facing the same situation, but there's much less distinction between the two. Often, when we see the human side of the celebrities we know only via TV or movies, we may be disappointed.

Conference Highlights on Twitter Don't Have to Be Annoying
Last week, I attended and spoke at the Ragan Corporate Communicators Conference at General Motors Headquarters in Detroit. If you were following me or a number of my colleagues on Twitter, you may have felt like you were there for some of it. Or you may have simply been annoyed.

Chart of the Day Offers Snapshots of Insight
For a quick snapshot of insight from Business Insider, consider subscribing to its Chart of the Day e-mail service. I've been a subscriber to this free e-mail for some time now. Although there are days when it's just one more e-mail to delete, there are other days when I find interesting things to share with colleagues and more than one has sparked a blog post. Described as "dedicated to aggregating, reporting, and analyzing the top news stories across the web ..."

Conference Will Give Peek Behind GM's Twitter Curtain
I've often commented that Twitter gives us a peek behind the curtains of power, much like Dorothy had in the Wizard of Oz. This week, it's General Motors behind that curtain. GM and Ford have both proven to be leaders in using social media -- Twitter in particular -- to reach out and extend a virtual handshake to consumers. For those in the communications business, Scott Monty at Ford and Chris Barger at GM are becoming household names.

A Social Media 'Circle of Life'
The era we live in is amazing -- and the social media circle of life keeps proving that to me every week. Recently, a colleague of mine, Becky Johns, attended the Future Midwest 2010 conference in Southeast Michigan. She was thrilled to meet people, network, and feel the energy from the folks gathered there who want to make Michigan a better place. Being a smart person who often is wise beyond her 20-something years.

Twervice With a Smile
Customer service outreach via Twitter has some great possibilities. It's not a replacement for other forms, but companies should at least consider tapping into its potential.

FedStats Brings Local Data Into Focus
"What's the population of Lansing?" "How much has the state's population dropped? These questions are sometimes asked of me when I'm attending conferences. I try to remember them, but it's tough.

Publishing Their Way to Obsolescence?
Plenty of folks have been busy writing books about what's happening on the Internet and with social media. It's an interesting situation, though, since they seem to be publishing their way to obsolescence. I thought about this recently when I finished reading "Six Pixels of Separation" by Mitch Joel. It's a great book, and I'd recommend reading it if you get a chance. However, I couldn't help but wonder how long it would be before his book was seen as outdated.

Pork Is the Meat of Politics
When you hear the news about the deficit being run up by the U.S. government and the elected officials we put in charge of it, sometimes it's difficult to fathom how it can get so high so quickly. In part, it's because pork is the meat of politics. I respect the pork farmers of America who make a living bringing "the other white meat" to our tables, and I can't say all earmarked congressional projects are truly "pork," in the negative sense of the word. After all, some projects are probably important enough to warrant federal funding. The trouble has always been trying to figure out which ones are and which ones are not. Actually, the bigger trouble has probably been even finding out about these projects so you'd know enough to investigate them for yourselves. That's where LegiStorm comes in.

To Excel at Social Media, Learn From Students
I suppose some folks will see this post's headline and think I've written about how much we can learn from students because they are "digital natives" who have grown up with social media. True, we can learn from them, but not because of any time spent in the social media realm. After all, a lot of statistics are showing it's the folks in their 30s and above who are charging headfirst into the social media/social networking world. Instead, we should learn from what students can teach us from a non-social media setting: the classroom.

The Internet Will Make You Depressed! Or Not
Psychologists in the United Kingdom reported a connection between Internet addiction and depression. Of course, they can't prove it, and critics are lambasting the research, for anyone with common sense can see it's a bogus claim. However, that didn't stop several media outlets from sounding the alert. Maybe it's true that some people spend too much time online, but I'm not willing to go out on a limb and declare how much is too much.

Digital Media Makes Old Print Available
Many people have wrung their hands over the future of print media now that the Internet and digital media have seemingly taken over our need for immediate information. If you haven't checked them out yet, I recommend the Chronicling America and LIFE Photo Archive sites. Oddly enough, that same technology is now making sure we have access to print media from the past.

What the H?
An online service is trying to redefine the H in WTH and has a rather impressive idea with which to do so. What the Hashtag is a free service offering a user-editable encyclopedia of hashtags on Twitter. The What the Hashtag service automatically tracks trending hashtags, but signed-in users can really bring them to life.

It's Tough Charging for Free Content
There's no question people have become accustomed to news being free on the Internet. That's why it's also no surprise to see a recent study that shows, once again, people aren't willing to pay for it. A Nielsen study shows the percentages of people who have paid for content online and those who would consider paying for it. At the top of the heap is professional entertainment content.

Google Knows Your History; Do You?
Google started as the name of a company and has transformed into a verb, if not a state of mind for a lot of people. Google searches are a common occurrence these days, but did you know the history of your searches is available, too?

'Grandpa, What's a Newsstand?'
Magazines are falling off the shelves more lately, but it's due to publishing being halted, not because people are buying them. Will my grandkids someday ask me what a "newsstand sale" was? I wrote a blog post at Here Comes Later in December talking about the demographics of people who have magazine subscriptions and how many leading magazines are trending toward an older audience. Recent statistics from Business Insider indicate people aren't buying magazines from newsstands anymore.

Car Crash? There's an App for That!
"There's an app for that" has to be one of the most prolific phrases to come along in 2009. One insurance company is proving they are on top of things in terms of customer service by taking advantage of one of the iPhone's greatest features. Nationwide Insurance has a free Accident Toolkit available as an app for the iPhone and iTouch. It's free, and it's for anyone, not just Nationwide customers, so they get two thumbs up.

KnowEm Shows the Depth of Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the big three of social networking. Mix in YouTube for video, Flickr for pictures, and WordPress for blogs. and you've covered a lot of what most people have heard of and think about regarding today's Internet-driven interaction.

Database Tracks Who's Alive and Who's Dead Among Celebrities
Pernell Roberts, better known by one generation as Adam Cartwright and to another as Trapper John, M.D., died on Monday. He was 81 years old. He joins a long and growing list of actors I grew up watching who are now aging and, eventually, passing on. When I was a kid, I remember more than one disagreement between my parents about who among a cast of actors on a show or movie was alive and who had died. It's too bad they didn't live long enough to have the database at Who's Alive and Who's Dead to settle their disagreements. The founder is David Carson, a professional computer networking consultant in the Houston, Texas area. According to the Web site, "He spends a few hours a week doing research and making updates to 'Who's Alive and Who's Dead.'

According to Unreliable Sources
A recent poll funded by Cision found a majority of journalists are "depending on social media sources" for story research, but they also don't trust them. Too bad that distrust doesn't carry over to the human counterparts of online personae. It's not surprising, given the growing popularity of online activity. According to a recent blog post at the Wall Street Journal, "A third of adults online are now using the Web for 'quick conversations,'" via Facebook status updates and the like. The story also reported that "nearly 60 percent of Web users visit social networking sites or maintain profiles there," with a quarter of those folks publishing blogs, video, or "other creative content." When I was a reporter, I relied heavily on my Rolodex that was filled with business cards of just about everyone I met.

Morning Coffee Isn't Just About Caffeine Anymore
Most of us addicted to the daily jolt of caffeine think only of that when we hear the phrase "morning coffee." But for Firefox users, there's an add-on that makes the daily ritual even better. You can easily find the Morning Coffee add-on for Firefox by doing a search through the standard menu drop down on the browser. Morning Coffee was a created by Shane Liesegang. ,

'Living in the Limelight'
Celebrities and politicians often learn the hard way that being in the limelight sometimes means being caught in a bad light. Average folks are learning this, too, as more people push themselves out in front of the world. It's easy to let your guard down and post something to Twitter or Facebook that you might think twice about later. It's also easy to get caught up in the viral spread of news and information that is inaccurate or even false.

Will Electricity be the New Currency Some Day?
Sometimes I wonder if the Mad Max story of the future will involve a United States of haves and have-nots that revolves around electricity to power all the gadgets and tools we’ve come to take for granted in living our everyday lives. I started thinking about this again recently when I had the opportunity to promote the new data center built by Delta Dental of Michigan, which, in the interest of full disclosure, is one of my employers.

Facebook's 2009 Status Update
Part of Facebook's appeal is that you can post a status update for friends, and read theirs in return, but what are people actually talking about? Facebook's Data Team has pulled together the site's top trends for 2009, and it gives an interesting glimpse into what people are up to on the leading social media site.

Wikipedia Appeals for Donations
Wikipedia has long had its hand out for donations. Now, the user-driven encyclopedic website is waving that hand at you. When you visit Wikipedia, a large box at the top of the page can be found, asking you to read a personal appeal from the site's founder, Jimmy Wales.

What's Your Web Site's IFBU Factor?
What draws people to your Web site? Are you the greatest resource on a particular subject, or are you hosting something interesting, funny, bizarre, or unbelievable? I'm betting most Web sites get their first hits because of the latter, which I've just decided to dub the "IFBU Factor." As the rate of sharing with others increases via social-networking sites, the ability to have something spread like wildfire across the Internet approaches phenomenal levels. What's your hook? How are you tapping into the IFBU Factor?

Tweeting For Fun: What Makes You Chuckle?
If you're looking for some entertaining diversions, consider spending a few minutes checking out fun feeds on Twitter that companies and individuals have established.

Men's Health Has an Unhealthy System
Men's Health magazine has pulled together some great lists online that readers love to read but hate to navigate.

Want to be Found? Find Your Voice First
I tried to help a colleague with a request yesterday when he was looking for tips and tricks on writing for new or social media. I didn't have any guides or blog posts that he hadn't already found, but I did offer him a piece of advice: Find a voice. As I started to think about how to put this into context, I was drawn to making an analogy with radio reporters. I've known several, and I've known of many more. Each had his or her own voice, which of course, comes with the territory of being on the radio.

It's Not Facebook's Fault We're Irresponsible
The blogging world is aquiver over Facebook's privacy-setting options being pushed out to users today. But the bloggers attacking Facebook for exposing people to actually reducing their level of privacy is a bit much. It's not Facebook's fault we're irresponsible. The bottom line here is pretty simple: If you don't want anyone to see something, don't post it on the Internet. The best privacy setting of all is the one in your brain that makes you stop and think before you hit that enter button.

Digitally Distinct or Digitally Disastrous: How Do You Rate?
I've found nirvana -- at least online. That's according to the Online ID Calculator brought to the world by William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson, co-authors of Career Distinction: Stand Out By Building Your Brand. I first heard about this from Ari Herzog when he blogged about it at AriWriter. The system is pretty basic, and it only takes a couple of minutes to calculate the uniqueness of your digital identity. You start by searching for your name on a search engine like Google. After that, you answer a series of questions about the search results you find, as well as questions about the search results you would like to find.

Use New Tech to Learn Old History
Technology has made it easier for all of us to stay in touch, to stay entertained, and to stay informed, but none of those things make us educated. The day we stop learning is truly the day that will live in infamy. "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." With those words, President Franklin D. Roosevelt began his speech that would call on the United States Congress to declare war on Japan and bring the nation headlong into World War II.

Got Books?
During the past few years, a new way to get books has developed. Dubbing themselves, "The Netflix of books," BookSwim provides people with free delivery and returns on books for a monthly fee.

Will Cyber Monday Always Be As Popular?
Cyber Monday, that post-Thanksgiving shopping spree that has been the bane of work productivity for many years now, was another big day for retailers this year. But will that single day continue to have the same appeal that Black Friday has had for decades? According to The Wall Street Journal, Cyber Monday sales for 2009 are expected to top $900 million, setting a single-day record for online sales.

The King of Pop is also the King of Facebook
Sysomos recently conducted a study about how people are using Facebook pages. After analyzing 600,000, they came up with some revelations that don't really prove anything about us Facebookers (are we Facebookies or Facebookians?). I sense another blog post coming on, but I digress. Below are the Sysomos highlights, with a bit of commentary (of course!): They found that Michael Jackson has the most popular page on Facebook with more than 10 million fans, and he’s dead, so that’s quite a feat. The RIP Michael Jackson page has another 4.6 million. You can’t discount all as duplicates because certainly there are people who are fans of the RIP page and not the other one. After all, some people probably like him better now that he’s dead and actually less creepy than when he was alive.

Moms Were the Original Facebook
I attended my wife’s 10-year high-school class reunion last night, and in a definite sign of the times, there were a lot of comments starting with, “Hey, I saw on Facebook that you (fill in the blank).” It’s certainly no surprise, given that her age demographic puts her in one of the largest groups to be using Facebook. Since I didn’t really know anyone there, I found myself monitoring conversations more than engaging in them. That also gave me time to analyze some of the conversations, which led me to a startling revelation: Moms were the original Facebook.

Don't Let a Few Trees Obscure Your View of the Forest
The Marketing Resource Group in Lansing, Mich. recently completed a survey of 600 voters regarding social networking and how it might influence the state’s gubernatorial election next year. I can’t help but look at the results and wonder if social networking going mainstream has made us all look too hard for its success. The MRG synopsis of the poll highlights that “more than one in four has an account on one of the various online social networking sites.” They also declared Facebook the leader, with 20 percent of respondents saying they had an account. In addition, they highlighted that nearly 75 percent of Michigan voters under the age of 35 belong to an online social network and more than half belong to Facebook. (I find the 75-percent figure misleading since only 2 percent of the respondents were under age 30.)

Tweets 10-Feet High?
Lately, electronic billboards have been targets of criticism from officials across the country trying to regulate them. Al Tompkins at Poynter Online recently compiled some examples of the issues over these billboards for his Morning Meeting blog. Business folks like them, some people are concerned about them leading to distracted drivers, and others still see them as a revenue source for transportation departments.

The Whole World Really is Watching
In 1968, political activists outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago started chanting, “The whole world is watching,” as police and protestors clashed. The slogan was chanted, in part, because the activists knew television news cameras were on scene. It’s 2009 and the whole world really is watching. Are you and your employer prepared for what they are going to see?

I Can't Dial Pork Anymore
I can't spell your phone number anymore, so stop using fun phrases to help me remember it. It's a bit of a revelation I had recently when a colleague tried to tell me her phone number and gave me the three digits of her exchange followed by the word PORK. Trouble is, I was on my smartphone that has a qwerty-style keyboard. That means PORK translated to "quotation mark, apostrophe, percent, ampersand." It's safe to say I wasn't going to be reaching her anytime soon by dialing that.

A Filing Cabinet in the Cloud
I started using Dropbox about a month ago and it’s one of the few “awesome new things you have to start using!” that actually is. The concept behind Dropbox isn’t new, but the execution of the idea is.

Online Marketing Isn't a Magic Potion
Customer outreach has achieved new heights for some companies due to their online activities. But even the most aggressive outreach can't save a bad product or horrible customer service. As MG Siegler pointed out recently in a TechCrunch post, @comcastcares has been a great project for the cable TV giant. I would echo Siegler's comments that Frank and his 11-person team at @comcastcares are "very responsive, and are trying to be helpful." Comcast is out on Facebook, too, trying to engage with its customers.

Greetings from Planet Google
I was born on Earth, the third planet from the sun in a small solar system within the Milky Way galaxy. Now, I live here, on Google. It's a nice place to visit so you should come see me sometime. It's not an ideal place and not everyone would be comfortable living here. But if you come for a visit and decide to become a G-transplant, I'd be happy to help show you around and meet some of your new neighbors.

Twitter Times Really Delivers
The onslaught of news available to us these days is immense -- often to the point where you wonder how you could ever possibly keep up with the cacophony of information coming at you in a never-ending torrent of facts, analysis and opinion. One solution to help tame the beast is Twitter Times -- a free subscription service that uses your Twitter feed and the feeds of the people you follow (as well as their followers) to create a compilation of news from around the Internet.

Twitter Lists: You're Not Missing Much Yet
I was one of the elite few first chosen by Twitter to participate in the first round of lists as it rolled out. OK, so “elite” may be a bit much, but it’s the first time I’ve ever gotten in on a beta invite, so let me relish the glory for a bit, won’t you? So far, I’ve found the feature marginally useful, although more usefulness may become more obvious once Twitter rolls the feature out to everyone. I’ve been using lists of tweeps for some time now on Tweetdeck and I find it incredibly useful for keeping up with different groups within my Twitter network.

The Island of No Technology
My new bride and I are planning a honeymoon early next year on an island. We received a letter containing "important arrival information" from our hostess yesterday and some of it made me jump from disbelief to confusion to a state of bliss. There were two key sentences that caused this emotional roller-coaster ride. The first was "We definitely do not recommend bringing a laptop." The second was, "If you are traveling with a cell phone it may or may not work here."

Online News Comes From Somewhere
I've heard more people comment lately that one of the reasons they don' t read newspapers (or seem to care if they collapse) is because they get their news online. If they see a headline or Twitter or a lead on Facebook, that's enough for them.

Scalpel. Sponge. Twitter.
We've all seen the hospital operating room, at least on TV or in the movies. Giant lights, people in protective clothing, the sweating surgeon carefully attended to by a nurse with a sponge. But now you might see something else as you're wheeled in for surgery -- a hospital spokesperson with his or her laptop computer and Twitter account. The Detroit Free Press reported recently about a woman who had gone in for surgery and there was tweeting done from outside the sterile field by a Cedar Rapids, Iowa hospital employee.

Slideshare Starts Parent Toolbox
Slideshare, Microsoft's attempt at getting everyone to use and share PowerPoint presentations, has added a new niche site for parents. The Parent Toolbox is described by Microsoft as "a new place to go to learn and share household tools, tips and tricks." It will be "curated" by a parent blogger and other "leading parent bloggers" will be adding content, as well. "Expect relevant presentations, documents and even blog posts. You can comment, favorite, subscribe to content or even upload your own," Microsoft says.

Facebook Turns Off Its Beacon
Facebook has turned off its Beacon tracking program that allowed other users to see what you've been buying and reviewing online. According to a USA Today article: (A) lawsuit was filed in August 2008 on behalf of 19 users against Facebook, as well as Blockbuster, Fandango, Overstock.com and other companies that used Beacon. It claimed the defendants disclosed users' personal information for advertising purposes, without their consent.

Is Technology Making Self-Service "Preferred Service?"
I'm involved with a couple of different private corporate communities online -- communities in which companies ask consumers to get involved in invitation-only discussions and surveys regarding products and services. Recently, one of them conducted a survey regarding self-service stations at stores, where a customer interacts with a computer screen rather than a clerk. The vote of confidence in these machines was quite high when you look at the choices people made about whether they use them or not. What was more interesting were some of the comments posted as to why they use them.

Stay Current on Research with a "Fact Tank"
A lot of face-to-face conversations, Facebook wall posts and tweets start out with the line, "Did you know...?" That line often leads to "they say..." followed by some startling statistic or astounding fact. But who are "they" and how do we know this stuff? As a professional communicator hired to do presentations and training, I thrive on statistics and reports about what is being said about the Internet, technology use and social media. That's why I often find myself checking out what Pew Internet research has been conducted lately.

"I'm Updating My Status On Another Site"
My morning routine has changed in the past few months as I now find myself checking Twitter and Facebook before email and the news Web sites, which is a reverse of the order I used to follow. Part of checking in is, of course, updating my status on both services. Just recently, I decided I should start to use LinkedIn more than I have, tapping into its power as a professional networking portal. I'm not a big fan of services that let you update your status to many different sites at once, so I have to do each update individually. While I have some overlap between my Twitter followers, Facebook friends and LinkedIn contacts, there are those who are only on one or two of the services and not all of them.

Court Rulings are Bigger in Texas
A judge in Texas has banned Microsoft from selling Word in the United States due to a patent infringement lawsuit. Apparently, even the court rulings in Texas are bigger. It's not going to affect most of us, and a lot of people probably won't care.

Too Late - We've Peeked Behind the Curtain
As organizations struggle to figure out how to handle Twitter and the behind-the-scenes glimpses it has started to show us, one thing is certain: for many of them, it's too late to close the curtain. In the Wizard of Oz, the dog Toto was the one who uncovered the truth -- that the Great and Powerful Oz was nothing more than a county fair huckster from Kansas. In the real world, Twitter is playing the part of Toto and we are all playing the role of Dorothy. ESPN has decided to clamp down on the Twitter feeds of its personalities to ensure what they are tweeting fits within the ESPN corporate mission.

Biz Cards Are Sooo 2008, Right?
Are business cards a thing of the past? Are they just going to evolve into electronic versions to meet the needs of a new breed of business professionals? Or are they entirely unnecessary? As my personal brand has started to gain steam for training gigs and speaking engagements, I've considered getting business cards printed to have available -- sort of a mini advertisement that people can take with them when they leave one of my sessions. But the more I've looked into it, the more I've wondered why I need them.

Facebook and Twitter Collide
Skynet is that you? Has the rise of the machines begun and will a Terminator soon be here? The answer to both is no -- last night's snafu that allowed Facebook and Twitter to collide was, apparently, just a glitch in the Facebook universe. It started for me when I posted an update to my Twitter account and, within seconds, had a "Huh?" posted from a friend on my Facebook page. I don't blame my friends for being confused, since they don't use Twitter and this profile update would have made no sense:

Smartphones: Resistance is Futile
I wrote a blog post recently about how the younger generation is embracing a work/life blend instead of the traditional work/life balance. Despite being in Gen X instead of Gen Y, I still find myself embracing the work/life blend. It just seems easier for me to work when working is convenient -- sometimes that's from 9 to 5 at the office and sometimes that's while waiting for my fiancee to finish a trip to the dressing room at a department store. With the proliferation of computers at home, laptop computers, smartphones and access to your entire life via Google apps, it's just so easy to always be connected.

Block Your Employees at Your Own Risk
"Social networking" is a misnomer that implies only personal, social activity is occurring on those web sites. It's also a dangerous misnomer, because it is being used by IT professionals and corporate executives as an excuse to block employees from accessing such sites at work. The truth is that companies and their products are being discussed in an ever-shrinking global reality online. That interaction of businesses, consumers, media, citizen journalists and professional communicators can be feared and ignored, but to do so exposes any organization to great risk. Instead, organizations should engage and interact with that new global reality, tapping into the Internet for the valuable services and advantages it can provide.

It's Not Rocket Science - Engaged Customers Help
At first blush, reading the PeopleMetrics' Most Engaged Customers Survey comes across as an eye-opener, but then you realize it's not rocket science to figure out that engaged customers can help your business. I don't mean to belittle the folks at PeopleMetrics, because surveys like theirs are important -- if for no other reason than to get people to talk about an issue. Here are a few basic highlights: A fully engaged customer recommends a brand nearly four times more often than an ambivalent customer An actively disengaged customer will tell, on average, three people to avoid a company and its services The actively engaged customer is four times more likely than a neutral customer to post to a blog or web site about their poor customer experience

Here Comes Later
Now is Gone, by Geoff Livingston, is a book I've heard mentioned several times in the past couple of weeks among people trying to figure out what to do with social media in the workplace. The ironic thing is that Now is Gone -- is gone. Sure, the book is still available, but the blog created in conjunction with it shut down in early June. It's still there and you can read it to see what it was all about, but the team members that worked on it have essentially gone fishing. They claim it's because there is only so much priming they can do and the basics have been covered.

Digital Table for Four?
Smokey Bones, the restaurant chain that recently underwent a face-lift after being purchased by a new parent company, has decided to launch into the social media realm as part of its new corporate persona. It's a bold move, albeit untested. According to an article at DMNews.com, SmokeyBones.com: ...is actually a series of local Web sites featuring information about various restaurant-specific pro­motions and events.

Stephen King is Nothing Compared to IT Security People
If you're looking for a good scare, don't bother going to the bookstore for a Stephen King novel -- just start checking around for safety messages prepared by IT security specialists. Within minutes, you'll be disconnecting your computer from all cables and wireless devices that might bring you into contact with the outside world. Here are some examples of warnings prepared in the name of safety and security. Make sure you don't read this with the lights off!

Facebook Streamlines Privacy
One of the most misunderstood and under-utilized parts of Facebook is the privacy settings. It's no wonder people haven't figured out how to share certain things with certain people and other things with everyone. Finding the privacy settings, navigating the myriad choices, and trying to decipher what the heck those choices mean have invariably been the part of Facebook that new users contact me about. It's also one of the fear-mongering IT people's greatest weapons when they try to scare everyone away from social networking sites.

Early Birds and Copycats
Sometimes, being the first one on the scene with a cool new idea is great -- you establish a way of doing something and then others try to play catch up from that point forward. Two examples: LinkedIn and Twitter. LinkedIn has been around for a while now and growing exponentially in the business world as a way to connect with colleagues and with the colleagues of colleagues. It's added to its functionality and now offers a vast array of capabilities that I've yet to really tap into. I've used recommendations and I've tried a few surveys

Beware the Twitter Bandits
"Yes, it's really us." Those are four very powerful words uttered by the Detroit public relations firm Tanner Friedman on its Twitter account Wednesday morning. The Detroit News wants to refer to the hijacking of the firm's name as "Twittergate," which only proves that the mainstream media really needs to throw away its book of cliche headlines and find something fresh. But I digress.

We the Knowing, Led by the Unwilling
Fear-mongering IT specialists and clueless executives just don't get it. When it comes to social media, sticking your head in the sand just makes it easier for people to kick you in the ass. There's an old quote attributed to an anonymous author that goes, "We the unwilling, led by the unknowing are doing the impossible, for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing." It's time to update the quote.

Have You Koogled Yourself?
Have you Koogled yourself? Orthodox rabbis have apparently found a way to relieve some of the restrictions imposed on devout Jews who have been restricted from using the Internet because of what they might find there. According to Reuters, “The site omits religiously objectionable material, such as most photographs of women which Orthodox rabbis view as immodest.” Koogle also links to Israeli news and shopping sites, but you won’t find great deals on TVs, as ultra-Orthodox Israelis are forbidden to have those in their homes anyway.

Twitter Is the New Single
I read an interesting column recently from a journalist who covers the TV industry in which he said that if television shows were musical albums, then the episodes and skits available on the Internet would be the singles. I'm starting to wonder if microblogging is taking on that role now for the blogosphere. If you think of a person's blog as the album, is their Twitter feed the singles? After all, blogs take time to craft, draft and edit (much like albums take time to record, produce and distribute).

USB Shouldn't Stand for U Sure Blew It
I attended a conference recently where elected officials, policymakers and business leaders converged for a few days of networking and talking policy (I put some highlights in a blog post at 5Ws if you're interested). One of the things I noticed was that USB thumb drives seem to be all the rage now as the marketing tool to put your brand name out there. I also noticed that of the three free drives I received, only one really hit the mark in terms of positive public relations.

The Honorable Congressman Spammer...Final Chapter(?)
As you'll recall from Chapter 2, I reached out to the staff member of the congressman who I felt was leaving blog spam by posting comments unrelated to the blog but fishing for supporters. I offered to enter into a discussion about the merits or detriment of taking such a tack and wondered whether the response had been positive or negative. I'm going to let the staffer's response speak for itself, but I'd also like to get a discussion started on whether blog comments need to be kept strictly to the topic at hand or if that section should be used for outreach.

Why It Pays to Follow...Through
You're starting to hear from more and more people about the importance of social networking sites like Twitter for companies and how they need to follow what's happening there. What you aren't often hearing is how important it is to follow through with people, too. That explains why some companies "get it" and others don't. A great example of following through occurred recently when I tweeted from work about how I was in the midst of a web presentation by Vocus, the media monitoring and distribution service.

The Honorable Congressman Spammer, Chapter 2
I recently posted an entry on my personal blog about whether I should call out a congressman (and his staffer) who posted what I consider blog spam on my post about Snapple's new marketing campaign. I asked folks to vote in a very unscientific survey about what I should do. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of my calling the congressman out publicly. Of course, as my fiance pointed out, the voter turn-out was slightly less than that seen in a Detroit mayoral election, so the results are definitely not something to bank on

Making Social Media Music
I attended a middle school band concert tonight and sat in awe as kids from 6th to 8th grade performed -- because I can't play any musical instrument. Sure there were a few sour notes, but when the music all came together, it was fine. The group's collective sound helped overcome some of the clunkers. When you think about social media in the vein of school bands, it helps put it all in perspective. The instruments I saw played tonight included trumpets, trombones, french horns, saxophones, drums, clarinets, oboes and a few things I'm sure I've never heard of.

Is it Really Twitter that Killed the Radio Star?
John Ridley, a commentator on National Public Radio, got the social media world in an uproar today when he announced that whenever he hears people talk about Twitter, he wants to hurl. His piece, Keep Your Tweets to Yourself, got people so riled up in part because Mr. Ridley admitted early on he has never tweeted. By the end of the day, 53 comments were posted on the story, most telling Mr. Ridley that he was way off base. A few people agreed with him, but they were easily outnumbered --

Googling My Way to Panic
As the panicdemic over the aporkalypse that's going to see us all spontaneously combust in a pyre of human-devouring germs continues to grow, I was driven to the place I feel safest -- Google. Whenever I want to know how important something is, I just Google it, and, based on the number of search hits, I can determine how big of an issue it is. After all, the media, the government and the guy next door that "heard stuff" are all telling me that Swine Flu, H1N1, the end of human existence as we know it, is on the rampage and we must all protect ourselves!

Twitter has Caught Swine Flu
There's little doubt the mainstream media did its best to catch Swine Flu as fast as it could. After all, when is the last time they got to use the word "pandemic?" It's a classic case of the sensationalistic story turning into a potential apocalyptic story. But to be fair, the media tends to get fired up about things they know the public is going to get excited about. And how can the public not be excited when the U.S. government declares a public health emergency?

Have it Your Way, if You're Willing to Wait
Regardless of your interests, there is probably a magazine designed to suit your needs. With thousands of titles available, it should be easy to find the one that serves you best. But what if you could pick and choose articles from several different magazines without having to subscribe to each one? Enter mine, a compendium of magazine articles being offered by Time, Inc. and American Express Publishing Corp. Time, Travel & Leisure, Money and Sports Illustrated are a few of the magazines available as sources for creating your own magazine. There are actually eight options and you get to choose five of them to be the building blocks for a personalized magazine filled with stories that, ideally, will suit your tastes and interests. The magazine will be delivered in print

AHIP has gone hip
OK, so hip isn't really the new cool, although I'm not sure what the new cool is either because it's hard to keep up these days. But I needed a clever play on words to talk about how AHIP (America's Health Insurance Plans) has jumped to the head of the line with the latest upgrade to their e-mail newsletter. AHIP is the national association for companies that sell health insurance and their "SmartBrief" just got a whole lot smarter. As part of my day job, I try to keep up with the latest health and dental insurance news, and AHIP's daily e-mail has been a pretty good source of what's happening in this realm.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Entrepreneurship
They used to say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I think we need to update that statement to reflect the modern era. Instead, it should be imitation is the sincerest form of entrepreneurship. Many of us in the public relations and media relations world are often trying to figure out how to get the media to quote us, our clients or our employers as sources in their news articles.

Social interaction requires being social and interacting (Oprah)
The social networking phenomenon called Twitter may become unusable today thanks to celebrities so intent on self-affirmation that they are the epitome of the satirical jabs that have been leveled at tweeters worldwide. What people often don't understand is that when you are on Twitter, you have an opportunity to build a global network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances that you can rely on for advice, brainstorming, information and, sometimes, just a good laugh. I blogged about the different uses of Twitter recently and what it means to "get it." It wasn't that long ago and yet the number of people following me has increased by a couple of hundred already. Does that matter? Not really.

It's tough to please hip, cool and loving stalkers
A friend of mine made a comment via Twitter yesterday that "only old people care about being cool." Of course, I had to correct her to say that old people actually prefer to be hip, whereas the Generation X-ers like myself, who are nowhere near ready to be referred to as old, actually worry about being cool instead of hip. It got me thinking about the challenges that sites like Twitter and Facebook must be dealing with right now. People often talk about how those two sites, Twitter in particular, are making the world a smaller place.

Things Thomas Jefferson Could Teach Us About the Internet
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the third president of the United States and the Internet could not yet have been imagined in his day. Still, changing just a word or two in his more famous quotes shows that Tom may have been ahead of his time. So, in celebration of what would have been his 266th birthday today, and with all due respect, I give you Things Thomas Jefferson Could Teach Us About the Internet: I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much Internet than to those attending too small a degree of it.

Don't take social shortcuts
It can be frustrating, trying to keep up with all the social networking sites you've been convinced to join. I have three I use personally quite regularly and I have others I use for work and less frequently. I'm not sure how any of us are expected to stay on top of what's happening at all of them or keep them all fresh. That's where a lot of social networking shortcuts have come into play and, unfortunately, people seem to be using them more. The problem is, a shortcut isn't always the best route to take.

Is the web Pac-man or Terminator?
If you're organization is out there trying to get media attention for positive news, it's probably no surprise to hear that the Web is where you're getting traction. Still, it was interesting to see a report I ran recently on news coverage for my employer. As you can see, Web distribution has become the Pac-man of media relations: That's just a report from a single month in 2009, but it's a pretty consistent representation of media distribution reports for our company.

Tracking censorship online
I've been contemplating censorship of blog content lately after a journalist friend of mine was harassed into taking down a personal blog. Apparently, someone wasn't pleased with what she was saying and threatened her via her employer. Because she's a journalist, that raises a conflict in my mind, too, because journalists should be careful not to expose their personal opinions or biases to readers -- their credibility for writing a fair story could be compromised. But this speaks to a larger issue of being censored via your employer. In responding to her about this dilemma, I told my friend, "The sound of censorship echoes most loudly in those empty spaces where free speech once was heard."

Learn about where your "friends" live
Many of us are now connected to people from across our own countries, continents and, sometimes, from halfway around the world. Deemed "friends," "followers," "tweeps," "connections," they often are living in areas we've never visited or make references to things we don't completely understand. That's where the National Geographic Travel and Cultures Directory could come in handy. Divided into various sections, you can learn more about places based on continent, region, country or city. There's even an alphabetical listing and a "places of a lifetime" section if you're trying to figure out which of your friends lives in the coolest places.

Who is your irreplaceable employee?
"No one is irreplaceable." I've done my best to kill that notion as a worker and to make sure it's irrefutable when I've been the boss. As an employee, you should be doing everything you can to be that go-to person the boss is always relying upon to get a job done. But this post is really more of a warning to the bosses of the world. You need to learn a very valuable term: cross-training.

Even now, third-party validation trumps self-promotion
A couple of things happened recently on Twitter that helped reinforce the age-old rule in public relations about third-party validation trumping self-promotion. It's good to see that no matter how technology changes things, some of the basics still hold true. First, there was a story posted in Capital Gains, an online news outlet in Lansing, Michigan, about 10 People to Follow on Twitter. I was thrilled to be included in that list. I tweeted about it and told a couple of friends and coworkers.

Homer Simpson gets Twitter, do you?
Now that Twitter has been discovered by the mainstream media, albeit about a year after they should be calling it "cool and new," the amount of misconceptions about the service are growing at an exponential rate. It doesn't help that reporters are analyzing the thing to death, trying to figure out what it is and what it means and what the future will hold for us based on our activities on Twitter

Is your in box in the Death Star's targeting range?
Between the stuff we want and the stuff we don't, there's very little room in our email in boxes for stuff we might want. That's the category where a lot of email marketing from companies we've done business with in the past falls. Often, companies abuse your trust by taking the email address you supplied them and targeting your inbox like the Death Star targeted the planet Alderaan in Star Wars. (For those who aren't Star Wars fans, long story short: BOOM! Obliteration. :) )

GIGO, the addendum
I wrote yesterday about the garbage in, garbage out theory and how we can apply it to the current state of newspapers shutting off print production and moving strictly on line. Based on discussions I've had with people on this subject via other blog posts/comments and Twitter, there's a mixed reaction to this whole situation facing the industry. First, let me clear that I don't blame the reporters who are being forced to cram stories down our throats before they are ready. What was the old saying from Ernest and Julio Gallo Vineyards? "We will sell no wine before its time." Too bad newspaper owners and publishers don't feel that way about journalism.

GIGO is alive and well
In the earliest days of computer programming, the phrase "garbage in, garbage out," was coined and then later shortened to GIGO. The idea is that if you put the wrong data into a computer, it will spit out the wrong answers. The computer only delivers answers based on the information you supply -- it can't correct for your mistakes.

Are these nodes too spicy?
Doing a little research on Daylight Saving Time the other day, I came upon a DST information site that offers information in the standard, linked format or in a radial mapping system I hadn't experienced before: SpicyNodes. According to its creators: SpicyNodes is an innovative web navigation product that allows users to find information in intuitive and organic ways. SpicyNodes utilizes radial mapping to create visual representations (“nodes”) of information. These nodes are then linked to one another based on their relationships and importance.

Don't be somewhere just to be there
I recently was asked by an organization that survives on visitors to consult with them on whether they should have a Facebook page for people to interact with. It's becoming a more common question as people are seeing the media talk about Facebook, Twitter and other hot topics of the moment. Unfortunately, too many public relations people and social media "experts" are pushing the idea to clients that everyone should be out on Facebook because it's "the place to be."

Boo! Ghostblogging is scary
Ghostwriting has been an accepted practice for decades. I’ve ghostwritten more quotes, articles, letters to the editor, etc. than I can remember in the many years I’ve been in the media relations business. In the realm of blogs and other online, interactive mediums, however, ghostwriting becomes apparent very quickly and should not be done. This is even more frustrating to me in the more social outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter. I’ve even coined a phrase for those politicians and others who have staff run their accounts: Twitterfeits. I'm trying to decide if they should be called out, but I'm hopeful the concept will just collapse under its own weight and we won't have to worry about it anymore. Only time will tell.

Google Bus!
One of my favorite stupid quotes from history is when the head of the U.S. Patent Office in 1896 or so reportedly said, "Everything that can be invented has been." I kind of feel like him, though, every time I log into Google Maps thinking I know how to use it, what it's capable of and know all there is to know about it. The gang at Google has done it again, this time actually making public transit easily accessible for everyone. If you want to plot out a route from Point A to Point B, Google Maps will give you directions by car, by walking or by public transportation.

Tax returns of the rich and presidential
With April 15 rapidly approaching, many Americans are running the annual gauntlet through tax-form hell as they prepare to prove to Uncle Sam that you can't get blood out of a turnip so he can't have any more of their money for taxes, penalties and interest. If you ever wondered what it would be like to hand everything over to a tax preparer because your personal calculator doesn't handle all those zeroes on your adjusted gross income line so well, here's a chance to take a glimpse of that world.

U.S. government delivers recalls
Often on this site we spend time making sure people know about the latest and greatest web site or online tool that people should be aware of. In doing that, we may be overlooking some of the oldies but goodies we rely upon but maybe not everyone has heard of yet. So, here's one of mine: the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Simple time
These days, many web sites are designed to be overflowing with information, a one-stop shop acting as your portal to the world. Unfortunately, that often means an instant headache as your brain fries from information overload. Then, there are sites that are beautiful because of their simplicity, like the one where you can find the official U.S. time. You're almost immediately struck by how boring the site is

Are RSS readers disconnecting us?
I'm an avid Google Reader fan and I'm not sure what I'd do if I didn't have RSS feeds and a reader to help me keep up with the things I want to read about. I can't help but wonder, however, if this constant stream of information coming in has created a void in some way. The whole appeal of Web 2.0 was the interaction and the collaboration that it could lead to. So we went out there and we sought out blogs and other interactive content from which we could learn and with which we could interact.

Teachers being taught tech
Grand Ledge (Michigan) Public Schools sent its teachers back to the classroom recently, as students, to help them catch up with their own students on the technology front. The Lansing State Journal reported the teachers were taught about a lot of things tech, including blogs, streaming videos, MP3 players, Google Earth, iPhoto and wikis. The concept of taking teachers out of the classroom to learn coupled with the idea of buying technology products for teachers raises an interesting dilemma in these days of shrinking education budgets.

Worldometers' numbers can make your head spin
Whether it's the rapidly increasing world population or the ever decreasing acreage of forest, you can find some head-spinning statistics at Worldometers. Worldometers describes itself like this: ...part of the Real Time Statistics Project, which is managed by an international team of developers, researchers, and volunteers with the goal of making world statistics available in a thought-provoking and time relevant format...

I'll take two-way Twittering over one-way reporting any day
There have been several commentaries written lately about why Twitter is inane, pointless and stupid. Most of them have been written by people who dabbled into Twitter enough to think they can write about it but in reality are only proving that they don't know what they're talking about. Take this latest column in the New York Times lamenting the fact that many mainstream TV journalists have gone beyond having their own shows and Facebook outlets by joining the Twitterverse.

When you need a stat, but don't know where it's at...
Sometimes you're looking for a statistic to insert into some research you're conducting and you're sure the federal government must have it somewhere. The trouble is, where do you find it when you don't know where to start looking among myriad government agency web sites? Enter FedStats, a searchable database of searchable databases and links made available to you organized by what you are looking for, not which agency produces them.

MI Department of Ag helps those going nuts over the recalls
You may be going nuts over the peanut butter product recalls -- wondering if that bag of cookies or container of ice cream in your kitchen is waiting to attack you with salmonella. Some people have taken the safest possible route and just thrown out anything in their cupboards and refrigerators that contains peanut butter in some form. That seems like overkill, though, and will lead to a tremendous amount of unnecessarily wasted food. In addition, there is peanut butter on the ingredients list of a lot of foods you wouldn't expect to see it on.

My co-pilot is a satellite
About eight years or so ago when I was a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Transportation, I remember having to deal with news stories about this crazy new idea to start charging an "odometer tax" on drivers as a way to fund highway repairs and construction. The idea was that your vehicle would be tracked and the government, now knowing how many miles you had driven, would collect that information every time you stopped for fuel and present you with a tax bill. It was supposed to replace the fuel tax we currently pay at the pump because people were worried that the hybrid and electric cars a lot of folks were talking about developing were going to eat into the fuel-tax intake.

To err is human, but...
There's an old joke that went, "To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer." Along those lines, I've discovered that automated bots pulling information about people to networking sites has led to a whole new level of misidentification. Take me and Spoke.com for example. I received a Google alert about myself one day that led to my profile on Spoke. (If you haven't set a vanity search for yourself on Google yet, what are you waiting for?)

Tips from a master (not me!)
I'm attending the Speechwriters Conference put on by Ragan Communications and the Public Relations Society of America, where this morning's keynote speaker was Ted Sorensen, speechwriter and counsel to President John F. Kennedy. Mr. Sorensen, a legend among speechwriters, laid out some great tips on how to write great speeches. It got me thinking that a lot of what he said could pertain to blogging and many other forms of communications, so I wanted to share them with you. As Mr. Sorensen said, "We are now witnessing eloquence return to American politics," so why not have it return for all of us who are communicators, regardless of our arena?

Newspapers should fear censorship, not create it
As newspapers opened up outlets on their Web sites for readers to comment, they probably thought it would be a great way for readers to interact with the reporters and other readers. In some cases, however, it’s turned into an opportunity for people with strong opinions on sensitive subjects to spew hatred, at the newspapers, at the subjects of the stories and at other readers who have posted comments. Now, the Lansing State Journal in Lansing, Michigan has decided that there are times when it’s OK for them to turn off the comments section on certain articles.

Tracking or spying? Latitude allows both
The latest in the series of Google's attempts to control the world (insert evil scientist laugh here), has been released and it's already sending thrills of excitement and shivers of fear down many a spine. Google Latitude is an opt-in service that allows folks to find out where you are based on signals from your cell phone or laptop computer. PC World has a good introductory article on the service that should have you saying, "Hey, this is cool."

Indexing the media: old vs. new
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism recently started producing The New Media Index. They describe it as "a weekly report that examines how the most-discussed news on blogs and other social media sites compares with the mainstream press." The Pew Research Center has been producing a News Index regularly for some time now, and it's always been interesting to see someone capture what really is the most-reported story for a certain time period. Now Pew has taken on the task of indexing bloggers and their kin to figure out what the online or "new media" is talking about.

Celebrating with "friends"
Happy Independence Day to the people of Nauru! Now, if you're like me, you've probably never even heard of this island country. We can't be blamed, really -- it is a tiny island in the South Pacific and is the world's smallest independent republic. Still, as the online world has made the real world seem smaller every day through applications like Facebook and Twitter, etc., we are finding ourselves conversing with "friends" from around the globe, so we should start learning more about the big blue marble.

Hey, Big Brother, over here!
I've had the topic of personal vs. professional online activity come up in Twitter discussions and during presentations to folks wanting to explore social media. It seems that whether we've been at this for a while or it's a strange new playground, none of us are really very comfortable making a decisive argument about how your personal and professional life should or shouldn't collide via your online activities. (I wonder how George Costanza would survive the Internet!?!) If I make a bad pun

Ironically, Newspaper Death Watch tracks industry's demise online
Paul Gillin over at Newspaper Death Watch says he is "Chronicling the Decline of Newspapers and the Rebirth of Journalism." He has an interesting blog with plenty of stuff to spend time perusing and links to click. It's bittersweet for me, as a former newspaper reporter and editor, to see this type of blog. It's ironic, really, that the death of newspapers is being tracked online, by a technology that they have struggled to come to terms with and can't.

"Social" or "media" -- the results
Earlier this month I posted an entry asking if "social media" is more "social" or more "media." Based on comments on the post, comments via Twitter, and responses to polls on LinkedIn and SurveyMonkey, I have some answers to share. OK, they're not really answers, because I don't think there is a solid answer to this question. It's a bit of a riddle wrapped inside an enigma. Or, as one respondent put it, "Aren't we just splitting hairs?"

Ragan.com discusses Twitter
Is Twitter right for your company? That's a great headline at Ragan.com because it's a question so many communications professionals and their bosses are thinking right now. It's a good article but even better is the discussion occurring in the comments section. If you've been wondering about Twitter and social media in general, go get involved. It's a great example of putting the technology to work for you.

Oh, bother
It's not every day you can quote someone like Winnie the Pooh and come off sounding pretty smart. But James Chartrand over at copyblogger has pulled it off. He's written a post called The Winnie the Pooh Guide to Blogging and it's a great read for those new to blogging and even those of us who have been at it for a while. Have a look, and I'll see ya 'round the Hundred Acre Woods.

Is social media more "social" or "media?"
As online interaction is accelerating at warp speed, Corporate America has started to wake up and realize it probably needs to at least monitor what's going on if not actually participating yet. Those of us regularly involved in the online universe were probably pretty excited at first, because now we'd get paid to do what we were already having fun with, the companies and associations we work for may have finally started to "get it" about something, and the more the merrier when it comes to quality social interaction of any kind, right? The answer is now a big "maybe."

A backhanded compliment for Twitter
David Pogue, renowned tech columnist for the New York Times, recently crafted a piece about Twitter in which he sings its praises...eventually. Pogue seems to have figured it out and now understands how important Twitter could be in this brave new universe of online interaction. Unfortunately, he takes so long getting to the praises that a lot of folks reading his column will simply say, "See, I told you so, Twitter is a dumb, useless waste of time for geeks." It was ironic that the day Pogue's poorly-introduced, well-conceived beginner's guide for Twitter was published was the same day Twitter proved itself -- again -- as an amazing tool.

Enjoying a trip to the Stone Age
There's a reference site called 50states.com that offers a lot of information about -- you guessed it -- all 50 of the United States of America. Big deal, right? You can find out all kinds of information online about the states. Well, the difference is the beauty of simplicity. In this age of animated web sites that waste your time with intro pages that flash and dance across your screen, 50states.com is the equivalent of the Stone Age.

D.C. web site helps travelers
The District of Columbia deserves some kudos for establishing a Web site dedicated to travelers preparing for the 2009 presidential inauguration. This site will assist you in finding valuable information about the events surrounding the 56th Presidential Inauguration, including lodging information, transportation, security measures and closures.

Whodunit? and other news quizzes
MSNBC.com is trying to bring the world of news to light with a series of quizzes you can take to test how well you've been keeping up with things. Whodunit? is the first one I discovered, but there are more to choose from if the latest crime story isn't your cup of tea. There also are quizzes available on general news events, business news, sports and, of course, you can see if you've been keeping up with the latest news from Hollywood.

Will new technology help us learn from older folks?
There's an interesting article in USA Today about the senior generation getting involved more with computers, video games like the Wii and plenty of other technology. It's great to see Wii and other electronics helping older folks stay social and active. And it's encouraging to see aging Baby Boomers resist growing "old" despite the fact that they're aging. And Mary Furlong, 60, a marketing consultant, says Boomers will never be seniors in the traditional sense.

Putting a "face" on your resolutions
It occurred to me just the other day that I never made any New Year's resolutions for 2009. Maybe I just got too busy living my life as it is to think about how I'd like to live my life. Maybe everything about me is perfect and I don't need to resolve to do anything differently. Ha! That's a good one. Anyway, if you are like most people, you've got a few resolutions that, a week after the new year has begun, are probably starting to suffer a little from neglect.

Slow blog, take it easy
There's something to be said for the nonstop, always-on constant flow of information that is becoming the norm via services like Twitter and Facebook. But there's also something to be said for intermittent, slower, thoughtful conversations as well. Recently, I took a vacation from work and it's the first time in a long time that I've had a job I could truly vacation from. Things were being handled while I was gone. I wasn't needed and I didn't receive emails or phone calls from co-workers asking me to help out "even though they know I'm on vacation."

It's a wonderful life, when hard work meets opportunity
When the economy is in the tank everyone suffers, right? Wrong. Throughout history there have been those who have made the most of times when they are bad. There is always something that someone wants or needs that a person has the ability to provide and the wherewithal to provide it at the right moment. I thought of this the other day when sitting through my annual viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart.

What's on your top 10 list of top 10 lists?
The digital world comes alive with plenty of forwards this time of year as people share their "Top 10 - fill in the blank - of 2008" stories and lists. The Associated Press' member news outlets voted for the top 10 news stories of the year. It's not a big surprise to see the U.S. presidential election, the economic meltdown and oil prices rounding out the top three spots, respectively.

Twitterpated yet?
Jeremiah Owyang recently wrote a nice round-up of research conducted by HP Labs about Twitter, tweets and the tweeters who send them. If you're just longing for your college days and reading academic research papers, the full report also is available in .pdf format. Not into Twitter yet? Check out Rohit Bhargava's post to find out which stage of "Twitter Denial" you're currently experiencing.

A bridge too weak?
With all the frustrations journalists seem to be feeling about the online world and its impact on news reporting, there are times when the technology can really help that industry shine. Case in point is MSNBC.com's bridge tracker that is a pretty awesome tool for checking out bridge conditions across the country.

Digital flirting, or advertising?
USA Today has an article today about adults and teens using their cell phones to flirt more, often being more forward and revealing than they would be in real life. According to the article: About a third of young adults 20-26 and 20% of teens say they've sent or posted naked or semi-naked photos or videos of themselves, mostly to be "fun or flirtatious," a survey finds.

Read this, you only have 5 billion years left!
The Internet has changed our lives in so many ways. If it weren't for the Internet, we'd never know what really happened to Toni and Dallas since they were MIA at the finish line for The Amazing Race, and CBS didn't bother to fill in the fans. I also wouldn't know that who wins The Amazing Race really is small potatoes compared to the fact that the Earth is going to be vaporized...

Twitter tools
Brian Solis over at PR 2.0 has done a nice job compiling a list of tools that will help you manage Twitter -- the microblogging service that can easily eat up macro amounts of time! Be careful, though, because some services require you to give them your Twitter handle and password. Some folks aren't comfortable doing that and for good reason.

It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature
Sure, we've all heard the line about not fooling with Mother Nature, but they should have warned us about her serious anger-management issues! Ryan McGinnis is a storm chaser who shares his experiences via The Big Storm Picture photo blog. It's a nice example of how the Internet is being used to entertain, enlighten and educate people about the awesome power of nature and what it can do to us and our belongings. *Photo courtesy of Ryan McGinnis

What matters more, content or delivery?
Is the technology we're all using today really about the content or delivery of the content? Consider these observations: Print newspapers and magazines are ending production or scaling back staff sizes dramatically because they can't sell published editions as much anymore. The journalism schools around the country are furiously trying to incorporate "online journalism" into their curriculum, sometimes at the expense of basic journalistic instruction.

The future of social media...?
Jason Falls at Social Media Explorer does his best to predict the future of social media. He has some well thought-out theories that are worth taking a look at and considering.

A spam by any other name still smells just as bad
“Backscatter spam" is a term I hadn’t heard until recently when USA Today published an article about it. I’d been a victim of it; I just didn’t know what I was supposed to be calling it. In a nutshell, what happens is spammers collect real e-mail addresses then fake those addresses in the From: field to send spam that appears to come from an individual you may know. For example, people may suddenly wonder why I’m sending them an email about enlarging various body parts, especially if they aren’t the right gender for what I’m suggesting they need!

Social media meets Anthropology 101
In one of her best posts ever, the up-and-coming social media maven Shannon Paul has laid out some great thoughts on social media and how to break in to it as a tourist breaks in to any new culture. Check it out at her Very Official Blog.

Turkey Day 2.0
For those readers in the United States getting ready to settle in for a Thanksgiving food fest, help with preparations is now just a click away. Need any last-minute ideas for recipes? Wondering how big of a turkey you need to feed your family with just a few leftovers? Want help from the live Turkey Talk Line? This and more is available at the Butterball Turkey web site. Think of it as the modern version of finding Native Americans to save your hide this Thanksgiving.

Perks are pay, aren't they?
Interesting article from Advertising Age about WalMart courting "mommy bloggers," including one of those deeply involved in spreading news of the Motrin Moms debacle. It seems that a hero of the people can also become a hero of a corporation if treated properly. Note that she is "quick to point out she's not paid by WalMart." This is one of those sticky areas where bloggers will have to learn the lessons that journalists often have to learn the hard way:

Time for TV networks to shift with us
It’s time for network TV to start facing reality: when we watch your shows, we watch them on our schedule, not yours. The concept of “time shifting” has been around since the first VCR started incessantly flashing 12:00 on its face. Now, with various forms of watching TV available on everything from set-top recorders to computers to cellular phones, it's even more common.

Motrin needs some Motrin, stat!
Check out this video response on YouTube for a great review of how social media and the Internet played a role in an ad and then a web site being taken down on a Sunday by a major corporation. If anyone ever needed Motrin for some pain right now, it's Motrin, thanks to their "baby sling" ad!

Will online media report the obituary of newspapers?
It seems that while newspapers are worried about online media killing them, the reality is they are killing themselves and online media will be reporting about it. There was a flurry of news breaking in Michigan last week about newspapers -- but not in the newspapers. Booth Newspapers apparently is consolidating copy desk and several other functions from newspapers across the state at the Grand Rapids Press.

Music file sharing affecting commercials?
Researchers at Michigan State University have found that 90 percent of TV commercials contain some type of music and yet the use of jingles is declining. David Allan analyzed more than 3,400 ads from one week of programming on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX. Allan, whose work appeared in the Journal of Advertising Research, said he believes the increased use of music is due to music-file sharing on the Internet.

What goes around goes around, again and again
A public relations colleague of mine made a tweet on Twitter yesterday about some work with elephants and a circus. No, seriously, sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up. Anyway, her tweet reminded me of a funny definition of public relations I’ve often shared with my journalism and public relations students at Michigan State University.

Chrysler is listening to a few of us
I’m one of the newest members of Chrysler’s Customer Advisory Board. Hopefully, that actually will mean something in the near future, even if Chrysler gets bought by GM. A while back I stumbled upon (literally, not StumbleUpon) the fact that Chrysler wanted to interact more with consumers to garner feedback on their products and their decisions. Chrysler Listens is the concept and if you’re interested you can visit the Web site and offer your opinions.

Why do newspapers make it so difficult to give them news?
We’ve seen plenty of news lately about print media scaling back, including the Christian Science Monitor and U.S. News and World Report ending their print editions to “focus on the web.” Considering how much newsrooms are underfunded, understaffed and underutilized at many newspapers these days, it’s always surprising to me that they make delivering news or news tips so difficult.

What's Stupid About Twitter?
Have you ever wondered what people in this world think is stupid? Now, you can find out because when stupid is used on Twitter, it will automatically show up on "StupidFeed." I'm not sure of the point of the feed. Perhaps Forrest Gump said it best: "Stupid is as stupid does."

Bringing home the bacon
Candidate, and now President-Elect Barack Obama has been telling us that he plans to go through the federal budget line by line looking for ways to cut spending. Maybe you'd like to give him a hand by tracking federal spending in your area and offering some suggestions. You can pull up reports to start digging through at the Federal Procurement Data System after a free and easy registration. So pour a cup of coffee, grab a red pen and have your own line-item veto party!

Art Van unwraps free publicity
Testing your campaign ideas out online can get you more than useful feedback, it might just save you from a complicated legal issue later. The Art Van Furniture company recently had some ideas on how to redesign the look of their delivery trucks. They posted the ideas and asked people to vote. One early choice was a truck that showed a leather sofa emerging from a partially unwrapped candy bar.

Online or not, the more things change, the more they stay the same
I recently participated in a PR News/Cision survey about social media regarding its use and how executives perceive and use this new bonanza of public outreach. The results are in and, according to the survey, social media involvement is now considered a standard public relations practice. That doesn’t mean everyone wants it to be, however.

Linking and being linked
When you get involved in blogging, it's cool and exciting to watch your statistics climb as more people start checking out your stuff. Nevertheless, especially for those just starting out, it can be intimidating to link to other blogs or ask them to link back. Here's a good post from ProBlogger with some tips on making it all a little easier.

This conference is all a-Twitter
Using Twitter has been something fun and useful that I've been enjoying for a while now, but this is the first time I've used it at a conference. If you haven't done this yet, the idea is that everyone attending a conference or following it online via Twitter puts the # sign and a code (such as #prsa08), making it easier for folks to track all the tweets related to the event.

Social networks aren't as common as they seem
Social networks are not yet universal and we must make clearer in-roads to participation for new people. This isn’t some grand pronouncement by an all-seeing public relations guy. This is a great truth that is drawing more attention lately and needs to be understood by all of us involved in this brave new world of Web 2.0 and beyond.

Social media can't be anti-social
There have been a couple of good blog posts lately from a person who is young and fast-becoming a social media maven and one who is even younger but shows promise as a future public relations industry leader. Shannon Paul posted on her personal blog about the importance of making sure we are making in-roads for newbies so those of us living online don't end up talking to ourselves in a vacuum.

14-year-old girl bares all at school - via cell phone
So, this one time, at band camp…photos of you doing a keg stand are taken and end up on Facebook. Not a big deal, until a potential employer checks out your online persona and decides maybe you aren’t cut from the same moral cloth they’d prefer for an employee. It’s been a concern of college students and even some high-schoolers lately as job providers have realized you can learn a lot about people based on what they, or more likely their friends, have posted about them online.

Are blogs at their end or is this only the beginning?
There's a mixed bag of opinions on whether blogs are just taking off or just taking a swan dive. At Wired, Paul Boutin says blogs are "so 2004." At the Izea Blog, Ted Murphy says 2009 will be the year blogs are hotter than ever. And at E-Marketer, Paul Verna writes about how blogs have now become mainstream.

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