How’s your penmanship coming along? The notecard project

Earlier this year, I found Kara Matuszewski’s (@karamat) blog because she started following me on twitter and read a post she had written about hand-written notes. I clicked into the comment box to send her a note, stopped cold and thought, “Wait a minute, I can do better!”

And I went searching for her mailing address, pieced that together and sent her a hand-written note, thanking her for following me on twitter. (I know, corny but so what)

But then I got to thinking that while I send out thank you notes more often than most people, I probably don’t do it enough. Besides, my penmanship is getting worse and worse because I don’t practice. So, I bought me some Moleskins (I know, a cliché) and started writing my to do list in them to practice.

As I was writing last night, (I had a flashback of John Boy from the Waltons sitting at his desk, writing the events and thoughts of the day in his journal but that’s not the point) I realized that not only was my penmanship going down the tubes, but so was my ability to compose a quick thought on a thank you card or a note. It seems simple, but when I get to a blank card, I struggle for the right words. I used to be able to dash off half a dozen before finishing my first cup of coffee in the morning. Way back, when people sent cards.

So, here is the project: Starting April 1st and through the end of 2011, I want to send one note card a day to someone who follows me on twitter or reads this blog. It will help me get my penmanship and note-writing skills back as well as have something physical that connects me to you.

At the end of the year, I will have sent out 274 cards and connected with as many people in a more real way than just a tweet or a comment.

I will scan each card and share at the end of the year (minus your mailing address, of course.) I am not doing this to build a mailing list or anything so you need not worry about giving me your info. Just a fun little project that will help me gain back some skills and have some fun and human connection along the way. Maybe I’ll even build a Google map to see how far and wide we are all connected.

Ready?

Want a card? Fill out the form here.

*I’m starting April 1st because I need to get some cards printed up. I went looking to buy some at the store yesterday and found out the selection of stationery has really gone downhill since the email became fashionable. The first hundred or so will probably not be as skillfully done, but you can call them ‘my early works’ if you’d like.

You wish you were Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen as he appears on the twitter

Admit it. You wish you were Charlie Sheen.

While you are shaking your head violently from side to side and stomping up and down disagreeing with me, just hear me out for a few seconds. Then you can go back to your ranting about why I am wrong, why Charlie is melting down, how he is bad for his kids, why he is anti-Semetic, a bad role model or any of the other pat sound bites the media are flinging around.

Ready? This stuff could be a bit deep. Or deep in it. I’m sure you’ll decide for yourself. **

Charlie admits his humanity. All of it. He says the “crazy” we think in our minds and acts on it.

Only this stuff isn’t so nutty. He is magic. He is a big star. He was born small and now he is huge. He has navigated the shark-infested waters of the entertainment industry and is smarter than most of the people he has come up against. He is special. He has a natural gift of poise and conversation. He got 1.2 million followers on Twitter before you even got out of bed this morning.

And he is not saying hateful things. He is just saying really, really brutally honest stuff. If we tag it as crazy then we can all feel better about ourselves. If we say he is crazy, we don’t have to deal with why we’re not living up to our potential. And if we go even further and start tearing him down, we’re morally superior.

He is getting away with all of this because he is operating within the bounds of the human condition. He knows down deep inside — way, way, way down deep inside of each of us — is a Charlie Sheen Dream that has been smashed down by years of following the rules and believing what others tell us about our inadequacies. There is always tomorrow. Next time. The next relationship.

Will you embrace your inner Charlie? Yeah, me neither. It’s too bright and scary out there.

You may now resume your lives. Or drop a comment below. Or unfollow me on twitter. Or unsubscribe from this blog. Whatever fills the ignored hole in your soul.

—–
** But I’m betting you won’t.

I was not going to write anything about Charlie Sheen. But then I got to thinking that Martin Sheen, his father, was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. By extension, we invented Charlie. So naturally — as is our way here — we needed to claim the good things this invention brings to the collection of humanity. Just like we do the Wright Brothers, we plant a flag in anything that gets famous and claim it for our own.

.

Passing on the magic

I was dropping off a friend at the airport early yesterday morning. As I was coming back to the parking garage, I had to cross the street and go through these large glass sliding doors.

I have gotten into the habit of waving my hand in front of me like Dumbledore in a Harry Potter movie to open automatic doors. My kids have grown tired of this gesture and think it is lame. Now, I think I do it just to annoy them, but it has become a silly almost involuntary habit.

….

.

Imagine this as the future of newspaper

Gatorade Control Center

I read yesterday’s Dayton Daily News today and they had a special section included. I don’t know where it is on their web site and I gave up trying to find it. I had hoped to point it to you as it is really cool stuff.

They have assembled all the COX Ohio Media in one facility and really decked it out with a bunch of studio space, digital equipment and tons of toys. I hope they give tours. But as I read the 10-page broadsheet-sized insert, I noticed a gaping hole in their media– no social media. Just newspaper, television and radio.

Oops. I hope that is just an oversight. If not, call me and let’s do business.

Here is what I think a newspaper/television/radio media company should do. Build out a social media center like they did at Gatorade (photo above) and staff it 24/7/365 with people authorized to reply back. Anytime anyone mentions Dayton on twitter, Facebook or blogs about Dayton, they know it. They know all the influential bloggers, the restaurant directories, the sporting events going on about town. They see tweets from people stuck on 35, wondering what the holdup is. They see a shout-out to a favorite restaurant or a blog post just published touting the really cool things about Dayton, Ohio. They see tweets from a frustrated bride three days from her wedding looking for a wedding photographer because the one she booked cancelled on her. They get behind movements to get Kroger to carry cheese curds.

And they would suggest advertisers quickly and authoritatively. And advertisers would get calls. And business.

And they see tweets when people are coming into Dayton for a family visit and welcome them back. They see birthdays on Facebook and send out tweets and updates wishing each a happy birthday. Maybe they even send out random cupcakes on that special day from a local bakery who advertises with Cox. In short, they act as the bar in the City Where Everybody Knows Your Name.

Can you imagine how many people Jeff Pulver would tell at his 140conf Conferences about the time he came to Dayton, Ohio to visit Hamvention and the local newspaper made sure his experience here was warm and inviting? That they tweeted him when he landed, asking if he needed a ride, maybe even tweeted his hotel to alert them he was in town? I wonder how many other people would like to visit Dayton, Ohio, just for the pampering experience?

You are a neighbor here in Dayton, Ohio, not just a resident. And in the process, we all connect just a little bit closer to each other and the outside world.

That is what I think a local newspaper can become. And for not a lot of money.

Postnote: 2011-02-21
Chris Brogan posted a video about the future of media. Here is one facet of my take on hyper-local.

What Kenneth Cole knows that you don’t

Kenneth Cole

He knows that if you are one of the bloggers and tweeters who are all up in arms about his use of the #egypt hastag in his tweet yesterday, you’re probably not one of his customers.

Why?

Because you scream at having to put up $60.00 for a quality WordPress theme. Or balk at a $20/month membership fee for anything more than freemium. And you think Chris Brogan is a sell-out and you think that open source should mean even the support is free. He knows that you are a cheap-butt user who demands free software and unlimited support.

And he knows that you are not going to spend more than $28.88 for a pair of shoes.

He knows that you are really not his market. His market doesn’t really know what a hashtag is and doesn’t really care. What they know is fashion. And hashtags don’t even register on their radar.

Who are all these people climbing all over the Kenneth Cole Facebook page in a fever to comment about what a horrible thing he did? Haters. But they are not his customers.

And he knows the more he is hated by the commoners, the more his customers will want to be just like him.

That is what Kenneth Cole knows.

.

Storytelling vs curating

Jim Henson’s character “The Storyteller” and his dog. It is what pops into my head when I hear storytelling and it is the standard by which I measure all stories. Probably not fair, but it is what it is.

A while back, many bloggers decided they wanted to throw off the image of being one guy and his dog, hanging out in his parent’s basement ranting in his pajamas. They set about becoming “journalists.” And then that kinda didn’t set right because that was rather limiting their right of personal expression when they didn’t really have any facts and so they become “writers.” The latest metamorphosis for bloggers is to become “storytellers.”

Everyone now is a storyteller.

Only they are not really telling stories. They are curating facts. They are collecting events and regurgitating them. It’s the same thing they were doing as a blogger with a “new and improved” label stuck on the front only it is neither new or improved. The basic ingredients of storytelling are missing.

I recently received an invitation to Storify.com. They tout on their web site:

Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories.
You collect the best photos, video, tweets and more to publish them as simple, beautiful stories that can be embedded anywhere.

That’s not telling a story. That is assembling an exhibit piece for The Museum of Social Media. Bleckkkk.

If storytelling is not what most bloggers are doing, what is storytelling? I didn’t know myself until I received a tweet from @SaxonHenry this past Wednesday morning with a link to her blog. And with the following sentence, everything clicked.

Simply recording the boys’ actions wasn’t nearly enough! I had to determine how I would have responded to what they were doing. (I encourage you to read the entire piece.. after you get to the bottom of mine, of course.)

Saxon tells stories. I defy you to read this account of boys playing outside without feeling that film of grit between your skin and your sweat. Or read this poem and not smell the mix of old grease and pancake batter crisping at the edges, while getting an uneasy urge to run away from a life that has become banal and dull. Her choice of words, the cadence, the rhythm expresses her reaction to the story she is telling.

Jane Devin also tells stories. Her style is intense and many times uncomfortable but succeeds in ripping away a social mask that most of us have spent years affixing to our true faces. In her latest post, I defy you to read the entire post without choking back anger and a primal fear that you have been discovered for who you really are by those who have become the closest to you instead of the person you wish them to see. Jane’s choice of words, her intensely-packed paragraphs followed by a short, controlled release before she plunges you back with a half breath expresses her reaction to the story she is telling. It is almost like literarily waterboarding the reader.

In a culture where anyone can become a published author, claiming the title of a writer or storyteller without honing the craft is unfair to those who have. It cheapens their work. It disrespects their gift.

If you want to become a storyteller, then work to become one. Don’t just claim the title. Examine the elements of story by reading books like A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Watch episodes of The Storyteller. Watch the last scene of Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome over and over. Read books by Joseph Conrad, John Steinbeck and Kate Chopin. Read Ben Zander’s book The Art of Possibility and watch his TED presentation. And read Jane Devin and Saxon Henry. Buy their books when published.

And tell stories. Lots of them. Like acquiring any skill worth holding on to, practice, practice, practice.

And while reading and listening to all of the materials I suggested above, think about why their stories work. And work to be as good as they are in telling a story that has your reaction embedded throughout.

Or stick to curating and leave storytelling to those who choose to reach beyond their five senses.

.

Watch what you say, the kids are listening

Several months back, my daughter (who is now 19) and I had a quick text message exchange. I can’t remember what it was about, but I’m sure it is archived somewhere in the bowels of the AT&T servers if I ever run for some government office. As she is prone to do, she asks: “Do you need anything?”

Apparently feeling rather frisky, I typed back:
I don’t need anything. Well, serenity, a deep blue sky, a crisp cold morning, a loyal dog and a hot cup of coffee. 😉

On Christmas Eve, she gave me a series of presents that had me a bit confused, until she showed me the text message she had saved for months. The presents are below.

serenity, a deep blue sky, a crisp cold morning, a loyal dog and a hot cup of coffee

The book is to help me find serenity in the nuthouse I find myself in daily, the glass jar was filled with shiny bits of blue and silver tinsel, the candle scent is ‘morning mist,’ the dog wags his tail and lifts his head when you press his back and the coffee mug is always waiting to be filled.

Thank you! Not only did she give me a present, but she gave me a story which is worth more than any present she could have wrapped. I have the best puppies in the world.

Merry Christmas everyone. And remember the kids are always listening, especially when you’re babbling.

.

If money were no object, here is what I would gift to you #letsblogoff

First, I would buy health care for everyone who was willing to take care of themselves. If you don’t have health, you have nothing. Then I would buy an education for everyone willing to learn. Educated people influence others around them to want to learn. Lastly, I would buy a home for anyone who is homeless and wanted one. Everyone should have some place to call home.

Then I would figure out how to save time in a bottle and give it to all the writers and artists who left works unfinished. The world is a poorer place without artists and the art they create. Most often, they just need more time.

And I would create bottles of compassion, wisdom and patience to give freely to those who need each. Because there is no such thing as a self-made man and those who think they are need to be reminded from time to time.

Happy Holidays from Rufus, Sallie, Charlie and our intern Zoey. We wish you and yours lots of cold noses and many long, pointless walks.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “if money were no object, what would you gift.” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Why the housing bust is a boon for dogs

It’s been said by someone who probably has no money in the stock market or has not just bought a brand new Apple product that “there is no good or bad news, there is just news. How you see it depends on your perspective.”

And we are choosing to see this housing bust as a HUGE boon for dogs.

In Englewood, Ohio, there are at least three different housing sites where work has stopped abruptly. Over two years ago. And that is good because that means we have at least three dog parks that have paved, subdivision-style roads that lead to large fields filled with tall grasses and lots and lots of plowed up smelly things. In the winter, we have a large expanse of snow and snow hills when the plows just push all the street snow off at the end where there are no houses. Nobody ever bothers us when we’re at one of these “dog parks.”

If you are dog, this housing bust is the best thing to happen in years. Part of me hopes it goes on for a while.

Just thought I would share a small silver-lining in an otherwise gloomy economy. And if you own a dog, have no money and nowhere to go, find a housing sub-division that quit building and make it a dog park. Chances are there is one near you.

Really, it’s ok.

.

Sniffing around for the funny

A three-legged dog walks into a bar, hops up on a stool, slams his paw down and says, “Barkeep, give me a cold one.” The bartender slides a cool draft toward the mutt, notes his slack jaw and and asks, “You’re not from around here, is ya? You in town for long?” The dog looks up from his ale and says, “Just long enough to find the feller what shot my paw.”

Oh, c’mon now, that’s funny. Or it really is horribly pathetic.

Here’s another, thank you Jean
Yesterday, while helping the husband with some work, he asked me if I could hold up a window so he could put it back in after strengthening it-old windows. I pointed my finger at it like a gun and told it to give me all it’s money. He started shaking with laughter and he just looked at me and said “Could you just do what I asked you, and not be a smarta** about it?” Hey, he’s the one who told me to hold up the window.

And here is one more. Thank you Reza

I like corny jokes, I like fun videos where other people break out in spontaneous laughter. It makes me laugh as well. I like long pointless stories that wind and weave to the punchline. I like a good pun.

And I especially like really smart humor where you had to have read the book to get it.

Those are the things that make me laugh.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “What makes you laugh?” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Another remodel project, sorta

It’s another weekend and I own a house. I should be:

A. Finishing that kitchen remodel job I started two years ago
B. Watching more TV
C. Checking out the site Modenus.com and dream about remodeling

If you answered C, you have just outed yourself as a fellow homeowner.

According to her press release, Veronika Miller, the brainchild behind Modenus, says it is “a comprehensive product catalog and project management platform for the interior design industry launched this month. The catalog portion of the site is generally open to consumers and design professionals, but verified pros have the added benefit of getting access to a collaborative project manager, pro forums and trade only information posted by manufacturers.”

For homeowners like me, it is really a super-cool playground where you can see lots of different kinds of stuff beyond what Lowes or the Home Depot have to offer. You can dream a bit bigger at Modenus.

Check it out! Lots of cool things over there.

PS If Modenus sounds a bit familiar, it is because Veronika is also a driving force behind our bi-weekly #letsblogoff series. Check out her latest here.

.

Dayton leads region in social media adopters

DAYTON – Internet entrepreneur Jeff Pulver strode, or rather, “surfed” his way into Dayton on Sunday, Aug. 22, as part of a road trip promoting 140Conf.com’s event Oct. 20 in Detroit. About two dozen emergent media/social networking and technology denizens met Pulver for a “meet and greet” at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. in Dayton.

“Detroit will show everything we do,” Pulver said summing up what he hoped the Dayton stop would help accomplish.

At Blind Bob’s Pulver was met by Gary Lietzell, Mayor of Dayton, who presented Pulver with a special proclamation from the city. Lietzell hoped that Pulver’s visit would help “Tell the world about us,” and would entrench his commitment to emergent technology and social networking that he pushed during his run for Mayor in 2009.

“I embraced it during my campaign,” Lietzell said of social networking.

Pulver, the Chairman and Founder of pulver.com, is on a week-long trip that will see him traverse the Midwest well ahead of the Detroit event, to be held at The Fillmore Detroit. He has testified before Congress on the importance of social media, and has been a key shaper in the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts on Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) development and its public policy implications.

Many in Pulver’s audience at Blind Bob’s were either using laptops or hand-held devices displaying the vision of pulver.com’s “Exploring the State of Now.” Many followed Pulver’s trip from Columbus, where held a similar event to the one in Dayton, to Dayton via an Ustream feed. Pulver had promised an Ustream or similar feed of his entire Midwest trip.

When asked why he chose Dayton, Pulver proudly stated, “Because when we announced our plans for the trip, Dayton was the first to shout out ‘Please stop.’”

His two-hour event in Dayton was then followed up by a similar event in Cincinnati before he traveled to Indiana on Monday. His trip culminates in Detroit on Saturday, Aug. 28.

Dayton is home to several social media groups, including New Media Dayton (NMD) led by Carole Baker. NMD is an organization that coordinates speakers and regular meet up between social media and business groups in and around the Dayton Area. Another group that has adopted social media tools is Dayton Most Metro (DMM) led by Bill Pote. DMM strives to be the central source of all things happening in Dayton.

Olive Garden serving priceless service and jokes

I went to a #140conf Meet Up with Jeff Pulver in Dayton this afternoon (more stuff about that later) and afterwards, we headed out to dinner at the Olive Garden to celebrate my son’s birthday. He ordered a plate of something that was on the menu, but had no price.

“How much is that,” I asked Beth, our server.

“13.99,” she said… “Oh, wait, sorry… that is 14.99.”

Naturally, I thought we were negotiating, so I proceeded to question the price of everything everybody else ordered and threw out a counter-offer each time. It went all the way down to how much she was going to charge us for the puppy box, the mints and water.

It was fun; we connected.

Then our bill came. I opened it up and found the itemized receipt above. She got the tip she said she was worth, which was a bit more than 20% of the bill.

It wasn’t the great service or the food quality that was worth the tip, but that Beth showed she was engaged with us, she got the running joke and was willing to not only play along, but took the extra step to do a “Yes, and….”

So Beth, this blog post is your “Yes, and…” from us to you.

Thank you for the wonderful dinner. You were successful in making the sameness of a franchise a very memorable place.

.

We got Jeff Pulver #140conf Road Trip – Dayton, Ohio

Come join us at Blind Bob’s in the Oregon District for the social media event of the year. Jeff Pulver will be stopping in Dayton on Sunday, August 22 from 3 – 5pm to mix it up with the most fun group of awesome Daytonians (and a few from the surrounding area, but we’ll deputize them for the day!)

For complete information, including the list of people going and directions, click here. And when you get there and find that the most exciting person you know won’t be there, it’s only because you haven’t sign up yet! Really, awesome you.

There will be lots of video and photos shot courtesy of Michael Blackwell of DryRainMedia. So, comb your hair, put on a clean shirt and get down to Blind Bob’s.

Read the press release here

..