How to Effectively Communicate with a Digital Team

Right now I am working on a couple of projects outside of my daily work duties. Both of these are with organizations that don’t have enough revenue to compensate their teams yet. That’s totally fine with me, because I think the investment of time and expertise is paid off with experience and networking. I’m truly grateful for these opportunities.

As the world economy moves away from a traditional 9-5 office environment and into a more digital workspace without offices or break rooms, we run into a huge problem with communication. You’re unlikely to “bump into” the project manager if you live 1,300 miles away, and there is no way that you’re all going to start and stop your work day (or week) at the same time as the rest of the team.

Between e-mail, instant messaging, video teleconferencing, social media groups, forums and listservs, we are absolutely overwhelmed by the methods of communication available.

In order to create an effective team, you need to orchestrate effective communication. I think one of the best things that people on digital teams can do is to have meetings.

In the traditional workplace, we see so many blog posts and articles telling us how meetings are unproductive time killers. However, we’re not talking about the traditional workplace, and we’re not talking about packing our calendars with them.

The great advantage of working digitally is that we have the opportunity to do things at our own pace and be rewarded for our results, not just our “time spent.” However, in order to ensure that the team is on the same page, it is important to wrangle everyone together.

How to Schedule a Meeting

Quite possibly the most important step in having a meeting is scheduling it. There are plenty of tools available online, but one of the easiest to use is a shared calendar like Google Calendar. When teammates share their calendars with each other, they can see when their counterparts are available.

It’s likely that there won’t be a time suitable for every member of the team, however steps should be taken to include as many people as possible. Another strategy to successful attendance is to rotate the meeting times to suit team members on different continents or working from different time zones.

Once you have identified a great time for the meeting, make sure to inform the participants. No, I’m not talking a tweet or a text message or a hidden paragraph in an e-mail. Create an appointment.

Those of us that work in a corporate culture live by our Outlook calendars. In fact, I’ve heard plenty of colleagues in my years say things like, “if it’s not on my calendar, how am I supposed to know about it?”

Digital calendars like those from Microsoft Exchange and Gmail are great because they allow us to collaborate and keep updated on all of our digitally connected devices.

During the Meeting

A meeting without purpose is just a waste of time.

Be sure to clearly define the goals of the meeting and ensure that you have someone taking notes. You and your team will benefit most if they walk away from the meeting with action items, goals and clear and concise expectations. Don’t use meetings to just discuss ideas or concepts, but use them as a tool to get things done.

If someone comes to a meeting with an idea, this is the opportunity to create a plan of action so when you meet the next time, you will have results to review.

Keep it concise. If the meeting is only carving 30 minutes out of its attendees calendars, don’t expect anyone to be happy if you carry one for 45 minutes to an hour. Time is precious, especially for those volunteering it to you.

After the Meeting

Follow-up is critical. If you don’t engage the attendees and your team members, you aren’t going to get the results you were pushing for. I’ve attended so many digital meetings where afterwards, attendees instant message each other asking whether or not there were any “to do” items, or any value taken from the conversation. Be sure that whomever was taking notes does an efficient job of capturing the topics covered, the takeaways and the action items and expectations for the next meeting.

Communicating Apart from Meetings

Meetings are just one small part of the way we communicate within teams. It is critical to adopt a standardized approach to how you will communicate with your team if you expect them to respond and be engaged.

If you are sharing a message on a private social media group for the team, then sending them an e-mail, but instant messaging them in between, people won’t know what medium they should be most focused on.

From the early stages of your startup, project or community, be sure to let your team know what your expectations are, how communication will be delivered, how often and what the expectation is for responses.

There are literally hundreds of tools available for communicating with teams, but it doesn’t mean that you should try to use all of them at once. Find what works best for your team. It will probably involve a combination of static communication (Google Docs), group conversation (Google Groups or Private Community) and instant/personal communication (E-mail or Instant Messaging).

Be careful, if you inundate your team with too much communication, or communication from too many methods, you might be overwhelming them. Also, if your communication covers too many topics, you might end up with a shotgun spray of results instead of a focused torpedo.

If you want to have a successful project, you need to have successful communication. Let your team help you shape the way you communicate and you will all come out winners.

Klout, Go Home, You're Drunk

Almost six years after its launch and Klout still can’t seem to get its math right. As a tool designed to rate users’ social influence, it can’t even seem to decipher which networks makeup a user’s social media activity.

Although some people will argue that Klout is passé and serves no purpose, there are still a few believers out there that think it should influence hiring decisions. Either way you look at it, there’s definitely room in the social media space to have a platform that ranks users based on their reach and engagement.

The fundamental problem with Klout is that its numbers are flawed. No, I’m not saying they’re not perfect, I’m saying they are totally wrong.

With all of the information and metrics available, there’s no excuse as to why Klout hasn’t cleaned up its act and leveled the playing field for various social networks.

My proof is in the numbers:

I have a following of over 500,000 people on my Google+ profile and am constantly being engaged by hundreds of people. However, Klout only weighs my Google+ presence at 9%. Really?

Let’s take a look at my Instagram page. I only have 421 followers, but Klout values it double of Google+ as it relates to my social network makeup. What’s really crazy, is that I have only posted once on Instagram this month, and even then, only seven people engaged with my photo.

Twitter? With a measly 1,300 followers and hardly any interaction, I have no idea how they could justify it making up so much of my network makeup. But, after getting mentioned in several dozen tweets, it continues to climb.

klout score breakdown peter mcdermott

Crude experiments have demonstrated that Instagram is the most heavily weighted network on the system. A simple photo with a comment from a friend increased my ‘Klout’ within a day. Why does Klout consider Instagram so important to social influence? And further  more, why does it dismiss the importance of LinkedIn and Google+?

Platform Dis-Integration:

Another failure of Klout is the lack of recognition that not all users are involved in Facebook and Twitter. I know many professionals that only use LinkedIn and plenty of Google+ adopters that have let it become their sole network. Without a Facebook or Twitter account though, you’ll never be able to log in and manage your account.

If Klout wants to measure multiple platforms, it should allow users to log in with other platforms.

How to Fix It:

I think there is definitely room in the market for Klout, or a similar clone to effectively measure the influence or engagement of social media figures. I think this type of information could be insanely valuable to marketers as they try to learn who are the most important (and vocal) customers. Recruiters could also use it as a tool to find people that are the most visually knowledgeable about a specific topic or niche.

In order to make that happen though, the algorithms need to be changed. Klout needs to be more receptive to feedback from its users and more even-keeled in its evaluation of all social networks. First and foremost, it needs to compare the usage of various social networks for each user so it can give a true breakdown of where that person invests the most effort.

Tainted Reputation:

Even if Klout manages to fix its poor arithmetic, it will still face an uphill battle with social media super users that have long cast it aside. Last night I bumped into a few causal social media users in a Hangout and here’s what they had to say about the network:

Klout is probably one of the most useless things I have heard of possibly conceived. It is some sort of popularity contest that has no relevance out of itself.” DeAno Jackson

It’s just useless. It doesn’t base your scores on any platform except Facebook and they want you to connect all of your accounts with it, but it doesn’t measure them all. So, it’s useless.” Sheila DuBois

I’ve never used Klout and see no purpose in it.” Stormy Henderson

If Klout ever wants to be relevant again, it’s going to need to prove its accuracy and importance. Based on their current trajectory, I don’t think there’s much chance.

Klout, if you think my network with half a million followers counts for less than 10% of my social media presence, you need to go home. You’re drunk.

What happens when you stop responding?

+Taylor Swift (middle) and me (third from right) photo by +Sony 
If you were to poll 100 celebrity accounts with over 500,000 followers across social media, I think you would find something interesting. Most of them do not actively interact with their audience. Sure, they may call out an individual tweet or reply to an occasional comment, but for the most part, their audience interaction is limited.
For traditional celebrities, this seems very rational. +Taylor Swift probably doesn’t have time to reply to thousands of comments, and if she tried to, it would turn into a cascading time suck. However, if she started to reply to each and every fan, would it ruin all of the excitement for those that do hear from her?
Watching several “non-traditional” celebrities, more of the Internet type, writers, commentators and corporate big wigs, I’m starting to notice a trend, that people are more likely to engage with those that are less likely to respond. Take +Vic Gundotra‘s posts, for example. If you watch what he and his colleagues post, you will always see a myriad of responses, some form more prominent Internet figures. However, most of them know that the likelihood he will respond is fairly low. So why do they bother to comment on his content?
I’m wondering if there is a “critical mass” in terms of tribe size or follower count where content creators should limit their audience interaction in an effort to increase engagement on their posts. It’s a continuation on my theory of “manufacturing scarcity” but I think it also applies in the social realm.
I believe that in personal branding, we are taught to interact with as many people as possible as often as possible to help establish our authority in our particular niche. However, is there a point where well-followed individuals should curb their audience engagement to encourage more interaction with their posts?
Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about totally eliminating interaction, but showing your audience that you’re busy doing important things and can only interact occasionally. By creating this artificial scarcity, does the engagement become more valuable?
It sounds crazy, but I think it might just work…

#thinkaboutit

The Age of "You're Doing It Wrong"

I am sitting here this morning watching +TODAY on NBC and I noticed a segment talking about selfies and a documentary that is showing how they are helping girls and their mothers boost their self esteem. The director, Cynthia Wade, encouraged the women to take their digital self-portraits without using any filters or image alteration.

Before the segment, +Carson Daly did a great job of demonstrating the differences between our definition and understanding of beauty with a simple Google image search. Carson simply searched Google Images for “beauty” and then did the same on +Instagram. The difference was obvious, Google showed us what the media wants us to think beauty is whereas the hashtag on Instagram showed not a bunch of glamour models, actresses or Photoshopped makeup ads, just a myriad of selfies showing beautiful individual smiles.

There was a popular opinion for a while that taking a selfie was a narcissistic behavior. We were warned by generations before us that we were so self-loving and needed to focus on what was important, and spending less time trying to share every moment of our lives. I’m not sure if you all felt that way, but over the last few years, I saw I bias between generations. The ones before us did not understand or appreciate the self-discovery of the later generations.

As a millennial, I am watching some incredible things unfold. I was the first generation to learn computer programming grade school BASIC, LOGO, I was the first generation to experience mainstream social media before it made it into public domain (Facebook) and now one the generations to fully experience the digital-to-analog transformation.

During this revolution is a new wave of transparency. People now exchange their thoughts, ideas and opinions more openly through social media than they ever have before. Some hide behind anonymous cloaks and others declare their thoughts openly. Regardless of how, so many people have been preaching the essence of this one phrase that just drives me wild, “you’re doing it wrong.”

Whether or not their might be a better way to accomplish something in order to attain ones own goals, it doesn’t mean that we all share the same goals. Just because something doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean you should caution all others against it.

To all of those that say “you’re doing it wrong,” I offer you this one piece of advice: you’re doing it wrong.

Allow others to try things, shape their own opinions, learn from their discoveries and share what they learn. In this case, something that was condemned as narcissism (taking selfies) has transformed into a way to let people appreciate their own beauty, realize that we are all different and celebrate those differences.

My differences? When I was a teenager I had terrible acne. I still deal with some of it today. My teeth? Stained from years of smoking. In fact, I just learned yesterday that they will never be Hollywood white and I’m fine with that. My hair? Fine as you could imagine and gray as #AAAAAA in some places. My eyes? Horrible astigmatism and myopia.

You know what? This is me, and I’m pretty cool with that. I may not be Hollywood’s definition of beautiful, but I’m beautiful to someone, and that’s all that matters. If you don’t like my photo, get over it.

If you don’t think I should be taking pictures of myself, then think about this: the Internet is a place where we can connect with billions of people from the around the world. Unfortunately, 99% of this communication is through text. Unlike a face-to-face conversation, you never get to see my face. Facial expressions alone compose the majority of non-verbal communication.

My point? You can learn a lot from someone’s selfie.

What are you known for?

talk to the experts by Mai Le is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday serves as a great day to ask yourself, “what are you known for?”

No, we won’t all move mountains. We won’t all change the course of human history. We won’t all make it into the history books, but we all have the opportunity to make a change in the world. It can be something small, something big, or something that only affects a single person.

Regardless of what you want to be in the world or what you want to do, people will always associate you with certain things. If you work with them, they might just see you as a co-worker, if you bowl with them, they might just see you as a bowling partner, if you do great things though, they might see you for your accomplishments.

One of my biggest struggles as I have created my personal brand identity, is to figure out exactly what I want people to think of me as. Do I want to be a SEO expert? Nah. A community management expert? Maybe. A social media guru? Definitely not. A storyteller? Probably.

The challenge of trying to define yourself as a topical expert of one particular niche is important if you want to be a known authority for that particular subject. But, what if you’re like me and you’re interests are all over the place? What if you love consumer electronics, but also have advice for how small businesses can better use social media to attract new customers? What if you like debating issues like social media platform design and application user experience?

Can you truly be the master of anything if you enjoy so many different things?

I have been watching quite a few characters on Google+ recently, and I’m starting to notice a trend. The people that are regarded as topical experts post a lot about their given topic. However, a large number of them seem to cross over, post and comment on things that might be tangential to their focus, but not necessarily their blockbuster topic.

The bottom line, though is these people always return to what they do best, and because of that, they are known for that. +Mark Traphagen is on top of everything related to Authorship in SERPs. +Ronnie Bincer knows every technical aspect of Google+ Hangouts, Hangouts on Air and YouTube interface. +David Amerland has established himself as an expert on semantic search while +Dustin W. Stout  is leading the wave on fresh, purposeful content and engagement. Need to know anything about Google+ on the whole? +Denis Labelle and a slew of others likely have you covered. Android news? +Derek Ross is all over it.

These examples are people that have chosen to focus, and because of their focus, they are rewarded with being known for their focus. Those of us that chose to be interdisciplinary won’t achieve the same recognition of these individuals, and won’t stand out in a crowd for being the best at any one particular thing.

By diversifying your interests, you have the ability to learn so much about so many different things. However, in doing so, you can sometimes sacrifice the opportunity to be known as an expert. Regardless, though, how important is it to be known as an expert of one particular thing?

As I look to shift my career, I’m learning that ambition is no match for hard work and years of experience. Hiring managers and companies looking for consultants don’t just want someone that knows what they’re talking about, they want someone that can prove that they have consistently performed. These individuals, by choosing their focus and continuing to teach and share have done exactly that.

For the rest of the year, I am going to be asking myself, “what am I known as?” But until I figure it out, maybe you can help, what do you know me as?

To Share +1's or Not to Share +1's

Yesterday I was perusing my stream on Google+ when I noticed that +Dustin W. Stout had +1’d a post by +Taylor Swift. Now, I couldn’t help but think it was out of place for someone as savvy as Dustin to broadcast his interaction on a post with a mega celebrity that doesn’t have much at all to do with his realm (being awesome at the Internet).

When I privately alerted Dustin of what I thought must have been a mistake, something that he had overlooked, I got a reply that made me totally reconsider the way I thought about sharing +1’s.

Within minutes of seeing Dustin’s reply, I noticed this post in my stream by +Chris Jenkins that had been “vetted” by +Mark Traphagen+Derek Ross and +Eli Fennell (three people that I highly admire).

Prior to the screen capture, I didn’t have +Chris Jenkins in my circles. In fact, if the three people that I trust so much hadn’t +1’d the post and had their accounts enabled to show +1 recommendations, I never would have seen the post appear in my stream.

When the +1 broadcast feature was initially released, it was met with two schools of thought. One was that those that decided to turn the broadcast on, would either self-censor themselves or “over-share” and possibly +1 things that didn’t fit their brand or niche. The other school of thought was that by enabling the feature, you would allow your followers to be open to a whole new world of content and creative people.

Sadly, at the time of the release, I bought into the first theory. I didn’t want to censor myself by changing the way that I 1+ content. I wanted to +1 whatever the heck I wanted to, and not worry about someone else seeing it appear in their stream. I wanted to show everyone I was following that I was listening.

I guess at a certain point in your Internet presence, that school of thought is okay. But, with a large audience comes a bit of responsibility (at least in my mind) which is why I think I should take the opportunity to share what I find interesting with the rest of my followers. Starting today, I’m going to think about what I really enjoy reading, watching and engaging with. As I find things those things, I think it’s time to reward the people that took the time and effort to create and share those things.

Thanks, +Dustin W. Stout, for making me change the way I think.

What 2013 Taught Me About Social Media

This was a big year.

In just 12 months I moved, appeared on the Suggested Users List, started a new job, stopped using Google+ for a while, uninstalled Foursquare, got engaged, decided to move to Dallas, deleted my Facebook account, became a +Google Glass Explorer.

Tomorrow I will pack up all of my belongings in a truck and leave Tennessee (my home for the last 12 years) and head to Dallas, Texas. I’ve only been there twice. Each time I met with some great people that were introduced to me through Google+, +Scot Duke, +Joe Saad, +Katherine Fell and +Mark Neace.

It’s true that without social media, I wouldn’t have made those connections and wouldn’t have had a small network of people already in Dallas. However, no matter how many people follow me, or how good I think I am, social media won’t magically get me my dream job or solve all of my problems.

People talk. A lot. But, as we know, actions speak louder than words. This year I learned that just because I thought I was good at what I wanted to do, didn’t mean I would instantly become what I thought I was capable of.

This year taught me the difference between ambition and talent.

So many people that I am connected with advertise themselves as social media experts, marketing mavens or content creation gurus. But if they’re so good at doing those things, why do they spend so much time advertising themselves instead of getting things done? Are they all trying to be discovered? Are they trying to get “picked up?”

I’m guilty as charged. I’ve done the same thing. From creating +McDermott Media and thinking I could instantly become a 6-figure a year consultant, to teaching people how to use Google+ at speaking engagements and guest lecture opportunities. I’ve always shared my knowledge and told people this is what you need to do.

The truth? I’ve never working for a marketing firm. I’ve never been in advertising. I’ve never been paid to administrate the social media accounts of a company. It’s just something I’m really passionate about. Sadly, that passion alone won’t get me a job. In order to become successful at something, you need to establish yourself as the expert, but to become the expert you need to show your portfolio.

So where do you get the portfolio? Sure, I could show you the websites I’ve created, the projects I’ve embarked upon or the cool people I’ve worked with, but what is that worth to a company that deals in widgets and business services?

In order to get noticed for doing what you’re passionate about, you need to do something worth sharing: for +Cliff Roth, it’s his speed paintings; for +Daria Musk, it’s her music; for +matthew rappaport, it was first +Hangout Conversations and now +The Huffington Post! +Carter Gibson? +The LittleBigFund. +Rodney Pike has his incredible image manipulation and +Paul Roustan is always pushing the envelope with his live body painting broadcasts. +Evo Terra taught us that beer and sausage could sustain a man for a month. +Sarah Hill showed us that the power of hangouts can reach beyond the newsroom and into a business that helps people.

Sure, the things that these people did might not capture the attention of the world, but they captured the attention of enough people. What made these individuals stand out was their persistence. They each picked the thing that they wanted to be good at and they excelled.

I didn’t do that.

Nope. Maybe I have project-oriented ADD, or am interested in too many things. In either case, my failure to master any single thing has left me the jack of many trades, but the master of none. In a world of billions of people, most businesses don’t have interest in people that are good at several things, but those who aregreat at a few things.

Social media this year has taught me that in order for me to be successful in pursuing my passion, I will need to be dedicated to one thing. In order to achieve mastery, I must practice that thing day in and day out. I must part with my distractions and focus on what I really want to do.

The Suggested Users List isn’t a magic wand.

Many of you that have followed me for a long time may remember that I was very pessimistic towards the Suggested Users List. In fact, two years ago, I called Google out saying that +Vic Gundotra and his crew didn’t get social and were bastardizing their platform by glorifying people that never utilized the network; giving them millions of followers only to watch them waste away the opportunity to engage with the masses.

Of course, many of those speculations were met with anger and disgrace. How dare I, a simpleton, slap the hand of Google when they were giving us so much greatness absolutely free? Who was I to question the ways that they did things?

Regardless of the attitudes I was faced with, I noticed one thing evolve from sharing my thoughts: deep and meaningful conversations. I learned that in order to engage (or enrage) a group of people, I needed to share my feelings. I needed to go out on a ledge and voice my opinions.

It turns out that the conversations resulting from sharing my thoughts were worth a hundred times more than the time I took in sharing my ideas. By taking the risk to challenge the status quo and the way things were being done, I was rewarded with new ideas, new perspectives and the encouragement to do better, try harder and find better ways to use the tools available to me.

Now that I have found myself a member of the Suggested Users List for a few months, I can tell you a few things about having an incredibly large (but non-organic) following.

– The quality of engagement reflects the quality of what you post.
– People that used to engage often, will engage less.
– You find yourself filtering and censoring yourself much more.
– You spend more time managing your own comment threads than engaging with others’ posts.
– You can’t answer or reply to every comment.
– Things get lost in your inbox. You won’t be able to help it.
– People will give up on you when you fail to respond.
– There is not enough time to do everything you want.

At first, I wasn’t recognizing or realizing these things, but they developed over time and eventually snow balled. I realized that some of the things I accused other SUL members of before were inevitable and not a flaw of character or a change of heart.

There was a post I read the other day that +Eli Fennell shared entitled Social Media Popularity is Ephemeral (http://goo.gl/nIjtcA). The post talks about “the dangers of succumbing to the illusion of social media popularity.” That’s exactly what it is, an illusion. Getting hundreds of thousands of people circling you doesn’t mean anything but an opportunity. If you think you’re famous because a half a million people were told by a computer algorithm to follow you, you’re wrong.

This year taught me that the only thing that really matters is what we make with what we have. If we have the opportunity to share our thoughts and think they might enrich other people, we should share our thoughts. If we know we have a gift to share with the world, we should share it. But, if it’s not worth sharing, maybe we should just keep it to ourselves or a smaller group, lest we burden the eyes and ears of those so willing to listen. If we abuse the power of having a large audience, we might quickly alienate them and lose our opportunity.

So what is my purpose here?

I watched a movie over the weekend that didn’t score the greatest of reviews, but left me with a desire in my heart to do something great. It was based on a short story by James Thurber (http://goo.gl/9T0VVI) which appeared in +The New Yorker. The character played by +Sean Penn  reminded me greatly of +Trey Ratcliff. The main character, Walter Mitty (played by Ben Stiller) reminded me of myself, my “day dreams” and my ambition. The moral of the story, though is that you have to set aside your fears and your hesitations and just get out there and do what inspires you.

We’re in an age where one of our greatest values is living in the moment. We understand that we need to plan to be successful, but that we also need to seek the human experience. Not all of us will scale Mt. Everest, trek through the rain forest or visit Bangkok, but we all have the opportunity to shed our worries, our hesitations and our fears and do things that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

I’ve learned a lot over the last year, but sometimes it takes a lot of things happening in a short period of time to realize how important every moment of your life is. And that brings me back to my purpose here: sharing those moments and those realizations. The one thing that I think I’m good at is sharing stories and I hope that some of the stories I share will empower you to create your own experiences and share your stories with others.

What I’ve learned about social media in 2013 is that the best story to share is your own.

Don't Worry, Google+ Isn't Dead

Last night I was a bit puzzled when I came upon a breakdown of the interaction on my posts from 2013. The results weren’t in any way scientific and could possibly carry a certain margin of error (see the big gaping hole in my follower count?). Nonetheless, the folks at +CircleCount were kind enough to put together an immensely powerful tool that is second to none.

After reviewing my statistics, I started to review the statistics of others and realized that my numbers were down considerably compared to theirs. One of my favorite examples, +Paul Snedden, carried way more +1’s, comments and re-shares than I did (based on the number of followers). Paul’s raw engagement was only half of mine, but his follower count is less than 10% of mine. How could this be?

After being puzzled, I posted a thread on Google+ asking users if they were becoming bored of the network, or had noticed any recent in falloff in engagement. Plenty of people came armed with answers, suspicions and their two cents. There were some great analyses presented along with some profound comments (the post is embedded below).


The bottom line though is that there are plenty of people listening. In fact, there is so much more content being created that people have more to chose from. When the network looked like it was ebbing, it was actually flowing.

It turns out that Google+ is just following the footsteps of other social networks before it. The original “in crowd” gets grounded, sets up shop, brings the masses and then slowing recede away. In fact, I’m guilty of doing the same thing. I took a near 6-month hiatus earlier this year, only to come back more excited than I ever have been before.

Regardless of whether or not Google+ is or will continue to be successful, I want to make sure that I have a platform to catalog my ideas, my thoughts and my puzzles for you to put together. Posting them “in the stream” only creates the opportunity for them to get washed away and forgotten. Putting them on my blog where I can easily reference and organize them gives me hope that you will be able to come back, return and maybe even subscribe to these periodic rants.

Next year the game is going to change, though. I’m going to focus on sharing what’s important to me and how I think it can help you. One of those things, is usually Google’s free tools and services to make my life easier. It sounds hokey, and no I don’t get paid by Google to tell you any of this, but I have really found over the last year that by really adopting Google’s ecosystem and using the latest tools available (like my Android phone and Google Glass) I’m finding that everything is effortless, giving me more time to focus on the things that matter, like this blog.

I'm betting 2014 will be the year of long-form content.

Social media changed everything.

For a long time now, we have been conversing in short sentences. Curbing so many of our communications to under 140 characters, that some bloggers have taken to curbing their content as well, trying to hold onto whatever sliver of the American’s attention span that is left.

Do we all have ADD? Are we all incapable of reading a few paragraphs and getting through the entirety of one’s thoughts before forming our own opinions? Have we been reduced to exchanging memes and animated GIFs as each one of us tries to get wittier than the other?

At some point or another, it all needs to stop. We need to get back to what writers do best: sharing stories.

No, I’m not talking about the Cliff’s notes or the 15 second video. I’m talking about the 1,000 word essay, the 45-minute documentary, the high resolution portfolio that took months to perfect. I think it’s time for us to step away from the “quick and easy” and focus on investing some time an quality in the content we share.

The reason that so many of us create content isn’t because it feeds our family or keeps a roof over our head. The reason most of us create content to share freely is because we enjoy doing it. So what’s better than being the best at what you enjoy doing?

I think we are heading into a time where people focus less on the “idea of the moment” and start to hone in on the “concept that lasts.” Sure, we’ll still exchange puns and funny images that mock our popular culture, but those that are interested in creating things will focus less on the quick and easy, not so much on instant gratification but more on creating ideas and artwork worth spreading.

As everyone becomes an expert in “social media” the value of being a social media expert in cheapened. We have all figured out how to communicate with each other online. Some of us perhaps better than others, but we’ve all learned that creating an account, building a presence and carrying on a conversation isn’t all that hard. What’s really hard is creating a conversation that lasts.

I may be stepping out on a limb, but I really feel that this next year will be the year of carefully-curated, meticulously thought-of and passionately perceived long-form Internet content.

How often do you unplug?

Chromebook in my kitchen

This morning I was sitting at the kitchen counter and enjoying a cup of coffee. For the first time in almost two weeks I was catching up on social media notifications and some of the people that I enjoy following on the web.

During the time that I was in Hamilton, Massachusetts, Brittani and I didn’t have much access to the Internet. Cellphone service was fine, but we were so busy and engaged with my family and each other that we didn’t have the time (or urge) to whip out our smartphones and keep up with the other going-ons of the world.

In a sense, it was kind of liberating. We live in a world right now where we are addicted to the satisfaction of “Likes” retweets and comments. Our brains are hooked on the positive emotion of seeing interaction on the content that we share, as trivial as some of it might be. For one long weekend, Brittani and I put all of that to the wayside and just enjoyed our time with the family.

After coming back home I was so tied up with work that I didn’t really do much social media. In fact, it’s been a couple of weeks since I have sat down at a computer outside of work to do anything other than pay bills.

What I have found in my abstinence of social media is that it really doesn’t help me enjoy life. Sure, it’s an easy way to see who is up to what, who is having a baby and who won the big game, but some of that news is delivered so impersonally.

As technology improves and we start to better appreciate focused and curated information I think we will see mainstream social media playing a much different part in our lives. Posting “status updates” and photos of culinary adventures will still have its place in the world, but I think in a much different context.

Yesterday while I was enjoying a Labor Day celebration with friends and family I was speaking to a local web developer that limits his “online” activity to his workplace. He’s deleted his Facebook account after spending years as a social media marketing manager. He said it was one of the most liberating feelings in his life. To top it off, he doesn’t even carry a smartphone.

Listening to him tell me that he was a web developer that was totally unplugged from the grid outside of his 9-5 was totally foreign to me. I didn’t even think it made sense, but then it struck me. Our vocations have been so centered around computers that “personal computing” is a lost idea. We spend so much time in our jobs focusing on a 20″ screen that we are losing the urge to do anything (even creative) once we leave the office.

The last two weeks have been great for me. I feel refreshed, accomplished, relaxed and ready for my next adventure. Maybe I should unplug more often?

What is the longest you have ever been unplugged? Have you stopped using social media recently? Do you think the way we use social media is starting to change?