Tale of a Banned Books Week Hypocrite

Forbidden - Banned Books WeekEvery other year since I started this blog, I’ve managed to write about Banned Books Week, climbing on a bit of a high horse to say it’s futile and wrong to try to protect kids from subjects we don’t want to discuss with them by challenging books in their libraries. See, the American Library Association (ALA) reports that “sex, profanity, and racism remain the primary categories of objections, and most occur in schools and school libraries.” And these challenges are motivated by the desire to protect children.

My own desire to protect my daughter led me to ban her from reading, or seeing the movie, The Hunger Games this year. I’m not the only one who had hesitations about its violence, as it was the 3rd most-challenged book of 2011.

But, let me back up to give a little context. You see, my daughter who just turned 10 years old has been having a difficult time sleeping in her own bed at night for a while now. Which means, I’ve had a difficult time sleeping, too, because you know where kids head when they’re scared at night. And while I myself had many fears of monsters, ghosts and vampires that led me to sleep with a wooden cross on my own nightstand as a child, my daughter’s fears have always been much more of the 10 o’clock news variety – robbers, murderers, natural disasters.

With that in mind, I didn’t think The Hunger Games would be any help to me in my quest to get her to sleep by herself. So, I read it first to make a balanced decision, and then told her I thought she needed to be a bit older. Thus, turning myself into the hypocrite of this post’s title, I thought.

True to what I knew all along, though, parents really can’t prevent their children from reading or seeing things they don’t want them to be exposed to short of keeping them locked down on house arrest. At a friend’s house where “everyone else wanted to watch it,” she recently saw the movie. Her conscience got the best of her and she fessed up, or I’d never even have known.

Banned Books WeekSo, as I thought about all this leading into Banned Books Week, I decided I should lift my ban and open it up for her to read the trilogy that she now has access to on her birthday present – a new Kindle Fire. Since it’s connected to my account and I’d previously downloaded them, she can easily enough call them up.

But, guess what? She said she doesn’t want to read them yet! After having seen the movie, she agrees that she wants to wait a while to read the books. Instead, she’s opted to read another one I’d downloaded a while back – The Help.

I went searching to see if it had been challenged, as well, since it is rather similar in theme to some other great books that people have tried to ban like The Secret Life of Bees, The Color Purple and To Kill a Mockingbird (which in 2011, still made the The Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books list). But, no, it does not appear to have received the same attention. 

So I haven’t been able to redeem myself from banning a book by getting her to read a challenged or banned book. Although ALA says research suggests that for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five that go unreported.

But… I am feeling at least a little redeemed after reading this in ALA’s listing of books challenged or banned in 2010-2011 (PDF)

“The rights and protections of the First Amendment extend to children and teens as well as adults. While parents have the right — and the responsibility — to guide their own children’s reading, that right does not extend to other people’s children. Similarly, each adult has the right to choose their own reading materials, along with the responsibility to acknowledge and respect the right of others to do the same.”

At least I wasn’t trying to keep anyone else’s kids from reading something, and I do respect the right of others to make choices for themselves and their families – just don’t try to force them on me or mine.

30 Years of Liberating Literature - Banned Books WeekBanned Books Week marks its 30th anniversary this year. There’s a cool online timeline to mark the occasion that you should check out. I’d also suggest you take the time to read a challenged or banned book this week. It’s a good excuse to read a classic you might have missed like The Great Gatsby, or a children’s book that came out after your own childhood, or a young adult novel that explores tricky topics you need to be prepared to discuss with your own kids.

That’s why I should probably be reading ttyl this year, but instead I think I’ll pick something will less teen-girl drama – I’ll have enough of that in real life soon enough…


Small Business Must Be Selective About Social Media Hats They Wear

An auto body shop owner, a shoe designer and an electronics retailer walk into the hip Miami Design District.

No, it’s not the start of a joke. It’s a snapshot of just a few of the diverse small businesses that walked into Dell’s Create. Work. Inspire. event on September 14th. I was priviledged to spend time discussing social media and its business uses with them.

There was a wide range of current social media usage among them, but all were aware of it and there seemed very little need to convince anyone that it was something in which they should particiapte. This aligns with a recent report from the SMB Group that found small and medium-sized businesses have been increasing their adoption of social media.

In fact, some of the most common advice I had after hearing many discuss their current social activities was actually to step back and reassess where their audience could best be reached.Small business owners often have to wear many hats and social media adds to them

It’s well-known that small business owners and their employees often have to wear many hats, and many might avoid interacting with their customers in social media because that becomes just one more hat to wear. Even worse, to do it well means not only putting on one “social media” hat, but many platform-based hats – one for Facebook, one for Twitter, one for G+, one for Pinterest, one for Instagram, one for Yelp, one for LinkedIn… The list goes on and on and just gets longer every day.

So, what I hope many of those I spoke with last week take away is that they should be very strategic with their social media plans. While you don’t want to overlook something new, a small business can’t realistically chase every new shiny object of a social network that pops up.

It’s similar to advice Ilana Bercovitz shared recently in a great Small Business Trends post “Social Media Tips for Small Business.”

Broadcasting the same thing across multiple platforms is a common way to try to be everywhere at once. But that can bug those who follow you in the different platforms because they’re seeing the same thing over and over, and it fails to take advantage of the unique offerings of each. For example, when posting a photo in Twitter, you’ve got limited space to describe it or provide a call to action; where that same photo can be posted in Facebook with a much longer description and a link to your website with a call to action that lets you track results.

So, you’ve really got to spend some time listening to find where the people you most need to reach are spending their time online. A formal listening audit can help. It can also be as simple as asking them – whether in face-to-face interactions at a storefront or on the social media platforms themselves.

This allows a small business to focus most of their efforts on building the community they already have, creating relationships with customers that lead to return visits and sales.

It doesn’t mean, they should abandon all other platforms – potential customers could be searching for them there and you simply can’t overlook the SEO potential of a G+ business page. But, those efforts can serve more as “store fronts” that then direct people to the place you want them – which should probably be an owned property, rather than someone else’s site. But, that’s a topic for another post sometime…

Image via Creative Commons by Rachel Pasch aka justmakeit

My Problem with Putting Second Life to the Milkshake Test

Tiny Dragon Milkshake by ShardsOfBlueI recently came across an excerpt on Slate.com from The Myth of the Garage and Other Minor Surprises, a new book by Dan and Chip Heath that just launched, titled “Why Second Life Failed,” that proposed the way to make better predictions and avoid fads is to use Clay Christensen’s “milkshake test.”

This premise hinges on an imagined fast-food scenario where marketers dig into customer data to learn that milkshakes are being purchased by morning commuters. Why? Because they are “hiring” the milkshake to perform the “job” of supplying them with a cupholder-compatible breakfast option.

Following this train of thought, the iPod succeeded because we all wanted to hire someone to give us access to our own music on-the-go, but the Segway failed because “No one was interested in employing a $5,000 walk-accelerator.”

As many of you who’ve read this blog or known me for long know, I was the one who led Dell into the virtual world of Second Life (SL), so I have a very personal interest in this theory applied to SL.

What the Slate story’s author proposes is that the reason SL didn’t usher in the age of the avatar that Gartner predicted (and then cautioned against a year later) is that it didn’t have a job to do. They feel it was a job candidate “with a fascinating resume…but no actual labor skills.”

And it is here, that I beg to differ. Second Life and virtual worlds do have labor skills – perhaps too many even. If I want to shop with my friend, but she’s in another country, I could hire a virtual world mall to bring us together to look at this season’s fashion trends, try them on and ask her if they make me look good. If I need to have a meeting with coworkers spread around the globe and I don’t want them reading email and ignoring me on the phone, I could hire a virtual world to provide an immersive meeting space that brings everyone’s focus on the topic at hand. If I need to show a customer how to insert a replacement part I sent them, but can’t incur the expense to fly a technician there, I could walk them through it in 3D via a virtual world.

The list really does go on and on, and maybe that’s part of the problem. An iPod is a specialist in music delivery. You may say, but an iPhone does a wide variety of things from games to banking, and it succeeded. But, I say even it is a specialist — in delivering mobile access to applications (the phone portion is really just a fringe benefit, right?).

Virtual worlds are generalists. They can do so many things only limited by their users’ imagination, that they still aren’t simple enough for mass acceptance. Second Life is the wide open frontier and that limits its avid users to the rugged pioneer types.

I don’t think the quandary of why Second Life or OpenSim or other virtual worlds did not become as widely adopted as we thought they would can be solved by simply saying they didn’t build a better milkshake – or as Henry Ford would put it, a faster horse.

No, if I had to come up with just one reason why I think experiments such as the ones we tried at Dell did not take off like I’d hoped, I would have to say it was lack of simplicity. Until the technology can be as intuitive as, say, sliding our fingers across a screen to move objects, then the barriers are just too high for those who prefer creature comforts to frontier creatures.

Image via Creative Commons courtesy of ShardsOfBlue