Blog Archives

Another End Brings New Beginnings

I often say that everything happens for a reason and at the time it should be happening.  But what I have found with my schoolwork over this past year-and-a-half is how the uncanny unfolding of situations at work parallel and seem to be answered by my school work.  This class was no exception.  For the past year, I have worked to try and create a blog just for my own department and for various political reasons it has not been very successful.  Fortunately this class has brought a number (too many to count) ah-ha moments. For example, developing a sound social media strategy is vital in order for organizations to survive in today’s digital world.  But the miss to this strategy is how we can also create a social media strategy as it relates to internal organizational communication.  Something I am now working to formalize with my role.

Just like the following image, however, aligning social media tools can be just as challenging to solving a Rubik’s cube.  Interestingly enough, the Rubik’s cube was actually designed by a professor to help his students look at how you solve an objects structural problem and solve individual problems without the whole object falling apart (Wikipedia).  The same goes for developing an internal organizational social media strategy.  While organizations may have entire strategies to build around this topic, it is looking at each situation that needs to be solved and understanding how that situation and solution fits into the whole strategy.

Rubiks

On that note, a sweet melody that brings to you my…

Final Paper Abstract
Many marketing and communication experts have defined this time in our history as Web 2.0.  It is the time in our digital history that highlights how organizations are required by societal norms and expectations to use social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to communicate and connect with their consumers.  Kids, adults, students, even grandparents are using social media channels to connect with each other on a daily (sometimes even hourly) basis.  But the use of social media for organizations to communicate and connect with employees is uncertain and volatile.  In fact, in a study completed by Towers Watson (2013) the results concluded that just over 50-percent of companies are using social media to connect with employees in some way.  There seems to be little evidence and research into the social media structures and strategy for internal organizational communication.  Therefore, this paper will look at the social media channels that could be used to build an internal social media communication strategy for an organization and to begin identifying the effectiveness of these social media tools and tactics. 

Whew – nearly all of that in one breath.  I will say that the research aspects of this final paper have been tedious, exhausting, and exhilarating.  It can be like finding a needle in a haystack when there is little research out there.  But what has been an interesting challenge is to take the knowledge that has been built around social media and decipher and pull from it how internal communications could benefit from these tools and tactics.

tedius

And although this semester is coming to a quick close, the work around this class and this final research paper will drive my career and school work.  With that, while I could probably write to you for hours on this subject, I’m afraid I must bid you adieu.  Thank you all for such a wonderful semester.  Your thoughtful comments and intriguing posts truly provided for some great thought provoking conversations.

Feliz Navidad.  Happy Holidays.  Merry Christmas.  Happy Hanukah.  And to new beginnings.

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A Career Primer

A few weeks back, I expressed my desire to work in freelance technical communication.  Stacey Pigg;s piece, Coordinating Constant Invention:  Social Media’s Role in Distributive Work, puts the mechanics of that desire together.

I have a blog.  I am not very good about keeping up with it.  I have a Twitter account.  I am not so good with following up with that either.  I have read a dozen books on how to harness social media to further my career.  Stacey Pigg’s piece did a nice job of simplifying that.

Pigg’s ideas were nothing new, but it was helpful to read those ideas in a scholarly text.  While I can set my blog off to the side for personal reasons, her article reminded of all the practical reasons I should keep writing.

Recently, I parred down my book collection.  I had an abundance of business and marketing books, most were about ten years old.  I tossed all the business and marketing books.  Those books appeared outdated but, in reality, business is business.  The PR and business strategies were different, yet they continuously tell you to find ways to stay in your audience’s view.  You have to stay fresh, current and visible.  Dave’s “daily grind” is all about staying relevant.  He is a living and breathing personal PR machine.  The blog isn’t just to write and it certainly isn’t to entertain.  While the “traditional” advice in those book was useless in light of social media, it still has many similarities.

Dave made his work visible.  In many ways, his blog simplifies how a business, or in this case an individual promotes himself.  His blog is a portfolio of his writing.  It also served the purpose that an ad would by reaching his consumer base.  Even better, he is cultivating his contact list without the expense or effort that a direct mail campaign would require 20 years ago.

 

As this semester winds to a close, I am excited to return to my blog, re-experience Twitter and develop my social media from the stand point of my career versus my “personal” life.  What I let slip away in my private life, is not what I would do for my future or career.

I shared the above article with a friend of mine.  We both identified with Dave’s frantic multi-tasking.  We had never discussed this stuff before but it turns out we both have a ritual every morning.  This occurs whether we are working on our blogs, working, writing school papers, etc.  We both log on and sign into our various email accounts.  We also check back throughout the day, even if we can’t do anything about them.  Dave did reinforce our idea that you have to multi-task and jump around to be successful and get followers.

I loved this article and thought the author put what we need for success in a nutshell.  I did find one thing humorous.  I didn’t tell my friend any of my impressions about this article.  I sent it to her with a simple question:  “What do you think?”  She replied, “In this day in age—even if you don’t have a blog—don’t we all toggle to our social media a hundred times a day?”  Social media and email is part of many of our lives, just like getting dressed for the day.  We are always “connected.”

Organizational Ethos in Crises Management

Crises Management in the Shadows of Self-Promotion

Melody Bowden’s Tweeting an Ethos:  Emergency Messaging, Social Media, and Teaching Technical Communication focused on the ethos that organizations encourage through their social media posting.  Her viewpoint that such groups have a duty to put their audience’s needs first was eye opening.  Meeting the reader’s expectations contributes to the organizational ethos, but Bowden also suggested that organizations have some responsibility in facilitating an informed community.

I think that most of us anticipate that an organization or corporation, when communicating via non-cyber media, will put their own agenda first.  Oh, sure… We expect them to spin their message so there is the appearance of truly caring about the audience; but, we still notice the shameless plugs, the product placement, or the solicitation for a donation.  We get glimpses of what the organization is really after and usually it isn’t just to be helpful, devoid of an ulterior motive.

Bowden’s study revealed that in a time of crises the Twitter posts by both CNN and the American Red Cross had the highest concentration of tweets fall into the category of “self-referential posts designed to promote the organizations’ programming and accomplishments” (P. 46).  I am not surprised.   But reading about Bowden and her student’s surprise, made me reexamine how I think technical communicators and the groups they represent should present themselves in social media and why social media is different.

Questioning How Social Media is Different 

She suggests that, for the sake of ethos, organizations should not focus so heavily on self-promotion.  She explains, “Technical communication scholars need to continue to study…how these forums can be used to promote a safe and informed citizenry as well as the objectives of corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies” (P. 50).  I find it interesting that she mentions “a safe and informed citizenry.”  This statement seems to be referencing the internet as a community.   This “community” concept has been a subject of controversy in many of our readings.  So, if we accept the internet as a type of “community” does this really make these groups responsible for fostering it?  Or, is she only referring to the specific real world citizens of the community where the crises is occurring?

Additionally, if she is saying that organizations should abandon self-promotion to focus on the needs of an actual non-digital community in crises, then why don’t we have those expectations of the communication that occurs in those communities offline?  Why is this study about the organizational ethos as it applies to social media and not championing organizational ethos as it pertain to all media?  For instance, I lived in Florida for the last 28 years.  I am no stranger to hurricane season.  The television stations, newspapers, radio stations, local organizations and even home improvement stores, grocery stores and convenience stores would get involved in storm preparedness outreaches.  And when disaster struck, they had a plan for reaching out to the community, but you could always see the company promoting itself alongside those efforts.  It was expected.

I am also wondering how an organization can afford to not take advantage of these situations. Perhaps they should not be so overt in their self-promotion, but they may not have this exact audience in front of them except in times of crises.  If they don’t get their message to them now, when will they?  The audience is using the organization for something they need.  Why can’t the organization saturate it in their own message?  Annoying?  Yes.  A bit uncouth?  Probably.  But expected?  Understandable? Kind of.

An Inspiring Future

Before anyone misunderstands my Devil’s advocate type thought process, I am not disparaging or arguing her ideas.  Bowden opened my eyes to a whole set of possibilities.  I actually like the idea of a technical communicator as a facilitator of community who provides a service-oriented message to the reader.  The questions about how to go about it and how to preserve ethos are fascinating.  I think serving the community while somehow satisfying the objectives of an organization sounds both challenging and inspiring.  The questions that I have shared are ones that I continue to play around with in my head.  I rather like this new vision of where technical writing can go and I look forward to seeing how these concepts evolve.

How to run a business as a technical communicator

Reading through various articles in the Technical Communication Quarterly, I am finding good nuggets of information on how to run my business on social media, as a technical communicator. Of course, the information that I found can be applied to one’s personal life, but since technical communicators are hoping to make a career with their writing, I will reiterate these points below, focusing solely on the business aspects.

Keep busy with social media

According to Ferro and Zachry’s article, “Technical Communication Unbound: Knowledge Work, Social Media, and Emergent Communicative Practices,” when using social media platforms for your business, there needs to be a “real-time monitoring of texts” and that you should be “monitor[ing] the technological landscape and be ready to integrate emergent types of online services” (p 7). Customers today expect a business to respond immediately to their messages or posts online, and if they do not get that, some of them will use social media to say how horrible the company’s customer service is. Depending on the business, responding to customers can be a full-time job.

Now, from analyzing other businesses’ social media platforms, I saw how they tried out new social media platforms, which they sometimes abandoned when either the company decided that they were not getting enough traffic from it, or they did not fully understand how to use that new platform to extend their business persona. It is always a good idea to try new technologies, as you never know which one will suit your business best. Once you try a new platform, even if you abandoned it, never take it down. I would suggest putting that abandoned platform on your website as a link and naming it an archive. While the content may be old to most, for those who are just coming across it now, it will be new to them.

Stay positive and audience-centered

Always keep your postings and messages positive. This way your company seems like a happy place and people will feel good reading the posts. There is already so much negative things on social media and elsewhere that reading something positive can boost someone’s day. Additionally, when a company posts a positive post, people are more likely to respond to it, as people want to continue this positive feeling. Ferro and Zachry wrote that “contributors…are motivated by the positive feelings associated with participating in a larger community” (p 9). I have certainly noticed in my business postings that if I write something positive, I receive more likes and more comments. (And if I post a positive video clip, I receive more sales).

By staying positive in posts, you are more likely to have “good sense, good moral character, and goodwill,” which Bowdon explained in her article, “Tweeting an Ethos: Emergency Messaging, Social Media, and Teaching Technical Communication,” is what you need to do to write good posts on social media (p 35). By focusing on these ideas, it makes sense that your posts will then be audience-centered, because you want to help your audience with whatever information that you think that they actually need, instead of just your company’s self-promotion.

If you can always put your customer first, thinking about what information that they are seeking, your company will come across positively by being helpful and customer-driven. I know that this is something I will have to work on too, as several of my own business postings are of self-promotion instead of being customer-centered.

Conclusion

Technical communicators can find jobs within a company or use their skills for their own businesses to ensure that their customers are happy because of the positive message that they read, their questions and concerns are addressed promptly, and that they always find audience-centered postings with the information that they are seeking instead of just a company’s self-promotion. On any social media platform, you can provide a link to your website, so there really is no need for self-promotion anyway. Many businesses, including my own, should always evaluate their own postings periodically to make sure that their messages are coming across positive and audience-centered. Moreover, we should continue to look new ways to interact and gain new customers through new technologies, as not everyone joins the same social media platforms, so it is good for business to try them all to see what works best for them.

A Millennials Experience with LinkedIn

7923280978_e06c9d5532

LinkedIn is a powerful tool to help professionals connect and stay connected. But treating it as anything more than just another tool in a job seekers utility belt is a mistake. While it has all the bells, whistles, and name recognition, I find that people’s experiences and success with the site very greatly. Contrary to what they may claim, LinkedIn in not the golden ticket to your dream job. Rather than an automatic connection to top recruiters, it is a tool people can use to gain a competitive advantage in the workforce market. But is it really meant for everyone?

Be Your Own Biggest Cheerleader

It’s not enough to create a profile and hope that the right person stumbles upon it. You have to be an active proponent and really sell yourself. This means regularly updating your profile, posting relevant articles and content. But with two to three people joining per second, the network is louder and more crowded than ever before. It’s hard to have your voice heard when it easily can get lost in the chaos.

Who is LinkedIn for?

While it may be a good tool for more experienced individuals mid career, it is extremely difficult for younger generations, including myself to use to help start a career. A recent survey of 23 major social networks ranks LinkedIn as the “oldest” social network, with an average age of 44.2 years old (Tumblr, for example had an average age of 34.6 years). So, while 80 million Generation Y users log on to social media daily, only 23% of Millennials are using LinkedIn. Therefore it makes sense that the majority of the content posted is geared towards more experienced users.

While I may be smart enough to be among the 23% of millennials who do use it, the types of positions listed aren’t for someone in my situation. I found that I was generally was either overeducated or under qualified for the vast majority of the positions listed. While I still applied to positions that interested me, the “1-3” or “3-5” years of related experience many employers required were a major problem. How am I supposed to get my foot in the door if employers are requiring experience upfront? There was no good way to win and little incentive to continually engage in this site.

Unfortunately, this is a large problem across all types of industries. Despite having the drive and ambition, many young graduates simply can’t get a start in the field of their study. Employers want young talent with experience, but with today’s job market they are able to employ experienced professionals just as easily, making it easier for established professionals to move up the corporate ladder, not newbies who have little if any substantial professional experience.

Making New Connections

Making new connections sounds great, but it’s difficult to create new meaningful connections. While relationships certainly matter, it is hard for younger generations to make connections that are actually worthwhile. I could reconnect with my past co-workers from Culvers or my lifeguarding days, but how helpful will those connections really be? If I am trying to break into a certain industry, these are not the people I need to target. Rather, I need to connect with notable people in the company as well as recruiters. Simply adding Bill Gates on LinkedIn probably won’t help me get a job at Microsoft. Similarly, sending inbox messages or stalking recruiters will not help generate a lead. There is a fine line between extending your professional reach and seeming desperate.

A Different Animal

Perhaps LinkedIn is less of a true social network and more like a job board with social components. If younger generations are using Facebook more, why not try to turn the tables and revamp its strategy? If Facebook is the destination, why not transform it into something more? Or, why hasn’t LinkedIn paired with Facebook to become just that? Creating a Facebook app that feeds informed networking and job opportunities to people could be a valuable tool for users- especially younger generations. It could combine forces and become a super social network, improving its strength and recognition.

Conclusion

But, after all the smokes and mirrors you can find a platform than can be quite useful in the proper hands. With over 94% of recruiters using LinkedIn, it would be a waste to dismiss it entirely. It may not appear to be as beneficial in the short term, creating a profile has the potential to connect to others later down the line. While I believe LinkedIn’s greatest asset is its ability to help maintain and foster new professional relationships, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Building professional relationships can be exceedingly helpful, but at its core, these relationships already need to already be in place to be beneficial.

Is it a Small World After All?

SmallWorldOfCute

What do the Queen of England, a cabbie in New York and a second grade teacher in Italy have in common? No, this isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. A solution truly exists. Believe it or not, but they are all related by six degrees of separation. In other words,everyone in the world somehow connected through a chain of six people. This connection demonstrates the “small world phenomenon” coined by Stanley Milgram.

Milgram’s Experiment 1976

In 1976, Stanley Millgram conducted an experiment in which he randomly selected 300 participants in the Midwest to deliver an information packet to a stockbroker Boston. The only rule was that they had to send it to one person who they think would get the package closer to the destination. While only 64 of the 300 packets actually made it to Boston, they found that on average “path length” was 5.5. This led them to conclude that six steps connect everyone, and the small world phenomenon was born.

Milgram in Cyber Space

Fast-forward twenty-five years and several studies have demonstrated that this phenomenon remains the same. For instance, a 2010 study by the New York Times discovered that five steps connect 98% of people on Twitter. Similarly, Jure Leskovec and Eric Horvitz examined 240 million users for the average path of an instant messaging service, Microsoft Messenger. While the results of their study found that the average path length was 6.6, a number slightly higher than Millgram’s study, the results are shockingly similar. In his book Net Smart, Howard Rheingold states, “Social cyberspaces… are small world networks because they are electronic extensions of human social networks.” In other words, these networks of smaller networks closely mirror the connections in our everyday lives.

Criticisms

However, can we generalize the connection between online and offline contexts? Online, people may be more apt to try because the consequences are lower. Because they can hide behind the protection of their screens, perhaps they were more likely to take on a bolder persona and reach out.

Additionally, the extent to which instant messaging is a marker of a relationship may be blown out of proportion. Next, I believe the term “relationship” may have been too loosely defined. While I can strike up a conversation with my garbage man, does that really count him as being within my social network?  I think a similar offline study would need to be conducted to make stronger generalizations to compare Millgram to Leskovec and Horvitz.

Even more, the low completion rates of both studies should be noted. In Milgram’s study only a handful of letters made it to the target in Boston. Likewise, Leskovec and Horvitz. had to examine a staggering large number of participants to yield a small result of successful messages. Whether the reasons behind participants behavior stem from low motivation or a lack of connections, it is a broad claim to base an entire theory on such shaky evidence.

Lastly, USA Today found an unpublished archive sent to Milgram that revealed indicated low-income people’s messages didn’t go through. Subsequent studies investigating by Milgram found a low rate of completion as well as a social divide between racial groups.

Judith Kleinfeld, a professor psychology at Alaska Fairbanks University, went back to Milgram’s original research notes and found something surprising. It turned out, she told us, that 95% of the letters sent out had failed to reach the target. Not only did they fail to get there in six steps, they failed to get there at all. Milgram was a giant figure in his world of research, but here was evidence that the claim he was famously associated with was not supported by his experiments.

Rather than living in Milgram’s small world, we are living in a world where a select few elite and well-connected individuals reign. The rest of us are living in a “lumpy oatmeal” world looking through rose colored glasses.

Conclusion

In sum, there are a variety of reasons why we want to buy into the small world phenomenon. Perhaps the desire to feel connected to others makes us want to believe. Or maybe we want to believe in this urban myth for our own sense of security. Whatever it is, I think it needs to be reevaluated again. While our networks may reach not farther than we think, maybe it’s not a small world after all.

six-degrees

Wiki… Wikipe… Wikipedia!

Thriving online.  This brief, but astute concept really makes me step back and re-read it over and over again to really try and understand if it is even possible to thrive online.  In this day in age, when we are so seemingly inundated with information – how can we possible muddle through it all?

In reading the Net Smart How to Thrive Online by Howard Rheingold, there were two primary components that I really honed in on.  One of the primary concepts was this idea around attention literacy, which the phenomenon of multi-tasking and online activities in search of information.

For example as I was writing this blog post for this week, I was looking up a few thoughts on my end idea and while I had those pages up on Google Chrome, I went searching for what a used pop-up camper might cost (I just in fact had a conversation where I was thinking about possibly purchasing one from a friend).  I then went back to find more resources for my post, but then I started wondering – what if the camper is dingy inside?  Can I remodel a pop-up camper?  So I went online hunting to find if others had this same thought and what ideas they might have had in redoing their pop-up camper (as you’ll find below – there are some neat ideas out there).  I finally told myself I had to stop and get to writing my blog post or I was not going to get it done – but then I had to wonder about how I would pull the camper since my vehicle is clearly in a dark place, I would need something different in order to make that happen…

scatteredthoughts
Scattered thoughts (Source: Ironically from a site called Wikimedia)

This image – clearly marks this idea of gaining proper attention towards our online use.  But I think, even in my brief example, we can see how having an information genius at our fingertips can really have an impact on this natural “task switching” tendency we have as humans (Rheingold, 2014).

The second concept was equally as intriguing for me to ponder and that was around this idea of “crap detection” (Rheingold, 2014) on the internet.  As Rheingold put it, the rule of thumb for crap detection “is to make skepticism your default” (p. 77).

crap detector
Source: Natalie Dee

But as I read through these thoughts, one of the most interesting correlations I had was this idea of Wikipedia and interchanging that with crap detection.  Now I am assuming everyone reading this will know what Wikipedia is, but if not, it is essentially an online free encyclopedia tool.  One of the arguments that Rheingold makes in his book, is the idea of creating and developing online collaborative tools and social communities.  In fact, Rheingold goes on to say that “web-based tools are particularly important because wikis enable people to collaborate in ways that challenge basic assumptions underlying modern economic theory and contradict older stereotypes regarding human motivation to cooperate.”

This is even more thought provoking as we think about how Wikipedia is often viewed – especially in academia.  Without a doubt, Wikipedia is one of the most accessed online tools for gathering information, but we often here from professors that in academia world, Wikipedia is not a credible source.  In fact, even Wikipedia says that they are not as they state on their site, “citation of Wikipedia in research papers may be considered unacceptable, because Wikipedia is not considered a credible or authoritative source.”  One of the underlying concerns is the amount of editing rights people have – essentially anyone can go in there and edit it.

But what if it were a credible and authoritative source of information?  According to Rheingold, this online social network can in fact be a greater asset in terms of collective action.  And let’s not forget about the Encyclopedia books we had for year’s growing up.  I think I had the same Encyclopedia set in my house for over 15 years.  How is that useful and correct information?

But the big question is in the long-term, will Wikipedia become an established tool / credible source that can be used to collect accurate information?  Or do you think we will not ever feel like this would be a credible source from a social network perspective?

Technology and Social Commerce

One of the common themes I saw through the readings this week was technology. When I first started reading Spilka, it challenged the way I thought about what technology was. I alway thought technology was just the devices and the physical things I could hold in my hand or touch. In reality, Technology is more than that. It is the methods and tools that a society has developed in order to facilitate th solution of its practical problems.

Technology Definition

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/technology

The Digital Literacy book also defined Technology, but this definition was a bit clearer for me.

With this definition in my brain, it really helped my connect the readings from Spilka and Qualman. For the past few weeks I was having a hard time figuring out how these two books, written so different could be required for the same class and have readings assigned at the same time. I’m now starting to get it.

Spilka really laid the groundwork for the Qualman reading, specifically on Socialommerce. Dave Clark (who wrote the article in Spilka’s book), starts out by talking about Twitter and how it could be used. Qualman takes the concept of Twitter and other social media sites and expands on how people can use this technology for their purchases.

Socialommerce (as Qualman calls it) or Social Commerce is not new. Amazon and eBay are two examples of Social Commerce sites that have been around for a while. Both Amazon and eBay use your current browsing and search history to show you items that you might be interested in. That is the basic concept of Social Commerce. Social Commerce is really just allowing your friends/family/social media circles to help in purchasing items. Social Networks make it easier for people to provide information about what they purchased and why. This could be part of the reason Twitter could be so popular. 140 characters is easy to write about a purchase. That makes it really easy. In addition most online retailers allow you to share about what you bought and the savings you had.

someecards.com - I shop online to make it easier to brag about the savings on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook allows for applications to be created by third-party companies and integrated within Facebook. Companies will often time see a new idea from an exsting company or app and either try to purchase that app or create a new one that is better. TripAdvisor did that with their “Cities I’ve Visited.” They borrowed the idea from Where I’ve been, but allows for pinpointing cities that were visited instead of just countries. With the addition of “I’d like to visit” within the Cities Application, other companies can see where I want to go and advertise to me. Also, friends can see that and indicate if they’ve been there and if they would recommend going. This is also Social Commerce.

BroTip

http://www.brotips.com/3222

I used TripAdvisor (website, not application) for help in planning my trip to New Orleans/Alabama this week. It is good to see the reviews and itineraries of people who have been there about the things to do and things to avoid. I’m traveling with my mom who is still new to Facebook and social media, so she’s nervous about posting that we are taking this trip, so Social Media hasn’t helped.

Steve Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor has said “If you are not constantly evolving along with your customers you are doomed to fail.” Do you know any companies that need to follow that advice?

Thinking Critically: All that Twitters is Not Technological Gold

After last week’s immersion in Sherry Turkle’s cautionary tale (Alone, together), it’s kind of hard to return to the full-out celebration of all that is Twitter and technological glitter in Qualman’s Socialnomics. I thought I’d bridge the gap by first considering Dave Carlon’s discussion of “Shaped and Shaping Tools” in Digital Literacy (edited by Rachel Spilka).

Time and Space “Fixity”

The subtitle of Carlson’s piece is “The Rhetorical Nature of Technical Communication Technologies,” and in it he calls for technical communicators to “be critical,” to be rhetorically savvy in their use of new technological tools (p. 87). To study the rhetoric of technology, he offers four broad categories of scholarship: rhetorical analysis; technology transfer and diffusion; genre theory; and activity theory.

In his consideration of rhetorical analysis, he discusses the fact that Twitter “opens up both temporal and spatial fixity” because Twitter is not bound by either time or space (93). Early on in the chapter, he makes the point that Twitter can be “endlessly resorted and reorganized” because we have countless interfaces and points of entry.  I wasn’t entirely sure what that last idea meant, so I did some surfing and found this “Twitter Storm” piece by Tom Phillips on Buzz Feed http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/the-29-stages-of-a-twitterstorm).

http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/the-29-stages-of-a-twitterstorm

Tom Phillips gives a nice, humorous rundown about how Twitter can be “endlessly resorted and reorganized,” as Carlson suggests.
Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/the-29-stages-of-a-twitterstorm

I think it perfectly makes Carlson’s point about multiple interfaces and points of entry. You can enter the conversation at any point and, especially if you are someone  with a following, start the conversation all over again.

Even laggards, thankfully, can enter the conversation at any time!

But, just entering the conversation doesn’t make us critical thinkers with regard to technology, a point Carlson makes, Turkle makes, and even Qualman makes.

Genres as Regularizing Structures: PowerPoint and Prezi

For example, Carlson asks us as technical communicators to think more deeply about how technologies shape us and how we are shapers of technology. Consider his discussion of genre theory. He cites the work of Carolyn Miller (“Genre as social action”) that genres such as memos, reports, and manuals are not simply formats but rather they are “regularizing structures … that shape the work of members of organizations” (97). As example, Carlson cites the work of Yates and Orlikowski’s examination of PowerPoint “arguing that genres create expectations of purpose, content, participants, form, time, and place” (97) and become regularizing structures within organizations.

I’ve seen so many bad PowerPoint presentations (and I’ll bet you have, too), that I readily tried Prezi a few weeks ago simply on the barest glimpse of hope that, if it catches on, people might add a little zip to what otherwise turn out to be humongous snooze fests where we watch someone read from a screen.

Prezi, like PowerPoint is not simply a format, but rather it is a "regularizing structure." Source: http://prezi.com/your/

Prezi, like PowerPoint is not simply a format, but rather it is a “regularizing structure.”
Source: http://prezi.com/your/

Prezi does present a shift in perspective as Klint Finley from Tech Crunch points out: “For those not familiar, Prezi uses a map-like metaphor for creating presentations instead of a slideshow metaphor. This makes it possible to create non-linear presentations, or presentations that use spatial metaphors for organizing ideas, like mind maps.”  (techcrunch.com/2012/10/30/powerpoint-killer-prezi-launches-new-interface/.)

In my experience Prezi does offer a different way of organizing information, which might present a new rhetorical paradigm for presentations, but I actually think either platform could be used effectively.  If you’re not familiar with Prezi, you should visit their website (http://prezi.com/your/) and try it out.  I, a renowned technological “laggard,” taught myself in a couple of hours, so you know it must be pretty intuitive.

Cheerleading for cheerleading camp

The concept of “laggardness” brings me to Qulaman, who is always fun to read because, for one thing, he doesn’t laden himself with too much in the way of academic support.  But those are the two querulous impulses I always have when I read Socialnomics―timeliness and evidence.

In the first case, I always have an impulse to check out where the anecdotal evidence stands today. For example, Qualman spends a few pages (161-165) discussing Hulu’s success with delivering high-quality traditional television and movies and for employing an innovative advertising model. Yet, today’s news would suggest that what was true when this book was published is no longer true today.  You can read here about the company’s latest challenges: “5 ways new CEO Mike Hopkins Can Save Hulu” from Mike Wallenstein at Variety (http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/5-ways-new-ceo-mike-hopkins-can-save-hulu-1200735150/).

Hulu

A new CEO is being brought in to “save” Hulu, which suggests that it hasn’t sustained the success that Qualman wrote about in 2009.
Source: (http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/5-ways-new-ceo-mike-hopkins-can-save-hulu-1200735150/).

That doesn’t make what Qualman published in 2009 any less true, only outdated, and perhaps what makes it outdated could have bearing on the business strategies and choices Qualman extols.  Wallerstein’s advice to Hulu: 1. Get the owners rowing in the same direction 2. Pick―and stick with―a strategy. 3. Time to bid big against Netflix 4. If you’re going to do original programming, do it right. 5. Stop the bleeding.

The other problem, as others have pointed out on this forum, is that Qualman seems to rely a lot on anecdotal evidence.  His mother’s friend Betsy’s cheerleading camp (pp. 175-178) was probably pretty meaningful to Betsy, Qualman’s mother, and Qualman himself, but I didn’t find it either particularly informative or easy to follow.  What’s missing in Qualman’s analysis is that he can’t seem to direct us to broad conclusions based on quantifiable, reliable data. He can tell stories about this or that success or failure, but he’s not convincing in a broad, academically supportable sense.

Yet, I find him enormously persuasive much of the time, especially when he discusses  “finding the right balance between launching every possible idea through the door and ensuring they are not missing out on a great opportunity” (181). He actually lauds TripAdvisor for taking a “deep breath” and re-thinking their strategy with “Where I’ve Been” (p. 106). He also advises companies to “Take time to decide where you will be,” which is sort of the missing element in this 140-character, non-fixity world.

To “think critically,” as Dave Carlson encourages us, does take at least a little bit of time, the most valuable and rare commodity in this twittery, glittery world.

Bungee Jumping and Other Acts of Agility

The theme of this week’s readings, for me, was “be nimble!”

The rather sobering cautionary tale, “The Effects of Digital Literacy on the Nature of Technical Communication Work” by Stanley Dicks suggests that technical communicators must reposition, redefine, and sometimes re-educate themselves to become symbolic-analytic workers instead of commodity workers if they are to survive and thrive in the new post-industrial, globalized economy. Chapters 4 and 6 of Socialnomics suggests the same about companies and organizations who want to survive and thrive in the new marketplace.

Dicks’ discussion of the move to a support economy where the “customer will become the center of the support economy universe” (56) helped me to understand better the implications of the Web 2.0 technologies.  The customized, transparent, interactive world that customers and consumers are become accustomed to and indeed, are starting to expect, is driving the nature of work in many fields and determining what is and will be valued in the workplace.  Technical communicators have to determine and communicate how they are adding value to an organizations’ main mission.  They can do this by showing how they contribute to cost reduction, cost avoidance, revenue enhancement, and intangible values, none of which have traditionally been easy for technical communicators to do (61-62).

Another value of this weeks’ readings for me is Dicks’ discussion of management principles.  Although I’d heard about most of these principles, either formally or by osmosis, I hadn’t ever considered the degree to which they would affect the profession of technical communicators.  (I was a little thrown off by his explanation of the benefits to “employees” at the bottom of p. 64 until I realized this had to be a typo and meant “employers” – how could these benefit employees, I wondered!).

Probably the most interesting and enlightening discussion in Dicks was the explanation and implications of single sourcing work for technical communicators. I could see that this work could remove the “sense of accomplishment and pride that, for many technical communicators, is practically their only job satisfaction” (69).  I was thinking as I read it that creating the framework for all those “chunks” of information could be considered symbolic-analytic work and should contribute greatly to the value of the core mission, and it seems like Dicks did suggest some optimism on that point (69).

The Qualman chapters, as always, made for lively and engaging readings, and along with the supplemental site, are still very relevant.  I think he is most astute when discussing case histories such as the 2008 Obama campaign and making the case that Obama wouldn’t be president without social media.  Obama had such huge advantage over McCain in terms leveraging social media engagement―3.1 million vs. 614,000 fans on FB; 883,161 vs. 217,811 friends on MySpace, and 113,00 Twitter followers compared to 4,650 (62-63).  On the other hand, I would have liked to see more on his site discussing the 2012 election, but I only saw one article from March 29 asking “Who’s winning the social media race – Obama or the Republicans?”  It had a lot of numbers, but very little analysis, which was maybe the point.

The site features a lot of other content, and I bookmarked it to stay in touch.  My favorite this week is “Jimmy John’s: Serving Up Freaky Fast Tweets,”  by Kevin O’Connell.  Read it here: http://www.socialnomics.net/2013/09/27/jimmy-johns-serving-up-freaky-fast-tweets/. I’m mulling over how to enhance my “digital voice,” which I’d never even heard of just a few weeks ago…

On the other hand, the subject about which I find Qualman least persuasive, and this has come up in previous chapters, is that the digital world is making it possible for people to live their own lives rather than living vicariously through someone else’s:  “It is without question ‘cooler’ to say you are bungee jumping off a remote mountain pass overhang in New Mexico than updating your status with ‘I’m watching the latest adventure reality series’ “(122).  Anecdotally, I don’t see that at all.  In fact, according to a study last July, “Overall, we here in the U.S. spend roughly 20 percent of our time on personal computers liking, tweeting, pinning, whatever it is we do on Tumblr and other stuff on social media, and 30 percent of our time on our mobile devices doing the same” (Popkin).  Now, for all I know that is just replacing the television-watching, time-wasting black hole of the old days, but it doesn’t make me too optimistic about bungee-jumping.

bungee jumping

You can get this bungee-jumping simulator from Layernet.com on Amazon for 9.99 and avoid finding the nearest cliff to jump off of, which would be my preference, since I have a rather inordinate fear of heights.  Will “simulating” life go out with the brave new Internet world? Qualman optimistically hopes so. (http://www.amazon.com/Layernet-40394ping-Simulator-Jumping-Download/dp/B003YDXF2A)

As usual, I find him most persuasive when analyzing business and marketing strategies of the old versus new media, such as the “Referral Program on Steroids” (129).  His example of Amazon’s “network universe” versus the network of one’s preferred social media network was enlightening in showing how the “referral floodgates have been opened” (132).  So, I think that is my challenge in becoming “nimble” in my current workplace – how can I open the referral floodgates using social media?  And, how will I become nimble enough to enter the symbolic analytic technical communicator workforce of tomorrow (which was actually yesterday)?

References

Popkin, H.S. (4 Dec. 2012). “We spent 230,060 years on social media in one month.” CNBC.com. http://www.cnbc.com/id/100275798

Social Media: It’s all in how you use it

I have to start out by saying that reading the Boyd article was strange to me because I witnessed some of the evolution of social networking sites. I guess it seemed odd to me reading the history of something that I participated in, and that still seems fairly recent to me.

I joined Facebook when it was first opened to @UWEC.edu email accounts, and I have been at least a semi active user since I joined. I also joined sites like MySpace and Live Journal, but I didn’t stay with them for very long. I definitely agree with Boyd’s classification of social network sites vs. social networking sites. Many of the successful sites are intended to maintain friendship networks that someone already has rather than expand an existing friend network. That option is still available through comments to posts, but it isn’t a main focus of the site.

Qualman brought up several points, but my experience with Facebook indicates those observations apply to some users, but sadly not all. He mentions that social media has led to a sort of preventative behavior because people recognize that their opinions and actions can have consequences when they are made public. Despite this preventative behavior factor, BuzzFeed still has lots of options when it compiles lists of racist or sexist remarks made on Twitter. A few examples of this are when Marc Anthony sang God Bless America at an MLB game, or when Miss New York was Crowned Miss America. Baron mentions that social network sites have an impact on people’s presentation of self, that individuals tailor their information and interests to display a certain appearance. I think a lot of people engage in this, but there are clearly many that are either proud of what they are, or the concept has not occurred to them.

I believe that braggadocian behavior could be a factor for some, such as posting numerous pictures of their perfect family or full albums of their trip to Europe, but I also see a lot of very mundane posts from friends about what they are watching on TV, making for dinner, drinking, bars they are headed out to, or just a general lack of motivation to do anything. He mentions a reduction in reality TV watching, and an increase in people going out and living their lives. While there may be some compelling evidence of this, I think a lot of people are still watching reality TV. With all the Twitter trending references they squeeze into shows, I would bet that a significant segment of their audience is watching the show while surfing Facebook or Twitter on their phone or computer. Those people are clearly not “going out and living their lives”.

He also provides examples of an elderly gentleman and a mother using their postings to a social network site to review their recent posts and take stock of their life. After reviewing those posts, they used it as motivation to make changes to their life. I certainly don’t think Qualman is wrong, but I think the concepts of self-censorship in social media and using social media to take stock of their life and get out and live it are lost on many people. Perhaps that is just my group of friends…

Social media’s impact on companies is very interesting to me. I definitely think that companies should use social media to put an ear to the ground and enhance customer experience. Rather than wasting time trying to hide bad experiences, they are going above and beyond to resolve those bad experiences in a public spotlight. This is a much more effective strategy because it is also good PR for them. The impact of a bad experience shared on Twitter or Facebook is much greater because of all the friends and friends-of-friends that could potentially see it.

I witnessed an interesting instance of this about a few months ago. An individual had launched a Kickstarter campaign over a year ago to release a game called The Doom that Came to Atlantic City. The campaign was a success, and everything seemed to be going fine, although with limited communication, until the bottom just fell out. The campaign creator emailed all backers and said that the game was dead in the water, and that he was working on providing backers with refunds. Unfortunately, that would take some time since he had already spent a portion of the funds on undisclosed things.

Within a week or two of that announcement, a company called Cryptozoic (which had no affiliation with the game at all) contacts the original creators of the game. They later issue an announcement that they will work with the creators of the game and release it to the backers at no additional cost. This wasn’t their problem to fix, and they could’ve easily done nothing. However, choosing to get involved how and when they did provided a massive amount of good will toward their company, and prompted many individuals to look at and then purchase some of their other products. They went from a company that many board game fans had not heard of, to a company that suddenly had a lot of buzz and positive attention.