Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Online + IRL -> Real Action

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Finally got around to reading Malcolm Gladwell’s controversial New Yorker article excoriating technophiles and technoutopians for overrating social media’s ability to effect social change. For those who don’t want to read the whole article, here’s the Coles/Cliffs Notes version.

Gladwell believes that social media activism is overrated. The #iranelections twitter campaign was largely a phenomenon in the West with little traction on the ground in Iran. Same with the so-called twitter revolution in Moldova. Yes, there is strength of weak ties (indeed the Tipping Point depends on it), but BIG CHANGE in the face of GRAVE DANGER requires strong ties and hierarchies. The master storyteller illustrates his point by recounting the story of a civil rights sit-in in Greensboro, NC, the sit-in was started by four friends who planned it for months and endured a barrage of sneers, taunts, and threats of violence. But because they were friends, because they had strong-tie connections, because they knew that their co-conspirators had each others back, they persevered. Weak-tie networks work differently. They mobilize a large number of people quickly to participate in a low-risk activity. The weak-tie collective can yield results whether it’s raising money for a cause (Save Darfur), saving an individual’s life (social media found a bone marrow transplant match for Sameer Bhatia) or ensuring justice is served (through a social media a stolen LG sidekick was returned to its rightful owner) but in Malcolm’s mind, these are hardly status quo game changers.

Only they are. Not in the sense that the world was changed (both the Bhatia and the LG sidekick stories benefit single individuals); but in the speed and relative ease in which movements get organized.

How do movements get started? Derek Sivers points the way in his 3 minute TED talk. “First, of course you know, a leader [of the movement] needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed. But what he’s doing is so easy to follow. So here’s his first follower with a crucial role. He’s going to show everyone else how to follow.” the first follower is crucial because he “transforms a lone nut into a leader.” Then two, three, four, people follow, momentum build, the rate of new followers accelerates and a movement starts. And why do more people join? “…as more people join in, it’s less risky. So those that were sitting on the fence before, now have no reason not to. They won’t stand out. They won’t be ridiculed.” The Greensboro civil rights sit-in was started by 4 boys, then grew to 27 the next day, day after that 80 and day after that 300. The “grave danger” Gladwell felt was so critical for real movements to happen were only experienced by the original four. The risk was significantly lowered for the 296 others.

So now that we know how movements are formed, how does social media facilitate them? By making it easy for first followers to find their “lone nuts”. It’s propelled Twestival from a small gathering in London to a 200 city party and it’s what turned Movember from a single challenge made between a bunch of friends in an Adelaide, Australia pub to a worldwide phenomenon. Let me be clear, the organizing, the action, the “doing part” of the movement happens in real life. Social media helps you find collaborators needed to turn a little idea into a movement for social change.


A couple weeks ago, I had honour and pleasure of being selected as a delegate at TEDxToronto. Many of you are familiar with TED, the annual ‘meeting of the greatest minds’ where each speaker has no more than 18 minutes to share his idea and get his or her complex point across. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. The theme this year was “A Call to Action” and the speakers were truly inspiring. Here were my faves:

Boonaa Mohammed’s slam poem on economics of prejudice

Bruce Poon Tip on the expanded the triple bottom line (people, planet, profits) to include “passion” and “purpose”

Drew Dudley on leadership and lollipop moments

Trey Anthony’s 1st standing ovation of the day on breaking the boxes people put you in

Neil Pasricha’s tale of how he came to write the blog 1,000 Awesome Things and The Book of Awesome

Not all the videos seem to be posted and I will update this post as I find out they’re up. Big thanks to the organizers and hope I get selected to be a delegate next year.

Your Municipal Tax Dollars at Work

Last week I passed by St. Clements Parkette near Yonge-Eglinton and it was flooded. Looked like a broken water mane was the cause of the flood. At first, I was going to call 311 but then I figured that it would be much quicker if I just snapped a photo with my Blackberry (Edelman client) and tweeted it as an @reply to  @311toronto then continued my walk down Yonge Street.

Flodding at St. Clements Parkette

When I came back a couple hours later, there was a truck fixing the problem and a thank you from @311toronto . We often come down on Toronto city service so it’s nice to see efficiency in our municipal government.

Multiple Twitter Personality Disorder

The following is a guest post by @nonmom

Hi, my name is … well, it depends actually.

If you want to know about the latest big race (especially if it’s F1), then my name is BARC_OC, if you want to talk antiques and auctions then it’s AwesomeAuctions, business networking and growth, BCX_Oakville, trucking and transportation, Blower_Tech, real estate in the South West USA, ArizRealEstate and for all things else, and with a bit of a twist I’ll let you check out, Nonmom.

Yes it’s true, I (at present, more to come) have 6 different, but sometimes related, twitter personalities and I do in fact talk to ‘myself’ and answer ‘myself’ in order to grow both (or more) accounts and their presence. If it’s relevant and crosses the genre’s appropriately why not have a conversation with myself?

Is it hard to know which voice I’m speaking with at all times, yes, but like any condition, you get used to it and adapt. The prescription for this ‘Disorder’, I take 5 doses of ‘TweetDeck’ as needed throughout the day ;).

I was introduced to Twitter through the main writer of this blog and while sceptical at first, I admit it didn’t take me long to get hooked. I kept telling my husband, what a patient guy, who I was following now and getting all excited when they actually tweeted me back. I admit, I still get excited when I get a tweet-back and smile and pump my fist in the air when I get a coveted #FF.

Since those early days of more following than speaking, I have sent over 2500 tweets on my Nonmom account alone, and that’s likely to have gone up significantly as you’re reading this.

People often ask what is Twitter and how do you use it. I just tell them it’s simply answering the question, in 140 characters or less, what are you doing? I’ve also had clients and colleagues ask me about the importance or significance of Twitter in their marketing portfolio. My answer to those who aren’t familiar with social media is that Facebook is like a permanent trade-show booth and Twitter is like having a spokesperson with instantaneous updates and goings-on while your website is your company headquarters online.

There are a lot of critics out there when it comes to social media and especially Twitter. I really feel most of it is because they simply do not understand it and fear it. To them I say go onto the Twitter home page on the day of a big event and search tweets about that event, the Olympics was a great example of this, and just watch what people are saying and the interaction and shared experience of it all. I truly believe that part of the reason Canada got behind our athletes so much, and as Canadians we were at our patriotic best, was in significant part due to Twitter. People from across the country and Canadians were abroad were all able to speak and ‘hang out’ on Twitter together. It was a great feeling.

I define social media as the digitization, and indeed globalization, of word-of-mouth. An example of this is the shared experience of the recent Toronto earthquake. I know, a small one even by our standards, but I know that I wasn’t the only one who took to the ‘Tweets to find out if I was crazy or not and what was going on. Friends from across the province had had the same experience as me, at the same time, and we were talking about it like we were in the same room. It was really very cool.

Twitter and social media in general are really and truly the great equalizers. Anyone can Tweet, big companies or small or individuals and all it takes is an internet connection or even more basic, a cell phone. I look forward to tweeting with you all via one of my many personalities!

Why FourSquare? (or Facebook Places for that matter)

Jesse Schell had a fantastic talk at DICE 2010 ending with a thought experiment a game-ified life where near the end he imagines a future where marketers and game designers work together to create life as a game. FourSquare is the beginning of that. We go to work we check in we get points, we go to lunch, we check in, we get points and every so often we get points in the right places at the right time and we get badges and mayorships. And the points and badges give us instant gratification which is pleasurable and motivates us to get more points and more badges in a never ending hedonic treadmill of external validation. Ok so I’ve strung together several psychological theories which for me explains why FourSquare exists intellectually.

Then I came with a more practical explanation while waiting for take out food. Unlike a doctor’s office, there’s no magazines at restaurants (though I suppose you could re-read the menu and see all the stuff you didn’t order). So what to do while waiting for your food? Check in. Then it hit me. What to do when waiting for the subway (in those stations with reception), check in. What to do in between innings at the ballgame? Check in. What to do while your computer’s booting up at work? Check in. The genius of FourSquare is not only good game design that meshes with human psychology. They created a brilliant means to pass the time while we wait for the other pieces of life to get going.

Tony Hsieh on Life, Business, and Being Happy

I was one of the fortunate bloggers to receive two free advanced copies of Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Tony Hsieh, he’s the CEO of the shoes and clothing e-tailer known to its customers for WOW-factor customer service and known to social media types (like me) for its amazing culture of openness.

While bookstores will likely stock it in the “Business” section, the book reads more like an autobiography with a bit of social commentary thrown in. The breezy, jokey style makes for an easy read but Tony’s storytelling brilliance really comes through when he turns anecdotes into fables. When he goes through his entrepreneurial exploits from childhood through university, we’re treated to the evolution of an inventive mind and lessons learned both through failures and successes. Along the way we also see an evolution in mindset from the boy who “always fantasized about making money, because to me, money meant that later on in life I would have the freedom to do whatever I wanted” to a multi-millionaire adult (following the sale of LinkExchange) asking the questions “What is success? What is happiness? What am I working toward?” That’s when the epiphany hits him,

“I thought about how easily we are all brainwashed by our society and culture to stop thinking and just assume by default that more money equals more success and more happiness, when ultimately happiness is really just about enjoying life.”

And that’s when the Zappos ethos forms. Tony realizes that he’s happiest when he’s creating something and then even happier when the people around him are happy too. So the customer service WOW is about making customers happy and the company’s “Core Values” is partly about giving employees the ability and freedom to pursue their own happiness.

You’ll notice throughout this review that I haven’t mentioned social media once despite the title of this blog. And that’s because this book isn’t about social media even though Zappos is known in certain circles for embracing the technology. But I’ll leave that to Mashable and ReadWriteWeb to expound on that. What I took away was some whose taken some values shared by socially mediated culture i.e. radical transparency, openness, sharing information, along with many others and incorporated them into the DNA of the corporation, not only because it makes Tony and everyone around him happy (though that’s a pretty good reason in and of itself) but because it’s good for business.

Delivering Happiness launches today (June 7, 2010)
To learn more about Delivering Happiness visit