Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Newbie Took Such a Long Blog Break

I can't believe I haven't posted here since the beginning of the summer! I know, I know, I'm a negligent blogger. Shameful. Partly this summer was really really busy (I was traveling for most of July), and partly I just needed an extra-long blog break... But mostly I was working on this.

So for those of you who wondered where my blog energies have gone -- now you know!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Newbie Unplugged Again

It's that time of year again -- my annual unplugging! We're heading to the cottage for a much-needed vacation. And by "cottage" I mean the commune I grew up on (see earlier posts for the whole sordid, raised-by-hippies story), which is in Ontario's Dead Zone -- no cell phone reception, no internet access, and we're staying in my mom's old commune house, which has no running water and no electricity. Yeah, it's pretty Amish.

The upside to this primitive living is that I'm forced to actually take a vacation -- no checking voicemail or email, no calling work, no blogging or tweeting. For two weeks I'm actually focused on spending time with family, and relaxing.

The big bonus however, is that it REALLY makes me appreciate the mod cons that we take for granted. Like the internet. And toilets. :)

I'll see you all on July 13th when we re-enter the 21st century!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Newbie Ponders Digital Life After Death

Never before in human history has communication been so widely enabled. There are so many communication tools available to us these days, it can be overwhelming. Most of my friends and collegues have profiles on multiple social media platforms -- Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace; most have a blog or more than one; most have more than one email address (gmail, hotmail, work email) and two or more phones (home, office, cell). Many even have multiple cell phones. Some even use the post office to send old-fashioned greetings using pen on paper or cardstock.

As human communication tools have evolved and multiplied, so too has the social infrastructure to maintain them, the apparatus that allows the government to be aware of your whereabouts. When you move or change service providers, there are clear and organized methods for communicating this change of address, phone, etc to those who need to know. Also, when someone dies, there's paperwork filled out by the next of kin or executor that indicates what is no longer valid, or the change in ownership of certain contact points -- address, phone number, cell phone account -- that typically pass to the next of kin or executor. But there's no official way to communicate this change of status to our digital selves.

A very close friend of mine passed away two years ago, after a long, brave battle against breast cancer. She's gone, but her hotmail, her blog, and her facebook page are all still alive. Her next of kin (her mother) and her executor (her partner) don't know what her passwords were, and there are no clear tools for communicating to the authorities in charge of those online properties that these accounts should be legitimately deleted on her behalf, or ownership of the accounts passed to those who might be in a position to update her status.

So where are the infrastructure tools for tracking our digital lives, and deaths? We all talk a lot about managing your personal brand or brands online, which is all well and good if you're alive to do it. But who manages your personal brand after your death? Have you planned who is going to update your multiple online personas and profiles? Have you communicated your passwords and login info to your next of kin or executor?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Newbie's personal brand - or lack thereof

I've been feeling guilty that I haven't put much effort into creating or maintaining an online personal brand. Sure, I have this blog, and this blog name is what I use as my Twitter handle; but that's about the extent of it. Everywhere else -- facebook, myspace, LinkedIn, I'm me -- but different aspects of me.

I use MySpace exclusively for staying in touch with my far-flung family; facebook for keeping up with friends and some professional contacts; and LinkedIn for professional contacts. Except for my LinkedIn widget here, I don't cross-promote, either. I couldn't help but feel that maybe I've been doing myself a disservice by not having a more cohesive online presence.

But this recent post about personal brand from one of my fave bloggers, Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist, has me thinking differently. Maybe what I'm doing -- using different social media for different aspects of my business and personal life -- makes sense! What a relief. Isn't it gratifying when a smart thinker you admire validates your instincts?

Also, I've always felt guilty about how choosy I am when it comes to adding friends in any of these spaces. I don't add friends on MySpace -- my family are the only ones I want reading that. Typically I don't add friends or contacts on facebook unless I've met them at least once in person and face-to-face. And I don't add contacts on LinkedIn unless they are, in fact, professional contacts.

I work in publishing and I get a lot of friend requests on MySpace, facebook, and LinkedIn from authors whom I may have corresponded with on a professional basis in the past, but have rarely actually met in person. I almost always turn them down, or add them on a "limited profile" basis, especially on MySpace and facebook, and then end up feeling guilty, like I'm spurning them. I've yet to find any validation on this point.

So for all you smart thinkers out there: what do you do when you get friend or contact requests from people you don't really know? Do you automatically accept everyone who wants to link up with you? Or are you more choosy?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Newbie takes offense

I read Mitch Joel's Twist Image blog every day and 99.9% of the time my reaction is to nod in agreement. But today his latest post, "My conversation can beat up your conversation," specifically this portion of it, stopped me cold [emphasis added by me]:

"There's a strong case as to why all of us need to be spending more time on Technorati and doing everything in our power to build both our ranking and authority. Let's be honest: what's the point in Blogging if you're not building readerships, conversations and exposing your ideas to a growing audience?"

Wow. I don't even know what to say. What's the point in blogging?? Maybe it's me but that last sentence really touched a nerve. I realize that Mitch Joel is talking to (sorry, "conversing with") a marketing-centric audience, and for that audience alone I do agree with his statement -- if you're blogging for marketing purposes, on behalf of a brand or corporation, numbers count, and growth is a key measurement of success.

But it's such a bald, bold statement that I think the context is lost, and that's a shame, because out of context the statement comes off as... kind of arrogant. And, in my humble opinion, it's not true outside of a marketing context. There are plenty of reasons to blog for a small, stable audience: to keep in touch with friends and family; to chronicle an experience or evolution of thought; to share your ideas with a small, select group.

This is primarily why I started this blog. I'm chronicling my experience as a newbie; my ideas and thoughts about my adventures in social media aren't new -- but they are new to me at the time they occur to me, and like most humans, I'm following my instinctive urge to share my thoughts with friends new and old.

Let's face it, nothing I've posted is going to be of much interest to a larger audience. My goal is to share a conversation with a small, select group and I have. I've never made any effort to grow my audience, and as a result my audience has stayed small. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Newbie discovers Skype!

Someone just asked me how much time I spend in Second Life on a weekly basis. My immediate answer: not much, hardly any time at all. My thoughtful answer: about 1 hour minimum, maybe 6-8 hours max when I'm attending author events. That doesn't seem like a lot until you type it out like that, but it also doesn't *feel* like a lot. Maybe because when I'm in-world I'm so engaged with other people I don't notice the time passing.

For example, I spent a delightful 2 hours in-world last week with Kate, Connie, and Eden via their avatars, shopping (of course) and just generally gabbing via Skype.

I have to say, the Skype experience absolutely made the outing twice as fun. There was a little bit of overtalk, but once we found our rhythm it was so much easier and faster to share thoughts, ideas, reactions, etc. via voice instead of stopping to type it out in local chat.

We'd tried the in-world voice option before, but gave it up due to insurmountable static and volume issues. Skype worked smoothly and the four of us chatted freely and easily as never before. As Kate put it:

Once you go Skype, you'll never go type!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Newbie witnesses first Second Life "griefing"

Yes, it's true; my SL cherry has finally been popped. I've been griefed!

Well, not me personally, but an event that I set up. While co-hosting an author book launch for Gena Showalter's The Darkest Night (first in her Lords of the Underworld series) in Second Life last Friday night, the event was unfortunately marred by a couple of unwelcome visitors. I hasten to note that the agency we're working with to create and run these events had many staff on hand, who quickly and smoothly defused the situation and banned the offending avatars from the parcel. But I can't help but feel a little more grown-up, a little more... experienced in Second Life now.

Anyway, Chloe had a great time and so did the author! Here's a snapshot of our avatars dancing with the demons:

Chloe is the one on the left with red hair and big black wings; Gena's avatar is the pale-skinned beauty in the denim skirt on the right. (Clearly she's already found out that the shopping is the funnest part of Second Life!)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Newbie will MESH you up

Wow, it has been a LONG time since I posted. In my defense, it has been a crazy month. Among the highlights, I attended the MESH conference -- my first, because for the first time MESH was not at the same time as BEA. And not only did I attend -- I was a panelist, on Social Media and the Enterprise. Oh, and in a random drawing I won a free copy of Microsoft Ultimate Office! W00t!! Best. Swag. Ever.

I have to say, the experience of being a panelist was first-rate. I really felt welcomed and taken care of by the entire conference staff, from the Tuesday appreciation night at the Drake to the MESH after-party on Thursday. Our esteemed moderator, Michael O'Connor Clarke, did a fantastic job of guiding the conversation to encourage meaty questions and divergent points of view. I appreciated that my fellow panelists had a different take on social media for business, and I'm glad I could provide a counter-point.

With free wifi and multiple electric outlets, it was amazing to look out from the stage and see a sea of laptops; and gratifying as a panelist to know that every time I referenced one of our online properties as an example, half the room would be looking it up right away. Talk about immediacy of impact!

It's incredible to see amount of Twittering that goes on at these digital-themed conferences. On two occasions I found that a panel was veering away from the topic I'd hoped they'd cover; both times all I had to do was check the tweetstream or the live blogs and I was instantly in touch with what was being covered in other rooms, by other workshops and panels. (I confess: once I even ducked out to catch the last half of another workshop after a hot tip via Twitter.)

Needless to say, as both an attendee and a panelist, I enjoyed myself immensely. The entire event ran seamlessly, which as a natural-born organizer and planner, I always deeply respect and appreciate as I know how much work goes into that appearance of seamlessness. And of course, I found the workshops and panels interesting and engaging, many of which sparked ongoing dialogues with many more questions raised than answered.

I have to confess though, that like many digital-themed conferences, my main takeaway was not anything I learned during the keynotes or panels, but the connections I made during the breaks, lunches, and after-parties. I met some truly fascinating people doing innovative work on both the technical, product side and the marketing / social media side. I look forward to maintaining the connections I made through Twitter and other means!

My final note about MESH: This is absolutely the LAST TIME I attend a conference without a laptop. I'm sick to death of being the only one scribbling on a notepad while all around me people are connected, live-blogging and twittering. Big shout-out to Eden Spodek for allowing me to read Twitter over her shoulder!

Monday, April 21, 2008

What Linden Labs Isn't Telling You... Or Anyone

For various personal reasons I won't bore you with here, I've been spending a LOT of time in Second Life lately, mainly as an easy means to escape reality. (Don't worry, I'm feeling much better now.) I've been registered in Second Life for over a year now, but only recently have I indulged in binge behavior -- and by binge I mean logging into SL at 11pm on a Saturday and not coming up for air until 5am on a Sunday.

In the course of this binge period I noticed quite a few things about SL. Now, you've probably already reached these conclusions yourself, but bear with me, I am the newbie after all.

1. It's about the people
Every time you log in to Second Life there are chipper little updates from Linden Labs announcing this or that upgrade or improvement to the grid. Some are noticable (a recent forced update did result in smoother avatar movement, a better chat function, and a more easily-accessed search function, for me at least), some are not. These improvements are all very nice, however, the true value in Second Life is with the people. What good is a better chat function if there are no people logged on with which I can chat? I'm not just talking about my contacts list either -- I wasn't surprised to find that everyone I know has better things to do than hang about in SL for six hours early Sunday morning -- but just folks in general, to meet, chat with, interact with.

2. Where are all the people?
Which leads me to my second observation: where the heck is everybody?? Linden Labs touts SL membership as being in the millions, but I've only ever seen about 40-50K logged on at any given time. During my binge period, I met someone new almost every time I logged into SL, which is great -- that's partly why I was there -- but in subsequent visits, they were nowhere to be found. I met probably half a dozen brand-new SL members and happily showed them around, helped them out -- and never saw them come online again. So where are these millions? Is it as I suspect -- people are joining, checking it out once or twice, and never coming back?

Is that why Linden Labs won't say how many registered users are actually using SL? What is the login ratio to registered users anyway? I'm just curious. Because I do still think that Second Life has great potential as a social network; it's just not quite there yet, and all the minor upgrades and improvements Linden Labs is committed to making won't help it to tip into the mainstream -- people will.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Newbie becomes Twitter convert!

After much encouragement from such cool chicks as Eden, Connie, and Kate during a raucous and rowdy geeky girls get-together last week (martinis may have been involved), I decided to give Twitter one more shot.

And I am SO glad I did! Wow, I HAVE been missing out! Thanks to a few tips from my new Twitter friends on how to use it I totally get it now. Count me in among the throngs in the pro-Twitter camp.

I still don't kid myself that it's mainstream -- or even close to approaching the usability that made facebook and myspace household names -- but it definitely has that potential. And I'm excited to be watching its development from the user perspective!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Newbie is Twittering: I don't get it

At PodCamp Toronto back in February, and in fact at any social media-related meetup or get-together in recent memory, the buzz has been all about Twitter. Twitter, it seems, is the Next Big Thing in social media, the app that everyone is talking about. Most of the folks who led me into the social media space -- Mitch Joel, Michael Seaton, Eden Spodek, Kate Trgovac -- are ardent fans of Twitter.

But I just don't get it.

I have tried, oh how I have tried. I joined Twitter about 6 months ago when hardly anybody I knew was on it; I quickly gave it up as not relevant to me because, as anyone on Twitter knows, it's only as valuable as the people you're following.

Recently, when everyone I know was exhorting me get back on it and follow them, I did... for about two weeks before I lost interest again.

I have no explanation for this except that it's just not for me. I'm really just not all that interested in brief snapshots of what people are thinking about at that moment. Oh, I can definitely see the appeal, and I can definitely understand the incredible value for anyone who can access Twitter via their mobile or handheld, especially those who travel a lot and find themselves stuck in layover and wanting a quick meetup. In fact Twitter was invaluable in the hours after the presentations had wrapped up on the Saturday at PodCamp Toronto -- thanks to Twitter 3 separate groups of people shared notes about their relative locations, and successfully connected at a restaurant that could accommodate 25 people.

But I don't have a handheld, or a mobile with web access, and I'd really rather read the reasoned, fully thought out musings one finds in blog posts than off-the-cuff thoughts on Twitter.

All of which makes me feel oddly disconnected from the social media crowd. Usually I'm among the first to embrace, then evangelize these kinds of tools. So tell me: am I missing something? am I using it wrong? Worse, am I missing out? Or am I just part of the larger mainstream that hasn't caught on to Twitter, and won't until it tips into the popular consciousness like facebook did?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Become a Second Life expert in just one year!

About a year ago I attended PodCamp Toronto. I was just getting started on the web 2.0 path and wanted to learn as much as I could about all things new and digital. I was a blank slate, ignorant but keen to meet folks who knew more than I did and absorb information.

Trust me, I am not overstating things when I say that my attendance at that first PodCamp Toronto would turn out to be a pivotal event in my life.

At that PodCamp I attended a session led by Jay Moonah on Second Life. I'd read about Second Life in various old-school print media, and I was curious. Jay's informal talk made Second Life sound so fun, so cool, and most of all, so easy, that I immediately signed up.

And the rest, as they say, is history. I've been in Second Life almost every week since then and I still find it a fascinating social and promotional tool. I came to work on the Monday after PodCamp yammering on and on about Second Life, to the point where my boss gave me the budget to hold some author events in Second Life in 07 and 08, possibly just to keep me quiet.

And now things have come full circle: I'm co-presenting a session on Second Life at this year's PodCamp Toronto! Amazing, from ignorant know-nothing to PodCamp presenter in just a year. Hopefully I can inspire one or two people to try out SL, just as I was inspired a year ago.

But that's not the only profound change in my life thanks to PodCamp -- in fact it's not even the most significant. At that SL session in 07, I introduced myself to the woman sitting next to me (as I am inclined to do at conferences; it's a bit out of character for an introvert like me but it's the best way to meet new people). We chatted a bit, and I learned that she was the brilliant Kathryn Lagden, then of AIMS Canada. I managed to sufficiently disguise my starstruckness so that through her I later had the privilege of meeting the awesome Kate Trgovac, and the equally awesome Eden Spodek -- who by the way will be my co-presenter this year! -- and I'm happy and proud to say that I now call all three of these wonderful, brilliant ladies my friends.

So... yay for PodCamp!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Newbie forced to make time to update blog

funny pictures

Once again I find myself apologizing for a long absence from this blog. I haven't posted in so long because I've been so very very busy. My job has finally caught up with my hobbies, so instead of blogging for fun and killing time in Second Life, I've been blogging for work and spending loads of time in Second Life organizing and attending a series of author events.

Ok, so I did make some time for an After A Fashion outing in Second Life just before the holidays. We bought Xmas-y outfits from Total Betty and went skating:

Who would have thought that skating in Second Life was just as much fun as in real?

But after that I was all business, in Second Life every week in January with Deanna Raybourn, the charming author of Silent in the Sanctuary, doing a live-audio reading and Q&A, hosting a fabulous (and very well-attended) Victorian ball, and hosting a more intimate group of aspiring writers for a writing workshop. All of which required a collection of new, fancy, Victorian gowns for my avatar, but of course! A lady must never be underdressed.

All of which was way fun, but whew! Glad to get back to RL for a while!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Return of the Newbie!

Happy New Year! Tag, I'm it! Kate tagged me for an "8 things" meme that seems to have been kick-started by my fellow Girl Geek Maggie Fox, and as much as I normally dislike memes, I can't think of a better way to kick off 2008 than by the oversharing of personal info. And awaaaay we go!

Eight things you might not know about me:

1. If you didn't start reading this blog at the beginning then you might not know that my parents co-founded a commune in 1971. Yes, it's true, I was raised in the woods by hippies. We made our own cheese and had no indoor plumbing. We had a communal garden and a shared cow, and in the summer we wore no clothes. Some of these tenets have fallen by the wayside in the ensuing years, notably the nudity, but the commune is still very much a going concern (in fact I am regularly courted by the current members to join).

2. And that crunchy-granola upbringing perhaps explains why in high school I was a full-on goth. Black clothing, white makeup, lots of Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees... the whole iconoclastic shebang. You can't get much less outdoorsy than goth culture, so I suppose in my way I was rebelling by embracing a subculture dependent upon urban living. There aren't many goths in the woods.

3. I'm an only child with 6 siblings. No, not a riddle -- a result of a broken home. After their divorce my parents both hooked up again (and again, in my Dad's case), so I have 2 half-brothers and 3 half-sisters plus one bonus stepsister -- but no full-on sibs. It freaks me out a little bit to think that the people I think of as my brother and my sister could get legally married since they're not related except through me. It gets even freakier when my mom talks about how my sister Alix and my brother Steve have SO much in common and would make SUCH a good couple... (All together now: EW.)

4. I'm distantly related to the King of Sweden. My Dad is second-generation Finnish-Canadian, and is still in contact with my grandmother's family in Finland. They are fond of telling the story of the Crown Prince and our great-great-grandmother, who used to work for the Swedish royal family... until she got pregnant, left Sweden, and moved to Finland, settling down in a small town on the coast to raise her young son alone, speaking only Swedish. (All together now... Hmmmm...)

5. I'm epileptic. It's not a secret, just not something I tend to publicize. It's easy to forget that I have this chronic, incurable condition because my seizures are controlled by medication -- in fact until a couple of weeks ago, it'd been 6 years since my last seizure. Then I had a seizure on Jan. 2nd. Quite a way to usher in the new year, wouldn't you say? There's a fairly lengthy recovery period involved, and now you know why I haven't posted until now.

6. I have a 3-year-old daughter, Zoe, whom I absolutely adore, even though she is single-handedly responsible for turning me from a jaded sophisticate into a pajama-wearing marshmallow who cries at the barest hint of sentiment.

7. When I was young, I wanted to be an actress. I took acting lessons all through high school and minored in Drama in University. My career peaked with a one-time appearance on Degrassi Junior High and I eventually realized that to be a successful actress one needed to get used to baring either one's soul, or one's boobs, or both. I chose modesty and baring my soul only online in blog form.

8. I have a deep and abiding love for good single-malt Scotch. I used to be strictly a wine-or-beer-or-cooler girl, with the occasional G&T thrown in on special occasions, until I went to Scotland on our honeymoon. After touring a few distilleries, I spontaneously and somewhat accidentally entered a blind-nosing contest (in which you are given opaque glasses of Scotch and must identify the vintage only by smell) and against all probabilities, I won!

Now I'm supposed to tag 8 others and keep this chain going, but all of the people I know who blog have already been tagged! So I'm going to take a cue from my sister Alix and dead-end this meme right here. Unless of course you want to pick up the torch and carry it for me!