Community managers – This season's must-have accessory

This year’s must-have accessory for any business or marketing team seems to be a community manager.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had nearly a dozen emails – either direct or via LinkedIn – from companies who were calling upon my network to find Social Networks Managers, Community Relations Executives, etc. [If you’re of the right breed, skip to the bottom for information] I couldn’t help but think about how much things have changed in the past few years.

What’s it like being a Community Gal?

sunflowerI don’t care what fancy title a company makes up, I’ll always boil them down to being the Community Gal/Guy. I was once asked why I “lowered” my job title to Community Gal, when one of my previous employers had hired me with the title “Blog Goddess”. I mean, wow, Goddess? That’s a shiny title, isn’t it?

If you can’t see the issue with the Goddess title, then you’ve failed the first test to becoming a good Community Gal/Guy (CG).

In my opinion, being the community’s main link into an organisation requires a lot of humility. Maybe, just maybe, having a humble and simple title like “Community Gal” was a daily reminder that I wasn’t hired to stand in my ivory tower telling people how GREAT the company/product was. I was there to sit in on conversations and listen. Like a sunflower, I faithfully turned to where I should be every day, no matter what happened.

As Toby Moore said today at Amplified 09 East: “We have 2 ears and one mouth. Let’s use them at that ratio.” Listening actively means there’s a lot of feedback to filter, summarise and turn into actions for the rest of the company, whether from a technical, ethical or business relations management perspective.

Being a CG also requires thick skin. There are some real bastards out there who will absolutely not sugar-coat their views of your business. They’ve always been there, but social media now gives them an easy way to make themselves heard. While it’s important to listen to those users and act upon their feedback wherever possible, anyone taking those comments too personally will lose sleep over it and feel like crap.

I know, I’ve been there. Nearly failed the second test myself.

However, the thick skin can’t be accompanied by a thick skull. If you’re a stubborn mofo who assumes that anyone disagreeing with you is wrong, you’ve failed the third test.

So being a CG is both the best job and worst job in a company.

Why so in demand, suddenly?!

As I mentioned in my introduction above, the influx of CG roles has been unbelievable lately. It’s like everyone woke up two weeks ago and decided they should recruit their own.

For most of these companies, it’ll most likely be the first time they put any thought into how to interact with their community. From cursory glances at the many job descriptions thrown around, many companies seem to allocate very minimal budgets to their new-found passion for social media, hiring junior to mid-level people.

Nothing wrong with that, I’m all for the youff getting to experience great new roles. I got to where I am now because some people were mad smart enough to give me a chance to setup their first blog back in early 2004. It was a complete and utter failure because neither company or market were ready for it. Since then, I’ve setup community outposts everywhere I’ve been and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in the process. But we’ve also achieved great things through spending time listening to the community’s feedback.

That’s the wonderful thing about young, creative people – they might be a bit green but believe me, they can be passionate!

So it’s a question of balance then; someone youthful* enough to understand what excites and engages your users. There is no maximum age to “getting it” when it comes to community, but younger people often have an affinity with technology – I don’t think anyone could deny that. However, experience can help avoid making a complete cock up of an outreach campaign through having a deeper understanding of the risks involved.

[Note: By youthful, I don’t necessarily mean based on birth date, but rather in mentality. My grandpa was in his 70’s and was still more young at heart than many 25 year olds I know!]

Finding the right balance is key. Every company will experience a crisis at some point and a very junior team member may not have the experience to deal with it best. In the same way, someone with little knowledge of social media may not spot some great opportunities to build new relationships.

This is an area where I believe mentors – whether internal team members or external consultants – can make a world of difference to how successfully a business can be in their first year of active community interaction. A few hours a week with a skilled mentor can help your CG become far more confident and resourceful.

Would you want your PR Manager to be a £20k fresh graduate with no experience of dealing with customers or journalists? Then why opt for that in social media, when your CG probably touches 100 times more people in a day than your PR department does?

So here’s my advice

1. Build your team with a cool head

Find someone who has a passion for your industry, not the first girl who says she knows how to use Facebook.

2. Have someone dedicated to community relations

If the CG is torn between a number of roles, he/she is more likely to drop the ball at an important time. If it’s not possible to have someone doing just that, ensure that community management remains their top priority.

3. Give your CG a support network

If your product is technical, ensure the development team are aware that they’ll occasionally need to provide insight when the CG reports bugs or enquiries. There’s nothing more demotivating than feeling that no one in the company is willing to help.

4. Provide guidance

Whether it’s through the existing marketing team or an external consultant, your CG should have someone with experience to sanity-check ideas with. The book of social media remains largely unwritten so the best way to check something’s a good idea is through a good ol’ natter over coffee.

5. Set realistic (and useful) objectives

Getting 500 Twitter followers is pointless if the followers are spammers or people who’ll never become your users. Social media is much less about numbers than a traditional marketing team might be used to.

It’s more important to have reached out to 10 bloggers who’ll love you and talk about you, than ship your press release to hundreds of people to whom you’re only vaguely relevant.

6. Be open to your CG’s feedback

This is a tough nut to crack, but the feedback coming from the community might not always be rosy. Be open and welcoming of it, and accept that people will occasionally suggest things you think are stupid or useless. Don’t close up or start to ignore those reports – you might just miss some real gems.

Let’s Connect!

As you’ve gathered by now, I’m a strong believer that there’s a big future out there for people who are passionate and interested in being the main point of contact for an active community.

If you think you’re that person, please connect with me on LinkedIn. Use the intro box to tell me what makes you tick and what you’re passionate about. When companies next contacts me looking for a Community Gal/Guy, I’ll introduce you to each other.

I hope that, in doing this, I can help top notch companies find someone who’ll help them nurture the relationship with their community, whether budding or already fully-fledged.

[Image Source: “Yellow sunflower. Blue Sky.” by wabberjocky on Flickr]

10 Ways to Improve Your Home Office Productivity

Ask anyone who is self-employed or regularly works from a home office, and you’ll get polarised answers; The home office is either the best or the worst thing that’s happened to them. Either a source of peace and focus, or a never ending stream of distractions and frustration.

beach_officeIn my case, I have to say, it’s been bliss. I’m a social being so I’m thrilled that I get the opportunity to work face to face with clients and colleagues fairly regularly, but I relish the few days a week where I can go a whole day without distractions. The productivity I get out of those days is amazing, so I thought I’d share how I took my space from being “the back room with a desk in it” to “My office” from which I can run a business.

1. Keep your goals visual and within sight

I recently wrote about having clear goals for your day, as a way to drive your productivity. Set your 3 most important tasks for the day and stick to them. It doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else, but each unscheduled task that comes in needs to be critically assessed. “Will this stop me from getting my 3 MITs done today? Is it worth sidetracking for right now?”

Stick them on the wall in an obvious place so that you don’t forget to refer to it.

2. Get a timer

Whether it’s a virtual one (I use Alarm Clock 2 for Mac) or a physical one, like a kitchen timer or a radio alarm clock, it’s a great way to motivate yourself when facing tasks you hate.

Set the alarm for a block of time (I tend to go for 20-30mins depending on how distracted I fear I might be) and cram as much as you can during that time. I’ll use it to get the draft of an article complete, then when the timer goes, I’ll take a break and get on with editing the ideas and polishing the article. This can make bad days seem a whole lot better after a few productive blocks!

If you belong to the other extreme, and can find yourself still working in the same position hours after you started, you may want to use it to remind you to take breaks. A friend of mine uses Time Out, which pops up a reminder to look away from the screen every 10 minutes and one to take a break every 50 minutes. Stand up, move around, have a sip of water… Simple but these small steps can help you avoid the discomforts of RSI at a later date.

3. Buy an inbox tray

Everyone says this, but not enough people do it. A pile of paperwork on the corner of your desk is not the way to go; it’ll distract and stress you every time you see a mountain of things you haven’t dealt with yet.

Mine is a silver mesh 3-level inbox tray, with the top one labelled “Inbox”, the second “Accounts” and the third “Scrap Paper”.

The top one takes in all business-related (and personal, let’s admit it) paperwork which gets filed into a filing cabinet behind me or sorted into projects to action twice a week. The second one contains any receipts, bills or accountant-related material that needs more attention than simply going in the Inbox. The bottom basket contains scrap paper, old print outs where the back of the page can be used for notes, etc. It’s easily within reach so that when the phone rings or inspiration catches, I don’t need to spend time looking for a scrap of paper to write on.

4. Get a whiteboard (or two)

If you have any wall space available, I’d recommend a whiteboard. It’s a great way to sketch out an idea or leave yourself big obvious reminders of progress. I tend to put high-level targets/goals for the month on the board and tick them off to get a sense of progress throughout the month.

For example…

January Projects

– Client A: Complete Phase 1 of project
– Client B: Provide 3 days of support for Phase 2
– Write n posts from topics list
– Close £n in new business
– Book attendance to Event

Every time I complete an action that wraps up the project, it feels great to tick it on the board.

For those who get inspired in the shower, I’ve seen great bathtime whiteboards for kids before, so stick one in the shower and scribble that superb idea before it disappears.

5. Shape your energy with scents and sounds

Every so often, treat your senses to revive your energy. You may be surprised of the effect it has on your mood.

Need to focus and energise? Put lemon & orange or satsuma & spice scented oils in your oil burner.

Stress of the day getting to you? Put some lavender in, close your eyes, take 10 deep breaths. Pause for a moment and get back to work.

Want to pretend it’s Christmas? My favourite mix is: 4 drops of satsuma & orange and cranberry oils each and 2 drops of vanilla extract and cinammon each. Yum!

In my personal opinion, I would avoid the use of incense. It can get smoky and the smell of old incense lingers for a long time which can trigger headaches if you’re prone to them.

Music can also have an impact on your energy levels; create playlists to energise, relax and focus. Personally, I opt for classical piano for focus, Soma FM’s Groove Salad for general writing and pop music when I need to motivate myself to get filing and clearing up done!

If you can, get some headphones. Sometimes tuning the world out (whether it’s the kids or the construction outside) is the only way to get full focus onto the task at hand. I live in a quiet neighbourhood and am childfree so open cup wireless headphones are ideal; I can still hear the doorbell ring if I’m expecting a delivery. You may want some radical noise-cancelling headphones if you’re surrounded by more noise.

6. Give yourself breathing space

Your home office should be your haven of productivity, not a messy backroom where you sit on the edge of the bed to write (unless that’s really how you get into creative mode!)

Think wisely when buying new furniture or storage for the office: Will it improve your productivity or just be something cute that sits on a shelf and adds to the clutter? I received a humongous red bean bag from Sumo Lounge a few months ago, and kept it in the office for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but last week, I relocated it and am much happier to have regained the walking space in the office.

7. Keep creative tools nearby

If your job requires creativity, sometimes a bit of madness can kickstart the process.

Creativity cue cards: I’ve pasted them to index cards and added to the pack with some ideas of my own. I’ll just grab something randomly from the pack and start sketching until I find a thread I can run with.

Whiteboard: Draw a process chart, brainstorm keywords or draw pictures, whatever helps you find an angle to approach the issue

Lego, silly putty and arts & crafts materials: Yup, I’m a grownup (well, that’s debatable…) and I own a big box of Lego bricks. Sometimes letting your subconscious work while you distract yourself can be just the trigger you need.

8. Keep emergency snacks nearby

If you’re focused, don’t let the urge to make a sandwich distract you. Keep dried fruits, nuts and water at hand. However, remember to take midday breaks to feed yourself properly!

Shop smartly so that you have a good balance of healthy snacks and nutritious meals to avoid having to break up your day to go to the supermarket.

9. Declutter

Create a folder for each project to make tidying easy at the end of the day. Put each project away and make a list for the following morning instead of leaving every file out as a reminder. It’ll make tomorrow morning feel a lot less daunting when you walk in.

At the end of the week or when you have dead time (eg. when you’re on hold with customer service, waiting for a conference call to start…) pick a single shelf and remove anything that’s accumulated. Put the receipts into your expenses file, put the Christmas cards you received 2 months ago from a client in the recycling bin (they don’t need to know!) and you’ll feel it’s much easier to keep your office clutter-free.

10. Accept that some days won’t work your way

I’m still no good with unexpected derailing of my day, but sometimes, there will be unavoidable distractions; building works, deliveries, errands that must be run or, for parents, kids who are sick and staying home for the day. On those days, accept that you may need to switch your focus to the jobs that can be done quickly and between distractions as opposed to writing your most in-depth research paper.

What are your tips for a more productive and zen-like home office?

Other resources:

You Gotta Have Faith: Taming Your Inner Critic

grumpy_smallI came across Tara’s post here about taming her inner critic, where she questions her abilities at live interviews and doubts her own writing skills. I believe we all have moments like this. But some are worse than others…

[I’m about to make a bold generalisation and some will have want my head off for making such a statement, but bear with me.]

Since I moved from Canada, I have seen too many Brits or Europeans be very sheepish about self-promotion. American sales people are reputed to be bubbly, brash and bigger than life, speaking louder than anyone else in the room and gesticulating endlessly to illustrate what they’re saying. Quite at the other extreme, British marketing folks are often seen to be more reserved and self-deprecating.

I think there are two aspects to this cultural difference;

A lack of faith for the team or product

In the US, in particular in buzzing centres like Silicon Valley and New York, the belief that a small nobody can become the Next Big Thing is encouraged and nurtured.

In Europe and in the UK, too many people let themselves believe that they’re necessarily second fiddles in the game. This unfortunate attitude is perpetuated by sheltered Americans like Mike Arrington of TechCrunch fame, who base their views of an entire culture on a single event. I strongly believe that this perception is wrong, it isn’t about geographic location (mostly) but about what you do with your resources. Are you out there talking to prospects (in person and virtually) or somewhere in the deepest, darkest Midlands developing in your small office, assuming that because you put your app on the iTunes Store, it’ll market itself?

As a promoter for your business, you aren’t Hugh Grant, and self-deprecating sweetness won’t get you there on its own. If you don’t sell yourself, nobody will do it for you.

An assumption that the product speaks for itself

Yes, a great product is 90% of the marketing effort. But unless people can find out about your product and feel their questions will be heard, you’re missing the first link of the chain, that first 10% of the effort that leads to the viral spread Holy Grail.

So dust off your pencil and paper, write that press release about the latest features or the new team members and send it far and wide (but do it gracefully, of course!) Step outside of your comfort zone a little and be bold about what you do and love.

That’s why folks like Whatleydude, Andrew J. Scott and many more* stand out from the crowd and sometimes can rub folks the wrong way by being more open and self-promoting than your average community or marketing person in the UK.

So where is the widespread shrinking violet attitude coming from? Isn’t this the country that once reigned on history’s largest empire?

I’m no historian or psychoanalyst so I’ll spare you the attempt at explaining it – Let’s leave it as a rhetorical question, shall we? When I’ve challenged the Brits around me about their unwillingness to stand up and be vocally proud of what they’ve created or their talent, I’ve received a range of answers;

  • Not self-promoting is a sign of humility
  • Casual is cooler, you have to look like you’re not trying too hard or you’ll be seen as a sell-out
  • We don’t like to shove our product in the users’ faces, if they want it, they’ll come to us
  • We don’t do press releases, it’s not in our ethos

But that’s not how it works anymore, sorry to break it to you! There are too many products, too many services and too much noise in our lives. If you don’t promote what you love, people won’t magically discover it. The community manager, the marketing team, the PR folks, you’re all that first 10% of the chain. It’s your job to let people see that you’re passionate about what you’ve created. (And if you’re not, time to go jobhunt, innit?)

Breaking the habit

So here are my three top tips for those who want to come out of the proverbial shell and learn to feel good about their business:

  • Go sing karaoke, both in front of friends and strangers: Putting yourself on stage forces you out of your comfort zone and requires you to take on a braver personality. It’s like a fun and more social version of Toastmasters’ public speaking organisation. Alternatives involve joining an improv league, speaking at a BarCamp, working as a tour guide, etc…
  • Get a grip: Write down what makes you, your product or your company great and ask your customers to do the same. You’ll probably be surprised by the number of positives that crop up!
  • It’s a fine balance between self-assurance and arrogance: Ask your bluntest friends and colleagues to evaluate your performance after a presentation or when you finish writing a piece about the company. Take in all their feedback and listen patiently (but don’t take it personally). Build on that in the same way as a ballet dancer analyses her movements in the dance room mirror to perfect her step next time.

[* These two were not singled out due to any negative press even though I’ve talked about rubbing people the wrong way. They’re examples of folks who are more pro-active than your average community manager!]
[Image: Grrrrrr… by Peter Williamson on Flickr, Creative Commons]

Valleyrag's Boutin says blogging is dead, I say good riddance!

Desperate as ever to get a rise out of bloggers, Paul Boutin, of Valleywag fame (or shame, your choice), has been writing in Wired’s Entertainment section that “Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004”.

He says “Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.” Boutin’s argument is so flawed, when he mentions Jason Calacanis’ decision to stop blogging last summer and refers to Technorati as though it’s the sole reason for a blog’s existence.

Hello? McFly!? Being a Top 100 Technorati blog isn’t the be all and end all of blogging. Thousands of bloggers make a living from their trade, directly or indirectly, and it’ll take more than one bitter blogger to stop them from writing about their passion.

Millions of bloggers, big and small, write for completely non-financial reasons. It can help someone find focus, in the way a personal diary may have done a few years ago. Some find like-minded people to discuss hobbies, habits and interests with, from GTD to crocheting.

Others have found the longest lasting value of a blog; indirect revenue. Advertising is a fickle friend when revenue from your blog is dependent on traffic. A bumpy ride on the Googlecoaster and revenue can be eclipsed quicker than you can say “Google AdSense”. So the indirect revenue can be a longer-lasting, slow-burn solution, whether it’s in selling homemade jams and liqueurs after having detailed on your blog how you make them, in selling your band’s music where you’ve been actively blogging about the evolution of rock in the modern day or, like myself, providing services that are in line with the knowledge you’ve been sharing on your blog.

In this instance, blogging is about reputation building, finding a community that feels like home.

Technorati’s algorithm and Boutin’s thinking are both relics from blogging’s first life. Now, like a snake shedding its skin, we are seeing blogs evolve into something more organic. They’re more three-dimensional, showing people’s Flickr photos, their tweets in the sidebar and contain a link to their Dopplr profiles outlining their next few trips. But in all reality, they still are the home and heart of many passionate bloggers, money-earning or not.

A new year, a new beginning & a new challenge

It’s been radio silence on that canadian girl for the past few weeks, but certainly not because I haven’t had anything to say. These past few weeks have been some of the most eventful ones of my life, in fact.

Just over a month ago, I officially became my own boss, kicking my social media consulting work up a notch. Then, during our week-long holiday to Menorca, I turned 27, realising I’m a year older – and hopefully wiser.

At the beginning of 2008, my themeword was exploration and it couldn’t be any more relevant today.

I wanted to explore my own abilities, and chose to organise SocialMediaCamp London, a one-day BarCamp event covering topics surrounding blogs, podcasts, lifecasting, community, using new media cleverly, marketing ethics, social networks now and in the future. The event was this past weekend, and I have to admit, I’m unspeakably happy about it. I’m thrilled with how the day went, I’m proud of the level of participation from the attendees and I’m excited about the opportunities for future events.

So ahead of me lie many new challenges, but you know what? I can’t wait to bite into them over the next few months.

Sushi & business have more in common than you might think

A few months ago, we popped by Bluewater shopping centre in Kent to get my MacBook fixed and, being the total sushi addicts that we are, we couldn’t resist the detour by Yo Sushi when lunchtime rolled around. Even though I’d heard their sushi wasn’t so hot, nothing else was even an option.

While I’d heard many times about their unique conveyor belt concept, I spent most of lunch mesmerised by the masterpiece of focus, efficiency and simplicity before my eyes. Now I’m not here to debate the quality of the food served (though I was quite pleased with it, for shopping centre food) but I wanted to talk about Yo Sushi as a process.

1. Clear focus

From the moment you find yourself in the vicinity, your attention is directed to the food. The entire operation is focused on providing a solution to a single problem, and doing it well – it gets food into my belly quickly by allowing self-service. The fresh food moves smoothly around the conveyor belt in a never-ending conga line, getting refilled constantly by the hard-working staff. Instead of fussing over complicated menus, making the clientele wait for a waiter to come take your order, they let you dig right in. Just what you want in a shopping centre.

This translates into online projects very easily; you need to focus on solving a single problem and doing it well, rather than attempting to offer every single feature to do every newfangled thing everyone else wants to do. In a weird way, it’s letting them hit the kickass threshold quickly!

2. Simplicity

The menu is simple, and the dishes are all presented in a very visual way. You can literally match a small plate circulating on the conveyor belt just by looking at the printed menu for something that looks identical.

Design on location is also very simple. In Bluewater, due to their position, there are no walls to be decorated. The tables, bars and seats are all beige, taupe or brushed silver, with the only splashes of colour provided by the bright plates in circulation. The practical self-service format allows the waiting staff to focus on refilling drinks, clearing the tables and proving hot dishes as required, leaving customers to do 75% of the work themselves.

How can we learn from this and provide users with self-service? Get Satisfaction is a fantastic example of people-powered support; the community can answer a number of questions amongst itself, taking pressure off small teams. High quality, regularly updated FAQs for the more traditional sites also benefit everyone. But first and foremost, keeping things simple and fuss-free will make for a whole lot less questions!

3. Efficiency

The Yo Sushi kitchen works like a well-oiled machine. There’s not a single piece of clutter on the counters where food is made, cooking areas are thought out and positioned in a logical order; from the hot kitchen out of sight to the sushi counters in immediate reach of the conveyor belt.

Every feature in your product should be there for a reason, not just because the marketing manager’s wife thinks it looks good (unless she’s your target market). Sometimes you have to be ruthless to be efficient.

Whether you use GTD, some fancy online project management system or a piece of paper and a pencil to create your product roadmap, the key is not to let the tools get in the way of the work at hand. This applies to physical clutter as well as mental clutter, whether in the form of unsettled arguments or unspoken worries.

So why not sit down with a cup of green tea, take a moment to get some clarity and see where you can simplify your processes to help your users feel as good about using your product as I do after choosing to have sushi instead of a greasy burger meal.

As a complete aside, I must tip my hat to taptaptap for the awesome design of their site, entirely centered on sushi.

[Disclaimer: Yo Sushi did not pay me for this post, but if they so wish, they’re very welcome to send me lots and lots of food vouchers.]

Using Your Network to Grow as an Entrepreneur

Recently, I’ve been thinking long and hard about ways to use the incalculably fantastic network of intelligent, experienced and creative people I’ve met over the past few years; 170 LinkedIn contacts, nearly a thousand Twitter followers, mountains of business cards and an address book that’s as full of passionate people as a TED Talk!

So when a friend pointed me to the Get Rich Slowly blog earlier, where Marc Hedlund, co-founder and CEO of Wesabe wrote a guest-post, one idea really tickled me.

Write someone and ask them for help every day
It’s amazing how well this works. Just make a habit of coming up with one person each day that might be able to help you in some way — with an introduction, an idea, a conversation, anything. If you think of someone you already know, then it’s easy to ask for help, but don’t be bashful about asking people you don’t know for help.

When you tell people you’re working on starting your own business, many of them will get excited or interested, and be willing to offer a hand. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back — just try someone else the next day. When you’re starting a new business no one knows what you’re up to, so reaching out and asking for help very often can do an enormous amount to get things rolling.

Simple, no? Take 10 minutes every day to approach someone who has either more experience, or a different view to yours, and ask them a burning question. At first, you might worry you’ll get the cold shoulder – and sometimes you will, the world is full of assholes. But it’s also full of great people with plenty of insight to share.

Keep a scratchbook – mine’s a pocket moleskine – of all sorts of questions and ideas. Don’t hesitate to approach the big wigs either. You’d be surprised how happy high-profile people can be when you’re modest and honest about your requests.

Of course, don’t waste their time and ask a question for the sake of asking. Use those few minutes a day wisely and you’ll expand your knowledge, your network and your horizons.

It's the little things that make me happy

The past few weeks have been a bit surreal, with much of my life seemingly happening with the Sky+ fast forward button stuck on 12x speed. Tonight, however, I’m taking a moment to step back and appreciate how many cool little things are happening…

Little Peps grows up

Last week, Pepsmedia became Pepsmedia Ltd. Sure, in practice, it’s just a piece of paper and a few quid less in my pocket, but in my mind, it’s the beginning of great things to come. By no means is everything going to change overnight, but I’ve realised how passionate I am about blogging and about giving a step-up to those around me who would benefit from blogs or social media as a tool to promote whatever their passion is. My dad was a high school teacher, and I suppose this is the teacher in me coming out. I love seeing others succeed, like a proud parent wiping a tear during their daughter’s first school play.

For this reason, I’ve started offering my services more actively as social media consultant. If you or your company need to find your bearings in social media, a week-long crash course or a day spent sprucing up some stunning ideas you’ve had might be the step-up you need.

Hello?? I’m on the phone!!!

I’m always surprised anyone still wants to hear me talk, since they usually can’t shut me up, but last week, it’s with great pride that I accepted a spot as speaker at Future of Mobile, a Carsonified conference, in November. I’ll be there alongside some fantastic speakers and fascinating people so if you work in or are interested in mobile, I hope to see you there.

Gobsmacking stats

Following last month’s letter in the pond going a bit viral and stepping on PR people’s toes with my open letter to public relations agencies amongst other things, my stats have gone through the roof.

That canadian girl stats

A little bird tells me that my Wikio rating isn’t so bad next month either. So whether you’ve just popped your head in for the first time, or have been a long time reader, thank you for being here. 🙂

Guest writing at Enterprise Nation

Nothing excites me like talking about watching budding ideas turn into real life projects, and I shared a few thoughts on working with remote teams on Enterprise Nation, a site filled with valuable resources for those planning their first personal business.

The home office takes shape

A few weekends ago, we attacked a mountain of build-it-yourself shelves and desks from IKEA, making sense of some of the space we have in the house. To complete my newly refreshed office, I bought a fabulous poster from Tim Walker at the Design Museum Shop, which I thought was just gorgeous! The perfect girly touch now that I’ve kicked Andrew out of the room.

Four years of marriage

On July 8th, Andrew and I celebrated 4 years of great times together! I’m blessed to have found such a great life partner, who also makes a great business partner. Every day I think of how lucky I am, and hope we can be as happy as both his parents and mine are after many more years!

What now?

Ok, I’m getting unbearably gushy, so I’ll stop here. But one final thought… As a child, I used to think that if you got too happy on the inside, it was possible to explode. I guess I’ll be finding out soon whether you do blow up from enjoying your life too much over the next few weeks, if things continue at this rate. Even the weather’s been playing along these days, what more could a girl ask for!?

MediaDefender DoS attack on Revision3: Stop screwing with new media

Revision3 logoEarlier today, I saw Jim Louderback, CEO at Revision3, tweeting that there had been an outage at Rev3 this weekend and he could now shed light on the issue. Honestly, I hadn’t noticed the downtime. I’ve got Diggnation, The Totally Rad Show and Web Drifter being drip-fed into my iPhone (via iTunes sync) and watch the shows when I’m on the train/tube looking for something to do. I’ve also got a total school-girl crush on Alex Albrecht, which makes the show all too easy to watch, but I digress…

I expected the downtime to be Twitteresque in its incapacity to deal with our adulation and traffic. However, Jim’s story shows the issue they faced this weekend was a whole more serious.

In a nutshell, Revision3 exploits the fantastic peer-to-peer system that is BitTorrent to distribute its shows. Rev3 hosts the tracker, but doesn’t have to take the weight of every single download. It makes technical sense – the Rev3 crowd are technologically up to date and love BitTorrent. It makes business sense – Jim doesn’t have to put quite so much of his revenue towards more servers just to cope with the peaks of traffic, he can count on the distributed network. And it fits right in with the attitude of the Rev3 shows, irreverently addicted and up to date to the latest technology.

Jim writes… “But someone, or some company, apparently took offense to Revision3 using Bittorrent to distribute its own slate of shows. Who could that be?

Along with where it’s bound, every internet packet has a return address. Often, particularly in cases like this, it’s forged – or spoofed. But interestingly enough, whoever was sending these SYN packets wasn’t shy. Far from it: it’s as if they wanted us to know who they were.

A bit of address translation, and we’d discovered our nemesis. But instead of some shadowy underground criminal syndicate, the packets were coming from right in our home state of California. In fact, we traced the vast majority of those packets to a public company called Artistdirect (ARTD.OB). Once we were able to get their internet provider on the line, they verified that yes, indeed, that internet address belonged to a subsidiary of Artist Direct, called MediaDefender.”

MediaDefender was the one hitting Revision3 servers with a Denial of Service attack. (Read Jim’s post for details on who MediaDefender is and what denial of service attacks are. I’ll skim over that bit.)

According to my eye witnesses, MediaDefender received a less-than-warm reception at South by SouthWest when Randy Saaf, CEO at MD, took part in a panel on “How Piracy Will Safe the Music Industry”, where the legitimacy of such a service was questioned by the audience and fellow panelists.

Revision3 is out there, showing off BitTorrent in a good light, using it for legal and completely legitimate purposes, and in comes MediaDefender, like a bull in a china shop, crushing their servers. It’s naive on Revision3’s part to fail to keep a closer eye on their trackers and letting MediaDefender inject their torrents unauthorised for such a long time, but it doesn’t justify MD’s backhanded and disgusting behaviour.

Jim chose his words carefully and expressed the issue very clearly – For this, I’m very grateful, as it exposes MD as a total fraud blindly attacking legal and illegal services.

It’s hard enough being at the cutting edge of any technology without needing twisted organisations like the RIAA, MPAA and Sony hiring online hitmen to destroy perfectly legitimate of technology! I’m not personally a very active BitTorrent user these days, but I’m livid about this.

I hope that Jim, the Revision3 crew and all other technophiles making legitimate use of geekery like BitTorrent see this as a rallying call and an opportunity to educate people. There’s too much good technology out there to let old technophobes in their ivory towers dictate where we can go with it.

Why Twitter is so unbelievably awesome

Anyone who’s witnessed a typical weekday for me will have noticed my slight addiction to Twitter, a service that simply can’t be explained and has to be experienced.

But in my attempt to justify the thousands of updates I’ve posted on it, I’ll highlight a few amazing ways Twitter has helped me and those around me this week.

  • It helped me discover how other bloggers felt about being accosted by PR agency, resulting in an article for The Blog Medic called “Marketing Ethics: Ten ways to piss off a blogger”.
  • An ad hoc conversation led to a friend getting a job offer, and the entire conversation up to scheduling an interview call happened over Twitter.
  • It allowed me to find a couple of new contracts for Pepsmedia redesigning blog templates & site launches.
  • Since SXSW, I’ve managed to stay in touch with many of the lovely people I met there without going through the usual “ok I’ll reply to that email later”, where later becomes never. By keeping it bite-sized, Twitter makes it easy to stay in touch.
  • I’ve found amazing support for the idea of SocialMediaCamp in London in July through fellow Twitter users who are interested and can provide skills and contacts I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.
  • A few people offered sound advice with regards to the process to setting up a limited company, again calling on the experience of others.
  • It was the fastest channel through which I heard about Russell’s decision to stop developing Mowser on Monday night.
  • It’s a great way to swap kitty photos with Mel Kirk 🙂

So there you go, it’s a business resource like no other, a great communication tool and an entertaining place to have water cooler conversations with like-minded people.