Alaska-Fairbanks hockey intro

Alaska Nanooks 2010 Hockey Intro from Szymon Weglarski on Vimeo.

As if being named the Nanooks wasn’t already cool enough, they went and produced this intro video for home games. This alone should get them into the WCHA so they can play with their brethen at Alaska-Fairbanks. (You read that right, two teams in Alaska, in two different conferences.) In case you don’t follow college hockey, understand that college hockey leagues defy geography to some degree, because there are so few programs at the D1 level.

Just enjoy it. After all, it’s not everyday a university in Alaska becomes an internet sensation for anything. For that alone, I say, congrats and kudos. Go Nanooks.

Save our logo?

Proposed athletic rebrand on the right

Brand New reports a tiff going on at a proposed rebrand of Michigan State University’s athletic logo.

Rather swiftly, message boards rallied to boycott the proposed logo in various ways, including chanting “Keep our logo — clap-clap — Keep our logo — clap-clap — Keep our logo — clap-clap” at upcoming home games and the obligatory Facebook group, named The Old Spartan Logo, now has more than 31,000 fans. Shortly after havoc began to wreak MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis issued a statement:

“The Spartan logo, posted on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site, is a single element of a comprehensive brand and identity project that will be unveiled in April by Michigan State athletics,” Hollis said in the statement. “As in all branding, the power of a single symbol cannot be appreciated or measured outside the context of the total presentation.”

The controversy has gotten so out of hand, that even the men’s basketball coach has had to chime in on all the rankling about the new look:

“Of all the days, this would be the dumbest time to talk about it, except I’m so disappointed with our group of alums that are complaining about it that it’s a great time to talk about it for two minutes,” Izzo said when asked for his thoughts on the change. “It’s a lot bigger than the team; it’s a lot bigger than the program. It’s about our athletic department and our university, which is way bigger than one game or one season.

“I have been mystified out of my mind over it. Not to make it bigger than it is, but to me, it’s a small deal.”

I suppose the question worth asking is, was their a way for Michigan State to head off the “controversy” at the gulch? Or is this just a whole lot of ado about nothing? Seems to take something that’s usually a positive and turns it into a negative and that’s never a good thing.

On personal web sites

In the era of personal branding, you’re not going to manage to be a very good web professional without some semblance of a personal web site.

Perhaps it’s just a link to social presence or whatever else, but it’s pretty important for you to have something, because you can best be sure that people are going to look and do their homework before they meet you.

Now that we have that fact out of the way, let’s talk about the details of such a site. Do you really want to give away all of your trade secrets? No, you don’t. But what do I mean by trade secrets, anyway? After all, you do want people to discover you, right? You need to let folks know how much you know your stuff.

How can you do that without giving away the farm? Here are a few tips, though your mileage may vary with each, I think it’s the sort of stuff you need to know, but that no one will tell you until well after it ceases to be useful:

1. Don’t copy the style of your favorite ___________. It makes sense that you’d go to the site of someone you admire, see what they do and maybe graft together a few styles into your own cohesive thing. The problem here is, you’re trying to make someone else’s style work for you. Maybe it can, but chances are, it’s going to be hard to pull off long term. Put another way, you might borrow a shirt from a friend, but if you two had to switch closets, it’s likely that you’re going to spend several hours of each day a bit uncomfortable. The lesson? Don’t worry about anyone else’s talents. Just do you.

2. Be concise. It can be tempting to tell your life story. Then you remember that no one spends very long on these sites, the analytics confirm it and you just spent an inordinate amount of time telling very personal stories that don’t make the sale. People love human interest stories, but they like them in books or in visual formats that don’t require them to work for it. So unless your entire presence is around a blog that you’ll be updating constantly and it relates directly to what you’re offering up, just keep it simple and clear.

3. Know your audience. Not just the people you want to reach, but the ones that are actually stopping in. Find out who they are and make sure when they get there, they’re getting what they need from you.

4. Understand your goal(s). Intent is huge. If you’re making a site to attract potential clients, that’s one thing. If you’re creating a web presence that’s really just an extension of your personal brand, but isn’t a place where you expect to generate the majority of your contacts/clients, etc., then you can take a different approach in developing your content. It’s really up to you. Your goals may change, but remember to stay the course. It can be tempting to change horses in mid-stream, but if you keep getting out of line to get in new ones at the supermarket, you’ll never checkout and leave the store.

Conclusion: I’m going back to the idea of minding your competition. Everything you say or put out there is open fodder for whoever is competing with you. While you’re not focused on them, as much as you are the stuff you’re doing, it’s important to mind your consistency.

The literature on your site should be enticing and drive interest, but if there are things that set you apart that you’re using to close deals in client meetings and in proposals, don’t go spewing this stuff on the web for someone to retrofit for their purposes and take.  Ideally, you’ll grow and adapt your messages and it won’t matter.

Remember, no matter what you say, if you can’t deliver on those promises it won’t make a difference how great your sales pitch is.

On privacy, context and Facebook

While setting my mother (gah) up on Facebook the other night over the phone at her request, I started thinking hard about privacy settings and a response to Mark Zuckerberg’s comments last week that privacy doesn’t matter.

First, the increased complexity of site design is really something that’s getting out of hand. People figure it out, but it seems by catering to those of us who use these tools regularly, it leaves late adopters out in the cold — confused and frustrated to the point of giving up. What’s worse, is the trickery involved in these measures. No less than a year ago, Facebook privacy settings were relatively straightforward and made it easier to control who saw what and how. Now? The duplicity of attempting to trick new users into believing their information is “safe” when in reality, the defaults offer no such assurances seems wrong. It’s fine for people who have someone to help them through the process, but what about people who don’t have that? Does is suffice to say, “maybe you just shouldn’t participate in the conversation?”

On the idea of privacy, it’s simple. Not only has privacy become more important as people interact in a digital space, but so has the ability to communicate on your own terms. Meaning, it’s easier now than ever for people to make judgments about people based on an incomplete picture derived from online presence. Some folks counter this by being completely transparent and others maintain selectivity all the same. It depends on a lot of factors such as the work you do, who you interact with and your other reasons for this.

I feel like we’re revisiting this subject a lot, but it’s an important one. If the folks at the helm of web companies don’t take privacy seriously, it’s a sad song for the future of these services. Users will remain complicit by participating and handing over their personal information, believing it to be safe until something happens. Then, the companies will be forced to scramble and implement makeshift measures to assuage the concerns of a leery public.

Don’t Look, Jump! again…

Cliff jumping
Image by ccheviron via Flickr

Here’s an e-book I released about two years ago called Don’t Look, Jump! That link will take you to the actual download, it renders a bit better in Acrobat than on slideshare.

Not much has changed since then, but I decided to put it out there for human consumption if you missed it the first time or happened to enjoy it.

Happy Friday, folks.

Why are web people based in-house?

DSC_1056
Image by chrisbb@prodigy.net via Flickr

That might seem like a “Doh!” question for those of us who work in the field or who come in contact with web folks in our day-to-day educational lives. But I had a friend ask me this today. “Well, if it’s just web work, why do you all need to be there at all? Can’t you just work remotely?”

So much of what we do is about relationships. A good web professional is bringing two things to the table in an institutional environment that’s invaluable — perspective and expertise. Knowing the technical aspects of their job to the depth and ability necessarily for where they are, is something of a given. (Or at least, should be.) Having someone at the table who can provide a lifeline for navigating the velocity of media is necessary.

It’s less about the technical side and more about strategy and marketing. It’s one thing to have a strong technical infrastructure and team handling things, but having people supervised by marketers and others who often have a background steeped in print and old media can leave a gap. Lots of institutions have become proactive about filling it, but the more technology grows in our lives, the more places we have a need for it. So where before it was only about having a web site, now it’s about a social media presence.

So I told my friend, that it’s less about the backend of things. It’s important to have someone on a team who’s experienced with these matters, to be sure. Yet, a decade into this “new world” of web and marketing and we’re still explaining these roles in very old school ways. It hasn’t caught on to a wider audience yet, because the need for marketing and strategy outside of the business world doesn’t seem as necessary a component. But it ignores the communications piece of the puzzle. When we peel it all back, that’s all we’re doing anyway. I’m fond of telling people that so much of what we do online is the same sorts of conversations we’ve always had, we’re just using different tools to carry them out and now we have a wider pool of folks from which we’re conversing.

We’re conductors for an orchestra of different voices. I’m doubting that ‘web conductor’ will be a new job title anytime soon, though.

Reflections

The legacy of a day like today, is the remembrance of the names of people we’ll never know. So much of our success is built on the foundation of people who give us a boost, say a positive word or give us the benefit of the doubt when time, circumstance or just plain human spirit would have them normally do otherwise.

Whether it was my grandfather, my tennis coach or the scores of other folks who live their lives everyday with a pride and a sense of dignity that was never lost on me, whenever I’m in a meeting or giving a presentation, I’ve never once questioned whether I belonged there. This might seem strange, but I’ve had people question and wonder it aloud sometimes. I never thought much about this, but as I grew as a professional, I had an epiphany that the reason I felt so confident was due solely to this inheritance of emotional riches bequeath me from those who came before me. As if to say, “your burden is to do your best. We already made it your seat at the table possible.”

So it is on this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday that I choose to reflect on this a bit more.

It never occurred to me, growing up, that I’d draw so heavily upon the images of my forebears. Not just their memories, but their work. So much of what we do in our lives are single memories lost to time. I was really disconnected from most of this history, until I took a class during my first year in college (and last year in the Air Force) that ignited a voracious appetite in me to discover things I hadn’t learned nothing about in school.

While I could give you an entire library of things to read (and might follow up some reviews and more, recommendations down the road…) here are a specific few books that you ought to add to your list if you haven’t already done so:

The Education of Blacks In The South 1860-1935 – James D. Anderson
Trouble In Mind – Leon Litwack
In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans In the West 1528-1990 – Quintard D. Taylor

Introducing…you

twtbizcard
Image by Librarian by Day via Flickr

While business cards are a standard way to leave a reminder and a calling card with someone you’ve just met, what about those times when you forget to connect? More and more, I’ve explained both Twitter and Facebook to the uninitiated as a way to introduce yourself to folks you meet. Obviously for it to work effectively, you both need to be using those services or one like it. But if they are, it’s a great way to introduce yourself in a way that a phone call would be ineffective or inappropriate.

After all, if you’ve just met, you’re not likely to have a lot to talk about that would perhaps warrant a phone call. Maybe you’re too busy to catch up that way anyway. Email is fine, but for some, it’s just a bottomless pit never to be seen again.

If you want to continue a conversation, connect with a new friend or find out more about someone you had minimal contact with, especially after a social event, sending them an invite shortly after you’ve met is a good way to do it.

Isn’t that a bit creepy, though? Not really. I mean, it depends on the context of your conversation. I’m thinking quasi-professional or even personal interactions in a group setting, that aren’t related to you trying to date said person are just fine. Would it be a bit forward if you’re thinking something beyond the standard business chat? Facebook yes, Twitter no. Though a Twitter feed can lack context if you’re 1) new to it and 2) don’t use it well enough to be interesting to someone who doesn’t know you that well.

So do you just say hi? Maybe you do, perhaps you don’t. This doesn’t seem that confusing for folks who are conference veterans or who have a stack of business cards with twitter addresses on them. But believe it or not, there are lots of folks out there who still struggle with the appropriateness of mixing what they view as digital social venues between personal and business.

How do you reject politely? Some of us use Facebook or Twitter for one thing. Others have taken the step of having more than one profile for business v. pleasure. It’s really about what you’re comfortable, what works for you and what you use it for. But if you only use social media for personal, non-work related communication and someone wants to connect who you don’t fit into that narrow band of communication, send them a note. Just say, “hey, I’d love to continue our conversation.” Or something like, “it was great to meet you the other night, send me an email here.” You don’t even have to explain your social media stance. After all, it’s your network. We all have lots of reasons for why we do what we do and to be honest, once you a reach a certain level anyway, it can quickly become noise.

What else? For someone who is just meeting you, but wants to know more and doesn’t think to Google you on their own, social network sites can be a good way to break the ice in ways that your conversation might have started, but doesn’t confirm. We know lots of people who say one thing about themselves, but in their personal dealings can be very different. Thus, it can be affirming to see them interacting with others the same way we met them. This is probably more of a personal thing, than a professional one. But there can be overlap there.

Ultimately, there are a ton of ways to connect with people. But for folks who don’t consider themselves social denizens, the rules on doing this might seem more daunting than they really are. Having ways to connect to new people can expand your network beyond just the folks you already know.