I am Famous, Therefore I Blog

Ego blogging seems to be the big thing. If the egos aren’t blogging, they are telling other bloggers how bad their ego is. Trust me, I represent – both the ego, and the telling egos off.

So I’m offering a new Technosailor tee-shirt for sale that states very simply, “I am famous, therefore I blog”.

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The shirt is a high quality American Apparel tee-shirt (if you’ve never had one, they are super comfortable) and that should be enough to pay the premium price. I admit, these shirts cost more than some chinsey Cafépress tee shirt but it won’t fade, shrink or get stretched out like those ones do. Nor will it make you sweat unnaturally with some iron on crap.

No, this is high quality and comfortable and will last. You’ll be supporting me, plus staking your claim to internet fame. Now, people will know you’re famous. Because you have to make sure they know!

I will have a ladies tee available shortly as well and open to suggestions on other preferred colors. Enjoy!

Update: Ladies tees are available as are different colors and sizes. Buy one now.

Indictment on Modern Day Conservatism

I’m not usually one to write about politics, but that might change in the coming days and months. At least here on this blog where I don’t have to worry about sticking within the confines of business and technology.

The last week has been exciting. The first African American from a major political party to receive his party nomination for President of the United States. Compounded was that yesterday was the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther Kings “I Have a Dream” speech.

It couldn’t have been planned any better.

Today, Sen. John McCain announced that he was upsetting the apple cart by picking Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate. Yes, only the second woman to fill the VP running mate role.

This pick deserves a post of its own. What is the “woman vote”? Can women be pigeon holed into a singular mindset? Some women might want to claim that the issues women care about are the issues that all women care about. But really, women are just like men in that there are hundreds of different sub-sets.

Regardless, it’s a different issue for a different post.

I want to talk about conservatism, because the word has been so ruined and drug through the mud by modern day conservatism.

Conservatism can be wrapped up in one word: Individuals.

Individuals are the most valuable asset of a conservative society. Individuals can make choices, decisions and reap the individual consequences. Individuals are protected from a narcissistic government, predatory corporations and rabid special interests.

Conservatism expects that western influence will not be forced on non-western cultures, and values the identity of cultural and social choice. It’s all about individuals and government should not infringe on that.

Conservatism believes that there is no better example for children than parents and that no one should insert themselves in a healthy parent-child relationship.

True conservatism believes that above all else, the Constitution is the guiding law of this land and that the balance of power exists to protect the people from the government.

Reality says that the above description describes modern day liberalism pretty well. It does not describe modern day conservatism.

Modern day conservatism insists that National Security trumps individual protections and rights. Modern day conservatism insists that in order to protect Americans at home, that we must proactively intervene in other parts of the world. Modern day conservatism says that to protect American influence in the world at a point where American influence has plateaued or even declined, we must aggressively re-assert that influence.

Modern day conservatism protects the military-industrial complex and large corporations in the name of blind and unfettered capitalism.

When I declare proudly and loudly that I am a conservative, I am holding on to the classical conservative ideals, and not to modern day conservatism which is no better than a wolf in sheep clothing.

And to Christians who blindly follow the modern day Republican party, I’d encourage you to take a step back and determine if the party and their actions accurately reflect the call of Scripture. Remember the prophecy of to Israel where, among other indictments, Amos says:

You hate the one who reproves in court and despise him who tells the truth.

You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.

Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

Be Confident

There’s a bit of a meme going around that started with Mitch Joel. He is asking what the best social media practices are and why. Chris Brogan picked it up and it’s finally trickled to me via Micah.

Confidence is sexy. Confidence oozes through and greatness is often catapulted to new levels because of confidence. Of course, confidence is also a double edged sword. Although it will ensure that you will eventually be noticed (at a minimum), it is also the thing that will get you into trouble.

Confidence is not cherished by everyone. In fact, inevitably a confident blogger will be called arrogant or egotistical. Others, who don’t understand the confidence, will try to turn it into something else. They will tell you to stop putting on a front and be yourself. They will try to convey their own best practices, which are successful for them, on you and criticize your approaches.

Confidence says you ignore naysayers. You’re not there for them anyway. You’re there for yourself. Unless you’re Brogan, then you’re there for everyone.

Regardless, when you’re confident, you’ll have complete faith in your position. Confidence does not mean you don’t listen to others or objectively weigh their opinions or feedback. That would be silly. Iron sharpens iron. But confidence knows when to listen and when to ignore.

At the end of the day, confidence is about knowing where you are going and maintaining that mission as your singular focus. Techniques can change and feedback can adjust the techniques and practices. But nothing takes your vision away from your goals and if an idea or topic does not enhance that vision, then throw it away.

Last night on Twitter, I came into the tail end of a conversation where someone was insulting right-wing conservatives. They were labeling conservatives as pitiful and shameful and that they would not debate with anyone who was a conservative.

Now, I’m a conservative in the pure sense of the word. I am not a conservative in the mold of the modern day Republican party, and in fact true conservatism is more reflective of modern day liberalism than modern day conservative. It values individuals above all else. It values individual dollars, individual choices, individual consequences, individual governance. These are mantras synonymous with modern day liberalism and not modern day conservatism which wants to nation build, empire build and take away individual opportunities and invade individual lives.

I don’t talk about politics much on this blog. Occasionally if it serves a larger point that is in the mission of “Technology, business and new media”. I was asked to blog about the definition of true conservatism, and I declined. It’s not in my genre. It doesn’t further my goals. I’m confident in my goals. Yes, I could get lots of traffic and a nice dialogue going on political issues, but I’m confident in my own focus that I won’t dedicate a post to a political discussion at this time.

There are various stripes of social media person. Some people do it for themselves. Micah is a good example of this. Some do it professionally. Darren is like this. Others use it to create positive energy for the brand they work for. Scott Monty does this for Ford, but doesn’t use his blog as much as he uses Twitter and other mediums. Still others do it for community. Liz Strauss is this way.

Whatever your goal, be confident in it and stay on course. It doesn’t really matter who does or says what. Just do it regardless. This confidence level could be the difference between a long-tail blogger and the proverbial “A lister”.

I’d love to hear this concept expounded on, or other social media techniques, by Scott Ellis, Mark Jaquith and Karoli – each notable in their own area of expertise and outside of the proverbial social media echo chamber.

Issues don't go away when Congress goes home…

…is something a certain site editor said to me as I complained about lack of substantiative things to write about.

This complaining also took place during a break in one of my classes on property. Today we’re talking about the right to exclude someone from using your property, which in some cases is absolute, and some cases not (I guess I should remember this for the exam).

Anyway, one of the cases that we’re looking at today is Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp (458 U.S. 419). It has to do with a cable company maintaining cables on a reluctant landlord’s property for the use of a tenant.

Which brings me to something I’ve been thinking about recently, having talked about it on a few of Leslie Poston‘s Topics On Fire podcasts, specifically regarding the Digital Divide. Did you know, for instance, that public housing residents cannot get subsidized cable modem service, because broadband is considered “entertainment?”

I bet you didn’t.

Is broadband really “entertainment” these days? I know I certainly was entertained by watching two of my college rowing teammates win Olympic Bronze medals in the Mens’ Eight last weekend, but working from home using that same broadband pipe is far less entertaining.

And even less entertaining is having to apply for unemployment benefits. If you’ve been in that situation, some states require (or suggest, very strongly) that you do it online. But what if you can’t get online?

Shireen Mitchell (aka DigitalSista) has made this a major issue, and something that I’ve tried to investigate, with little success, because of the patchwork of state and federal regulations governing access to government services. There are acts requring the use of more online resources and less paper, but those people still have a right to the services. Sometimes, Mitchell says, this means an office functionary downloading and printing a paper form.

This is obviously not entertaining for anyone involved.

Meanwhile, one of the major problems facing this Congress is what to do with the massive Universal Service  Fund (USF), which was originally meant to keep the copper phone network working in rural areas. Those areas are pretty well served now. But there is still lots of cash flowing into USF. You pay for it on your mobile phone bill. On your landline bill. On your VOIP bill. Look. It’s there.

Some of that goes to schools and libraries, allowing them to get subsidized broadband service under a program called E-Rate.

Should that extend to public housing?

Some Members of Congress simply want to gut the fund. Is that a good idea?

Ultimately, this will be a question between Congress and the FCC. But here’s another problem. The FCC needs 3 votes to get anything done. as soon as the Senate adjourns, one Commissioner (Deborah Tate) will no longer be a Commissioner, becuase her term will have expired. That means we’ll have a 2-2 FCC. Gridlock.

Congress wants to get done by mid September so they can campaign. Will they get something done? Or will there be gridlock?

Where should that money go? Is broadband service “entertainment,” or your cable as important as your phone now?

C-SPAN Providing Social Media Hub for Conventions

cspan.pngPolitical junkies are in the prime of their year right now. Tomorrow in Denver, the Democratic National Convention begins with the GOP convention slated to start the week after.

C-SPAN is offering a social media hub for both conventions with featured tools being video giant YouTube, which will be present at the Big Tent in Denver (see Google) as well as in St. Paul the week later. Also a featured partner is Qik, the live streaming video social service. Twitter is aggregating #DNC08 and #RNC08 tagged streams direct to the website as well.

C-SPAN is not affiliated with either party and the effort is to provide a grass-roots level into the conversation surrounding the conventions from interested parties in person (on site) and remote. I was asked to participate in video and twitter coverage, and I may, but it is not my niche. You’ll more likely see any real coverage over at my personal blog.

A personal shout out to my friend Leslie Bradshaw (and an amazing Latin linguist, I’ve discovered this week) for working with C-SPAN in this effort.

As a disclaimer, I am a non-partisan Barack Obama supporter so, while I’m most interested in the Denver coverage, I’ll be watching the St. Paul coverage as well.

Gnomedex, Sarah Lacy Limerick

Since I can’t be at Gnomedex and can’t submit a limerick for the limerick contest via the official, blessed, in-person method for attendees, I’ll just blog it.

Of course, Sarah Lacy ran a train wreck session today. It wasn’t as bad as SXSW, but it was very shallow and aimless for a Gnomedex crowd. I felt kind of bad for her because, well, Gnomedex crowds are harsh and you have to bring your A-game.

So, here’s my Sarah Lacy/Gnomedex limerick:

There once was a girl named Sarah
Who presented at confs and was scareh!
She decided she knew
Better than you
And now she has Twitter wary

Wash the Walls, Environmental Graffiti

An environmental graffiti artist in Brazil went into a tunnel and began washing the walls of the grit and grime created by millions of tons of pollution created by automobiles passing through the tunnel.

But instead of simply washing the walls, he “etched” skulls with his washing. That is, he drew skulls on the wall with water and rags – nothing destructive and nothing that could cause him to be arrested.

Check it out. Especially at the end where authorities, outraged by the artwork, went ahead and washed all the walls. Heh.

[Source: Environmental Graffiti]

Apples and Oranges, the Rise and Fall of Women Bloggers

I have sat on this post for the past few days because the last thing I want is this post to offend. I’ve tossed around the best way to approach it constructively and in an encouraging way. I’d like to consider myself a “friendly” for women bloggers, so with that context, I hope it is taken constructively.

Melanie Notkin, aka Savvy Auntie has built a fantastic site that is a non-mommy blogger mommyblog. It’s actually an AuntieBlog, as the name suggests. I got the scoop from Melanie when I was in Detroit a few weeks ago. SavvyAuntie.com is all about women who do not have kids of their own, but have incomes and tastes that they wish to lavish on their nieces and nephews.

It’s a fantastic idea, and her growth has been profound jumping from a paltry 5k unique visitors a month to 35k last month. Still not a dominant site, unless you realize that she has an average of 5 pageviews for every visit to the site. I guarantee most of you are not that lucky.

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Valleywag wrote a piece the other day doing their best to spin the SavvyAuntie effort in a negative light. But even the Valley-based gossip blog that excels at making people look really bad, couldn’t write a compelling piece about Melanie’s site. In fact, the story was so positive by Valleywag standards that it might go down as a huge FAIL on their part.

Which led to a little kerfuffle among mommybloggers, led by Stefania Butler (aka CityMama) who led a spirited charge against Valleywag with lines like “‘let’s take a big huge dump on mommybloggers’ while backhandedly praising a non-mommyblogger for her internet success”.

So let me reinforce that both Stefania and Melanie are friends of mine. One I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting in person, and the other who I will one day. Let me also reinforce that Valleywag is a gossip rag and nothing more – certainly nothing that warrants a response, especially when the article was a “backhanded compliment”. IT’s just the game.

Now, this incident in isolation would probably not spur this post, however it is not in isolation. It’s pretty common for women blogger, mommy bloggers and otherwise, to get all up in arms about something a male blogger said about women bloggers. I understand the background behind it. I understand that for years, women have been at a disadvantage. I understand the BlogHer gives women a conference directed entirely toward them. I get it. Really.

However, ladies, you’re playing an away game. You’re comparing yourselves to another industry, and one far more established, and taking the battle on the road. This is a losing proposition.

First of all, male bloggers are generally not thinking in terms of men vs women. We are territorial beasts. We build our own properties and screw everyone in the process. It’s the nature of the game. You, ladies, band together and riot (or something). Again, it’s part of the game and I understand it.

Attacking Valleywag for a negative article, though, is ho hum. Attacking Mike Arrington for his actual or perceived biases is a losing proposition. Being loud and obnoxious on Twitter “so you’re heard” is playing the game on the road.

Road games suck. Oddsmakers in Vegas always give the home team a 3 point spread to start with when setting lines on football games. The 12th man always has an effect. You don’t want to play on the road, when you can play at home (no pun intended).

Women have an opportunity to dominate their niche. Because they band together, they have an opportunity to own the entire demographic in blogging. Advertisers like Glam are looking actively to prop up female-oriented sites, and BlogHer just received direct investment from NBC Universal.

Women in technology have a way to dominate in tech… if they aren’t trying to make it a men vs. women game in the process! That’s an away game.

I’m encouraged by the amount of women blogging and am amazed by some of the really incredibly successful bloggers who are women and building amazing properties. Sites like Celebrity Baby Blog, the Sparkplugging marketing blog network and SheGeeks are demonstrating that it’s very, very possible to build a successful, and respected property without playing an away game.

Business Consulting Etiquette

A lot of people ask what I do. Depending on the person, I’m a blogger, or an editor. To others I’m a WordPress consultant. Still, to others, I work with Lijit as I used to work with b5media. Notice I said with and not for.

The choice of words is very intentional. Though I own the work I do, and make it mine (or I wouldn’t do it, to be honest), I am a self-employed contractor. To that end, I am constantly getting referrals, cold call emails, etc asking if I can help company X or person Y do task A, B or C.

Generally, an email will come that says something like this (fictional):

Hey Aaron-

how are you doing? I’ve got a WordPress project that I need to have done and I was talking to [insert name]. He mentioned that you do this kind of work. I was wondering if you’re taking work right now and if maybe we could do a quick phone call this week to see if it’s something that interests you.

[insert name here]

This is a pretty standard email, and it’s for all intents and purposes perfect. It gives me a brief overview of what services I might have to perform without boring me with details. It also serves to possibly pique my interest.

Generally, if the idea (again, without the details) is interesting to me, I’ll respond and we’ll work out a time for a call. The client may need me to sign NDAs. I’m generally okay with that as well. If it’s not interesting to me or I simply don’t have time to take on work, I’ll let them know that as well.

It’s all about setting expectations early and reinforcing as often as possible.

The first call is an important call. It is the first time a prospective client and I have a chance to interact in person. It is not intended to be a “details” oriented call. It never, ever should be. In fact, a first call should be short.

In this call, there are two specific things that need to happen. Both parties are responsible for one.

  1. The client should have very specific goals, and timelines and be able to articulate them. At this time, I’m taking notes and listening. Usually, I’ll save questions for later. Again, have your 30,000 foot view ready to go in this meeting, but don’t get me into a guerrila war early. There is no contract yet, I can walk away.
  2. I should be prepared to ask probing questions about your expectations of me, your budget, your timeline, your platform. I’ll probably ask you if you have a project manager in place or if I’ll be responsible for identifying specs, milestones and goals.

Be aware that some consultants charge to be on the phone for this call. I do not, but some do. You should understand that and make sure you know the ground rules in advance. When in doubt, ask.

Tangent: It would be good to have an expected budget as well. Understand that I charge a lot, as most professional consultants do. We’re independent. We make more. It’s the game, and it’s everywhere so don’t whine when I give you a triple figure hourly rate. Thanks.

Usually, when this call ends, I will have a good idea of what you want to do and the resources you have to do it with. I’ll have a pretty good sense if I can do it (both in my own calendar, and skillset). I’ll be honest with you and decline the work if I need to. Usually, I’ll indicate a timeframe to provide a quote and we’ll be off to the races.

I say this because today I had a very bad experience with someone who didn’t outline expectations early. I received an email that gave me no indication of what I was being requested for and indicated a referral from someone I know.

Today, when we had our initial call, I was tossed into an Adobe Connect session and they asked me to share my screen. No, never, ever.

Turns out they wanted to watch me use their site and learn from how I used it. This was not communicated or articulated in any way. Second of all, as a professional, my computer is my silo. I have documents and email open that are proprietary and confidential. I will not share my screen with anyone unless I initiate it in the context of a pre-agreed on demo. In addition, the guy I talked to today had no intention of securing my services, and assumed I would just go along with his plans. This is an assumption that should never be made with a professional of any sort.

It’s the little things that matter.