Monday, November 30, 2009

When data is not your friend

A simulation using the navier-stokes different...
Image via Wikipedia
Here's a new question you need to have at the ready: So what? Use it early and often, but use it primarily any time someone throws some stats or analysis at you.

I'm a data junkie. I admit it. I understood just enough in my college statistical mathematics class to prove to me that I may not be as smart as I thought I was, and that numbers can mean a hell of a lot more than they appear at first glance.

But stats are just that -- stats. Without informing any goal or objective, without providing a clear path for tactics and execution, they are simply unactionable stats. Spending too much time -- hell, any time on unactionable stats is an utter waste of your time. And a huge stress-ball you don't need.

What am I supposed to do with this?

Require your reporting team to give you something you can work with. And don't let them shove averages and trends down your throat. I think that the average is one of the worst measurement tools we have and leads to terrible decisions. But it's easy, and so we do it. Trends are just as insidious, as they lead to causefusion.

Demand data you can work with. Data that helps you solve a problem. Data that informs your goals and objectives. Not getting it? Get it. It's there. You just have to dig a bit deeper. Start by throwing out all that worthless stuff on top.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The value of fair-weather fans

you suck, squared
Image by *0ne* via Flickr
When it comes to sports, I'm a classic fair-weather fan. I don't have a team that I stand by through thick and thin. In fact, my only "team" is the college I attended right out of high school, and then it's only the football team I care for. And I only care for them when they are winning, which they've done all too infrequently for my tastes this year.

That puts me at odds with many other "true" fans who scoff at my fickle ways. True fans, I'm told, really don't care if their team is winning or losing, but are there to constantly show their support.


At least that should be bunk for anyone trying to succeed today. Leaving sports aside for a moment, I suggest to you that you neither need nor want true fans. Not until you get really, really good at what you do. And even then, be careful. True fans are often times at best misguided and at the worst, lying. Sometimes. Because let's face it -- everything you create/write/build/paint/draw/shoot/make/bake/do isn't perfect. It can't always be OMFGTHISISTHEBESTEVER... which is about all you ever get out of your "true" fans.

Praise children. Be honest with adults.

I wrote about the fine line between false praise and encouragement about this time last year. Perhaps it's the season. And while that still holds true, I didn't go far enough to encourage creators to seek out and cultivate fair-weather fans. Hearing praise and accolades is nice, to be sure. But for how long? And is it really helping you get better at what you do?

While you're out there trying to relentlessly connect with fans -- a great idea -- demand them to be relentless in return. And when the critiques come in, don't shy away. Don't bury yourself in the mounds of praise you received from your "true" fans. Examine the critique. See where it fits. Ask around. Take it under advisement. And when necessary, get better. How else will you know you need to if they don't tell you?

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Surviving in a reputation-based economy

help wanted
Image by kandyjaxx via Flickr
When I walk into a room, I assume I'm the smartest person there. Call it a character flaw if you will, but it's really a survival trait expressed in the modern world. But my self-described smarts come at a price -- I lack the ability to actually do many things. I've managed to excel in the world of digital media and web development without knowing how to code, design, layout or architect. That's not to say I'm completely clueless in these areas. But I know enough to know what I don't know. And that's where the survival trait comes in.

To borrow a phrase, I get by with a little help from my friends.

I don't use those smarts to brow-beat the others around me. I use them to add to my ever-growing repository of would-be collaborators. Collaborators I need not only for my own flights of fancy, but for external projects and opportunities that find their way to me.

Showcase your skills for free...

I'm incredibly proud and fortunate to have found a vibrant and rich community in Phoenix. In every project I've been involved with -- and there are many -- I'm constantly amazed at the amount of effort put forth by volunteers who ask for nothing in return. If you don't have that in your community, I'm very sorry. Work on building it.

It's out of those "free jobs" that I find the majority of my collaborators. I've been turned on to talented designers, legendary coders, non-evil SEO types, gifted writers, cerebral typographers... the list goes on. And while they probably don't know it, I've been indexing and cataloging their skill sets, waiting for the right opportunities to show up. And they have. And I've been happy to either refer jobs out, sub them out or even collaborate together so we all see income from the final products. That's what I do.

... but treat the free jobs like you would a real job.

But understand that Meritocracy is the law of the land. Assume that in every pro-bono job you do or community effort your a part of, someone watching has potential work for your or is a potential client. We're watching your efforts and the efforts of others around you. Yes, we appreciate you -- and the rest of us -- are working for free. Yes, we appreciate that you -- and the rest of us -- have other paying gigs that sometimes take precedent. But you should recognize that how you work on the free project is how we assume you'll work on a paid project.

The fact is that we -- like you -- have options. All things being equal, we'll go with those who have shown themselves to be dependable when they only thing they could count on was a "nice job" from the rest of us.

We're moving to a reputation-based economy. How is yours?

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trying out Google Friend Connect

Noogle Mug
Image by evo_terra via Flickr
Google Friend Connect is by no means new. Heck, it's not even all that exciting. And for many, it's just one more failed effort by Google at enabling or facilitating the social web.

Call Google what you will, but I don't think stupid is a fair description. And GFC seems to embrace many of the open web standards that I think will soon become the norm. So with that, I'm adding it to the site.

You'll notice a spot in the sidebar to "friend" my site. And to make this a total popularity contest -- at least over the weekend -- I'm adding a "top 10" gadget to this post. When I first posted this today, I'm my only friend. Kinda sad. So do something about that, if you're of a mind to.

And yes, I know there are loads of other resources like this. But I did mention this was Google, right? I'd be foolish to discount them out of hand. Which is what I've done with GFC for the last three years. Hey, I can be taught too, right?

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Avoid monoculture blogging

monocultures two "hell"
Listen to enough "blogging experts" and you'll hear a common theme: blog about one thing and one thing only!

I think that's bad advice.

I'm willing to concede that many bloggers do in fact blog about one thing and one thing only. I'm willing to concede that they probably wouldn't have as large of an audience as they do if they didn't blog about one thing and one thing only. But as I said yesterday in many more words, your mileage may vary on "expert" advice.

There's a very simple reason why I don't give this advice to blogging novices -- they're boring. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but the odds are that your first dozen posts or so are going to be about as interesting as carpet fiber science. They are going to be so mind-numbingly unexciting that you're going to lose interest -- quickly. It won't be of any big loss to your readers... because you'll have none. With few exceptions, new blogs aren't read by any sizable audience. That's why I recommend newbies to blogging start out with a Tumblr account -- and not tell anyone about it.

Blog early and often!

Write about anything and everything to get in the habit of blogging. Write about a huge variety of things to discover the mechanics of blogging. Use pictures from Flickr for inspiration, or join Plinky to get "prompts". Make really long posts. Make quick-and-dirty posts. Hell, make dirty posts if you like, experimenting with vulgarities and cursing if that's part of your personality. It's party of mine. Fuck. [checks] Nope. The world didn't end.

Once you've figured out your voice and have your blogging routine in tip-top shape, then it's time to start worrying about how to blog better/make money/grown an audience/stop pissing people off. But if you start from square one looking for advice from the leaders in the space, you're setting yourself up for failure. Sure, Lance Armstrong is a good person to give biking advice. But last time I checked, you couldn't enter the Tour de France if your bike has training wheels.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One Size Does NOT Fit All

Lost in the Crowd
Image by tripleman via Flickr
There exists a misalignment of goals between a speaker on stage and an audience member in attendance. And as the size of the audience grows, so does the misalignment. As a speaker, I have to appeal to everyone in the room. If you've been to one of my talks, you know that I usually preface my presentation with "this may not be for you", followed by my sincere permission to get up and leave if you're not getting personal value. Hey, everyone is busy, and you're likely missing out on something else to hear me present.

This misalignment is, to a certain extent, on purpose. The concepts, ideas and offerings we discuss are rarely simple. Though I make it my personal quest to make mine as simple as possible. There are plenty of others dealing in complexity. I just want you to get better at the simple things. Yet even these simple things are easier to explain than they are to implement.

Second, the one-to-many nature of public speaking means we can't address your needs specifically. Even when we're speaking to a niche audience, as I was at the National Association of Realtors® national convention recently, the audience is still diverse. I had to deliver a talk that was salient to commercial and personal brokers, agents and service providers. By default, that means I lost some of the specificity necessary for one-on-one conversations.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

So before you go out and implement any of the changes, tactics, thoughts, strategies or ideas I -- or anyone else -- put in your head; make sure they fit you. I listened to Guy Kawasaki a few weeks back and saw a large number of people making furious notes as he told them how he uses Twitter. You can't argue that Guy hasn't been successful with using Twitter as a broadcast medium. But I would argue that none or very few of the people in attendance at that session have any business trying to use Twitter like Guy does. It's not wrong -- it just doesn't fit their goals and objectives. At least, not using it that way.

So be careful. Think it through. You don't have to be bleeding edge to be successful.

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Flipping for local businesses

Two or three beers into an #evfn at Whole Foods in Chandler, Tim Conley points a Flipat me and says "tell me how small businesses can use social media." The result:

Hunt, Capture & Share by Evo Terra from Tim Conley on Vimeo.

I think I did remarkably well considering my self-induced disability and lack of preparedness. And if you want more stuff like this, check out Tim's blog on mastering local marketing. Or if you want to try and trip me up post-beverage, drop by #evfn some Friday night!

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

5 Reasons Your Podcast TECHNICALLY Sucks

Last weekend, as you know, was PodCamp AZ 2009. My presentation this year was 5 Reasons Your Podcast Technically Sucks. This latest talk is a follow-on to the two prior, 5 Reasons your Podcast Sucks and 5 Reasons You Suck on iTunes. Once again, the subtitle is "... and what you can do about it.". I'm not one to leave you without any action plan after I tell you what's wrong!

Once again, an abbreviated version is available via Slideshare for those that missed it. Or, if you prefer to experience it as-was, you can check the original audio version. I'm a big fan of SlideShare and think more presenters and speakers should use it as a showcase for their work. And if I can get some time over the holiday weekend, I'll put up my talk from NAR. Patience!

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Personality shaping your presentation skills

Day 76 - Stage Fright
Image by G.I. Folk via Flickr
I spent the better part of my life with little care for how others perceived me. Truth be told, I still feel that way. But I understand that the world makes snap judgments based on initial impressions. I'm the only one responsible for that impression, which gives me the capability of influencing those decisions. In some settings, I want you to think of me as sharp witted. In some, sarcastic. And yes, in some helpful and knowledgeable. Spend enough time with me and you'll come to realize that those -- and many more -- traits make up... me.

Let's call this effort on my part "perception shaping" for lack of a better term. It's not about hiding less-desirable traits from public view. It's not about damage control when one aspect of your personality overrides the rest and everyone who meets you thinks your an asshole. You probably are an asshole, and you need to stop being an asshole. Personalty shaping won't help that.

Personality shaping is no different than my choosing a shirt to wear for a business meeting. The "Kiss Alive II" concert tee or the pressed shirt with french cuffs? Both are in my wardrobe and both adequately represent a facet of my larger personality. The choice is pretty clear.

(A quick side note to the detractors -- this isn't license to invent or suppress. This isn't about fooling anyone or being untrue to yourself. I'm not suggesting you try adopt an attitude, stance or approach that is antithetical to your core values, complex as those may be. I'm talking about picking which card you lead with. The rest will play out during the game.)

Personality shaping your presentation skills
Justin Dixon has a great post called Why Presentation Matters and How to Make it Work. It's a great primer for those of you who hate giving presentations or feel inadequate when communicating your ideas to other people. I often see people -- smart and talented people -- fall apart on stage or quickly lose control of a conversation they are leading. Much of it is an issue of confidence, though it can be -- and often is -- more complex than that.

Presentation matters. First impressions are lasting impressions. I don't care much for the impressions I give people when I'm walking around the mall, but I care deeply for the impression I leave people with when I'm presenting information to them. I have some control over that, which means I have some control over the presentation at large. And that leads to confidence. One step at a time.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Raw audio from my presentation at PodCamp AZ

Note: This is a repost. The other was all wonky. Couldn't fix it, so I'm deleting it and trying again. Sorry for the hassle...

Props to Dani Cutler for capturing the audio of my talk, 5 Reasons Your Podcast TECHNICALLY Sucks, last weekend at PodCamp AZ 2009.

It's long, I warn you. And the quality is much what you'd expect from a stationary mic sitting on a table in the front row while I paced side to side.

On my agenda for the weekend is to format and record a SlideCast version and make it available with the rest of my talks. But for now, for those that can't wait, here it is. Unedited and without the benefit of the slides. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

#evfn is the best Tweetup

Whole Foods Loves #evfn
Image by evo_terra via Flickr
Though it's not exactly news, our little tweetup was named Best Tweetup in Phoenix. Or at least, so sayeth the Phoenix New Times, the indie rag that covers the Phoenix metro scene.

#evfn is a lot of fun. And you should come out. Jonathan McNamara did a couple of times and I'm pretty sure that clinched our victory. He writes for the Phoenix New Times and was probably influential in the creation of the category -- didn't exist last year, probably won't next year.

So props to all who come out and make the event a good one. We'll be at Whole Foods in Chandler tomorrow night from 6 - 8p. And yes, that means we're drinking in a grocery store. Very cool and something to experience if you haven't. Hell, even if you have.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

PodCampAZ The Third - The End.

PodCampAZ - Parting Shot

Originally uploaded by evo_terra

It's over. Months of planning and countless hours of work by loads of volunteers all led up to two fantastic days enjoyed by hundreds. That's how I'll remember PodCamp AZ 2009.

Thanks to those of you who came. You're the reason we do this.

Thanks to those who volunteered. Without you, this simply would not and could not have happened.

Thanks to those who presented. You provide the content for which everyone will talk about for weeks and hopefully use in their own lives.

Thanks to those who sponsored. It's not cheap to put on free conference of this scale. Your support was crucial to the success of the event. Well done.

Thanks to those who talked about it. Spreading the word of fun stuff like this is a Good Thing.

Thanks to UAT for giving us -- for free -- a fantastic venue that truly makes the experience better.

Thanks to everyone in the Phoenix community who helped spread the word about this. I had numerous out-of-towners comment on what a fantastic community we have, and how their town simply wouldn't be able to pull this together. While that last part is probably bullshit, you should know that others are envious of what we have done and continue to do. I take it as my personal mission to remind you of that as necessary.

Enjoy the afterglow. You've all earned it.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

2010 - The Year of Us

Post Balticon photo
Image by evo_terra via Flickr
To say that I've been struggling with the adjustment of working full-time would be an understatement. Yeah, yeah... cry me a river. I know. It's just that I've been so used to working my own hours for so long -- at least seven years -- that it's taking me a while to get the hang of things. And that means that the blog is slipping. Sorry for that.

I'm currently in San Diego to once again speak at the National Association of Realators™ national convention. Then it's a mad dash back to Phoenix for PodCamp AZ. After that, I have a couple of things I'm committed to, like Improv AZ, SMAZ #2, and a training event for a governmental agency.

And then it's time for the restating of assumptions. Sheila and I have declared 2010 as the Year of Us. Not exactly sure what that means just yet, but I think the direction is pretty clear. Yes, there will still be room for YOU. After all, I'm a fan of the spotlight and don't see that changing anytime soon.

So until I get back to this, be nice to each other.

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