Posted: December 3rd, 2013 | Author: Ryan | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Note: Normally I can be a pretty staunch advocate for First Amendment Rights, and, as a minority, I am a supporter of the ACLU in most things, but the matter below strikes close to home and baffles me that there is even an argument in favor of something so nonsensical. Then again, several rich, elected officials proudly said the best way to avoid the Sandy Hook shooting would have been for more guns in schools, so I guess there’s no limit to idiocy. If you are looking to avoid ranting, thinking, or biased diatribes, this may not be the post for you. Sorry, not sorry.
You may think I’m just being sensational with the headline on today’s post, but tell me what other message you would take away from the image below:
Light-Up Ad on the bus stop shelter on 7th Avenue & Osborn for the last 2 months.
Does the image on the right look like the kind of place where you’d want to hang out for 30-60 minutes at night, waiting to take the bus home from school or work? Makes it even more comfortable when you think that this poorly intentioned advertisement is telling the criminally-inclined that it is fine to bring firearms on the train or bus, right? How about the folks exiting the bus and walking through dark neighborhoods or side-streets; so long as the guy who mugs them has been educated in gun safety it’s all cool, yeah?
A pro-gun message being advertised at a Phoenix transit stop says to me “it’s cool to bring your guns on board”. Stop some crime, buckle up your holster, put on a cape and be a safer citizen because you’re locked and loaded and ready to blast the next smelly hobo who accidentally bumps into you.
This story has been in the news the last couple of days because court proceedings have begun regarding actions taken by the City of Phoenix in 2010. Meanwhile, it hasn’t stopped the group responsible for the ad from placing new ones, and it hasn’t stopped the City of Phoenix, ValleyMetro or CBS Outdoor from taking more money and profiting off the message that clearly endorses firearms in all aspects of life, including mass transit.
As detailed by the local news, the original ads saying “Guns Save Lives” were torn down by the city, but they allowed the ones with “Guns Stop Crime” to go up and remain there. Is Phoenix Transit somehow uncertain about the role of firearms in violent crimes? If so, let me share a few personal stories.
Trying the Social Appeal
A while back I mentioned this ad on twitter, and received a short, polite, if ultimately useless response from ValleyMetro, and no actual action taken about the ad. (I do feel a little bad for whoever manages the @ValleyMetro account, as they’ve clearly been left in the dark on the matter.)
- Tweets w/ @ValleyMetro about the ad above
Sad to say, ValleyMetro twitter account-handler, that actually the City doesn’t admin the ads either. You guys actually have a page on your website that says it’s all done by CBS Outdoor. Now, if you want to tell me that you set-up that page to accept dollars for ads, never thinking you might get an ad that was questionable or dangerous to put up, and nobody in your organization is prepared to tell your ad agency that such ads should not be allowed…. well I could respect that kind of honesty. Alas, you either didn’t know the truth, or weren’t allowed to admit it on Twitter; neither of which inspires me to continue being an advocate for public transit in this automobile-centric city of our’s.
The Personal Connection
In the fall of 1996, I was attending North High on 12th street & Thomas, taking the bus 45-60 minutes each way from my home in Maryvale because of the magnet program that school offered. (Yay for ethnically-motivated programs!)
One afternoon, I hung around campus a little while longer than usual, because instead of going home I was heading to my after-school job as a ball-boy for the Phoenix Suns. When I tried to catch the bus, I noticed that traffic had been stopped and the bus was wrapped in police tape just a couple blocks away from school. Turns out that my friend Julian had gotten on the bus at 12th street and been shot in the chest by another rider before the bus even made it to the next intersection. He spent the next week in a hospital fighting for his life, while the guy who shot him was never brought in.
Did the gun that shot Julian stop any crimes that day? Should Julian have been armed to protect himself, and/or retaliate in an over-crowded, confined area full of students and people just going about their lives?
In June of 2007, my little brother and I went to our mother’s house in West Phoenix to celebrate his 18th birthday with our family. When dinner ended, we planned to head back to my apartment in Midtown for the evening. As we were waiting for the bus, kid with a shaved head, a pierced eyebrow and a neck tattoo walked up to us and promptly pointed his pistol at my brother’s temple from a foot away. Despite the fact that we were on a busy street in plain view of hundreds of passing motorists (Yay for the bystander effect!), the only decision was give up my wallet and cell phone or fight a guy that had a guaranteed kill shot on my flesh & blood.
The number of times I’ve replayed that sequence in my head over the years are countless. Many times I’ve asked myself
- What if I’d seen the gun earlier and been able to wrestle it away?
- Could I have signaled my brother to duck while I body slammed the guy into an oncoming truck?
- Should I have put myself in front of my brother and taken a bullet myself?
Never once, though, did I think “Man, I really wish I had been carrying a gun that day”.
My brother and I had both taken gun safety classes growing up, and by that point my brother was already a trained marksman preparing to enter the military. Certainly if either of us had been armed, we may have very well “stopped crime”, or at least stopped the robbery and subsequent identity theft. But then one or both of us would have faced charges for fatally shooting a guy who was so desperate he robbed us for $40 cash and a craptastic Sony Ericsson w610i.
So, Mayor Stanton and Mr Korwin, can either of you tell me that us being armed as we prepared to board the bus that evening would have been a good thing? If not, why are you advertising that it is?
In the end, I shouldn’t be surprised that a public office/utility has let us down and turned it’s back on public health & safety in favor of fast cash. After all, we remember this saga, right?
Posted: November 25th, 2013 | Author: Ryan | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Visits this year compared to last year. Way to go backwards, Ryan.
TL;DR version – Even when I wasn’t putting out new content, I actually attracted a solid audience of new visitors by authentically engaging in new communities.
This blog site is an amalgamation of the last ~8 years of my life, with content migrated from multiple previous forms (my apologies for old posts with broken images, just charge it to the game). It wasn’t until I got my job as a Web Analyst that I started apply common sense and science to my hobby, and put Google Analytics on the site.
Coincidentally, with the new job also meant a lot more self-directed learning, and less time sitting idly at my desk, which was the method I most commonly used to think up things to blog about. If I were a data scientist, I could probably make you a chart showing how my learning path as an inbound marketer correlated negatively with my output on this site. (I put up 2 posts in my first 14 months as an inbound marketer, hardly practicing what I preached).
RelevantWit Visits – Last Two Years
What was very intriguing, though, was what I discovered when I started to get the bug to write again this past summer. Looking into the stats for this site, I noticed something pretty remarkable. I actually had a surge in visits during the time (late 2012 and 2013) when I wasn’t writing. My first thought was that this was only accidental traffic, but when I did put out fresh content, I found that I wasn’t able to meet the same levels of traffic as I had during the “hibernation” period. (If I call it hibernation it sounds more natural than if I said “laziness” or “neglect”.)
The best I can correlate, while I wasn’t putting out new content on the site, or overtly marketing existing content, I was doing one thing very right. By engaging with others on their sites, reaching out and meeting other folks in the industry, and in general participating the communities others had built, I ended up directing some folks back to my site completely unintentionally. If I were Mack, or someone else great at community building, I could probably tie it back to a principle of reciprocity or tell a story about how I engaged as an actual person across a spectrum of sites and was able to occasionally attract some love back to my little corner, but I didn’t capture any specific referral data for that. (Damn you “channel data not available before X date” message!)
The lesson I take from this is that while we’ve all been told to find our niche and serve a specific, highly-passionate community, it can pay massive dividends to branch out, listen to lots of sources from divergent parts of the web and always engage as a real person. You just might find new fans/friends/readers/etc.
Next up, to figure out how to get a mentor.
(PS: included the first link below because I couldn’t believe that in late 2013 we still have to publish articles like that.)
Posted: November 24th, 2013 | Author: Ryan | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: introapective | No Comments »
If today’s post is mushy, or not at all what you’d expect to read from me, I won’t feel bad if you navigate away. In truth this is mostly a list and a reminder for myself. Years from now I’ll check back on this post and hopefully will not have the same items unchecked.
I’ve got a lot of goals, and a handful for responsibilities, and none of us can accomplish all the things we wish we could do. (Damn you, Scarcity!). This means that inevitably some things get put off for “tomorrow” and sometimes that tomorrow never happens. Then sometimes you’re minding your own business when “Lack of Color” comes on, and you start getting introspective.
(ed note: originally started this post in Feb 2010, just never pushed publish til now)
What would I do:
If I only had 1 day to live:
- skip work (duh)
- wake up next to Anie, let her sleep a bit longer while I laid there
- go out for breakfast and coffee
- take Anie shopping, buy her whatever she wants (she never actually lets me do this, so it’d be a novel idea)
- go see my favorite parts of the city
- eat lunch in the park
- take my time enjoying everything
- call my Grandma (wait too long for this one :/ )
- go out for drinks with my brother and friends
- tip waaay too much
If I only had 1 week to live:
- go to New York, see a Yankees game, stand in front of the statue of Babe Ruth
- take Anie to the beach
- call my mom
- go to Vegas, bet everything on roulette and give the winnings away
If I only had 1 year to live:
- teach Eggs everything I know
- get in shape
- travel everywhere I’ve wanted to go
- get married tomorrow
- learn the guitar
- write a book
Why not do these things tomorrow instead?
Posted: October 13th, 2013 | Author: Ryan | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Edit: I started this article back in March, during my last days living on Roosevelt Row. I’ve worked on it and re-written sections several times, and was never really sure that I was “done”, but I realized that I now have a follow-up perspective to share, and maybe the end of the post was never meant to be the end of the story in any truly conclusive way.
This week I am moving from my apartment in the Roosevelt to a sweet mid-century house in North Park Central. The reasons for the move are very clear and the new place is great, but I still have a sense of regret over moving out of the neighborhood I’ve lived in and enjoyed for the last 5 years.
While the new house is only ~2 miles away, and provides a solution to a number of problems, it still represents a departure from many of the habits and advantages I’ve enjoyed in this small slice of Phoenix.
As a self-professed amateur urbanist, I’ve loved spending lazy days walking around the urban core and discovering new shops, pocket parks, and understated architectural features that only exist in a place that’s had decades to evolve organically. Maybe this is why I love traveling now more than ever before; the opportunity to see the same things that draw me to the old bricks of the Security Building transposed over entire neighborhoods in older cities.
Aside from the built environment, the draw to my old neighborhood was the increase in propinquity.
Euler diagram used to represent the propinquity effect (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In social psychology, propinquity (from Latin propinquitas, “nearness”) is one of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction. It refers to the physical or psychological proximity between people.
Without the lengthy commutes, and isolation that yards and block walls create, you find yourself with a lot more time and energy to get out and be apart of your community.
True story: my first guest writing opportunity came about as an affect of multiple instances of propinquity. Working/writing at my favorite coffee-shop instead of my apartment, I ran into Taz from Blooming Rock, who’d been recording an interview nearby. Prior to that day we’d been casual acquaintances and I’d admired both Taz’s writing and her work. By the end of that cup of coffee, I had begun what would turn into an on-going contribution that helped me not only learn to write better but shifted my thinking about my hometown.
(How I first made Taz’s acquaintance is a story of meeting one great and interesting person after another, all working towards our own ideas of what this place should be. One chance encounter piled upon another resulted in a widening social circle and greater familiarity with not only the issues that mattered in my neighborhood, but also the people who were interested in making a difference.)
To be direct, I don’t begrudge anyone the desire to stay in one’s home and recuperate from the day. We’ve all had that tendency, and of course our daily overdose of solar energy here makes it very easy to stay inside and await the next day’s trials. I get it, the act of departing from a single-family home requires more psychological desire than when you’re just running downstairs from your apartment. Transit, parking, securing multiple points of entry, it’s hardly the get-up-and-go lifestyle.
The tragic part is when we’ve constructed our own private Xanadu and no longer wish to venture out at all, thereby removing ourselves from the best parts of living in our city. Why do we live here if we don’t want to participate and experience the place where we are?
(At this point I could list some reasons I would expect people might give in response to the previous question, and pair them with my rebuttal, but I started doing that and thought it was pretty rant-y, so let’s just fast-forward that bit. Besides, if you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure that I’m preaching to the choir.)
So the personal conundrum I face is wondering how to keep that inspirational sense of community and serendipity alive while moving into a less dense neighborhood. Sure, I can keep coming to the same coffee shops, parks, and various third places I’ve loved since moving to CenPho nearly a decade ago; now it’s just a planned journey instead of a short walk from my apartment.
Posted: September 17th, 2013 | Author: Ryan | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
“I don’t’ know if we really need a website.”
At this point, a little context is probably in order. Last Friday night we went to dinner with a good friend of mine, who happens to be chef/owner of his own place*. Whenever we get together, we have a great meal, the cocktails start flowing, and our conversation never fails to show me the astounding parallels between our lines of work. If there’s anyone who can remind me to focus on the user, be passionate about what we are trying to do, and demand excellence in execution, it’s this guy.
Actually, I should probably make a note to myself to use this as a future idea; How a good website is like an amazing dish. But that’s a story for another time.
Getting back to the original point, our conversation on Friday night veered into a discussion of their visual rebranding, and how it will pair up with and enforce the concepts behind what they want to do and their identity. Terrific, sounds like great stuff and sounds like an owner who’s onboard with inbound marketing and branding in a way that I wish many were. But then when asked if the branding included redoing the website, he startled me by saying that he didn’t know if they really needed a website.
Yeah, that really just happened. So, I thought about it for a moment and figured that while they were doing a top-notch job on social media and earned media, they had taken their current website largely for granted, and I shouldn’t have been surprised that they were questioning the value/necessity. Thus, with slightly more time than your typical elevator pitch, I brought up a few reasons why I thought it would be useful to them.
It’s where your customers are
It’s not all about fulfilling long-distance orders and displaying your menu/catalog, but rather about how much you want to communicate with the customer who’s looking for you already.
There is probably no more important reason for doing anything than to do it because there is a customer looking to be served. If, as in the case above, you have not been gathering statistics on your website, you may be surprised by what you’ll find. Not only how many customers are visiting your website, but the days and hours when they are visiting, what pages/content they are viewing, how long they stay, where they are coming from, and what search terms they used to get to your website. All of these are unspoken signals that your customer is sending you to help you better meet their wants and needs; to ignore this is at least unwise and at most negligent.
(There are already tons of great articles written about how to setup and configure basic analytics packages and Google Webmaster Tools, so I won’t duplicate that info here.)
For many industries, such as restaurants, you may not engage with your customers via written communication very often. (Sure, there’s email marketing, but that’s a story for another show.) I understand that this, written communication, may not be where your strengths lay, but until the internet works with our sense of taste, a well-made website is the next best thing. More than just your logo, store front and color scheme, consider the message you want customers to know, that info that the chef would share with every diner to help them appreciate their meal a little more.
There are lots of things that separate truly inspired businesses from their competition, and your website is prime real estate to highlight those. Think of a list of concepts you’d like your customers to mentally tie to your business or products. Or better yet, reverse that; list the concepts your customers are already thinking about that you wish made them think of you.
A practical example from my own life: in June we decided to drastically change our eating habits and become a much healthier household, but determined to do it without sacrificing flavor. This means we shop at the farmer’s market, subscribe to a local CSA, cook seasonal produce, buy only natural grass-fed/pasture-raised meats and do a lot of our cooking at home. Naturally, we didn’t lose our desire to eat out, even though a lot of restaurants don’t espouse our same ideas of what constitutes good food. Therefore, if I could look up “real food restaurants phoenix” or “phoenix grass-fed” and see your webpage come up, we would pretty much be in an instant love affair. I guarantee you there are several places I could be eating but don’t even know about yet because they aren’t on my radar and don’t come up in search.
The value of being the first result that comes up when a customer searches for your brand is enormous. A consistent public message that reinforces your goals and beliefs is an important anchor for both new and returning customers. New customers want to check out what separates you from the other choices available, and get a glimpse of what they can expect offline before committing themselves or their party. Returning customers may be looking for seasonal changes, sharing a link with a friend, or trying to leave a review. Don’t let those brand advocates wither on the vine because they aren’t sure how to help spread the good word.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a website, the first result the customer will see could be anything. It will probably be something hosted on a site with a high domain authority (think newspapers, Yelp, etc) and may not be what you want the customer’s first impression to be. Conflicting reviews between different top websites, outdated data, old write-ups that don’t reflect the current vision, even wrong addresses; the list of problems that could happen when you leave it up to someone else to mandate your web presence is long and unpleasant.
Google Maps, Google Now, Google+Local
Google is on a mission to find, classify, index and serve up the information their users are searching for, and local businesses are a big segment of those searches. Most business owners are familiar with review sites by now and the range of emotions they can inspire, but too few have recognized and taken action when it comes to users reviews on Google itself. Once a location has five or more reviews from Google users, the search engine will display a star rating below the business name whenever it appears in search results.
This means that anyone using Google search on their desktop, tablet or mobile will see the aggregate score of those user reviews right next to your name. This is great for businesses that have truly passionate customers expressing the great experience they had. This is not so great when a business inspires very few reviews (or sends all their reviewers to Yelp, Citysearch, Urban Spoon, etc), and the inevitable negative reviews can stand out.
Without a website, they will gather this data about you and your business from wherever they can find it. Google also works based on aggregated data. This means that if you’ve ever moved locations, changed hours, phone numbers, etc, there are bound to be some sites that are still reporting your old (now incorrect) data. When Google gets conflicting information from different sources, you’re leaving the decision up to them, and your customer suffers from confusion and possibly goes away.
Yelp can’t do it all
Yelp is a very strong site commanding a lot of domain authority, and can be an aide to business if all things align correctly, but even a fantastic Yelp rating and the love of their community cannot replace a dedicated space for a local business. While a favorable standing on Yelp can help Google users see/discover your business, relying on a third-party as the primary source of this discovery is unwise. You don’t have control over what content they scrape and display, nor the status of their relationship with the search engines. In recent years, the amount of trust placed in Yelp reviews, and their prominence in search results has gone back and forth.
Also, Yelp pages appear as an organic search result, which may be included in a hybrid/blended display when using a desktop, but they do not appear in the maps display. This means that anyone searching in Google Maps app on their phone would see only the most basic info Google was able to find about you, and not any enriched content or updated data only held by Yelp. As such, Yelp (and the same applies to other similar sites) can be a strong tool to optimize and help meet your customers where they already are, but it should not be considered a solution to replace a stand-alone site.
Hopefully I’ve fulfilled my intent to inform and offer suggestions about the core benefits of local business websites, and maybe even done so without creating a sense of dread or overwhelming burden. But just in case, don’t think of it as “Wow, we’re so behind. Why haven’t we been doing this already?” Instead, go with something like “Sweet! Thanks for illuminating that, Ryan. Now I’m going to go wow my customer’s pants off**”.
*His wife, who is an awesome person of her own accord was also there, I just didn’t know how to deftly work it into this sentence. Sorry lady.
** Recommended that you only do said “wowing” metaphorically. Please don’t get any harassment suits based on my advice. I really don’t have a legal defense fund setup for that.
Posted: September 15th, 2013 | Author: Ryan | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
Just about two years ago I found myself emerging from what could have been a very depressing and stressful change that I was able to convert into something very lucky and joyful just by looking for options I’d been blind to before. On the eve of a two-week European vacation, I found out that the workgroup I built from the ground up was being dissolved as part of larger structural changes, and I was basically told to enjoy my vacation because I wouldn’t like the work that was there for me when I got back.
The funny thing was, in the face of the corporate quasi-apology I was receiving, I didn’t get angry or disappointed; actually I couldn’t stop smiling. After making sure that all of my subordinates were going to be adequately taken care of, it was clear to me that I could either do what they wanted, or I could believe in myself and the intangible values I provide. Within hours, I’d found another opportunity that I would have never imagined I could land, and ended up heading off for holiday with on a huge high; excited about the kind of life I could begin once I got back.
As I reflected later on it, I realized that this great opportunity (which became my current position in Online Marketing & Strategy) was available to me for a while, I’d just been overlooking it because of my sense of responsibility to the team who worked for me and trusted me to lead them. Freed of that obligation, I was suddenly able to see a better path and take the leap.
Of course, not all leaps are so easy to make. Mine was the sort where you’re running from a mob and come to a sudden cliff, and the only choices were to jump or be eaten alive; luckily there was a rope swing below the cliff that took me to the next level. This is hopefully not a situation that many folks have to find themselves in, and most career/life-changing leaps are at your own pace.
That pacing, however, is often times our own worst enemy. You’ve got a job, so what you don’t love it? You’ve got bills to pay, pets to support, family expectations, society telling you to be a responsible adult and “act your age”…the list could go on and on. And yet, when we look at our idols and role-models, how many of them are people who did a job they didn’t like and just kept at it for 40+ years? I can’t think of any myself.
Jobs? We all know that guy’s story.
Buffett? Basically hustled his way to the life he wanted.
Caesar? Untested general, but Gaul wasn’t going to conquer itself.
With inspiration like this, what is it that holds so many of us in places we don’t necessarily want to stay?
…How often do we say, “three months from today, I will be doing something totally different than I’m doing now?” How often do we look at an asset (an organization, a source of income, a technology) and acknowledge that it’s our past, not our future?
A generation ago, you might be able to go forty years without being forced into a leap like this. In many industries, though, it might even be forty weeks (or forty days).
Not something to be avoided. Something to initiate.
So, a little bit of a teaser for the future:
I started school this month, changing majors and putting my energy towards finishing something I should have gotten done a decade ago. On top of the idea of finishing something I started, is also the desire to be prepared for my next leap. I’ve got some ideas of where I want to be, both professionally and geographically, and this is an important step towards getting there. So even when we’re not at that decision point, we can still have one eye on the future and configure ourselves for the next level.
Let’s see if I can’t look back at this post in two more years and tell you about how my plan worked…
(If it did, you’ll know by how much flannel I’m wearing. Or all my chatter about my oyster card. )
Posted: August 24th, 2013 | Author: Ryan | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
It’s really true. As a Yankees supporter, I wanted to hate everything there is about Boston. The RedSox fans with that accent, juice-head Curt Shilling & his fake bloody sock, Ben Affleck, all of it.
Then work sent me there in November and I got a glimpse of something more than a giant green wall and Jon Lester’s ugly face.
Then work sent me there again in May and I ended up with some spare time to go exploring. I saw a guy dressed up in colonial garb, but didn’t ask him for a high-five because I wasn’t sure if they had that gesture back then. (I assume Ben Franklin and one of his eskimo bros invented the high-five sometime after the revolution. Science has yet to prove me wrong.)
This week, though, I think I had my best time in the city. While the conference turned out to not be my favorite, it’s unexceptionalism did free up time for taking in the environment.
1.) The Walk
Due to the wonders of procrastination, we ended up being booked at a hotel about a mile and a half away from the convention center. This did, however, enable me to have a terrific morning commute from Beacon Hill, down Charles Street (Buildings from the early 1800s anyone? Yes, my european friends, 1800s is a very old age for America.), through the public gardens and up Bolyston St to the end of the marathon route. If Phoenix had neighborhoods and walks like these, I’d probably never think of leaving.
2.) The Food
Pret! Holy crap this place has Pret.
Right, I did just geek out about a chain place. I know that flies in the face of so many things I’ve written, but I have an illogical love for Pret. Maybe it’s because the sandwiches remind me of travel days in Europe, when we just grabbed a baguette sandwich en route to our next destination.
Other places to check out:
Parish Cafe on Boylston. Great sandwiches, huge beer selection and good people watching from the patio
Antico Forno on Salem in the North End. Previous to this trip, I wasn’t aware that Paul Revere was Italian, but this brick-oven eatery does it so right, I’m considering adding some vowels to my last name.
Felcaro Pizza in Beacon Hill. For a neighborhood pizza joint, this place has awesome thin crust and cheese. If Boston can make a decent NY-style pizza, maybe my world is all upside down…
3.) The Pubs
There’s really nothing I can say here that Cheers didn’t already say years ago. I guess the best thing I can say is that the show was pretty accurate. Dark wood and good drinks. I’m not sure if anyone there knows my name, but it’d be cool if there was.
4.) The Shops
Admittedly I didn’t spend much time in this regard, but you could spend weeks just going into all the fascinating store-fronts along Charles St. I can only imagine what the rest of Beacon Hill had in store. For a fun gift to bring back home, check out Black Ink. Also, Sugar Heaven on Boylston has a big selection (Harry Potter jellybeans in 2013? Whoa.), and very friendly service. Plus, if anyone deserves some love and support, it’s these guys.
I’m pretty sure I’ll end up back in Boston soon enough. Now if they’d just start wearing the right ball cap, we can all be bros.
P.S. We’ll talk about how you’re ruining Batman soon enough, Bean Town.
Last morning in Boston via ryangphx
Posted: August 20th, 2013 | Author: Ryan | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
My flight to Boston was taxiing for take-off when the first idea came to me. Great, now to make sure that I can remember this idea and not impede the organic development process my mind goes through while I wait for the flight attendant to okay reaching for my notebook. Knew I should have taken it out of my bag as soon as I sat down. It’s cool, just an interactive visualization idea with a bunch of moving parts. I’ll just draw a quick mental etch-a-sketch and be good.
I’m on my way to Boston (via Detroit, nothing but glamorous travel for this guy) to attend Inbound 2013, Hubspot’s inbound/content marketing conference. This type of travelling for work is pretty new for me, and so far it’s something I rather enjoy. Today will be my third time flying to Boston for a conference in the last nine months; kudos to whoever is at City of Boston recruiting all these conferences.
While attending these events does mean time away from the office for me, I’ve been a long-time believer that creative and intellectual workers don’t flip the switch as soon as they leave their desk. True story, a large percentage of my good ideas for work come to me while I’m in the shower or making breakfast, as though going through a routine tells my subconscious mind that I’m available to hear the solutions it has worked out while I was asleep. Not that I’m knocking it, it’s pretty sweet waking into the office with a brilliant idea first thing in the morning; talk about rock-star swagger.
The same holds true for these brief trips away from home. Sure, I’m probably going to take 20+ pages of notes from sessions I’ll attend over the next 4 days, but I could have stayed in Phoenix and just bought the video package to accomplish that. The killer value, I find, is the ability to shift my perspective just enough to view an everyday situation from a different angle and work out an inspired solution.
The first time I travelled for work, to attend SearchLove Boston last November, I had four or five project ideas come to me while I was on the flight over, and a full dozen or so by the end of the trip. So, what is it that instigates these idea sprees?
Photo credit: Sean MacEntee
Maybe it’s just being away from the office, the chatter, the politics, the people already talking about lunch and it’s only 10:30 (for the love, would you just eat breakfast or stop coming in so damn early) that one guy who’s voice makes me roll my eyes and debate how painful it would be to have a seizure, but I doubt it. For the work we do, for the work we want to do, it’s crucial to have that team environment. I’ve tried work-from-home days, and unless I’m jamming out a massive project that requires minimal distractions (I’m looking at you data pulls), the comfort of not having to wear pants doesn’t make up for the speed of developing an idea during a face-to-face chat with my cube-mates.
No, I think it’s something closer to the shower situation. Air travel is so procedural; be at this place by this time, stand here, sit here, entertain yourself to avoid going insane (how quickly can you get cabin fever inside a giant, pressurized, metal tube?), then hurry up and get to this other place in-time to catch your connecting flight, and you’re just one of thousands of cattle doing the same thing. It really seems like the slowest, least coordinated synchronized swim meet. I rarely claim to be a neurosurgeon, but it seems like, going through all this, my caveman brain can take over all the commands required to be sufficiently herded, and my higher-level though processes get some R&R time.
Regardless of the cause, coming up with fresh ideas that can turn into big wins back home certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to getting buy-in from the boss for the next conference I want to attend (if you’re reading this, feel free to send me to SearchLove London, btw), and it’s great that breaking the monotony doesn’t mean performing at a lower level for a few days.
Posted: May 11th, 2013 | Author: Ryan | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
The cross-section of what I find amazing, interesting, absurdly funny or just plain discussion-worthy this week.
1.) Popular Science combines academic techniques with the most important of behavioral sciences to determine that guitars make guys more attractive to women. If you didn’t already know this sometime around your 13th birthday, I’m not sure that a pair of peer-reviewed studies are going to convince you. Also, these results are strictly related to the guitar, learning to play the recorder won’t help you.
These next few links will probably show that I was on a bit of an education kick this week. Probably because I’m waiting to hear back about my application to return to university, but also at least partly because continued education (especially self-discovery) is something I feel pretty strongly about. Of course, it helps that the field I’m in relies a lot on shared testing, discovery and shared knowledge.
2.) Every American school should teach code
Learn about a new “superpower” that isn’t being taught in in 90% of US schools.
Starring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, will.i.am, Chris Bosh, Jack Dorsey, Tony Hsieh, Drew Houston, Gabe Newell, Ruchi Sanghvi, Elena Silenok, Vanessa Hurst, and Hadi Partovi.
3.) Every American school should actually TEACH
The first video inspired me, both in terms of how I should keep pushing myself to learn more, but also about how I should not hesitate to introduce my nephews to advanced knowledge they aren’t receiving in school.
Personally, I first learned how to write in BASIC when I came home from a summer spent at my Grandma’s house to find out that my family had gotten a Commodore 64. If I wanted to play any games on the computer, I had to practice my coding until my parents were satisfied. It wasn’t too long until I realized that if I spent my practice time actually working on code for simple games, I would enjoy the time a lot more, and sort of felt like I was pulling one over on my folks. Also, ASCII art FTW.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t think everyone needs to know how to code by today’s standards, but I clearly see the value behind the type of thinking, process-coordination and methodologies which are natural by-products of coding well. Once upon a time nobody thought Algebra needed to be included in education, and we’ve clearly crossed this bridge. Now we can bridge the gap between math and language through a process we’ve founded so much of our economy on, so why not?
The second video reminds me of how disappointed I was once I got to High School & College, where even the “advanced” or “gifted” programs were a sham, and how disenfranchised some educators are. From my perspective, the issue isn’t entirely the emphasis on standardized testing, but rather the system that has done the same thing to teachers that it does to accountants and clerks and office-workers everywhere; when the expectations are so strictly communicated, where is the incentive to innovate? Of course, I had some great teachers who proved that the required curriculum could be covered quickly and we could move onto the stuff we really wanted to learn, the topics the teacher was happy to engage us on. Surely there are ways we can encourage that sort of behavior if we ever want to do more than hand out packets and expect our students to learn from a checklist.
4.) Along the same lines, this was a big week for the discussion of immigration reform, especially when it comes to visa for tech workers. Instead of devolving to an argument about America versus the rest of the world, I think Jeff Bussgang’s testimony before Congress does a great job of keeping a human face on the issue. For us to remain “the land of opportunity”, we need to fight the urge to turn insular and do what’s put us at the fore-front of innovation for over a century, embrace the great wide-open future and go for it.
5.) Rand’s blog on choosing how we experience the world, another great and honest read. This piece resonated with me all day and helped me reconcile some thoughts. I’ve been having an internal struggle regarding how I perceive some of my colleagues, the impact each of us has on the work we do, and planning for the future (both my own and the team I work on). In the end, it’s far less fruitful for me to focus on the inter-personal things that may be challenging me when I could put that same energy to use coming up with new and better projects and leaving behind those who would drag me down.
Perhaps our perceptions about the monotonous, frustrating, angering parts of our days aren’t always the ones we want to have, and perhaps, with a little effort, we can change them.
6.) and nothing proves that point more than this: http://youtu.be/9NjKgV65fpo
Posted: May 5th, 2013 | Author: Ryan | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Whoever said “water is the elixir of life” was clearly mistaken. Put plainly, water is coffee’s chauffeur.
Don’t get me wrong, water is a great way of conveying coffee beans directly into my blood stream. It’s a solid team player in that regard, for sure.
But if beverages are the ’95 Bulls, water is just Steve Kerr to coffee’s Jordan. Play your role, but know that the fans showed up for the main attraction; sweet, sweet caffeine.
By now you’re probably thinking:
1.) Damn, he’s right
2.) Is this guy following the title at all?
Kudos for being observant on both accounts above; you’re right, I should get back to the agenda here.
Coffee fuels me to Get Things Done
Nothing shakes off the lethargy of the morning like that first cup. This isn’t news to anyone, I hope. (Actually, if this is news to you, de nada. Welcome to the rest of your life.)
Even living in the desert as I do, starting a morning without a hot cup of coffee is just a passive way of asking for the hazy feeling of first waking up to stick around a little while longer. Great for a sweat-pants-on-the-couch day, not so good the other six days a week when you’ve got to get up and go.
Personally, I may have ritualized it, but coffee is really the uniting factor that ties the rest of my morning together. By the time I’m done with my first cup, I should have already gone through all my email, read my first round of news & blogs, figured out an action plan, and jotted down at least one or two new project ideas. If I pair coffee with a cross-word puzzle, I can kick-start my mental vocabulary and find myself thoroughly prepared for whatever is going to be thrown at me.
Coffee keeps me thinking of that “one more thing”
Some people my call it antsy or jittery, I like to think of it as sort of a pinball energy, ricocheting off one topic and on to the next. For a guy who’s (whose?) brain is most comfortable when doing multiple things at the same time, this is a very welcome state.
I hear that some folks like to meditate for clarity, others like to run through picturesque landscapes and “be at one with nature”; for me it’s all about coffee and a walk through the urban core. Something about the ability to discover a new place, a new piece of street art, or even a new appreciation to for the architecture we usually pass by each day, it brings about a calming effect that allows my subconscious to draw connections that end up leading to my next best idea.
Think about those times when you’ve been sitting at your desk, working through a particularly troublesome project, or any other mental block. Add 12 to 48 ounces of arabica and you could be inventing the next iAnything instead. Sometimes it may seem that coffee is the enemy of focus and “attention to detail” but the same can be said of inspiration, and nobody ever speaks out against that.
Coffee shops make me more productive than being at home
As I write this, I’m comfortably sitting at one of my favorite coffee & breakfast spots. Without discussing the particular benefits provided by having a vibrant 3rd place to work at, the setting certainly provides a boost to my ability to Get Things Done. I imagine it’s the helpful level of ambient noise that both breaks the silence and is easily ignored, something that I struggle with when working at home and having the puppy & television both vying for my attention.
Of course, coffee shops are often like a microcosm unto themselves, so your mileage may vary until you find the space that’s just right for you. Whether it’s post-industrial kitsch, open & airy ambiance, or a dark cave that looks like an abandoned class room jammed behind a bodega, the act of being away from the home adds some extra ooomph to my mental jet engine and contributes it’s own specific kind of focus.
A mug of delicious, velvety wake-up-and-go, some kind of pastry, and my laptop; that’s the recipe for successfully translating whatever is banging around my head into a mass of letters and wit just in time for me to press publish before I have to jet back to the real world.
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