‘Ello Ello!


What is Ello?

There’s a new social media platform in town. And it is billing itself as the anti-Facebook. Say hello to Ello.

But, I gotta say, I don’t know anyone who’s going to use Ello because they really think it’s private or won’t sell consumer data to advertisers. Do you? Because really, does anyone actually buy the idea of online privacy anymore? And is there ultimately a new way to stay profitable or keep the lights on online – for the long run – besides advertising? I’m watching the Facebook and Twitter feeds of people who’re on Ello, and I think they’re using it because they’re some combo of curious, tired of Facebook, suffering FOMO, or early adopter/marketers who feel they need to know how the new shiny object works just in case it does take off. What’s your take?

And yes, I’m on Ello and consider myself in the last category: The professional who isn’t wild about yet another platform – (which will do what that the others don’t already?) – but doesn’t want to be clueless about what might be useful.

That said, people who know me well have long since figured out that what I really prefer is conversation, in person, preferably unhurried, and over coffee. Some things don’t change.

“You Really Gonna Read That?”

Last year I wrote about digital content in the classroom and software that makes it possible for college professors to track students’ reading habits. And of course, it’s a short hop from academics to writers in the wider publishing industry. Who doesn’t want to know what makes a reader keep turning the page all the way to the end of the book? And there are some “general insights” which will surprise nobody:

Scribd is just beginning to analyze the data from its subscribers. Some general insights: The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all.

At Oyster, a top book is “What Women Want,” promoted as a work that “brings you inside a woman’s head so you can learn how to blow her mind.” Everyone who starts it finishes it. On the other hand, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s “The Cycles of American History” blows no minds: fewer than 1 percent of the readers who start it get to the end.

I can see this being hugely useful for writers. But you know I’m going to point out the flip side, right? [Read more…]

Digital Literature: Faster, Better, Cheaper, Poorer….

kid reading an ipad

Shh, I’m reading. (image by Gunjan Karun)

I finally have an iPad!

Yes, that took a while. Because although I live at the intersection of communications and digital everything, I also happen to be on a budget and think gadgets (including, and sometimes especially my beloved Apple products) cost way too darn much. But as it turns out, I’d been enrolled in one of those credit card rewards programs, and I had no idea. Which means I’d racked up the points for years. Which means I had enough to get an iPad. So I did. And there was much rejoicing in the land!

There was also the rediscovery of why, although I am agnostic and will use whatever technology both works and fits the budget, Apple continues to induce that gasp-inducing reaction with great design. The iPad came out of the box fully charged, and in fact, came on when I accidentally hit the power button while trying to get the packaging off. First I was surprised. Then I was set up. Took me a whole 5 minutes. It was an object lesson in how to win my dollars and loyalty: Make. It. Easy.

Then I tried to use the iPad for the purpose for which it is most intended in my house – reading books. Specifically, from the library.  That took longer. [Read more…]

“Software Bug” is the new “Dog ate my homework.”

Mote Marine Lab Distance Learning

They eventually grow up, no?

On the heels of my weekend ramblation about content and privacy comes this piece in the NYT about digital content in the college classroom.

Bottom line, your professor can now tell if you’ve done your reading.

Really? I can’t help but think this an awful development.

Yes, this is going to be very valuable for textbook authors and teachers who think they’re more interesting than they’ve been led to believe. And if the entire class never looks at chapter 3, that’s probably telling.

But honestly, the bigger point is this – it’s not the professor’s job to check on you in college. It’s your job as a student to figure out who you are, set your own goals, do your own work, and oh yeah, be on top of your reading. And good educators – whether they’re teaching in person or online – probably communicate and check in with students, and don’t need analytics to tell them when a chapter, or a whole class, is falling flat.

Then again, I didn’t go to college understanding I was watched all the time because I’m older than dirt in Internet years. So what do I know?

A Ramblation: On “Linear Television,” Disappearing Books, And Privacy

I was going to write a post on food insecurity upon Ken Mueller‘s suggestion. Then life – and under the weatherness – intervened and between things, I found myself sucked into a fascinating discussion on Ken’s Facebook feed this weekend about print newspapers, paywalls, and content. I’m not going to write about those particular things because a) he’d do it better as someone with wider experience in newsrooms and production, and b) I experience that whole subject more as a consumer, for whom it’s sort of a done deal.


We are a one-TV house. And come fall, we may well be a no-cable house.

Meanwhile, I think the parallel, but somewhat more interesting conversation to me—because I might just cut the cord this summer—is the one happening about “linear television” watching

If you know me, you know that I adore TV. [Read more…]

Google Reader, Which I Never Did Use

Good Reader’s going away, to much sadness on the interwebs.

I’m going to out myself here….I never used Google reader, or any reader for that matter. I’m sure it says tons about me that I never could figure out the whole deal. I tried very hard with the whole RSS thing in the early years. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but I just always felt like the doof in the room, the one who was going to be gently taken aside after the Friday morning staff meeting and be informed that the acceptance letter went out by mistake, you know?

RSS feed example

This is what my earliest RSS explorations would produce on the screen. And I was supposed to do …. what next?

Looking back, I think it failed the whole “can I do this in one quick 30-second step” test that later seemed to win my loyalty to feedburner – direct to my email! Maybe Google Reader didn’t exist then, or maybe I started out with a bad reader experience, because if there’s one thing Google does do really well, it’s to keep things simple for the end user. But all it took was one baffling foray, and I was done. [Read more…]

Augmented Reality: “Yo, Heads Up!”


“Erm, hello? I’m up here.”

I spent yesterday at xPotomac – thank you, Shonali Burke, for telling me about it! – where there was a lot to love. I made new friends, I learned a ton, (I didn’t get lost – yay!), but the part I loved the most was easily the discussion on augmented reality. AKA Google Glasses, “wearable computing,” and similar devices. I’m going to thumbnail it here because there was just SO much ground covered between presentation, lightning round, and post-chat into lunch. But basically, a lot of us are ready to look up from our devices, we’re ready to stop looking like we’re metal detectors, we’re ready interact with each other rather than to each other. [Read more…]

RWD and Mobile – One Site To Rule Them All!

I went to a seminar on Responsive Web Design last night, hosted by DCWW, and presented by Clarissa Peterson. You’re probably thinking what I did when I first heard the term,”Responsive what?” So here goes…

In short – and keep in mind I’m nearly always reliably the sole non/accidental techie in the room – RWD is what will free your website design and interactivity from the restraints of one screen and one canvas. No more building a separate mobile website, and yet another for the iPad, and who knows whatever is next! You build ONE website in RWD, which enables anyone, anywhere to use it on any screen they have access to, without have to pinch, squinch, or enlarge the screen. One site to rule them all! [Read more…]

Why I Hate The Automate

This post from Aaron Lee pretty much drives home something I’ve come to believe – automation is to be used very carefully, if at all – especially if you’re a smallish company that can still manage all its social media without major outsourcing.

I not only don’t believe “personal” seeming tweets from a major company – because I assume it came from a machine. (Highly vetted and very professionally planned, no doubt, but it’s long since lost any real connection with a human at origin point.) I also live in fear of automating a tweet that:

Tick Tock Tick Tock ... Real Life Optional

a) gets mugged by real life events – a happy tweet that looks horribly tone-deaf and out of place because something truly tragic happened in real life, making you and your product look not only trivial but completely oblivious.

b) repeats the same message over and over with no regard for context – a sure way to annoy your core followers who may subscribed to all your communication channels

I realize this very hands-on approach doesn’t scale up for a major company like Acura. I have no idea what one does at that level – although, if you have the budget, doesn’t that also assume you have the people to stay on top of things so that your message doesn’t look like spam on the other end? But if you’re a small to medium-sized business? Take the extra time, customize your information, and convince your customers that a real person’s on the other end. It’s what’ll keep them coming back to you rather than going to the competitor. And I say that not as a communications professional, but a customer on the receiving end of pitches from people like me. 24/7.


Timeline: Ready Or Not, Here It Comes

Every time I think “a monkey could do this” I go to a meeting and am astonished by what people don’t know about social media. Okay, maybe it’s more like a reality check in how we’re not all wired, and why that’s perhaps a very good thing as summer approaches. (My neighborhood routinely loses power during summer thunderstorms.) So, despite the fact that there is no dearth of articles out there on the Interwebs, here is my take on why you need to get into timeline now.

Facebook Timeline cover of Lydia Polgreen of the NYT

facebook timeline cover of Lydia Polgreen of the NYT

“Timeline what?” you say?

Long story short, Facebook is once again changing things. Specifically, they’re changing how your page looks – not your newsfeed – regardless of whether it’s your personal account or your company page. The distinction between the page and the newsfeed is extremely important because for marketers and consumers alike, it’s all about how we’re getting our news.

If you the consumer “liked” a page, timeline seems to make no difference in how you get news. It certainly hasn’t to me and I’ve not only published my personal timeline, but done the same for the several pages I manage for clients. Oh, and I’ve “liked” a LOT of pages over the last few years, some of whom have also launched timeline. As someone who gets a lot of information first from Facebook, I haven’t see any difference in my newsfeed.

As if to drive home this point, Julia Quinn who I follow on Facebook recently asked how many of us get our information from her page vs. our newsfeeds. Overwhelmingly, most of us said newsfeed – that would the part of social engagement that hasn’t changed on Facebook. Once people hit the “like” button they rarely go back to your page.

Caffe Amouri's Facebook Page

No reason to look at my local coffee shop's page once I've "liked" it - everything shows up in my feed. Unless I want to check out the new timeline or for some reason see the page with different eyes. Unlikely.

In fact, if you do your job well as a marketer or broadcaster, I shouldn’t have to go back to your original page to find out what you’re up to or what you’re offering. Unless I’m being all nosy and want to see your new timeline cover! Or you annoy me. In which case, I’ll visit specifically to “unlike” you.

dislike one finger salute

Let's not.

So if you’re an individual, you may not need to care*. It’ll be one of those things Facebook rolls out on you whether you’re ready or not. If you’re not entirely annoyed, you’ll complain and then just go along with it. Or deactivate, if this really is the last straw for you. Because *timeline, like any Facebook “improvement” tends to reset, rearrange, and reorganize your personal information and privacy settings. Even if you don’t need to care, have a care. See what your page looks like to others, even if your privacy settings are way high.

But if you’re running a page for a company though, you absolutely need to care. Because timeline changes how your page’s information is presented, where the emphasis lies, where you can direct people, and how you can emphasize information and for how long. It changes how and where you can offer specials and deals and calls to action. And it’s far more visual – which is a huge element of your branding and first impressions.

Timeline simultaneously offers up much more of you and your product even as it constrains how you can use the medium. Which means it requires you – the marketer – to be a lot savvier and sophisticated about how you communicate your story. And that, my friends, is the operative word. Facebook’s timeline makes us all, forces us all, to be better storytellers. It forces us to point to what’s really important, and keeps us on our toes about keeping our pages fresh. And it forces us to pay more ongoing attention to people who wander over to our pages but haven’t “liked” it yet. No wonder there have not just been a plethora of articles on the subject and webinars that go into the nitty gritty of timeline and what it means for marketing.

Timeline happens to your page – whether you like it or not – on March 30. If you’re an individual with a personal account, pay attention because of privacy issues. If you’re a page administrator, pay attention because otherwise, you’ll be the org that got caught by surprise, or worse!

Here are a few links that cover the details of timeline and what it means for you or your page. But for my money, nothing beats Amy Porterfield’s webinar.