Three Social Media eBooks Worth Reading

June 20, 2009

I tweeted this yesterday, but I wanted to mention here that Amy Mengel at Mengel Musings has a good post linking to three social media ebooks. My favourite so far–though I’m not yet done them all–is Brink. They all are valuable, and Amy provides a useful quick rundown on each of the books. Well worth a look.


The Black Hole

November 22, 2008

I’ve been away. Quite a while has passed since I’ve posted; I’ve been busy having another baby and with general family life. I’ve thought about getting back to blogging here from time to time, but energy levels have been low and personal and professional life have been keeping me preoccupied.

However, in my mind I never really left blogging during my hiatus. What I mean is, countless times I’d come across something that piqued my interest and I’d begin, quite uncounsciously, composing a blog post in my mind about it. At first it was subtle. But after a while I recognized what I was actually doing, and my conscious mind would think “hey, this is a good item to explore in the blog.” Still, distractions kept me away from actually posting. But, here I am. I think the tide of ideas and curiosity has risen enough to propel me back to the keyboard. Let’s see where it leads.

Photography Rights

March 24, 2008

Cominco Trains (Copyright Eddy Piasentin)Photojojo, a great photography site with fun project ideas and lots of inspiration, has posted an item about photography and the law. They summarize the ten legal commandments of photography. There’s even a link to another site that covers the Canadian perspective.

Commandment eight, for example, says:

If you are challenged, you do not have to explain why you are taking pictures, nor do you have to disclose your identity (except in some cases when questioned by a law enforcement officer.)

The photo of mine above was taken just before I was approached by security while out on a personal photography project. I was shooting trains on Cominco’s property in Trail, BC. After about 10 minutes of wandering around, a security vehicle showed up. He asked who I was and what I was doing. I explained and gave my identity–contrary to the noted commandment–mostly because the guard was very polite and I figured I had nothing to hide. After a few moments, we both laughed as we realized we knew each other: we had met years earlier, when his sister married one of my cousins.

At work, I run into photographic permission issues regularly. We photograph employees all the time for our monthly internal e-magazine and increasingly we’re shooting people (staff and civilians) for external projects like annual reports. We developed our own model release form, which we use quite diligently, except for the internal work. We tend to let things slide when shooting for internal purposes, since everyone knows who we are and why we’re walking around with our cameras. If someone explicitly asks that their photo not be used–or taken–we honour the request. This “shoot first, beg forgiveness later” approach has served us well, since we get much more coverage than we otherwise might. This became quite clear the few times we’ve asked permission to take and use photos and staff, given the choice, refused.

Another Conference I’d Love to Attend (But Likely Won’t)

October 10, 2007

A blog I follow, Pro PR, has turned me on to a new conference: the Canadian Institute’s Social Media’s Conference. Just a quick glance at the agenda for the conference points to a number of items that would immediately pay dividends at my office. Best practices on employee blogs; using social media to attract top talent; how to monitor social media; implementing social media to improve internal communications.

This last one is of particular interest as our organization moves forward with our intranet redesign project. The intranet manager for the National Research Council (NRC) will be talking about using social media to add value to employee communications. The NRC is featured in the most recent Nielsen Norman Group top-ten government intranet competition and is a site we’ve used many times in the early days of our project as an example of a highly regarded intranet. It would be fantastic to learn from their intranet manager directly, especially given the resistance within my organization at considering anything that has even a whiff of “social” media. The word “social” is the big problem and most discussions on this topic need to be couched in safer words, code-like. I imagine the NRC would have had some similar challenges–they are federal government after all–so to pick the presenter’s brain could be worth the price of admission alone.

Unfortunately the conference isn’t cheap–they never are–and is in Toronto. Two big negatives. But, anyone could swing a 15% discount off the ticket price thanks to Joseph Thornley of Pro PR. In a nice use of the very tech the conference will discuss, if you send Joseph a request through Facebook he can get you the discount.

Tod Maffin On Depression

October 7, 2007

CBC Radio technology columnist and all-round tech/media guru Tod Maffin has spoken publicly
about his battle with depression. Anyone who has followed his blog knows this isn’t a new issue for him, but he has officially made it public, as he explained on CBC Radio.

Tod is one of those guys who has fully embraced the digital age. He’s a futurist and former dot.commer, and he’s always trying new ways of communicating. A little research will easily dig up a wide array of off- and online pursuits, mostly very pioneering stuff. One of the reasons I’ve always liked Tod is that he’s always looking at how technology impacts people. It’s not just about the latest trend, but how these trends are shaping the way we live. Anyone can review a product or service, but few are able to understand the bigger picture and present it in such a compelling, and often humorous, way.

I’m proud to have played a small part in one of his earlier endeavors,, producing two stories for two different episodes. His show was a unique attempt at radio in Canada, running live and interactive across Canada’s time zones show after show, starting on the East Coast and wrapping up on the West.

Anyway, it takes guts to be so candid about such a personal issue, so he has my admiration.

Using Wikis

August 28, 2007

As part of a bigger effort to introduce some real collaboration into my project work–and our office in general–I’ve signed up for a few wiki accounts, specifically Wetpaint, Wikidot and Socialtext. I’m starting small and looking to incorporate a wiki to help manage and develop some of my projects. Most people–or at least a lot of us who live and work online–have used wikis from time to time, at least as a consumer. Thinking about implementing wikis, from a corporate point of view, requires a shift in thinking about how content and communications are managed. (Aside: so much of the discussion surrounding new communications technologies is clouded by hype and debate about people who don’t “get it.” I find that framing a position this way rarely benefits anyone, since it naturally creates separation, and no matter how much you hold to this point of view you will have to work with those who don’t “get it,” or more likely, have to convince/help them to get it. So I will try to keep the hyperbole and drama to a minimum. We’ll now return to our regular programming.)

Organizations like to control. There may be good reasons for this, but often it’s just a leftover response, like the hunger pangs you get when walking by The Body Shop in the mall and inhaling the scent of vanilla; intellectually you know there are no cookies in there, but your gut is telling you something else. The problem is, staff talk. They always have. And these days, of course, they aren’t limited by a physical chat with one person, they blog it and tell the world.

Wikis have the potential to take the control–if it ever really was there to begin with–away from the top and hand it to the bottom. This creates some interesting dynamics. Suddenly, people who may have been used to being told what processes to follow are now actively creating the processes themselves. People whose opinions might not have been sought out previously can now directly influence decisions and policy.

I’m not sure what the future holds for wikis in my organization, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get something off the ground. Things tend to move slowly, but I have a feeling they’ll start to pick up soon. There’s a real need to move beyond fear–especially of “failure”–and experiment. Without experimentation how can progress happen?

The Power of a Quick Reply – Courtesy of Kathy Wolfe Photography

August 21, 2007

I really admire the work of professional photographer Kathy Wolfe. She achieves very saturated, glowing images that often seem to sparkle. It’s a particular style, and one that I really like. My curiosity, along with my desire to build upon my own style and knowledge, compelled me to send her an e-mail yesterday, asking about how she achieves the look. Occasionally I’ve fired off a note to a blogger here or there, on a variety of topics (not just photography). My experience over the years, though, has led me to have low expectations for a thoughtful response. Much less a timely one.

But tonight, sitting down to my laptop, a response came in from Kathy, less than 24 hours after my original note. She was forthcoming with some details about how she shoots and edits her images, and overall very encouraging and friendly. I was surprised and impressed. I regularly read her blog and subscribe to her RSS feed, but now, as a result of her quick and kind response, my impression of her has been elevated. Her professionalism and grace are evident, and it can’t but help have an impact on how I view her work.

Now, Kathy and I will likely never meet face-to-face, and we’re not likely to run into one another on the street, each with our cameras in hand. So an argument could be made that Kathy’s efforts, while admirable, won’t really have much impact on her bottom line. Well, this misses the point. First, these days, the world is smaller than we often realize and circumstances could result in a referral or contract coming from an unlikely location–you just never know. Second, goodwill travels fast. Google makes research an easy thing these days. And someone looking for a photographer, or dentist, or stylist, or mechanic, or videographer, or financial advisor, or… will use the web to see what people think. So whether Kathy Wolfe and I are in the same city or region is really irrelevant. And ultimately, Kathy’s communications ability, both visually and through the written word, can only be of benefit to her.