Category Archives: Daily Living

Friend, Follower, Fan, or Fake?

It’s a beautiful morning to think about what’s happening to the winning social network sites as we early adopters all get what we thought we wished for: mainstream acceptance. Well, now here came everybody and we have to deal with it.  Chris Brogan has a great post about this called Quid Pro No, which deals with unwelcome reciprocal friend/follow requests, and Brian Solis tackles the problem of “sponsored conversations,”  over on Tech Crunch. Ugh. The mere fact that the FTC is getting involved with how brands use Twitter means we’ve got problems, no matter which way it shakes out.

Here’s Brian: As you could possibly imagine, the reality of mass-sponsored tweets will raise a Tweetstorm that will immediately trigger a blogstorm, which will ultimately escalate into a full-blown Category 5 media hurricane. But the reality is, whether you agree with them or not, sponsored conversations and paid tweets are already here.  The question is how to use them correctly and responsibly.

And here I am, participating in the blogstorm.

Like many people who have been on all three major sites, I face the problem of potential “relationships” with both people and brands every day, because once people get on social media and figure out why they are there, they all become brands, even me.The same people who teach courses like “Advanced LinkedIn” teach “Growing Your Personal Brand.” I am, of course, throwing up in my mouth as I write this. I’m both a victim and a perpetrator.

As a person, and as a human-brand, I finally decided to treat online relationships like I do IRL. My brand is authenticity. I am fond of saying “I am transparent.” Well, I am. For example: I have quit following back on Twitter, am deleting people I followed back in the beginning when Twitter was smaller, and only follow people I have something in common with, know, or who post great content that can teach me something. I also have separate accounts for health care (ushealthcrisis) with @Karoli and @azentrepreneurs for my startup conferences. I’ve announced this on Twitter multiple times, and will continue to do so. It was getting so I couldn’t see the tweets of my guru, my daughter, and my business partner. Not to mention breaking news and other interesting links I want to follow, posted by people I respect.

On Facebook, I now actively friend only people I’ve already met IRL. I accept friend requests, but if I don’t recognize the name I don’t add the new people to my feed. I have several different lists, too. And I don’t become a fan or join a cause except in exceptional cases of true belief. I have also announced that. I spend one day a week hitting ignore. Events are a different story; I still want to know about them so I can decide to attend if I’m in town. If your event is in Cleveland, don’t invite me. I can’t come, and I probably won’t even RSVP, which will throw off all your food counts:-)

On LinkedIn, a site I hate, I maintain a public CV for speaking engagements and accept connections as a courtesy if I know the people.  I don’t spend much time there, because I find it an awkward site to manipulate. To me, it needs a total makeover. But I stay there because I want to connect people I value when they need my help. Having been there a long time I have a large network. I actually WANT to make that useful in the right circumstances. But I get to choose. Reputation is all I have. And connecting people is like fixing them up on blind dates. If they have a lousy time, they blame me.

It’s very hard to get me to write a recommendation for you, though, even if you write one for me:-) unless I mean it. I’m not a person who feels compelled to reciprocate about anything. People who have repeatedly invited me to dinner would starve if they waited for me to invite them back. (I don’t cook.)

These curious curations and apparently frivolous filters allow me to be authentic without relinquishing the joy of discovery or my “privacy.”

And thank you Chris and Brian for forcing me to collate my thoughts around this crucial subject. I would friend you both anywhere:-

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Is Social Media a Waste of Time?

No way. Social media has given me a platform on which to share my knowledge of things I care deeply about. Health care and the environment are two of those, and still another is the current economic crisis and how it is affecting me and my world. Without social media, I’d be in a far smaller community around these very troubling issues, and I could easily be very depressed.

Most people also think I care deeply about new technology, because I write so much about it. They’re wrong. I only care about technology to the extent that it enables a person like me, well-informed about things I care about, to offer some information to people who don’t have the time to acquire it first-hand, and to gain strength from others who have found ways to deal with problems I also have.

I start with Google Reader, through which I subscribe to a dozen trade journals and blogs each about health care, environmental issues, and economics. I also subscribe to tech journals and blogs, and to major news sources like the New York TImes, Wall Street Journal, and my local papers in Arizona and on the Coastside in northern California. I read about 1000 items a day, often just scanning to weed out repetition. I try to read several sides of controversial issues, so I know how the doctors, the insurance companies, the patients, and the IT people feel about health care. When something’s really good, I “share” it with other friends of mine who are on Google Reader.

But it doesn’t stop there. I want to discuss what I read with people who can either help me understand it, or tell people what I’ve found out. So I also maintain profiles on Facebook and Twitter. On the latter, I maintain several accounts. One’s for general posts; another is @azentrepreneurs, and is specific to Arizona’s entrepreneurship community. Still a third is @ushealthcrisis, which a colleague and I use for our volunteer web site with health care reform information.

When, in the course of my day, I come across something that might help or interest one of these “constituencies,” I post a link or a mention to one of those accounts. Less important for general sharing, but very important for learning more, is Friendfeed, which aggregates the combined knowledge of many educated and intelligent friends and acquaintances of mine, often in extended conversations. Every so often, to spread news of professional opportunities and networking events, I’ll even use a status update on LinkedIn.

And oh yes, in addition to all this, I blog. That’s mainly a place to display my own thoughts and syntheses.

Do I tell people on Twitter what I had for breakfast? Never. Do I write about my personal problems? Only if they can be a metaphor or an example for other people’s experiences (like my effort to modify my mortgage loan). People who are not using social media always worry about lack of privacy. My theory? If you don’t want people on these platforms to know something, don’t tell them.

Now let me answer the questions I get asked all the time when I tell people what I’ve just written about.

"Wasting TIme on Social Media"How much time does this take every day? As much as I want it to take. If I’m very busy working, very little. On other days, or perhaps in the evening when there’s “nothing” on the 200 channels of digital TV in my home, several hours. It’s not a compulsion; it’s a pleasure. It makes me feel like 19th century people used to feel in a salon. Participation is a choice.

And what does it do for me?
It has introduced me to an entire new community of engaged, educated people who discuss the world. These people are located anywhere — Brazil, China, New York, India. It finds me friends, investments, and cousins I haven’t heard from in years. It increases the time I spend talking with my brother.

And last, but not least, it makes me money. It exposes me to the world and people can hire me to advise, to write, to teach. In other words, sometimes when you are useful, there’s a payoff:-) And no, I do not call myself a “social media guru.” I leave that for others.

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To Change Education, Change its Funding

How we fund schools determines how we learn, and the funding mechanism is way out of date.
This guet post by a long-time friend of mine, Ted Kraver, who has been an advocate for educational transformation for twenty years, suggests a legislative strategy to modernize K-12 education. You can contact him directly using the information at the end of the post, or you can comment here and I will alert him:-)

What is necessary for education in our century includes
Competency learning to complement the seat time system
Data driven reporting and decision support;
Broadband use by everyone;
Teacher transformation for the digital age;
Global digital curriculum access with effective application.

There are many objectives for student learning, but the one the State of Arizona pays for is student competency over a wide range of disciplines. Some courses of learning are prescribed, and some of these are backed with state standards. Others courses are elected by students in their specialized areas of interest.

Today we are not getting what we pay for.

The problem is that the current funding system has evolved to prevent competency in well over a third of the student population. The current system funds seat time based on a 100 day average daily attendance formula resulting in lockstep promotion by grade level. Struggling students are passed through the system and gifted students are turned off by lack of effective learning engagement. When this system was designed in the late 1800’s there were no data to drive decision support systems to enable individualized learning. The economy could only accommodate a small percentage of the graduates with full competency of the course materials in a K-12 education.

In 1896 my grandmother graduated high school with a full curriculum including geometry, Algebra, Greek and Latin. Her first job was teaching high school. Most of her classmates learned their numbers and letters in the lower grades and prospered in retail, factories or farms in the Cleveland area.

Thirty students to a class with a teacher and the agricultural annual cycle worked just fine in 1896. Relating funding to costs of running this lockstep 13 yearly cycles settled on seat time as an effective administrative means. With manual accounting systems, it was a simple way to forecast and allocate educational expenditures.

The financial administration of all other aspects of our society have changed in the past 120 years. The funding mechanism for K-12 education must also change.

Many national experts and leading Arizona advocacy organizations are promoting the complex method of basing school funding on student competency learning vs. the more easily administratively measured seat-time. There are many pilot programs supporting this system design. One example is the large publicly funded K-12 Florida Virtual Schools which works at the single student-course level.

Online-virtual education has an education structure and results that are not currently available in the traditional classroom. They provide individual education that is at each student’s natural learning pace. The teachers provide significant one-on-one support along with some group collaboration. The current implementations are mostly in the 7-12 grade levels. The academic performance results from a 2009 US Department of Education study of online and hybrid education show significant academic performance gains over legacy education. This means of learning will continue its compound growth. In a hybrid form it will become a disruptive innovation that transforms legacy classroom education.

One of the first things we need to implement is an enhanced State of Arizona K-12 funding system. The current system must be transformed to support not only the online and hybrid forms of eLearning but all aspects of eLearning. The means a systematic transformation of many of the administrative centered funding mechanisms to student centered mechanisms. This systemic transformation will take 7 to 10 years to implement. For starters Arizona can legislate student centered competency education funding as an alternative to seat time funding.

The following elements are suggested for 2010 legislative attention. Both have low startup cost and are the foundational to the systemic transformation.

1. Design, fund and implement a system that will provide a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) that is individualized each student. The PLP will be the center of the data driven decision support system used by the student, teacher and parents to guide the K-12 student’s academic career. Elements of this plan will be used to determine course completion competency/proficiency and to report individual student status and progress to school, district, parents and the state data system.

2. Provide funding and assign responsibility to an agency(s) to assess, plan, redesign and implement a transformation of one aspect of the K-12 financial system. This transformation will enable the funding of any public school, in whole or in part, based not on average daily attendance, but on individual student course completion measured by end of course testing for competency. The level of competency set for each course within each PLP will vary based on student learning ability and ambitions. The individual teacher-parent-student team will make these determinations. The range of competency levels will be bounded at the low end to meet Arizona academic standards and the upper end by student ability, motivation and ambition.

Theodore C. Kraver Ph.D. President
eLearning System for Arizona Teachers and Students Inc.
not-for-profit 501-c3 volunteer systems design and advocacy organization
tkraver@qwest.net 602-944-8557(direct) http://www.azelearning.org
225 West Orchid Lane Phoenix, AZ 85021

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Flow and Wellness for Facebook and Twitter

There is brilliance in the wisdom of ancients. Especially in India, I’ve found information that guides my life in the 21st century world of the Internet.

Last January, I was lucky enough to meet a Sanskrit scholar in Vrindavan, a town between Delhi and Agra. He is part of the Jiva Institute, an organization I’ve advised over the past ten years. Jiva Institute runs a public (private) school in Faridabad, a “chain” of Ayurvedic health clinics, and an ashram for the study and preservation of ancient Sanskrit and Vedic manuscripts. Their resident Sanskrit scholar, Dr. Satya Narayana Dasa (“Dr. SND”) is coming to Rutgers next month for a visiting professorship.

Just in time for his visit, here is a current paper of his on the principle of flow in life. Notice that flow comes in two “stages.” Also notice that the theory of flow is applicable to the recent Iranian elections, and also to the stalemate in Congress over issues like health care reform.

Flow and Wellness
-Dr. Satya Narayana Dasa, M.Tech., IIT Delhi, PhD (Sanskrit) Agra University
Cultural Director, Jiva Institute
Visiting Professor, Rutgers University

Scientists believe that material creation is a manifestation from a very highly concentrated point of energy. Experiments with a large hadron collider in a special 27 km long tunnel in Switzerland built for this purpose. have already been started to simulate the beginning of creation.

In Vedic literature this highly dense energy point is called Prakriti, which means great product or great action. It can also be translated as the great flow.

Prakriti is the great source, from which the universe flows and towards which everything seems to be flowing—the immanifest state of matter. In fact being very subtle, it is matter in the state of energy. All gross perceptible and subtle imperceptible matter manifests from this energy or primordial matter. When turned into manifest, matter has the tendency to flow towards its source. Water flows into the ocean, flames move up towards space and any object thrown up into the air falls back on earth.

Prakriti itself is in a flow in the form of creation, existence and annihilation. Like Prakriti, the source, all its products beginning from atoms up to the galaxies, are flowing in some cycles.

The Importance of Flow

Flow is necessary for the universe to continue. Flow is progress and is pleasurable. It is compared to swimming along the stream. Working against flow is troublesome. The normal tendency of matter is to follow the natural flow.
Human beings, however, have the ability to be in the flow or out of flow. Consciousness has the property of choice. We can choose to be in the flow of the Samsara, the material world, or get out of it and enter into the flow of love. These are the two available choices.

As Prakriti is the source of material objects, Supreme Consciousness is the source of individual conscious energy. The real inherent drive of all conscious beings is to be in flow with Supreme Consciousness. However, without knowledge of our real source, we are tempted to mistake it for Prakriti and struggle within the realm of matter. Even in this realm, we can feel comfort and peace if we are in flow with our own material nature (which is part of the big nature, the Prakriti). This happens when we function according to our acquired nature with complete absorption, without being distracted by the result.

Csíkszentmihályi calls this flow. In the Bhagavad Gita it is called Yoga (Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam). This flow (Niskama Karma Yoga) is not some kind of reclusive meditation, but can be a part of one’s daily activities in the office, at home or in the sports field. It is the Yoga of Action and not the Yoga of Renunciation.

For individual wellness as well as that of society, flow is needed. If there is no flow, there will be frustration, dejection, insecurity, anger, violence, corruption and terrorism. And since individuals make up a society, without flow the entire society will be disturbed and out of rhythm—it will be full of unrest as can be seen at the present times. To bring flow into one’s life is, therefore, a necessary step.

The Highest Form of Flow
Interestingly Sri Krishna speaks of another type of flow, the spiritual flow, which is superior to the flow described by Csíkszentmihályi. As human beings we have a material body and a soul distinct from it. Material body is the product of Prakriti; it is good to be in flow with the Prakriti. But it’s even better to be in flow with the Supreme Consciousness—the source of our individual consciousness—the soul.

Therefore, being in the material flow, although superior to not being in it, is ultimately unfulfilling for the conscious or the soul. Csíkszentmihályi advises us to get into flow in our professional duties. But the paradox is that the material flow itself will, ultimately, prod one to get out of it! Sri Krishna has stated in Bhagavad Gita (4.33) that all material flows culminate in spiritual flow. Spiritual flow is the ultimate flow and most fulfilling. Having attained it, one never desires anything else (Bhagavad Gita 8.21).

To reach the ultimate flow, it is important to understand and experience the inferior or material flow. Material flow will bring only material wellness, but spiritual flow will grant the ultimate wellness for which we are striving unknowingly and sometimes knowingly.

Since we have a material body with material needs, it is necessary to fulfil those. But one should not remain engrossed only in gratifying the inferior needs. Even if one achieves flow while functioning at the lower level of Prakriti, sooner or later one will feel empty, because once the physical needs are fulfilled the real need of our real being—the soul—will come into play. This need can not be satisfied by any material situation, including the flow suggested by Csíkszentmihályi.

In essence, a human being can have three situations—a situation without flow, material flow and spiritual flow. The first situation is unhealthy. The second is good but only from the material perspective, and only if used as a steppingstone to spiritual flow. The third state is the state of perfection and supreme wellness.

Hey, Congress. Get with the flow! We have too many problems to keep on struggling.

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Don’t Underestimate the Power of Twitter

This is a sad story, but it is also a story of communities and resiliency.

Earlier this week, I got a call in Half Moon Bay from my friend LonSafko, author of The Social Media Bible. It was a voicemail that said “Please call me back. I can’t leave a message.”

Last year, at almost exactly the same time, i got a call from a friend in Phoenix, and it was about the suicide of my friend Scott Coles, so I was alerted. I called him back immediately.

Sure enough, our mutual friend Steven Groves, a member of my OTEF board, had learned that morning that his son, Steven Groves II, had died  of an overdose. Steve doesn’t even know yet what the coroner will find, but he has lost his oldest child.

As if that isn’t enough, Steve had been out of paid work since December, when his last campany ran out of cash. He had been working with Lon to promote The Social Media Bible, but was doing that on a sweat equity basis.

So when the need to bury his son came up, it was one more big stressor on top of his grief.

Lon asked me what to do. “I’m a guy,” he said, simply, meaning “I am at a loss in a situation like this.”

“Go over there,” I said. “You are in town and I am not.” He also called Joan Koerber Walker, the chairman of the OTEF board and another good friend of ours. Joan’s a woman, so she raced over to Steve’s house.

I couldn’t get there, so I started a Chipin page and put it out on FriendFeed and Twitter. I told people to send money through Paypal to paypal@otef.org .

As of today, between our local friends and Chipin, we have almost $2000 of the $2500 Stevee needs to bury his oldest son. I’m sure that this doesn’t take away his loss, but it helps relieve one burden and allows him to  grieve.

Our country is in a bad place, and there are conflicting theories about how to come out of it. But that doesn’t mean that individuals, acting together, can’t help each other and exhibit the enormous resiliency that makes societies survive.

We see it publicly in events like Katrina, and how volunteers are still rebuilding houses in New Orleans. Privately, I have seen it this week from my Twitter community. Twitter communities, as people like @kanter and @lizstrauss can also tell you, have an extraordinary resilience and therefore the power to move mountains.

R.I. P. Steven Groves II. And my friend Steve, go forward knowing that you are in the embrace of all of us, even people who may never had met you.

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Credit Card Companies Have Their Hands in my Pockets

I usually throw stuff from the credit card companies away without reading it. But since the econolypse I’ve had my rates raised for almost nothing: three days late was one excuse for raising my 0% promotional rate to 29.99%. (If I pay “on time” for the next six months it can come down again at their discretion, but by that time the promotion for which I opened it will be over).  And I don’t mean three days past 30 days, I mean three days past the billing date on the statement.  Not to mention the fact that Wells Fargo, my bank, taking advantage of the float, took its own precious time to auto-pay my bill.

Good thing I can pay this one off in full. But I can’t cut it up or close it, or it will hit my credit score. Although leaving it open and paid off also hits my credit score, because I have all that credit “available.”  From the time I got my first card in the early 70s, things have become remarkably more complex. And more expensive.

So I’ve begun to take more notice of the  incredible hubris of these banks and credit card companies, which goes unnoticed by a society largely without newspapers and focused by cable news on swine flu. No way you can tell someone who is busy with a family, or studying for a degree, or working two jobs that they MUST read the fine print. Fact is, they don’t. They rely on trusted institutions to deal fairly with them. (Insert rant here.)

Read the mail from your credit card company! You may get an unpleasant surprise as these companies race to do everything they can before regulation takes hold. I bet that at the end of the day, they will negotiate to have existing rules grandfathered in, because wait until you hear this, which greeted me at the mailbox today from my buddy Ken Lewis at Bank of America:

What is happening:

We are increasing certain transaction fees on your account.

Amendment to Your Credit Card Agreement:

Effective on June 1, 2009, the transaction fee (FINANCE CHARGE) we assess on each of the transactions identified below will be equal to 4% of each such transaction (Fee: Min. $10):

ATM Cash Advances

Balance Transfers

Bank Cash Advances

Cash Equivalents

Check Cash Advances

Direct Deposit Cash Advances

Wire Transfer Purchases

In addition, they are expanding the definition of foreign transactions to include transactions in U.S. dollars if they are made or processed outside of the United States. Each transaction posting on or after June 1 will be subject to the Foreign Transaction Fee, currently 3% of the U.S. dollar amount of each such Foreign Transaction.

Doesn’t seem too threatening, does it? Unless you order your business cards from a U.K. company, as I do, or buy stuff online at places like EBay. Truthfully, how often do you know where some of the things you buy are coming from, or whether you are engaging in a foreign transaction? I’m sure Bank of America is depending on that.

I can’t believe there isn’t more outrage at the way all this transpires.  Because there is a mailed announcement, and because parts of it are bolded, the banks can say they have disclosed. But is this what we thought we were doing when we opened a credit card account? We have woven plastic currency so deeply through the warp and woof of American society that most of us can’t untangle fast enough from these usurious practices.

Come on, American people, become outraged. Yes, you can stop spending, but of course that works against the very economy we are trying to save. As a society, we are in a Catch-22 that can only be resolved if the banks and credit card companies agree to act honestly and transparently, and unless we change our education system to provide our kids basic financial literacy skills. Ethics on the part of the banks would do less damage than if we all decided to rise up in the streets and tear up our plastic.

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