Greetings from Sunny California!

Now is an ideal moment to take stock of our performance, and reorient ourselves in the direction of peace, renewal, introspection, and togetherness.

However challenging this past year may have been for you or your business, we hope that the net effect has been a positive one, not only to your bottom line, but to your and your colleagues’ personal sense of wellbeing. We work to live, and may we all live to make our world a little better – whether through art, commerce, social service, or whatever pursuit gets you out of bed at the beginning of your day!

As always, our firm’s marker for success is how much we were able to learn and grow, in any given year. 2019 was no exception, though it had some unforeseen moments!

Our recent engagements have taken us into a variety of new markets and fields, for which I am grateful. Whether working with the UN Foundation on their “Girl Up” initiative, restructuring a nationally syndicated radio talk show for the podcast era, or celebrating the opening of a new local business venture. Our company’s focus remains on people, sustainability (environmental and fiscal), and innovation.

 

 

Grand Opening of Los Angeles’ Artesano Tamaleria

 

Attendees at the UN Foundation Girl Up Summit

 

Personal commitments prevented me from spending my usual couple of months with our London and Lisbon teams, but more time in the Los Angeles area allowed for greater participation in some local initiatives.

We continue to enjoy supporting the great work done by the film and TV industry’s Green Production Guide team, and I enjoyed spending a day at the Produced By Conference in early June, roaming the Warner Bros lot, challenging the thousands of industry professionals in attendance to rethink and upgrade their approach to sustainable production. Personal engagement remains the foundation stone upon which fruitful change is built.

 

Leaders of the Producers Guild of America Green Initiative

 

Our firm continues to work with and advise a variety of political and educational initiatives and organizations, including the City of Burbank, where we are based. We are passionate about improving the transportation infrastructures and community health of this beautiful city – no small undertaking in an area so slavishly devoted to the automobile! We were thrilled to participate this year in some milestone events and initiatives, including the groundbreaking ceremonies for a bikeway we’ve been working on for a number of years, the continued development of a regional rapid transit system (BRT), and ongoing improvements to the intersections between our regional and local traffic infrastructures (more access for bicycles, pedestrians, and public transportation!). There has been a lot of success in 2019, but, as with all such projects, the movement is glacial and there remains much to be done!

This was a great year for improving the city’s fiscal and functional health, and it’s been a pleasure to welcome new City Manager Justin Hess, while thanking outgoing City Manager Ron Davis for his service. Each person, though cut from different cloth, brings a standard of excellence and service worthy of appreciation. The inimitable Emily Gabel-Luddy, nearing the close of her term, will shortly be succeeded as the City’s Mayor by our other admirable friend Sharon Springer, and I look forward to a period wherein her infectious enthusiasm, love of community, and intelligence will continue to inspire and uplift not only City Staff, residents, and businesses, but the municipalities around us, as California continues to lead the way in facing the challenges and opportunities of our myriad communities.

 

Burbank City Council and Community Leaders at Los Angeles Bikeway Groundbreaking Ceremony

 

A summer opportunity to travel back to Seattle, Washington allowed me to catch up with a previous client, OneRedmond, and the numerous technology and entertainment companies with whom we collaborated during our most recent project in the area. Some very interesting progress has been made, including the establishment of a very promising Public/Private partnership serving the Greater Seattle Economic Development area. This region includes not only Seattle itself, but also the wonderful cities of Redmond, Kirkland, and Bellevue. We were also able to spend a good amount of time with another cherished client, one of the Northwest’s top event and hospitality firms with whom we are developing a growth strategy, as they expand into more strategic and global ventures relating to their already impressive core capabilities.

The Northwest region remains a favorite one, and I’m excited to see its continued growth as a hub of innovation and workforce development. The area’s renowned commitment to sustainability and community makes it an excellent breeding ground for the next generation of purpose-driven enterprises.

 

Back in Los Angeles, I was recently invited to participate in a long-overdue Mobile World Congress workshop session entitled “Women4Tech”. It was inspiring to see and talk with such a diversity of women leaders in the fields of tech, marketing, engineering, government, and creative production. Some of next year’s most compelling innovations from around the world will be coming from women-led enterprises, and we can only benefit from their contributions, guidance, and insights.

 

Women4Tech Conference at Mobile World Congress USA

At the end of last year, I was invited by Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Leader, helping to inform and inspire communities to become more actively engaged in combating the undeniable climate crisis we all face. In addition to giving presentations to schools, local governments, corporations, and community organizations, it was an honor to be asked to establish and chair one of the newest Chapters of the global Climate Reality Project. This proved a mighty and worthwhile challenge! During the course of this past year, we recruited more than 40 passionate advocates for responsible stewardship, and together we have made a marked impact on local, state, regional, and national policy and action. We look forward to helping the organization further consolidate and maximize the energy, knowledge, and commitment of these leaders.

 

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been a favorite organization, ever since I was a student at Duke University, helping to set up a chapter of the Center’s then-new “Teaching Tolerance” initiative. I’ve long enjoyed supporting the great work done by this laudable organization, and this year we were offered a marvelous opportunity to spend some time with co-founder Joe Levin, as we reviewed the extraordinary efforts undertaken by the SPLC, on behalf of the disenfranchised, marginalized, and oppressed members of our nation’s family. I remain in awe of their passionate zeal and commitment.

 

With SPLC Co-founder, Joe Levin

 

While 2019 provided a diversity of opportunities and discoveries, it also unhappily took away important treasures. I was greatly saddened this year to participate in memorial and funeral services for some great people, including my friend, Blake Byrne; an important mentor, David Picker; a previous boss, Michael Lynne; and former colleague and icon, Cokie Roberts. It would be pitiful to attempt here any sort of In Memoriam for such admirable people, so we will instead commit ourselves anew to conducting our professional business in a manner reflecting their integrity, passion, and service. We are sure that each of our friends, colleagues, and clients has experienced the pain of loss this year, in their own unique but equally important way, and we offer each our sympathy. Life is indeed a fleeting gift, the value of which we seem to fail to take full measure, until we find ourselves being ushered toward the exit. To borrow the latest aphorism: KonMari the year ahead, and share the joy you keep!

 

 

The future must always be seen with optimism. We are looking forward to continuing our work with our newest client: an exciting tech & creative startup venture focused on increasing access for the visually impaired to content otherwise out of reach. We’re eager to see what other opportunities and innovations present themselves next year, in markets and industries that will assuredly teach us new lessons and show us new wonders!

My thanks go not only to my colleagues, but to clients and friends alike who have welcomed us this year into their offices and labs, as well as onto the many studio lots and sets! The opportunity to learn from and watch you invent inspires me on a regular basis!

 

 

Wishing you the peace, renewal, and togetherness to which I alluded at the beginning of my post, I close, grateful for a year where the positives outweighed the negatives, and in the hope that this trend continues robustly in the year to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicholas de Wolff

 

I agree with the issues raised in this video from a couple of years ago, but the way Mr. Harris addresses it is naive, to say the least, and maybe even hypocritical, perhaps (did nobody else note the clickbait title of the video?).

First, who’s to say whether the content a user is paying attention to is something they *want* to be focused on, as opposed to content on to which they were “scheduled” by their newsfeed, app, or influencer? How do you differentiate and calculate that segmentation? Who decides the nature of the relationship which that content is having with you? Did you *want* to read this post, or did your subscription schedule it? At the time you clicked on it, it was the latter, which would suggest you were manipulated to watch something you might otherwise not have chosen to watch. Yet, once you finish reading this and watching the accompanying video, you may come to the conclusion that you found the 6 minutes well spent, and the presentation helped you to think about an issue of import, so it became the former scenario, i.e.: you wanted to watch it. Chicken, meet egg.

Furthermore, while it’s a lovely idea in some sense, why should a company that is only profitable if users spend time on its site invest time and money encouraging people to *leave* its site? It’s as if you expect a gas station to greet you, as you drive in to refill, with a big sign saying “please leave now, and go ride your bike”. Those of you who know me are well aware of my hope that people will walk and bike more, but that does not mean I expect gas stations and car companies to invest in that movement, to their own detriment.

I find these sorts of speakers spend so much time telling us how we are all unwitting victims of some nefarious illuminati, instead of reminding us that we are each responsible for our own choices and world views, and we need to increase our active participation in how our days are filled. Stop waiting for Netflix and Facebook to program your content, and program it yourself! Take agency.

Mr. Harris does close with a worthy observation, in that human beings have certain boundaries that ought to be acknowledged and honored (“sleep” is the one he mentions, but there is also eating – and especially healthy food choices, learning more positive information about cultures other than our own, understanding the benefits of more thoughtful and well-informed choices, etc, etc…).

“A blockquote highlights important information, which may or may not be an actual quote. It uses distinct styling to set it apart from other content on the page.”

 

A member of my Social Media community recently asked me to give them an example of what they can do as an individual, to address the inescapable reality of Climate Change. In their words, “…I don’t know if I am helping or hurting the situation.” I thought it might be useful to “recycle” my answer here:

I post a number of suggestions, as and when I find them, on my Twitter feed (which reflects only personal opinions, not those of the firm).

In the meantime, it would be great to confirm you are addressing the “situation”, as you politely call it, on 3 fronts:

1. Change the Lightbulbs

Many people feel overwhelmed by the dire predictions and visible signs of global climate change, and thereby fear that individual small actions amount to a waste of time. You may either assume everyone else is stuck in a paralysis of fear, and do nothing, or you may trust that active climate leaders outnumber the deniers, and collectively our small actions will have a mighty global impact! Obviously changing lightbulbs and turning down the thermostat are good places to begin, but there are so many more things you can do:

  • Make sure your air conditioning and heating units are ENERGY STAR models.
  • Set a non-ENERGY STAR air conditioning unit to “Quiet Guard” or “Power Save” mode.
  • Get a programmable thermostat that will automatically turn your AC and heater on or off to save on energy.
  • Always keep windows and doors tightly shut when running the AC or heater.
  • If you have central AC, close the air vents and doors in unused rooms to avoid cooling or heating unused spaces.
  • Turn off kitchen or bath exhaust fans as soon as possible.
  • Use ceiling fans to cool a room instead of turning on the AC.
  • You can set your thermostat to slightly higher temperatures if you have ceiling fans installed! In fact, you can probably change the setting by 3 or 4 degrees, regardless, without noticeable discomfort.

In Winter…

  • Reverse your ceiling fan’s direction to run clockwise and at low speed so that the room air is being pulled up, and warm air is distributed from the ceiling down into the room.
  • Keep your thermostat settings at around 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit at night to save on heating costs.
  • Remember to reduce the temperature setting on your thermostat whenever you leave the house. Many thermostats have an “Away” function, FYI.

In Summer…

  • Turn your ceiling fan’s blades so that it runs in a counter-clockwise direction. This will direct the air down into the room and create a cooling wind chill effect.
  • Try to keep the difference between the temperature of your thermostat setting and outside temperatures to a minimum. The bigger the difference, the more energy you will lose.
  • Increase temperature settings on your thermostat when you leave the house – there is no need to keep cooling excessively when no one is home. Again, many thermostats have an “Away” function, FYI.
  • Consider turning your AC off entirely every time you leave your house or apartment, especially when you are traveling for business or leisure. If you have a pet and live in a hot climate zone, consider your pet’s comfort and safety, of course.
  • Clean your air conditioner and heater’s air filters regularly.
  • Check if any ducts to your heating or cooling equipment are leaking and fix them to increase efficiency levels.
  • To keep your central air conditioner unit working efficiently, clean the outside compressor on a regular basis.
  • Keep plants at least one foot away from an outdoor AC unit to provide sufficient airflow.
  • Plan to have your entire heating system inspected by a professional on a regular basis, especially if it’s natural gas.
  • Invest in an energy-efficient heat pump to save on heating costs.
  • Electric baseboard heating can be very effective. To keep it that way, you should leave a clearance of at least three inches under the heating unit and avoid placing furniture or draperies too close to it.
  • While portable heaters are very convenient, they also waste a lot of energy. Limit your use of the same and opt for the regular heaters instead.

Insulation & Ventilation

  • Check your roof and basement for water leaks. Insulation that gets wet is ineffective!
  • Seal any cracks in the attic, basement, or crawl spaces with materials like caulk and spray foam.
  • Block gaps around windows and door frames with weather strips or draft guards.
  • Beware: air vents blocked by drapes, curtains, and furniture can increase heating costs.
  • Make sure your walls are insulated properly to prevent energy loss and shield your home from outside temperatures.
  • Cover bare floors with carpeting or rugs to help insulate your home.
  • Shut the damper in your fireplace when it is not in use to keep warm air from escaping.
  • Keep the doors inside your home open to allow conditioned air to circulate freely (while noting point 5 above).
  • Most homes come equipped with about 3 inches of insulation in the attic. You can easily upgrade this to 12 inches to reduce both heating and cooling energy usage.

Lighting Your Home

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with LED or CFL models, which are slightly more expensive to purchase, but will last longer and save you significant amounts of energy and money in the long run.
  • If you have halogen light bulbs installed, you should consider replacing them with CFLs, which don’t emit as much heat and use much less energy.
  • When purchasing new light bulbs, double-check that you are purchasing the correct bulb size and brightness for your light fixture to avoid losing energy by installing light bulbs that are too big or too bright for your actual needs.
  • Check all your light fixtures to see if they have an “Energy Star” label. If not, it might be a good idea to invest into “Energy Star” certified lighting.
  • Manual timer controls are a great way to set certain times during which you want lights or electronics to be switched on. Once that time period ends, all of the connected devices will switch off automatically.
  • Install dimmer switches to control your lights can be a great and simple way to save on energy. By dimming a light, you reduce its wattage and energy output.
  • Install motion sensors in your exterior, which turn your lights on only when something or someone is moving.
  • Like thermostats, which control temperature, there are now digital systems you can install that control lights throughout your home. Some even offer remote control features through a connected mobile app. These digital systems can help you determine the most efficient use of light and automate the turning on and off process.
  • Reduce the overall amount of free-standing, redundant lights throughout your home to avoid turning them on out of habit.
  • f you want to increase the efficiency of your free-standing lights, try installing light-colored lampshades and placing them in corners, because from there they will reflect light from two walls instead of just one (especially in front of bright wallpaper).

Harnessing the Sun

  • When purchasing a new home or installing new windows, keep an eye out for the “National Fenestration Rating Council” label, which certifies energy-efficient windows.
  • Installing light-colored curtains is a great way to allow sunlight to enter and brighten the room without inviting too much heat.
  • A natural way to shield your home from sunlight is to plant trees on the sunny side of the house.
  • Make use of your shades by blocking sunlight from entering your home during the day in the summer. This will help keep it cool inside.
  • During the winter, leave the shades wide open during the day, which will allow the sun to heat your interior with natural, free energy.
  • Use shades to block warm air from escaping your home in the winter by keeping them shut on the north side of your home during the day
  • At night, keep shades shut all around the house to keep warm air in.

Combatting the Sun

  • Upgrade to reflective roofs to reduce heat buildup.
  • You can also apply a reflective coating to your existing roof to slow down deterioration.
  • Consider placing screens and films on your windows to reduce the impact of UV rays.
  • Apply reflective coating on window glass to reduce the amount of heat entering your home.
  • Invest in high-performance windows that will help your AC system run more efficiently.

Refrigerator

  • Use the power-save mode on your refrigerator (if available).
  • Set the temperature to somewhere between 30 and 42°F.
  • Refrigerators purchased in or before the 1990s are “energy vampires.” Replace them with ENERGY STAR units as soon as possible!
  • Did you know that an empty fridge uses more energy than a fully loaded one? Make sure to keep it stocked and consider filling the freezer with large containers of water.
  • A slightly inconvenient yet simple way to increase your refrigerator’s efficiency levels is to dust its coils, which are located on the back.
  • Check if moisture is collecting or if you can feel cold air around the closed door of your refrigerator. If yes, it might be time to repair the door seals to avoid wasting energy.
  • Do you really need that second fridge in the garage or basement? Probably not. Get rid of it and save energy.

Oven

  • When your meal is almost finished, try turning off your oven or stove burners early. The remaining heat, in most cases, is enough to finish the cooking.
  • When heating up leftovers, considering using the microwave and toaster oven, as they will use less energy than your conventional oven.
  • Opening and closing the oven causes temperature changes of up to 25 degrees. So keep the oven door closed while cooking to avoid making it “work harder” to maintain high temperatures.
  • Immediately clean your oven after cooking or baking, because a clean oven has much shorter warm-up times than a dirty one.

Cooking

  • When preparing a meal with many ingredients, take as many as possible out of the refrigerator at once to avoid opening and closing its door; every time warm air enters the unit, it ends up having to use more energy to cool down again.
  • Some stove models provide burners with different sizes. If that’s the case with yours, try to find a pot that perfectly fits the burner on your stove, because small pots don’t need all the heat of a big burner.
  • Copper-bottomed pots and pans are a great investment if you would like to use heat more efficiently when preparing food on the stove.
  • Pay attention to stove reflector pans and keep them clean so they can reflect more heat upward.
  • Not every pot has a lid, but if it does you should use it because it can contribute to building up heat much faster and shorten your overall cooking time.
  • If you have a door separating you from the rest of the house, try keeping it open during winter months to let the warm air around the oven and stove help heat your home’s interior.
  • While it’s nice to feel some of the oven heat when baking or cooking during colder months, it can unnecessarily heat up your home during the summer. So, consider preparing meals on the grill outside to avoid AC overuse.

Dishwasher

  • Use the “economy mode” setting on your dishwasher as much as possible.
  • Start your dishwasher only once it’s full, to avoid washing a smaller number of dishes over the course of several washing cycles.
  • Turn off your dishwasher as soon as the wash cycle finishes, then air-dry the dishes.

Washer & Dryer

  • Only do laundry when you can use the machine at capacity. Otherwise, you’ll end up doing more frequent washing cycles with smaller loads and waste energy that way.
  • What many don’t know is that laundry detergents work just as well with cold as they do with warm water. Consider keeping your washer’s temperature setting on cold to avoid wasting energy.
  • If you do not have enough laundry to wash a full load, change the settings so the washer uses less water.
  • When doing laundry, try to wash and dry more than one load at once, so that you can take advantage of the dryer’s leftover heat and put in the second load when it is still warm.
  • Consider air-drying your light fabrics and only using the dryer for heavy fabrics
  • To keep your dryer’s efficiency at the highest level, clean the lint filter before every load.
  • Check on your clothes earlier than usual when they are in the dryer. They might already be dry. Over-drying not only wastes energy but also causes static and sometimes wrinkling.
  • Make sure that your dryer is venting to the outside – especially during summer – so that your AC unit does not have to work extra hard to keep it cool inside.

Electronics

  • Always turn off all your electronic devices when you are not using them.
  • Unplug electronics that are not in use to prevent them from using energy.
  • Unplug a device AND its charger as soon as the battery has is recharged! Even if your device is unplugged, chargers will continue to use energy.
  • Adjust your TV and computer screen settings to lower contrast and brightness levels, but make sure that you are not damaging your eyes as a result.

TV & Computer

  • When purchasing a new TV, make sure to get a model that is “Energy Star” certified.
  • Change or turn off its factory settings, because newer models are mostly set to “showroom” mode, which uses much more energy.
  • Instead of getting a desktop computer, invest your money in a laptop. It will be more convenient and energy-efficient.
  • Computer screen savers can be fun, but they also use up energy. Instead, adjust your computer settings to sleep or hibernate mode for longer periods of inactivity.

Water

  • Fix any leaky faucet or showerhead immediately!
  • Also frequently check your hot water pipes, especially older ones, for leaks.
  • Shorten your hot showers or use lukewarm water instead.
  • You can install low-flow faucets and showerheads to reduce your use of hot water.

Water Heater

  • Consider reducing the temperature settings of your water heater to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is plenty to keep your water hot enough for everyday use.
  • Some water heaters come with built-in timers, but if they don’t, you might want to connect it to a manual timer. Either way, it is a good idea to set it to be turned off when no one is home.
  • When you are going on vacation or leaving your home for a short business trip, make sure to turn off your water heater while you are gone. Otherwise, it will keep heating the water in a sort of “standby mode.”
  • A small and cheap trick to save on energy when it comes to your heater is to insulate the first six feet of the water pipes connected to the unit.
  • Save energy by insulating your old unit with insulation wrap. Make sure to keep any vents uncovered.

(tips were compiled using resources from sites such as homeselfe.com, greenage, and energystar.gov)

2. Change the Laws

It’s amazing that, in the midst of a political climate that suggests bipartisan citizen-led democracy is a fading fantasy, we can find ourselves suddenly reminded how powerful we actually are, as individuals. Last week, the California Assembly voted on SB100, a landmark energy conservation bill. The vote fell 4 votes short of passing, until I and a strong group of associates at the Climate Reality Leadership Conference jumped on phone, email, and text, and bombarded 4 Assembly members with our desire to see them switch their votes. Joined by (I’m sure) many others outside of our gathering, we managed to change all 4 minds in less than 2 hours, and they flipped their votes, in response to the powerful citizen push. Your voice matters!..

…except when it doesn’t.

3. Change the Leadership

Special interest groups and corporate lobbyists have corrupted the sanctity of Public Office. Nobody can claim otherwise. There exist a number of honorable elected officials, from all points on the political spectrum, who wish this were not so, and are willing and, in some cases, actively trying, to fight this blight on our democratic landscape. Others sit comfortably in the pockets of big money, dark money, corporate greed, and other special interests that obstruct the will of the People. Unless these forces openly hack the electoral system on a massive scale (hello Russia!), your vote matters immensely. Americans vote in pitiful numbers at Election time (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout_in_the_United_States_presidential_elections), and this has to change. If you have already registered to vote, help 4 other people who are eligible, to register, and help elect sincere public servants who want to represent their constituents and our planet with sincerity, humility, and vision.

Thank you for caring enough to take action.

What do you do to address the Climate Change crisis?

 

 

So, it’s #BookLoversDay, as if we should restrict this recognition to one day of the year. I love books ALL YEAR.

Is every admirable sentiment going to be turned into a Hallmark Cards moment now, reduced to a single burp of validation each year? First, it was Valentine’s Day, then Secretary’s Day, then Teacher Recognition Day…

We don’t have to wait until Social Media tells us it’s time to recognize the value in something as important as our executive assistant, our children’s teacher, our partner in life, or literature itself, do we?

Here’s an idea: Take 30 seconds at the beginning of your day to recognize and honor one of the above, or any one of sundry other valuable influences in your life. Get on with your day, until you bump into something or someone who merits positive recognition (your newest client, your boss, your bank teller, etc), and take a moment to offer sincere recognition of their value. It doesn’t require a long speech. It could be as simple as looking them in the eye and saying “Thanks”.

Sounds obvious, but we miss the opportunity so often.

So this aggressively self-promotional “social media guru” recently posted a piece equating himself with Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban, despite the fact that nobody outside this particular guru’s little bubble really knows him. I found it a little distasteful, but not really out of the ordinary, when one reviews the diversity of “gurus” and “experts” who spend more time selling their name and brand than actually helping build other businesses, products, solutions…let alone making the world a better place! We all slip up once or twice, in our efforts to be noticed – especially in an increasingly noisy world. I consider myself fortunate to have a strong core of friends and associates who regularly remind me that the best effort is always applied on behalf of others, not exclusively for altruistic reasons, but rather because our legacy will always be marked by what we do for our communities, not what we acquire for ourselves.

#Ozymandias

Thank you to those who help me minimize my foolishness, and maximize my value to others.

With its traditional content limitations being “stretched” several months ago, in order to accommodate “photos, videos, links and up to 140 characters of text”, Twitter has arguably encouraged a more discursive and expressive community. Indeed, there are those who have become particularly enamored of the platform, when they might be better served, and of better service, were they to focus a healthier balance of their energy elsewhere!

However, political observations aside, it’s been interesting to see how the language of Twitter has and has not evolved, in the wake of recent changes. I’ve included below a list of acronyms, abbreviations, and unique terms that were once common parlance on the platform. Today, some #persist, while others have been effectively impeached (the other meaning of the word).

Which terminology do you still include in your tweets, and have you discovered or introduced new terms that are not included below?

BFN.

tweet_edited

Acronyms

  • MT = Modified tweet. This means the tweet you’re looking at is a paraphrase of a tweet originally written by someone else.
  • RT = Retweet. The tweet you’re looking at was forwarded to you by another user.
  • DM = Direct message. A direct-message is a message only you and the person who sent it can read.
  • PRT = Partial retweet. The tweet you’re looking at is the truncated version of someone else’s tweet.
  • HT = Hat tip. This is a way of attributing a link to another Twitter user.
  • CC = Carbon-copy. Works the same way as email.
  • FF = Follow Friday (a convention whereby, every Friday, one publishes one tweet listing newly discovered Twitter users deemed worthy of following)
  • IMHO = In my humble opinion.
  • AYFKMWTS = Are you f—ing kidding me with this s—?
  • GTFOOH = Get the f— out of here
  • OH = Overheard.
  • NFW = No f—ing way
  • IRL = In real life
  • NSFW = Not safe for work.
  • FML = F— my life.
  • FWIW = For what it’s worth.
  • QOTD = quote of the day
  • BTW = By the way
  • BFN = Bye for now
  • AFAIK = As far as I know’
  • TY = Thank you
  • YW = You’re welcome
  • FTW = for the win
  • QOTD = quote of the day
  • BTW = by the way
  • HT = hat tip
  • FIFY = Fixed It For You
  • OMG = Oh My God
  • LOL = Laughing Out Loud
  • TN = Tonight
  • TM= Tomorrow
  • SMH = Shaking My Head
  • IDK = I don’t know
  • AMIIC = Ask Me If I Care
  • FB = Facebook
  • FTF = Face to Face
  • FTL = For the Loss or For the Lose
  • FYI = for your information
  • IC = I see
  • IOW = In Other Words
  • IRL = In Real Life
  • JK; j/k = just kidding
  • JSYK = just so you know
  • JV = Joint Venture
  • ROFL = rolling on the floor laughing
  • TIA = thanks in advance

Abbreviations and other terms

  • GR8 = great
  • 4ward = forward
  • abt = about
  • b/c = because
  • b4 = before
  • bgd = background
  • chk = check
  • cld = could
  • clk = click
  • da = the
  • deets = details
  • Eml = email
  • fab = fabulous
  • fave = favorite
  • fav = favorite
  • fwd = forward
  • itz = it is
  • kewl = cool
  • K = okay
  • L8er = later
  • L8 = late
  • peeps = people
  • plz = please
  • PPL = People
  • props = proper respect
  • PWN = Own
  • R = are
  • shld = should
  • thx; tx = thanks
  • Twouche = Someone acting like a big fat jerk via Twitter.
  • Twurvey = A survey sent out over Twitter.
  • u’ve = you have
  • ur = your
  • U = you.
  • w/ =with
  • wld = would
  • wOOt! = an expression of joy or excitement.

 

The power of live streaming is incontestable, as most recently demonstrated by the awful but important footage captured by Lavish Reynolds (warning: this video is graphic). This media innovation has the potential to revolutionize journalism, communications, storytelling…but then Twitter had that same potential, when it rose to prominence. Technological innovation will usually manifest compelling results, but many pioneering brands will stumble along the way. Is this unavoidable? Are there better ways to grow a product or solution, so it may realize its best potential more effectively, efficiently, and sustainably?

The recent Democrat “sit-in” in the US House of Representatives launched Twitter’s subsidiary Periscope into the spotlight (at the edges of which it had been operating for more than a year). This app has the potential to merge the functional merits of both Twitter and YouTube. Will this “Video Twitter” evolve into a long-term media platform enhancement, or is it little more than the latest social media fad? Who remembers Meerkat?

Snapchat took over from Instagram, which itself apparently supplanted Pinterest, after the latter briefly challenged Facebook. Of course, some will argue that I have one or two of the brand incursions mixed up, but that only underscores my contention: Will everyone have the Periscope app on their smartphones for the next 6 months, only to hop to the next shiny bright object, as soon as some bright young startup creates it (with a surfeit of investment from Venture Capital companies eager to reap quick cash rewards, before their latest vaporware is supplanted)? Will Periscope instead grow “too big to fail”, as Twitter seems to have done, yet – like Twitter – represent little clarity, in terms of functional positioning? Are our social platforms and channels destined to come and go with the whims of youth, or are some focusing on developing a degree of operational maturity that will more securely establish their merits and utility, both on our smartphones and in our communities? For all of Facebook’s flaws, it has consistently pursued this maturation with the degree of academic humility and professional confidence that is the hallmark of most engineers. Its relative longevity is as much a result of its willingness to adapt and iterate, as it is due to its refusal to be molded by its user base.

Therein lies the lesson.

Too many brands have relied upon the “Crowd” to manifest and elevate their identity and fortunes, simply because it was this same “Crowd” that first adopted the company’s initial value proposition. The “Crowd” is a powerful current, but while it runs most aggressively in shallow waters, it carries the greatest power in deeper seas. In much the same way, it behooves companies that operate in the Social space (which effectively includes all M&E and Communications companies, along with a host of other markets) to study more assiduously the role of their user base in the ongoing development and growth of their brand. It is not the Crowd’s responsibility to identify or define the brand, nor its value proposition. Furthermore, the longer we allow Startups to scale too quickly, simply as a means to secure larger investments, IPOs, and other Get-rich-quick objectives, the weaker our innovation pipeline will become. The vast majority of Venture-backed startups fail in their first year, and the many articles acknowledging this long-known but too often ignored fact effectively concur that the solution lies in more sustainable development, both of IP and workforce.

I have spent the past 15 years promoting this thesis: that Startup success should no longer be gauged by how fast a company sells, but rather how solidly it is able to build its value proposition; how securely it is able to hire and retain talent; how reliably it is able to integrate its offering into the physical and functional communities within which it operates. While the ROI may not be as immediately “sexy” as the silly Unicorns investors still chase, the longer-term returns generated by the far less mythical “workhorses” I have been supporting are more rewarding, both financially and otherwise. With this in mind, I look to brands such as Periscope, and I wonder: will they be seduced by the noise and sparkle of short-term ROI aspiration, which more often than not represents little more than a mirage of unattainable yearnings, or will they plot their course with thoughtful care and imagination, giving themselves, their investors, their employees, and users the best chance of hitting the mark, and driving forward into an increasingly valuable future?

The music industry is admittedly not my wheelhouse, but an undeniably creative video, released yesterday by Coldplay, has highlighted a conflict that lies within the creation of promotional content: to what does the content owe its principal allegiance? In this case we have a marvelously impressive creative visual production (CGI heavy as it is), ostensibly produced to promote a song. If the core consideration is the song, however, it is arguable whether the video is doing it good service. Then again, if the song were abysmal, no amount of production sophistication could help. So, what role do music videos play today? Are they supposed to principally increase sales of the song, raise consumer awareness of the musician, or win awards and the media coverage that (sometimes) comes therewith? Is there some other purpose (such as simply generating buzz for the director, sufficient to springboard them into a commercial or feature career)?

Obviously, different music videos have different objectives, but I would posit that a core goal ought to be either to increase fandom (and purchase) for the song itself, or to increase viewer investment in the musician, sufficient to garner increased sales – be they merchandise, concert, or content. Maroon 5 achieved the former with their video for “Sugar”, while also generating a good deal of buzz for their inventive approach. Sia achieved the latter with her video for “Elastic Heart”. Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” achieved both, I would argue (and the sales numbers corroborate that claim). I have long championed the videos of FKA Twigs, which establish the artist firmly as the lost love child of Madonna and Bjork. Indeed, there exist a number of compelling music videos that successfully compel the viewer to either buy the song or follow the artist more enthusiastically.

What, however, do Coldplay’s videos (or those by OK GO, for that matter) accomplish, extant high YouTube views? Obviously, those who never liked the music might claim they mitigate an otherwise painful audio experience, but a massive investment in a music video is not going to sell the song or musician to someone who hates the music. Nobody suddenly became a new fan of U2’s after watching the video for “Numb”. If you didn’t love Christina Aguilera before, watching her embarrassing Lady Gaga copycat for ‘Not Myself Tonight’ was not going to endear her to you. Then again, Lady Gaga did herself no favors with her Madonna copycat for the forgettable “Judas”. So where’s the value?

After watching Coldplay’s recent video for “Up & Up” (the third single from their last album, “A Head Full Of Dreams”), I barely remembered the song, and I notice that all the online comments are about the video, with nary a word about the song or musicians.

Securing viewers of content on YouTube is a tough challenge these days, with the vast majority being relegated swiftly to burst traffic. It stands to reason, therefore, that content posted to online video aggregation sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, (arguably) Facebook, and soon Amazon Video Direct, needs to be compelling enough to merit swift and sustained viewership, but at what cost, and with what intended outcome? Content production without strategic context will rarely return satisfactory value. People will notice something attractive, but to what end? If that is the goal, kudos. Music videos are supposed to promote further action on the part of the viewer, though, aren’t they? Is clicking “Like” or “Share” enough, these days?

At 8:43pm last night, ABC News posted a ridiculously framed tweet about the terrorist incident in Oregon:

ABC Tweet

Denizens of the Twittersphere went ballistic, in response to this apparent double standard in journalism (White American armed takeover of Federal sites is “peaceful militia action”, while *anything* involving Muslims is a “terrorist cell”.) You can find some of the responses in the growing number of blog posts, such as this one from Raw Story.

In the face of this indignation, ABC News was sadly silent, and the trolls jumped in. The news organization’s inability to understand social brand management left the door open for erstwhile fans and trolls to take over their online brand narrative. ABC News seemed to think that ignoring the matter would make it go away…#OldSchoolMarketing

If something more interesting happens in the next 12 hours, they might get lucky, and the hubbub may abate somewhat. The damage is done, however, to any sense that their news brand is anything worth considering as “above” the fray. ABC News is now fair game, simply because they could not be responsive in the first hours of their mess-up. All they had to do (simply as one possible option among many available) was post one follow-up Tweet at 10pm, just over an hour after the first “unfortunately phrased” post: “Many viewers hold strong opinions about the situation in Oregon. We want to hear/share all reasonable views. Chat on [Periscope/Facebook] in one hour.”

ABC News could have hosted an online chat for exactly 30 minutes, with all the fair and not-so-fair comments that would have ensued, and then summarized with a nicely woven acknowledgement of the fact that “sometimes ABC does not frame a breaking news situation as effectively as – in retrospect – we would have liked to, and it is with the help and feedback of viewers and fans that the news team is able to get a better sense of…blahblahblah”…Thank everyone for their thoughtful comments and assure them you’ll “continue to work hard to responsibly explore and report on the stories that affect our lives and communities….blah blah blah…”

In short: be seen as responsive, and manage the narrative enough so it doesn’t look like you are completely tone deaf and out-of-touch. News obviously never quite works when you let it go the way of fanfic, as CNN has discovered. However, BBC News has been doing quite a good job, of late, using social tools to bring their news stories closer to their viewers and listeners. ABC News could learn a thing or two from them.

The Facebook brand risks suffering from the multiple personality disorder that plagues companies that make too many acquisitions and market launches, without clarifying the nature of the independent parts, and how the aggregate merits augmented consideration. With the launch of Alphabet, the company formerly known as Google​ has clarified that its strategic brand is much akin to the old Idealabs: a parent holding entity that creates and nurtures businesses that are each destined to form their own ecosystems of sustainable operation. The aggregate value is early on, when the nascent entities may benefit from the mentorship of Alphabet corporate resource providers, and the collaboration of other companies in the family.

Facebook, meanwhile, keeps adding arms to its body, without clarifying anything. When their Messaging app launched, they took pains to give it its own functional space, thereby keeping the core Facebook​ clean (or relatively so, considering we’re talking about engineers here, who love to tinker, patch, repatch, and otherwise refine Frankenstein’s monster as an iterative process, rather than design and create Michelangelo’s David as a fluid act of final artistry). When they updated their Photos section, it wasn’t so dramatic that people began to seriously consider leaving 500px. However, Facebook’s latest iterative improvement is big enough to begin to strain against the bonds of the core Facebook brand proposition. The embedded Video update caused consternation, but the integrated Notes update is causing confusion.

Facebook Notes has long been “just another OK feature” amidst a wealth of tab features available to users seeking to enrich their personal brand value, whilst also engaging with their communities, both online and off. Facebook was a “connectivity facilitator”: not so much a platform, as a conduit. As users began to discover their voices, they might gravitate their expression to another brand that represented a richer immersion in to a particular form: 500px for the photographers, Medium or Tumblr for the essayists, YouTube for the video diarists. They continued to rely on Facebook for social community, whilst delving in to the new realms as channels of more specialized expression and exploration.

Now, however, Facebook has made it clear that they want all those voices to remain in their castle, and I fear this may prove counterproductive in the long run. Had the Facebook Video platform been launched as a standalone adjunct to the core Facebook brand (as was Messaging), I might have seen some potential in the move, so long as the UI and UX were consistently and intuitively improved. But Facebook wants it all to stay in the room…a room that becomes more and more crowded every day. We all know what happened to the Tower of Babel.

The latest update is to Facebook Notes, and makes the tab a direct competitor to Medium, but without giving itself room to breathe and spread its wings. Admittedly, the improvement is attractive, on its own merits. Maybe what we are witnessing are the latest growing pains of Facebook, experiencing a form of metamorphosis: once complete, the new entity will be more beautiful, more functional, more elegantly obvious than ever before. For now, it becomes more unwieldy and cumbersome, and risks losing its shape and functional value.

Facebook_creatures

 

A single body, made up of increasingly disparate parts, has historically proven to make for a great story, and a range of mediocre film adaptations. It has rarely functioned as a cohesive unit. However, if the organically solid parts are allowed to find relevant combinatorial sums that best express the identity of each individual Facebook user…

If Facebook builds out their tab improvements as standalone entities, a la “Messaging”, but with a design and structure sensibility that gives users the ability to connect the pieces together to better express their individual brand identities. Now, that might be an exciting proposition. If Facebook controls the clutter (so it doesn’t become another MySpace V1), but allows each user’s Facebook presence to become their de facto website, tailored toward their unique preferred mode of expression, that would be a truly revolutionary manifestation of the Web.