Posted 02.26.2010

Posted 02.26.2010

Everything I need to know about Social Networking Contradicts what I Learned in Kindergarten

Interrupt People

I was reading Chris Brogan’s blog the other day. It was interesting (as usual). They were discussing Twitter etiquette. Should you follow every person that follows you? –I know I don’t and honestly, I don’t want to. Most of the people that I follow are Designers. I’m interested in what they’re interested in.

Chris’s basic point was that he follows everyone that follows them so that they can direct message him. However, just because you can’t direct message someone, doesn’t mean that you can’t contact them. That’s what the @ is for. Therefore, when you’re looking at someone’s Twitter profile, don’t look at home many people they’re following, but rather, look at how many posts include an @, how active are they in the conversation?

That’s a huge for me and the way I use Twitter! The more that I’ve challenged myself to get involved in conversations and to interject my opinion, the more I feel like I’m interrupting a conversation that’s been going on. I feel like I’ve walked up to a crowd of people and I’m trying to find a way to get noticed. — and I guess, in a lot of ways, that’s what we’re all doing. But, I think it’s only in that risk are we really able to make and find new friends.

Encourage Conflict

One of my favorite people to follow is Jason Fried at 37Signals. I’ve talked about him before. Brilliant. I’m really looking forward to his new book, ReWork, coming out in March. But one of the reasons I like him is because he has an opinion. For some, I’m sure it comes across as arrogant. I would argue it demonstrates leadership. In his book, Getting Real, he talks about creating opinionated software. Make decisions for the user. For example, have 25 results on a page. Allowing the user to choose how many results they want to see on a page doesn’t drastically alter their user experience. However, for the programmer, implementing that preference is lines of code. Not only to implement, but maintain as well. No need. Make that decision for them. Be done with it.

Let’s take this concept a bit further. If we all agreed that there should always be 25 results on a page, then there would be no conversation. There would be no tension, no sharpening, no challenge, no growth. By nature, I flee from confrontation, from conflict. However, I wonder how many opportunities for growth, to make myself better, have I missed because I’ve chosen the path of least resistance?

Don’t Listen to Your Teacher (all the time)

Sometimes, it’s better to step outside the box and try something different, something no one has ever tried before.

I’ve been making my way through Linchpin, by Seth Godin. Basically, Seth Godin challenges the way that we do approach our jobs. Doing exactly what you’re told is good, but not good enough. Better is going above and beyond what is expected. Excellent, is being creative. He talks about how everyone is an artist and we all have the ability to create something beautiful. This isn’t just graphic designers, like myself, it’s marketers, customer service agents, salesmen, cashiers.

Taking a risk is scary, because it means going into the unknown. Ironically, though, at the end of the day, our job is more secure because we’ve made ourselves indispensable. We can do what rule follower Joe doesn’t: think for ourselves. Your employer can always find another rule follower, but he can’t find another you.


If you want a sneak peak of Seth Godin’s book, check out his interview with Merlin Mann, over on 43folders.


Posted 02.09.2010

Content Might be King

There’s a huge debate online about whether content is really king. As designers, I think we like to believe that our designs matter more than they really do. (Believe, that’s hard to admit). But, just look at sites like Craigslist or MySpace. They look awful…and yet people still flock to them to get the information that they need.

What do I think?

The whole point of a website is to solve someone’s problems. I finally wrapped my head around this concept when I was listening to Net @ Night. They interviewed Jakob Neilsen (author of Eyetracking Web Usability) on user interface. He suggested that when you’re user testing, never ask someone “What do you think of this button?” Instead, provide tasks: “Add this product to your cart.” Then, you’ll find out just how successful your button really is. People always go to a website with a specific task in mind.

How does this apply to content? Well, I go to a site for it’s content. The design just makes the site more enjoyable and easier to use. It adds a level of professionalism. I have tons of screenshots of well designed sites. However, after I’ve been there once, I never return because I don’t care about the content. The content makes me come back.

What does that mean for me?

I’ve got to buckle down and write decent copy. That’s hard. It takes time. It’s difficult to make copywriting a priority when the web hasn’t set the standard very high.

Last week, I stumbled upon an article by Shay Howe. (Writing for the Web: The Right Strategy). It’s an excellent read. He lifts a lot of his ideas out of Kristina Halvorson’s book, Content Strategy for the Web, which I immediately bought. I’m halfway through and it is by far the best book that I’ve read on developing a content plan.

Up until this point, I’ve considered a content plan something that will tell me what I should write about each day. However, this book has challenged me to go beyond that. What is the overall message that I am trying to communicate with my blog? about myself? Does my post accomplish that? Those questions dig a little deeper than just saying “I write a blog about design, technology, and programming.” Collectively, my posts are a brand: what people think about me. If everyone thought this way, I think we’d all be a little more conscientious about the content we’re publishing.

Posted 02.08.2010

Posted 02.08.2010

What I’ve Learned about Blogging

As some people know, the last 6 months, at work have been spent designing (and building) blogs for our trainers. The idea behind that was to give the trainers a voice outside of our events and further establish them as experts in their respective areas.

Last Spring, Darrel and I led a meeting to help the trainers understand social networking and kick start their blogging. It’s been exciting to see how far they have come, particularly within the last couple of months.

As a result of those conversations, I started looking at my own blog. If I’m going to be talk the talk, I need to be able to walk the walk. It’s led me down an interesting path. What do I want my blog to be about? What do I want to be known for? Who is my audience? What can I do for them? Last July, I wrote out My Elevator Pitch.

It’s been an interesting journey. I continue to ask myself those questions every day, blog post or not blog post. Instead of being frustrated for not having everything figured out, I’m discovering how healthy it is to have those questions on the forefront. The day that I stop asking those questions, is the day that I need to stop blogging.

I’ve learned other things throughout this whole process:

Blogging is hard.

Like everyone else in the world, I only get 24 hours a day. Devoting some of that time to blogging has to be intentional. –for someone that has always hated English class and writing papers, it takes time for me to sit down and actually write.

I have to have a strategy (AND stick to it)

On Content
I have milestones in Basecamp with everything that I want to talk about for the next month. But, that “push milestones and all following back” button is so easy!

On the Big Picture
I have to have an overall branding message that I am trying to communicate. What do I want people to remember me for? When people mention Amy Haywood, I want them to think graphic designer, not a programmer. But the truth of the matter is, it’s a lot easier to write about code, it’s more logical, more objective. I struggle with trying to reconcile the two.

On Being Myself
Jason Fried has talked about how he just writes whenever he has something that he wants to share. — If I did that, I would never write anything.

Gary Vaynerchuk, on the other hand, creates posts all the time. He “crushes it”. He answers every comment and every email himself. He puts in ridiculous hours to make it happen. Honestly, I don’t know if I can make that kind of sacrifice.

John Gruber doesn’t answer everyone’s email. He’s estimated that he would spend 8 – 10 hours a day just answering email if he did that.

All that’s to say, if I’m trying to figure out how to break my blog (not to be confused with destroying my blog, but rather getting people to notice it), then I have to come up with my own tactics. I can look at their strategies, but I can’t copy them. I am not Jason Fried, Gary Vaynerchuk, or John Gruber. In fact, in Merlin Mann’s interview with Seth Godin, they talk about that. I have to be my own person.

A Lot of content out there is redundant

As ridiculous as it may sound, there are days when I look at the Internet and think, “I have seen all there is to see.” A lot of blogs that I read, link to the same stuff. — Or, even if people are writing their own content, they are a lot of people with similar opinions. Almost every “what I’ve learned from blogging” post I’ve read says “It’s hard.” (Problogger, Chris Brogan…and now mine. I guess I can’t say I wasn’t warned.) But, I think that’s why there’s so much worth to original content; it’s hard to come by.