Why I Still Subsribe to the Print Newspaper

Every morning as I’m heading out the door to work, I quickly grab a strange non-electronic information transmitter from my front driveway and carry it with me to the office. It’s my local newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman. Why do I insist on subscribing to the paper even though my husband thinks it’s a waste of money? Maybe it’s sentimental. I did get my degree in news/editorial journalism and one of my high school jobs was reporting on my school’s sports for the parish (as in county, if you live anywhere but Louisiana) newspaper.

I’ve been thinking about it more lately as I see Stowe Boyd declare that newspapers are dead already, but just don’t know it. I could jump in on that meme that some say Jeff Jarvis started. I’m a new media type person after all, so I could talk about all how the internet will kill the newspaper (yeah, like video killed the radio star).

But, then I see Ryan Sholin, who blogs about future of newspapers, online news and journalism education, talk about how he has historically used the print edition, and I begin to think that’s more of my take on the subject. This is my personal blog after all, so I’ll take the personal look at why I still like the newspaper:

The Sunday comics – I read the comics every day, but there’s nothing I like better than a quiet Sunday morning lying around in my PJs full of homemade blueberry pancakes reading the full-color version. Don’t get to do it nearly as much as I used to since my daughter talked me into teaching her Sunday School class, but it’s still nice to have them there.

The local news – while I get a lot of my national and international news from the internet and the newspaper is usually a day late with a lot of that, I always seem to know local things my husband doesn’t and it’s usually stuff I read in the paper. Like the fact the one of the roads near us in dire need of repair is on a list to get improved in 2009. Or, the review of the newest restaurant that we should check out on our next date night. Which leads to…

The food section – sure I surf the web for recipes and get a lot of inspiration from hours of Food Network (the only non-animated shows my daughter and I can agree on), but there’s something about anticipating that weekly special focus in the paper. Long ago I started pasting newspaper clipping recipes to create my own cookbook and while the book also contains recipes I got via e-mail, ripped out of magazines or printed from the web, it’s often those newspaper clippings I seem to go back to the most.

Local advertising – and into this category I’m lumping those ads for local festivals, the circus coming to town and the arts openings, as well as the cool furniture store’s twice-a-year sales. Sure most of that I could also get from the free weekly Austin Chronicle, but that’s still a paper vs. online.

So, I guess as I look at the things I like about the print newspaper, a lot of my attachment is sentimental and might not be shared by generations to come. But, I don’t think that means internet will kill the newspaper. Instead, I think I align more with Mark Glaser at MediShift who envisions a future tense for newspapers; and, with Kevin Maney at Conde Nast Portfolio.com that problems in today’s newspaper biz are about more than just the internet.

And, I’ll keep subscribing. Thus, doing my part to keep their business going until they figure out just how to fix those problems and move forward into a new phase for the Fourth Estate.

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Look Ma! I’m Blogging in Chinese!

While this blog is new, I have actually been blogging for a bit of time now over on Direct2Dell. My two topics of discussion there are Dell.com and Second Life. My standing joke is that Dell.com is my first job and Second Life is my second job.

The opportunities I see in virtual worlds are something I can get very passionate about, though, and I’m always happy to be approached on the topic. So, I jumped at the chance when Jacqui Zhou asked if I’d write a post on the topic for the Chinese Direct2Dell. If you can read Mandarin, you can see the final result that posted there today.

Or, here’s the English version:

Dell’s Adventure into the Metaverse

The term metaverse is used to refer to the ever-growing number of virtual worlds or immersive 3D spaces that allow their users to interact through avatars. Some China-focused virtual worlds include HiPiHi and Novoking, but both are often compared to one of the most-talked-about which is Second Life.

Second Life refers to itself as an “online, 3D virtual world imagined and created entirely by its Residents”. First opened to the public in 2003, it surged in popularity and notoriety in 2007. I first became a resident in 2006 and at that time there were rarely more than 9,000 people inside the world at one time. Today, concurrent users frequently top 50,000 and the number of accounts that have been opened has grown into the millions. The main appeal to me, personally, was the ability to connect with people in one place, while in real life we were spread across the globe.

Second Life does not have a true Chinese version at this time, however, I learned from Tong Sun – a fellow corporate Second Life resident at Xerox, known as Maymay Ansome in SL – there is a vibrant Chinese community within the world including Chinese schools for interactive language learning and shopping malls with traditional Chinese items. Most Chinese people she has met in SL are bilingual (English-Chinese). Although the SL client does not support Chinese natively, residents can easily type Chinese in chat. Tong noted that most prefer to use Second Life’s voice feature, however.

Dell as a company decided to enter the world of Second Life in the fall of 2006 for several reasons. One of the main ones was to learn more about the 3D environment. Many people have predicted that the next wave of the Internet is 3D, and as a leader in online eCommerce, we want to make sure that we are prepared for what comes next rather than trying to catch up with it later. Second Life in particular was a virtual world with an already robust commerce-driven economy. In fact, the first person to reportedly have become a millionaire through Second Life is from China.

Some thought it was a strange idea for Dell to enter Second Life. Others were more accepting. It is truly a different world and a new adventure for this company, but innovation requires risk-taking. During our first year in SL, we had a dolphin attend an Earth Day event, we’ve built an XPS 710 you can walk inside and trees that can grow as fast as you want them. We’ve had dragons dance on a giant ark to music played by a frog and a cat.

But, we’ve also had residents of Latin America in-world asking questions and getting them answered by Michael Dell while his live webcast from NYC streamed into our StudioDell theatre. In July, we began keeping English-language customer service “office hours” during weekdays, and expanded those to include technical support assistance from 7-9:00 p.m. SLT, Monday – Friday. These are not meant to replace any of the traditional methods our customers have for support, but rather to provide one more avenue for connection. Because, beyond eCommerce, the other reason we came into Second Life was to connect with the community there, to meet our customers on a more personal level and engage in real conversations.

Hopefully, we can expand those conversations into more languages, such as Chinese, in the future. A decision to do this would depend on the demand, so if you would like to see this, please let us know here at Direct2Dell. As well, please leave suggestions on how we could better leverage virtual worlds in China and across the region!


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My Friend’s Choices, They Are A-Changin’

I hate to admit this, but one of the reasons I’ve avoided things like women’s retreats and the “young families” class at my church is that I felt out of place as a working-mother-of-one in a sea of stay-at-home moms with 3-5 kids. So, I’ve probably missed out on great opportunities to make some good friends; but, I’ve also found several other good friends who made the same decision I’d made to work in the corporate sector. But they’re changing their minds now.

First, it was my former boss/friend/mentor. After rising through the ranks to the level of director at Dell – not an easy feat – she decided to exit. She’d been a big influence on my own decision to go ahead and have children because I saw her as an example of how you could have a successful career and family. And, there she was saying it was too much now with three young boys playing sports and being shuttled around to various activities. She’s consulting part-time now, but somehow it’s just not the same.

Then, it was one of my best friends. The mother of one of my daughter’s best friends with whom she’d been in preschool since she was two months old. The other working mother who planned to stop with just one kid while many around us continued to pop out more. My gym partner who pushes me to get in shape. She and her husband have purchased rights to a franchise and she’s planning to exit the corporate world to help get that business running as soon as school is out for summer. One of the big goals they have with this change is the ability for her to be there when their daughter comes home from school.

And now, over breakfast one day this week, my hubby shares that while golfing with the neighbor last weekend, he learned that his wife is now planning an exit, too. He’s transitioning to a new job and will have less time to help with the kids, so she’s looking to come home for that reason.

I’m not sure I want to step into the middle of the “Mommy Wars”, and I agree with Christine at The Bean Blog that it would be best if we didn’t care what people thought of our decisions; but, I’m starting to feel more and more alone in my circle of friends. I will certainly never say that being a mother is not a job in and of itself. I know it is because I have that job. And, I can’t say that there’s not a certain appeal to not having to juggle after-school, summers, school holidays and sick days with a demanding office job. But, I do also believe that a happy mom makes for happy kids – and it makes me happy to do what I do as my paying job.

My daughter seems to be smart and well-adjusted, so there are no signs that my theory is wrong (so far). So, why do I find myself avoiding getting close those mothers I know that stay at home? Why do I think they will judge me? Or pity my family because my world is not totally defined by being a mom? Oops. Did that last sentence just judge them? I think so.

So, while nowhere near as major an issue as race relations is – witnessed by the need for Obama’s speech earlier this week – how do we break down walls and begin to discuss mommy issues openly and open-minded? There has to be something between the working woman’s manifesto and the Über-Christian stay-at-home mom. But what?


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My Take on SXSW Interactive on Media Bullseye

When Sarah Wurrey put out a call on Twitter for people to write about SXSW for her Media Bullseye site, I said “Hey, I’m going to the conference. I can write something if you like!” Media Bullseye provides media, public relations and marketing professionals with news and commentary about the modern communications landscape. So the audience sounded a lot like myself. I suggested the topic of what non-geeks could gain from attending a techie conference like SXSW Interactive, and she took the bait.

Here’s how she billed in on their front page:

“As Media Bullseye’s coverage of the aftermath of 2008’s South By Southwest Interactive continues, Dell’s Laura P. Thomas makes a case for attending. She sells the event as far more than just ‘Spring Break for Geeks.’ Who will be there next March?”

Media Bullseye Clipping

I have to brag that Neville Hobson called it “thoughtful”!

If you’d like to read the rest, visit Media Bullseye.

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My Mind is a Steam Engine

At least, that’s the conclusion I reach this morning. I’d gone into the shower with the intention of it being a quick one. I was running late getting ready for church and if I don’t get there early, my Sunday School students beat me and there’s no one there for their parents to drop them off with before classes of their own.

But, instead of rushing through, the next thing I know my mind has wandered to my latest project at work – a rush job to redesign the home page – and I’ve lost track of time. But, it reminded me that many of my best ideas have come to me in the shower.

For some reason, when I’m trying to wake up every morning in a nice hot shower, my brain kicks into gear before my body. I’m thinking maybe the steam loosens up the ideas that my subconscious has been churning all night.

The trick, though, is not to forget them again as I make breakfast, get myself and my girl ready, and head out the door in a frantic rush.

Because I’ve already forgotten what it was I thought of this morning.

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Hello world!

I’ve been microblogging over at Twitter (as LPT) for about a year now, and guest blogging on Direct2Dell since it was launched, but have never actually gotten around to creating my own, personal blog.

Well, now that IABC has launched IABC eXchange, I’ve decided to take the plunge. This is my first post – of sorts. I’m still messing with the settings and such, so don’t expect a lot of brilliant writing for a while. (if ever) 😉

Oh, and if you’re not sure about Twitter, check out this video explanation:


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