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March 2012

This Is Why I Write

"I always had trouble distinguishing between what happened and what merely might have happened, but I remain unconvinced that the distinction, for my purposes, matters." -Joan Didion

Memories.I love this quote. I love this quote because I feel exactly this way. I love this quote because at times this trouble distinguishing has anguished me, as if it is something to overcome or that can be overcome at all. I love this quote because in 25 words and a few well-placed commas this writer has not only perfectly encapsulated not just a feeling, but a constant hovering thought in my life--a philosophy, almost, about facts and sensory input and the mind and realms and what is real and what is merely what we make it. In one sentence this writer made me feel suddenly both solidly understood and not alone.

This is why I write. In hopes of constructing something similar--a wry turn of phrase, a meaty paragraph with just the right weight, a single sentence, a sprawling novel--that might resonate as powerfully with another human being, if only one.

[Photo by Silvia Viñuales]


More is Not Better (Where to Put That Thumb's Up)

"Do you just have a big, numbered list on your desk that says, '1) Get Followers, 2) Get Likes, 3) Money Shoots Out Of Computer Hole'?"

This, my friends. This. This is succinct and hilarious and so dead-on that I'm pissed I didn't write it myself. This is a huge part of why I decided to do this.

Here's more from Jon "@fart" Hendren:

Stop caring about essentially made-up KPIs and terrible metrics that measure nothing but how well your brand games a system that nobody else on earth cares about. The amount of followers, likes, and retweets your brand gets is practically meaningless. Nobody's surfing Facebook to see which major appliance manufacturer has the most likes before selecting a microwave, and No-Fucking-Body is going to go pick your brand of toilet bowl cleaner over anyone else's because you 'engaged the community' by asking if everybody was scrubbing the can for their March Madness party. That's bullshit, and you are a hack. Measure success by whether people are interacting with you or talking about your company in meaningful ways, such as by Real Feedback (the kind you didn't force into the funnel).

SocialmediapadIs it important to have a presence on social media platforms so that you can hear your customers? Yes, it certainly is. But pouring excessive energy into measuring social media engagement is wasted time, since most of these numbers are not only enormously inaccurate, they are, as @fart says, wholly useless.

More is not better. Not on Facebook. Not on Twitter. Not on Instagram. More sales are almost always better and more ratings are almost always better and more foot traffic is almost always better, but not so online. If you want meaningful and rich experiences on social media platforms then MORE MORE MORE (often at the cost of being tacky with ridiculous and gimmicky contests that reek of desperation like some overly pleading OK Cupid profile--"please, for the love of God, pick me!") is not the answer.

More followers and more likes and higher engagement numbers cranked out by Facebook's self-serving Insights analysis. Then what? What's next? How does this help?

More might be better, but there need to be ongoing discussions about what is the goal when interacting as a company online about why. Otherwise those tasked with running social media initiatives for organizations will have to make promises they can't keep, and these organizations will continue to bleed money chasing a high that yields nothing substantial.

Some of the other stuff in this article is overly harsh, but the guy's handle is @fart, so. But the gist of this piece is spot-fucking-on, and I think a good number of companies need a good gut check, a come to Jesus kind of sit-down with themselves about what they really want out of these "social media ventures."


Waitress Reborn

Last night hot espresso shot out of the machine and onto my face and neck. It was my first attempt at making an espresso in an espresso machine. 

Last night was my third night training to be a server at a local Italian restaurant after deciding a new career path. The first training shift was a lunch shift that got so busy I had to be pulled from following behind my trainer (who walked so quickly I literally had to run at times to keep up) to run food out to tables (something I had a month's practice doing in December). My second shift was a hosting shift where I learned how to take reservations of all varieties, accomodate walk-ins, handle menu changes and other not-so-physical duties. Last night I trained behind the bar.

I was a bartender for lots of years in my twenties, but that was in my twenties. And it was at an Outback. The best wine we had was Kendall Jackson.

The bar I was working behind last night serves only beer and wine and appertifs. It also has an extensive non-alcoholic menu of fancy coconut water drinks and other sophisticated "dry" beverages. The wine list is about 120 wines deep, and half are Italian, and I can pronounce about half of those. My knowledge about them is faint, at best.

So, last night I tried a whole bunch of wines. In a row.

My trainer looked at the training sheet and read aloud, "Go over wines by the glass." He pulled down two glasses and said, "Okay, let's get drunk."

Conundrum

We tried sangiovese and prosecco and chianti and pinot grigio and many more. The sips washed over my teeth and tongue, and I took down notes about their fruit forwardness or their low acidity or how well-balanced that cab is, but I felt a little like a fraud. Sure, wine is subjective, but I need a crash course in Italian wines and STAT. Waiting tables really well requires you to have extensive knowledge of what you are offering and know it like you know your own name. I feel intimidated presenting wine lists I know little about. That means I'm about to begin research on Italian wine and wine in general, which is something a good Northern California-dweller should know anyway.

I changed a keg. I squeezed lemons for their juice (which should always be avoided if you have a fresh cat scratch, for the record). I attempted to muddle sugar cubes in two champagne glasses and broke them both. I watched a man order a liter of wine and drink the whole thing. I cut my finger cutting a lemon peel to garnish an Italian soda just a blinding second after thinking, "You are going to cut your finger."

I type this with a band-aid on.

It feels good to work in your body. After seven years behind a desk for 8-10 hours a day, it feels incredible to feel a little sore after working hard. I don't mind the espresso burn or the back ache or the cut hand. It's a challenge and a blessing to be able to do this kind of work, and this reinvention makes me feel all tingly and alive and breaking a sweat means I'm making an effort, an effort I can touch.

They say we reinvent ourselves several times over the course of our lives. This reinvention is a new twist on an old thing, and I'm only three days in but I've never been more sure this move is the right one.

[Photo by Robert S. Donovan]