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Archive for the ‘the great dumbing-down of America’ Category

I was originally going to write a post outlining the difference between strategy and tactics, but it came to my attention that not everyone likes the fact that I a) call out bullpoopy, b) argue about semantics and c) tweet around acting like I am smarter than everyone else. Evidently, trying to “correct” people in this and other areas only serves to position me as a know-it-all, and others as know-nothings, which isn’t exactly the friendly thing to do in the big Social Media 24/7 party bubble where I should be… a voice of wisdom, not a voice of negativity.

Over the last year, I have inadvertently turned into that guy at the party who corrects people for their improper use of English, and questions the validity of their tall tales. (Who am I to question how big that fish actually was?!) Nobody wants to be that guy. So… I have decided to stop being that guy.

Yep, that’s right. Starting yesterday, I have decided to stop being so… negative. I am turning a whole new leaf.

Before I can really become the super-duper nice Olivier, the one who agrees with everyone and plays nice no matter what, I need to make amends. I don’t know much about 12-step programs, but I seem to recall that taking inventory of your flaws and asking for forgiveness is part of the process. So here we go:

1. I was wrong to butt into the R.O.I. discussion. Not sure what I was thinking with that one. I should have considered everyone’s feelings. Instead of trying to be right, I should have considered that EVERYONE has a right to be right. So… I was wrong to say that R.O.I. was a business measurement. In fact, it was kind of negative of me to imply that R.O.I. can’t be whatever you want it to be. R.O.I. can be anything you want it to be. You can measure it in followers, hugs, retweets, puppies, mentions… and whatever you want. R.O.I. can be anyoutcome you want it to be, and you can measure it however you want to. It was inconsiderate of me to suggest that anyone had it wrong. Hopefully, business schools will begin adopting new definitions of the term, and accepting that Social Media gurus are just as smart as MBA professors.

2. Social Media certifications are always legitimate, no matter who issues them. The legitimacy of the organization responsible for offering and delivering certifications in the Social Media space is not mine to question anyway, not that it needs to be. See item #3 to find out why.

3. Everyone who claims to be a Social Media expert actually is. How I got away with ever questioning that is beyond me. Thanks for being so patient with someone as obviously negative as I was. (It gives me chills to think about how negative and mean I have been to suggest otherwise!) Overnight expertise on the interwebs isn’t just possible, it is obviously common. Google something enough times and you too can be an expert. Thousands of people did it that way, and you can too.

4. There is no snake oil in Social Media (or in marketing, for that matter.) I made it all up. Everyone is 100% legit. Those R.O.E. equations, those calculators, those content strategy experts, they’re all solid. I was just jealous because they were better at math than I am. Trust everyone. Even when the math is wrong and the facts don’t add up, don’t be like me and expect the worst. Take the stance that… well, the guys selling you this stuff are the experts and you’re not. In the end, it isn’t your (or my) job to question, only to pay their invoices and let them do their expert strategist thing.

5. Nomenclature is completely unimportant. I was wrong to attach so much importance to silly things like what words really mean or don’t mean. Who cares if no one knows the difference between strategy and tactics, after all? It isn’t the end of the world. If people want to call themselves strategists, why should I care? (I shouldn’t.) Likewise, when a major brand’s Social Media Director confuses foot traffic and fouresquare check-ins, what does it matter? (I doesn’t.) The sun still rises the next day, doesn’t it? People still buy burgers, don’t they? Does anyone really care that 719 check-ins were made to sound like over 7,000,000 customers flocked to their 13,000+ locations? Of course not. These sorts of things are INSIGNIFICANT details. I was an a-hole to point it out, and to do so in a less than positive, encouraging way. I see the error of my ways now: Using the right words doesn’t matter. Everyone should be allowed to make up words and terminology whenever they want. That’s the beauty of the internet after all: The freedom to be, do and say whatever you want. To suggest that expert nomenclature comes with expertise was so pretentious of me! Sorry I have been such a party pooper.


So yep, I am turning a new leaf. Starting today, no more posts or tweets about things people do to harm companies or the public. (Since self-serving charlatans don’t actually exist.) No more shining a light on “shady” practices. (There is no such thing.) All I will write about will be positive and supportive, of everyone, without exception. You want less Jerry Springer and more Bono? You got it. David Armano, Jay Baer, Amber Naslund, Jason Falls, Liz Strauss, Chris Brogan and all of you who suggested – for months now – that I focus on the positive rather than the negative, your wish has just come true. I am finally listening to your collective advice. I am going to be the biggest Social Media cheerleader the world has ever known, starting now.

My content strategy is now this: Whatever I write, I will never offend anyone ever again. Most important of all, my content strategy will be to provoke exactly zero pesky arguments and debates about silly things like… terminology, measurement, ethics or whatever else used to make me such an insufferable, holier-than-thou know-it-all.

What the internet needs more of, after all, is love. Love, I can give. Encouragement and support, even. If you want to build Social Media and Content Strategy consulting businesses out of thin air and cracker-jack boxes, I will support you 100% of the way. You creative equation designers out there, those of you who have reinvented R.O.I. for the Social Web, you are the internet’s true heroes and I will not stop singing your praises until both Mashable and the Wall Street Journal mention you as examples of excellence in measurement innovation. We need more of that, and I have plenty of it to give.

Uncomfortable questions though, not so much. (All they do is make people feel bad about the choices they’ve made, and nobody wants that.) I have learned my lesson: When ethics, values and standards make some people uncomfortable, the proper thing to do is to back off and let them exercise their freedom to do whatever they want. I don’t want to be an obstructionist.

What I really want to be a Social Media cheerleader. It was wrong of me to ever want to be anything else. I let pride and ego stand in the way of being everyone’s best friend.

So my pledge to you from now on is this: Nothing but love, support, and acceptance, no matter what. I can’t wait to help you sell your new words, concepts and ideas for digital and marketing services! Certification programs? Send them my way! ROI calculators? Toss those babies over to me. It’s all good. I will never question anyone’s work again, no matter how um… complex it is.

This is going to be SO much better. I can’t wait!

#StepfordTBB

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Afghan "Shura" - Source: US Navy

A debater with thin skin is much like a soldier without composure: He isn’t much good to his craft, not to mention his cause.

I find myself debating a lot these days. Many of the topics revolve around business, brand management, crisis communications, Social Media, R.O.I. and marketing, while others touch on far more important ones like geostrategy, culture, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and Constitutional law. I believe debate to be a healthy pursuit – not simply an entertaining passtime – and engage in it with both delight and passion. I relish the opportunity to face off against another’s intellect and wit, especially when the act of debating an issue helps bring a discussion back from a place of hateful discord to one of mutual respect, if only for a few minutes.

It doesn’t mean both parties will agree or that one side will convert the other. I am not that naïve. All it means is that both parties will discuss the issue with respect towards each other. Debate is at its best an exercise in civility, at its worst an ugly, pointless brawl or shouting match.

The latter happens when emotions rather than reason get the best of someone involved.

Before you get to riled up, consider this that if debate is indeed a manner of combat (and it is,) it at least has the virtue of being bloodless. As such, it is a gentleman’s (and likewise a lady’s) sport. Losing an argument isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it may come with its share of benefits, not the least of which may be an education.

Now might be a good time to point out that debates are not about proving that one’s feelings about an issue should prevail. Debates are about arguing points, not feelings. “My feelings are more right than your feelings,” is an impossible argument. You might as well try to argue that your choice of a favorite color is better than someone else’s choice of their favorite color. It is completely pointless.

In every debate are two conjoined threads: One holds fast to reason while the other weaves itself into feelings and emotions. unless you want your exchange to degenerate into mindless hysterics, always focus on the former. While passion can – and should – drive a debate, it should never be the instrument of its discourse. Ever.

How this translates to this blog and exchanges I might have with you on Facebook, Twitter or even in the real world of face-to-face interactions is this: I will never tell you that your feelings about an issue are wrong. I may, however, tell you that your thinking around an issue is.

And then prove it to you.

When this happens, here’s how to best me: Prove me wrong. Not with feelings, not with arguments about feelings, and certainly not with anger, scorn, insults or threats. Best me with reason. If you make your argument, I will yield. (Gladly, in fact.) It happens regularly.

If you cannot make your argument, break off, give the topic of discussion more thought, do more research and try again when you’re better prepared.

Never will your feelings about an issue be enough to convince anyone of the validity of your position, especially if they revolve around anger. No emotion or personal belief, even if echoed by your peers, can ever justify the abdication of reason, especially in a debate. Show me your cool head. Show me the depth of your intellect. Show me the extent to which you have reflected upon an issue. Preparation here is key: Know what you are talking about. Know it from every possible angle. Consider all of the points of view, and recognize their every strength and weakness based on its own bias, not yours.

Only when you can see every angle can you consider yourself ready to enter into a debate – that is, a discussion about a topic with someone of the opposite viewpoint. Regarding this topic, here is something to consider: Spending most of your time both listening to a single viewpoint and discussing it with like-minded peers will not prepare you for a debate, the object of which is this: To prove the validity of your point in spite of your feelings, rather than by recruiting others to the emotion that secures your adherence to it.

A few tips on debating issues both online and offline:

1. Know the subject thoroughly. Not just your side of the issue, but all sides equally.

2. Trust both, but separate reason from emotion. The former is your ally. The latter is not.

3. Unless you live in a theocracy, morality and religion are subjective arguments, not objective arguments. Subjective arguments, while fascinating in certain social situations, have no place in reasonable debate.

(Update: Rick pointed out that I may be wrong about this in the comment section, and I see his point. Our discussion about context helps shed some light about this. I indeed failed to take into account the context of a debate when I suggested #3. He’s right.)

4. Respect your opponent even if s/he does not respect you. (Your professionalism, kindness and honor are yours. Their absence in an opponent has no bearing on your own.)

5. The moment either person involved loses their temper, the debate is over.

6. Thin skin and public debates do not mix.

7. Be aware that debating a point with an unreasonable person may be a complete waste of your time. Debating the virtues of civil rights legislation with a racist, for instance, may not be the most productive use of your time. Likewise, arguing ethics with a crook probably won’t get you anywhere. Just as worthy opponents make great sport, worthy opponents make great debates. Too one sided a contest typically yields disappointing results. Don’t waste your time on unworthy foes.

8. At least 1 out of 4 people who disagree with you may be utterly incapable of arguing a point objectively. See item 7 for further instructions.

9. If you represent a company or organization, heated debates may be ill-advised – especially when they touch on religion, sex and politics. If you are answerable to no one but yourself, no such limitations exist beyond those you impose on yourself. In either case, always remember item 4: The golden rule of public debates.

10. If you are bested, acknowledge it gracefully. If you win, thank your opponent for his/her gracious effort. All other outcomes are to be avoided whenever possible. Nothing is gained from the murder of civility, especially in matters of public debate.

One final note: Debate with heart, let outrage fuel your argument when it must, but keep your sense of humor close at hand. When all else fails, it may yet carry you through. The ability to laugh at yourself, at your own stumbles, at the witty barbs of your opponent when they deserve a nod, can be all the armor you need to compensate for any unwanted thinness of skin.

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The LucasFilm logo appearing on the big screen at the start of a movie used to mean I was about to spend the next 90-120 minutes in awe.

And I have to admit that for about ten seconds today, when those familiar green letters showed up, big as a house, I felt the same excitement swell in my chest that I used to feel back when I was ten.

Sadly, my emotional response to the LucasFilm logo spans far enough across the ages to allow me to forget for an instant that George Lucas (who once rocked with Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of The Lost Ark) hasn’t written or directed a decent movie in two decades.

Just so we’re all on the same page, let’s go through the list:

The good:

Star Wars
Game Changer. 100% awesome in every way.
Empire Strikes Back
Actually improved on the original. The quintessential sci-fi adventure movie.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Pure genius.

The bad:

Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom
Inflatable raft out of a crashing airplane. The annoying kid from Goonies. Kate Capshaw. Magical rocks? Indian cannibals. Please make it stop.
Return of the Jedi
E-W-O-K-S. (Okay, ROTJ also gave us Yoda, but the ewoks were in it more.)
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
Emphasis on “LAST.” Cheesy father-son pathos. Derivative action scenes. Again, emphasis on “LAST.”
Star Wars: Episode 1
Jar-Jar Binks. The race announcers during the pod race. The horrendous CGI. QuiGon was a patronizing moron with zero skills. We all gave him a pass here, expecting Episode 2 to redeem George a bit.
Star Wars: Episode 2
Awful dialogue, terrible CGI, the Jedi are dumb as hell, and the whiny kid that will one day become Darth Vader does not act like a boy/man in love at all, and no one can act.
Star Wars: Episode 3
Star Wars: Episode Crap. Total waste of three movies and everyone’s time.

And now this: Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. How about this: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of How Badly George Lucas Needs To Retire? George Lucas’ worst movie to date BY FAR. The saddest part about it (aside from the fact that I wasted 4 tickets and 2 hours of my life watching that gigantic turd) is that Lucas somehow managed to drag Spielberg, Ford, Blanchett, Winstone, Hurt, Broadbent and LeBeouf into this complete disaster of a Hollywood production. I feel bad for them. I really do.

Let me put it as plainly as I can for you: This movie sucks. Absolutely sucks. It is horrible.

Let me break it down:

Concept: FAIL
Script: FAIL
Dialogue: FAIL
Action scenes: FAIL
Characters: FAIL
Excitement: FAIL
Special effects: TOTAL FAIL

I cannot believe such a gigantic pile of crap isn’t getting crucified by the critics. Proof at last that they’re either a collective of morons or that most of them are getting paid by the studios. Don’t believe me? Check out this review from the Pittsburg Post: (It actually made me laugh and puke at the same time.)

“The resurrected franchise has come a long way from its modest B-picture origins, and Spielberg, Lucas and screenwriter David Koepp fall victim to that dreaded disease of CGI-itis near the end. “Indiana Jones” has never been about the special effects, and when they commandeer the screen the actors shrink in every way.”

What? Are you on crack? “Modest B-picture origins?” “CGI-tis near the end?” “Indiana Jones has never been about the special effects?”

‘”The Crystal Skull” ups the action ante considerably, with Ford and LaBeouf in a motorcycle chase that’s like a moving three-card monte with car, bike and occasional bus zipping through the streets and onto campus. Everything is bigger and louder, from an extended jungle pursuit to a plunge over the waterfalls that makes Niagara Falls in a barrel look like child’s play.”

Puke. The action scenes were so boring and derivative, even my kids were yawning. And so beyond unbelievable and poorly executed that even for a summer popcorn flick, they’re downright insulting. In comparison, Michael Bay’s Transformers is a friggin’ masterpiece.

I hope the check from the studios was worth throwing your integrity down the drain, Barbara. But hey, you aren’t alone. Let me expose some of your fellow wastes of space:

Jackie Cooper: “The gold standard for summer movie fare.”
Betty Jo Tucker: “From its exciting opening sequence to its clever closing scene, ‘Crystal Skull’ made me grateful to Steven Spielberg for deciding to film another Indy adventure.”
John Beifuss: “The long, go-for-broke opening sequence in the Nevada desert is a triumph that announces that Spielberg and Indiana Jones are not just an explosive combination, they’re positively atomic.”
Richard Knight: “After 19 years, Spielberg and company have unearthed the best treasure of all – another great Indiana Jones movie.”
Chris Farnsworth: “Fortunately, a smart script and great set pieces make this tale of Soviet spies, weird artifacts and a lost city a worthy capstone to the series.”
David Cornelius: “Breathless, popcorn-munching adventure flick perfection.”

I have to stop I can’t handle this anymore.

I can’t believe Spielberg actually directed this horror.

I know that there’s already a petition to get Uwe Boll to stop making movies… Can we PLEASE get one started for George Lucas as well?

I will let Wade Major, from Box Office Magazine close us out today with this honest and accurate comment: “Utterly unnecessary, unbelievably uninspired and preposterous beyond all imagination.”

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The commoditization of everything is turning the US into a 2nd world country.

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The best comment about the SuperBowl’s chronically lame half time show I’ve read yet (from From: johnnynotsid on Buzznet):

Subject: HOW BAD WAS THE SUPERBOWL HALFTIME SHOW?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Tom Petty but good GOD. DO SOMETHING!

WHIP YOUR GUITAR AROUND! HEAD BANG! BREAK YOUR HIP! Do SOMETHING!

Worse even than Macca did. I thought after Prince we’d be doing better but no…… We’re so worried about another bare titty on a Sunday afternoon that we have to get young Santa Claus.

Next time: Get Radiohead (I don’t even like Radiohead) or Smashing Pumpkins (even with Zeitgeist songs) or SOMEONE WHO IS ESTABLISHED BUT DOES NOT NEED GERITOL TO PERFORM!

In Tom Petty’s defense (or Prince’s, or The Stones, or Paul McCartney’s) these guys don’t suck. they’re very, very good… They’re just… you know… not exactly A-list anymore. Or very exciting. This is the Superbowl, man! People want to be dazzled. They want to be entertained. They want to walk away saying “wow! That was incredible!” Well, they aren’t.

The once premier sporting event in the USA has sadly turned into a giant ball of mediocrity wrapped up in a very thin and overpriced wrapper of hype. My question to you is this: What does that say about our society? About Brand USA? About where we’re headed – politically, economically, culturally and creatively? If the Superbowl isn’t a metaphor for a bloated and mediocrity-embracing American culture, I don’t know what is.
Instead of raising the bar every year, why is it that even the quality of the Superbowl experience is suffering? If there is one sporting event we should do right, it’s this one. But we don’t even bother to take pride in that anymore. The Superbowl has turned into just another disposable product: Commoditized, noisy, overpriced and hollow.
Are we really that afraid of glimpsing another janet Jackson nipple? Must we sanitize the US’ greatest sporting event of the year to such a ridiculous extent that the Half Time show’s musical acts have to be in their… um… silver years?
Whomever books these acts should go work for cruise lines and retirement communities, and leave the Superbowl to real professionals.

While you’re pondering the whole metaphor concept I mentioned a few minutes ago, try this concept on for size: Relevance. How relevant are these musical acts? How relevant is the Superbowl anymore? (Not the game itself, but the ads and the show and the rest of the disposable glitter.) Perhaps more importantly, how relevant are we anymore, with our paper plates and our plastic forks and our ready-made Superbowl party platters, so desperate for entertainment that we will sit through the dumbing-down of advertising and the corporate castration of sport? How relevant are we when the Euro is stronger than the Dollar, the best creatives are moving out of the US, and we as a nation seem more concerned about accidentally glimpsing a nipple on TV than homeless families living in a van just down the road? How relevant are we when – as the only superpower left – our economy is crumbling, we have the worst public education system in the western world, our bridges are collapsing, we still don’t believe in Science, and we’re the fattest people on the planet?
We’re acting like a nation of tourists.
Just in case you skipped to the punchline, here it is: “Good enough” just isn’t good enough anymore.
Heck, mediocrity – in advertising, business, product design, politics, education, research, medical care, engineering, infrastructure management, entertainment, foodservice and customer experience, and yes, even your own job – just isn’t cutting it at all. Not in the USA. Particularly not now. We should all be embarrassed by how far we’ve alowed this to get already. It’s time to wake up.
PS: The permalink of this post doesn’t accept comments. Go to the main page and comment from there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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