Experiencing the web

I was driving to lunch today and the thought that came to mind was “I just want to experience the web, not talk about it.” Seems like a simple statement. But there is more to it.

The reason that I’ve been doing this for so long, is the fact that I’ve found a multitudes of ways to enhance the hobbies, interests and passions I have, using the web as a catalyst for doing more than I ever imagined would be possible.

The reason I’m able to blog about what I do, is because I engage in a variety of different activities on the web that don’t necessarily have anything to do with what I do at work. Yet, they inform the very experiences and give me perspective that I would otherwise not have.

So while creating Facebook applications and baseball statistics are random things, they’re still part of the big picture for me.

Talking about the web is fun and interesting. But people usually want to know how to apply what knowledge I have for what they are trying to do. That’s universal. Whether I’m at work, whether I’m out on the road or even with friends. They want to take the raw knowledge and refine it for their own purposes.

So that’s what I’m interested in more than anything. I’ve always wanted to be able to help people enhance their web experience, to learn how to make things more useful and apply the knowledge they’ve gained through a workshop or something else to good use. I’m not concerned with filling their brains with stuff that doesn’t matter and feel great when they come back and want to learn more.

The significance of now

I won’t be voting for either major party candidate in this year’s Presidential election (and I never have…)

But I can’t help be struck by this…

August 28, 1955 – Emmitt Till is murderd in Mississippi
August 28, 1963 – Martin Luther King gives his I Have A Dream Speech in Washington, D.C.
August 28, 2008 – Barack Obama accepts Democratic nomination for President in Denver, CO.

I, Too, Sing America
Langston Hughes

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–
I, too, am America.

What’s your hook?

I’m whipping up a presentation and in the midst of it I had a thought back to something I watched when I saw someone else’s a few weeks ago.

Everyone seems to have a hook. Something that draws the audience into whatever they’re talking about and to “sell them” on whatever it is they’re talking about and why it’s important. It’s especially important when you’re talking about the web, because some people’s eyes glaze over when the web comes up, because they find it daunting.

I tend to have more of a “style” than a hook, because I’ve been speaking a long time and it’s usually about a bevy of different, unrelated issues. But others have a methodical style that works for them. What’s yours?

I created some new baseball statistics

As if it wasn’t enough for me to go off and create my own college football ranking algorithm, I’ve taken my love of baseball statistics too far once and for all.

The new stat is called VOCL or Value Over Championship Level. (Pronounced VO-CAL) It’s not that beautiful of a stat, but it works. It’s only measure is to help you determine whether your team is at championship level. Doesn’t mean you’re anymore likely to win or anything like that.

It just means that your team is officially within its “win window” I’ve seen teams win at a lower rate than championship level. It’s just a helpful tool.

The thing is, in each league, championship level is different. In some leagues, you can get as high as 600 for some years, in playoff leagues, it can be as low as 450. I’ve seen VOCLs into the 800s on occasion.

We’re not trying to calculate how low a team can go to get to championship level, instead, the goal is to try to figure out how to adjudge when your team has “made it” and so, the formula for VOCL is:

(Team Batting VORP + Team Pitching VORP) – 400 = VOCL

Here are the other two stats I invented:

RVe (Retained Value) is the amount of VORP a team gained/lost during an off-season. For instance, Atlanta’s current RVe is 58.2, given they lost about 43.4 VORP and have gained 101.8 so far this off-season.

PVe (Predicted Value) is the measure of the team’s VOCL from the previous season added to their RVe. So for instance, even if Valdosta didn’t add another player of any value this off-season, the team’s PVe is 28, which is higher than the 14.9 PVe, which would indicate things are close, but how close, it’d be hard to say without seeing the other teams or knowing the results of the season yet.

This whole set of new statistics are going to be called CharlieS (Charlie Stats, as in “what are their CharlieS?), the idea here is to create a set of indicators that allow the GM a snapshot of their team’s performance, to assess the current state of the team and could influence future moves, based on it.

I created it for fake baseball, because I needed better indicators to see where my team was, but they could work in real life too with more data available to you.

They’re the first of many stats that I’m devising, mostly as I need them. But it seems that my bringing these up, have incited a minor positive riot of folks wanting me to delve further in to give them more indicators to help them create newer/better/awesomer statistics.

So alas, my work is not done.

Ask the right questions when interviewing for a job

My career posts usually get way more traffic than I’d expect. From how to write a bio, negotiate a deal to how to break into the field of college web strategy, content development or webmaster “personhood” , these posts have done pretty well with folks because well, I imagine they were having a hard time finding these sorts of things on the web. I know I did, it’s why I wrote them.

So it wasn’t a big surprise to me when a friend who happens to subscribe to my blog asked me a question, “What is the one piece of advice you’d get someone looking for a job…” He’s actually in the midst of applying for a job in higher ed as a web developer, after graduating and getting back from Iraq.

Anyway, I told him that the #1 thing I’d say is Ask the right questions. Rarely do the interviewers not give you a chance to “ask them questions you might have.” Save for the cursory questions and perhaps incisive ones specific to the job, it’s often that you might not want to “rock the boat” by coming off like you’re trying to interview the interviewers.

But you need to truly know what you’re getting yourself into, before it’s too late.

Some of the questions I came up with included:
1. What is your vision for this role?
2. Why is it a priority within the organization?
3. Do you anticipation any changes to the role in the immediate future (next 1-3 years)
4. What’s a day in the life like?
5. What happened to the last person who served in this capacity?

Those are just a few. I realize that some are more feasible than others and you might have a ton of time for deep questioning, depending on the venue. But if it’s anything like the interviews I’ve been through over the years, you’ll usually get a chance to really dig deep and find out more about the role you might be taking.

Once they call, you can ask and such, but I find it’s much easier to get as much information as possible for the various committees of folks who are chosen to interview you.

You owe it to yourself to assess even the most potentially exciting opportunities critically. Because it’s easy for the rhetoric to distract you from getting the best possible deal for yourself. You simply cannot risk allowing yourself to be mired in a situation that’s not representative of the best opportunities for you to grow professionally.

No job is perfect, of course. But the fit isn’t always about the one-way fit between what works for the institution, but it’s also about what works for you.

Don’t ever forget that.

A lesson in viral marketing

No, still not about “higher ed” in a traditional sense. But EA shows us how a major brand can effectively use viral marketing, by responding to what’s out on the web.

The best part of this, in my mind, has nothing to do with the actual ad (though it is pretty cool.) The real story is that EA is saying “we’re hearing you” when people are using viral tools to communicate about their brand. They were aware of what was going on in the marketplace. A lot of times, we like to act as if we’re inoculated from the criticism that might be leveled using new technology at strong brands, because we’re trying to show that we’re bulletproof to those things and that it’s “not relevant.”

But in this case, they took something — a glitch someone exposed in a commercial — and flipped it into something that accentuated a new version of their game. They took a negative and turned it into an opportunity to enhance their brand.

It was a savvy move, all the way down to releasing it online only.

Given that video game companies and colleges serve similar demographics, there are certainly opportunities for crossover. One example is what Carnegie Mellon did with Randy Pausch’s lecture once someone put it up on Youtube and it became an internet sensation.

Bolts of wisdom

“…Sometimes, it’s good to enjoy yourself. This is my work, it’s my job. If you don’t enjoy your job, it doesn’t make any sense to actually do it because you won’t have any fun.” – Usain Bolt