2008 October

Thanks For Sharing

Geeky reader Ann from Chicago wondered, “How can I post one of your articles on Facebook? I really liked Cindy’s thoughts on women in the creative department and want to share it with my homies…”

Ann’s question alerted us to the fact that we didn’t have an easy way to share our blog posts directly from our site. LAME! So, we recently rectified that situation with the addition of Share This at the bottom of each of our blog posts. Now, if you want to share our awesome wisdom and knowledge (or our guest geeks’ awesome wisdom and knowledge) you can use ShareThis to post a link to your account on just about any social networking site. Look for it right below each post, above the comments.

If you select Facebook from ShareThis, it will take you to a page (on Facebook) where you can either send the link to a list of your Facebook contacts, or post it to your profile. If you post it to your profile, your Facebook friends will see this as part of your feed (the summary of your activity on Facebook that others see when they log in).

As for the specific question, you can also share links directly from Facebook. From your profile page, hit “Share Link” and paste in the URL you’d like to share. Facebook gives you the option of including an image (it allows you to choose from the photos on the page you are sharing) and a comment.

Geek Chic of the Week: Twitter

Sorry this post is so delayed, but I gave birth to a bouncing baby boy on Tuesday, October 7 and he is keeping me very busy! Anyway, I promised in an earlier post from the MIMA Summit that I’d talk about Twitter. Coincidentally, that same week we also got an email from geeky reader Maile in Los Angeles wondering: “Why should I use Twitter?”

Let’s start with Maile’s question: what I think she’s really asking is “Is Twitter relevant to me or is it some piece of crap I should ignore?” I can’t really answer that, but I can tell you everything I know about it and you can decide if it’s relevant to you, or if you want to file it under “stuff those crazy kids are doing on the interweb.”

What is it?

If I had to boil Twitter down into a brief description, it would be that it allows you to give others a brief snapshot into what you are doing, thinking, or looking at right now. It’s faster, easier and more portable than a blog.

Here’s what Twitter says it is: “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

Not to keep relying on Common Craft, but damn. Those guys make some awesome videos. Here’s how they explain Twitter:

Here’s how I use it:

I first heard about Twitter in March 2007, on an episode of Future Tense on MPR. It sounded interesting, and my personal blog was in a state of utter neglect; it was time to close the coffin and bury it. So, using Twitter as a sort of “micro-blog” was intriguiging to me. I liked the idea of keeping people updated on what I was up to without the commitment of a full blog post. I posted about Twitter on a Clockwork blog (speaking of neglected…) and a few co-workers signed up. Then I slowly started gathering non-work “Followers.” Some are friends who signed up for Twitter as it started gaining in popularity. Others are people I have never met and I wonder why they care what I’m up to. But, for some reason, they do.

When I signed up for Facebook last year, I saw that there was an app that would sync up your Twitter updates and your Facebook status. How efficient! So, now if I “tweet” something, it also shows up as my Facebook status. Handy.

So, what does one talk about on Twitter? Whatever you want to. In the past week, I’ve tweeted about: a vole in my basement (eek!), my grandma’s death, the presidential debate, the fact that the new macbooks all have glossy screens (boo!), the New Kids on the Block reunion concert and my newborn.

Here’s how you can use it:

1. Sign up at twitter.com.
You can enter your name (for a long time I had just Meghan, but recently added my last name as well. You can enter in whatever you are comfortable with). You’ll also select a username, which other people will see and will use to send messages to you (see #4 below). Mine is irishgirl. Click the “protect my updates” checkbox if you only want people you approve to be able to see your updates.

2. Type in what you are doing in 140 characters or less.

3. Find some people that you want to follow.
If you don’t know anyone on Twitter yet, you can follow me. Or Nancy. When you follow someone on Twitter, they are notified, and may start following you back. If any unsavory characters start following you, you can click the link that says “block” and they won’t be able to see your updates. The most common type of Twitter unsavory is the spammer (yes, they are everywhere). When you visit their Twitter page, you’ll know they’re a spammer because they’ll be following thousands of people and will only have a handful of people following them back. Don’t feel bad about blocking these people.

4. Talk “at” people and send them private messages.
On Twitter, my username is “irishgirl” and Nancy’s is “nylons.” So, if I want to tweet something to Nancy, but I want everyone else to see it, too, I would type it as follows: @nylons let’s have lunch next week. If I want to tweet something to her and I don’t want anyone else to see it, I would type it as D nylons let’s have lunch next week. This sends her a “direct message” that no one else can see.

Ready to get even funkier? I knew it!

5. You can also get Twitter updates on your mobile phone (as text messages), on your desktop, or on your browser.
Frankly, I don’t care enough about what people are doing to want to get a text message about it, but I do use Twitterific on my laptop. Whenever there is a new tweet from someone that I follow, a cute little bird icon on my desktop turns blue. Whenever I feel like it, I can check in on the statuses of those I’m following or post a quick tweet myself. I prefer this to visiting the Twitter web site, and I don’t even mind the little ads that show up. I also use Hahlo on my iPhone for posting mobile tweets and checking in on what others are doing. There are a bajillion other Twitter apps listed on the fan wiki page here.

6. Use Twitter search to see tweets on particular topics.
Want to see what the Twitterverse is saying about Palin? Check Twitter search and type in Palin. Voila!

7. Categorize your tweets with hashtags.
Uh, what? Yeah, this one is super funky. But, it can also be super cool. Here’s an example: I attended the MIMA Summit on October 1. Inside the program, they printed the MIMA Summit hashtag: #mimasum08. Some of the breakout sessions even had their own custom hashtag. This allowed attendees to see — in real-time — what people were saying about the Summit.

8. Post photos from your phone using Twitpic.

Wrapping it up

So, back to Maile’s question: “Why should I use Twitter?” Crap. I still don’t know the answer.

But — just like my earlier posts about RSS — I’d encourage you to try it and see if you like it or not. The only problem I’ve had with it so far is people who overtweet. Like, a million meaningless tweets a million times a day. But, that problem is easily solved by “unfollowing” them.

So give it a try. And as always, I’d love to hear how it’s working for you!

More Linked In

After that last post I had a couple of relatively low-tech readers comment on how they have no use for a social network like Linked In.  I thought this topic deserved another post.  A few people in my immediate network have recently been laid off.  Its a tough time, and tough times require tough measures.  Sometimes that means operating outside of your comfort zone to, possibly, touch more people in your network.  That’s where a tool like Linked In deserves your time and attention.  You don’t have to be comfortable with tech to recognize the value in a tool like Linked In.  For instance:

  • it makes your network entirely portable.  If you get laid off tomorrow, you simply walk away from your work computer and log into your network at home. 
  • it automates the maintenance of your contacts – when they update their information, your information about them is automatically updated. 
  • real networking happens with this network – you can tap into your contacts for introductions to their contacts and build your personal network on the fly. 
  • Web based networking has a much broader, more immediate reach.  You can decide to hunt for a job tonight, after the news, in your pajamas, while sipping a glass of warm milk, versus waiting until tomorrow and pinging your contacts one person at a time via email or phone.
  • you have instant, one-click access to entire professional histories and snapshots of professional organizations you may never have thought of as relevant in your own search.
  • you have an instant link to your contacts websites, to start doing your homework to better position yourself for the next opportunity.
  • you have the ability to take advantage of the six degrees of separation between you and anyone you might need to meet.
  • it gives you access to job postings in your network right when they become news, sometimes even before the general public.

It’s not hard to figure out how to navigate within Linked In.  And it’s really easy to start tapping into the value of it.  You might think you have all you need with email and your cell phone.  But you’re wrong.  Get past your social network phobia and connect with people.  Because that’s the real value of the web.  Connections.

Linked In and People You May Know

Recently a geeky girl reader submitted a question about LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows you to connect to and manage your professional contacts online.  It’s sort of a modern day Rolodex, if you will.  It’s handy in that you can connect directly to those people you know through professional association, like  current or past employers, networking groups and associations, school, conferences, etc.  If you don’t have direct information for whomever you wish to add to your network, you can connect with them via a current colleague or friend.  You simply ask your colleague for an introduction through email and the respondent has the option of confirming or denying your request.  A basic/free membership to LinkedIn is, at the very least, an excellent tool for keeping an up-to-date list of your contacts and colleagues.  A professional membership, however, takes networking to a whole new level, giving you greater access to contacts with whom you may only have a peripheral association, and letting you take advantage of more advanced features like tools for recruiting and job postings and, on the other end of the equation, job searching.  I know some employers who only use LinkedIn for recruiting and have great luck with the service.  All of that being said, I think most people I know use LinkedIn as a way of automating the maintenance around keeping their contact network current.  Based on what I know of her, I imagine our reader with the question is exactly that type of user – a casual subscriber who maintains her professional contacts list using LinkedIn. 

Our geeky girl reader wondered about the People You May Know feature on LinkedIn.  This feature shows up in your sidebar and recommends possible connections.  Miraculously the recommendations are pretty darn accurate.  Often those people you may know are actually people you DO know.  The accuracy of these recommendations has increased LinkedIn’s creepy rating by a factor of ten.  The service recommends people you may have never had any contact with through the website.  And sometimes those recommendations are so obscure AND accurate it borders on mind-blowing.  Our reader wanted to know how in the heck LinkedIn can figure out who we might know and how they can be so darn creepy about it — so I set out to find the answer.  I searched the web over and, come to find out, the people at LinkedIn know just how creepy and accurate they are and they work hard to keep this secret side of their code, well, secret.  There are a lot of techies and bloggers supposing how they do it out there in the webosphere.  But there are no proven theories about how they get to their lists.  After my own research I did the only thing a self respecting geek girl could do (pffft), I reached out to a member of the geek girls men’s auxiliary, one genius engineer and Director of Technology at Clockwork, Matt Gray.  I got way more than I bargained for in that exchange.  Matt sat both Meghan and me down and explained to us the intricacies of graph theory.  I’ll never be able to do any of that justice here.   Instead I’ll just give you my layman’s take on the discussion and invite Matt and other geniuses to comment on this post and correct me if I over-simplify it to the point of being wrong.  Remember though, our goal here on the Geek Girl’s Guide is to keep things simple.  And I aim to please. 

In very very basic terms you can think about each one of your connections on LinkedIn as a line — from you to that person.  If you were to draw lines for every connection you’d have a heck of a graph.  Say one of your friends, we’ll call her Rita, knows a guy named Bob.  Rita has a line from her name to Bob’s name on her personal (and invisible, hypothetical, stupid but useful for this discussion) graph.  That line in and of itself is just a connection.  But say another of your friends, we’ll call her Sarah, also knows Bob.  Suddenly the line from Rita to Bob and Sarah to Bob is bolder in terms of how it relates to your network.  Because not just one, but two of your connections know Bob, which increases the likelihood of you knowing Bob.  Throw another person from your network in there with a connection to Bob and, doggone it, Bob might just be somebody you might know and that’s how he shows up on your list.  The theory is that LinkedIn has programmatically harnessed graph theory to weigh your connections in terms of how they relate to everyone in your network.  They automagically layer all of these graphs over each other and make recommendations of people you may know based on the number of people in your network that share connections and the likelihood that those connections should be yours too.  They probably go a step further and factor in the invitations people send outside of their LinkedIn networks.  If two or more of your contacts invite the same person to use LinkedIN it’s likely you know that person too.  That’s probably how people you know, who aren’t currently using LinkedIn, end up on your People You May Know list. 

There you are.  An overly simplistic, but easy-to-understand explanation for why LinkedIn is so creepy in it’s accuracy.  Thanks to Matt for his help in laying it all out.  Thanks to geeky reader Ann for the question.  Now go ahead, people.  Comment.  Tell me how dumb I am.  Tell me the right answer.  Tell me how I could have explained it better.  I’m open to all of it.

MIMA Summit Liveblog: Afternoon Breakout #2

Augh. Impossible to keep up with liveblogging; the day is going by too fast! Ran out of power and couldn’t cover my first breakout session which was around interactive TV. Now hanging in the Geek Out room with moderator @halvorson where we’re discussing how the day has gone and giving input on next year’s Summit.

Follow the Geek Out convo on Twitter.

Too bad I’m going to have to leave before happy hour to do daycare pickup; I really want to hang and chat with people. I haven’t even had a chance to find everyone I know who’s here!

MIMA Summit Liveblog: Lunch Keynote

So far, Ze Frank is great. It’s gotta be hard to talk while people are eating and he’s doing a great job. Engaging, funny and smart. (And yes, @hlockwoo, also adorable.)

My favorite part so far, re: user-generated content: “The Crapucopia: There is so much crap being made.” Amen, brother.

Excellent point #2: the conversation is not about the content. The value is the conversation itself, not necessarily the topic. 

Random side note: it just occurred to me that there’s a really funny double-standard going on. There’s lots of twitterchatter about how cute/adorable/attractive Ze Frank is. How offended would I be if a woman was keynoting and people were tweeting how hot she was? Would men dare to tweet about a hot female keynote? Food for thought.

MIMA Summit Liveblog: Breakout #2

For breakout session #2, I chose the Marketing Mix challenge. Interesting to see how four different marketers would approach the launch of a new product using a three-month marketing budget and with Minneapolis/St. Paul as a test market. Really dug the approach of the first presenter, Luba Smulka from General Mills’ consumer insights team. Eric Boyles from Medtronic had a great approach as well; he packed a lot of great data/thinking into just three slides.

Overall, very interesting. Now, let’s see what the audience is asking about…

  • People are wondering about the lack of social media in everyone’s mix. The response from the panel is that the three month trial needs to build a real-world experience before engaging social media online. Great insight from Luba: just because you build it, they won’t come. It’s about building the experience first. Get them to try it so they will start talking about it.
  • Did you think the budget was realistic and how closely did you stick to it? What would you do with twice as much money?
    Patty Henderson responds that for proving whether audience will try/buy yes. As far as testing marketing vehicles for national launch, would like more money. With twice as much money, she’d use the same approach but with broader tactics.
    One of the guys (can’t see who, I’m sitting on the floor!) responded that he’d double the timeframe to 6 months instead of 3.
  • Question from Twitter about the role of package design in all of this.
    Luba assumed that good, communicative packaging was a given. Would also use the packaging as a vehicle for couponing.
  • If and how would the current state of the economy affect your mix?
    Couponing and sampling becomes more important to get into the consumer’s budget. Couponing is effective across all income brackets.
  • How would this plan change if the test market was Manhattan and not Minneapolis?
    The mic went out, so I have no idea how they answered this, but it’s a fascinating question.

I’m sitting near an outlet in the back of the room to keep my laptop charged. Not comfortable at 9 months pregnant and I’m pretty sure my foot just fell asleep.

MIMA Summit Liveblog: Breakout #1

So, I couldn’t literally liveblog during the first breakout session, because Nancy and I were moderating a discussion titled, “Wired Women.”

We had almost 25 people show up (including some Clockworkers — thanks, guys!) for what I thought was a lively discussion about women in interactive. We met some kickass women from around the Twin Cities and beyond and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion, the disagreements, and — surprisingly — I thought the uncomfortable silences that are typical of most panel discussions were pretty minimal. Thanks to everyone who showed up and participated; if you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it. Oh, and here’s a link to the article I mentioned during our discussion: Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership.

Now, I’m in breakout session #2, the Marketing Mix Challenge. I had to sneak to the back of the room before my laptop died and find a power outlet. So far, I’m digging this breakout session; four marketers discussing how they’d spend a marketing budget for a new product launch.

Update (10/2): I read this article on MinnPost this morning which hits on some of the same points about women in leadership roles as the Harvard Business Review article above. One of the things that came up in the panel discussion yesterday was a concern about whether we exacerbate (or even create) a “problem” where one doesn’t exist simply by naming it (e.g. are there really not enough female voices in the interactive field, or are we looking for a problem where one doesn’t exist). I guess my argument here is that we know there is an overall problem (that people are reluctant to address and don’t fully understand the causes of) of not enough women in leadership roles across the board and that extends to the interactive realm as well (perhaps even more so within certain interactive roles like programmers, etc.). It also extends to the creative departments of many ad agencies. I’m not advocating for a “woe is me, I’m just a girl” approach to this, nor am I saying that I feel oppressed or held back or have ever let anyone’s perception of me as a woman keep me from speaking my mind. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I see gender bias issues in our industry, and in others. And I’m interested in doing something about it. Nancy and I will be posting more about our thoughts on this in the future! For now, I thought that MinnPost article was relevant and worth sharing.

MIMA Summit Liveblog: Morning Keynote

Today we have an opportunity to do some liveblogging at the MIMA Summit (we’ll also be tweeting* if you want to follow: @irishgirl or @Nylons). We’ll be updating throughout the day with our thoughts on today’s happenings.

So, here goes. We’re here at the MIMA Summit, enjoying some hot coffee and crullers. So far, the morning keynote by Rebecca Lieb is honestly, underwhelming. The topic is supposed to be “The Decline of Advertising & the Creative Renaissance” but we keep just watching viral vidoes together. And, I don’t feel like I’m getting any new information yet. Like, did you know that traditional advertising is over? Thanks for the heads-up. Did you know that advertisers are now content generators? Whoa. I’d much rather watch these vidoes on my own later and hear the presenter give us a more insightful analysis.

Hm, so far…I’m not impressed. At least the crullers are good.

*Wondering what the hell tweeting is? Twitter will be this Friday’s Geek Chic topic.