Category Archives: context

Right Brain resurgent

So where are the posts, David? Yes friends, I’ve been a little delinquent in my writing, but inspired today by a post written by the awesome Fabeku, I decided to just show up.

Now I don’t want you to think I’ve been idle in my absence. I’ve actually been putting out a fair amount of content, but it has been of a more whimsical and decidedly visual bent. I’ve been a doodling fiend. If you’re interested you can check out the magic marker output (along with the occasional picture shot on the go from my phone) by visiting my posterous at

I’ve been enjoying this resurgence of my creativity, and frankly a little nervous about ramping up the degree to which I show the world my soft and silly side, but the fact is I preach authenticity in branding, and by gum I mean to practice it as well. (and how often do you get to say “by gum”?) I expect that the current flood of doodle inspiration will abate a bit over time, but it has been bottled up for a while and it feels good to let the drawings flow and not get too judgmental about them. I’ve picked some fairly humble materials to work with too: basically I’ve been drawing on 4″ x 6″ blank index cards and mostly using Sharpies, pens and highlighters. Sometimes I’ll use nicer art markers too – the highlighter palette is a bit limited. I keep it all on the desk so I can take my doodle breaks, scan them and tweet them to the world. So far, the world hasn’t complained, and I’m grateful for that.

I’m also cooking up a new website for Equation Arts. It’s not quite done yet, but I think it will be a better expression of who I am. Here’s a hint of things to come:
There will also be a lot of the color orange ( I love orange), and some crossover doodles will make their appearance there as well.

I hope that people who connect with me know that I’m a big believer that we all have something special to offer the world and each other, but sometimes we find ourselves framed in the wrong context – that “something special” ends up hidden, muffled, suppressed – unable to shine. So the new website is for me a shift in context toward something more authentic. I hope you’ll stick with me through the transition. Thanks! And remember…

Also posted in art, blogging, branding, Branding Thoughts, change, commentary, creativity, personal branding, thanks | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Seeking relevance

A recent  post by my pal, Sherry Heyl, The Future of the Web (is not Twitter!), got me thinking once again about relevance. Sherry aptly pointed out that the tools of communication are always evolving, but the pace of evolution (and revolution) of those tools continues to increase.

The Internet isn’t a single form of communication, it is a breeding ground for millions of experiments in ways for people to reach each other, singly and en masse.  If a new tool is lucky and skillfully promoted it may gain attention and grow audience, but unfortunately relevance does not always scale with the numbers. Something that starts out relevant can lose focus or become dissipated by the noise of an ever-increasing user base.  Success seems to necessitate an aftermarket of filters and management tools for any social media experiment to retain relevance for its users. 

Part of the challenge is that relevance isn’t a one size fits all proposition.  I may find discussions of Drupal theming to be quite relevant to me, a Drupal user, but your mileage may vary. I’m also going to seek out information on cutting-edge marketing – left to external filters, the marketing and the Drupal are not likely to get lumped together, but for me the combination is highly relevant.  

Wikipedia seems to do a good job of maintaining relevance by embracing irrelevance, or rather by embracing the notion of asymmetric relevance.  Those that really care about a subject have an opportunity to get highly involved in the discourse, while others are free to get engaged in completely other topics. But don’t mix ’em! If you try bringing something irrelevant or off-topic to any given Wikipedia article it will be made abundantly clear that only relevance is welcome here.  This is why you can find great articles on particle physics and equally great articles on B movies.  

Unfortunately Twitter doesn’t seem to be doing as good a job of cultivating relevance.  Today I received a follow from a Twitter user and did my usual investigation – I looked at the user’s profile and observed that this user had 1000 or so followers and about 1300 they were following. These weren’t unusual numbers by any means, but what I found odd was that the number of messages this Twitter user had actually produced to date was two.  That’s it, two messages: The first a mention that the user had just added a background to the profile, and the second being a link to the user’s website – an unveiled come-on promoting an ebook.  It seems highly unlikely to me that upwards of 1000 people, based on these two simple messages have really found the relevance emanating from this user to be sufficient to warrant subscribing to the Twitter account.  I suspect, however, that a 1000+ people have auto-following setup via a 3rd party tool and probably have no idea that they’ve volunteered to  receive the messages from this user, or many of the others that are now dissipating the relevance of their Twitter streams.  

Many are choosing to ignore relevance in the hopes of rapidly growing their audience, but an audience that is built on irrelevance isn’t an audience that’s listening. It is an audience that is ignoring, or at best, filtering.

How are you managing the balance of irrelevance and relevance in your use of social media?  How do you keep open to things that you don’t yet know will be relevant to you, when you’re trying to filter a sea of questionable information?

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Cool hunting in a recession

In my last post I left off as I sped on my way to Walmart with a short, but important shopping list. Well, sped isn’t the right word. I kind of puttered around a bit and eventually got around to it. The problem was the list. There wasn’t a sexy thing on it. Nothing to rev my engine. Just a few of life’s little essentials. Yawn.

Does a recession have to be boring? I’m craving a little pizzazz – I’m hunting for a sexy brand story to be my beacon of hope as these financial waves keep crashing.

So who has a little sex appeal and makes a strong brand promise? Who gives you what you expect every time? Who never fails to captivate, always commanding our attention? You could call him Mr. Aurum, but ask OldGoldBug and he’ll tell you… it’s gold! Shiny, shiny gold.

Oh you can argue about how it will perform at any given moment, you can argue about when to get in and when to get out, but we can never quite get gold out of our collective imagination. Gold happens. It is like a force of nature. But is it really the brand story that I’m looking for? I mean, who controls gold? We get on board, and ride the ride, but we don’t have the reins. We don’t have a hero. There’s sex appeal, but where’s the role model?

Gold may shine, but it is not a beacon.

So maybe we need more than sex appeal. Maybe the hunt is for a brand that sets expectations and consistently meets them.

What about Coke? Coca-Cola is like gold you can drink, right? In a world of choices it is one we love to choose. Small players will flounder, experimental flavors will come and go, but Coke will endure. It has all the comfort and nostalgia of gold – we can taste it in our minds before we even pour a glass. You can’t do a much better job of turning expectation into anticipation than that. It’s refreshing even in a recession. But where’s the new? Coke hasn’t been around as long as gold, but it is older than you and me.

So here I am in Walmart cool-hunting for a brand that might have a story to tell despite the economy. An”it” brand – a “brand that can” in the shaky days ahead. I know you’re thinking “cool” and Walmart… might as well look for a contact lens in a bubble wrap factory, but their might be a glimmer of hope. The rumors are flying about a certain brand phenomenon making its way into the world of “always low prices” – the iPhone.

Yes, I’m picking Apples over Blackberries this season. The iPhone promised fun and great design and usability and cool. And it delivered. RIM doesn’t know what it is promising anymore. It is slipping into the purgatory of “me-too” when it should be trumpeting its difference and focusing on context.

Now there are some who might argue that putting the iPhone in Walmart will dilute the perceived value of the brand, but at this point all the cool kids and early adopters are already on their second iPhone. The allure of the iPhone is now moving through the mainstream middle and starting to convert some late adopters. And they’ll find plenty of them at Walmart. But that’s only part of it. You see Apple gets the idea of context. Steve Jobs understands alignment. The iPhone exists in harmony with iTunes, the App Store, and a continuity of experience with Mac OS X. The iPods and iPhones are gateway drugs for a Mac experience.

Apple is a beacon and the iPhone is their bright light, and even in a recession we’ll be following that beam towards new and better designs, and consistently (and insanely) great brand experiences.

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Barcamp 2 – How to get buzz without being a scumbag spammer

Wow!  A Barcamp topic with marketing appeal.

Yes, I’m still furiously tyoping this out live at Barcamp.   This is not a marketing event, it is targeted to developers and technologists, but hey sometimes world’s collide (in a good way).

Moderator is Micah Wedemeyer – hacker not marketer.  Has a couple of startups.

Assumptions from the moderator going in:

-you’re promoting a website

-your site is actually useful

-your marketing budget is small or non-existent

-maybe you’ve been accused of spamming before

Marketing is real work! (amen brother)

It won’t happen overnight

Time is your resource and you’ll spend a lot of it – think about you ROT – return on time.

Identify your taerget audience – be as specific as you can – the more qualifiers the better.

Smaller the target – easier to hit.

If you don’t know – ask your user “who are you?”   Get the info to guide your focus.

Find the bloggers – where does your community hang out online.  Bookmark the relevant sites about your community. Read the comments – check out the sites.  Try to find at least 20 blogs relevant to your community (more if you can manage the time)  Add them all to you RSS reader and check it constantly!  be on top of the timing – timing is everything.

Engage in the community – be a part of the community.   Start your own blog.  Keep your blog content to information relevant to your community.   Suggestion to hang your blog off you main domain — generally I think this is a good idea, but there are  some disadvantages.

Set up a reasonable goal – a reasonable pace for how frequently you will post.    Bloggers share two things – egos and writers block! (love that comment!)

Get involved and comment on people’s blogs.  Commenting first gets more readers.

Give yourself a “Gravatar” – basically a picture that gets associated with your email address so your picture (a logo, your face, etc) is put next to your comment – builds your brand awareness.   Reinforces Recognition.

Decide your identity when your commenting – are you you? or are you the company rep?

Link to your site from your name.  Add relevance to the conversation you are participating in.

If you write an analysis about someone else’s post always include the Trackback url.   This lets the other author know that you have written about his/her post and they will most likely check out what you wrote.   Add value – don’t just regurgitate what they wrote.

Curing writer’s block – contact the other blogger and ask for a write up.  Use their preferred contact method.  Ask, don’t beg (or hound).   Don’t oversell it.

Bloggers are powerful – getting buzz can be helped by getting in their good graces, but don’t abuse them or you will suffer a backlash and/or shut-out.

Also posted in Barcamp Atlanta, commentary, Live event, networking, Other Interests, social media | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Atlanta should skip Web 2.0

I love Atlanta. I’ve been here for almost 12 years and I think it is a great city. We’ve got millions of people,  great neighborhoods, great restaurants,  a major airport, lots of free wi-fi, plenty of diverse businesses, a healthy laptop per capita ratio in any coffee shop you should happen to wander into, but somehow I think that Atlanta is not living up to its potential as a great center for web innovation.   And I don’t think I am alone in this opinion.

I’m not saying there is no innovation here, but I think as a city we are a little behind the times.  I offer as example the reluctant adoption of Web 2.0 in Atlanta.  Web 2.0 as both  a term and a practice seems to have only grudgingly been accepted in the Atlanta business world.   Sure, there is a growing pool of adopters leading the charge at events like SoCon07 and 08, AWE, and Barcamp, but to call them early adopters would only be accurate in a geographically limited definition.  They’re early for Georgia, but not for the world.  I’d like to see that change.

I think Atlanta should skip Web 2.0.  Not skip as in miss, but skip as in skip ahead.  Instead of playing perpetual catch-up with innovation centers like Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston and NY, we should leap-frog those places and boldly invest in our time, money, thoughts and effort in redefining the context of the Internet.  The web has become the plumbing of our lives. Business is changing, marketing is changing, socializing is changing, lines are blurring, but we drag our feet and take incremental steps toward ideas that come to us from the west coast.

There are people in this town who would like to see Atlanta at the center of the discourse – a legitimate force in shaping our collective destinies through technology and its catalytic effect on human interaction.  And there is no reason why we can’t be, but we won’t get there by being a follower.  We need to figure out what Web 4.0 is, or 5.0, or maybe dare to embrace a term that isn’t Web x.x anything, but something new, something ambitious, something risky.  We might look silly, but we also may find a point of view, a value, a context that re-centers the discourse.

Let’s start talking.

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"Soulful Excellence"

That’s a nice pairing of words; “soulful excellence”.  Highly evocative, together they smack of quality and emotion, like art – not clinical quality, like a spreadsheet.  So few pairings of words smack of anything so I just had to point them out.  I wish I could say they were mine, but alas credit must go to the remarkable Joey Reiman who uttered that phrase yesterday during a presentation for the Technology Association of Georgia’s Enterprise 2.0 Society. Yesterday we had a fabulous meeting featuring Mr. Reiman, Thinker & CEO and Elizabeth Clubb, Thinker & CSO, of BrightHouse.

Perhaps even more remarkable than the phrase itself is that it was used in the context of discussing new enterprise technology solutions.   The social computing mindset is different: powerful and enabling and dangerous to old modes of thinking.  It is changing the way we brand and the way we work.  They are becoming one. “Soulful Excellence” is evidence of that.  Chew on that phrase and watch out for more.

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