Steve Woods

Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

Why Twitter’s Gonna Eat FourSquare’s Lunch

In Social Media on November 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Will FourSquare be the Next Twitter? Will it? Will it?

Has some version of this cluttered up your Twitter stream lately?

Pete Cashmore, Social Media Maven, founder and CEO of @Mashable, and new blogger at CNN.com, wrote a very interesting article recently.  In it he carefully makes the case for FourSquare as possibly the next big thing in Social Media since Twitter.  I heard of FourSquare a long time ago, but thought I was too cool for things like Twitter back then, and never considered giving it a shot.

I’ve read through the article twice now, was a bit intrigued, and before hitting the road yesterday after work, tried to download the application for my iPhone.

I can’t. Well, that’s not entirely true.  I can download the app if I want to, but I’d have to lie about where I live, in order to finish signing in, and to participate in the game.  You see, there’s a very limited drop-down menu of what I am sure are exciting cities to live in. I just don’t live in one of them.  Or even near one of them.

Not really a menu, but it sure felt that way... :0(

Oh, I am sure that Amsterdam has a lot of great cafes I could sip a nice latté in.  I have no doubt I could find a banging nightclub in Bangkok, and could bust a move until people laughed at me in unison.  I hear that Dubai is pretty hot these days (no pun intended.) Hell, I’d even down shots with the cool people in Hong Kong if I could…

FourSquare is Limited in Geographical Scope, Guys

I just wanted to play too...

So there I was, sitting in my now idling car, with a new download that I’ll eventually delete from my iPhone before the next sync.  Why couldn’t I just find and add my little city, or even one of the small-to-medium ones a short drive away?  How about that nice Cajun restaurant/nightclub 25 miles away, where I am sure I’ll never run into one of Mashable’s tech-savvy folks?  Thanks, Pete...

Out of a possible 10,016 big and little cities in the United States alone, FourSquare works with 48 of them (I am assuming when they listed Rome, they didn’t mean Rome, N.Y…..)  So 1/2 of 1% U.S. coverage by an Internet-based application meant to bring people together in fellowship. Wow.  I’d help spread that further, but I can’t, because FourSquare won’t let me

Is FourSquare’s Concept Unique?

On the drive home, I thought about what a great concept FourSquare was.  Then I realized I wasn’t thinking about FourSquare at all anymore.  I was thinking about the Concept.  Were there other applications that exceeded the 0.5% reach already, and could be used in the same way that FourSquare bills itself?

Read Pete’s article all the way through.  He’s a brilliant guy, and I have to give him credit where due, because he alludes to the precarious position that FourSquare holds as possible contender for next year’s Social Media Superstar….

Twitter’s Users Already Use the Concept of FourSquare

Meet @RadarDog. He's laughing at you.

For most of us, when we log off and head out the door, we don’t tend to include in the trip or where we go the people we met on Twitter.  But I have seen on Twitter more signs of Tweet-ups, or groups of Twitter friends/followers from one area or city, meeting up and enjoying each other’s company.  And by the way, Twitter is everywhere.  Even dogs have twitter accounts, guys.  Betcha they tweetup and hookup all the time now because of it.  They’re laughing at you FourSquare lovers with your fancy, opposing thumbs.

Geolocation is King

Geolocation is a big word for “Where you are, right now.”  This sort of information is typically hidden from those people we know in Social Media, because the concept sounds too much like we are inviting everyone to follow us home at night.   When we do allow an application to turn this on, it can find us based on our computer’s IP (Internet Protocol) Address, or using the GPS emitter on our phone.  And it’s pretty darn accurate.

The use of Geolocation information has been recently made available by Twitter to third-party applications.  So expect applications like Tweetdeck, Seesmic, Twitpic, and others soon to ask you if you want to share this.  If you say yes, when you send out tweets or photos, people will know from a marker on a map exactly where you are.  In other words, Twitter just shot a big hole in FourSquare’s boat…  Didn’t that sound cool? Makes me sound all Social Media Maven-ish.

Fun is Queen

Queen. Ha. I’m running with the whole card concept… Pete’s article refers to FourSquare as “highly addictive gameplay” and I am sure it is, if you live in a city that is cooler than mine.  And go out often. And go to the same places over and over.  How about trying out that Thai place for once, before your girlfriend dumps you…

Yes, they will find you in all languages...

Social Media games are growing rapidly, both in MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter.  We all see the automated status updates, tweets and even Direct Messages from those we follow, slipping in because they think others want to know if they killed someone in Mafia Wars or baked a pizza in Cafe World. Those that fail to turn off the clutter play with us a Social Media equivalent of Whack-a-Mole.  DM. Block. Tweet. Block. Status Update. Block.

There goes the horn. Work day's over. Sorry, guys!

In order to move up in FourSquare, you have to work at it.  You need to frequent your favorite places often, checking in to them using your phone’s app.  Sort of like the alcoholic equivalent of the Looney Tunes Wolf and Sheepdog. You gain points for showing up, for leaving your two cents about the place, and for bringing others with you (who you talked into having the app on their phones, too.)  The more points you receive, the more pretty badges you get, on display for all to see.  And you get to tweet those earned badges out to everyone.  Tweet. Block.  That’s right, during my silence perhaps you can create some paper equivalents of those badges in bright colors to actually wear around your very cool city…

The Benefits of Being Mayor

Play FourSquare loyally, and you move up through the chain established at a particular joint, becoming quite the authority on it.  People might recognize your face and say hello when they show up.  The love abounds. Visit more than anyone else, and you can become “Mayor,” receiving free drinks, entrees and sexual favors. I made up that last one.

Twitter Tweetups, Anywhere

Note the first one. Another dog Tweetup!

Okay, in Twitter you don’t get any badges, earn any points, and don’t get to be Mayor, Councilman, President or Prime Minister of anything.  Unless you already are one of those in real life, or are pretending to be.  But you can schedule and attend those Tweet-ups I mentioned earlier, letting trusted friends know via DM where you’re going, and inviting them.  And with the new Geolocation feature, you can use an iPhone app that tells them exactly how to get there.  And you know what? You can do this anywhere in the World with Internet access and your phone.  Even in my small town, or the one next door we all like to laugh at, because they don’t even have a McDonald’s yet…  That’s right, we are laughing at you again.

Twitter Will Eat FourSquare’s Lunch. Pete and I will go have Sushi

Pete and I takin' off for Bangkok. Tweetup, anyone?

I know I’m not a Social Media Superstar, like Pete Cashmore.  He’s worked hard to achieve that status, and he deserves it.  I love reading the very cool articles his team finds and tweets out.  He writes great pieces himself.  And I am sure he would be a lot of fun on that dance floor in Bangkok. I’m willing to go next time you want to take me…

I think Twitter has incorporated many of the best features of FourSquare, and we tweeters will make it fun on our own.  It will grow on its own, be supported by Twitter’s great team, and 3rd party apps will figure out ways to capitalize on Twitter’s API to support Tweetups.  Businesses will use our exposed Geolocations (Exposed Geolocations. Ha.) to find us nearby and offer up coupons or savings to entice us into their stores or restaurants.  And we’ll do it in the little backwoods corners of the Earth, without those stinkin’ badges.

Just stop following me home already, okay?  It’s really creeping me out…

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AFTERTHOUGHT: I was contacted today by the makers of an application called Flook, which allows its users to create “cards” about a location anywhere they have an Internet connection, simply by taking a photo with their iPhone and providing a commentary.  This can be then tweeted out.  When another person gets near a “Flooked” location, they are alerted, and can see all of the previous “cards” made about it by others.  They can flip through the cards to learn more, or comment back…

What it Means to be a Man

In What Day is it? on November 19, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Although there have been calls for such a day since the 1960’s, Trinidad and Tobago were finally able to pull together the creation of this day in 1999.   International Men’s Day has slowly grown from humble beginnings, to a worldwide celebration of the male gender and his role in Society.  Organizers, including founder Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, want to ensure that participants know that this day is not meant to compete with International Women’s Day (March 8th,) but rather to provide a day to remember and thank men for their many contributions.

The Objectives of IMD

International Men’s Day events are held in nations all over our planet, and typically include public displays, educational seminars and classroom activities, publicly broadcasted television and radio programs, religious observances, and peaceful marches. The organizers of IMD have agreed that the following broad objectives should be covered when holding an event related to IMD:

  1. The celebration of manhood as seen in the historically valuable and positive contributions that men of all ages have made to both local communities and Society in general.
  2. The promotion of equality among the genders, encouraging men to stand up and face head-on, responsibly and positively, the challenges faced by all in society.
  3. The demonstration of character and courage in continuing to meet those challenges that Society faces each and every day, to ensure we can all meet our full potential.
  4. The highlighting of positive male role models.  This means not just movie stars or sports figures, but also working class men leading decent, honest lives.

The Year of the Positive Male Role Model

What type of man do we hold in esteem?

In previous years, International Men’s Day has discussed issues relating to men’s health, gender relations, and gender equality.  Celebrating a different aspect of men’s lives each year, 2009 has been named the Year of the Positive Male Role Model.

Who would you consider to be (or to have been) a positive male role model in your own life?  Was it your father? Step-father? Grandfather? Uncle? Older brother or friend? Pastor or Rabbi? A boss? Someone famous?  Every single one of these men had to define for themselves what it meant to be a man, and in some way their definition has influenced your own…

So What Does it Mean to be a Man?

To be a man is to live in a dichotomy.  We are granted incredible freedom in defining ourselves, while living under the invisible pressure of conformity as provided by our fellow Man.  The layers of pressure come from greater Society’s agreed-upon and often capricious definitions of our gender, our larger family’s definitions, and our faith’s often-stringent refining.  We have layered upon us the invisible garments provided by our home, our community, and even our Nation.

So Many Choices when Defining Ourselves…

Oscar Wilde, Irish Playwright, Poet and Author, 1882

Historically the definition of acceptable manhood has changed, and continues to morph over time.  We have moved from wholesale acceptance of brute force and strength of will as desirable defining characteristics to a more intellectual approach to matters of life.  This is not to say Manhood has softened.  Let’s just say that we Men have learned to take the clay from those that used to mold our roles, and have begun to choose for ourselves who (or what) we lend our malleability to…

In free nations like America, where homogeneity of thought was dispensed with as soon as our ancestors began stepping on our shores, we accept many other possible definitions for what it means to be a Man.  And it is our free responsibility to examine with careful scrutiny the many layers put on us, that we carry in our daily lives.  To what purpose do they serve us, and are we prepared to maintain them, passing them down to our sons?  What changes do we make in defining ourselves, and how quickly do we embrace such changes?

So What do I Think?

We define our roles as men, and as fathers

Here’s my spin: To be a man is to be responsible for ourselves, even in areas where we have little control over our lives or destinies.  We must be strong supporters of our friends and family, even when it means providing needed criticism. We are to seek passionate, loving and respectful relationships with our significant others.  We are to be aware of our surroundings and must strive to improve upon them.  We must endeavor to mold our environment to allow for honesty.  We must be willing to both swing the hammer and open our fists.  We must listen, try to understand, sacrifice and compromise.

Outside of this, Dude, you are on your own. You figure out the rest.

So What do we Hand Down to Our Children?

In many countries, International Men’s Day (or IMD) is celebrated in tandem with Universal Children’s Day on Nov. 20th, to bring together the importance of the special bond between men and his children.  It’s one thing to carry the burdens handed to us by our fathers (and their fathers.)  It’s another thing entirely to sit and examine what we will leave behind and place on the shoulders of our sons.

Our sons are watching us...

One of the reasons the cultural definition of Manhood has changed so drastically over the last 40 years is the renewed, shared, sense of self-determination.  Our fathers grew up with the belief that we competed against each other to get ahead, sometimes learning painful cut-throat lessons.  Some of them, now retired, watch in abject confusion as we discuss collaborative work models, as we come together in common cause, move on to regroup with others, then move on again…

Men have to teach, more than any other skill, the ability to work with and get along with others.  Men must remind their sons that they do not have to define themselves through the personal victory, but through the sharing of a common win.  We must teach them to adapt in a World that changes faster than any other our forefathers have ever known.

So be Responsible for How You (and Men) are Viewed

Hang up the definitions no longer needed

Whether in the news, movies, or in literature, there exists ample fictional and non-fictional examples of men, young and old, exhibiting negative behavior.  This includes criminal activities, violence against others, or simply delinquency.  The supporters of International Men’s Day work diligently to provide a forum to respond to these negative portrayals, reminding the World that there are many more examples of decency and scions of character among us.

Help all of us out by examining those invisible garments you wear each day, and hanging up the ones that are no longer needed to protect you from an increasingly open World.  Rediscover for yourself what it means to be a man, and then contact me to help me out, too…

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How to Retweet, Old-School

In Social Media on November 18, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Was NOT looking forward to this invitation...

I received the beta invitation (or warning) for the new Retweet feature at Twitter yesterday.  Igotta say, it’s one “improvement” that I had not been looking forward to, and I’ll likely work diligently around it for awhile.  I’ve been using the “Old School” retweet method of forwarding those nuggets of information I like to my followers, and it works just fine for me.

Negative sentiment on RT abounds

I know I’m not alone in my sentiment. There are a number of people on Twitter who’ve voiced their disappointment with this untweaking of a valuable communication tool that already works when done properly.  A few of them are pretty heavy hitters in the Social Media world, who have tens or hundreds of thousands of followers and have happily helped Twitter in its growth by providing interesting commentary and multimedia.  They ought to be listened to…

This morning, I came across a comment on Twitter from someone I follow, stating that she was often confused by retweets, trying to figure out who had made the original comment, and what was added by the retweeter.  I realized that if many of us are banding together to push Twitter to unhinge and remove the new feature (or improve it quickly,) we need to ensure others know how to properly retweet, Old School style.

“Old School” Retweet Methods

There are a number of methods people use to retweet information on Twitter, and not all of them are easy to parse.  So I thought I would share a few techniques I have witnesses, and demonstrate what I believe is best.

The Special Character Separator – This form of RT simply resends the message, but places a /, ~,::: or other special character or set at the end followed by the commentary by the retweeter.  Works well for most if you have it obvious, but sometimes the chosen separator doesn’t hit everyone over the head equally.

Use of special character to separate the information

Use of arrows to "point" your comment at the original tweet

The @Sender Put at the End – This form of RT places the @sender name at the end of the commentary, often in parentheses, and sometimes with the word “via”.  Commentary is normally placed after the parentheses.  This format is often constructed by mobile phone apps like Tweetie. The parenthetical separation is typically good enough for people to get who said what.  The person below, however, seems to have sandwiched the RT by commentary before and after…

Putting the (via @sender in parentheses) technique

The Pre-Comment This is my favorite, and I’ll explain why.  In this type of retweet, it kind of feels at first NOT like a retweet, because it doesn’t start out with RT at all. The commentary by the retweeter comes first, drawing more readers in, because it doesn’t feel addressed to anyone in particular.  Then the RT follows the comment, and we can sort of reverse-engineer the conversation.  Here’s an example…

Comment back is placed in front of the RT'd message

You get the commentary first, which seems interesting in itself, and then see that it is a retweet to @Alyssa_Milano  The RT letter set is enough of a visual cue to see the separation between the comments.  Alyssa will see all of the retweets she gets on her messages because like any good user, she is checking her @Mentions often.

The Pre-Comment method is elegant, interesting and if followed by everyone consistently, would be a model for Twitter to use when reworking that new feature I am so diligently ignoring…

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Social Media (and Life) Lessons from Mickey Mouse

In Social Media, What Day is it? on November 18, 2009 at 10:39 am

Still lookin' great after all these years...

Happy 81st Birthday, Mickey Mouse!  Mickey Mouse officially celebrated his birth with the screening of the cartoon Steamboat Willie on this day, back in 1928.

As usual, when discussing what day it is, I had to put some thought to how the remembrance and/or celebration of this popular character’s storied life can be tied to our existence in and use of social media.  And I believe that the celebrated Mouse ties in quite nicely.  Read and decide for yourself!

You can’t control how you come into a scene, but take hold of your future!

Mickey Mouse simply wasn’t really supposed to be.  You see, Charles Mintz of Universal Studios hired a young Walt Disney and his staff to draw for what became the lackluster Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon series.  When Walt asked for an increased budget to support his staff, Mintz went behind his back and hired all of Walt’s staff out from under him, then offered him a paycut in reply.  Walt, of course, was angered and began formulating his exit.

Walt finished out his contract, swearing to control his own destiny by creating his own original works and always retain the rights to them.  He began working with Ub Iwerks, and asked him to come up with some interesting character ideas.  Animals were popular in cartoons, so Ub drew frogs, dogs, cats, cattle and horses, but none of these appealed to Walt.  Looking through some old sketches, Ub discovered that Walt loved mice, having had a pet during his childhood on a farm.  Ub went to work on a few and presented them to Walt.

Walt loved the mice, choosing one in particular, and naming it Mortimer.  His wife Lilian didn’t like the sound of the name and encouraged him Walt to reconsider.  Legend has it that after a chance meeting with Mickey Rooney, Walt decided on Mickey Mouse.

Hand in hand...

In social media, you have the opportunity to spend some time thinking about how you want to be viewed by your audience, how you wish to present yourself.  If it is your desire to have a wide swath of influence, make sure that what you say is either what others need to hear or can relate to.  And make sure that it is honest, coming from your heart.

Mickey Mouse has grown from a bit movie part to the dominating face of the Walt Disney Empire.  He is so inseparable from the Walt Disney brand, that statues commemorating Mr. Disney in his theme parks include him standing and holding Mickey’s hand…

Whether in Twitter or Facebook, you started out with no followers and nobody to listen to.  You diligently sought out interesting people to follow, speaking up and opportune times and saying hello to, and engaging them.  Keep it up.  Even those that have a million followers started with none as they furtively typed in their first comment to the virtual Universe.  Get in there and get involved.  People will love you, too!

Learn from your mistakes and grow

In the silent movie Plane Crazy, Mickey plays the captain of an airship, flying through the skies with his passenger Minnie.  As he has always, Mickey has eyes for Minnie; however Minnie is not interested in his advances.  Mickey continues his amorous plays for affection, going so far as to even force himself on his passenger.  A far cry from the happy-go-lucky and friendly Mickey we know today…

You are the captain of your social media plane. Pay attention to what you are doing there, to your many followers, and engage them in a manner that they deem appropriate.  Don’t force people to follow you back, or push yourself over and over into their conversations.

They do make a cute couple...

Minnie ultimately discovers a parachute and escapes the plane, and Mickey ultimately crash-lands.  The movie was a flop, and is one of the chief reasons that the premiere of his second movie, Steamboat Willie, is the one we use to officially celebrate Mickey’s arrival on the big screen.  It would appear that since their introductions, Mickey has learned from his mistakes, and treats Minnie with far more respect…

Mickey smoked in The Gallopin’ Gaucho, but eventually gave it up, and we are all happier for him, as he celebrates his 81st birthday in full health.  Yes, even mice can be exemplars of improving behavior.

The Biggest Fool is the Guy who Refuses to Learn From His Mistakes.  ~ Gary Arbaugh (@Gary1980Arb)

It’s easy to say something that might offend others in Social Media.  Don’t fret – simply apologize for it, consider a better way to have said what you did, and move on.  Realize that some people will bail on you because they don’t like your style, and you will have to simply accept you cannot please everybody.  If you are respectful and kind to everyone you meet, you will soon find the seats in your social airliner filled with plenty of people returning the affection…

Always be friendly and respectful to others

The original bromance.

Across the board, Mickey Mouse is the most friendly of all of Walt Disney’s creations.  No matter what is going on in his life, he greets his friends and even strangers with kindness and consideration.  He is always quick to welcome in someone at his door, always ready to lend a hand or lend something to those in need, and ready to cheer up his curmudgeonly friend Donald Duck.  Who by the way seriously needs to work on that speech impediment.

If all of us greeted our friends and followers with the same loving acceptance of whoever was on the other side of the connection, I have a feeling we would spend even more time in social media enjoying the company.  Get involved in causes after carefully researching them, and don’t be afraid to cheer up the grumps.  Everybody has a bad day.

Don’t let others get you down

For some, the term Mickey Mouse has been used to mean shoddy or shady, from a character in the movie The Godfather II referring to a “Mickey Mouse Operation,” to Indiana Jones saying “Yeah, and I’m Mickey Mouse.”  While visiting foreign lands and noting unusual (and questionable) currencies, Americans have often referred to the flimsy notes as “Mickey Mouse Money.”  British Soccer fans call the second-tier League  Cup competition’s award “the Mickey Mouse Cup.”

We all have our nemeses both in life and here in social media, who put us down privately (and even publicly,) or question our motives and abilities.  Despite this behind-the-back derision using his name, Mickey has remained cheerful and forward-looking.  He has refused to let anyone get him down, and as young children seeing his fortitude, many of us have grown to love and respect the Mouse.  Keep moving forward with purpose, and those that deride you will eventually fade away in their own negativity.  There is also the block feature…

Be consistent in all that you do

Always humble, always consistent...

We’re talking about a little guy who wears the same outfit 99% of the time.  Consistency is Mickey Mouse’s forte and one of the big reasons he has been so successful over the last 80 years.  We know the many consistent attributes of Mickey Mouse, and no matter the twists and turns of plot in a Disney cartoon, we know exactly how he is going to react.

Change your social media avatar only when needed, because it is part of that essential “brand” you have among others.  Changing your avatar temporarily makes it hard for people to find you in the stream of information, as you are now an unfamiliar sight.  You don’t want to get lost by the very same people who love what you have to say because you shaved that mustache or went blonde.

Take the time to truly know yourself, what you stand for and therefore how you ought to behave around others in all situations.  Be well-grounded and familiar in your own personal philosophy and make the difficult decisions that keep you on course with it, or change when needed.  Consistency in behavior sets the needed deep habits that will carry you through the hazards that come into all of our lives. Those that know and appreciate you will love you all the more for the bedrock you provide in their lives while facing the larger societal issues impacting the news or their lives, and will they reward you on Follow Friday by asking others to follow you too….

Be willing to try new things

From his exciting but lustful beginnings as a plane pilot to his happy-go-lucky, whistling days on a steamboat, Mickey has moved on to serve as a soldier, a musical conductor,  tried his hand at Wizardry, has been a detective, and enjoyed a host of other roles in life.  Mickey has cheerfully gone wherever sent by his animators, and If he were real, would’ve learned quite a bit from each new character.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.  We are always faced with little opportunities disguised as hard work, and should never shy away from them.  Often, these new responsibilities lead to growth whether as a person or employee.  Never be afraid to figure out those things that seem positively magical in their complication; we often discover they are not so difficult once in the middle of the fray.

Find and make a variety of friendships in social media.  Don’t keep your sphere of influence limited to those that look and sound and work like you.  A wealth of varied experiences and backgrounds keep the stream of information flowing on your computer screen interesting. Accept the friend and follow requests from oddballs once in awhile, because you will soon discover that those residing outside of the box say things that make you both laugh and think, to say the least.

Be always at the ready to take the lead when asked

Always ready to serve you...

In politics, of all write-in protest candidates, Mickey Mouse has led the charge when voters have been dissatisfied with their offerings. Because of his consistently cheerful countenance and pleasant ways, Mickey on countless occasions he has had his name written down on ballot after ballot, his name bandied about in practically every single Presidential election since his birth.  He has been offered up as a leader at school board, mayoral, city council, senatorial and gubernatorial elections.

If you follow Mickey’s social examples, you will soon find yourself in demand in the lives of your friends and followers, asking for help and sage advice.  Don’t shirk your new-found popularity; rather, once again jump in with both feet and expand your niche.  Give your opinion humbly, and accept the thanks when given.

Stand up for your ideals and beliefs

If you ever want to see the power of protectiveness, just begin a business enterprise using the Mickey Mouse character, without first asking permission from the Walt Disney Company.  You will soon find yourself swarming in legal battles and facing off against a league of attorneys four-deep.  Walt Disney is extremely protective of its characters, Mickey Mouse in particular.  It’s Mother Hen-like guard over its brand has allowed Disney to grow profitably into new ventures over time.

Don’t let others take credit for what you do, know or say. Stand up for yourself, and make sure others know from whence the good ideas flowed.  Politely remind people to retweet or recomment giving proper credit when due. Be consistent in branding who you are and what you stand for, so that others can easily define you when they too go to bat for you.

Tackle issues head-on

Mickey has always been up-front about problems or issues he sees.  If he sees someone being bullied, he is the first to gather up his gumption and speak out.  Invariably, he gets the snot knocked out of him, but her perseveres and ultimately wins out, and we respect him for it.

His values can make a difference online, too...

I have had the honor of helping Kirstie Alley (@kirstiealley) with Aquathon, a 24-hour social media marathon last July, wherein with the help of thousands, we raised $28,000 to drill 2 fresh water wells in Africa.  I am looking forward to Aquathon II, slated for May 1st of 2010, a dance-a-thon to held World-wide.  I am currently working with Josh Charles (@joshcharles) with his very meaningful project to donate 100% of the profits of his beautiful song Healing Time, to rebuild the homes in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, where people are still smarting from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.

There are a variety of issues you can address using social media.  Take one that means a lot to you personally, and run with it.  You can hold contests, tweet and ask for retweets, blog about your cause and send the links out.  Create multimedia presentations by playing music and sending photos related to the cause.  Be judicious in the amount of time you spend discussing your cause, so that your followers do not become jaded or block you due to the noise.

Of course, patterning your life or social media presence after a cartoon character might not seem desirable.  But at least take the time to learn from the values that made Mickey Mouse popular all around the World.  And if the big ol’ yellow shoes and round black ears fit, then wear ’em!

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From Tolerance to Acceptance

In Social Media, What Day is it? on November 16, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Tolerance n. 1. Recognition of and respect for the opinions, beliefs, or actions of others. 2. The amount of variation from a standard that is allowed. 3. Capacity to withstand pain or hardship. 4. Physical resistance to poison.

I thought I’d start out with a propaganda film from the 1950’s regarding Homosexuality, just to put you in the mood…

The video was created in 1961 by filmmaker Sid Davis, and was funded by both the Inglewood Police Department and his Inglewood Unified School District.  In those days, it was acceptable for government monies to help propagate the myth that Homosexuality was a “sickness of the mind,” or that gay men were pedophiles.  Although as a rule we’ve stopped using government funds to share such idiocy, the myths still exist in the minds of people we come across daily, and the ideals resulting from such falsehoods still slip out of the mouths of many.

Example of sadly familiar hate-tweets

Three days ago, I blocked a person on Twitter, an action that I reserve for spam-bots, britney-bots, someone trying to sell me something, people who are rude or obnoxious, and your garden-variety bigots.   This particular person fell under the last of those categories, and I had no qualms whatsoever as the block happened in a knee-jerk manner.

The last tweet I will ever see from the guy read something like this, “Here’s my daily sound-off on the Muslims.  They have no business being in America. Round em up and ship em off.” (I changed it a bit so nobody would find the guy using Twitter Search and slam him too badly…)

I don’t miss the guy, and he was completely lost to memory until I saw what day it was today – International Day of Tolerance.  So the question arose in me – Was I, too, being intolerant?  Should I have continued to follow the guy, despite his demonstrated hatred of those he obviously knew little about?

The Importance of Tolerance

We walk among our history, good or bad.

The next time you’re walking down a crowded street, take a moment to think about the incredible variety of backgrounds surrounding you.  The man walking by you enjoying his latté  may have come from grandparents who were chased from their homeland by people hating their faith.  The woman juggling the cell phone while folding and tucking the newly purchased newspaper may have heard hushed stories from her father about dear friends or relatives being killed simply because of their race.

We are the culmination of the co-mingled hopes and dreams of our ancestors, the centuries of hard work and strife as each generation before ours was pushed forward, cajoled and upbraided, supported and loved.  We are also the product of the intolerance our ancestors suffered, as well as the intolerance they may have shown to others.  The wounds are still there, if you look closely enough, listen carefully enough.  You can still easily find the stereotyping, the racial jokes, the homophobic commentary, and the fear and anger it incites in those that are ultimately its victims, the pain and hardship that stereotyped individuals have had to endure.

Remember these guys? Did you know them?

With each passing generation, the anger dims a bit, as tolerance spreads further, rippling outward from those that are exemplars of it.  There also remain those that abhor tolerance, angry vacuums of bigotry, using all available means to suck in those that are unprepared to face the variety of existence around them.  It is our role to face these black holes of hatred head-on, to become immune to their poisons, so that others do not lose their entire lives to it.

Raised to See the Difference?

We have grown up in a world that sees the differences, categorizing each other since early childhood. The playgrounds and hallways of our youth held the jocks, the populars, the socials, the nerds, the loners, the rockers, the goths, the emos, the eggheads, the geeks and endless other categories of those that were different.  Some of us wended and weaved among these groups, picking and choosing friends as we found fellowship in the varied ranks of many.  Many of us did not, choosing one group or another to temporarily identify with.

Tolerance must be learned, must be shared and supported as a life-skill.  Without it, our children will not be able to wend and weave their way through life, will find it difficult to reach across those artificial boundaries, and will be stunted in their ability to connect to a wider World filled with different people being rapidly woven together through social media and technology.  Without the ability to tolerate, people get paid by us to make movies to frighten our children with lies. And worse.

The Teaching of Tolerance

“The highest result of education is tolerance.” ~ Helen Keller

It always starts at home...

The teaching of tolerance begins at home, with how we behave and what we say around our family, especially our children.  Even the smallest allowance for stereotyping or discrimination cracks the door ajar for more, like dirty little flies scurrying into our home.

Avoid stereotyping -It is assumed that if you are reading this post, you know that people of all races are equally as intelligent, as funny, as quiet, as athletic, as studious, as hardworking.  Avoid the urge to lump in others who may share a physical trait, sexual orientation, or religious faith, no matter how many similarities you believe you have found in your experience.  Young children reside in what must seem to be a very complicated world, and many will readily grasp at these oversimplifications.  It’s a nasty little short-cut that bypasses true learning about the people around them, and should be avoided at all costs.

Avoid derogatory terms – If you have used derogatory terms in the past, stop.  And not just around your children, either.  Never denigrate others, no matter what they have done to offend or hurt you.  If you must vent, avoid the use of degrading terms related to race, sexual preference or religious background.  If you tell jokes or “funny” stories with those terms, you are simply hurting your children’s ability to tolerate differences they come across in others later in life. Examine the use of terms such as “That’s so gay,” and you will see how it poisons the atmosphere for others.

Be the example – Start at home and begin to learn how to tolerate the differences in opinion your spouse and children have with you. Listening is key in this.  The former head of the United Nations Kofi Annan, one of the most powerful negotiators in modern times, is noted for his ability to listen at the bargaining table.  Ask simple and meaningful questions to learn how other’s think, and they in turn will be more open to your thoughts. Speak respectfully, even in the heat of an argument.  And try to keep your opinions to yourself when it comes to how your teens’ friends dress.

From Tolerance to Acceptance

How big is your circle of friends?

The word tolerance has the connotation of “putting up with” someone, rather than accepting them. When we merely put up with working in the presence of an openly gay person, we are practicing the 2nd definition of tolerance, allowing for a so-called variation or deviation from what we believe to be the personal standard or societal norm. But if you discovered your coworkers merely put up with your presence in the office, how would it affect you? Where we define the area to draw our acceptable standards from is one way to move toward acceptance.

You can choose to restrict the definition of acceptable behavior to that found within your own home,  where everybody comes from shared values, experiences, race and faith. Anyone outside this tight circle would be a variation, a deviation of some sort.  But move your vision to the neighborhood, and what is acceptable expands with the borderline.  Now we have to include in what is “normal” the Gays and Lesbians, Muslims and Jews, Blacks, Hispanics and Whites that reside within this wider circle.  So many new capitalized words! So many interesting people!

When you move the sweep of the circle to encompass our entire nation, the variations are almost impossible to behold, and the border defining what is the standard blurs.  If this is from where you draw your definition of standard or norm, then you must now see the Bisexuals, Transgenders, people of mixed-race, all variety of faiths and intra-faith sects, agnostics and atheists, and so forth.  Gets pretty hard now, doesn’t it, to place someone as a variation or deviation from the standard, huh?

Of course, many of us expand  of our circle of acceptance only to the boundaries of our chosen faith and/or morality, and I understand this concept.  I cannot fault you for doing so, and do appreciate the extent to which some of us live closer to those boundaries, for it is at those moral walls that we hear the voices of the Outsiders.  Perhaps from time to time we can peek around and say hello…

Teaching Ourselves Acceptance

So how do we draw such a big circle, and move ourselves from tolerance to acceptance?

There's room under the rainbows...

Learn about other faiths – From Churches and Synagogues to Mosques and Temples, go out and learn about others’ faiths by participating in events there, and meeting their adherents.  Scan your local newspaper’s faith section for cultural fairs, open houses and open worship nights.  Say hello, try some interesting foods, ask a bunch of questions, mispronounce things, pick up some literature, and enjoy the similarities found in our common desire toward morally desirable behavior.  Look for interfaith alliance groups and lend your voice, too.

Show support for people of all sexual orientations – There’s plenty of space in Gay Pride parades for straight people to help hold up those big, beautiful banners. Ask your local chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Gays and Lesbians) if they need any help with fundraising or activities.  Attend candlelight vigils in support of equal marriage rights, and share a cup of coffee with those seeking legal acceptance of life-long love and commitment. Read and learn about the difficulties encountered in the lives of transgenders.  Don’t worry, they’ll like you, too…

Become a community advocate against Racism – Donate time and/or money to help organizations that combat Racism in your community.  Make a few phone calls and ask if you can help flip pancakes for fundraisers, or attend speeches by civil rights leaders who come to town.  Take some time off from work to march with others whenever you can.  Shake hands and meet people in attendance, and begin networking with them.  Write to your local paper and exhort others to join in rallies against Racism and bigotry.

Creating a Global Standard

Our place is with them...

But what of an even grander sweep of vision, encompassing the incredible richness of human life on our whole planet?  Can you draw your circle of friends this wide? In this view, we gaze upon all of humanity, and all ethnic, religious and sexual differences disappear. We are left viewing the breadth of “human” existence.   From this standpoint, our backgrounds, orientations and preferences are no longer limited to what is valued in just our family, our neighborhood, our region or nation.  We become a part of the human PhotoShop colorwheel, blending into the person next to us, interconnected and part of a loving rainbow.

In a global existence, it is much easier to move from tolerance of others to acceptance of all.  From this place, how far is it to move into the warm embrace of those around us?  We are all equals, with so much to learn from each other.  We talk and share openly, visit each other’s places of worship in respect and admiration, breaking a variety of breads in fellowship at each other’s tables.  A much greater compassion is learned from connecting with each other, and soon, those that discriminate and differentiate become the variation from the standard.

The Global Standard and Social Media

Social media is teaching us to look across borders, finding fellowship in the wonderful people of all races, all backgrounds, all preferences.   We sign up, log on, and are soon swimming in what seems to be, at first, a sea of difference.  As we talk and share, view pictures of loved ones and celebrations, listen to music on instruments we cannot pronounce, receive recipes for foods we previously did not know existed, the armor of our stereotypes begin to fail us.  With the veil of distance removed, we go from seeing the differences to the similarities we all hold, and reveling in our new-found together-ness.

So was I being too harsh on the guy who was bashing all Muslims? Should I have left him in my stream as a sign of tolerance? I don’t think so, and here’s why.  Tolerance has its limits.  We should never tolerate words that harm or threaten to harm another.  Race-baiting, religious intolerance, and hatred run counter to the desired goal of greater  tolerance and acceptance.  I choose not to provide a forum for poisonous behavior, to lend even a speck of legitimacy by having him listed in my followers.  I don’t have time for haters, because I am spending all of my time in the company of wonderful people here seeking to know me, as I come to know them…

If you liked this post, you can Retweet it in 2 easy clicks!

The Follow Friday Primer

In Social Media on November 13, 2009 at 1:33 am

twitter_logo_what_doingYou just wrapped up your first week of Twitter, said hello to the world, quietly squeaking inside over your very first follower, discovered the joys of that reply button, and publicly thanked each and every new follow you received.

As the week progressed, you discovered the naughty Britney Bots and how to block and/or report them.  Depending on what you said, a variety of businesses showed up in your Follower tally.

As you gained confidence, you formulated pithy hellos to celebrities and pranced all over the power-user’s pages to see who they followed.  You marvelled at the sharing of music, photos and links to everything, everywhere.  Twitter was really starting to get exciting and cool, as the endless stream of information, emotions, laughter, love, angst and more went steadily by on your screen.

Just as things seemed to fall into a gentle rhythm, Friday rolled around, and after logging in you now find yourself surrounded in a sea of endless @ and # symbols. It’s Follow Friday on Twitter.  Now what do you do?

follow_friday_list

You are likely seeing a whole bunch of these...

There are a variety of resources that describe and help guide you through the process of providing shoutouts to those you love on Twitter.  I know, I’ve read a bunch of them, and have done my best to pull all of the hints and ideas together in one place.  If you landed here, I hope I can make this whole thing easier.

So start me off by explaining this Follow Friday thing to me.

twitter_micah

Micah Baldwin, Founder of #FollowFriday

Follow Friday has been around on Twitter since January of 2009, when Micah Baldwin @micah suggested it.  People agreed that it would be nice if everyone took at least part of one day a week to let others know which of those they followed they really like, for reasons left up to them.  Everyone would provide the name of their favs including the @ symbol so it became a clickable link, along with the hashtag #FF or #FollowFriday to let everyone know it was their Friday Favorites.  To keep from overwhelming a stream, people began putting a list of people on each #FF tweet, rather than one tweet for each person.

I’m just starting out and am still figuring out who I like to follow.

There’s nothing wrong with simply opting out of the whole Follow Friday thing until you get a handle on it.  Simply watch those you follow share their favorites.  Check out the names that jump out at you by clicking on their usernames to get to their profiles.  Read the new profiles and their recent tweets, and decide for yourself if you wish to follow them too.  One of the wonderful benefits of this is you could likely receive some follows in return.

Introduce yourself to your favorite new people you followed, the ones that show the greatest promise for meaningful interaction. You can even let the person who recommended them know in the same tweet! Here’s how…

said_to_follow

She included the new follow and who recommended it all in one!

People love to know that their hard work sending #FFs out have caused someone, somewhere to follow their favorites too!

I’ve seen how this works, and I want to jump on the Follow Friday love train too...

Once you are ready to begin sharing your favorites with the Twitter world, there are a few techniques to consider, to make your follows most impactful.  By no means do you have to follow these rules, but they help….

Follow Friday Do’s:

  1. twitter_alancolmes_ff

    Alan Colmes' Follow Fridays

    Spend some time thinking about who you will provide a #FF shoutout for.  There is nothing wrong with typing up the list on a Word document in order to keep things straight and save time later.

  2. Space your #FF tweets out, providing at least a 15 second period of time between each.  Even if you decided to use the Word document technique listed above, take your time…
  3. Don’t put more than 3 people in a #FF tweet and include a comment such as “Funny people, always there to make me laugh.”  This means you will have to come up with categories for your #FF tweets, and will need to pick the top 3 people in that group.  Challenge yourself to only send one tweet in that category.
  4. If you keep your tweet down to 120 characters, it will make it easier to “retweet” or RT it, as it leaves space for the additional @ symbol, username and RT. Yes, people do often RT Follow Fridays…
  5. Some like to send out #FFs for their new recent followers, as a weekly welcoming message. This is especially nice for those people that have immediately engaged with you and shared often.  Fox news commentator @AlanColmes did this for me, and I was impressed by it greatly.
  6. Perhaps you’d like to limit your #FFs to those of your followers that interacted with you the most in the preceding week, or were the most consistent in responding to your information.  This can include commenting on your photos, talked to you about favorite articles, listened to your music links, or read a recent blog post.  It can also mean those that shared their own information with you.
  7. For fairly new users, you can provide a #FF shoutout for those individuals that have helped you the most, introducing you to Twitter and encouraging you along the way.  Hint.

Follow Friday Don’ts:

  1. ff_thank_yous

    Don't forget to say Thank You!

    Don’t send out more than 10 #FF tweets at once.  Remember you are only one voice among potentially hundreds or even thousands of people someone is following.

  2. Don’t send your #FF tweets in rapid-fire succession.  You just become background noise, easy to ignore (or worse, to unfollow or block.)
  3. Don’t send #FF tweets chock-full of usernames with no reason as to why we should follow them.  C’mon, throw us a bone on this one, so we can at least make a quick decision about whether we want more information from “great fishermen” or “funny accountants” in our stream.  People rarely follow ANYONE on a list of names without a reason…
  4. Don’t forget to thank people for including you in their #FFs.  Check your @YourName mentions link to see them rolling in…
  5. Don’t recommend anyone you are not following yourself. Go ahead, check and make sure.

Other #FF methods being recently utilized

Twitter Lists – You can create Twitter lists and then tweet out the link with a description of its purpose. This will lead people to follow your list vice your followers, something slowly gaining favor as the new Twitter List feature finishes its rollout.

tweepmlTweepML – With many thanks to @BuzzEdition for introducing me to this great site.   Like Twitter’s List feature, in TweepML you can create a list of favorites in a variety of categories and tweet out the list.  I love that interested people can follow everyone on your TweepML list with just one click.  This saves tons of time! TweepML has recently added Twitter Lists support so you can type in the address of a Twitter list to follow everyone on it, but it is still buggy…  NOTE: Using this too much will cause Twitter to suspend interactions with TweepML for awhile, so be judicious.

Thinking outside of the box

With a bit of creativity and a lot of time, you can take your Follow Fridays to a whole new level.  Here is one such example from one of my favorite Tweeps, Gary Arbaugh (@Gary1980Arb):

The Twitter Love Boat

If you have found this post to be of help to you in navigating the vagaries of Follow Friday, please feel free to follow me at @_stevewoods and/or Retweet this article!

Cutting the Strings

In What Day is it? on November 12, 2009 at 11:41 am

Death is a release from the impressions of the senses, and from desires that make us their puppets, and from the vagaries of the mind, and from the hard service of the flesh.  ~ Marcus Arelius

The story of Husayn Ali

village_of_takur

Takur, near Tehran, Iran, where Husayn Ali was born

Husayn Ali was born on November 12, 1817 in Tehran, Iran, to the home of an aristocrat, a government minister, who could trace his own ancestry deep into ancient Iranian nobility. Raised in wealth, Husayn did not receive a regular public education, instead learning to ride horses, write calligraphy, handle a sword, and the recitation of romantic poetry.

In Husayn’s culture it was believed that precocious children likely would not survive into adulthood, so his family was quite concerned over him. He more than made up for his outspokenness in intelligence and wisdom beyond his years.  Despite his inexperience, even learned Muslims could be found consulting with him regarding intricate religious matters; not because Husayn knew the answer already, but because he had a mind for figuring these complex issues out.

The puppet show

We are only puppets, our strings are being pulled by unknown forces. ~ George Buchner

puppet-show2

What strings pull us around our lives?

Husayn once wrote that as a child, he was brought to watch a puppet show, one of the popular forms of public entertainment at the time.  As often happened, the puppeteer had crafted this performance to make a public statement, the story being about the political motives and greed of a corrupt king’s court.  Husayn was both bothered and intrigued by the performance; however, what happened after the little curtain was drawn and the other children were leaving played an important part in shaping Husayn’s mind and future.  Husayn noted the puppeteer stepping out from behind the curtain and leaving the premises with a big box under his arm.

Curious and unafraid, Husayn asked the man what was in the box.  “All this lavish display and these elaborate devices,” the man replied, “the king, the princes, and the ministers, their pomp and glory, their might and power, everything you saw, are now contained within this box.”  The concept that all of the tapestries of life, those material items struggled toward, that we all-too-often witness the lives of others being destroyed over, could be rendered lifeless and carried away.  All could be lost at the very gates of death, at the end of our live’s performance, as we too are boxed and buried.  As these thoughts coalesced in little Husayn’s mind, he suddenly viewed all of our lifelong material struggles as nothing more important than children’s playthings, mere past-times, we playing the role of puppets to unknown masters.

What drives our lives?

We are no longer puppets being manipulated by outside powerful forces: we become the powerful force ourselves. ~ Leo Buscaglia

mustang_convertible

It's not a bad goal to have...

A desire to have a strong, loving and committed relationship with our significant other. A need to see success in our children’s lives, to know they will be secure in their futures.  The ability to retire in relative comfort, with a roof over our heads and not a worry about money.  A desire to attain notoriety in our field of endeavor, to be seen as contributing.  A wish to be loved by others, whether in a small office or on the big screen.  A brand new Mustang convertible is always good. There are millions of hopes and dreams we all have, sharing more than a handful of them with most.  Sometimes these dreams are directly in competition with someone else’s. Where did these hopes, desires, and dreams come from? Who pulls our strings?

When Husayn’s father passed away, the very desirable and financially secure ministerial position he held was offered to Husayn, who turned it down to pursue a life of charitable work, wishing to put to good use his belief that the pursuit of wealth and title were nothing compared to the care of others.  He worked diligently to improve the lives of the many poor in the surrounding community, earning him reverence and the title of “Father of the Poor.”

Who pulls our strings?

Men are not great or small because of their material possessions. They are great or small because of what they are. ~ James Cash Penney

air_hand

Wait! Don't run off just yet!

Before you hit the Close Window button on your browser, I’m not on a soapbox today.  There’s nothing wrong with buying a lot of cool things and keeping them.  I’m staring at twin 27″ screens, when I could’ve done this sort of work on a simple 15″ one. There’s a whisper quiet brandy new PC under my desk, running Windows 7.  My shiny (but not so new) iPhone is always within arm’s length. I own way too many weird ties and an assortment of coffee cups. But bear with me for a bit…

We have to work to survive, so we work.  For most of us, it means the job you did not dream of as a child, because the income was nice, the benefits pretty decent, we had a family that prefers food on the table, and there’s a decent retirement plan on the horizon.  We’re busy after work driving our children to appointments, baking something for fundraisers, getting our garages ready for the next yard sale, and trying to keep ahead of the impending Christmas shopping rush.  Basically treading water, right?

It’s a difficult economy right now, and I’m starting to look at the Christmas list with a bit of tredipation.  I likely won’t be spending quite as much as last year, and am feeling a twinge of guilt about it.  But you know what? I’m starting to ask myself why I feel bad about it.  Do I have to spend every cent I have in the malls purchasing more of those trinkets to eventually store in the boxes in my garage, or for my kids to toss in the closet with the ghosts of Christmas past?  Are the unknown forces that drove my father and his father going to drive me too, or will I take a new path in life?

The dangers of stepping through unknown Gates

The World is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

tehran_prison

Downtown Tehran, early 1900s

In 1844, a young man by the name of Siyyid Alí-Muhammad changed Husayn’s life forever.  Siyyid referred to himself as the Báb, which meant “the Gate” in Arabic, and proclaimed that all faiths served a single God, and therefore must come together in unison.  Siyyid made sure everyone understood that he wasn’t that person, but that he would soon come.   What the Báb taught rocked Iran’s nobility and faithful, and his renown spread quickly, with Husayn becoming one his most ardent supporters.  To the clerics, supported by and controlling the government, it would appear a movement was afoot, and fears slowly grew that they might someday lose power…

Four years after Siyyid introduced his new philosophy, Husayn found himself a captive of the government, being tortured for his support of the Báb, as his captors repeatedly beat the soles of his feet with long wooden rods.  It was only the start of many such episodes in his life, as he was either chased to or sent to a variety of prison locations, ending up over 2,800 km from his place of birth.

holding_hands

What will be the legacy to my children?

It’s a bit daunting, the concept of figuring out what drives my life.  But I don’t want to be known affectionately in the future by my children as the guy that once got them the Wii Mario Cart game.  I want to be known as the guy who taught them how to freely say “I’m sorry,” upon discovering they wronged someone.  I’d much rather be remembered as the man that taught them loving acceptance of the wonderful variations of humanity around them, than the guy who brought home a piping hot cheese pizza every Friday night.  That said, I also want to enjoy a nice pizza and beat their cheerful little butts on the Wii once in awhile.

It’s a balancing act, isn’t it?  To be a good parent, to remember to teach the lasting life skills in a patient manner, while still providing the many material objects that my kids (and I have to admit that I) drool over in the store. I have to build the Gate through which they’ll cross from idealistic, angst-filled teens to loving and decent adults.  And I have to help them walk that sometimes tortuous path.

Cutting the Strings

My desire to exit the game is greater than my desire to remain in it. I have searched my heart through and through and feel comfortable with this decision. ~ Barry Sanders

akka_prison

Prison in Akka, Israel. Husayn's cell in upper right corner.

In 1850 the Báb was killed, along with a number of his most ardent supporters by government forces and the powerful clerics.  Although Husayn was spared execution, he was sent off to a prisons in Tehran, Adrianople, Istanbul and Akka, each place progressively worse.  And in each of these fetid, smelly, dark places he received revelations, divine images telling him things he had difficulty understanding or accepting.

According to the visions, Husayn was the chosen one spoken of by the Báb.  A year after arriving in Baghdad, Husayn took leave from his family and followers, and went up into the nearby mountains of Sulaymaniyyih for 2 years, to consider in solitude how to accept this mantle, and what he must do.  When he returned, he began writing a number of religious books, and with renewed vigor the Bábi community rapidly embraced him as a leader.

Ten years later, in 1853, Husayn officially proclaimed himself to be the Bahá’u’lláh, the chosen one that the Bab referred to, the promised one he believed was to be found in all scriptures, who had now come to unite the faiths in brotherhood.  And he was once again sent off to prisons in faraway lands.

cutting_puppet_strings

I have some cutting to do...

I’m not going to be around forever. Duh.  To be a better parent to my children, I have to intensify my focus on them, to listen to the voices in my head that tell me to take the time and teach, to slow myself and them down, to offer both toys and wisdom.  I have to cut some of the strings in my life, too.  I have to cut the string that says I have to spend all of my hard-earned money each month.  Or the big ol’ credit card stringie. I have to cut the string that says I have to always get that new, shiny thing even though the old thing still works.  The watch every football game string (that’s a painful one…) Oh, there are a variety of other invisible strings pulling me around, and I will have to take some time examining (and cutting) some of them too…  But I know my kids and fiancée are worth it…

Staying out of the box

In 1867 Bahá’u’lláh penned letters to all of the leaders of the great nations including Emperor Napoleon III, Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm I, Tsar Alexander II, Emperor Franz Joseph, Pope Pius IX, Sultan Abdul-Aziz, and the Iranian ruler, Nasiri’d-Din Shah, telling them that he was a messenger of God, and exhorting them all to join God’s plan in putting down their arms and working together in peace and unity.

Even more than being a good parent to my children, I want to be a good citizen of the World.  I want to understand, to embrace the varieties of existence around me. I believe as long as I keep my eyes (and mind) wide open, I just might be able to stay outside of that little box for awhile…

Bahá’u’lláh and the Bahá’í Faith

And suddenly, like light in darkness, the real truth broke in upon me; the simple fact of Man, which I had forgotten, which had lain deep buried and out of sight; the idea of community, of unity.  ~ Ernst Toller

As a result of angry response to his letters to World leaders, Bahá’u’lláh was finally exiled to the prison city of Akka, Israel, to join the murderers, theives and political prisoners sent there by the Ottomans.  It was believed that Bahá’u’lláh and his followers would die there, and that the new faith would soon crumble without his continued presence.

Within months of arriving under harsh treatment, Bahá’u’lláh and his follower’s treated the sick and suffering in silence, an act which led authorities in Akka to lower restrictions against them, including finally allowing visitors, who travelled hundreds of miles to see their religious leader.  During this time, Bahá’u’lláh began laying out the essentials of the Bahá’í faith as it is known today, creating a roadmap of how the World could come together.  After having accomplished so much in sharing the message he had received, after having lived as an exemplar of spiritual philanthropy, Bahá’u’lláh died peacefully in 1892.

Unity

We can all live together, regardless of faith...

In case you were wondering, I’m not a member of the Bahá’í faith.  I am a very liberal Jew in the Reformist tradition, reaching out to and learning from the words embodied in a variety of faiths.  I can see many merits in the Bahá’í philosophy of unity and caring for each other, and have noted these same exhortations in a variety of religions. I can see the value of Bahá’u’lláh’s desire to see all of us control our own destinies, ignoring those that tell us to live meaningless lives in pursuit of things that tarnish with time, and erasing the many boundaries that have been constructed to separate us from one another.

In celebration of the birth of the founder of their faith, Bahá’í houses of worship and national centers near you are holding special programs, artistic performances tonight, as well as offering to the public food and refreshments, kindness and fellowship.  If you are up to it, feel free to step through a new Gate and join them.  You just might find out a way to stay out of that box too…

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How to be Unforgettable

In What Day is it? on November 10, 2009 at 6:32 am

Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of Heaven, blossom the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the Angels.   ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Early Stories Surrounding the Forget-Me-Not

knight-bride

The tragic knight and his love

Today is National Forget-Me-Not Day. One of the many stories surrounding the origin of the Forget-Me-Not name is that during the Medieval Ages, a knight picked a handful of the tiny flower bordering a river, and while doing so slipped into the deep waters.  While sinking due to the weight of his armor, he held out a handful of the flowers to his love and asked her to please not forget him.

In ancient Germanic legends, when God was creating everything and providing names for it all, a tiny blue flower, afraid it would be missed during such a lengthy endeavor, called out “Forget Me Not!”  In Christian lore, Jesus wished that his mother Mary would always be remembered, so he passed his hand over the ground, and the tiny blue flower appeared everywhere.

The tradition of using the Forget-Me-Not as a symbol of remembrance continued well into the 20th Century, where in Newfoundland officials performed ceremonies in remembrance of those that died in battle using the flower.  To this day, millions rejoice at receiving the Forget-Me-Not due to their special significance and romanticized symbolism.

What is the Forget-Me-Not?

forget-me-nots

The Forget-Me-Not

The Forget-Me-Not plant (also known as Scorpion Grass,) belongs to the genus Myosotis, which has over 50 different varieties of the flowering plant.  Blue is the most popular (and traditional) color; however, there are a rainbow of colors to choose from.  The Woods Forget-Me-Not actually changes colors as it matures, going from pink to blue.

There are such an incredible variety in the world of flowers, replete with heavenly scents and eye-catching colors, exotic shapes and textures.  None of these are the Forget-Me-Not.  Among all of the flora that could’ve been chosen for such a meaningful and timeless name, why is this simple, flat, 1 inch small 5-petal flower given such an honor?  As legend had it, was it simply because it spoke up during the naming process and made itself known?

How Can We Be Unforgettable?

eyes

What makes us unforgettable?

Before we get into my theory on how the lowly Forget-Me-Not maintains its special position in our hearts, I’d like to talk a little about how you yourself can be “unforgettable” to others, whether making friends, working with others, in a relationship, or even here in Social Media.  Many of the principles for each are similar and useful, with a few exceptions.

  1. Learn the value of good (but not overt) eye contact when meeting and talking to others.  Match the amount of time you gaze into another’s eyes by how long they are comfortable returning it, so as to not appear you are prying or critical. A friendly and warm gaze shows that you are comfortable in another’s presence, and will do wonders toward making them comfortable back.
  2. Smile, smile, smile.  Smiling belies happiness, and people like to be around those that appear content with life.  I’m talking genuine smiles, not the Stepford Wives brand. When we see those around us exuding happiness, we tend to feel more comfortable in the environment.  After all, if you aren’t stressing things, why should I?  Be positive in your interactions and outlook, and others will want to be near you!
  3. When in conversation, make sure to spend a greater amount of time listening carefully to the other person than talking.  Oh I know your voice is soothing, lilting, positively delightful. But pay rapt attention to the other person, and do not allow inner (or outer) distractions to control you, so that the person you are conversing with feels important in your eyes. With more important concepts, make sure to repeat back in your own words what has been said, asking meaningful questions as needed.  A careful listener is valued in the life of those around you, and will be sought out for conversation.
  4. Try to avoid verbal criticism as a method of pointing out the shortcomings of others. Try to explain things in such a way that others figure out what they need to change on their own. Rather than feeling criticism from you, others will feel that you are helping them grow through simply knowing you.  Your friends know they are not perfect, and want to know they are accepted in your eyes.
  5. Keeping office codes in mind, dress in a way that will make you stand out in the crowd, whether it be through a strong color or beautiful tie or jewelry. Use a desirable perfume or cologne, one that will make others want to smell you one more time… There’s a reason that really good scents cost a pretty penny, but don’t go overboard unless you can afford it!
  6. conversation

    Are you interacting in an unforgettable way?

    When introducing ideas in a meeting, make sure you are not throwing out too much information at once, or you risk people forgetting who said what. You won’t like it if someone else is given credit for your good idea, so properly pace the information, while listening to (and responding to) the feedback of others.  By interacting during the meeting, you increase the number of people who remember who they spoke with about the idea.  Good presentations will make them (and you) memorable.

  7. Keep what you say simple and clear. The use of slogans or the coining of phrases always helps people remember your words. Political signs are short and sweet for a reason… And like the same political sign being repeated in every other yard, be sure to find novel ways to remind people of your ideas, lest they forget who came up with them in the first place.
  8. Be thoughtful and generous.  Keep a calendar of dates that are important to those around you, and remember to mention them as they occur, including birthdays, anniversaries and other special events. Small gifts that show you know some basic preferences of your coworkers and friends will go a long way toward them remembering how much you cared, long after the gift is given.
  9. Compliment others, in a judicious manner. Don’t over-do it, but be sure to keep a careful eye for what accomplishments are meaningful in your friends, family or coworkers’ lives, and be ready with that congratulations or pat on the back.

Why weigh the beauty of one flower to another?  ~ Chad Lilly @icpchad

How to be Unforgettable in Social Media

I realize that the 9 rules above not only fail to be all-inclusive, but also may not be easily interpreted for use in the conversational arena of Social Media.  So here’s my take…

  1. If you are including a photo of yourself as your avatar, make sure it makes eye contact with the audience.  Sideways looks just make you look distracted by something.  Make your photo interesting but unique to your own personality.  Make sure that you are smiling in your photo, in order to bring others into you and and your story.
  2. Spend more time reading and responding to other’s comments on FaceBook and Twitter than talking about yourself.  You’ll get a much bigger response from saying something nice about another’s comment than telling your own story.  If you are successful with this form of interaction, your followers and friends will be much more open to what you have to say, too.
  3. Don’t correct another’s spelling or grammar. Spend some time trying to decipher it, and give them time to figure it out themselves.  Someone else more anal retentive will likely swoop in for the phonetical kill, while you get to be viewed as patient…
  4. Don’t repeat the same thing over and over again in order to gain attention on something of value to you.  Again, spend a greater portion of your time responding to others, and they will forward on your information in appreciation of you, ten times more than your work.  Be engaged in the lives of others, and they will engage in yours.
  5. Try to keep your comments down to 120 characters, especially in Twitter, leaving plenty of space for others to “retweet” it.  Many will simply pass up the retweet when they see it won’t fit.
  6. Keep track of the special days and events in the lives of those you interact with.  You know, you can put your Social Media friend’s birthdays in your Outlook calendar too…
  7. Be yourself, and stay consistent with your message. If your interest is food, then by all means share recipes and cooking techniques.  If you are into acting, then seek out those also interested, and provide up-t0-date information to budding stars.  Create a beautiful blog and let everyone know what you know, in your own unique style.  Stick to it, take the time to be knowledgeable, and always find a way to add your own unique flavor to your information.  Never lose yourself in the message.

What We Share In Common With the Forget-Me-Not

My theory about why Forget-Me-Nots have persisted in holding such a meaningful place in our hearts, as ambassador to loving memory? Word-of-mouth marketing.

forgetmenotlaura

We can become unforgettable too...

If you are successful in becoming unforgettable to just one person, he will extol your virtues far and wide to others. Stories will be told about you, people will wonder how they can connect with you, to spend time in your presence. The legend of the Forget-Me-Not began with one story, told by one person to another. The story was meaningful, served a purpose, made us feel good….

If you have the confidence to accept that others appreciate you and that you can deserve such accolades, you will not fear spreading your influence further, coloring the lives of others with your good traits.  The Forget-Me-Not  spreads itself easily when allowed, taking over fields with its colorful glory. It does this quietly and without regret, because it can…. And its fans help plant it further, to ensure its presence in their lives.

The Forget-Me-Not has gained acclaim not because it is the most glorious of all flowers. No, its hues are muted, its size small, its beauty paled, harboring no intoxicating fragrance.  The physical traits of the Forget-Me-Not did not bring it fame; its countenance deserves no great note. Rather, this simple flower is handed to lovers far and wide because of how we feel about it, because of the history we have created for it, its stories we repeat, and its beautiful (yet tragic) myths. Take note of this, as it is not important from whence you came, or how you appear. By following a few simple positive rules when interacting with those around us, we too can become unforgettable…

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Giving Wooxie a Look

In Social Media on November 6, 2009 at 6:40 am
wooxie_main

Main page on Wooxie

There have been a number of websites that have tried their hand at replacing Twitter as the next best thing since, well, Twitter.  Many have fallen short,  providing a user experience that was lacking, and disappearing into the social elephant graveyard.  I recently was invited to try my hand at Wooxie, and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

Wooxie, a micro- and macro-blogging site created by Jeff Knize, is what Twitter should’ve been from the start, integrating within it features that the popular micro-blogging site has decided to leave up to 3rd-party apps such as Twitpic, Twitlonger, TinyUrl, Tweetdeck and others.  Remember back in September when Twitter went down for awhile (the Twitterpocalypse,) and everyone began searching for alternatives?  Although Wooxie does not have a great deal of users on board, it gained a significant following during that time.  And to be honest, most returned happily to Twitter when it came back up.  But you never know…

I’m going to tell you my experience with Wooxie, Pros and Cons, and perhaps you’ll consider creating an account and helping to get the party started…

PROS:

macro_blogging

The macro-blogging feature of Wooxie.

155 vice 140 characters – You’ll be pleasantly suprised to find 15 more characters to say what is on your mind in Wooxie.  How many times did you need just a few more keystrokes to make it all work, judiciously slaughtering your comment with the use of u, &, and vowel-less words? Knize says that his team determined that around 155 characters is the “sweet spot” for microbloggers to say what they need.

Macro-blogging – for those times when you need more room to say it, Wooxie incorporates a macro-blogging feature allowing 240 – 1,440 characters for the comment.  You no longer have to break up your tweet into many little ones, or log into 3rd party apps such as Twitlonger to make the story juicier. Just click on Wooxie’s Go Macro button and you’ll be given some extra space! Dude, if you still have problems with it, get a blog!

wooxie_categories

Interest Categories in Wooxie

Interest Categories – Rather than guessing or relying on tweets and profile information to find new, interesting people to follow, you can identify yourself using interest categories.  In your profile settings you can include yourself in up to 15 interest categories (there are 35 offered, including Social Media, Animals and Pets, Music, Family, Food, Video Games, Health and Wellness.)  Others can search by those categories and find you.

Searching for others from any of these categories is easy, sort of like a Lists feature, months before Twitter got it worked out.  Rather than relying on how others have categorized you, Wooxie allows users to determine that for themselves.  And whenever you are looking at someone’s username, Wooxie will tell you whether he or she shares your interests based on having similar categories chosen.

To change which of the 15 allowed categories you belong to, simply visit the Settings tab and check or uncheck the boxes as desired.  If the categories don’t properly define  you, then do so in your profile and through what you say…  See CONS below regarding a search feature, however.

Wooxie’s founders say that the categories feature will help its users avoid spammers, although I can see spammers in all categories waiting to be chosen by those that don’t take the time to look at what they say over time before following them.  Judicious use of the unfollow feature should take care of this.

wooxie_photos

Wooxie Photos and Albums

Built-in Photo Sharing and Albums – Wooxie not only allows you to upload images into your own integrated image library, you can even categorize the images into a simple personal or business album.  No longer will you need to visit Twitpic, YFrog or Twitgoo to house (and share) those pics of your trip to Hawaii or new puppies.  You can put new pics in and share them immediately as part of the interface (looks a little like Brizzly as it shows the images inline,) or you can simply upload them into one of your albums without sharing, and share them when you are ready at a later date.

Twitter and Facebook update integration – You can share your “Woofs” with your other social media accounts by providing Wooxie access to them.  As long as your Twitter login information matches your Wooxie information, you can tweet as you normally do on Twitter through the Wooxie interface, and even update your status on FaceBook simultaneously. See CONS about this feature.

Private or Public “Woofing” – A bit on the shy side? You can protect your comments from the eyes of others, sharing only with those that you allow to follow you, or go fully public with the details of your life, by choosing what you prefer in the Settings tab.

Rewoofing – Similar to the RT feature found only in 3rd party Twitter applications such as TweetDeck, Wooxie integrates a Rewoof (RW) one-click feature. See CONS for limitations on this feature.

wooxie_urls

Wooxie's URL Shortener

Integrated URL-Shortener – No bit.ly, ow.ly, or tinyurl accounts or systems in order to obtain a shorter link for those incredibly long blog post URLs.  Wooxie has a built-in URL shortener.  Although the addition of http://url.wooxie.com in front of each shortened URL is a full 8 characters longer than the bit.ly shortening system, with the additional 15 characters you get in Wooxie, it’s really not a loss… See CONS

Profiles and Backgrounds – As to be expected in social media accounts, you have the ability to customize with your own personal avatar, chosen color schemes, and canned or customized background images (700 kb max with jpg or gif support.)

Featuring Fans or Followers – you can feature either one of your “fans” who follow you, or one of the users you are following.  These will show up on your main page, telling everyone who visits who you think are especially great or interesting.  It’s easy to add them and take them back off later. See CONS about this one.

Replies, Favorites and Private Messages – Wooxie has been careful in including all of the best features of Twitter, including the ability to see who has mentioned you, the ability to save comments as favorites to review later, and the ever-necessary private messaging feature, so you can talk without others reading.

wooxie_adsense

The Google AdSense Interface

Google Adsense – Create an AdSense account, and you can make money as others visit your page and click on the advertisements there.  See CONS.

CONS:

Where are all of the people? This is a killer, and has to be addressed through marketing. Get the users there to talk with each other, and it will grow…

Search Feature? – This interface is in dire need of a search box allowing one to search for users by what they’ve said or what is written in their profile.  The category, username or name choices are severely limited.  I understand the desire to find someone with similar interests, but I want to define the keywords that make for that interest.

No Commenting in the RW (Rewoof) Feature – The Wooxie RW feature falls short in that unlike the very popular Tweetdeck, it does not allow for you to add some extra commentary prior to submitting the rewoof.  To add your own commentary to the RW, you are left copying and pasting.  In other words, it’s like what Twitter is moving to…..

Ads? Really? – The integration of Google’s Adsense is interesting and I am sure desirable to some, but for the rest of us, it might get a bit annoying, especially if the ads make their way into the longer comments and/or pictures sent out, so I hope that it stays on the profile page only, or it will probably backfire… Honestly, I don’t think anyone is going to click on ads on someone’s profile page, but for big players like Mashable, Google Ads just might bring in a small but tidy income.

No “Block” Feature – This is a biggie for some. You can unfollow users in Wooxie and no longer see what they have to say, but they can still contact you by addressing you directly. How do you leave that one out, guys?  It’s a must-have, to prevent bullying in the least…

wooxie_featured

Wooxie Featured Section

Twitter and FaceBook Integration One-Way – You can update your social media accounts, but replies won’t get sent back to Wooxie. But we are used to this, as Twitter does not grab back replies in FaceBook to sent updates.

Featuring Fans or Followers Limited – Although you can highlight these individuals, it would be nice to state why they are being highlighted. Perhaps a statement could show up when you hover your cursor over their picture?

URL Shortening not Tracked – Those of us who want to see how successful our link retweeting action is, would seriously like to see a tracker for the shortened Wooxie URLs.

After reading all of this, why not try out Wooxie for yourself? Go ahead, create an account using the same login information as Twitter, and give it a whirl. Lend your voice for awhile and let’s see if we can kick this party into gear.  The interface needs some additional work, so consider it to be in Beta form. If you decide Twitter is where you need to stay, at least you have a placeholder in Wooxie if things take off for them, too.  As for me, I was able to obtain the username Steve.  Very cool, if this thing takes off, I get to be the Steve…. Ha.

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Men Make Dinner Day

In What Day is it? on November 5, 2009 at 12:06 pm
retro_man_cooking

What is that incredible smell?!?

For the women reading this, November 5th is National Men Make Dinner Day.  It is also known affectionately as National What The Heck is That on My Plate Day, National Why Are There So Many Dishes in the Sink! Day, and so forth.

Take some time after reading this, find your significantly manly other’s cell phone number, and happily dial it so that you can tell him the GOOD NEWS!  Just make sure you have finished reading first, as there are a number of rules involved with this uniquely dangerous holiday.  You will want to become knowledgeable on them prior to the negotiations with him, lest you wind up being provided a less-than-desirable offering from the kitchen.

Rules for Men make Dinner Day

1. The meal is dinner, and served sometime between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. prompt.

2. Ambience is required, including (but not limited to) decent and clean dish, glass and flatware, napkins, and a form of desirable table decor (candles, placemats, centerpiece, etc.)

man-cooking

Setting a fine example, men...

3. Table must be cleaned and dry prior to serving the dishes.

4. There must be a minimum of 2 items on the plate. It is desired that at least one fully cooked vegetable and starchy item be provided.  Meat is optional, in that there are a growing number of vegetarians…

5. The foods provided must be cooked, in a stove, on a pan or grill, or using a pot. Microwaving is allowed for the vegetables only.

6. The main dish must have a minimum of 4 ingredients, and found in a published cookbook or Internet site of decent repute.

7. Nudity is optional, and only allowed when welcome.  If bacon is involved, nudity is not recommended during the cooking of the meal…  A decent shirt, socks and trousers is strongly suggested. Aprons are optional, but certainly welcome both during the cooking and serving portion of the meal.

8. Foods cooked must be of a nature deemed desirable by those being served, as drawn from personal experience.  If you are unsure, you MUST ask your woman what she wants!

9. It is desired that the food be served on serving plates or trays, with proper implements for serving.  Service for two only allows for the food to be placed on the plates, but offset by appropriate ambience, including candles and preferably softer music.

10. My strongest recommendation is to clean up after dinner is over, including the table, plates, counters and cooking surfaces.  In most instances, this produces more of a positive reaction than the dinner itself.

Meal Suggestions

emeril

Oh, my hero....

Male Kitchen Colleagues: Search your home or the Internet high and low for a good cookbook, and find something that you have identified ingredients for, and you know your mate will love.  Shop for what is needed, now.   There are so many incredible and easy dinner recipes on the Web!

Here are a few sites to get you started, from some of the most influential chefs in the World and right here on Twitter.  Some are simple to follow, while others will require a more experienced man in the kitchen…

Mario Batali – Incredible Italian recipes! Fuggedaboudit!

Bobby Flay – BBQ, Dude!

Gordon Ramsay – Shut up and cook!

Paul Bocuse – Fine French dining… Bon Appetit!

Chef Andre’s Recipes courtesy of KathyIreland.com

Emeril’s Recipes – BAM!!!

Jamie Oliver (The Naked Chef) – Not what you think…

Gary Arbaugh – wonderful variety of easy recipes, sure to please your significant other!

Visit back here tomorrow, and let me know how it went…

Steve Woods

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