Faster than you think, slower than you want

In training, I often say the phrase Change Is ComingIt will be faster than you think and slower than you want. It may sound contradictory but when you are addressing a mixed audience confined to a room of either whiners or winners the phrase applies.

The whiners in the room say that change is coming too fast, they can’t keep up – heck they don’t even have time to sift through their emails, nor face a computer screen once they reach the ‘safety’ of their homes. The younger whiners bitch about the older ones: “They don’t get it.” “They’re not open to new ideas.” “They think signing me up as a friend on Facebook shows that they are with-it.”

The winners, well, they’re the quiet ones. They absorb and digest and respond by applying what they learn. They know change won’t come easy but they find ways to win their bosses over. Or leave. Like Rosenblum says they can be the change or wait till their bosses die.

Mindy McAdams and Jeff Jarvis make the point clear in their recent posts.


During the past year I’ve been in a lot of newsrooms and talked to a number of journalists, mostly working at medium-size and larger newspapers, about online. The journalists often wonder aloud whether their managers know enough about online — and note, they are talking about the ones in charge of the online.
But over the past weekend, I heard a couple of reporters say this in a more pointed manner:

“We have no leadership.”

That’s a stunning statement, in my opinion. And let me add, they were not whining. They may have sounded a bit angry, or disgusted, but not outraged. It’s mainly a statement of fact. The editors and publishers — and yes, all those folks in corporate — don’t have a clue. It’s more and more obvious.

While this is harsh, it’s also true. I don’t mean to dump on the staff, the reporters and designers, editors and producers. The managers have made many stupid decisions, often out of pure ignorance or from fear. They have fired consultants who told them radical change was necessary and paid big bucks to other consultants who smoothly assured them that “content is king.”

But the reporters and designers, editors and producers, were there too. Just like solders in a war, or average German citizens in Nazi Germany. They were there, watching the terrible decisions being made and going right along with them.
If you have no leaders, step up!


Journalists are such a whiny bunch, always complaining, constantly blaming someone else for their problems. But friends, as the Rev. Wright would say, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Newspapers and newspaper companies are about to die. The last remaining puddles of auto, home, job, and retail advertising are about to be sucked down the drain thanks to the economic crisis and credit is about to be crunched into dust. So any newspaper or news company that has been teetering will fall. If Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and AIG can fall, so can a puny newspaper empire — and there’ll be no taxpayer bailout for them. When this happens, will it be Sam Zell’s fault? Hardly.

The Times veterans should not be suing Zell. They should be suing themselves. Oh, I, too, am angry at the state of newspapers in America but I’m angry at the right people. The LA Times’ problems — like those of other papers — were caused by by decades of egotistical and willfully ignorant neglect by the owners, managers — and staff — at the paper…

When the internet came, did you all – every one of you as responsible, smart journalists, on your own – leap to get training in audio and video? Did you immediately hatch new ways to work collaboratively with the vast public of bloggers able and willing to join in local journalism? Not that I saw.

When the link economy emerged, enabling papers to find new efficiencies by saving resources long spent on commodity news so they could concentrate on their real mission — local — did you grab the opportunity by the horns and beg to cover the hell out of Encino? No.

More Mindy. More Jeff. to go social


AP’s Anick Jesdanun writes that will start its own social network from scratch.  

“We believe that in the future, social networks are going to be an important means of distributing content and of spreading news, and we want to be a part of those networks,” says Alan Murray, a deputy managing editor.

The new “Journal Community” launches Tuesday for paying subscribers to create and share personal profile pages with their real names, job details, interests and photos, similar to services at Facebook and LinkedIn.  The Journal plans to open the social-networking features to nonpaying visitors in future.

The AP report states that only 5 percent of the site’s users are currently paying subscribers. Latest ccomScore stats says had 4.7 million visitors in July, nearly twice July 2007’s total of 2.4 million.

One wonders whether’s cautious approach, aiming for such a small pool of “well-heeled executives” will gain any traction. hopes that its insistence that users post their real names — verified against their subscription info — will  “increase the quality of discussions.” That seems highly unlikely.

Mixing free and paying within the same site is always a pain for navigation. 

Free users —  frustrated too often by clicking into restricted areas — will eventually exclude the site from their most frequently visited list.

Paying subscribers who already social network-savvy may find the walled garden too claustrophobic.


Great speech: Adrian Tan on Life and How To Survive It

This convo speech by Adrian Tan, a Singapore lawyer, is becoming viral online. Reposted here as a record of what makes a great speech.

Life and How to Survive It

I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.

My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.

On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable.

Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.

And so I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.

Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.

The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning.

You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong process” and that therefore you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers. Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.

The good news is that they’re wrong.

The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy.

I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean
the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.

You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and
restful nap.

Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.

So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.

Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.

I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.

After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.

Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.

That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.

If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.

What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it. Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.

Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look. This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows.

What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.

Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free.

The most important is this: do not work.

Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By its very nature, it is undesirable.

Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust.

There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”. No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful.

People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.

Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself.

I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction – probably a sports journalist.

So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions. By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.

Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.

Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth.

I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth. Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is also great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.

In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.

I have told you that your life is over, that you should not work, and that you should avoid telling the truth. I now say this to you: be hated.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know anyone who hates you? Yet every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many.

That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.

One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it’s often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one’s own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing something wrong.

The other side of the coin is this: fall in love.

I didn’t say “be loved”. That requires too much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone.

Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation. That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We’ve taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. It is hard work – the only kind of work that I find palatable.

Loving someone has great benefits. There is admiration, learning, attraction and something which, for the want of a better word, we call happiness. In loving someone, we become inspired to better ourselves in every way. We learn the truth worthlessness of material things. We celebrate being human. Loving is good for the soul.

Loving someone is therefore very important, and it is also important to choose the right person. Despite popular culture, love doesn’t happen by chance, at first sight, across a crowded dance floor. It grows slowly, sinking roots first before branching and blossoming. It is not a silly weed, but a mighty tree that weathers every storm.

You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart. You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you.

Finally, you will find that there is no half-measure when it comes to loving someone. You either don’t, or you do with every cell in your body, completely and utterly, without reservation or apology. It consumes you, and you are reborn, all the better for it.

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.

You’re going to have a busy life. Thank goodness there’s no life expectancy.

Mack Collier’s Top Company Blogs

Mack Collier reviews company blogs and came up with a scoring system to rate them.

Here’s his criteria:
35 points for Content, what the bloggers write about
35 points for Comments, how many comments the blog receives, and how the bloggers reply to comments from readers
15 points for Posting schedule, how often and regularly new posts appear on the blog
15 points for Sidebars, the information contained on the sidebars

Here are his Top 10 Company Blogs Overall:

1 – Fiskars’ The Fiskateers Blog(Review) – 89
2 – HomeGoods’ Openhouse Blog(Review) – 88
3 – Turkey Hill’s Ice Cream Journal Blog(Review) – 87
3 – Innocent Drinks’ Daily Thoughts Blog(Review) – 87
5 – Graco Blog (Review) – 83
6 – Southwest Airlines’ Nuts About Southwest Blog(Review) – 81
7 – Dell’s Direct2Dell(Review) Blog – 79
8 – Stacks and Stacks’ Clutter Control Freak Blog(Review) – 77
8 – Coca Cola’s Conversations Blog(Review) – 77
10 – Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line Blog(Review) – 76
10 – Mahindra Tractors’ Life of a Farm Blog(Review) – 76


How editors feel about the web

The latest research from Project for Excellence in Journalism has some interesting outcomes on how editors feel about the web and multimedia skills:

Odd that they chose only three emotions. Surely editors are capable of more range – why not Confused, Clueless, Apathetic, Utterly Stupefieid or I’m As Mad As Hell And I Am Not Going To Take This Anymore?

From the report:

At larger papers, where staff cuts have been deepest and the newsroom moods darkest, fully 57% of those surveyed say “web technology offers the potential for greater-than-ever journalism and will be the savior of what we once thought of as newspaper newsrooms.” By contrast, just 4% expressed worry that the web’s pressure on immediacy might undermine the accuracy and values of journalism.

The optimism also exists at smaller papers, but not as strongly. Only 40% agree with the “savior” description. Industry-wide, nearly half of all editors responding (48%) admitted they were conflicted about the web’s impact.

Whatever their feelings, there is no doubt that the web has been accepted as a fact of newsroom life. Today, editors said they no longer ask reporters if they have time to file for the web before embarking on their story for the print edition. Filing first for the web is a given. Editors also noted that exclusive material is no longer kept off the web as it was just a few years ago to protect the print edition impact. Today, it is posted immediately.

The “Skills Essential in Newsrooms” graphic suggests that Multimedia Skills are separate from Overall Computer Skills. The fact they hypenated Multi-media suggests some confusion here.

Does editing audio or cropping and resizing photos or putting together a slideshow constitute an Overall Computer Skill or a Multi-media Skill? If a person coming into journalism these days can write code but can’t write a decent caption does that consitute an “essential” skill? And what if the said person doesn’t do databases? What category does code writing – whether it’s HTML, or Java, or Actionscript fall under? Can editors even tell the difference?

From the report:

Orlando Sentinel editor Charlotte Hall called the creation of a data team the “single most significant innovation” to come out of the paper’s 2007 reorganization in terms of generating new reporting skills for both the web and print versions of the paper. The team brought together everyone at the paper responsible for gathering data for listings, then melded them with library researchers and archivists, a reporter trained in computer-assisted reporting (CAR) plus an editor who had been a high-level database researcher. Their job, she said, is to mine data, then work with other teams across the paper to develop stories based on that data. Initial results have included front page enterprise stories on local restaurants and housing foreclosures.

For the restaurant project, which brought a business reporter and the restaurant critic into the team, the paper put together a database of local restaurant health inspections, then produced a Sunday front page story under the headline, “How Safe Is Your Restaurant?” It told readers that 30-40% of Orlando’s licensed eating establishments had been cited for serious health violations, including some of the area’s most exclusive dining locations. Findings, broken down by neighborhood, were posted on paper’s website, as was the entire database from which the story was written. Driven largely by the Sunday front page treatment in the newspaper, the on-line database drew over a quarter of a million page views during the first few days, Hall said.

Working with data on housing foreclosures, the team produced a two-day front page package that mapped foreclosures in the Orlando region. The on-line version of the story allowed readers to zoom in by zip code or street name using an interactive map.

More from the report:

One sign of this new competitiveness is the advent of newspaper “early teams”, groups of journalists usually comprised of an editor and a few reporters, who begin anytime around dawn or before and work through the early afternoon, reporting and writing content exclusively for the website. In many respects, these early teams represent a kind of resurrection of the old afternoon newspaper: starting early to package today’s news today—or, more precisely, packaging this morning’s news this morning.

Early teams are part of a broader repositioning of newsrooms for a 24-hour news cycle capable of feeding the web constantly. More than four of every ten (42%) papers surveyed have already added early teams and another 17% are planning to add them. Among larger papers, a remarkable 80% already employ such teams. Although not measured specifically in the survey, anecdotal evidence and interview comments suggest that staffing of these early teams is an important component for those who say their newsroom staff has increased.

Much of the material produced by these early teams is routine—traffic tie-ups or pile-ups, police matters, late night local government meetings or sports results, fires and court appearances. Because of this, early team stories tend to have a short shelf life and are often overtaken by other, more significant news during the day. Occasionally however, they are strong enough to update and rewrite for the following morning’s newspaper.

Working from website traffic data, more newsrooms now target de facto deadlines to make sure fresh content is up for periods when traffic spikes, including 6-7am (as people wake up), 8:30-9am (as they get to work), around 11:30am (before they go to lunch) and around 2pm (when they return from lunch). The editor of one large metropolitan daily spoke of “website edition times.”

MORE| The Future | Conclusion

“Last lecture” Professor Randy Pausch dies

From LA Times:

Randy Pausch, a terminally ill professor whose farewell lecture at Carnegie Mellon University became an Internet phenomenon and best-selling book that turned him into a symbol for living and dying well, died Friday at age 47.

Pausch, who was a computer science professor and virtual-reality pioneer, died at his home in Chesapeake, Va., of complications from pancreatic cancer, officials at the Pittsburgh university announced.

When Pausch agreed to give a theoretical “last lecture,” he was participating in a long-standing academic tradition. Except a month before giving it, Pausch received the diagnosis that would heighten the poignancy of his address.

Originally delivered in September to about 400 students and colleagues, his message about how to make the most of life has been viewed by millions on the Internet. Pausch expanded it into his book, “The Last Lecture,” released in April.

Yet Pausch insisted that the words were designed for an audience of three: his children, then 5, 2 and 1. “I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children,” he wrote in his book.

Last autumn, he moved his family to southeastern Virginia so that Jai, his wife of eight years, could be near relatives. He tried to “build memories” with his children, taking his oldest, Dylan, to ride a dolphin and introducing his son Logan to Mickey Mouse at Disney World.

For his final Halloween, his family — including his youngest, daughter Chloe — went as the Incredibles, personifying his end-of-life mantra: We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

MORE from NY Times.

LINKS: Last lecture video.
Last lecture on YouTube.
Last lecture on Google Video

Tactics for online crisis management

From the Obama campaign’s to Coca-Cola’s Facts and Myths page, it is becoming increasingly clear that an always-on online presence is necessary to fight against rumour mongers, disgruntled ex-employees, speculators and brand terrorists.

The new front in reputation management is online. Corporations, institutions political parties, celebrities and non-profits need to get streetsmart in social media skills fast or find themselves easy targets for the smear artists.

The only defence seems to be pro-active vigilance and, if needed, a rumour-fighting, hoax-killing, myth-shattering website of your own. The faster you get your message out – accurately and with a credible voice, the better to protect your rep online.

Marty Weintraub has 8 ways toput up a defence on the search engine optimization front at the aimClear blog.

The gist:

1. PAGERANK: Evaluate the authority of the page on which the negative content is published. Take a look at PageRank and inbound links profile using Yahoo Site Explorer.

2.GO LEGAL: If search results violate copyright or trademark laws, fire the first salvo through your law firm with a cease and desist order. (Be a realist though. Some insolent jerk halfway around the world won’t give a rat’s ass about your attorney’s saber rattling.)

3.WATCH OUT FOR VIRAL BACKFIRE: My grandmother says never to “get into a pissing contest with a skunk. Even if you win…you stink.” Build your content to outrank the perpetrator’s.

4.CALL IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERT: I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen a business person, who has no experience in social media, climb into a comments thread and make things SO much worse. If you’re not a regular contributer in a specific social media channel, learning the vernacular while under duress is not the best choice.

5.ENGAGE: Start with classic high road messages of respect and understanding: “I understand your position,” “respect your right to express your feelings in public,” “am grateful for the opportunity to engage in a dialog” and “what can we do to make things right?”

6.NUKE ‘EM: There are non-white hat methods available to ‘eliminate’ the problem.

7.CONSIDER PAID SEARCH: This is short-term “lesser of all evils” option.

8.DITCH FLASH: One of our newer clients came to us under assault from a disgruntled former customer. Our client’s website was entirely a Flash movie, literally with no deep indexing. Solving the “crises” was as simple as re-publishing the site in HTML with Flash elements instead of a full Flash movie.


New Yorker mag cover controversy

Pictured left is the latest cover of New Yorker magazine which shows Barack Obama dressed in traditional garb and his wife Michelle dressed as an afro-haired militant in combat boots and assault rifle.

The illustration by artist Barry Blitt depicts them in the Oval Office with a portrait of Osama in the background and a burning American flag in the fireplace.

The cover comes in the wake of a well-Digged top ten list of controversial covers last week, which included the naked Dixie Chicks, Hitler in a 1939 Time cover and an arrow-pierced Muhammad Ali.


Fake or Real: How to become a photo sleuth

Father of digital forensics and Dartmouth professor Hany Farid has a little test to see whether you can detect a fake photo from a real one.

I had fun with this. The commentary provides a quick grasp on spotting digital fakery and the various tactics employed to make it real.

Above: Can you spot which is fake?


Groundswell, Here Comes Everybody, Stirring It Up

Three books have come my way, by way of a good friend Tom from US: Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell, and Gary Hirshberg’s Stirring It Up.

Resources related to these books:

1. Here Comes Everybody blog
2. Clay Shirky at Web 2.0 Expo SF 2008
3. Groundswell website and excerpt
4. Gary Hirshberg: Why I Wrote My Book
5. Stirring It Up website and excerpt.

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