The Empire’s New Clothes: Why I don’t like Empire Avenue

“So the Emperor went in procession under the rich canopy, and every one in the streets said, “How incomparable are the Emperor’s new clothes! what a train he has to his mantle! how it fits him!” No one would let it be perceived that he could see nothing, for that would have shown that he was not fit for his office, or was very stupid.”The Emperor’s New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen. (1805–1875)

I have to say it. I see nothing of value in Empire Avenue where the home page exclaims “Everyone’s For Sale!”

In this new social game, you earn a virtual currency called “Eaves” by buying other people and, in turn, you try to raise your own worth by getting other people to invest in you. Even if you look at it as just fun, I still don’t see it.

The site had crossed my radar before this week, but I didn’t expect it to pick up much steam. Then, on Monday I saw David Armano send out a tweet that he was for sale on it. I tweeted back asking…why? His response was, “yeah I have no idea. It’s kind of addicting like Twitter and Foursquare were.”

Steve Woodruff Tweet

His blog post later that day echoed much of that sentiment: “Like Twitter and Foursquare, the network makes very little sense to the first time participant. […] First impressions? I’m not seeing a practical use but it’s a lot more fun in many regards than Facebook.”

Just couple of days later, though, Jeremiah Owyang is blogging about it. While admitting several risks and challenges to the site, he still believes it could be a threat to Klout, Peer Index and “Social Analytics firms that try to understand the engagement of social media accounts.”

Then, Scott Monty chimes in saying he thinks Empire Avenue is on to something: “Think of the value they could add by giving clients a dashboard in which they could actively participate rather than simply consume information about the influencers they’re trying to reach.”

And, I guess we can probably give credit to Robert Scoble’s interview with the game founder for creating the tipping point for all this activity, since the site itself has been around for a couple of years.

Maybe I’m being too sensitive about this, but putting a price on people seems wrong. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth in a day & age where there is still a need for Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” campaign.

Maybe I’m uptight, though – it’s all just a game, right? Well, I don’t think it’s a good one. We don’t really need something else to feed the egos of the “internet famous” and there are already stock exchange games for those who just want to play at investing in companies.

Plenty of brands like Audi, Ford (Scott Monty’s employer), Sears and Oreo are getting on the shiny new object bandwagon, though. Caleb Storkey thinks this raises the possibility of companies being rewarded for good decisions, or being sold off after bad decisions – a sort of virtual shareholder vote. But, I find it hard to believe that even the most forward-thinking investor relations team that grasps the benefit of social media could take such action as serious as real shareholder feedback.

Storkey says that when he spoke with Owyang about it, Jeremiah said “this is special, this is something different.” But different does not mean good. I see no thread on the loom, no cloth with patterns and colors.

 “’But he has nothing on!’ a little child cried out at last.”

Thursday Was Spaghetti Day

One of my favorite picture books I used to read to my girl (before she was off reading her own chapter books) is “Wednesday is Spaghetti Day.” It’s a cute tale about what your cats get up to during the day while everyone is away and school at work.

Wednesday is Spaghetti Day

Well, it’s Thursday, but today definitely turned out to be spaghetti day for my family.

When I got home from work, my husband suggested I make my world famous (in my mind) spaghetti for dinner. I checked with my girl and she said it sounded good to her, too. Then, after I’m already in the midst of chopping bell pepper and onion, she mentions that she had spaghetti for lunch at school today. And, then hubby remembers that he’d handed me a frozen Lean Cuisine spaghetti on the way out the door this morning, reminding me that I’d also had spaghetti for lunch!

Oh well. None of those others were as good as my own. It’s my adaptation of the recipe my mother made. You’re welcome to give it a try! (although I warn you, there aren’t a lot of exact measurements to it – leaves room for personalization)

Ingredients:

  • Chopped fresh bell pepper, onion and garlic
  • Mushrooms (jar or canned or fresh)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 tomato paste can of water
  • Salt, pepper, garlic salt, basil, oregano and Mom’s secret ingredient – a dash of chili powder for kick.

Saute the veggies in a little olive oil. Open the cans and add them. Season to taste and simmer while the pasta cooks.

From the Mouths of Medium Business IT Managers

SMB. It’s a common acronym for small and medium businesses – the group my work has been focused on for almost two years now. In Europe, it’s SME – small and medium enterprises.

We (as in the “author’s we” – pluralis maiestatis) often think of the “mom & pop” store or the scrappy start-up when thinking of SMBs. Sure that’s the SB portion of it. It carries a certain romanticism because we can all cheer for their success.

Much harder to nail down is the MB portion – those businesses successful enough to be facing new and different challenges. You can categorize them by number of employees, by revenue generated, by budget spent, or any number of other arbitrary numbers.

For my own personal classification, they’re those who have grown enough that they’ve found the benefit (or necessity) of hiring a dedicated IT manager.  They may be a department of one or a few, and as hard to find as their segment is to define.

I’ll Fix Your ‘Puter

So, I really enjoyed the opportunity I had today through Spiceworks to spend time with a few of them hearing their stories from the IT trenches. As a communicator and marketer, this sort of direct feedback from your audience in invaluable.

What did I learn today?  Here are just a few nuggets:

  • They are almost always researching new technology
  • They hate the word “cloud”
  • One big challenge is changing mindsets that see IT as an expenditure, rather than a partner in the business’ success
  • Leasing allows them to keep up-to-date hardware, although some systems they’ll run “till they die”
  • The relationship with their individual sales representative is REALLY important – they’re more likely to purchase through them, than through a vendor web site
  • Whitepapers are good, but they don’t like gated content (who does, right?)
  • They don’t want to be locked into one vendor and they don’t want to have to go out to individual vendors’ sites for those whitepapers or forums.

Which leads to the fact that they love Spiceworks (well, at least these four that Spiceworks brought to us 🙂 )

Image via Creative Commons by baldheretic/Jay Lee

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Is There a Social Operations Manager in the House?

This is one of those posts where I feel compelled to remind any readers that these thoughts are my own and not my employer’s. Not because I’m saying anything bad, just because I’m expressing a personal opinion on a topic that I don’t think anyone’s got a perfect answer for yet.

It started when I finally got around to reading Olivier Blanchard’s post “Social Business vs. Social Marketing: Understanding the fight over ‘content’.”  It’s been one of those open tabs in my browser that I keep meaning to spend time with, but keep pushing aside. I encourage you to check it out because it’s great food for thought on the topic of content marketing; but, this image in the post took my mind into another direction:

How an organization as a whole should see social media

I agree with the thought that social media should be integrated and leveraged where appropriate to improve all parts of the business. The challenge, however, is in the implementation.

What I mean is, what happens when each of those old white men around the table in the picture tells their team to go “get some of that social media” and their only guide is all the marketing and communications “gurus” out there printing books on how businesses should use social media?

Each one sets out to do the same thing, just for their own little piece of the organization, rather than really examining all the options. It’s not really their fault. The task has probably been handed to someone who really knows their piece of the business, but is now being asked by their manager to tie it to a new shiny object with which they have little experience.

That’s how you end up with stats like those in this Burson-Marsteller report – An increase from 4.2 to 5.8 Twitter accounts per company. A doubling of the average number of Facebook pages per company. A 69 percent increase in YouTube channels per company globally.

This leaves the customer wondering which one they should connect with and sets the organization up for duplication of effort which could translate into overwhelming the very people with which they want to connect.

Think corporate phone tree systems are a nightmare? What if all those options you can press were calling you instead of you choosing them?

Will Group Texting Bring the Email Storm to a New Generation?

Email as we know it today has been around for more than 30 years. So, how is it possible that we still have so much trouble with the “reply all” button?

I’m sitting here on Sunday night trying to decide what to blog about for the day, when I see a couple of emails come in with Japanese characters in the subject line. Not necessarily all that unusual, since I do work in a global role at a worldwide company. Email comes into my inbox 24/7.

But then I notice that more and more emails starting coming one after the other with the same subject line. Then I start seeing some English get mixed in with it. And in no time at all, my inbox suddenly looks like this:

Email - Reply All

And it goes on and on and on. I’m in the middle of what was described just last month in The Wall Street Journal as an “email storm.” It notes that In 1997, Microsoft weathered a storm involving an estimated 15 million emails and a 2007 email storm at the U.S Department of Homeland Security clogged the system with millions of emails.

It’s a great article that gives you the real-life story behind a television commercial you may have seen before; but, my favorite part is the chart that shows just how an email storm develops. It’s so spot on.

We keep hearing the death knell for email. We’re told that young people today rely primarily on text and only old people still use email.  Tonight, I’m thinking that might not be such a bad thing.

But … the buzz this year at SXSW was supposed to be around group texting apps.  Will this just bring the “reply all” snafu to a new generation?

You Say Crayfish, I Say Crawfish

Crawfish season may have had a slow start this year, but we just kicked it into gear here in Austin with our annual LSU Alumni crawfish boil.

Those who aren’t really familiar with crawfish may consider them dirty, especially when they have a nickname like mud bugs. But crawfish cannot survive in an environment polluted with chemicals and waste, so they’re actually a very safe food to eat. In fact, the presence of a crawfish in a river indicates a healthy biodiversity.LSU Austin Crawfish Boil 2011

Many still draw the line at sucking the heads, but I say that’s where all the real flavor can be found. According to another Austinite writing in our local entertainment weekly a few years ago, it “tastes like a Cajun bouillabaisse, with a deep, concentrated seafood flavor.”

No matter how you peel and eat them, though, what makes a crawfish boil is the people it brings together. The more friends and family you can get standing around a table that’s just had pounds and pounds of crawfish dumped on it the better.

Want to give it a try at your place? With so many Louisiana crawfish suppliers shipping nationally, you can get live crawfish almost anywhere in the U.S. And while there are as many “right” ways to boil them as there are chefs, you can’t go wrong with just some Old Bay seasoning, some potatoes, corn and garlic.

Another Friday Night

I must be getting old. Or boring.

Or, are they the same thing?

It was Friday night and my girl was sleeping over at a friend’s. Free babysitter with no curfew!

And what did I want to do with the evening? Go check out some of that live music Austin is so known for? Go out to dinner and a movie?

No. Instead, all I wanted to do was stay home. It had been a long week.

My hubby picked up a Pappa Murphy’s pizza. I watched Fringe for the first time in ages. I opened a bottle of Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon. And then we watched the Runaways movie he’d recorded earlier on TV.  And baked cookies he also got from Pappa Murphy’s.

And that was just fine.

2011 IABC Southern Region Conference Call for Speakers

New Orleans in October sounds nice. That’s when the IABC Southern Region Conference will be held and you might be the person to help make it another outstanding professional development event.

2011 IABC Southern Region Conference logo

Tomorrow is the deadline, however, on their call for speakers. If you’re interested in presenting on areas such as employee communication, branding & marketing, public relations, business management skills, change management, strategy & counseling, measurement, leadership, technology, senior level issues or practical skills development, get your application in right away.

The conference is also the time when they announce the winners of the annual Silver Quill Awards. Submission categories will include communication management, creative communications, and communications skills and entries can be submitted until June 1. Keep an eye out for the call for entries and enter to get recognition for your hard work!

Little Pink Roses – It’s Just So Wrong

Angel statue with pink roseI’ve never seen a casket so small.

The spray of little pink roses and – Baby’s Breath – nearly covers the entire length.

It only takes one man to lift it when the memorial service ends.

It’s all just so wrong.

Today, we buried Adelaide Elizabeth Curless, three month old daughter of my dear friend Kim who stood as maid of honor at my wedding. Her twin brother Jacob will probably always feel her absence more than anyone else understands.

It’s all just so wrong.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is described as the unexpected, sudden death of a child under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death. How is it, that with all our advances in science and medicine we still have unexplainable deaths?

It’s all just so wrong.

Not only do we need more research on this, we need the proper resources to assist families dealing with the aftermath. If you’d like to help, please make a donation in Adelaide’s memory.

Image via Creative Commons by Glenn Scott

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