Mechanics Beats Theory

My friend was frustrated on the other end of the phone.

“I just don’t understand how my WordPress (.com) blog can be a website,” she said.

I briefly explained the difference between posts and pages, and the way different themes worked to display information. Throughout my monologue she mumbled sounds of a vague and unconvincing understanding. My brilliance wasn’t cutting through her fog.

“It actually really easy to do. You just don’t know the mechanics of the process,” I concluded.

“You hit it on the head!” she said. “I don’t get what steps to take.”

Something clicked for me in that conversation. My friend helped me understand that many people need practical, concrete examples before they can grasp the systems and information flow that many WordPress developers take for granted.

I look forward to playing with new approaches to teaching people learning and teaching styles.

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First Impressions of TweetDeck for Chrome

TweetDeck and Chrome logosMany people are picky about how they interact with Twitter, and I’m plunked down firmly in the center of that camp.

My laptop (where my trusty TweetDeck desktop application is installed) died a couple days ago. I prefer a multi-column Twitter interface, so using the “New” Twitter web interface while I wait for my laptop to get fixed is not an option.

I’m generally not an early adopter, but this was a perfect excuse to try the new TweetDeck extension for Google’s Chrome browser.

My Experience

The installation was straightforward, with a couple of mouse clicks it was up and running. To launch the application, just open a new (empty) browser tab and click the TweetDeck icon. I was a bit surprised that it didn’t even prompt me for a userid or password. I suspect that it recognized my Twitter account because I sometimes use it to log in to other web services.

I didn’t try the Facebook integration, but informal research (OK, I read a tweet about it) indicates that it’s “tight.”

The Good

  • The general compose box functions well. It makes it very easy to update from multiple Twitter accounts.
  • The reply box is embedded in the column above the tweet I’m responding to. Nice touch.
  • Ability to drag columns to reorder is helpful, but this still needs some refinement.
  • The automatic link shortening (using j.mp) is quick and smooth.
  • Detailed profile information is helpful, but lacks the thread view capabilities.
  • It has the same familiar charcoal background with light text. I like this color scheme but it’s not for everyone.
  • The visual notification box is gone. This could be a pro or a con, depending on your preference. The desktop application gave you the ability to change its appearance, location on the screen, or just plain turn it off.

The Not-so Good

Like any new software, it isn’t perfect. I suspect it will get better over time.
  • There is no button to view a conversation thread. I use this ALL THE TIME on the desktop app. This #FAIL may force me to Hootsuite until my laptop is fixed. @ToddWaller did point out that you can see a thread history when you reply to a tweet, but sometimes I just want to lurk.
  • Sometimes the background and screen flash while I’m typing in a compose box. This is quite annoying.
  • I couldn’t find a way to pause or slow the main stream, even when I’m scrolled down. In the short time I used this, I clicked on the wrong link a few times as the target tweet slid out from under the cursor.
  • Where’s the filter? This is another feature I use often on the desktop application.
  • Audible notifications are gone. In the desktop application I set them tell me about new @-mentions and direct messages. Without the pop-up notification window, this is even more important.
  • Customization ability is non-existent. The desktop application allows a lot of configuration options, update speed, accounts, notifications, link shortening, and more.

Conclusion

I’m not shy about admitting that I like TweetDeck. Their first effort at browser integration is a solid start. I’m not ready to switch, but it shows a lot of promise.

Have you used it? Let me know what you think.

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How Twitter Changed My life

Autographed copy of UnMarketing by Scott StrattenI wrote this a few weeks back because a friend asked for social media success stories. I hadn’t planned to post this here, but I was inspired to do so after listening to Scott Stratten at a book signing earlier this week. I’m not a social media “expert,” and I don’t play one on TV. (I don’t even watch TV.) Maybe somebody will get something from this, so here it is.

Twitter logoI took advantage of an unplanned week off in February 2009 to meet a friend at a tea shop on a late Thursday morning. I was working on a side project (long since put on hold) at the time, and I talked to my friend about it. Henry (@balanon) listened to what I was doing then said, “You should be on Twitter.”

I created my account a few minutes later. I took a Twitter class at InSights Group a few days after that. I learned about “@-replies,” RTs, #hashtags, how to connect my (non-smart) phone to my Twitter account, and how to use a few tools outside of Twitter.

I began by following the few people I knew on Twitter. Then I started following people my friends were talking with. Guess what? Some liked to complain, some were smart, some were funny, but they were all people. And they were interesting!

I broke away from the limitations of Twitter’s web interface and started using other tools (I still like TweetDeck).

I attended my first #Tweetup, and I was hooked. Here were people who wanted to make new friends.

I shared my newly acquired Twitter addiction with a friend. I sat down with her for a few minutes and showed her some of the things I had learned. She played with it, and a few days later she said, “I see why you like Twitter. There are all these people, and they’re right there, smiling at you!”

As of this writing (18 months after my first tweet), I follow 794 people and I have 1242 followers, but I don’t measure success by these numbers.

Twitter has changed my life. No, I didn’t gain 30,000 followers or become a millionaire, but my life is much richer for it.

How? Here are some ways that engaging people on Twitter has directly enhanced my life:

  • I have attended scores of Tweetups, Meetups, Eatups, and assorted gatherings.
  • I have seen at least five movies with a group of 5 or more other people.
  • I went on two Photo Walks.
  • Joined a couple of networking groups.
  • Found several people who can help me with hard-core technical aspects of my fledgling business.
  • Met a man who became my business coach for more than 6 months.
  • Attended Karaoke 3 or 4 times. And I liked it.
  • I found (and donated to) charities that I would not have known about otherwise.
  • Had a Skype conversation with someone around the world. Olivia gave me advice and I gave her material for her blog.
  • I found like-minded people to work on improving our sales skills.
  • Tweeps (friends) have sent me funny stuff to make me laugh when I had a bad day.
  • I have gone dancing.
  • Adding Foursquare to Twitter helped me meet friends for an unexpected drink on three occasions.
  • I have attended events at crowded bars and felt comfortable because I knew at least 20 of the people there.

The friendships I have made have challenged my thinking, broadened my horizons, and stretched my limits.

What is my “secret” for Twitter “success?”

Engage in conversation with other people. Read what they write, retweet things you find something funny, fantastic, or noteworthy, and reply to people. Jump into a conversation. People won’t bite.

In short, do the same things you would do when meeting somebody new at a party. You won’t mesh with everyone. That’s OK. You will have more in common with some than with others. That’s OK. You will follow some people who tweet three times then never log in again. That’s OK. You will follow some people who tweet Way Too Much and create a separate column for them in TweetDeck. That’s OK.

If you haven’t tried it, give Twitter a chance. You might have to ask for help at first. That’s OK. I did. I don’t regret it.

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Do you want my two cents here?

Two penniesA client asked why I disabled the comments on a page on her website. Why, indeed?!

“It just doesn’t feel right to me,” didn’t seem like an adequate response. I struggled with it for a little while, and here are my thoughts on the subject.

Have you ever noticed the weekly flyer displayed at the front of a Target store? Would you expect to see comments scribbled on the wall below the ad? Imagine the flyer was posted Monday morning, and these comments were posted by 3 PM:

  • Great price! 🙂
  • This was cheaper at WalMart. FAIL.
  • That was out of stock. Can I get a raincheck?
  • Wow, I love the color of these! Do you have them in small?
  • The toilet in the men’s room is overflowing and my shoes are #@$^ ruined!

Maybe the plumbing problem is patched within 15 minutes and new stock is scheduled to arrive Tuesday morning, but the comments are stuck there until the next week’s specials can be posted.

I see pages on a website like that flyer. As the website owner, you are well within your rights to delete (or not approve) comments at any time.

For those of us who think too much, this could spark an ethical debate: Should you approve (or delete) bad comments? What if a problem were fixed immediately, or a product or service has been discontinued? Are the comments still relevant? Should you delete them?

I would rather avoid the hassle (and the questions).

Blog posts, on the other hand, provide a natural opportunity for discussion. I think of them more like a conversation with someone at the customer service counter. There is a specific context. You may be glad that a painful discussion fades away and loses impact as new posts are added. The reverse can also happen, where the record can turn into a testimonial for your business.

You will note that comments are disabled on pages on my site. I will happily accept comments below.

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Tungle: A Time Management Tool

Do you Tungle? I do!

Not as much as I would like, but that’s changing as my small business grows.

What is Tungle? It’s a great way to simplify scheduling meetings. Let me give you a few reasons why I use it. These are my response to the questions posed on Tungle’s blog.
Inspired by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing’s post, 5 Questions You Should Ask Every Customer, we’d like to ask you these 5 questions:

1. What made you decide to start Tungling?

  • I saw someone Tweet about it one day and thought I would check it out. The quick video intro on the home page sold me.

2. What’s one thing we do better than any other productivity app out there?

  • I like the ease of seeing different people’s schedules vertically. I haven’t researched these in great detail, but I helped a client schedule a meeting with another online scheduling tool (I honestly forgot which one) that was less intuitive. I also think the name is memorable. It reminds me of a Jethro Tull song…

3. What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?

  • It would be nice to be able to look up friends or business contacts via their email address. I’m not looking for a directory, I would just like to be able to enter the email address of someone I know and find their Tungle calendar.
  • While we’re at it, maybe we could go so far as to look up someone’s schedule based on a Twitter ID. I have people I know on Twitter who I don’t use email to work with.

4. Do you refer Tungle.me to others?  If yes, why?

  • Yes, I have recommended it to several people. A few of them have signed up with it, too. I really appreciate that your availability is well, available. My tungle.me link is both on my business card and in my email signature. Why isn’t yours? It makes it easy for someone to schedule a meeting.

5. What would you Google to find an app like Tungle.me?

  • I don’t know, I haven’t thought much about finding better productivity tools. If I did, I might look for “schedule meeting” or “calendar management.”

I’m still green enough as a solopreneur that I haven’t thought to look for tools to improve my productivity. That will change, though. I hope your small business grows even more quickly than mine does. If you Tungle, it might happen faster than mine is.

My new website will definitely have a Tungle link in the sidebar.

[disclaimer: I’m totally gunning for a free T-shirt and gift certificate. But I promise, I will never endorse anything here that I don’t have personal experience with.]

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