Archive for June 2010
Lately Facebook came under fire for changing privacy settings and sharing user data with companies. There is even a new social network in the wings, Diaspora, ready to go head-to-head with Facebook over privacy and user-data control. This points to more than just Facebook messing up, however. This is a chronic issue with social networking. We’re putting our entire lives online. I like to tell my friends that their lovely privacy controls won’t keep out the FBI. They won’t even keep out a dedicated hacker. Witness the Twitter hacker in France getting in to President Obama’s Twitter profile (he got off light, by the way).
So how do you protect yourself? Obviously I’m not going to advise that you quit social media. But I am going to suggest that you watch what you put online very carefully. Let’s start with general tactics, and if I get a good response to this post I’ll go more in depth with each popular social network.
- Know what you are putting online and be consistent. For instance, don’t go around announcing your middle name if your middle name is a security question for your bank. Same thing for the name of your pets, a common security question.
- Use Strong Passwords. Most people don’t do this, so here’s an easy way to have a strong password that you won’t even have to remember. Go here (disclaimer, this is my father’s website).
- Don’t Click on Things You Don’t Know. Be very aware of what you click on and have a good anti-virus. Even messages from within Facebook can have a virus or cookie attached.
- Don’t be a Phish. Phishing scams are scams where someone attempts to get you to give them your passwords, generally by pretending to be a company you are working with. For example, if you receive an e-mail that seems to be your bank asking for your log in information, that’s a Phishing scam. But it’s not just financial institutions. Phishers pose as social media sites, too.
- Don’t Broadcast Your Location Constantly. Geolocation games are fun. I play Foursqure. But I watch who I make my friend in the app very carefully, and I don’t broadcast where I am constantly. I don’t check in to home or work, so my regular habits are a secret. This includes Tweeting or posting Facebook updates about where you are, not just using geolocation services. Consider this: burglaries happen frequently during the day, when the home owners are at work.
- Know Your Friends. How well do you know all your Facebook Friends? Use lists. Not only is this good for your personal branding, but it will help you maintain your privacy.
- Don’t Publish Your Address or Phone Number. I always wondered how the spammers got my phone number. Turns out I had it on my Facebook Profile. It could have easily been on my blog, too, if I hadn’t edited my resume. Be mindful of what you copy/paste.
- There Are No Take-Backs. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. There’s a digital log of everything posted anywhere on the internet. So think
about everything you postbefore pressing that Send button.
- You Are Talking to a Cat. Online, no one knows you’re a cat. We warn children that their chatting buddies may not be other kids but rather creeps out to get them. Just because you’re chatting with someone who seems like a professional contact doesn’t mean she is. She could be a he out to scam you (or worse). Or she could be a cat.
- Be Yourself. Odd as it sounds, this is a safety tip. Don’t do online what you wouldn’t do in person. Great for personal branding and helps keep your reputation out of the gutter. For example, if you generally wouldn’t flaunt your body, don’t put sexy pictures online. Those pictures are asking for attention you really don’t want, even if your friends think those pictures are fun and have them up to. Do you want a creepo after you?
Do you have any great tips? How do you stay safe online?
I recently had the opportunity to interview a great local artist, Daniel Davis. He and his wife created Steam Crow Press, their publishing company, in 2005 after going to the San Diego Comic-Con. Since then, they have produced 4 books and a free web comic called Monster Commute. We spoke about knowing what your dream is and then living it. Below is what I learned:
Moral 1: Follow your dreams!
When I asked how Daniel knew he wanted to be an artist, he answered simply that he’s been drawing his whole life. That is a pretty common with artists, so what really got me what the rest of his answer: His family didn’t want him to be an artist. In his words, “When I was turning 18, I was getting a lot of pressure from my family in deciding what I wanted to do with my life and they kinda told me that art wasn’t one of those things… [so I decided that I would] pursue the crazy things I wanted to pursue.”
Moral 2: Adapt!
Of course, as a comic artist, I had to ask how Daniel got into comics. Turns out that was based on practicality. Comics are a good way to tell stories because pictures alone just aren’t enough. Though Daniel read comics as a kid, he’s gotten more into them as an adult.
Moral 3: Look for silver linings! (aka, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!)
The idea for the Monster Commute comic came from an actual commute Daniel would make to work every day. Poor Daniel used to commute from North Peoria to the airport, which if you are unfamiliar with Phoenix geography is a 2-3 hour commute. One way. On the plus side of this long commute, we got the Monster Commute comics! Daniel thought, “What if the comic’s universe was about everyone commuting and living in their cars?” In some ways, it’s a monster version of Star Trek, or “Monster Trek.”
Moral 4: Don’t try to separate the various things you love. Mix ‘em all together!
Daniel has a family, friends, a “day job” and his growing comics and art business. How on Earth does he balance his time? Daniel told me that you almost have to be unballanced a bit. He pointed out that if he spent a sensible 2 hours a week on his art, he would never get anywhere. So he justifies spending huge amounts of time working, and not necessarily with his son, by realizing that he’s doing his art for his son, which I personally found the most endearing thing I’d heard all day. The reasoning is that Daniel wants to actually create something while he’s alive so that way, after he’s gone, his son can go “Wow, look at all this stuff that you’ve made!”
Now, to put this in perspective, when I called Daniel for our interview, he was finishing up a regularly scheduled pool-time with his son. His son also gets involved in his work and plays with Dad’s modeling clay, makes 3D models of the drawings out of tinker toys…
Moral 5: Learn from the people around you
I also spoke with Daniel about pure business stuff, like where he learned about marketing. Turns out that Daniel’s “day job” to which I alluded earlier, is being a graphic designer for an in-house marketing team. Granted just working with marketers does not confer marketing mojo, but it does get a person into a good position to ask questions. That’s what Daniel does. He pays attention, listens, asks questions, and even gets informational interviews with folk, gathering knowledge he then applies to Steam Press. He also has Tiny Army, a local Phoenix illustrators group that he founded, where other local artists can get together and share what they know. They’ve been meeting for over 2 years, fostering a community of comic artists, designers, and illustrators. It’s Daniel’s way of becoming “one with the community.” Daniel’s all for learning the proven ways of doing business and developing his own creative ways. He shares his views on marketing at WebcomicMarketing.com.
Moral 6: Focus! Focus! Focus!
Daniel always knew he would have to do his own promotions. That’s why he goes around the convention circuit. (He’ll be at San Diego Comic Con Booth #4207 July 21-25!) He goes to various comicons or pop culture shows, gets a booth, sells his prints and books, and, if possible, speaks at panels during these shows. Self-publicity at its finest. This all requires a ridiculous amount of planning. To be a vendor at some of these shows, Daniel has to send out packages and applications to impress the juries that decide who gets vendor space and who doesn’t. Daniel is always planning 8 to 10 months ahead. This takes a lot of focus. But Daniel has that. He knows what he wants to do, what he wants to get out of it, what type of life he wants to build. He credits having his son for giving him the focus to succeed. In his own words, “It’s pretty vital to know what you want to do.”
Moral 7: If you want spoilers, ask the creator!
Finally, because I am a spoiler fan, I begged spoilers from Daniel. Turns out that in the long-term the story of Monster Commute will get a bit darker. Authority is going to claim a larger role, bringing everything to a head. It’s kind of bleak, but Daniel’s Daniel and will show off the friendship and loyalty the characters share. We will be getting a new character, though. Or old, depending on how you look at it. Klawberry is a character from one of Daniel’s first books, Klawberry: Good Girl, Bad World. We’re finally going to get a female character! Yay!
While Daniel works on the story, we, the loyal online readership, will enjoy some guest scripts. They’ve already started and are quite entertaining!
1: Decide What Exactly You Want to Learn
This might seem obvious, but it’s a step a lot of people skip. For instance, is your goal to teach yourself Japanese? That’s a pretty big feat, so you might want to focus on just spoken Japanese. Cut the task into manageable pieces and then have a go.
Definition is key.
2: Decide How You Will Learn
What methods will you use? This helps you stay on track so you don’t accidentally skip a step or accidentally start reading the same material over and over again. Granted it is much easier to skip this step in the process and bounce from Google searches to books to Yahoo Answers, but there is a reason teachers spend so much time on lesson plans. They really do help.
I generally use forums and Google searches when teaching myself things, but I stick to the same forums or blogs so I don’t have to constantly dredge through old info to get what I want. Books can also be incredibly handy. I am a fan of the Dummies series, but I figure any decent how-to book would do.
3: Pick a Time Each Day, and a Duration, and Stick to It
This is the tough part. Discipline. You have to actually follow through with your plan. If you want to learn a language, you have to actually buckle down and do the work. So if you decided in Step 2: Decide How You Will Learn that you would listen to a “Teach Yourself Japanese!” CD during the commute to work every day, then that’s your morning soundtrack. Or if you are trying to learn HTML5 and decided to read HTML5 for Dummies every day in the morning with your coffee, then you had best have that book by the coffee pot.
4: Measure Your Success
This step comes purely from my online marketing background. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we tend to be obsessive numbers freaks. There’s so much data at our finger-tips, it’s hard not to go bananas over it.
The key is to go back to Step 1: Decide What Exactly You Want to Learn. If you “want to learn Japanese,” and you will do so by reading a “Teach Yourself Japanese 10 Minutes a Day!” book, then what you really decided was that you would learn the content in the book. Follow? If you try to “learn Japanese,” you would be trying to learn everything, including epithets and the written language (and if you’ve ever studied the Japanese written language, you are either very brave or Japanese). So to Measure Your Success, you need to match up Step 1 with benchmarks. In the example where you’re teaching yourself Japanese with a book, you could probably use the quizes in the book. With the example of HTML5, you might want to try to build web pages to see how well you learned what you are trying to learn.
5: Practice It
Ever hear “practice makes perfect”? Well, it does. Repeat often, and then repeat some more. Only when you feel comfortable that you know what you are trying to learn have you officially learned it. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
6: Have a Cookie
Because rewards are important. Chocolate or Oatmeal Raisin?
I am an author. Before you all go “duh, we can see you write a blog,” I mean a fiction author. Sometimes I write novels, sometimes short stories. On top of that I write this blog. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer or with a pad of paper. In all cases, it is work and not play, no matter how much I enjoy writing and reading.
Why would I work so hard on a hobby? Well, one day, I promise myself, I will be published. I polish my craft, rewriting and re-editing the various stories until they shine, at least to my eye. Then I send the manuscript out into the world and ask for opinions. I don’t want the story I hand to my friends to be anything less than wonderful, so I take the entire process very seriously. (It’s like having a baby, raising it, and then sending it off to college. The end goal is to raise a successful adult, someone who, for instance, can get a job on the other end of the college trip. The problem is that you, the author/parent, have done all you can and the rest is up to to the story/kid. Very nerve wracking. I can only imagine it is actually worse for a true parent.)
But regardless of how I would love to be a paid author, and work hard to get good enough to be one, I’m not. I’m a hobbyist. It is entirely my choice how much effort I put into it. It is entirely my choice how long a novel takes me to write. I can spend 5 minutes or 30 writing every day. Why do I spend 30? I don’t have a publisher hounding me for my next draft. (And so you know, 30 minutes is really a short amount of time for an author to spend writing. I’ve heard of hours being dedicated to the craft by other hobbyists).
I work hard at my hobbies for the same reason I work hard at my job. I believe that a person should enjoy his work. If that’s my work philosophy, then wouldn’t my hobby philosophy say to work at what I enjoy?
Yes, it can get exhausting to be constantly working. No doubt about it! I also have a few purely passive hobbies (oh, television, you ruin me!), but I still believe in always applying myself in what I create.
Not too long ago I published the post Go On. Give It a Go! about asking for, and recieving two advance coppies of Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness. I was really excited to get the books. I gave one to an entrepreneur friend of mine (you can see his project here) and immediately started reading my own copy. I wanted to be able to fulfill my part of the free-book bargain: post an honest review of the book to this blog on June 7th, or at least during that week. Of course, this was also right before the 2010 Phoenix Comicon. I didn’t get to read more than 10 pages a day. In the past week or so since the convention, I have been reading as much as I could. It has reminded me of being in school again, trying to finish all the chapters before a test.
As you can see, I wound up missing the June 7th blogging date, but, by golly, I’m going to publish a review of this book during the business week! I litterally just finished the book and am going to publish this post without the typical day of rest and thought I usually give all my posts, to be sure the content is valuable and there are no type-o’s. I’m doing this because I feel obligated to hold up my end of the bargain with Tony Hseih and his publicity team.
And now… A Sleepy-Eyed Book Review of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
This is a great read. Tony tells stories much like he talks. I heard him speak once while I was in college. He spoke about the corporate culture at Zappos! and how customer service can lead a business to success. Not surprisingly, that’s really what Delivering Happiness is about. Those are his two favorite topics.
The book is structured like an autobiography. The first part of it is actually about his childhood. He has a few cute and anecdotal stories about trying to get rich through a worm farm, a button press mail-order business, and a magic trick mail-order business. And then he progresses to college and pizza, his first company, Link Exchange, and then Venture Frogs, a venture capital firm he started with the money he got from selling Link Exchange, and finally Zappos!. All the while, it’s told in a personal, often wondering, narrative.
Often wondering? Well, as I said, the book is written much like Tony speaks. It has an almost stream of consciousness style to it. He’ll be talking about starting Venture Frongs one moment, then be talking about a really big New Year’s Eve Party the next, end it all with a vignette with a nameless woman who said something eloquent, and be back to Venture Frogs and Zappos! in a few pages. Not that this is a bad thing. Rather it makes the book interesting becuase you’re never sure what you will read about next.
Of course, with a title like “Delivering Happiness,” the book isn’t entirely an autobiography. As Tony mentions in the end, it will likely be used as a handbook for Zappos! employees. He talks a lot about Zappos! once he gets to that stage in his life. It’s not hard to understand why. After reading this book, I have come to see that Zappos! really is Tony Hsieh’s life. He put everything into that company. The book discusses the evolution of the company to its present day, bought-by-Amazon status. He goes in depth into the company’s culture, which is fine by me, since it is fascinating.
Lastly, the book is about a bit more than just Tony’s life or how Zappos! came to be. It’s about how to be happy. The last chapter or so is all about the science of happiness, which we, the readers, can walk away with and apply to our own lives. Pretty nifty.
All in all, I love the book, but it did leave me with one huge question: Tony Hsieh did not start Zappos! That was a man named Nick Swinmurn. Where did he go and how did Tony wind up the CEO?
The people who kindly gave the this book to review asked me to include two links in this post:
- The book’s website: http://www.deliveringhappinessbook.com
- The Amazon linke: http://www.amazon.com/deliveringhappiness
Now go buy the book. I’m going to go turn in to a Zappos! customer.
Managers and Operations staff tend to believe that if you have a great product at the right price, people will show up, cash in hand. Marketers believe that if you have the right promotions, you can convince people to buy something at least once. I’m going to let my Marketing colors show here: If it were as simple as having a great product to get customers, Marketing wouldn’t exist. Since Marketing exists, there is probably something to the idea that you have to promote the product.
At this point, even a Marketer such as myself has to bow down to Operations. They’re the ones delivering the service, so they are the ones who get to take the lead here. This is also where many companies get in trouble. As @JeffrySummers said, “Management deals in what is, while marketing deals in what should be.” If you have been promised one thing by Marketing and get something else from Operations, you will likely not be happy about it.
This is where having that disconnect between Marketing and Operations is the most dangerous. If you wanted a round peg but got a square one, you would be a disgruntled customer. Disgruntled customers don’t tend to come back. That means the Marketers have to keep funneling 100% new customers through the doors, and there is nothing harder. Speaking as a Marketer with a background in encouraging customer loyalty, it is much, much easier to encourage a pleased customer to return than seek out an entirely new one.
Anyone who says that this is an Operations or Management responsibility is nuts. This is the responsibility of the entire company. Another way to look at it is that if the company wants to be profitable, then all of the component parts of the company should also have profitability as the goal. Marketing has to be sure that it is investing its money wisely, not just “spending” it. Operations needs to be sure that it is streamlining it’s processes so that there is only limited waste. So here, I’m going to say that neither Marketing nor Operations/Management is the leader. They both bow down to the Financial Department!
So last weekend was Phoenix Comicon. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know a little about what Phoenix Comicon is. If not, here’s an introduction:
“Comicon” comes from “comic book convention,” though by now it really means “popculture convention.” Phoenix Comicon hosted such great directors and actors as Jonathan Frakes (Directs episodes of Leverage but is often known as Wil Riker from Star Trek), Wil Wheaton (“Big Bang Theory” and, yes, Star Trek again) and Felicia Day (The Guild and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog). Notice how none of them are truly comic book related – though I do believe Wheaton and Day are big fans. Now, after I’ve convinced you that Phoenix Comicon is not comic-centric, we also hosted Stan Lee.
Why is Phoenix Comicon important? To you, that is. To me, that should be obvious. As their Press Relations Director, I worked my tail off. But for you, dear reader, it is important because of what it taught me, and I can now transmit to you.
Lessons Learned at Phoenix Comicon (in no particular order):
You know you have a system in place if you can troubleshoot from your bed.
The leaders need good motivation since it’s hard to hobnob when running around like a chicken minus a head.
It’s never about hierarchy. It’s all about relationships between the hierarchy.
Always keep copies of all phone numbers in the margins.
Make time for yourself. Period.
A successful event is when the attendees don’t realize the problems behind the scenes.
Meeting your heroes is cool. Having them remember you from previous meetings? Way cooler.
Treat all people like people. Even celebrities just want a human connection.
Sometimes it’s okay to be a ham in front of a camera.
Delegate. And when that’s done, delegate more.