Top Songs of 2008 Pt. 2

Well, I knew this was coming and now is as good a time to write it as any. As in past years, I need to recap a bunch of albums that I forgot, neglected, ignored or simply wanted to tell you about the day after I wrote my list (or beyond that) and couldn’t wait to mention.

Rather than give you an addendum list of the best albums of the year that I managed to forget, I decided it might be more productive to just create a new list of the best songs of the year. Because there are certainly some songs out there that were worth playing over and over again, but weren’t on albums I felt like checking out.

Top Songs of 2008

Descriptions are below the cut, if you’re interested:
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Nobody Cares

What you want just isn’t important.

People have their missions, their plans, their goals and their ideas about what matters to them. What they want, is for you to be part of helping them do precisely what they want, when they want it.

Fairness has nothing to do with it.

So you have two options. You can get upset or you can start to seize control of your own life. No one says you have to live a life that’s comprised solely of doing other people’s bidding all of the time. Your goals matter. Your dreams are important too. But not if you choose never to get out of your PJs and start making them happen.

You can do better and you deserve it. But does it mean anything if you don’t begin trying to reach where you want to go?

You only get one real crack at this life thing. And time seems to fly faster than you can often keep up with. That’s okay. It just keeping you honest.

So what are you going to do about it? Is this the day, the time and the year where you start plotting the course towards something better for you? When you stop looking over your shoulder or across the fence to see what your neighbor is doing? It’s not about them, it’s about you.

There is no such thing as a stupid goal. Or a useless career unless you make it so. You have the ability and the will to make big things happen. But you’re not always going to have people in your corner telling you how great you are and validating what it is you do. You need to start digging deeper and surrounding yourself with folks who’ll enhance what you’re trying to do, rather than cut it down.

It all seems like a lot, I know. But it’s really not. Think about it this way, if you’re going to sit there and remain frustrated; wondering why things aren’t going your way and trying to concoct plans that probably won’t get you out of it (because you won’t execute), you need to start being more proactive about your future.

Because it’s yours. And the headline is wrong. Someone does care. That someone ought to be you.

The web person and the mess they leave behind

When you’re leaving a situation or getting into a new one, it’s always the peril of the singular web person that you think, “what was this past person thinking?” Unless they leave copious notes or you’re replacing someone you’ve had the opportunity to be trained by, what do you do?

How can we make it easier for our successors to thrive?

Maybe folks say, “well, I don’t care.” But I’m at my third institution and I can tell you, that it’s always one of the first things I thought about in my first job. I kept thinking, “if I left tomorrow, this thing would be a mess for someone to have to inherit.”

When I left Wyoming, my successor was a coworker and so I was fortunate to be able to train her for the weeks prior to my departure. But you don’t always get that lucky. So what do you do? Are you making sure that your deck is prepared for someone to step into your role?

(Or are you just going to tell me you plan to be where you are forever?)

How blogging what you know can be cathartic

I never realized how much blogging about work and such could be cathartic. I’ve been doing this in one form or another for a long time, but it wasn’t until almost a year ago that I decided to start blogging about my work life and sharing not just my knowledge, but asking the sorts of questions I had and finding out what others know.

It’s not just been a useful experience, but one that’s therapeutic. The hustle, bustle and frankly, the way life goes sometimes can be a roller coaster ride. Sometimes, you can only cling to the stuff that you do well (and folks you actually like) to get you through those times. For me, it’s always nice to escape to the world of things that I know well and sharing that knowledge, that make me feel pretty good, even after being immersed in things and other aspects of life can be frustrating.

Drinking with strangers…

It’s a song, but a nice segue into talking about some tips for meeting new people when you’re networking off-line. It’s easy for some folks to assemble legions of friends online, but it usually comes from a bit of savvy in knowing how to navigate crowds at social events.

So how do you do it? Well, it depends on the venue and the activity. But in general, there are a few tips worth keeping in mind when you’re trying to translate your online skills to the ‘real world.’

1. Show up early. It’s not so much about being the first one. But if you’re walking into a Lion’s Den of people who you might not know, it’s always handy to be among the first ones there, because you’ll inevitably meet other people in the same boat as you. Those situations can end up like college, where you band together with your floormates for a while, because you don’t know anyone else. People coming in might isolate with the people they know, but you’ll end up with a group that you can at least converse with or choose to work the room if you’re feeling ambitious. It could cast you in a positive light, by simply looking “in the know,” when really, you were just being proactive by being early.

2. Read more, be interesting. Some folks really like their jobs. So when they go out, that’s what they talk about. Other people, have no interest in talking about their jobs even at social events for one reason or another. That’s why, if you’ve read good books, like sports or have other default topics you can delve into, it’ll make you a party hit. Niche knowledge about things people care about can be useful too. Maybe someone is renovating their house and has a lot to say? Now is the time to unpack all of that stuff you’ve been thinking about since you did it at your place. Maybe it’s just sharing how much the market has wrecked havoc on your portfolio? Bottom line is, having a life that’s relatively balanced can make you more interesting to share time with, versus someone who only talks about office drama and what they did this week as if itemizing their action items matters to folks they don’t know well.

3. Be a good listener Nothing is worse than talking to someone, then seeing them later in the night and they not only forget your name, but that they’ve met you at all. Asking them their job or where they’re from when they’ve already told you, signals that you clearly don’t think they’re important or memorable. Maybe that’s the case, but confirming it doesn’t really serve anyone well and makes you look bad. If you had to rig it, just stick with an audience that you can clearly remember and don’t work the room. But if you’re gonna walk around, make sure you remember who you’ve talked to enough that you won’t forget them when they show up again.

4. Avoid being a show off. People don’t want your card if they don’t know you. Maybe they’ll be nice and take it anyway, but really, why waste the paper? Don’t talk to them about how great your job is compared to theirs and refrain from talking about your most recent raise, your new sports car or anything else that might be perceived as you showing off. No one likes a braggart and it’s hardly a way to influence people, win friends and network.

5. Be eager to tap people’s knowledge The best thing about networking is leveraging the talents of others to help you out in what you day to day. So don’t be afraid to ask questions, to tap people’s knowledgebase and to willing to share what you know to help them. It can be part of a bigger opportunity that might serve you will as your career evolves.

Top Albums of 2008

All of you subscribers who are looking for amazing, deep insights about web strategy, entrepreneurship or higher education are just going to have to indulge me one of my semi-weekly music posts, as this one is pretty important. It’s my annual list of the best albums of the year. Omissions include TV On the Radio (my favorite band on the planet…but I liked their last album more.) and Death Cab For Cutie (I liked the album, but it wasn’t anything close to their best stuff.)

The 2008 installment of the Albums of the Year include a variety of random picks, as this year contained a number of pretty strong LPs, but overall it wasn’t exactly an earthshattering year in terms of great releases.

So here we go, in no specific order. (What a cop out, I know!)

Ximena Sarinana Ximena Sariñana ~ Mediocre
Ximena Sarinana debut release Mediocre sounds like a confluence of styles. Something along the lines of Nellie McKay meets countryman Julieta Venegas meets Sia. It’s original, in other words. Very original. The jazz influences are hard to ignore throughout this release. She’s got the chops to hang with the best of them and if you have any real desire to listen to music en espanol, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better singer on the indie scene these days.From my review back in May

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco ~ The Cool

What’s hilarious is, I really didn’t like this album when it was released. Perhaps that’s the beauty of a late December release, that people have a whole new year to either 1) ignore what you put out there or 2) enjoy it all year as if it was a 2008 release. I took route 2 and it was a good choice. Just a really nuanced and well balanced album all around and most likely the best hip-hop release of the past year hands down.

Sia – Some People Have Real Problems
This album was released in January, but has held up extremely well this year. But this former singer for Zero 7 really did a good job on this solo release, putting out several songs like Academia, The Girl You Lost To Cocaine and Death By Chocolate that were among my favorites this year. She’s got a soulful voice and knows how to use it well. Just good stuff.

M83 – Saturdays=Youth
Someone forgot to tell these guys that the 80s were over a long time ago. But that’s okay. The pop-synth revival show starts and stops here. This is just a solid album full of standout tracks like Kim and Jessie, We Own The Sky and Graveyard Girl. I just enjoyed the heck out of it all year.

Richard Swift
Richard Swift – Dressed Up For The Letdown

Sure, this was released in 2007. Who cares. I discovered it in 2008 and I have to say that I’m glad I did. My favorite track on this album was The Songs of National Freedom, but Artist & Repertoire and Ballad of You Know Who weren’t slouches for tracks either. What Richard Swift seems to do well is tell a story and pull off the indie singer-songwriter thing in an earnest manner that doesn’t make him sounds too much like he’s trying to oversell on each track.

Does it Offend you, yeah
Does It Offend You, Yeah? – You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Into
Another album where I didn’t really understand all the hoopla at first and wasn’t particularly a fan of. But it grew on me. The love affair started with “Epic Last Song” and extended to tracks like “With A Heavy Heart…” and “We Are The Rockstars.” These guys don’t stick to one genre, they’re all over the place and it seems to work pretty well for them. All in all, it’s just an old-fashioned good time of strange synth-rock goodness. It’s an act that will probably get old on a second album if they keep it up, but the model worked okay this time.

The Rancouters
The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely

I’m not exactly the biggest Jack White fan, but I do really admire his work on White Stripes albums, what he did for Loretta Lynn on “Van Lear Rose” and well…what he does with his side project, The Raconteurs. I really enjoyed this album. It didn’t seek to do too much, it simply worked well with what it had. “You Don’t Understand Me,” is one of the best rock songs of the year. The whole album is just comprised of rock and roll done the right way. I appreciate that.

Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu ~ New Amerykah Pt. 1
I wasn’t sold initially, but it didn’t take me long to be ensnared into what Ms. Badu was cooking up. From Telephone to Master Teacher, she just takes you on a musical journey that’s unlike anything else released this year. It’s R&B through and through, but it goes beyond that. Finally, an album that’s well anticipated from an artist who actually delivers the goods.

Drive-By Truckers ~ Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
This is seriously southern rock at its best. You won’t hear a better country influenced album than this one. From my review earlier this year: The LP is nineteen tracks of pure alt-country goodness. It’s slow-cooked, it’s marinated right and seriously has just the feel of what happens when a confluence of really good events come together at the right time. Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife is the opening track and a is beautiful way to start things, because it’s nothing overwhelming. Other outstanding tracks include I’m Sorry Huston, Home Field Advantage and the simple, but powerful ode to that scourge of rural America in You and Your Crystal Meth.

Sigur Ros ~ Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
Ethereal and not in English, this Iceland band has never really been one that I had much use for. But this year’s LP really changed the game for me. I don’t know why. It just grows on you after a while. It’s also not easy to define, is equally great driving on an afternoon as well as it is great for bedtime/wind down music.

The Black Keys ~ Attack and Release
Take the best producer in the business right now (Danger Mouse, half of the duo Gnarls Barkley (the one who doesn’t sing…) and take a grimey indy rock duo who produced their previous albums themselves in the basement and what do you get? Brilliance.

Homemade Jamz Blues Band ~ Pay Me No Mind
A trio of siblings from Mississippi who are bringing blues back by themselves. Their dad sometimes plays harmonica for them on stage. They’re an awesome lil’ group and they do great work. Worth checking out, they’ve got quite the future on them.

Here’s a playlist of my top 40-ish songs of the year.
Top Songs of 2008

What about the rest of them?

A lot of folks took my blog about social media to be some sort of Luddite inspired rant about how terrible the web is. That’s not what I was doing at all. It was borne out of the inspiration of the tons of folks I’ve met who simply don’t understand why any of us put ourselves out on the web.

Some of my colleagues will say, “well forget them. They’ll just fall behind.” But what we’re failing to realize is these folks represent the majority of the folks in the workplace and industry.

Will the next generation of sites reach people who simply don’t “understand all of that social networking stuff?” People fail to understand why Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even blogs apply to their lives. The investment of time required on most of these sites to get some sort of ROI isn’t something most folks have the time to do, much less are willing to do.

So how do you get past that, if you’re developed the next-gen killer social web application? I have some ideas..but the real point I’ve been making — and that’s been reinforced via some discussions I’ve had over the past few days — is understanding that general audiences aren’t always reached in the first wave.

The question I get sometimes is: “What if I’m not interested in meeting new people?”
The answer I give is: Think of it another way. If you’ve found yourself frustrated in your job, hitting a wall or looking for new ways to invigorate your role within an institution, social networking sites can be a great way to do this. At the same time, to really gain a benefit from them, you need to spend time with them. If you’re a person that’s lived a lot of places and has contacts from all over, social media sites can be a fantastic way to “keep in touch” with everyone in one place.
The best part is, if you try them out and find out you’re not a fan, you can always delete your
profiles at any time

If you invoke the 90-9-1 rule, the real question is, how to capitalize on those lurkers who don’t participate, but consume the information?

In higher ed, how can you convert more of these causal viewers into converts towards whatever you’re trying to get them to buy into? Lots of folks out there are already using tools that do this or have talked about it. But since everyone isn’t coming to find us to hear what we have to say, the evangelizing must continue.

Spreading the good news of the web…is a full-time job.