Perception is reality.
My mother has 3 cats, and they are all special-needs children. (One is deaf, one is elderly, one thinks he is a dog). The latter is "Shady." Until 6 months ago he was terrified of birds (he literally barked at them), large furniture, noise, and air. Shady recently earned how to enjoy the outdoors, and it's been amusing watching him come into his own. He's a bit like Donkey on Shrek.

Shady is missing. It's my fault and I'm distraught.

I cat-sat for my mother yesterday while she takes her first vacation off of the eastern seaboard. (She is not the crazy cat lady and nor will I be!) Shady must have escaped while I came into the house, because he greeted me with colorful language ("Where the [expletive] did you [expletives] run off to and why did you leave me with these bumbling [expletives]?!").

My mom is not stressed, thankfully. But while we are grateful that he "gets" the great outdoors now, the boy hasn't figured out how to hunt. Last month my mom proudly reported that Shady caught a turtle. What on God's green earth does a cat do with a turtle? She then spotted him playing with a chipmunk. Not eating it, no. Shady was giving the chipmunk a bath, the way mother cats do with their babies.

Hopefully, the lion in Shady will pounce when he gets hungry. And he'll get his bum in the house when my mom returns.

(Sorry, no social media metaphor here! Just the angst and hilarity from life with cats).

Updated - 8/1: The cat came back. I received a voicemail from the "real" cat sitter who reported that "Shady is home - he was hungry, but he's fine."


They did not make it up to me

I usually don't get hot and bothered by poor customer service, so today is a big day. Goodbye and good riddance, Audi of Alexandria. If the owner of this dealership calls me "Sweetie" but says he is unable to rectify something as simple as a $100 overcharge, then he surely can't make the rest of my nightmare better. Warren, the service manager, will be lambasted by my voicemail, and Audi headquarters will hear my tiny voice shortly.


Consumer Commiseration

Due to ungodly circumstances, my car is causing me grief. It's not my car's fault. We can all blame Audi of Alexandria, who better do better than make it up to me.

Things with me and cars are much nicer now than in the days when I drove a '92 Ford Tempo. Death on wheels. No, really, I almost lost my life a few times.

On the upside, the Tempo was what drove me online for what turned out to be my first foray into consumer reviews.

Car Talk's car survey
reports feedback on every car ever made from their owners. It's hysterical. And I've been reading reviews since 1998. My all-time favorite comment is still this one, from Survey taker #1754992, about someone else's pain over the '92 Tempo:

"The trunk flies open without regard to place, time, setting, or temperature. The rear-end bottoms out on speed-bumps I take at two miles an hour. The moulding on the inside squeeks. The clutch has 2 inches of action. Whenever I let my foot off of the accelerator, the gear-shift gives out two distinct clunks. I can't find original replacement parts for my exhaust system. I can't change my oil myself. It has too many idiot lights. It hesitates between 1500 and 4500 rpm's. The interior accoustics are atrocious, the instrument panel is designed badly, the brakes (not anti-lock) pulse when I brake. Small birds break the windshield at 35 mph. I hate it I hate it I hate it."

Thanks, Tom and Ray, for instilling the search for brutal honesty in us all. So glad Click and Clack is getting airtime on PBS.


Which one?

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor it. That makes it hard to plan the day. "
E.B. White


Coffeeholics, Unite!

I got curious about who is evangelizing about coffee online. As you might expect, there are a lot of coffeeholics out there. Almost 8,500 blogs are tagged as "coffee," and just under 300 are tagged as "fairtrade."

Coffee = community. So although plenty of people are blogging about their poison, I was surprised to not find an obvious online community of coffee lovers.

I dug and found plenty of local message boards and groups about coffee, mostly hosted by the smart indie coffee shops who have MySpace profiles or Google groups (like DC's beloved Eastern Market coffee shop, Murky).

It's great that baristas have taken their passion and friendships online, but I wonder if we can't amass an even larger army of people who, in our exceedingly individualistic society, have at least this one thing in common. Nurses, techies, moms, truckers, anyone who has a cubical, anyone who has an office, anyone who has a boss for that matter. Coffee is the tie that binds. It's the great equalizer.

CoffeePedia, anyone?

The Juice

Italian marvel-makers Illy opened their first U.S. coffee shop in DC a couple months ago, and only 4 of us know about it.

Good thing, too, because it takes about 5 minutes for each lovingly swirled latte to be created. The other morning I got to the cafe a few minutes after the other few in-the-know folks, and I had to wait 10 minutes for my latte.

But the baristas smile, the napkins are high-quality fiber, the cup sleeves are designed well, and you know, it's Illy.

As an aside, when they first opened I dropped by and ordered my latte to go, but they didn't offer to-go cups! I walked out. They had good intentions to help Americans embrace the concept of sipping espresso and taking time to enjoy the experience, but DC is the wrong city for that. They brought in to-go cups within 2 weeks.

So, Illy is worth the wait. Their to-go cups are brand badges that will create more patrons.

This all got me thinking, where are my fellow coffee fans online?

They're there, but fragmented. I'll get into it more in my next post.

Speaking of hypocrisy

Blogging is fun and easy, but I don't practice what I preach. This is now more apparent to me than ever since, as a result of the New Media Nouveaux conference, a few cool people in 'the biz' are:

1) Aware of my blog (good)
2) Have visited my blog (good . . . but slightly embarrassing)
3) Have straight up told me to move to the WordPress platform. (Ken Yarmosh, Aaron Brazell, Geoff Livingston).

The fellas have spoken. Thanks for the inspiration & motivation. I'll get right on that!


Joy in the Tentacles

And here is a cross-post of my recap of today's event on the agency blog:

Joy in the Tentacles

I hate squid. So Wednesday’s news of the 550lb “whopper” that washed up in Australia did not bring me much joy.


(This thing is the size of a school bus).

Nor does the thought of calamari, which most of my coworkers enjoy greatly. (Can we please order another appetizer?!)

Still, squid/octopi/jellyfish offer such terrific potential for allegory. Case in point, this quote by Dodie Smith:

“The family, that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor in our innermost hearts never quite wish to.”

Read that quote again but substitute the word “family” with “social media” or “blogging,” and we’ve got ourselves an interesting metaphor.

Here goes.

Your relationship with social media was (or will be) a love/hate relationship from the beginning. Today, as I met many people who want to “get in the game,” my love for social media was reinvigorated . . .again.

It happened at Success in the City’s “New Media Nouveaux” event this morning. About 50 eager-to-embrace business leaders got together to learn about the importance of social media and how to do it. Sitting on a panel with Alice Marshall (Presto Vivace) and Jennifer Cortner (EFX Media) – two very smart minds – I reveled in the opportunity to share our enthusiasm for this crazy thing we do.

That is, help our respective clients navigate the waters of social media.

There are big squid and octopus-type creatures in the deep blue of Web 2.0. Sometimes it feels like you’re in the trenches, fighting off beasts, gasping for air.

Our moderator, Andrea Morris of Write Ideas Marketing, closed our panel with an important question about engaging in social media: “Once you get started, how do you prevent burn out?”

I had one minute to give my answer. I said: “Find the joy.”

I explained that we (panelists) weren’t up there because it was our day job. We were there because we love social media. And, because most of the leaders in the room have hopefully decided to purse careers at companies they respect (or better yet, like), engaging in social media is a great excuse to geek out with people who they have a lot in common with. At the very least, they’ll get tangled up with people who have similar goals or concerns. That can’t be bad, in the end.

The point: keep the pleasurable aspects of your online engagement top of mind, and you’ll make it.

So, that’s an insider look at where I am (at present) with my social media love affair. And if you’re reading this and still struggling with the idea of tentacles as appealing, a better image might be from the LOST episode when Jack and Kate got stuck together in the net.


you + social media = passionate entanglement. Rowr!

Update: Geoff Livingston, Ken Yarmosh and Andrea Morris blogged great follow ups on the event.

Alice's Monsoon

It's a monsoon out there.
There is so much I would have said on today's panel if we'd all had time. Alice Marshall at Presto Vivace, another agency, shared a great insight that must be captured!

"Some people think that social media is a category 5 hurricane. It's not. Social media is the monsoon. It's going to bring fertility. It's going to bring activity. It's going to bring opportunity."

I love this, Alice. Metaphors in general are so pleasing, aren't they?

Using "New" Media

(I put "new" in quotes because the better adjective is "social," no?)

Still at the "New Media Nouveaux" event out at the Tower Club. Our current panel on the importance of social media features Kim Hart of the Washington Post, Pamela Sorensen of Pamela's Punch, and Jill Stelfox of Defywire.

Defywire is a great example of a small/midsize business who has embraced the digital space and, in turn, reaped the benefits of getting in the game.

This tech company has a relatively philanthropic mission: keeping kids safe. They do so with a mobile-enabled monitoring platform which teachers and school administrators can easily use on their hand-held devices to keep track of students and report on crises. Jill, CEO, saw the interest this garnered in the online tech community and Defywire has been participating in that conversation ever since.

Moderator Jen Sterling of Hinge is my link to this event - she and I met at Social Media Club earlier this summer and she asked me to present today. I love Hinge and their excellent (free) e-newsletter on branding, Pivot.

"We're just at the tip of the iceberg"

This morning, Geoff Livingston of The Buzz Bin is giving the keynote to Success In the City's "New Media Nouveaux" attendees. About 50 local business leaders/lead marketers are hear to get the skinny on social media. I'm speaking on a panel later this a.m. about how to "do" social media, and will have more on that later.

Meanwhile, Geoff is the right one to break in the day. He is considered a "local blogging guru" in these parts, and his blog is hot.

He just shared McKinsey data stating that 63% of businesses are already engaging in social media. (Details via Bruce Nussbaum: McKinsey's recent global survey revealed that, while those 63% of corporations are playing with Web 2.0 services, only 16% are down with blogs.) I bet blogs will be a notable topic today.

Favorite question so far: "Geoff, what's a Second Life initiative?"

To quote Geoff (out of context), "we are just at the tip of the iceberg."


Long Live Google

Nielsen/NetRatings (they carry a big website ranking stick) is changing the way they rank websites. Gone are the days of ranking by page views. Yesterday they announced that websites will now be ranked by the length of time site visitors "linger" on sites.

This movement pushes Google from 3rd place to 5th. AOL and Yahoo on the other hand, just made colossal jumps (now ranked #1 and #2 respectively).

Theoretically, Nielson's little change could adversely affect Google's online advertising presence, not to mention their overall reign of all things web.

I guess that would mean that all the clean, productive, short-term searches people do on Google don't amount to much to all the crap that AOL, Yahoo, and MSN put on their homepages. I wonder how this ranking system takes into account the fact that people leave browsers open for hours while they are preoccupied with other activities. I leave windows open for days on end.

24/7 Wall St. already called it: the new system is a bust. And Google don't care.


Not feeling well, my dear?

A lot of people in D.C. have runny noses right now, according to Who is Sick, an interactive map of symptoms in the neighborhood near you.
  • Me and 26% of the site's D.C.-users are using a lot of tissues
  • 13% of us have head aches.
  • The arrow is pointing to me, holed up in Georgetown.
But I'm not sure who else is suffering from a sinus infection, and I would love to know! This site has a lot to offer, especially say if an epidemic breaks out. It's not super intuitive, but still a great concept. It would be great if we could rate symptoms. Say a mild headache =1, and a nuclear brain bomb = 10.

Update - 7/11: Looks like the high pressure dome broke (thank you, rain storm!) so I can finally get on with my life. Hate it when the roots of my teeth hurt.


We are gnats, not sloths

Repeat after me: "I am not Sid the Sloth."

Good, we'll come back to him.

Spiders scare the living bejeebus out of me. Just minutes ago, I looked up in my shower and saw one on the ceiling above my head. It was like the shower scene from Pshycho except . . . no knife. Details.

Until recently, this encounter would have paralyzed me. Over time I've learned how to - if I can't escape - kill spiders by my big bad self. Tonight, however, was the first time that co-habitation crossed my mind. "What if," I asked myself, "I let the bastard live. Then he will kill the annoying gnats that have appeared in my bathroom. Shoot, he'll get the job done better than I would." I pondered this while staring up, safely outside of the shower, guarding my life with a towel and hairbrush. We "co-habitated" for all of 37 seconds. He twitched and did some terrifying scurrying thing and, well, that was it for the budding relationship. Qui - 1, Spider - 0.

But now I might have to live with gnats.

Hell, I am a gnat.

You see, there is an unexpected parallel to social networking in this. When I was a kid, my father used to tease me by saying, "When you kill one spider, ten come its funeral." Thanks, dad. But it's an old myth for a reason.

Spiders, or in this case, social networks, flourish when there is plenty of prey - or again, in this case, consumers who are available for consumption. Look around - there are countless online communities waiting to preoccupy your time. The 'web' analogy works too perfectly here - once you've set up camp in a MySpace or an Eons or a TravBuddy, you're stuck. We are gnats.

If we didn't have a nice and neat menu of social networks to choose from, would we zip around aimlessly annoying others? If you're not currently connecting with other people who have similar interests or goals (online or off-line), then what role do you play in the ecosystem?

You don't want to be Sid the sloth (from Ice Age).