Nov 16

Selling Sex or Just Stupidity? A Common Sense Plea to Chris Anderson

wiredSo Wired decided to publish this pair of breasts on their cover. After seeing it, Texas State’s Cindy Royal declared that after decades of reading Wired magazines and not seeing much about women who impress men with their brains and not their bods, she was breaking up with Wired.

By the way, I hate seeing this image on my blog but just wanted you to see how bad it is and why she isn’t just being too sensitive. Anyway.

I checked Wired’s Quantcast data. You’d think that Wired would skew very heavily male, but it really doesn’t. Only 59 percent of their readers are male and 41 percent are actually female. That’s why it’s so vexing they would jeopardize their relationship with these 41 percent. I mean, who wants to get caught reading a magazine with this cover in the gym, male or female? It’s worse than GQ and Maxim covers.

Chris Anderson responded by asking people if they actually read the article. The innovations covered were indeed amazing…but, doesn’t that mean they wouldn’t have to sink as low as publishing cleavage on the cover to get people to read it? I mean, it’s about how advancement in breast augmentation is improving stem cell research, which will help cure cancer and a host of other ailments. I can’t speak for everyone, but you don’t have to pull the sex card on me to sell a cure for cancer. What I can say is that Anderson did a great job of potentially alienating over 50 percent of the population. The Wired cover sparked controversy on sites around the web including the Huffington Post and Mediaite, just to pick up the morons who would not choose to pick up Wired had they not seen a digitally enhanced wrack staring them in the face. Smooth.

Just because something sells, it doesn’t mean you should sell it. It’s called having integrity and self-respect. It’s the same reason why millions of women choose to work hard every day and keep their dealings with men at a professional level rather than just putting the twins out on display to get a promotion. We know it could work–we choose not to go there. It is an unsound long term strategy.

So here’s my plea:

Mr. Anderson, I fit the target demographic for Wired both on income level and educational level. Your advertisers want to reach people like me. I’m kindly asking you to avoid publishing pictures of cleavage and half naked women on your covers. It’s cheap and embarrassing, and represents Condè Nast very poorly. It’s also not asking for much, really. If your advertisers don’t appreciate that such low-brow tactics scare off people like me who just want to read Wired in the gym without looking like Larry Flint, then maybe you should go after a different demographic so you can hit your numbers. People shouldn’t feel relegated to read your content in the privacy of their bathrooms.

Cheers,
Michelle ;-)

Nov 01

A Startup’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Blogging

I get a lot of companies and organizations asking me to write for them. Writing doesn’t have to be hard to do internally, but it does take practice and a willingness to mess up before you get it right. I remember some of the first blog posts I wrote ever, and a lot of them consisted of throwing stuff up on a wall and seeing what stuck. I’m hoping to spare you.

Here are some guidelines I’d stick with as a startup with a limited amount of time/resources for blogging:
1.) People like lists because they are easy reads. You are reading mine now, so apparently it works.
2.) Keep posts under 500 words or less. Think about it: if someone is at work, chances are their boss doesn’t give them time in a day to read blog posts. So keep it short, to the point, and useful.
3.) Use analogies and paradigms people can understand. Pick a theme that makes sense to your audience and write along with that theme. It’s easy to meander when writing a blog post. Using analogies or paradigms will help you stay on point.
4.) “Make their ears burn”. Blogging is a social activity that behaves in a way that is similar to academia and footnoting. There’s no use only referencing your own thoughts because there are plenty of good thoughts out there already. Being a responsible blogger means you are conscientious enough link to back if you use them.
5.) Copy people whose blogs you like. Yeah, I said it. You copy UI, you copy website design. Before even touching your company blog, it’s best to read a bunch of them and figure out what style works for you. I read Copyblogger, ClickZ, Problogger, SearchEngineLand and Marketing Pilgrim before even starting this blog. I read others like Kathy Sierra and Hugh MacLeod and it changed more. If you don’t even have time to do that, you don’t have time to blog. That is okay. Maybe you could sponsor a blog, buy Facebook ads, or hire an ace PR firm. It’s okay not to blog, especially if you have amazing documentation that helps your users with your product if they need it.

If you don’t have money to advertise or do PR, and you can’t do marketing in house, well, please be a realist and get more funding. I’m not saying this to say that your software is no good. I’m saying it because if your software is good, you’ll want to make sure it’s being represented fairly and the people who would love to use it at least know about it.

Aug 30

My Challenge to Michael Arrington & TechCrunch (Hint: it’s Not Hard)

angry chimpI’m not going to lie. I’m pretty shook up. I had no idea there were men out there who would be so offended by me merely stating that women can be good at math and science too.

If you didn’t see, I merely mentioned to a TechCrunch commenter on this post about female entrepreneurship that my math SAT was, in all probability, higher than his. While this wasn’t the coolest thing I could have come up with, it was Saturday night, I was tired after babysitting a drunk friend, and it was in response to his notion that women somehow are not as good at quantifiable intelligence. I also mentioned that great leaders (since the post was about the lack of female entrepreneurs), can actually have a host of different skills, and generally surround themselves by people who make up where they lack.

What ensued was a barrage of comments about what an idiot I am for somehow believing women can be capable of the same tasks as men. I was called the “c” word, had my privies referred to as a “gash”, was called illogical, arrogant, angry, and a troll. Someone said that if I don’t like how my female body works, I can euthanize myself legally in Oregon. One commenter even blamed the decline of the economy on feminism and another said he would short sell any stock of a company with a female CEO.

If Michael Arrington and the people at TechCrunch really want to be heroes in this whole debacle and actually do want to promote female entrepreneurs, they should tell all those nasty commenters to piss off. Seriously. You aren’t going to get respectable women in your restaurant if there is a table of lewd, ape-like men in the corner who berate any woman who walks in the door. Mr. Arrington, how would you feel if you came to my blog, commented, and some woman called you a sexist, illogical freak? How would you like it if these women were not only upset at you for suggesting that they need to work harder, but they were actually calling you a d**k and suggesting you euthanize yourself? You would not want to come back, but would be very torn on this if my blog were one of the most influential blogs in your industry. You would expect that I would defend you especially if you were being perfectly reasonable. I would do that, because although I love a good healthy debate, I also recognize that stereotypical and unfair attacks solve nothing and hurt people.

Think about it this way–you are telling the apes to go away, so all the respectable people you like will come back. We want to, Michael. We totally do. I felt like I was doing a service to women by basically defending the notion that we can be intelligent leaders too. This morning I sat in my shower and cried for 20 minutes because those commenters exemplified the attitude that has made me feel like I cannot succeed in this market. I’ve worked my butt off my entire career, and I have innumerable horror stories about sexist bosses who were embarrassingly less competent than I was. It makes you defensive and question your own abilities. And unfortunately I’m not alone.

So I know I have to stand up for myself. I know I have to have a thick skin, compromise when it’s necessary, and just let the haters roll of my back. But can you do us a favor and at least call out the haters who literally add nothing to your conversations but nastiness? Can you take a stand against the band of chimpanzees who tear everything that is different from them to pieces, instead of requiring me to fend them off myself? If you really want to make women a part of your community, than show us because it’s really not that hard. We’ll come back.

Apr 12

Top Five Reasons No One Reads Your Company Blog

This post has been written before. ReadWriteWeb has a guide on community management which includes info on blogging. I’m pretty sure either Rohit Bhargava or Jeremiah Owyang wrote about this too (both good reads if you like what I have to say). But I’m going to say it again simply because there are too many bad company blogs out there. There are too many employees who are miserable because no one reads what they write and too many companies not understanding how much money a blog can actually make you.

THE #1 BIGGEST MISTAKE: Leaving the blog up to the intern or newbie
The #1 biggest mistake people make with their company’s blog is they hire the wrong person to write it. Think of a blog like you think of a Formula One car. You can spec out an amazing machine but if you don’t put Michael Schumacher or someone else who actually knows how to drive behind the wheel, the car is going to get lapped or crashed. Period.

People are anonymous on the internet. They are cruel and they don’t care about you. If you put the company intern in charge of the blog, people will either a.) ignore it (meaning you get lapped by better blogs) or b.) some troll will rip your poor little blogger to pieces (meaning your car gets crashed).

Your blogger should be able to talk about your products and your industry better than anyone else in the company. This person is a spokesperson for your brand. I am a fan of promoting an expert within your company to become a blogger versus hiring someone simply because they claim to know how to blog. Teaching someone to blog and tweet is the easy part. Teaching them about your products and your industry is not. Just like it would be insulting to pay to see a Formula One race only to see teens in drivers ed, it is even more insulting to expect your customers to read some garbage you throw out there because “the marketing books say we need a blog”.

By the way, this person needs to be paid well, since you are turning them into a public figure. That’s another mistake I see.

MISTAKE #2: TALKING FIRST, LISTENING SECOND
Hi, guess what? Your blog might be new, but there are literally millions of blogs already in production. You are a rookie. As a rookie, you need to understand your place. Don’t even talk about promoting your blog before you do these things:
1.) Listen. Go to blogs in your industry. Theoretically, anyone you hire to become your blogger should already know these blogs because you hired an expert, right (see #1)? See what is being said and what needs to be said. What can your place be in the blogosphere?
2.) Participate. Hey rookie, you don’t lead first. You follow first and then people learn to trust you. So go to industry blogs and leave comments. Reference useful posts within your own posts. Add to the discussion and people will get to know your name.
3.) Then, you can lead. Most people want to step right into this one. If you haven’t established yourself though, no one cares about you but your mom. I doubt her commenting on your blog is really going to drive the notion that you are a thought leader in your space.

MISTAKE #3: TALKING TO YOURSELF
If you look at this post, I have referenced three bloggers with links. Blogging is a social activity. It is a pure misconception that bloggers sit around in their PJs all day.

If your blogger isn’t referencing activity often referenced by other bloggers, then they are probably very arrogant in real life. Or, they could be totally oblivious or a combination of both. The beauty of the blogosphere is that it behaves like academia. Smart bloggers don’t invent something from scratch–they reference others’ posts and then add to them.

To think that you must always write your own content means you probably don’t read much. Which means, unless you read actual print, you are probably not a very good writer. So why would anyone read your blog?

MISTAKE #4: NOT BEING TIMELY
This mistake often ties into #1. If you hire an intern or a newbie to write your blog, they cannot form a relevant opinion fast enough to be timely. You are going to get lapped by bloggers who actually have something relevant to say.

You don’t always have to tie your posts into current events (this one isn’t although my last one was), but it does help because you are feeding into a current conversation versus just trying to stir your own.

MISTAKE #5: HIDING YOUR BLOG
If you bury your blog deep in some obscure navigation within your company website, of course you aren’t going to get a lot of traffic. No one knows it exists. Put your blog somewhere visible on your site (Pat Ramsey showed me a way to integrate it into your WordPress CMS so the headlines update on your website–very cool). Put it on your signature. Reference it in newsletters. Most people aren’t psychic enough to know to read your blog, and if they were, they wouldn’t need to actually read anyway. That would be cool. But I digress.

I’ve got more to say on this subject but I’m violating another good rule of thumb: keep it to 500 words. I have been told I have smart readers, so if you have further suggestions, put them in the comments!

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Sep 20

Easy to Implement Tip: Be an Interesting Commenter

It didn’t hit me until Chris Brogan’s talk on Thursday that I’ve actually been doing this whole social media thing for a while now, and I can really help people who are struggling with it.

I was a Community Manager for a software company before that was even a title. One role I had at my job was leaving comments on blogs that our potential audience would read so as to attract bloggers to talk about our software.

One blog liked my comments so much, they ended up interviewing me for the publication. Since I commented on so many blogs in the industry, I established an authority and it become a lot easier for me to get my stories published in their blogs.

A lot of comments on blogs simply say “Right on. Good job on this one.” Some people use social media “strategies” like favoriting pictures influencers take or retweeting something just to garner favor. While this won’t really hurt you, it won’t help you too much either, unless you are sincerely favoriting a photo you like or are retweeting something your followers would want to hear. Why? Because bloggers are always looking for more stories to tell. They aren’t looking to be pandered to (at least the good ones aren’t). By adding to the conversation, you are 1.) establishing your authority and 2.) making the blog post better in general. I love it when the comments on my blog are actually more interesting than the post itself. It means I have interesting and potentially influential readers, which means I have more power than a silly blogger just looking for attention.

If you can’t really add value to the conversation, it’s okay to just read because eventually you’ll read enough of blogs or books in your subject to be knowledgeable. If you don’t feel compelled to do this, you aren’t interested in your subject matter and you should do something else in your career. Jes’ sayin’.

Jun 16

My Review of Hugh MacLeod’s “Ignore Everybody”


First of all, the title seems harsh, but it’s a good title. The book isn’t about being a jerk to everyone, FYI.

Too often I see really talented people “not make it”. And then I see people with no talent and they are all over the place, and I want to gouge my eyeballs out with barbed wire. Hugh is a guy who IS talented who DID make it. Sure, a part of me is jealous that he’s out getting book deals and making the cash, but that part isn’t nearly as big as the part that is just happy to see that someone out there who busted their ass without stepping all over people is doing well.

Hugh really seems to write this book for talented people who are just tired of playing the role of work all the time. Our professions aren’t easy and if you expect work without struggle, you are kidding yourself. Essentially, Hugh is the anti-”get rich quick” scheme because he’s going to tell you 1.) it’s not easy and 2.) it might not work but 3.) you should still go through with something if you are passionate about it. As always, Hugh’s style is engaging and honest and the cartoons made me laugh.

Honestly, I cried a little after reading this because it reminded me that I’m not a special little flower in the universe. But that’s okay. I think I needed that swift kick in the ass.

So, can you handle it? I think you can. Here’s the book if you want to buy it.

Oct 26

What the Internet Needs More of (and Less of)

As I have said time and time again in some form or another, the internet provides us with a big publishing tool. We can publish and we can also read others’ works. I have been an avid reader much of my adult life and would like to take this affinity for reading digitally. However, since making this transition, I’ve found my focus to be much too technology/politics-centric for me to feel like a whole person. Here’s what I’d like to see more of on the net. If you’ve seen blogs that fit this description, by all means, leave them in the comments:
1.) A blog dedicated solely to energy. I have read biodiesel blogs, but I’d like to keep up with something that focused on biodiesel, hydrogen fuel, clean coal, nuclear power, etc. I watched a fascinating PBS special on this and would like to see this dialog pushed further into the blogosphere and the current American dialog.
2.) A blog dedicated to analyzing the materials we use and the food we eat. I try to eat organic as much as I can. What is in food? What’s in the crazy plastic we put our food in and then nuke at at extremely high temperature? I don’t like to be a paranoid person, but someone starting a dialog about these sorts of things would be helpful, especially from scientists.
3.) An adventurer’s/philanthopist’s travel guide. I spend so much time researching vacations, I end up not going. I’ve looked at Lonely Planet, but it’s sort of faceless and it would be nice to write a blogger to just say, “What do you think of this place?”
4.) A shopping site with niche drill down menus. How could would it be if you could say, “I want a white ski jacket with pit zips, taped seams, and at least 5 pockets,” and then it pulls up? I guess it would be a lot of work for the online store owner to upload that info into a database, but it could be a great way to close a sale.
5.) A site written by an accountant for self-employed people. What a lifesaver this would be.

I can come up with more but I want to go to sleep soon.

I am guilty of this just as much as everyone, but the web really needs less tech and political blogging, percentage wise. I’m thinking this will change as time goes by, but it gets a bit stale after a while.

Oct 20

Using Your Talent for Good, Linearb Style

Lynn Bender at GeekAustin (aka @linearb to many other circles) is a phenomenal piano player. He heard about my sister Debby’s financial strife while trying to overcome graft-vs-host disease, and decided he’d like to play to help her raise some money to cover her expenses. Right now her health insurance is over $700 a month and she cannot work because she is too sick. She only collects disability right now. It is so difficult for her to overcome this disease which has killed many of her friends, so finances is the last thing she should really have to worry about.

If you appreciate Lynn’s awesome playing of the organ, please consider donating to my sister’s PayPal account. The link is at the bottom:

Take a look at my sister’s blog if you’d like to get to know the person you’d be helping. Please pass this around as well. On behalf of my sister and my family, thank you and God Bless!



debzokiss

Feb 20

Send a Little Love to a Blog Queen

My sister just reported that she has a 102 fever. That’s very discouraging. She has been battling not fun symptoms for quite some time after undergoing a stem cell transplant to battle leukemia. As much as my parents paid to send me to college to make me articulate, I cannot express how hard it is to see your sister undergo such harsh treatments, and how much we need to find a cure for this disease.

Please show a blogger support by dropping a supportive comment her way at www.debutaunt.com. She is a real sweatheart, and I really want to see her well this weekend.

Jan 20

Refresh Austin has a Sweet New Website

So I planned to go to the Refresh Austin website to leave a comment to the effect of “Hey, what’s up with this bunk wiki that’s been outdated for four months?” and what did I find? A lovely, revamped website! Very cool. If you are looking to meet up with a diverse group of tech professionals in the Austin area, I suggest checking it out. You will see the calendar of all upcoming events as well as photos from previous ones. If you are too lazy to periodically check the site, there is this lovely tool called the RSS feed that will allow you to keep up with Refresh Austin without even trying.

Sad you didn’t get to join in on the Refresh Austin website fun? Were you in on it, but thirsty for more? Geek Austin is having a logo contest. We are announcing the winner at our official SxSW party. One lucky designer will win a.) fabulous prizes, which we are currently hitting up some sponsors for and b.) a credit link in the Geek Austin footer. For those who don’t know me, I’m usually not as annoyed as I seem in the cartoon for this contest.