Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Different Year Means A Different City…

I don’t mean to alarm anyone with the title of this post, it is all about the past and has very little to do with the future. Not that I need to have a safe harbor statement here however for any of you reading this be assured that the following is in no way indicative of future events and any decisions you make should not be made on the basis of any forward looking statements…

Previous posts of mine have alluded to the fact that I have lived in a few different cities over the past few years and that my mobility is a facet of my life that I consider a bit unique. Couple this with the fact that yet another year is winding down to a close it has started me thinking about what 2012 will bring and reflecting on what 2011 has meant to me.

When I looked back at 2011 it was clear that it was not only interesting but was also a year of much learning and growth. With this gratitude I thought about years further back and a pattern started to emerge, I have been in a different city for New Years each of the past four years. Not just “in” different cities but actually “living in” different cities!

In 2008 I was living in Lower Onslow Nova Scotia, which is where I had called home for the previous 11 years. It might not be a good idea to look it up on a map since it is a small community located less than 10km outside of Truro (which can be found on most maps).

The following year saw me ring in the New Year in our nation’s capital, Ottawa Ontario. My journey to Ottawa happened with a promotion in the summer prior and I really thought I was going to be there for the long haul. Given the title of this post provides a hint that this was not to be, as 2009 was the only New Year that I rang in there.

Late 2009 was when I took a huge leap of faith and relocated to Halifax Nova Scotia. I changed jobs, companies, industries and cities just in time to celebrate the new year at the Grand Parade in Halifax. It was definitely a bit of a homecoming, my alma mater (Dalhousie University) is in Halifax and I still had many friends there. Once again I believed I was going to be there for a while, I had a great apartment in the heart of downtown. I lived there for only 5 months.

As this year ends and the next year begins I will be in Saint John New Brunswick. It is my fourth city in four years. My intention is the same as in the past three years so I will be here again next year at this time. Saint John is a port city and has very a busy harbor, I haven’t heard of any issues so I assume it is also a safe harbor :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

An Early Winter Wonderland

This week we had our first real snowfall of the season…not winter but autumn.

OK, I can hear you all now. I live in Canada, we get snow year round right? Not quite.

I know that as a Canadian citizen I am supposed to embrace and enjoy winter, and for the most part I do. In Eastern Canada where I choose to live, we have four distinct seasons, each offering it’s unique contribution to our cumulative climate and making this a fairly mild (weather wise anyway) region in which to live. It is this diversity of the seasons I like, not just winter or summer. In fact the milder the winter the better as far as I am concerned.

The temperatures here are rarely too high or too low to bear for prolonged periods, the region is not susceptible to extreme storms like tornadoes or hurricanes and usually the worst of our weather is one major snowstorm in January or February.

I like my seasons to be what they are, not an imitation of one of the other seasons. So when there is still almost a month of autumn remaining, to have old man winter blow in with 20cm (8 inches) of white decorative precipitation makes me a little leery of what is to come in the next few months. The fact that it has mostly melted away already offers me a little solace, but not much.

Was I inconvenienced in anyway but the snow? Not really. I had no need to drive anywhere during the week, I got to work on time and I did not lose my power. All in all for me the week was like any other week since April. It is the principle of it all.

Maybe I should lighten up. If the situation were reversed would I care? Nope, there is not a chance of me caring.

If there was suddenly a day in late February where the temperature soared to 27C (80F) I am pretty sure I would shed my winter jacket and enjoy the sunshine.

So what am left to do?

I have put away my golf clubs for the long Canadian winter, I did not get to use them much this past summer which is still a bit of a sore spot for me. Winter is coming whether I want it to or not so I might as well join in the fun. I think this winter I should learn how to snowboard, I always thought I would be good at that.

Look for me in the chalet, I’ll probably be the guy with the cast on.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Jury is Still Out

I like to think of myself as an early adopter of technology. My teenage daughters think I am a bit of a technology geek and I have to admit they may be right. So when Google launched the Google + Project I was one of the first in line to get in.

Perhaps I have not spent enough time there, or maybe I need to give it a few more months. I am struggling to make Google + a part of my online life. The reasons for me are simple and may just apply to you too.

I already have a social profile that is extensive, by my standards anyway. I use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogger. I have a Tumblr account that I have yet to use and I check in on FourSquare semi-regularly. I have tried many different tools to post content and I like things to be simple. Adding what has appeared so far to be a redundant social network has been far from simple for me.

Admittedly, my biggest challenge is my own, Google + has not yet become a habit for me. Facebook is easy to start using, it is simple and I connect with my family and friends here. LinkedIn is great as it allows me to connect with colleagues in a professional way and share business/professional content that person friends may not be that interested in. Twitter has a different role in that I follow people I have never met and learn from their content.

I get the feeling that Google has tried to bring the features and uses of these three networks together in Google +. I can group my connections in to “circles” that define how I know them and what content I want to share with them. The challenge I have is that I have no family members using Google + so that “circle” is empty. I have a large number of co-workers, a few friends and many twitter followees. All of the people in my circles are in a twitter list (or two).

Maybe with the first API release earlier this month to developers there will eventually be third party applications to push content and I will have more success embracing the new network. Until then I will continue to look for the value in Google + and hope that it does not turn out to be Google -.

In the mean time feel free to connect with me on any of the social networks I frequent, especially Google +. Let me know if you need an invite and I will be happy to send you one!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering an Infamous Anniversary

September 11, 2001.

Like most, I remember it very well. I remember where I was, what I was doing and who first shared the news.

For me 2001 was ten years and two careers ago. On September 11th I was an independent manufacturers’ agent in Atlantic Canada exhibiting at a trade show in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was living an hour north of Halifax at the time in the small rural community of Lower Onslow. I lived a peaceful, insulated life. The thought of what was to happen on that day had never entered my mind.

By 9 am EDT news started to spread across the trade show floor that an airliner had hit one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. My first thoughts were immediately that this was a terrible accident. It wasn’t long until a second airliner hit the second tower and it was clear that this was not an accident.

My immediate reaction was to call my wife. Did she know what was happening in New York? I asked her to turn on the television and keep me updated.

The possibilities were unfathomable and the rumors were incredulous. Speculation that there were more planes hijacked, that even the bridges in Halifax were at risk. I remember working with a client who was also a member of the Canadian Military on leave. While with me he was called in for duty – all hands on deck.

As it turned out there were four planes, all US bound, that were hijacked. Three planes were used as missiles and slammed in to buildings, one plane crashed in a rural area of Pennsylvania due in large part to the courageous actions of its passengers. Canadian cities were not attacked.

Canada’s role was that of a good neighbor. Hundred’s of planes were diverted to Atlantic Canadian airports where they stayed on runway parking lots for days. The thousands of passengers from all over the world were taken in, fed and cared for by everyday people. It is this act of kindness and global community spirit that exemplifies what we as humans can do for each other.

While we remember the tragedy and loss we witnessed 10 years ago, lets also remember the kindness and caring for humanity that became prevalent here and abroad.

We have only one planet, we are one global family.

Feel free to add where you were and what you were doing in the comments.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Social Media Excellence in a Small Town

My teenage daughters are both volleyball players. As their biggest fan and supporter I have the privilege of travelling to cities and towns near and far to cheer them on, some are big cities and some are small towns, remote small towns. Some towns have limited cellular coverage and I really have no expectations when I travel when it comes to connectivity. I like to post updates on my social media channels during tournaments when connectivity permits. It has been my experience that most folks in smaller communities do not understand social or my desire to constantly connect.

I recently attended Les Jeux de l’Acadie in Edmundston NB to cheer for my youngest daughter and her team from Truro NS. It is about a three hour drive from where I live to Edmundston and I was pleasantly surprised to have coverage the entire journey there. Because I was early for the first game I thought it would be nice if I could find a wireless connection and clear out a few email. I pulled off the highway in to McDonald’s and checked in using Foursquare, the following was pushed to Twitter:

I was sure that they would have wi-fi and I was right. I was able to get through a lot of work that would have had to wait 5 hours. What I did not expect was a response to this post:

I was immediately impressed that a small local Edmundston cafe was monitoring/searching for references inside social media to interact and help grow their small business. This was just the beginning! I responded with a request for directions as I was from out of town and now had their address. The Blue Lotus Café, which was unknown to me just 5 minutes prior, was now on the top of my list of interesting places to visit.

Fast forward a day to my visit to this little oasis and my social media experience continues. When I check in on Foursquare I receive a free muffin. The staff were fantastic, friendly with lots of smiles –  it was obvious they enjoyed being there. The food was incredible so the Blue Lotus Café lived up to the original tweet with ease!

It is always encouraging to see a small local business succeed, it is even more encouraging to see a small local business using social media to help them succeed. Congratulations to everyone at the Blue Lotus Café for contributing to my positive experience, I will be sure to stop in again my next time I am travelling through northern New Brunswick and I hope everyone else does too!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Whirlwind that is My Life…

A lot can change in only six months. As we near the end of May 2011 I am caught reflecting where I am and where I was just a short time ago, so let’s flashback six months and reminisce.

In November 2010 I was working in Ottawa for a large Canadian subsidiary of an even larger multibillion dollar US based global company. My role was called an Office Solutions Executive, but all that really means is I was tasked with supporting a sales team to deliver defined revenue targets with in a specific product group. I had been in the role for 17 months and perceived that it was time to make a change.

An opportunity had presented itself the month previous and I decided to take the gamble – relocate to Halifax to work as a Sales Coach for an upstart social media monitoring company. The role was exciting not because I knew all about social media (I didn’t) but because I felt that my efforts would be noticed and my contributions would be valuable. I moved and started afresh on December 1st. My time in Ottawa was short but I made many great friends and I am keeping in touch with social media.

My new employer was just about everything my old employer was not. We were small, nimble and every day we faced new challenges that had no defined process to handle. We were in growth mode and saw our sales group grow from 14 to more than 45 by the end of March when it was announced that we were being purchased by a large US based multibillion dollar global company. We would retain our own brand and operate as a separate business unit but it was clear that things would change, for better or worse.

After another month it was time for yet another change. I accepted the role of Manager, Corporate Sales for our office in Saint John effective May 1st. I had moved only 5 months earlier and was once again packing all of my belongings for relocation.

Three cities in three provinces in six months. I am not sure that it is a record but if it is I am thinking I don’t want to break it! As I write this post I still need to schedule my power hook-up for June 1st and get proof of insurance for my place before I get the keys.

I have always said that life is short, enjoy every moment! I know that in everything I do I look for ways to maximize my experience. With every passing day I learn and hopefully pass on some of the knowledge I have. Above all else I embrace the challenges and opportunities in front of me and I have fun.

If the past is a predictor of the future I cannot even begin to guess what the next six months will be like, but I can guarantee it will be an exciting adventure. The best part of this adventure is that I happen to have the best seat in the house for it!

Time to fasten my seat belt, the ride is about to begin…

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Adventure to TreeGo

There is a commercial on television these days that describes two personality types, “I’m in” and “I’m out”. I never really thought about which type I am until this past Wednesday when I chaperoned my youngest daughter’s school trip to TreeGo in Moncton.

For those unaware, TreeGo is an outdoor adventure that can really test your balance, your trust in the safety equipment and any fear of heights you may have.

I do not ever recall having issues with any of these before, but as a 43 year old male that has not been as physically active as he should be the past couple of years I started out slowly. The course starts out with you only ten feet off the ground walking on a 5/8 inch wide cable. As the course progresses the challenges get more difficult and are higher off the ground.

My “I’m in” epiphany occurred when I was 80 feet (or more) off the ground bouncing on the middle of a cable, forty feet from the nearest tree (platform). The fact that there was at least three feet of up/down bounce at this point only made the experience that much more exciting!

Don’t misunderstand me, there were times when I thought “what was I thinking?” For instance, when I was crossing a twenty foot stage between trees on log swings things did not go smoothly. I somehow managed to get my left foot on one swing and my right foot on the next swing, and then lost focus to have my feet go in opposite directions. Despite the howls of laughter from the teenagers I was chaperoning I survived in one piece.

TreeGo was a great adrenaline rush and more fun than I ever expected! If you ever have an opportunity check it out, you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Quality over Quantity

Recently I had a conversation with Jeff Brown of Alpha Computer about many things social. One of the many topics covered was about building a strong community and the value of a Twitter follower. A concerning trend discussed is the increasing occurrence of “buying” a community.

Perhaps I am naïve. I cannot see a legitimate reason for either a person or business to buy followers. The purpose of building a community (which generally takes time and effort) is to establish a group of people that are genuinely interested in what you are offering and see value in following you. It is an opportunity for you to be engaged with brand loyalists and potential brand evangelists. It is an opportunity to increase the stickiness of your brand.

Maybe I am just ignorant to the possibilities that exist within the artificially acquired community. Is it possible that completely disengaged follow-bots can help build a strong community? Will a potential followers be more likely to follow if there are already hundreds (or thousands) of followers? I know that the number of current followers does not influence my decision to follow. I look for good content, interesting conversation and humility in posts. If I am interested then I will follow.

One possible explanation for this proliferation of services like Buy A Follower is the need to show results inside of social media programs. If the community is growing too slowly, throw a little fertilizer on it and presto – there is an extra thousand followers. Reporting a metric like this to the C-Suite validates the program, or does it? What is the value of a follower?

I believe that a social community which has been correctly cultivated and grown organically with good content will return far more value than the rapidly or instantly acquired community of follow-bots. There is more value in 100 followers that are actively engaged with your brand than there is with 10,000 followers that have little to no interest in what your company does. I prefer quality over quantity, every time.

If anyone can validate the purchasing of followers, I’d welcome being enlightened. If your comments are intriguing I just might follow you! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener

I am sure most of us have heard the expression that the grass is always greener on the other side, but have you ever thought about what this really means?

The common interpretation is that life is better elsewhere. That things in your life (your job, your salary, your relationship, etc.) are perhaps not as good as they could be and that maybe a change is in order and you need to move to the “other side” to enjoy the greener grass. But in reality the “other side” is mostly unknown, so how do we know the grass is really greener?

I think if you look at the turn of phrase in a literal sense you get a new and unique perspective on what it might mean figuratively.

Imagine you are standing in the middle of your lawn. Looking down, you can see the blades of grass and where the grass shoots are coming from, the brown dry decaying grass of the previous year. You can see small patches where the grass is not as lush and healthy. You notice ever so slight brown patches where the soil may not be as rich.

Now look over at your neighbour’s lawn. All you can see are the sides of the green blades of grass from where you are. The perspective you have prevents you from seeing what the roots look like. You can’t tell if there is a slightly bare spot, or if there is an ant hill hidden somewhere.

When explained in these terms the grass is not always greener on the other side, it only has the appearance of being greener because we don’t have all of the facts. Our perspective looking across from a distance prevents us from seeing the all of the undergrowth that is there.

When we look our lives and the lives of others, the same holds true. We make assumptions similar to when we looked at our neighbour’s lawn. We look at our life from the middle, seeing all of the good and all of the challenges. Our angled perspective on others’ lives prevents us from seeing the challenges of those lives.

All of this is not to say that there is never a reason to seek change, but to say we should first seek to make changes within. Just as you can water and feed a lawn to make it healthier, you can do the same with your life. Each of us are unique and we face individually unique challenges. The healthy lawn does not just happen and neither does a healthy relationship or satisfaction with our lives, it takes commitment and effort and time.

The same challenges exist on both sides and if you do not make changes to the way you care for the lawn you will always believe that the grass is greener somewhere else, even when it is not.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Turning Tables

This week the tables were turned on me. The shoe was on the other foot, so to speak.

Prior to December 2010 I worked for a large multinational company that was based out of the United States. There is a certain amount of security and peace of mind knowing you work for a company that has a market cap of billions and billions of dollars.

Over the years I worked there it seemed like there was a bi-annual event that occurred regardless of company performance. The acquisition. Sometimes the acquisition was a small player is a secondary market, or a new product category that integrated with our product space. Maybe a competitor that was up and coming would be acquired. Usually when one company acquires another it is for the technology, the people or the customer base. Not once did I ever consider how the employees of the acquired company felt about the acquisition, I just assumed they were ok with it.

Back to December 2010. I chose to leave the large stable company I worked for in Ottawa, Canada to take a new and challenging role in a small emerging company in Atlantic Canada. Certain amount of risk here and I was well aware of this when the decision was made. More than one colleague questioned my decision but I never wavered. There were family considerations that tilted the scales in favour of the move and the upside of this emerging company was incredible and could not be ignored.

Fast forward to Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Less than four months in to my new role at this wonderful emerging company it was announced that it was being acquired by a large, US based, multinational corporation (not the same one I used to work for). This is how it feels; now I know.

I have deliberately omitted the names of the companies involved in this current acquisition as well as that of my previous employer. If you know me well or are resourceful enough you will figure it all out with a few minutes of searching on line. The companies at play are not what is important here, it is the emotions of those involved.

An email went out Tuesday late afternoon “inviting” every employee to a meeting at 7 am the next morning. Only four months with this new employer I had a strong inkling what this was about, that ownership was changing soon. Sitting in a conference room with fellow employees video conference in from two other locations while our CEO announced the largest sale in the history of our company was almost surreal. The group was euphoric and enthusiastic. Then there was concern. Concern about what happens next. Job security, while never guaranteed with small emerging companies, can be tenuous with mergers and acquisitions.

A quick introduction to the new (very proud) owners of the company brought relief and confidence to many. They announce that the goal of the acquisition is to continue to operate and grow in Atlantic Canada, that they have acquired 4 other companies in the past 18 months all experiencing growth. Smiles are seen throughout the room.

Effective sometime in early May I will once again have the pleasure of working for a large multinational corporation. A company that believes that its employees are the reason why they are a successful business and commits to making sure these employees are happy. It is clear the acquisition occurred because they believe they can pour fuel on the fire and our division will grow exponentially faster than if we had been left on our own. Only time will confirm this.

So yes, like many people I work with I am on a cloud right now. There is definitely a strong force moving us in a good direction with the sale of the company we work for. As the excitement builds towards the actual date of acquisition I know there are a few of us that will have the exact same smile on our faces as though they have been photocopied there.

Enough from me on this, I should step away from my laptop and be social, it is 2011 after all.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Brilliance That is iPad Marketing

Let me preface this post with the knowledge that I own neither an iPad nor an iPad2. I am the proud owner of an iPhone and an iPod, and my employer provides me with a second iPhone for business purposes. Apple certainly does not need me to promote their latest offering and truth be told I am nowhere near the charismatic showman that Steve Jobs is.
Apple announced the launch of the iPad2 less than one year after the release of the original iPad.  It is thinner, it is faster and it has a camera. All of these things should have been included on the original iPad. So how did the product gurus at Apple miss them? And how is it that the media have left them off the hook for launching a clearly inferior product last year?
Regardless of all of this I just happen know of one person who is a middle-aged technology neophyte with no smartphone, who rarely checks email and who has no presence on Facebook or Twitter. They hate computers really. And guess what? More than anything they believe that they NEED an iPad! When pressed why, this person states that they will use apps (I am not sure they even know what an app is but the concept is alluring) and that it will make their life easier. The TV commercials with the catchy music and cool apps showcased have worked their magic!
The marketers at Apple have created a technology that is so far ahead of the competition, and that is more affordable than the competition that people just want it. How did they manage this?
Apple is (or was at least) the Beta vision of the personal computer. I have owned many versions of Macs over the years and generally paid a significant premium to own and use what I believed to be a superior product. I recommended the iMac to my parents (who now own two!) and they were die-hard Windows users for years. How was Apple able to avoid the fate that almost every believed they were destined to, extinction?
It started with the iPod and iStore. Apple created a new industry with this and pretty much owned it (and still do). Next came the iPhone and Apple became a serious player in an existing product category overnight. The convergence of these technologies allowed the visionary that is Steve Jobs to dream about a tablet – the iPad. The revenues from sales at the iStore are high margin as there is not a whole lot of R&D that now gets applied to the iStore.
Another thing Apple does extremely well is manage supply against demand. They build hype around a product, announcing it will be available in a week (or month). The people line up in droves to buy it and then they run out before everyone is satisfied. This creates more demand as potential buyers decide to buy as soon as there are more available just so they do not have to wait too long.
Then there is the cool factor. Let’s face it, Apple products are cool. The real reason I have an iPhone isn’t because it is a great phone, it’s because it is a cool product that does a lot for me and it is a phone.
For all technology neophytes out there, you do not NEED an iPad; you WANT an iPad because you have been sold the “cool” factor. You really need to learn to determine the difference. But don’t worry, once you have your new iPad2 you quickly discover there is an app for that too.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why Sales People Love Golf

As an avid golfer and a seemingly lifelong sales person I am struck by the similarities of my two passions. It is no wonder many successful sales people also enjoy the game I love. Do you ever wonder why?
I have been selling something since my adolescent days hawking chocolate bars door-to-door for a high school fundraiser, but it is only in the past 10 years that I have discovered a passion for the game of golf. At first glance the two seem completely different and unrelated. Sometimes first impressions need a second look and this is one of those times.
When I rang my first doorbell to sell those chocolate bar I had no idea what I was doing. Sure we all received a few tips (be polite, thank them even if they don’t buy etc.) but I stumbled over my words and am sure that my first sale was because they felt sorry for me, not because I had done a great job at explaining what the money would be used for. I had no opening, no value proposition and no closing skills. I needed some coaching – badly.
Thinking of the first time I played a round of golf the similarities more than amuse me. It was about 15 years after I sold my first chocolate bar. The experience was just as thrilling. I went to the course with a good friend, rented a set of clubs, walked to the first tee and hit the ball (I may have hit the ground first, I don’t recall that first shot or many of the 140 others that followed!). I had no distance off the tee, no accuracy to the green and no ability to read the green.  I needed some coaching – badly.
Many sales organizations have “Leaderboards” in their sales bull pens, a stack ranking that gets a lot of attention at month end much like the leaderboard at Augusta National does on Master’s Sunday. Instead of a green jacket sales people get bragging rights, a commission/bonus cheque and sometimes a trip.
So what separates those at the top of a leaderboard from those further down? Is it skill? Is it natural talent? I believe that it is a desire to be better. To be better than you were last week or last month or last year. It is a commitment to developing and a willingness to accept coaching. It is being able to put your hand up and ask “what can I do differently that will make me more successful”?
Even the best golfers on the PGA Tour have coaches and some even have more than one. Phil Mickelson, arguably one of the most aggressive golfers on the Tour, has paired with renowned swing coach Butch Harmon to help his accuracy. It is Phil’s acknowledgement that it is possible to be better, and that he needs help to do this, that impresses me.
Throughout my sales career I was always looking for more coaching, looking to have someone help me strengthen my talk track, to help me get better at my craft. I read books and listened to audio tapes. I wanted to be the best that I could be, to be as close to the top of the leaderboard as I could be. I was never satisfied with the amount of coaching I received (which was more than most others).
Far too often I worked with fellow sales people that did not want to be coached. They felt that it somehow undermined their credibility inside the organization and with their customers to have someone ride along with them, or that they must doing something wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth as the return on the coaching investment is highest with top performers, especially those that eagerly seek out coaching opportunities and adopt the recommendations offered.
My roles have changed over the years and I am now the coach. I enjoy being in a role that allows me to help others achieve their goals, to help them be the best that they can be. I still seek out coaching from my manager and from my mentor on a regular basis, so that I can be the best that I can be.
As for my golf game, I spent most of the winter watching “Playing Lessons From the Pros” on the Golf Channel because I really think this will be the year I break 80. Now that the snow has almost all melted (in NS anyway) I will also be spending a lot of time on the driving range and on the putting green, and will be seeking some coaching to help me reach my goal. Putting in golf is a bit like closing in sales. But that is a topic for another day. Anyone have some good putting tips?

Monday, March 7, 2011

To Pay or Not to Pay – That is the Question

NEWS ALERT: I will not net get paid for writing or posting this blog. Nor will you have to pay to read it.
Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it? Why should you pay for access to my mindless ramblings in this blog space? You have chosen to visit the site of your own freewill without any coercion from me other than the tweet, the Facebook update and the incessant barrage of nonstop emails.
The question of paying bloggers came up recently in my Twitter feed from the host of the CBC Radio show Q, Jian Ghomeshi, in relation to blogs posted by The Huffington Post (HuffPo). Social media is all about conversation and the dialogue around the topic seemed to lean towards the affirmative, based on HuffPo’s ability to pay.
Let me preface the following with the fact that I generally do not weigh in on many conversations like this and that my opinion here is based on my old school beliefs.
Bloggers blog because they want to. If you’re sole purpose in blogging is to make money and not because you have a passion for the subject matter then you are an author in search of an audience. I do not blog because I want to be read, I blog because I can. My blog is like an OpEd piece in a newspaper except I get to publish it whenever I want, and blog about any topic that is on my mind.
It is true that some bloggers are passionate about their topics AND want to have their message read by the masses. It is here that HuffPo helps them, providing a larger audience than they enjoy with their personal blog space. So should HuffPo compensate them for providing this service OR should the blogger pay HuffPo for this access? Let’s zero-sum this one, no one gets paid.
If a blogger wants to make money, and some do, they have the option of monetizing their blog space with the use of affiliate marketing. By promoting something to your readership you get rewarded monetarily, so it is basically a form of advertising. Again, the blogger has chosen by their own freewill to monetize their space, no one is forcing them. We all have this option.
There will be those of you who disagree with me on this one, and I accept that. If you believe that the fact that HuffPo has the money to pay for the content is reason enough for them to actually remunerate the blogger I have an interesting corollary for you: you can send me your readership fees from this posting via email,

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Good Guys

It has been too long since my last post, more than a week. Sometimes life gets in the way of a blog I guess…As a novice blogger I will do better in the future.
We are nearing the end of February and like all Canadian golfers I admit that I am getting a little twitchy waiting for the snow to melt and the courses to open. The fact that we are still at least six weeks away from playing here in Nova Scotia does not dampen my excitement, I am a “glass is half full” kind of guy so I say we are ONLY six weeks away from golf season, I should start to get ready!
While waiting to place my first drive of the year 270 yards out and in the middle of the fairway I get to do two things. Spend quality time at my local golf retailer and watch the pros play on beautiful lush green courses south of the border. This week it is the Accenture Match Play World Golf Championship in Arizona.
I have never played a real match play event; they are incredibly exciting to watch. When the brackets for this year’s event were posted on line I could not envision any one golfer as the obvious favourite – and that makes for a very exciting tournament! The PGA tweeted a link to the experts’ picks and I thought no way, the tournament is not going to be played on paper, it will be played on the course.
As a Canadian I have a patriotic loyalty to Mike Weir. The most successful Canadian on the PGA tour is always someone I want to see do well each week. Mike was not in the field at this week’s event and that left my choices wide open.
So like any self-professed expert I tweeted back I don't like any of the Expert Picks: WGC-Accenture Match Play I'll go with @stewartcink this week” believing that Stewart had an opportunity to win if he could upset the defending Champ in round one.
He did. I have no particular connection to Stewart Cink as a golfer. I think he is as real a person in a professional sport as you can get and yes, I follow him on Twitter. He is one of the good guys. Any time one of the good guys is contending I want them to win. After winning his first round match I was sure my prediction was right on the mark!
Unfortunately Stewart lost in round two and will not win the match play event this year. My prediction was as accurate as at least 67% of those made by the experts so I am ok with that. The one thing I do know is that Stewart Cink has a new fan here in snowy Canada. After his second round loss he sent out a tweet “@RalphBastarache thanks for having faith but I couldn't quite deliver today!
Next week at the Honda Classic in Florida I will be cheering for the good guys…if the final pairing on Sunday is Stewart Cink and Mike Weir, it will be the best possible finish as far as I am concerned and I will be hoping they end up in a playoff, that there will be extra holes. When it is over it will be unfortunate that one of them had to lose but I will know without a doubt that the winner is one of the good guys.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Privacy and Social Media

Lately I have been hearing more and more about Facebook and its privacy settings, and how everyone is up in arms about it. I just don’t understand what all the commotion is about. I should preface what follows with the fact that I work for a social media monitoring company and that this posting reflects my personal views only, and that I am not speaking on behalf of my employer.
For the most part I am a fairly guarded and private person. In conversation I often choose to answer a direct personal question with a vague and ambiguous reply, as I have always believed that my privacy was important. It may seem odd to some then to learn that I have had a Facebook presence since 2007, I have been on LinkedIn since 2009 and I have recently taken to Twitter and blogging. Heck, I even use Foursquare on my iPhone and link that to my Twitter and Facebook accounts.
I have always been protective of my social presence and my personal brand. I am very selective with regards to what I post to my status updates and my tweets. So it should not be a huge surprise to anyone that when I read that specific aspects of my profile can be seen by everyone who has a web browser my reaction is a genuine “so what?”
Let me explain. I use the different social platforms in different ways and for different purposes. After all, that is what they were intended for.
My first (and only) rule of social media is that my Facebook page is my personal space, family and friends only. Occasionally a friend of a friend, if I met you at least once and it seemed like we shared some commonality. A friend of mine summed it up best: “To be my friend on Facebook you have to be someone I would sit down and have a beer with.” That is a good rule of thumb if you ask me. I have the ability to “untag” a picture of myself if I need to but have never had to exercise this right. I don’t care what the public can see because I have only updated what I am willing to share. My profile is not locked down so people cannot see it, they can only see what is there, what I am willing to share with the world.
I use LinkedIn for business and professional development purposes. If I have ever worked with you I will connect with you. In fact if anyone sends me a request to connect I will accept it, regardless of how I know you or even if I have never you. This is my professional arena where I belong to global groups and share knowledge with people I have never met in hopes that it helps all of us perform in our jobs better. My Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are not connected in any way, and I see no reason that they should be.
Twitter resides in the delicate space between my personal and my professional worlds, and yes this is where the two worlds collide. I work in social media so I have an understanding that it is important to be diverse, informative and entertaining with my tweets. It is also important to engage in conversations not only professionally but also personally. I also need to be sure athat I do not become a megaphone for my employer or any other cause as that is not conversation.

My goal is not to amass a specific number of followers, but to follow people I respect personally and/or professionally. Some tweets entertain me, some educate me and others keep me up to date with what friends and colleagues are doing. Hopefully my tweets accomplish the same those that follow me.
So if you really want to protect your privacy, be sure to check your security and privacy settings. Not the ones on Facebook, the ones you use to filter what you are posting and commenting. You know the ones…they are the same filter settings we use every day when we meet someone on the street that we haven’t seen in a few months. I believe the technical term for them is common sense.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

UpperDeck or O-Pee-Chee?

Like most young Canadian boys, when I was growing up I planned on being an NHL superstar. This was before the time of big contracts and endorsement deals, it was before every game was televised and player merchandising ran rampant. I didn’t want to play professional hockey for the money or the fame, I wanted to play because I loved the game. Isn’t that what we all want when we are young – to do something we love to do? Of course getting to be on my own hockey card was a bit of a perk.
I would spend hours every weekend playing street hockey. Living in suburban southern Ontario I was fortunate to have a long straight street right outside my front door that had minimal traffic. We would pretend to be Guy Lafleur from Montreal or Darryl Sittler from Toronto or Bobby Orr from Boston. We did our own play-by-play. The shout of “CAR!” was akin to a timeout and some drivers were a little impatient but for the most part I remember seeing smiles and waves as the cars rolled past. Sometimes the driver would even roll down their window and ask who was winning today? It was just like a player interview between periods but shorter and without the camera.
If there had been a professional road hockey league I may have pursued my dream. Unfortunately for me I am a minority in Canada – I can’t skate. Well let me clarify, I can’t skate well. I know you hear hockey pundits say an NHL player or prospect is a weak skater but seriously, there are 5 year olds that are better skaters than I am. If the NHL was the NRHL I could have been like Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. Probably not, maybe I would have been more like Jon Morris. Who is Jon Morris exactly? That is my point, look him up. I still have his 1991 hockey card.
From a business perspective the professional athlete is the engine of the organization. People buy tickets to see them play and broadcasters pay a lot of money to have the rights to show the games. I don’t know for sure but I am guessing you still see a few Lemieux and Gretzky jerseys around and fans spend a lot on player merchandise. It is the players that drive the revenue generation of the team. They are the product and they are the sales people.
They are the sales people? Sales people are the engine of corporations. Without a sales organization a business has no revenue. The similarities are uncanny, and organizations generally revere and pay their sales staff very well, especially their top performers. I overheard a CFO say that his favourite cheque to write was a commission cheque. In fact it is not uncommon for successful sales people to earn more than their managers.
Wait a minute, I have been in sales my whole career. I am just like my hockey heroes after all, doing something I enjoy, making a decent living, contributing to my organization in a valuable way. All I need now is my very own collector card. Does anyone have the phone number for UpperDeck or O-Pee-Chee?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Problem I Have With Statistics

I used to joke that 87.35% of all statistics were made up on the spot.  The truth is that it is more like 72.91% and yes, I just made that one up too.
Recently I transitioned to a new role with a new company in a new city. I could say that 100% of my life is new but that is not 100% accurate. I have the same two children, I drive the same car and I use the same brand of deodorant. What I am saying here is that a statistic is just a number, and that a number needs to have context to have meaning.
Every day we are all inundated with a statistic about something. Political polls, television ratings, the percentage growth of a company and the demographics of facebook users. What do all of these numbers mean and how are we supposed to make sense of them? It all depends on your point of view.
If a political leader’s approval rating goes from 33% to 36% the data gets “spun” by supporters that the approval rating increased 9% and detractors say 64% disapprove of their opponent. Both are right but the messaging around them is in contrast.
When a company is young and it grows revenue by 200% (or more) this sounds like an excellent investment opportunity – is it? More data is required and I hope we all realize more questions need to be asked in this situation.
What about all of the statistics flying around about the world of social media? Facebook has 500 million users and the fastest growing demographic is 55-65 year olds. Really? How many were there last year and how many are there now? If there was only one million in this group a year ago and now there are nine million it is still less than 2% of the total user group. It is an 800% increase, which is a fantastic growth number but it does not tell the entire story. Since I like to make up stats these are fabricated for illustration purposes – I am sure there are more than nine million users globally in this demographic.
This is my first blog post so as soon as someone reads it my readership has increased infinitely, nothing like setting the bar high!