Storytelling in the Facebook Era

For several weeks the tech world, and much of the mainstream population,  has been buzzing with discussion around Facebook and privacy.  It turns out that Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook’s founder and CEO) and his crew think sharing, and not privacy, should be the new default and they had set out to make that a reality.  The anxiety really hit full throttle during the Facebook developer conference when Zuckerburg announced some significant changes around who has access to the data that Facebook collects and how it might be used.  People are angry and confused.  Some senators have even authored a letter to Zuckerburg asking him to rethink the default privacy settings they were rolling out. Then last week Zuckerberg announced that Facebook has decided to readdress the default settings and make it easier for people to keep their information under wraps. Still, people are continuing to react to and push back on the issue of privacy and protections around information they share online. There are boycotts of Facebook in the works.  This is serious business – not a day has passed without some significant, front page media coverage of the controversy.

I strongly believe this discussion, as loud and emotional as it feels, is necessary because it is shaping the bigger issue of evolution – ours and how we communicate. But, believe it or not, this blog post isn’t really about the privacy settings themselves.  Instead, this post is about something I’ve been considering for quite some time and it has only become more obvious to me since the volume of this privacy discussion has gotten so loud.  In some ways I think Zuckerburg forcing our hands on the issue of privacy is also forcing something we should have instinctively been better about.  Because we’re suddenly so concerned about who has access to all of our personal information I think we’re also suddenly being much more thoughtful about what we choose to share.  The bite in the butt is — we should have seen this as a critical issue and been this thoughtful all along. But, as the saying goes, better late than never.  We are all curators of content, archivers, historians and storytellers.  This is a much bigger responsibility than we imagined when we started posting pictures of ourselves in our underwear standing next to the keg (present company excluded, of course).  Wherever Facebook ends up in this privacy debate, whether or not they actually address the concerns of the public, really doesn’t matter.  All of us are starting to realize a new responsibility – to ourselves and to our current and future audiences.

It used to be that only certain stories – the more polished or politically appropriate stories – were published for the world to see.  Publishers decided what was worthy of mass consumption.  The rest of the world were consumers of print and, eventually, consumers of all media.  All media worked like this and people got rich off of it.  Big newspaper publishers decided what was news and got rich.  Big motion picture studios decided what was entertainment and got rich.  Big television networks decided what was worthy of our living rooms.  The media in the last few years has become fragmented by social media and consumer generated content.  But the term consumer ‘generated’ doesn’t really tell the whole story, does it?  We aren’t just ‘generating’ or ‘creating’ content, we’re publishing it – to a global audience.  And because of the immediacy and the ease-of-use of the technology we’ve significantly underestimated the reach, or potential reach of our content.  When the big rich media tycoons owned everything we didn’t think twice about distribution and reach.  Now that we are contributing to this global archive and telling our stories – we still aren’t thinking twice about distribution and reach.  What’s more, because of the immediacy of the experience of publishing, we aren’t really thinking about the importance of the content.  See, because we are all (suddenly) historians, archivists, story-tellers.  We are all recording history — our own, our family history, brand stories.  It seems to me if we start thinking of it as something that carries a little more weight, something that has more cultural importance,  then suddenly the issue of Facebook privacy pales in comparison to our responsibility as content creators.  I guess I am just suggesting that instead of demonizing Facebook (which is really so easy to do) it’s time to think bigger picture.  It’s time to recognize that communication and the documentation of history and the sharing of stories looks much different than in past generations and it’s just going to continue to change.  Instead of worrying whether or not Facebook is going to let the world, or future employers see pictures of you with your pants on your head, I would suggest you simply be more thoughtful when you consider publishing those (granted, sometimes you have no choice because someone else does it for you).  I just can’t help but feel that we are having the wrong conversations.  Instead of pushing for privacy, which is clearly changing and certainly isn’t the default, perhaps we should push for thoughtfulness and responsibility in the telling of our stories.

This privacy thing – it’s a losing battle.  We are everywhere.  We’re dropping little breadcrumbs of our lives everywhere we go online and when you add to that all of the intentional or inadvertent content we create or contribute to then you must know there are whole and detailed profiles about you just under the hood of the internet.  Yes, some things are sacred — like social security numbers and how much you weigh.  But think about it – they are sacred because WE (that’s the collective we – which means everybody) treat them that way.  It’s a culturally accepted fact that social security numbers are sacred.  It used to be a cultural reality that stories were sacred.  Passed down from generation to generation and shared during special occasions.  Maybe they were embellished with detail for dramatic flair, but that was done with reverence and out of pride.  Now stories are just immediate –  someone shoves a beer bong up their nose, someone else takes video of it, and we don’t think twice about sharing that with the world.  I’m not suggesting that a beer bong in the nose is not share-worthy.  I am suggesting though, that if all you share is beer bong stunts than you become the beer bong guy and is that really who you want to be?  You get my drift.  There is a need for maybe a little more reverence in how we communicate. No – this doesn’t mean we are not humorous or ironic or even inappropriate.  I think we really need to start thinking about telling the stories that are worthy of our time and energy and attention.  What picture are you painting?  What legacy are you leaving? When it’s all compiled – someday, by someone else, looking to discover who we were in this bygone era – well, who will we be?  A generation fighting against an inevitable evolution?  Or a generation that embraced change and recognized our responsibility within it?  I, for one, would like to be among the latter.  I am blessed by the brilliant people in my world, a career I am passionate about, a fantastic family, a good life.  There’s a story there.  I’m going to tell it.

Geek of the Week: Sarah Evans

The Geek Girls are excited to bring you the first Geek of the Week, which will be a new series in which we feature someone who’s well, a geek. These people can be self proclaimed geeks, people using technology to further their career, or seriously geeky geeks who make rockets and other geeky things.

It’s important to know that while the we can validate that the people we feature are in fact geeks (because they say so or someone else says so or their geekiness cannot be denied), it doesn’t mean we’re endorsing them over the other geeks out there. We love all geeks, but there are only so many weeks in a year.

Now, to start us off, for this week’s geek I interviewed Sarah Evans (@PRSarahEvans). Sarah is a PR Geek with cred to back her up like, over 40,000 followers on Twitter, a Vanity Fair article (America’s Tweethearts) and numerous of her own articles featured on the social media giant Mashable.

Sarah tells us about how she got to where she is today, including some work with myself back before the 40,000 followers, and where she thinks she’s going in the future. She also tells us about her personal motto, and gives some advice for other geeks out there that want to kick up their geek skills.

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Are you a geek? Do you know a geek? Is there someone you’d like to hear from? Drop us a line at [email protected] or leave us a comment on our Facebook page and we’ll see what we can do.

Flashbelt Announces 2010 Scholarship Winners

Last year, this blog hosted a heated debate over a presenter at Flashbelt 2009. While a stressful experience for everyone involved, many positive things came out of that very public discussion — one of which was getting to know Flashbelt founder and organizer Dave Schroeder.

For the past three years, Flashbelt has awarded scholarships to attend the four-day conference. This year, the Geek Girls Guide sponsored these scholarships and it’s our pleasure to announce the 2010 winners:

  • Kymberly Wyant, Student – Web & Digital Media Development, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
  • Arlene Birt, Artist & Teacher, Minneapolis
  • Priscilla Mok, Designer/Developer, Chicago

Each winner was awarded a full scholarship which includes a pre-conference workshop ($259) and registration for the conference ($399).

Dave Schroeder, Flashbelt founder, told us, “It was another tricky year to choose the scholarship recipients. All of the applicants were worthy, but these three people really made great cases for both why they wanted to attend and couldn’t, and what they intend to do with the things they learn at Flashbelt.”

All the applicants this year had very impressive applications. In fact, the applications were so impressive that Dave worked out a special deal for all the them: in addition to the 3 “full rides” he gave a 50% discount to all of the scholarship applicants. “That makes me feel great, because the speaker/session line up this year is the best it’s ever been and I don’t want anyone to miss it,” added Schroeder.

Thanks, Dave. We’re proud to be a part of Flashbelt 2010.

Podcast #12: Social Graces

In our 12th podcast we answer a question from our Men’s Auxiliary about social media etiquette. Namely, how to approach people in real life when you really only know them through Twitter.

*Note: The audio on this podcast is a little wonky. Meghan tried a new setting on the mic, it’s not a good setting, it won’t happen again. Thanks for sticking it out!

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We received a question from a Men’s Auxiliary member about social etiquette and how to cross the line from a digital connection to a face-to-face connection.

I am a college student and an emerging graphic designer. On Twitter I follow several members of the Twin Cities design community and for a number of reasons:  I’ve either met them, found out they are employed at a firm I admire, or just because I want to get to know better the community I am starting to join. Through Twitter I see their faces everyday, know what they’re thinking, doing, what they like, hate etc. The other night at Artcrank I saw and approached one of these members of the design community to talk, and I did so casually using their first name. I guess I struck the person off guard as I instantly knew they had no idea who I was or why I was so friendly. I had initiated a conversation with someone I knew a lot about, but who knew nothing about me, and in that awkward moment it dawned on me that we had never actually met face to face and this person wasn’t one of my twitter followers. So I guess I was a stranger, but only I. 

My question is, have either of you heard of, or experienced yourself, the false sense of camaraderie that Twitter provokes? As a student, not yet employed, I had a jolting awakening that following people on twitter doesn’t mean they see what I am up to, and in regards to potential employers and bosses (people that can throw some weight around) that “first impression experience” has still yet to happen.

Your thoughts?

From the men’s auxiliary,

What do you think? Does that explain it? Hit us up with questions in the comments, or over on our Facebook page.

Podcast #11: Don’t Talk Me Out of Hiring You

In our 11th podcast we expand on some thoughts Nancy shared on Future Tense about how women interview for jobs.

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ZOMG, we’re dismayed at how differently we’ve seen men and women present themselves in the interviews we’ve been conducting at Clockwork recently. Buck up, ladies! Straighten those shoulders, look us in the eye, and tell us why we SHOULD hire you, not why we shouldn’t.

What do you think? Does that explain it? Hit us up with questions in the comments, or over on our Facebook page.

Gleek Girls Guide

Are you in or around Minneapolis? We’re hosting a Glee premiere party on April 13. You should come (especially if you want to see Nancy sing karaoke)! Get more details and RSVP at

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate women in technology and science. Learn more at and check out a list and a map of all the other blog posts around the world!

We talked a lot about what we wanted to do for Ada Lovelace Day this year, and ultimately we decided to make a list of women who have inspired us in our own lives, versus picking someone famous or well-known.

Nancy’s List

Barbara Lyons and Nancy Branom Genieser, Physicians

My mother, Barbara Lyons, and her best friend from medical school (and the woman I am named after) Nancy Branom Genieser.  These women went to med school in the late ’50s – during that post-war era when women weren’t encouraged to do much outside of the home, let alone become physicians.  But the part of the story that I really love is all of the adventures these women had together.  They were both graduates of the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. After completing their coursework, and before graduation, they worked together in a clinic environment on a Navajo Indian Reservation for a year.  They lived and worked with the people on the reservation, really experiencing Navajo culture.  And every weekend they struck out on some new adventure: hiking, canoeing, exploring.  They were young adventurers out to really see the world.  As a kid those stories were so important and so exciting to me.  I found inspiration in the fact that these two bright, funny, out-going nerd-girls could be so accomplished and balance their life of learning with so much fun.  Both of them went on to be very well-regarded physicians with families and lives.  But those stories of their youthful years as young doctors out to see the world were just pure joy to me.

Lisa Corp, Stage Manager Extraordinaire

In college I was involved in theatre and I probably wasn’t mature enough to take it as seriously as I should have to consider it as a career.  I could certainly sing and act and deliver a punch line, but because I was more of a character actor than an ingenue, there was always plenty of competition for the meatier roles.  It was my friend Lisa who encouraged me to think  about theatre “tech.”  I didn’t think I had any actual talent for the construction and design of a theatre experience.  But Lisa disagreed.  Lisa was hopelessly devoted to stagecraft — all of it.  She understood the power and nuance of lighting and sound and the sense of place that a set created and that, when done well, the audience (and even the actors) took for granted.  The environment created by the backstage personnel, more often than not, is another character in any show — with equal, but very different, weight and importance to the story.  Lisa understood all of that and was passionate about it in her own quiet way.  She inspired me to see beyond the spotlight to the, well, spotlight.  And it opened up a whole new world of possibility to me.  It also really influenced how I approach my work today in terms of management and process.  Lisa passed away a few years ago from cancer.  I never told her that, in addition to being my roommate and friend, she had also been a mentor.  I hope she hears that now.

Mary McKinney, Teacher

My 8th grade science teacher Mrs. McKinney taught in a way that suggested that she wasn’t just about validating or encouraging the kids with left brain sensibilities.  I remember her creating an open, positive, fun and experiential environment for learning.  It was the only time in my academic life I remember having a good time in a science class.  It was our energy and our interest, and not our aptitude for science, that dictated whether or not we got any respect in her classroom.  As a result, her class is the only science class that stands out for me from my school years.  Turns out, I did have an aptitude for science.  I just responded better to experiential learning versus textbook learning and lectures.  I think teachers are the unsung heroes of our culture.  Especially now with education being such a politicized, hot-button issue.  Mary McKinney was definitely someone who helped shape my view of the world and my place in it.  For that I am forever grateful.

Meghan’s List

Ms. Voss, Teacher

Ms. Voss taught the first and only computer class that I took in high school. I couldn’t tell you what language we programmed in (I think it was BASIC), but I do have this sweet photo to show of my work:

Yeah, she took a photo of each of our projects. How sweet is that? And that’s back when you actually had to develop film! I’ve hung onto this photo since 1992; I remember clearly the sense of accomplishment I felt knowing that from nothing, I had created something. Sure, it was the cover art from an obscure ’90s band, but come on. I was 17. It felt deep at the time.

I get that same feeling of pride and accomplishment now every time I launch a web site with a team I’m working with. That feeling of knowing that without me (and each of us on the team) the site wouldn’t exist. The more complex the problem we’re trying to solve, and the more constraints on the project (budget, timeline, hardware, software, you name it), the bigger the rush. I love that feeling.

Margaret McInerny, My Awesome Mom

While my mom doesn’t work in the technology field, she’s influenced and encouraged my love of technology in a couple of ways:

First, in 1983, when Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter space, I became obsessed with the idea of becoming an astronaut. That year, for Halloween, my mom sewed me a handmade, quilted astronaut suit (with a helmet!) with a namebadge that said RIDE. I have a clear memory of how it felt to wear that costume, and to dream about going into space. I also clearly remember how it felt to have such a different costume; the other girls I knew were definitely not dressing like astronauts. But my mom always encouraged me to do what I wanted, whether or not other people thought it was cool.

Sadly, I have no idea where that costume is today. Even more sadly, as I grew older, the “baby” journals that my mom kept for me (I’m the oldest, I got a lot more ink than the next three did) started saying things like “Meghan says she hates math and wishes it would die.” Like so many girls, I rejected math and science in a way that I regret to this day. Part of my passion around speaking and educating people in technology is to try to prevent that from happening to other young women.

Which leads me to the second point I want to make about my mom. She embodies everything that the Geek Girls Guide is all about: embracing technology, learning new things, asking questions. She’s interested in how things work and is constantly trying things out. She’s a project manager at an advertising agency and is learning now about how to manage interactive projects. She’s on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr. She (with three partners) started a web site that sells photography. She doesn’t always know the technology, but she’s never afraid to ask a question or just figure it the hell out herself. She’s intellectually curious.

In short, I hope I’m a lot like her when I grow up.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

It’s been fun to share with you the women who, while not widely known or famous, have influenced the Geek Girls we’ve become.

Who inspires you?

Podcast #10 – What is The Cloud?

In our 10th podcast we break down a popular buzzword-of-the-moment, The Cloud. (We also blogged about this topic last October.)

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We could recap the podcast, but we’re so dang busy right now (as you can tell from the dearth of posts and podcasts lately). A good complement to this podcast is our blog post about the cloud from last October.

What do you think? Does that explain it? Hit us up with any questions in the comments, or over on our Facebook page.

Gleek Girls Guide

In somewhat unrelated news (except that it’s just further proof of what geeks we are in other parts of our lives as well), we Geek Girls are also hosting a Glee premiere party on April 13 in Minneapolis. You should come! Get more details and RSVP at

Podcast #9: Stupid Social Media Advice

In our 9th podcast we react to a recent news channel’s story on how social media, and especially Facebook, can affect your marriage. What? Yeah.

See for yourself: the most ridiculous social media advice ever: [WCCO video].

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We react to the following list of dos and don’ts by psychologist John Buri of the University of St. Thomas. Here’s what he said. You can hear our thoughts about this in the podcast (and in the brackets below):

The Dos

1. Share your username and password with your spouse. [WHAT?!]

2. Include your spouse in pictures and status updates.

3. Tell your spouse whenever someone asks to “friend” you. [Really? Every friend request? Oy vey.]

The Don’ts

1. Don’t criticize your spouse online. [DUH!]

2. Don’t “friend” exes.

3. Don’t engage in private chat. [Um, by this logic you better stop answering your phone, too.]

Take the hilarious Facebook compulsion quiz!

What do you think? Are we wrong, or is this the most ridiculous crap ever said aloud?

Podcast: The Cult of Social Media

In our eighth podcast we talk about the cult of social media, what to look for when choosing your social team and how to tell the difference between social media enthusiasm and expertise. We’ve now got three ways for you to listen:

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Click the cute little button below to stream the audio in your browser window.

Join the Discussion

What did we miss? What do you think is important to illustrate expertise and experience in social media? What successes or failures have you experienced when trying to assemble a social media SWAT team, or find a social media consultant?

Product Review: Corel Digital Studio

Hi, we’re the Geek Girls and we’re Macs. But, hey — we know that 90% of the rest of the world are PCs and we love all our friends, regardless of platform. We recently received a copy of Corel Digital Studio to review (and a copy to give away!) so we dusted off our PC and checked it out for you.


This little suite ended up surprising us a quite a bit! At first glance (and during installation), it seemed a bit overwhelming, but once you really get into the program it becomes easy to use and navigate. 


Digital Studio includes a photo editor, video editor, burning element, and media player, all of which are easily accessed via a Desktop Widget. The widget proves to be very helpful when working on projects requiring all of those features, or just a little bit of a lot of functionality.


Grabbing and editing photos with Corel Digital Studio is surprisingly easy. You have the ability to import from a variety of sources including your computer, camera, mobile phone, webcam, scanner, and other devices (like an external hard drive).

 Once your photos have been imported, you can create albums and projects like a photobook, a greeting card, a crafty collage, a handy calendar, a family slideshow, or a backup disc. Finally, you can share your photo projects via email, Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube right from the interface.

We liked the templates that allowed us to quickly and easily make a family album or fun and totally personalized greeting card.  With Valentine’s Day right around the corner – Corel Digital Studio is a great way to give your loved ones what they really want – something thoughtful and from the heart.



Your videos work much the same way.  Just like photos, you can import video from a variety of sources including, your computer, a video disc, camera, mobile phone, webcam, TV tuner/capture card, a tape-camcorder, internal memory-camcorder, or other (like an external drive). 

Once you import a video, you’ve started your video project. It’s easy getting started with the pre-existing video backgrounds and themes.  We used one to make the test video below. After you create your movie you can export it into a number of file types, all of which come with a great description of the best place to put the files when you’re done (if you’re not file savvy this is a very helpful piece of information). 

Once you have your file saved you can share share it in a variety of ways, put it on YouTube, send via email, save it on your local drive, drop it on Facebook or Flickr (it’s not just for photos anymore). The one function during the save/share process that we weren’t so enamored with was selecting where to save your file. The user experience around this feature was just a little awkward.  But we managed.


For the most part we were impressed with Corel Digital Studio.  Mostly because it is perfect for our audience.  The interface is intuitive and easily navigable by folks who don’t spend their whole lives playing with video. If you’re looking to add a lot of special effects, or you have really specific editing requirements this little program might be too simple for you. But if you want to jump right in and start using your photos and videos in new and creative ways and share them with friends and family then Corel Digital Studio is for you!


The nice people at Corel gave us a spare copy that we can give away. Drop us a line in the comments and tell us why you should get it and we’ll pick a winner using  And because we want you to feel the love, the cut off for the drawing is Valentine’s Day (02/14/10) at noon CST.  So comment now and comment often.


Here’s a sample video we created in just minutes:



Contest is over and #6 is our winner.  Jon – send us an email to claim your prize.