Opeth ~ Watershed

Opeth, Watershed LP Opeth has managed to successfully create a real work of art on Watershed. The death metal band from Sweden took the anticipation of their album to heart and went to the lab to produce something far better than I think anyone could’ve anticipated.

The melodies, the patience and stoicism of every track makes progressive death metal my favourite niche genre. Opeth flawlessly produces a bounty of diverse sounds.

Best tracks include Coil, Burden and Heir Apparent.

[rating: 4.5]

10 songs (6.27.08)

In this week’s 10 songs segment, I’ve run the gamut on randomness. From Australian hip-hop, to my newest crush in the form of a Korean-American starlet named Yoon Mi Rae who can sing and rap, this playlist has it all.

Also the usual fare of awesome indie tracks, the best country artist you’ll never hear this year in Hayes Carll and well….you can just listen for yourself.

Love is Chemicals – Our Darkest Days and Nights
Lupe Fiasco – Paris, Tokyo
Hayes Carll – Faulkner Street
Shearwater – Rooks
The Winnie Coopers – Success
Opeth – Coil
N.E.R.D. – Everyone Nose
Yoon Mi Rae/Tasha – Black Happiness
Chetes – Regresa
Devotchka – Comrade Z

Going boldly

In institutional settings, it can be easy to settle in as a fly on the wall. I don’t really enjoy making waves. Those who know me well, might find that kinda funny at first glance. That would be the case, because they know that I can’t help but try to improve things — even if said things are none of my business to try to help sometimes. I don’t mean sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong, because I have enough to worry about on my own plate.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m not always willing to offer a few kindly words if someone asks my opinion and people often do. I’ve come to find in some situations though, that it can be more frustrating than not to find yourself constantly as a cog, rather than the one making the slide greasy for everyone else to slide down easily.

What do I mean?

It’s easy to put your radio up to listen to the white noise of the ‘net, to see what others are doing and to follow their lead. That’s what thought leaders do, they speak decisively and hope (or expect?) someone to follow.

I tend to be more inclusive in my approach and desire not just for consensus, but to value the fringe players as much as the key players. I don’t feel like these two goals are in conflict, either. When I coached tennis, my favourite players weren’t always my star players. It was the young, scrappy kid working his way up from the lowest echelons. (and just because I was that kid myself…)

But, even the ones in the middle felt valued and showed up too. My philosophy was that no one was expendable. Sure, people will leave. But if people feel like they’re part of something, they’re more likely to contribute and give their all. If you entrusted them to make the right choices, they usually don’t go out of their way to disappoint you.

We used to have this locker with a combo lock on it. I hated the stupid thing, because I had a devil of time opening combo locks in high school and it seemed that thing wanted to taunt me as if it were my 9th grade locker. I used to make the kids open for me, because it annoyed me. Sometimes, they’d want to stay after sessions and hit for a while. I’d let them lock up and use the balls if they wanted to. Was it against the rules technically? Yeah. If one time, the balls were left out and it rained, would I have taken heat? Yup.

Did it ever happen? Not once.

That same adage applies to entrust people within our organizations to grow, to learn, to make mistakes and to take risks. You might say “it’s not their money to risk…” but that’s not the point. The point is, what separates them from where you are in a leadership role? Time. Nothing else. It’s not even knowledge anymore. I don’t know that it ever was about being the smartest person.

People lament the desire of millennials to want to hurry up to be part of things and that they “don’t want to wait their turn…” but the fundamental thing people are ignoring is that their passion and energy represent an opportunity to go somewhere..boldly.

When we choose to just follow the pack, to regurgitate conventional wisdom and do it “the way we’ve always done it,” we miss out on opportunities to really affect change within our organizations.

Leaders need to be smart enough to know when to steer the plane and when to let go. So when you’re not there, the need to worry about “what might happen” isn’t in question.

Portal Solutions

What are some the best ones out there? Are there any open source tools that do some of the same things? I’ve used them and I’ve seen a few, but I’m looking for some of the thoughts of the “wider community” on portals and the thoughts on them. Not just the implementation, but the way that students interact with them.

I actually went in and looked at a few of the portals I’d been able to view in the past. They’re all enterprise solutions made by big companies. I have a bias against them by and large, but…I can see the value in them overall.

In my experience, students have always rebelled against them, because they’re redundant or riddled with features that they don’t use or don’t offer the sort of utility they want/need. I’m curious to what others are doing out there.

When people you know do big things…

It always trips me out when friends of mine go off to do great things. Not because I’m particularly surprised by it, because I knew they were awesome. It’s just a neat thing when you move on to other things and then have people doing things that make you smile.

Recently, a few of my friends from college have been doing all sorts of interesting things. Well they might have always been doing them. But it’s especially fun in recent times when I load up my RSS feeder and read what Dan is writing about or that Kate is headed to Olympic trials or that Wyatt is writing computer books.

That’s just a few of them and this sort of thing has been happening for years. But…it still never gets old.

“Flip This House” web strategy

So…when it’s all said and done, what’s the point of your web redesign? Keeping up with The Joneses State University? Need a company to come in and lock you in to their new, hot CMS that you’ll be saddled with like a child leash? Maybe your new hot web designer wants to show off her talents on the big canvas called the interwebs? But really, what’s the purpose of your web redesign?

Stats

I’ll answer it for you. It’s traffic.

Just like TV stations tinker with their lineups and move shows around, all of the stuff we do on the web is aimed at increasing the number of eyeballs. Period. More eyeballs, more conversions = more money and perhaps, more students going from prospect to student.

I know, I know. This isn’t rocket science. So what’s the point? To resist the urge to employ a Flip This House web strategy.

What do I mean by this semi-clever idea? Lemme tell ya.

  • Your site needs work. So you call an expert.
  • You’re on a budget, so the expert can only do what they can to help you get close to your goals, but not actually meet them.
  • You rationalize the new site not meeting your hopes and dreams, by saying “at least it’s better than the old site.”
  • You implement the new site and immediately, people are looking for ways to tweak and improve what you’ve done.
  • This storyline is more typical at small institutions where there isn’t enough internal help to make the site redesign happen. Things like redesign blogs and soliciting feedback with core constituent groups are good ways to keep people in the loop. Smart folks are starting to get this, but not everyone is on the wagon yet.

    It can be a lonely place being the “web person” when you’re the only one. It can be really easy to get sold on a web strategy that doesn’t accentuate your positives. Using sites like Google Trends can be a useful way to see how your web traffic stacks up against the opposition.

    To avoid a web strategy that’s loosely a ‘cut and run’ strategy for someone else to profit, you need to dig in your heels, roll up your sleeves and use your time wisely. It’s not always JUST about aesthetics, it’s just as much about utility and effectiveness to reach out to target audiences.

    Noel Gourdin might need to shoot a new video

    Ok, so here’s what happens when you make a song that your label probably doesn’t expect to “blow up” like it does, so they let you film a video on a shoestring budget that isn’t close to being what the song is about.

    Take one Noel Gourdin. He made this song called The River. Steve Harvey played it on his radio show apparently and was such a big fan that it’s motivated stations that never played to pick it up. So I guess maybe label does know best? They probably didn’t think the song would get very far.

    Hence that video.

    Well, here’s how Noel Gourdin explains the song though (on his YouTube page, in marketing copy)

    That’s apparent on the richly moving “The River.” Produced by Kay Gee, “The River” conjures up vivid images of family, faith, tradition and the journey towards becoming your own man. “We wanted to make a modern-day Negro spiritual,” concludes Noel, of the song’s inspiration. “Both my grandparents lived in Mississippi about 3 hours from Biloxi and I spent every summer with them, so I really soaked up that atmosphere and history. My grandfather had just died and I was really thinking about him, and in the Deep South the river represents something spiritual. The song means a lot because it’s so close to home.”

    Ok, that’s cool dude. Really cool. So why did you let them talk you into making a video that has NOTHING to do with that? I know, I know. Rookie mistake. You’ll do better. First step? Re-shoot that video, before they start showing it on TV.

    Detangling a social web

    I recently deactivated my facebook profile and did some other social network housekeeping, deleting old accounts too. The reason? The web can be a nebulous place. It’s not so much about hiding or even about sharing ‘too’ much information. I didn’t go out of my way to put out tons of information and I suppose there is merit to making a network smaller and cutting back the numbers of people one adds.

    I didn’t succumb to “trading-card friend phenomenon” by adding lots of random people I didn’t know. It’s just when you live a little, travel a lot and have different experiences (or go to three different schools in different parts of the country) you start to rack up people. Sure, you can start to create layers of things certain people can see, etc., but that’s far more work than is worth the benefit.

    So then the operative question becomes “what’s the point of this?” In an era of branding for brand’s sake and turning yourself into a piece of marketing collateral rather than an actual person, I can see how deactivating a social networking profile on a prominent site can be considered a faux pas of epic proportion. Maybe I’m supposed to find a way to get marginal utility from the tool. I just ceased to find it useful at this point in my life.

    I used it solely to keep in touch with people I’ve lost touch with and there are a lot of them. Camp friends, kids I’ve taught tennis over the years, people I went to college with or have worked with, high school and childhood friends and of course, people I know and spend time with now. Family too. It’s just a big, big place. But when life change happens — or just when you’re in the midst of plotting and planning — sometimes, the white noise of your ‘social network’ can almost be like having family (or a choir of mosquitoes) buzzing in your ear.

    The people who are really part of my ‘network’ will use an old-fashioned tool — the phone — and actually call. Or they’ll email. I’ll go back eventually and applaud the site for giving people the ability to “plug out” of the site for a while. I found it amusing when I deactivated that one of the reasons you can choose to leave is being “addicted to facebook.” (They suggest you limit the number of friends you have.)

    Nope, I just needed a break from the noise for a while. Needed to connect with real people, real relationships and to find other venues (like this one) to have more meaningful interactions.