The Return of Long-Form Web Writing

I just downloaded the Longform app and I’m expecting to love it. Dedicated solely to sharing long-form journalism on mobile devices, it’s the antithesis of the GIFs and listicles that have dominated my feed for the past few years. I’m ready for a long read.

This flies in the face of web writing basics and even what’s healthy for vision. Best practices and common sense require chunking of content, use of bullets and graphics, and judicious use of columns and other devices to separate contents. When I train others to write for the web, I use Microstyle as my bible.  In the food analogy, it’s advocated that we provide a snack rather than a meal.

But personally, I’m ready for a meal. I’m a reader by nature, and I’m within months of transitioning my reading and research skills to a profession. I still subscribe to magazines and have a few books going at any one time.

My mobile device of choice is my phone, and it is not ideal for long-form reading. There is no way around it. But the advantages of web writing–access to publishing and ability to update quickly–are undeniable, and I personally welcome anything that provides more access to in-depth, well-researched writing.

I am a woman and a gamer.

I have always kept my Facebook friends list small. There are dozens of places on the internet where I’m comfortable interacting with new people and ideas, but for me, Facebook has been the place I reserve for quieter, less troubling conversation.

There are exceptions, sure. I have friends and relatives who have differing opinions, and I either scroll by or interact with respect. I’m not usually troubled by anything I read on Facebook.

That changed today.

An acquaintance was tagged in her boyfriend’s post of this article about women using feminism to manipulate the gaming industry. The headline was pure clickbait, and I fell for it. But hours later, I’m still troubled by it.

The thing is, I’m a closet gamer. To be sure, a casual one on the periphery of the action, but a gamer nonetheless. And it is the discomfort I feel—have felt since I was a teenager—in the presence of some of the gaming “community” that is exactly why I’ve felt comfortable only on the periphery.

I am not informed enough to comment on the specifics of the woman covered in the article. I only know that claiming that women lie or exaggerate threats or impact of violence against them is a mistake. When more than eighty percent of teenage girls have been harassed based on their gender, it is not a leap to realize that some of this woman’s harassers are not “injudicious respon[ders]” and that this is not simply “casual malice.”

What is casual malice? If such a thing exists, this is not it. This is a person who intends to inflict real fear, if not physical damage. This is a person who has chosen a target and taken premeditated actions to threaten and intimidate that target. No, this is not casual malice.

The Breitbart article I linked implied that these discussions of women in gaming distract from catering to the industry’s “bread and butter” (men). Its author is speaks of men as the video game industry’s “bread and butter.” If your industry is inhospitable—or in this case, openly hostile—to potential consumers, that bread has gone stale.

No, products are not required to be egalitarian. But there are pluralities of people that are underrepresented in a space that they genuinely love and have a talent for. Commenting on what we’d like changed—and better yet, creating our own –need not result in violence or threats.

Becoming your own social media nightmare

I have been distracted from blogging  for several months, but now I’m back with a haunting realization: today I became my own social media nightmare: I am that repeat commenter who does not like your product, yet continues to frequent your Facebook page.

 As someone who has run multiple social media accounts for multiple businesses for multiple years, I’ve seen plenty of these people: They clearly don’t like your page or what your organization stands for, yet they seem to interact with your site all. the. time.

 Here’s the story: I recently got engaged, and started following some of the bigger wedding planning sites on Facebook to get ideas. There’s a problem with that: I am a cranky, frustratingly logical person, and the way wedding sites condescend to their audiences drives me up a wall.

 I am not meant for the circles that discuss the burdens of plus ones and how to keep your seventeen bridesmaids from killing each other.

 Instead of moving on and recognizing that there are resources that might serve me better, I have turned to irate comments. It’s only happened twice, but it’s twice too many. I know better.

 So, in the spirit of getting myself back on track, here are my five tips for dealing with people like me:

  • Decide if the comment needs a response. Are they blowing off steam, or is there a valid complaint?
  • Acknowledge legitimate queries. Everyone likes to feel listened to. While it’s best to let the cranks go away on their own, if there’s even a kernel of truth in what they’ve said, respond—and respond with kindness and humility.
  • Go off-the-wall. Let your complainer know you care, but don’t hash out the details on your Facebook wall. Take it to a direct message, email, or even a phone call.
  • Make sure it doesn’t happen again.—if you can. If your grammar was poor, you can fix that. If your business is battling bad publicity, you may have to soldier on.
  • Ban with care. There is a time to banish unpleasantness from your accounts. If the discussion gets abusive or language gets foul, it is absolutely appropriate to quietly delete the post and ban the user.

As with all things, preparation is key. Have discussion guidelines written in advance and post them—few will complain about the rules if they know what they are in advance.

That’s it for now—happy mediating!

Three Reasons Not to Auto-Tweet from Facebook

You’re a busy person. You’ve found time to add social media to your day, but just barely. You want to automate and you’ve seen how easy it is to set you Twitter account up to share your Facebook posts. 

Resist the urge.

Twitter and Facebook are not chocolate and peanut butter. They are not two parts of the same whole, meant to be mixed in any quantity. Below, three reasons to reconsider automating your Twitter account.

Your Message Will Be Cut Short
As you’re well aware, Twitter only allows 140 characters. The current Facebook status update limit is 63,206 characters.  Most Facebook posts are significantly shorter, but many go beyond Twitter’s 140. If you connect the two, the result will be a shortened version of your post with a link back to Facebook. 

Like a lot of Twitter users, I spend most of my Twitter time on my phone. Hitting that link to Facebook takes me to a page that takes longer to load than I care to wait. Any initial interest I had in your post is likely gone…or, at least, my patience has been exhausted.

I posted a new photo to Facebook ******
I posted a new photo to Facebook *****
I posted a new photo to Facebook ******
I posted a new photo to Facebook *****

Annoying, right? Aside from the links to nowhere, Posting a group of photos only adds text to the initial photo (unless you make a point to caption each image). You’ve just posted a list of links with no context, making the average person wary of clicking. Facebook may be safer than the random, but almost any image could be on the other side of that link.

It Makes You Look Less Engaged with Twitter
…And you are. Which is fine, except you’re posting there trying to engage their audience. Channeling everything back to Facebook implies you’re not willing to engage on Twitter. Are you? If someone responds to you on Twitter about your Facebook post, will you be in tune enough to realize it? 

So what do you do? Well, if you must automate, automate with care. Try using a service like HootSuite to schedule your posts, and make sure you check your mentions often to say connected. 

Three Excellent Uses for Google Voice

imagesIn light of news that Google Voice is not long for this world, it might seem strange that I’m choosing to sing its praises this week. Though the sky may not exactly be falling (most functionality will still exist, rolled into a Hangouts app), I’ll be sad if this faux death knell begs people off one of my favorite Google products. So, for now, and hopefully for the future, here are my favorite Google Voice uses:

  1. Crisis Communications…or any organized communications effort, really. Do you have a team of spokespeople in the field that need to be available to the press or stakeholders in a timely manner? Don’t hand out a list of seven different cell phone numbers or rely on a receptionist to play middleman. Use one Google Voice number to immediately connect callers to the first person available.
  2. Craigslist Postings Craigslist is invaluable for many reasons, not least of which is as an online marketplace. But let’s face it: some of the people you come in contact with are downright sketchy. Or maybe you want to list something, but don’t want your phone ringing off the hook with potential buyers while you’re busy working. Use a Google Voice number and set it to do not disturb. You’ll be able to sort out the calls on your own terms, and no one will have your “real” number, either.
  3. Good Old Free Texting Ditch your paid talk and text plans and use Google Voice instead. Never used Google Voice before or just want some tips? Lifehacker has pretty much every tutorial you’ll ever need.

Finally, a hat tip to Steph Baker for inspiring me to dig deeper into Google Voice.

Facebook Scheduler Fails to Impress

After years of resisting and publicly negging the act, I’ve started to automate. I have enough different accounts now that I’ve finally given in to schedulers. And, despite the fact that EdgeRank is  officially gone, I still harbor suspicions that Facebook prefers content to originate inside its walled garden.

So, instead of using trustworthy HootSuite, I’ve been trying the Facebook Scheduler. At first, everything went smoothly. Now, in the past 3 days, I’ve had four failed posts. When time of day can be crucial to a post being seen, nothing is more teeth-gnashingly, head-against the wall irritating than a failed post with no notification.

Is there a solution? Well, I’ll probably have to end my superstitious avoidance of HootSuite for Facebook, but for the rest of this week, I’ll be setting alarms on my cell phone to check the remainder of this week’s posts.

Social Media: The Benefit of Quality Followers

People standing in line

Are your followers just numbers?

When envisioning what a successful social media account looks like, it’s natural to assume that a massive follower count is a positive sign. It’s true, to some extent: big numbers equal big page views–and, more importantly, a quantifiable result you can show your skeptical boss. I know that in my last job before I started consulting, my boss tolerated my “screwing around on Facebook”…until my first account hit 10,000 followers.

To be sure, there’s something to be said for quantity. But online numbers don’t mean a thing if those users don’t interact with you offline, too. So what makes a quality, rather than quantity, follower?

They Remain Engaged
Have you ever liked a page or followed someone, then realized the content didn’t interest you? There’s a good chance that instead of unliking or unfollowing, you just hid their updates…or scrolled past, meaning to get rid of it later? It’s your job to consistently post engaging content, but pay attention to those that are interacting with you and what they’re saying. They are your core.

Dart board

Aim for those most likely to stay engaged.

They Share With Their Friends
A follower you can really count on takes your content beyond their feed. They clue in their social circle to the awesome stuff you’re posting. No algorithm can replace the success of a word-of-mouth recommendation.

They Walk the Walk
Most importantly, they get out from behind the keyboard and give you their business.  People bemoan the toll social media has taken on human interaction, but if you’re cultivating quality relationships, these online interactions encourage rather than replace offline connection.

So, don’t take slow growth as an immediate sign of failure. Look deeper and use quality as your guide. Quantity is likely to follow.

New Year, New Beginnings

2014 banner

A belated Happy New Year!

Back to the blog! It’s late February and far past time for a New Year’s Post. I’m on a new path: After seven years working for someone else, I’m now consulting. The first two months have been really exciting and personally rewarding, and I’m really enjoying the work I’ve put together for my first client.

Now that I’ve settled into my new routine, I’ll have more to contribute to this blog, to Twitter, and to all the projects that have been on the back burner as I transition from one path to another.

More to come!

Millenial Hate (or, In Defense of Gen Y)

hole-kartenlocher-62897When I saw the headline for Salon’s “How baby boomers screwed their kids — and created millennial impatience,” by Simon Sinek, I was excited. I’ve long agreed with what I first read in The M Factor: How the Millenial Generation is Rocking the Workplace: that the Baby Boomers, as parents of Millenials, had contributed to the latter generation’s supposed sense of entitlement. Sinek rightly points out that this “entitlement” is in fact a desire to advance quickly, fed by our Boomer parents’ roles as raising us to expect success quickly.

However, as far as the rest of the article goes, I have beef. First, the Millenial (sorry, it’s the most recognizable term for the generation I’m at the oldest pole of) generation as a group does believe most types of success are available to us. That doesn’t mean, as Sinek states, that we have a “horrible short-circuit in [our] internal reward systems.” What it means is that we expect our work to be recognized at the same scale of our peers–and that we do see the older generations as our peers if we share an office with them. It can be chafing for those other generations to know we believe we’re equals (or should be, anyway) in the workplace. We’re just the “self starters” every workplace claims to want.

What worried me more, however, was Sinek’s assertion that Generation Y has “confused real commitment with symbolic gestures.” It’s a view I find absolutely false. I choose work based on its good for our society, and encounter others of my generation that have done the same daily. This generation puts their money (or energy, as it were) where their mouth is. Just because they choose to do it differently than another generation doesn’t mean the dedication is any less genuine.

Then, of course, there is the inevitable section of the article about technology, distraction, and isolation. That topic deserves a post of its own, but in brief: that’s not just a Millenial problem, if it’s a problem at all. As an introverted person, I feel more connected, not less, by the availability of communication technology.

Sinek’s point is that these patterns of instant gratification and isolation are tied to high suicide rates and school shootings by effectively cutting off this generation’s coping skills. I’m not a psychologist, but I think the direness he imparts is histrionic. These same “isolating” tools help people find the very tools and outlets that could save their lives.

This year’s most popular posts

I started this blog six months ago as a combination writing-exercise and as a way to share the useful bits of information that I’d learned as a result of my time mashing keys. Though it’s still quite modest, I’ve been surprised to see how a few of those posts have gotten more traction than I’d expected (there are so many blogs out there, I didn’t expect any traction at all).  In the new year, I may expand my focus to ensure I’ll have enough to write about, but for now, here are the four most popular posts I wrote in 2013:Sparkler (fireworks)

Five Quick Tips for Cleaning out your Inbox
The privacy problem with posting photos in social media
Social Media when you don’t have the time
Flexing your muscle when everyone’s an “expert”