Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jobs remain elusive for unemployed

In April, Washington State had 47,026 unemployed workers who had exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefits normally last 26 weeks. When the regular benefits are exhausted, extensions have been available. Some unemployed people have drilled through extended benies and emergency compensation that carried them up to 99 weeks.

To discover what happened on week 100, the state conducted a survey. The goal was to understand barriers job-seekers encountered, review programs and services the unemployed used to look for work, and find out where they landed in the spectrum of the pursuit of a job.

The survey used a point-in-time sample representing all recent exhaustees and was conducted in support of the “Retooling Washington” initiative. This initiative is an effort of the workforce-development system to identify ways to make a difference, and do that quickly.

Basically, Retooling Washington asks two questions:
1) How do we work together to help the unemployed who need to have their skills retooled for jobs now and in the future?

2) How do we work together to respond to needs of employers when they come to us to help them have the workforce they need now and in the future?

Acording to the report, “Only about 25 percent of those who responded to the survey had found work. Most of these said they used online resources and networking to find their jobs.”

A quarter of the job seekers looked online. Most of the online seekers found a job.

How did you get your last job?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Opportunities, do we seize them?

A recent email sent out by Storables promoted countertop compost pails.

Storables is a specialty retail chain in the United States [wikipedia reference]. Their communication was timely and was selected to promote a solution to a problem that area residents face.

Beginning Oct 31, single-family homes in Portland, OR will start composting food scraps with yard debris. The Storables line-up of kitsch came with prices from $19.95 for a simple waste can to $34.95 for an upscale bamboo pail.

The same day the Storables email went out a similar communication from Staples was released.

Staples is a large office supply chain store [wikipedia reference].

Staples selected an array of items and promoted top brands, but . . .

Staples only promoted price.

While price is a salient factor in most purchases, is this an effective way to advertise? If it is, then Staples should promote all these items on Groupon where consumers are known for seeking out discount pricing.

The difficulty with Groupon-esque business models, though, is that it is not a sustainable business model. How can a business afford to keep discounting prices, and at what point is the market immune to the percentage off fad?

As was asked early in What will last longer, the shoe or me?, deep discounts raise skepticism in viability of a product, the viability of the business and the viability of the economy.

Look outside the business for opportunity, seize them and promote them like there's no tomorrow.

Because without a good marketing plan there may be no tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NEW disruptive technology: rest and reflect

In honor of Columbus Day, I took Monday off from blogging, and (going backwards) Sunday, Saturday, Friday and Thursday. Illness, albeit brief, kept me from any thoughtful musings on that fateful non-blogging Thursday, and then in the scramble to catch up, it wasn't until last night that I counted the missed days.

Blogging is useful as a goal process – there is much to be said about deciding to do something and then actually doing it – and for a writer, the practice of writing everyday creates a groove in the brain that propels continuous ideas.

The challenge is to keep writing, no matter what.

At the first of the year when I changed jobs, I noticed that writing on my fiction manuscript slowed. When the new job morphed into more management responsibilities (I got a promotion) my fiction writing slowed to a trickle. Then stopped.

I filled the fiction writing void with blogging. I weighed in on several topics: non-profits helped by Dining for Women, the cool things that Umpqua Bank is doing, how the Internet disrupts family relationships, the psychology of negotiating, struggling with email and what gets in the way of accomplishing our goals.

I wrote about the results of blogging everyday. For seven weeks I blogged about the analytics that resulted of consistent blogging. I served up my favorite quotes from things I read or heard.

And I mulled over why I had stopped writing fiction.

The manuscript, that is currently in the works, is inching close to a part that is emotionally powerful, potentially explosive and crafting it well can define who I am as a writer. I've taken classes by Bill Johnson who wrote, A Story is a Promise. He would pose the theory that halting writing at this critical juncture would intimate that I'm afraid of the emotions the manuscript unveils.

I don't think I'm afraid at all.

But what if I am?

The only thing that cures fear is to face it. This week I plan to open the WORD doc of my manuscript and re-read it. The consecutive blogging is disrupted. The manuscript has rested long enough. I've had some well days to reflect.

I'm curious to know what will happen next.

If it's not too scary, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Do managers need simple parenting skills?

A co-worker asked me to draft a post for a program she had recorded with a family counselor. I picked up her notes and went to town.

"Disciplining your child is a challenge all parents face. Decisions revolve around what is the right amount of discipline and what is too much."

I drilled down through the notes typing 90 miles an hour.

"Here’s another thought, what if when you asked your children to do something, they did it right away?"

I wrapped up my work, sent it to the printer and slung my draft on her desk with a smug smile.

She reviewed my output, peered at me over her glasses, sighed and tossed it aside. "That's not what we talked about at all."

I put some time and effort into that draft and thought I should get some mileage out of it. I rewrote it for the 360 Convos blog. EXCEPT, instead of discussing parents and children, I substituted boss and employee.

Here's what I mean.

"What if, when you asked your employees to do something they did it right away?"

(Here's the rest of the 'edited' article). That is the approach, one consultant takes when she addresses this issue with frustrated managers. She identifies it as ‘first time obedience.’

Consider her assertion that once you have to say something twice, you’ve made yourself weak.

She suggests, "Say it once and get action."


She uses a simple three-step process, but don’t try it just one time and give up. To see measurable results in behavior, managers need to try these steps on employees for at least a month.

The first step is to avoid questions. Being a manager is a position of authority, and not one of peer-to-peer, so she recommends starting with a statement. "Please turn off gmail and clean your desk."

The second step is a question, but offered in the form of alternatives, for instance, "Do you want to turn off gmail and clean your desk, or would you like me to?"

Over time, employees learn that the choices the manager offers may have negative side effects when they don’t respond quickly.

The third step, well, for this the consultant suggests you ask employees to leave the conference room. It is the secret that makes the technique work. The manager needs to not ‘care’ what decision the employee makes.

Overall, her advice is for leaders to give themselves time to see the results of using the three-steps and to keep up their efforts, even when the employees don’t appreciate it.

"Don’t expect adult behavior and don’t expect perfection. Prepare for the long haul." She also says, "Employees may not say 'thank you' until they retire."

The goal is to help managers develop employees with good problem solving skills who have the ability to build healthy work relationships.

~end of edited article~

If you have parenting questions, feel free to pose them on a parenting blog.

If you have employee questions, feel free to make something up.

It appears I did.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Downtown treasures and hidden spaces

About six years ago, I spent every weekend in the Columbia River Gorge looking at property to purchase.

Garage next to the music store, because the guitars are BIG?
I looked at manufactured homes on an acre or two, stick built houses on small lots, an old school house and a commercial building. I liked the idea of anything cheap. I also liked the idea of anything unique. That pursuit took me through a couple of retired grange halls.

One of the halls sparked an interest. They had tenants! To find out how much a group paid to rent the space, I went on a telephone adventure and had an interesting conversation with AA. I did not disclose to the woman who answered the phone that she was my prospect. Likewise, I did not try to dis-sway her from the misconception that I was her prospect.

Some things cannot be explained.

During the course of my property search, I learned to look at everything with the idea of seeing what others do not, of remodeling possibilities, of imagination gone wild. 

I gathered that same adventurer's spirit and took a Sunday stroll down lower Main in Vancouver and wandered over to Washington St. where I checked on an old advertising prospect. I eyed the street before crossing, ambled up to the big windows and peered inside. The stores were closed, it was Sunday after all. I walked away, turned back and raised my camera. I snapped the above picture.

I never did buy property in the gorge. I decided to be a little more mobile. But I still find old, odd buildings interesting. And I'd like to know what's next door to Briz Loan & Guitar.

Monday, October 3, 2011

What will last longer, me, the shoes, or the store that sold them?

My new shoes, available in limited sizes for anyone with $8.74
I purchased a pair of Trim Step tennis shoes at a box store known for good bargains, Target.

I'm known for sniffing out good bargains on end-caps, bottom shelves, and any odd assortment of places stores make interesting to browse.

Here's the 'kicker,' the shoes cost $8.74.

After the bloom of the purchase wore off I began to wonder why I could buy shoes at such an awesome price. They came with shoe strings. They aren't cheap feeling. I stumbled into a shoe design that encourages muscle toning in the legs, improves posture and reduces stress on feet, knees and back. They have that new roll bottom that promotes a healthy, active lifestyle.

I'm all for those kind of auxiliary benefits, especially when it comes in my size.

I did a quick look on the Internet and noted that, today, I could have purchased the same shoes online from Target for $12.24. At the branch where I made my purchase they are now listed for $5.54. At two of the company's other stores, within 10 miles, they were $6.99, $10.91, and $11.74.

Living in the land of NIKE, heightens your expectation of the cost of shoes. Finding sports, or sports-like shoes for less than ten dollars seems surreal. Finding them in your size is both surreal and of fairy tale proportions.

This leads me to two conclusions: the store selling them has issues and when shoes are less than ten dollars, the economy is tanking.

A superficial search online shows that prices are dropping in a variety of categories. Motorola dropped the price on it's Atrix 4G phone, Walmart plans to drop the price of its Xbox, Nientendo dropped the price of the 3DS, and Price Pinx and Free Price Alerts, among others monitored everyone's fall.

Venture outside of electronics and price dropping is just as prevalent. In August, gas dropped eight cents across Texas. Across the nation and in every neighborhood, home prices dropped.

Taxes, however, did not drop.

Nevertheless, if shoes continue to be available for less than ten bucks, I agree with Business Week, the store selling them, "needs to refine its strategy." The addition of groceries at Target, and the additional five percent off when you use the company-issued debit or credit card have helped revenue, but not the bottom line.

Not enough profit.

Here's some advice for a refined strategy: sell shoes for fifteen bucks.

While I ponder the inevitable, that despite all common sense, taxes will only increase, I shall ponder that thought while walking a mile everyday just to see how long these $8.74 shoes will last.

What do you think will last longer, me, the shoes, or the store that sold them?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Analytics reveals one pageview makes a difference

Sundays, we take a backwards glance at 360 Convos and review a week of posts, to see how they did within two-weeks of being released.*

In this instance, we examine the week of August 28.

The Sunday post got a little more play than the others. It disclosed the difference one pageview can make.

In fact, Sunday had more than double the audience response than the second place 'winner,' the Tuesday's post on the Tension between work and friends.

Third place was a almost a tie between sex and newspapers. The truth about seniors, teens and the sexes online was picked up by The Customer Collective, where it received a few additional reads. The post that featured a newspaper that served lunch, thus resolving the dilemma of how to reinvent journalism, wrapped up fourth place.

Curiously, about the time the editorial board believed that the 360 Convos audience was beginning to wane, the board realized that Friday of that week slid into a holiday, thus upsetting all convo applecarts.

Next week, how did 360 Convos fare after Labor Day weekend?

(chronological order)
Sunday Analytics show the number one post won by one pageview
Monday The truth about seniors, teens and the sexes online
Tuesday The tension between friends, lunch and work
Wednesday Surprise me, reinvent the J.C. Penney brand
Thursday Vanity comes in classy QR codes
Friday Fav quotes and a newspaper that serves lunch
Saturday Eat. Hydrate. Think.

*Source: Google Analytics.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Extraordinary Measures: the movie, the media and me

A news organization spent a year in a $42 million environment, a beautiful open space of larger-than-life cubicles, water that tasted good, and air that felt fresh when everyone breathed in the new ambiance.

Televisions ran 24/7 throughout the third floor. Televisions played silently in a comfortable lunch room stocked with super-sized vending machines, double refrigerators, double microwaves, double giant toasters. On every floor large glass panels etched with company history separated break rooms from open spaces.

This was a space so expansive gawkers on the second floor watched Faith Ford deliver lines flawlessly for an infomercial filmed in the lobby.

This was a space so unique that Harrison Ford brought in his crew and filmed Extraordinary Measures on the second floor.

It rewarded managers and some supervisors with individual offices.

Automatic prestige.

Automatic assumption the company was doing well.

Automatic everything...including failure.

I worked for the news organization that built the building.

After a year in the new digs, we nodded our heads in sweet recollection of our luxury accommodations, tidied up after ourselves, and waved good bye. We returned to our roots—the original building that the company had been unable to sell or lease.

Thank goodness.

Upon our reentry at our original structure, employees began calling it the 'old building.' I hated that term. I am acutely aware of how semantics affect how we view our situation and coined the company phrase, 'the classic building.'

About the same time I started my more work oriented Twitter account and pegged myself as @TheClassicCarol, and included this bio: "The Classic Carol returns to the classic building. We create our future. We are the media's future. Build our community: get out there and sell something!"

I've amended that several times. The Classic Carol is not so much about work as about thought, opinion, and ideas.

Just like the building and the bad economy, that spiraled the news organization into reorganization, I reorganized my twitter, my bio, and my blog. Within a year of the company's successful emergence from bankruptcy, I left. I reorganized myself, too.

I'm glad I got to experience both the new building and the return to the classic building. There was a lot of risk taking to throw the shovel into the ground and build a $42 million building and I learned from that. But tere was a lot we lost when we headed for brand-spanking new. There was a lot we gained when we returned to the synergy of our roots.

There was a lot of extraordinary people who returned tp the classic building and were glad to have a career they loved and a place where they could practice their craft. I learned from that, too.

Do what you love and love what your doing until you can do something different, even if it takes extraordinary measures.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fav quotes and nosey, old men

Thumbs up from the guy spying on my work at the coffeeshop
Sunday last week, I enjoyed the company of many Starbucks' customers and one that enjoyed everything on my laptop.
Here's the rest of the week's favorite quotes. Enjoy!

Found Quote
Sep 23
“Jury duty today. So far... zzzzzz.” Anonymous (I don't rat on my friends)
Sep 24
“The thing is, you don't actually NEED to know how to crochet. You NEED to know how to drift, escape handcuffs, and swordfight.” Bill Cameron.
Sep 25
“The Gentleman next to me at coffee shop is snooping on my screen. I am especially interesting to nosey, old men.” Carol Doane
Sep 26
“HAPPY B-Day, kiddo.” Mom of a great kid :-)
Sep 27
“Don't copy your competition because they are probably doing it wrong.” Jimmy Mackin, on the worst mistakes you can make on Facebook.
Wed, Sep 28 “I know I'm a little late to the game but I've become a fan of The Big Bang Theory.” Karen Kuzmack.
Thur, Sep 29 “Arrrrr. 'Twas a successful catarrrract surgery. It'll be sad to lose the eyepatch, though.” Steve Woodward.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mid-year editorial calendar

Old fashioned way to keep a calendar, now we Google it.
In July, I went on record as posting my editorial calendar. No longer a hodge-podge, grab bag of blog posts, 360 Convos was officially a calendar referenced mish-mash.

It was an ad hoc affair, everytime I read something of interest, instead of posting it to Twitter, I threw the link in my Google Calendar as an event, forgot about it until it was time to write a post.

Thus began my adventure to post everyday.

On the pre-eve of October, I thought I'd draw attention to this successful strategy to keep the blog tumbling along. I've taken on assignments as eagerly as I've handed them out. I've detoured assignments when something better came along. I let my other blog on writing and life languish to really gear up 360 Convos. The results? I wrote about that, too, albeit a tad tongue in cheek in, How blogging for 30 days led to international acclaim.

So, now it's time for a few heartfelt thank-you's.

Cheers, to everyone who has successfully blogged more than 30 days consecutively.

Cheers, to everyone who has experimented with more than one blog.

Cheers, to everyone who reads blogs.

But especially, cheers to everyone who stops and takes the time to write a comment.

That's the real payoff for a blogger.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Newspapers' collaspse reported by insiders, the cut that keeps bleeding

There's a group of people in the neighborhood discussing what it means to be a newspaper. The print vehicle, which currently experiences downward pressure on doorstep distribution, and the electronic version that competes with every other website in the information arena, bobble along searching for identity.

During the identity crisis, the dueling concepts of newspaper—print or online—occasionally sound like children asking, "Are you my mother?"

Except it sounds a lot like, "Are you my audience?"

What does it mean to try and keep a toe-hold in the current disrupted, disloyal marketplace? How does it affect your business model, your view of life, and the life expectancy of your job?

At the first sign of business distress, watchful employees will administer an online search of available jobs. Instead of finding comfort, Google produces an intense list of newspapers that have executed layoffs.

Another looming list appears when the eager inquirer searches for newspapers that have recovered from the economic crisis. 'Newspaper reorganization' produces items such as:
Baltimore Sun offers employee buyouts
Chicago Tribune trims staff
Newsroom staff cut by 25% (or more)
Calista Corp liquidates six newspapers
Gannet lays off 700
. . . and on, and on.

To adjust the toe-hold on the changing landscape, some newspapers have drifted from full disclosure to less than robust reporting, Inquirers now must rely on competing media outlets to post the behind the scenes events:
The Oregonian admits to more layoffs
Dozens laid off
Photography and sports departments cease to exist
Star confirms 52 laid off.

The business model has morphed. A little scandal now flavors the mix. Read Guardian Broke the News of the World Hacking Scandal and Santa Barbara News-Press Found Guilty of Multiple Labor Violations and you've got a tangled mess of journalistic pursuits.

More disruptions by the minute.

The reports from the newspaper industry get pushed deeper into the void because non-disclosure agreements buy silence as a condition of severance pay. Sub-industries have formed to bring clarity to newspaper staffers, as well as others in the community who care about what is happening. An intriguing site called Paper Cuts is found at the URL NewspaperLayoffs.com.

Site owner Erica Smith, a currently employed newspaper multimedia producer (and print designer), tabulates the job cuts. She started her list in 2007. She moved the stats to a blog in 2008, and at the end of 2010 determined the total exceeded anyone's expectations.

Mid-August, Ericia Smith gave 360 Convos a recap of the situation:

2007: 2,293+ (not the complete year; project started mid-year)

2008: 15,993+

2009: 14,797+

2010: 2,907+

2011: 2,988+ so far

Total: 38,978+ reported layoffs and buyouts.

"I'll be adding more tonight."
And the bleeding goes on.

If you were handed a newspaper company, with the current business model, current marketplace and current life expectancy of the job, would you buy billboards and pass out flyers like the guild trying to save the Chicago Star?

Or would you try something else in this disrupted, disloyal marketplace?

Relevant links:

Website: newspaperlayoffs.com
Facebook: facebook.com/newscuts
Twitter: @newscuts

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Social media central drawn in a real life perspective

An engaging graphic, released recently by Column Five Media, illustrates what social media networks would look like if they were actually real life. Imagine online as an apartment complex and each apartment as a different social site,It may look something like, "What if social media sites were your neighbors?"

I'm wondering how they'd draw my blog, 360 Convos. A table of analytics with little crowns on the best days? A web of intertwining thoughts, an assembly line of sweet and sour topics. A thought bubble of what I'm thinking, but not saying . . .

What's your guess?
(to enlarge click image)
Social Media in Real Life

Embed the above image on your site

Infographic by: Column Five Media

Monday, September 26, 2011

Groupon loses best bargain to Google

I've mentioned Groupon in three different articles:

Jul 22, 2011
"Focus on what is truly important or else we'll lose sight of what matters." A quote from Augie Ray about Groupon earning a billion dollars and losing half of it. 360 Convos: "Forgot passWARD?" and other quotes.

Aug 02, 2011
"Shoppers will be encouraged to bundle their purchases, but fresh off the Groupon tide, they will shop for sport, hunting for low ticket items—or value packages—to fulfill pent up anxiety of not spending during bad economy." 360 Convos: 'Preductions' the art of predicting the known.

Aug 04, 2011
"56% of Americans check online news daily, and the remaining 44% check Groupon." 360 Convos: The Flipside of the news .

Giorgiadis, short stint at Groupon
Today, 360 Convos gives you the fourth reference to Groupon. After five months, the COO of Groupon, Margo Georgiadis, quit and went back to Google.

Those weighing in surmise "skepticism of the company's business model."

As the business community continues to second guess Georgiadis' decision and the reasons behind it, I'd like to cut to the chase. It only took Georgiadis five months to figure out what I knew all along.

Groupon is no place for smart people.

A retailer or service company cannot run a successful business model on the idea of anesthetizing the consumer to price. Consumers need to believe in the value of the product or service they are receiving. Employees need to see the value beyond the big paycheck they may have been wooed with. They need to see the value in the company,

Shed the focus on price. Sell the value.

Or, like Google does, give everything away free, and sell the consumer.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Analytics puts the week in dead heats

Sundays, we look back through the 360 Convos lens, approximately four weeks back, to see how the posts did for a two week period.* It's not an exact science, after all, the Sunday post could potentially have more play than the others, so take everything with a grain of the proverbial salt, my favorite mineral.

The week of August 21, was a great week for the blog. It was a dead heat for first place between Tips for blogging everyday and Jeremiah Owyang helps me take down Google.

Everyone survived: me, Jeremiah and Google.

The dead heat continued into second place between my daughter, who's famous for keeping me in line with her quips–which I dutifully write down in a little blue notebook so I can remember what the heck I was laughing about, pulled in one more page view than Great is the enemy of good. The enemy piece was a thought process of finding the balance between productivity and the quality we yearn for in our projects.

I'll take the one page my daughter's piece had that pulled it out in front as a sign I'm barely ahead of average on parenting skills. Like the wise people say, "You don't know how well you did as a parent until you meet your grandchildren."

I can wait.

Here's where it gets interesting, the first two posts pulled into 38% of the pageviews, the next two posts pulled in 30% of the pageviews, the next three the last 32%. An even week, where it was hard to truly determine what dominated.

I continue to search for the balance between good blogging, feeding the audience and balancing my time.

Try that for one day.

Sunday What I learned from Jeremiah Owyang that allowed me to take down Google*
Monday Tips for blogging everyday
Tuesday Great is the enemy of good and other things I learned from blogging
Wednesday How blogging is like throwing stones
Thursday How blogging for 30 days in a row leads to international acclaim
Friday Fav quotes from my daughter (who's embarrassing who?)
Saturday 'Dale Chumbley' it. What I learned blogging everyday

*Source: Google Analytics.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The new black: Blackity-Black-Black

Photo: Centers for Disease Control, public domain.
Sometimes, at work, I'm presented with dilemmas which require a great deal of perspicacity. In fact, it isn't unusual for a group of us to skip our break and gather around a desk and brainstorm. It is hard work, but someone has to do it.

Yesterday I placed an order for some black material. You'd think that would be simple.

It wasn't.

This morning, the supplier wanted to know if I wanted black, or black/black.

"What is the difference?" I asked.

"Well, there is black, but the black/black is darker than the black," she explained.

"What could be darker than black?" I asked.

"Black/black is darker than black."

"Black/black isn't even a color," I accused. "Black/black is someone just saying black twice."

I could hear a pen tapping on the other end.

"I mean," I said, "you don't say blue/blue is darker than blue. You say navy blue is darker than sky blue, or periwinkle blue, or robin's egg blue. You don't just say there is blue, and there is blue/blue."

I heard a sigh. "Black/black is very black, darker than regular black."

"So what is the name of this black? It has to have a name. Is it end-of-the-world black? Or black-hole black?"

"Hmmm." I could hear her shuffling papers, as if she were looking at the data sheet. "It doesn't have a name other than black/black."

"Well, I think we want the black. But I'll check with the project manager, just in case we want the black/black."

I checked with both project managers and the document control person. This required some brainstorming and research, but it turned out we wanted the black, mostly because it was less expensive than the black/black, and more readily available.

But, it still concerned me that the manufacturer had not given the black/black a name. I mean, really. Would anyone say, "I'd like of can of gray/gray" in the Home Depot paint section?

Naturally, when I sent our supplier our answer, I also passed along this list to give to the manufacturer, as possible names for the black/black.

1. Zombie Black
2. Deep Space Black
3. New Moon on a Cloudy Night Black
4. Black Widow Black
5. Void Black
6. Absence-of-Light Black
7. Witch Hat Black (offered by Tami)
8. Doomsday Black (offered by Angela)

And what if we wanted a color darker than black/black? I offered this possibility:

1. Blackity Black Black

By the way, the above picture was taken by James Gathany and downloaded from Wikimedia commons with this note attached: This image is a work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, taken or made during the course of an employee's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Glad they are watching out for us. Looks like their job is as difficult as mine.


Editor's Note: The supplier has become used to dealing with Melanie Sherman, and no one was hurt during the course of the above conversation. And, of course, thank you Melanie Sherman for sharing your post.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fav quotes and a kitty on the math quiz

This week's discovery was a clever writer, Randal Houle, who gave us a couple of howls with the tweets about his son, including the one where Houle discloses that his kid drew Godzilla destroying some buildings on a test AND GOT FULL CREDIT!

Get full credit for your best quotes -- send 'em on in to 360 Convos. We're 'quoting' every Friday.

Here's our favorite quotes from the past seven days . . .

Sep 16
Twitter “It only takes having 12 crazy kids in my house to make me so thankful for my small family #happybirthdaykids,” Cheryl Bledsoe, celebrating the small things.

Sep 17
Twitter “My son wasn't sure about his answer on a math quiz, so he just drew a picture of a cat.” Randal Houle.
Sep 18
Twitter “Know artists by the pen marks on their hands and paint covered clothing. We're not dirty, just afraid to throw inspiration away.” @Schoolbound, from where apples get wet.
Sep 19
Blog“The beauty of community service...it doesn't require any special skill,” Laura Baverman (@laurabaverman)
Sep 20
Twitter“Why is coffee addictive? Because the coffee bean has a distinctive aroma that makes you forget how painful it is to be awake.” @Schoolbound.
Wed, Sep 21 Twitter “I got up this morning, turned off my alarm clock, circled the bed once and crawled back under the warm covers. #thankGodformoms. Schoolbound, from where apples get wet.
Thur, Sep 22 Twitter “Oh, to write on the novel or the new script? I like to dabble in too many things.” PL Anne Anderson, covering the gamut of a writers dilemma.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Is Kindle the life raft of newspapers?

The newspaper built its reputation by writing the equivalent of a novella every day, printing it while we slept and delivering it to our door by the time we turned on the morning coffee pot.

Now, paper--as in the paper product--feels either like a luxury we can't afford, due to the cost of the tree it takes to print it, or the whole idea of a printed newspaper feels old-fashioned.

Fewer of us want an information push. We want information customization.

Fewer of us want to read a report of what happened at a meeting (read the minutes of any board meeting). We don't want verbatim, we want to know what it means.

Newspapers are both the most objective voice in the community, and at the same time they harbor some of the most cynical (flip to the opinion section, or have a beer with a reporter).

Newspapers have the greatest reach in the community, bar none, and they are losing audience for the print product at a steady, tumbling pace that probably hasn't hit rock bottom.

That makes newspapers the biggest loser. On TV that makes you a winner. In real life, well, that remains to be seen.

For an industry that hasn't changed all that much in the last 400 years, with the exception of the entrance of the Internet, I wonder what would happen if tomorrow the paper wasn't delivered to my door. Would I be able to figure out where to buy groceries, where to eat for lunch, what's playing at the movie, what the next workshop at city hall is about, when the school board meets.

I wonder for about two seconds, because, of course, I can find all that information online.

What would happen if the newspaper was delivered, not to my doorstep, but to my Kindle? Would I feel differently about the newspaper, would I read it differently, would I connect with it differently, would I pass it along as easily as I forward an online link or place an open newspaper section on someone's desk?

In July, Geeky Gadget reported that "Amazon’s Kindle App now offers 100 newspaper and magazine subscriptions."

Is this the last throws of a drowning man splashing in the Internet pool, or a way for consumers to highlight, tag, and archive the content they want?

I wonder.

What are the top three newspaper publication dates that you would keep on your Kindle? 9/11, Obama Wins, the article of your kid?

Let me know -- I'm pondering at the crossroads.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mobile payments: the money is stuck in my phone

I worked with a fellow who balked at creating a gmail account because he didn't want too many passwords out there (here's the post).

"It puts my bank account in danger," he explained.

My guess is, he still uses his cell to make phone calls.

My other guess is that the rest of us use our cell phones to check our gmail, listen to music, google the earth, check on our blogs, our twitter, our foursquare, our LinkedIn, our fitness plan, our stock prices, jot notes to ourselves, and record a voice message.

I shudder to think what my former co-worker will do when he discovers he will be making payments via his mobile phone.

According to a post on the Reflections of a Newsosaur, phones will replace currency and credit cards.

"It’s not a matter of if, but when," says Alan D. Mutter.

"The check's on the phone," we'll promise creditors.

During their follow up contact we'll swear, "We got disconnected before I could complete the transaction!"

If you lose your phone, as I did recently, and thank you Stephen King for it's safe return, you'll be making payments with what? Cash? The importance of the receipt will rise and bury us in unneeded slips of paper. We'll have to prove we paid that bill in cash with another piece of paper. Or, a scan of a piece of paper.

We will no longer have credit reports, we'll have phone numbers that denote our status of good payers. It will morph to our 'phone-it-in' score. A good score will make our KLOUT rise along with our perks of unnecessary offers.

We'll be drowning in credit-connectness, personal QR codes based on our ability to pay, finance, float or dodge. Our phones will act as personal transponders that open doors, gates and bridges.

Waving our phone at someone will be an honor of respect and will probably leech a few dollars out if we shake it too hard.

Google will be our new bank.

And you thought gmail would always be free.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Three things to shake office dread

8 a.m. Frustration.
Commitment sieved through pursed lips.
5 p.m. Despair.

When the day begins with dread is it time to look for a new job?

When the boss is the one who doesn't 'get it' is it time to look for a new job?

When the career would be perfect except for the pay, the co-workers, the meager or missing benefits is time to look for a new job?

Yes. Yes. And Yes.

It is always a good idea to know what else is out there. It doesn't hurt to keep your interview skills sharp. It is a killer plan to continue to seek new connections.

Then again, it might be prudent to try and salvage present circumstances.

1. What is sitting on your desk right now that is unfinished, that someone else is waiting on, that is annoyingly urgent to the other department and absolutely not important in the big scheme of things to you?

Dust a little of the dread off and get that thing off your desk. Whatever it takes. Make a commitment to yourself that by the end of the week it will be gone.

2. What has been rumbling through the halls that you love to gossip about, that makes you feel better for the 60 seconds you take to gripe about it and then gives you that ever slight tinge of guilt because what you said wasn't really all that nice?

Next time it comes up. Walk away.

3. What have you sensed coming that you detest, it gives you stress thinking about it, you and your co-workers are certain it will tow the company straight to the poor house and you've been digging your heels in ever since it was first mentioned?

Get on board now.

Q: How do you know when it's time to move on?

A: When you can't do numbers one through three. When you believe the problem is everywhere else. When your mind is closed to new ideas, concepts, and you have names behind the scenes for all of them.

If your job is not revving you up. Pretend until it does.

It could be all about them.

It could be.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tall book critic prefers short novels

The Northwest is rife with readers, writers, and those of authority called published authors.

Besides the obvious college and adult education classes, there are more than a dozen organizations, clubs and bookstores with monthly events aimed at improving the craft of writing and getting that writer promoted to published status.

Being published is not the end of the journey, though. Before the book is hot off the press or fresh from the Internet, the job of marketing ensues. Blogging, social media forays, speaking engagements, workshops, and waiting with tying fingers crossed for the platinum review keeps the author on a virtual roller coaster.

A balding, unassuming, yet tall, man can make that roller coast ride worth it or almost worth it.

Jeff Baker, The Oregonian’s book editor, launched the fifth season of the Northwest Author Series hosted by the Wilsonville Public Library and The Friends of the Wilsonville Public Library. Baker told the audience, which consisted mostly of writers and subscribers to The Oregonian, that he weighs the merits of a bad review against the benefit of introducing Oregonian readers to a book they might actually buy. Baker believes there’s got to be a good reason for a bad review.

“Sometimes I pick up stuff I don’t like,” he said. When that happens, “Let ‘em have it, but don’t be mean.”

Baker writes the reviews, writes and features, assigns everything else, and edits while blogging and tweeting and juggling an ever constricting budget. If one reviews the comments left on the online site it would appear to be a thankless job.

The upside for Baker is that he gets to choose what he wants to read and farms out the rest to freelancers who write 500 word reviews for about 30 cents a word. When his budget is depleted (hello, December!) he pulls stuff off the wire.

Baker receives about 500 books a week. That equates to an hour a day of unpacking and organizing before one book spine gets cracked and perused for possible review. Those most likely to be chosen for one of the five weekly review slots include local authors, books that have a Northwest setting, or authors booked for a local appearance.

Baker offered his insight on how to write a review offering this short list:
1. What’s the book about
2. Do you like it
3. Why
4. Include a quote.
“You want to give people a feel of the writing style,” he said.

Currently, Baker is reading Hemmingway’s Boat, by Paul Hendrickson which he will review soon. Expect a very positive review. Other authors he mentioned included graphic novelist Craig Thompson, Karl Marlantes who wrote Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, and Justin Torres with his 144 page book “We the Animals.”

You can judge a book by its cover, says Jeff Baker, and you can also judge it by its page count.

“250 pages is better than 500 anytime.”

Upcoming events for the Northwest Author Series

The Northwest Author Series takes place at the Wilsonville Public Library once a month on these Sundays, 3:30 p.m. DIRECTIONS

October 23
Emily Chenoweth, Memoir or Fiction? Make The Most of Your Choice

December 4
Christina Katz, The Writer's Workout: Whip Your Literary Ambitions Into Shape

January 29
Karen Karbo, Passions Into Paychecks: Make A Living Without A Brand

February 26
Bill Johnson, A Story Is A Promise: The Essential Elements of Storytelling

March 18
Pamela Hill Smith, For The Love of Research: How To Write Biography

April 15
Kevin Sampsell, The Book World: From Reader To Published Author

May 6
Heather Vogel Frederick, Much Ado About Middle Grade: Mastering Setting, Character & Plot

The Northwest Author Series 
Wilsonville Public Library
8200 SW Wilsonville Road
Wilsonville, OR  97070

Sundays 3:30 p.m.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Analytics reveals stranglehold of email: it's hell

Sundays, 360 Convos reviews our conversations. It’s a 360 snapshot that looks back approximately four weeks and captures how the posts did for a two week period.*

The week of August 14, the post with the most pageviews was Email hell, struggling with the inbox. This piece talked about letting go of the stranglehold of email.

Giving up email for one day has its upside and downside. The post recommended not taking on everyone else's problems, but prioritizing your own tasks, and taking action before opening up the inbox.

The post did not disclose the hell that that one day created for me with the backlog of unanswered email.

I continue to search for the answer, the quick fix, the nirvana of email dominance.

I continue.

Second place post addressed negotiating without arguing.

Try that for one day.

Sunday The times that define us and the media we use to survive them
Monday New psychology of negotiating: never argue
Tuesday Take charge and take five
Wednesday Email hell, struggling with the inbox
Thursday Animals in the backyard, which one would you choose?
Friday Fav quotes of the week and maybe too much coffee
Saturday Would you like to clean up your desk, or would you like me to?

*Source: Google Analytics.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Success is a squirrel, a beaver and a goose away

The employees believe the boss doesn't understand. The boss believes the employees don’t understand.

Neither ‘side’ sees the point of wasting time on the other’s project.

Perfect setup for work conflict.

How do we get ourselves in a position to understand each other and be better aligned when it comes to core values, shared vision and goals?

Recently, someone shared a book with me by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, Gung Ho! Turn On the People in Any Organization.

The story is about a young woman who basically tells the emperor he has no clothes – she writes a report disclosing that the boss’ plan is wasting a million dollars annually. As a reward for her fine report, she is sent to manage the worst production plant in the system, which appears to be the boss’ exit strategy for her.

She’s bright. In hours she figures out which department is leading the company in efficiency and maneuvers to discover their secret. The man heading up the department is a Native American who has taught his staff lessons from Nature. She falls in eager to be his student, adopts his practices and broadcasts them throughout the company.

This saves the plant, saves her job, and saves the town.

Can it be that simple? Sure. To back up that assessment Amazon has over 100 positive book reviews.

The book offers an easy 1-2-3 summary at the back that notes that the leader chooses the goal, defines the job and employees succeed when they share the goal and understand they are making a difference not only in the company, but in the world, and they receive heavy doses of praise.

The caution is that the goal may not be adopted by the employees. It’s a hurdle any business faces, not everybody thinks the same way.

In this day of bad economy, layoffs and bankruptcies, I would add, when the job appears, say "send me." Even if it’s something you don’t want to do. Learn quickly, be resourceful, don’t upset the canoe stepping in, and paddle the same direction as the boss.

Today, there are fewer and fewer resources for any of us to do our jobs. From employees inside our company to the customers we serve, everyone is asked to do more with less. Getting the end result that saves the company, saves the career and saves the town is a squirrel, a beaver and a goose away if you read Gung Ho.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fav quotes and Melanie Sherman's brain cells

A good blogger will make you think.

A great blogger will make you laugh.

Melanie Sherman delivers every time. Her post this week took us straight into the brain.

"It is said we only use 10% of our brain. I like to think of that 10% as a thriving metropolis, like New York City (and I'm the mayor). But as in NYC, there are brain cell murders going on, and drive-by shootings by the "Stress Gang." So if I started getting low on virtual memory, why wouldn't I get on Amazon.com and order some new cells from the suburbs of my brain (the 90%) that aren't being used, to be delivered into my memory center in the heart of my city? I mean, really, what are those brain cells in my suburbs doing, anyway?
So I did a little research and found out the brain cells I'm not currently using are all part of a National Park System in my brain, and they cannot be used for any other purpose. My brain is made up of 10% city, and 90% National Park." From Meanderings of Melanie.
Let's get out into the park service and collect our brains, and here's my favorite quotes of the week!

Sep 9
Twitter “I thought I was an only child, but it seems I have a sister.” Bill Cameron, objecting.

Sep 10
Facebook OH (overheard) by Ken Bilderback: “We didn’t make whiskey, and they didn’t milk cows.” 
Sep 11
(Drawn. Not spoken). Original artwork from David Speranza, deaf cartoonist living in Vancouver. His work debuted here.
Sep 12
Stories Matter“Write a book about idealism clashing with reality and the need for both to be present in our lives.” Chris Martin. [Amen]
Sep 13
Twitter“OH by @TheClassicCarol: Nixon was the original Palin.”
Wed, Sep 14 Bike Portland “Nobody cares more about price than a newbie.” Michael Andersen, a guy who goes almost everywhere by carrying his bicycle on TriMet.
Thur, Sep 15 Blog “...a hormone called cortisol, which kills brain cells in the hippocampus (I think that was the campus where I lived during my college years--).” Melanie Sherman, covering the brain on her blog.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

If it's your anniversary and nobody says anything, did it happen?

As I write this I realize, had I been at my old job I would have celebrated my 30th Anniversary.

It is rare in today's climate to work for a company for more than a decade, let alone two. I almost reached three.

It is rarer still, after 30 years, to leave and not retire.

To survive the old job as long as I did I had to morph, flex, mature, morph, flex and mature some more. I survived some incredibly bad bosses. I had the pleasure of working with some incredibly good ones. I was an average sales rep, grew into an above average revenue producer and built a stellar experience.

I was promoted to supervisor, and soon thereafter to Advertising Sales Manager.

I knew the business inside and out. I knew the community from the west to east. I wore a suit and served on the Board of Directors of the Portland Advertising Federation. I pulled on jeans and served on the Board of Directors of the Clark County Fair.

Near the end, I could have done my job with my eyes closed and slept my way into retirement.

Instead, I left.

I learned something about myself. I learned I was thoughtful yet decisive. For months I considered the move, but I decided the day of one interview

I was willing to give up the world I had known since my early twenties to launch myself into the complete unknown. I was a risk taker. Who leaves a secure job to go work for a start-up? Me, I guess.

Upon arrival at the new port, I had to morph, flex, reflect, and learn while running faster than I could have imagined. I've had the pleasure of meeting incredible people. I've had to say goodbye to other incredible people. I stepped in to fill a hole and received a promotion.

During the first months I would hear myself say, "I can't believe I left."

I don't say that anymore.

A lot of thoughts and baggage gets lost in the hectic pace of how I drive my life, my career and my writing. What doesn't get lost are the people. My calendar 'pop-ups' tell me who's celebrating a birthday and who's celebrating a company anniversary. That may create a phone call, an email, a tweet from me and occasionally a celebration lunch.

Then I sit back and reflect, that on the 29th anniversary, no one said a word.

The day slipped by only recognized by me in the middle of a decision process.

The wordless reception of something significant was not reason to leave. But it was a reason not to stay?