Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Curating digital identity: developing a personal social media policy

Earlier this summer, I got my first tattoo. I was (still am) really excited about it and immediately wrote a blog post to share it with everyone. I included a picture, explained the importance of it to me and was all ready to hit "Publish Post"...and I couldn't. It was the picture that stopped me, to be honest...the tattoo is on my ribcage and although there's nothing that you see in the picture other than my midriff and abs, I stopped because I wondered if posting the picture was appropriate for my blog where I mainly focus on topics that affect me professionally.

I had decided not to post the picture on Twitter, mainly because I thought it could potentially get me a bunch of "followers" (read: spammers)  I'd have to block anyway. Also, my Twitter account is connected to my LinkedIn account, and I didn't want the picture posted there.

I did post the picture on Facebook. My rationale was that even if you know me professionally, if you friend me on Facebook and I accept, we're agreeing that we're sharing more of the personal sides of our lives.

Now, keep in mind, this tattoo is completely visible when I'm at the pool in my swimsuit. Yet I literally thought through the implications of posting it to any of the social media tools that I use and what the impacts could be.

After going through this process and making my decisions, I realized how important it is to start getting kids thinking about their own digital identities and what information is appropriate to be shared online. I'm not just talking about avoiding child predators; I'm even thinking more subtly than losing out on a potential job or ruining relationships. Everything you post online is a representation of who you are. What other people post and say about you is an expansion on that digital identity.

My 13 year old nephew illustrated that point to me with clarity this summer during my vacation in Michigan. As I took pictures of him with my kids, he said, pleading, "Please don't tag me on Facebook." As an early teen, being seen hanging out with his little cousins wasn't exactly the reputation he was interested in curating online. Since that conversation with him, I've started asking my kids' permission before I share online any pictures of them or stories about them. There is an element of respecting other people's privacy, not just your own, that is one of the critical competencies of using social media and an important lesson for kids...and parents. People who share out information about their children's medical conditions, educational struggles, or behavioral issues are making decisions about how those children's digital identities are being formed, with potential long-term implications and impacts on their reputation.

As a professional, I'm making decisions daily on what messages, content, and personal information I share online that builds and expands my digital identity. As a parent, I'm talking to my kids about how they can start making good choices about their emerging digital identities. Forget corporate social media policies...each of us needs to develop our own social media policy to curate our digital identities and reputations. To support our personal goals, we need to develop the skills to critically assess the content we share, the context we're sharing it in, the intended audience, the channels that we're using to communicate, and the potential implications for ourselves and others in what we choose to share. For me, this means if you want to see my tattoo, you'll have to friend me on Facebook or catch me at the pool. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Activity leads to...everything

Several years ago now, I was taking on sales responsibilities as part of my job. I had never sold anything before and I had no idea how to do it. My mentor and then boss, Kevin Kruse (@kruse), wisely advised me "activity leads to sales." His point, as I understood it...you won't sell anything if you're not actively trying to sell things. With enough activity, opportunities come your way and eventually that leads to sales. 

I've found over the years that his advice isn't just relevant to sales. Activity leads to opportunity, change, and growth. I'm not talking about random or unstructured activity...I'm advocating strategic activity, activity backed by a plan and purpose. The most successful people I know are the people who throw themselves out there, take risks, make mistakes and keep moving forward. With their activity, new options and opportunities present themselves, their plans and activities change and expand as they accomplish their goals, and they are constantly evolving. 

Evolution is the ultimate change. Change is constant, but evolution is not...evolution is a fundamental change in form or structure, a change that is an improvement, that demonstrates an adaption to context and environment. Activity is the catalyst to change, to adaption and to evolution. Without activity, there is little chance of accomplishing your goals, fewer chances to try new things, fewer opportunities to learn new skills. 

Activity leads to everything. So, what are you doing?

Thanks to Marcia Conner for the tweet that inspired this post:

@marciamarciaMarcia Conner
Achievement seems to be connected w/ action. Successful ppl keep moving. They make mistakes but don't quit. Conrad Hilton

Friday, August 26, 2011

Live events still rock & thoughts on the future of virtual events

Over the past week I attended two very different live events that epitomized where virtual events need to go in order to gain more widespread acceptance.

Geeks Celebrating Their Geekiness

The lovely Pamela Kucera & I geeking out
Last Friday, I attended the Philly Geek Awards, conceived and hosted by Geekadelphia and featuring awards for all kinds of local geek-related activities: tech start ups, film making, comic art, blogging, podcasts, viral videos, geek fashion, art, science, app development, game development...really, a veritable smorgasbord of geekery. There were mentions of Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and bacon (lots of mentions of bacon). At one point, a furry accepted an award. Besides the furry, let's just say I was with my people. It was a black-tie event, the equivalent of a geek prom. It was a blast.

Cosplay Kids Category Winners at BCC
On Sunday, I attended the Baltimore ComicCon. This is the 3rd year I've attended, and it continues to be my favorite of the ComicCons (no, I haven't been to San Diego) because of the emphasis on the writers and artists. I got to see Anthony and Conor from Kill Shakespeare, peek behind the big black curtain to glimpse Stan Lee, chat with the writer/artist for one of my son's favorite kids graphic novelists, and see more cosplay than I need to for the entire year.

What do both of these events have in common? They bring together busy communities for an opportunity to bond.

Granted, both of these events focused on people in creative industries...industries full of innovators, entrepreneurs and creators. They provided an opportunity for people who busy themselves making things a chance to look around and see what their peers are making. There is immeasurable value in that...in lifting up your head from your own work and seeing the success, hearing about the trials and failures, of others. I loved being a part of these events because they inspire me to look at my own goals and dream bigger.

Can virtual events recreate that experience of allowing creatives and creators to talk, share, bond and inspire each other? Yes. But they need to reach beyond their own user groups.

Right now, the most successful virtual events are focused on the communities and people engaged in virtual events. No surprise there, really, and its encouraging to see people eating their own dog food. But as a designer, I think about how these technologies could enable the extension of the communities that gather in person for events like the Philly Geek Awards and ComicCon on an ongoing basis. I don't think the live events will go away, nor do I want them to, but I see potential in extending out the connections made, information shared, and inspiration disseminated at these events on a more consistent and ongoing basis. We're not just a community for an annual event...we're a community all year round. We're not a community when we're face-to-face, we're a community that exists in interest and common goals no matter where we are.

Virtual worlds and event platforms can enable that type of interaction whenever you need it, not isolated to the scheduled dates and times. Pervasive community interaction already takes place in 2D tools like Facebook, but it doesn't capture the feeling of presence and engagement that 3D environments provide. It's really not possible to have a Facebook "event" and Twitter, although it provides the opportunity for live chats, is lacking the visual sharing that is such an integral part of creative communities.

Consider this a challenge to my creative friends. We push the boundaries and pride ourselves in creating new things. Shouldn't we be the ones to embrace the most progressive technologies for establishing and growing our communities?

Monday, August 22, 2011

And now for something completely different...10 women musicians you should listen to instead of Adele

For those of you who read my blog for emerging technology applications for learning, or for my reflections on being a female entrepreneur, be warned: this is a post from my inner (and not so secret) music snob.

I'm not a fan of Adele. She has a beautiful voice, to be sure. Her music is deeply emotional and soulful, absolutely. But I cannot stand the whiney, sometimes vindictive, passive aggressive lyrics that reinforce women as victims. I'll even give Adele herself a pass, I mean, she's only 23 and how much do you know about relationships, yourself, or anything really, at that age? 

So its not really Adele I don't like. Its the cult of Adele, the masses who are buying into the negative stereotypes of the roles of women in relationships. Frankly, I find it depressing. And then yesterday, the last straw that prompted me to write all of this down...I heard Adele's cover of The Cure's Love Song. Oh. Hell. No. For me, The Cure is the essence of my formative years of musical taste and my emotional development...along with New Order and The Smiths, they form the "holy trinity" of my musical identity. The Cure have a reputation for being "depressing" but with the exception of their Disintegration album, the rumors of their music being broody and melancholy have been greatly exaggerated. But hearing Adele singing Love Song? THAT was depressing. 

In recent years, I've become a much bigger fan of female musicians and have felt a stronger connection to their music. In the interest of not just complaining about how Adele fans are perpetuating negative stereotypes of women, I'd like to offer some alternative female artists to consider if you're seeking a soundtrack to your break up, your anger at the man who's done you wrong, or just some straight up girl power. 
  • Amanda Palmer: I'm going to start with my absolute favorite, the artist who I'm fangirl crazy for, and who grounds me whenever I need a kick in the pants. Her solo work is amazing, but go ahead and listen to the Dresden Dolls stuff as well. Oh, and of course, Evelyn Evelyn. There's no one who can rock the ukelele like AFP. For a start, try Astronaut. Then watch In My Mind. And then maybe a little Map of Tasmania (if you're not easily offended).
  • Bitter Ruin: I "discovered" this band at an Amanda Palmer late night cabaret show last fall. Their music is so good, and Georgia's voice is so hauntingly beautiful, that they've made it into heavy rotation on my personal playlists. Plus Ben is adorable in the best possible way. Their new video, Trust, is a good place to start.
  • Feist: You probably heard 1234 on the radio, but listen to more of Feist and you get the sense that you're in the company of your best girlfriend who understands just how you feel. My favorite is How My Heart Behaves. And she's got a new album coming out...so get that too.
  • Florence + the Machine: Soulful voice, amazing lyrics, and the ability to capture the essence of complex but hopeful emotion. Cosmic Love makes me happy happy happy.
  • Regina Spektor: Probably the most underappreciated musician on this list, Regina's voice is phenominal and makes you feel her lyrics deeply. Start with Fidelity then keep going.
  • Neko Case: To be honest, I need to listen to Neko Case more than I do. Correction: I need to listen to more Neko Case songs than I do. I'm stuck on This Tornado Loves You
  • Amy Winehouse: I'm so sad she's gone. Her songs represented themes as tragic as her life. Move beyond Rehab and listen to Tears Dry On Their Own.
  • Zee Avi: If you haven't heard of Zee Avi, you're welcome. She's a powerhouse in a tiny package. Listen to Monte for a sample.
  • Colbie Caillat: I had to include my guilty pleasure on this list. Seriously, she's mushy, chick pop wallowing goodness. My inner music snob is embarrassed to include her, but include her I must. I Won't will get Colbie added to your guilty pleasure list too.
  • Patsy Cline: If you haven't listened to a Patsy Cline album, what is wrong with you? :) Seriously...this woman paved the way for heartbreak songs from the woman's point of view. No one does it better. No one. Listen to She's Got You right now. Do it. 
Honorable Mentions, individual songs:
10,000 Maniacs, Verdi Cries
Kirsty MacColl, In These Shoes

Am I missing anyone? 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ARG Design: My session today at the Distance Teaching & Learning conference

I'm in BEAUTIFUL Madison, Wisconsin and getting ready to present this afternoon on alternate reality game (ARG) design. I'm particularly excited about today's half-day session because most of the participants are currently working in colleges and universities, and the prospect of incorporating gaming into academic curriculum is fantastic. Having spent the last two days onsite with a corporate client reviewing the design of an ARG to train their employees on the new functionality of their soon to be released ecommerce site, I'm coming into today with recent, relevant feedback and questions on how ARGs can support education and training.

While I don't think I'll be able to transfer everything I know today in the 3-hour time slot, I'm hoping to hit on some of the basics of learning game design: the issue to be addressed (learning or performance goal), storyline, character development, scoring, and user experience.

I'll be covering these topics in the course I'm teaching this fall at Harrisburg University in much more detail (and if you're interested in registering, its a mixed live/virtual class so come join us!). As I've been developing the curriculum for that course and for writing the immersive learning design book, I've been wondering...what would do learning professionals WANT to know about these topics? If you were taking a class, or reading a book, what would you want to walk away knowing and being able to do? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts...