Tag Archives: technology

The Two Sides of Steve Jobs

30 Nov

All four of my readers will remember my post-mortem post on Steve Jobs. This post is further reflection on his life and accomplishments.

I’ve been reading the new Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and have some information to report back:

Steve Jobs was a genius and a nut.

He was emotionally immature, interpersonally inept, and an unbelievable hypocrite. When he didn’t get what he wanted in professional settings, he cried to manipulate people.  When he needed to encourage staff to take ideas to the next level, he tended to berate and belittle them instead. And despite the fact that he was himself given up for adoption by his mother and abandoned by his father, he refused to accept his own fatherhood for his oldest child until he was pretty much forced to after positive DNA testing.

This biography is not a tell-all, but Jobs wanted people to know the truth so wanted no censoring of content. I give him points for that. Isaacson conducted interviews with Jobs as well as hundreds of people Jobs knew–people with all kinds of opinions about what made him tick. It’s fascinating to read these insights into his process.

One of the things most intriguing to me is that, like George Harrison, Jobs sought spiritual enlightenment. I was surprised to find that he went to India to study Eastern philosophy and was a student of Buddhism. But unlike Harrison, Jobs did not seem to absorb any of the spiritual tenets around respect for other sentient beings. He used more of an end justifies the means type of approach to management,  putting people who worked for him on temporary pedestals to bolster their confidence one moment, while the very next telling them that what they created was “shit.” Apparently, he said this a lot. Jobs’ main takeaway from Buddhism, in particular Zen, seemed to be not the spirituality but the influence his  product design aesthetic: spartan, clean lines, and no fuss.

Another angle that Isaacson explores is the famous Jobs “reality distortion field.” If Steve Jobs believe that something was possible–even the impossible–he so strongly and passionately integrated this belief with his own worldview that for him and everyone around him it became reality. What that says to me is that he was so able to suspend his own disbelief that he had the power to persuade others to bend reality in very interesting ways…ways that beat deadlines and over-delivered on features.

All of this is interesting because it seems that the combination of these characteristics gave him the ability to manipulate his own and others’ thinking beyond the expected, giving us revolutionary products that are truly a pleasure to use. I’ve been wondering if all of the bad karma that Jobs created along the way of driving this technology to fruition outweighs the benefits of the products, and how they’ve impacted our lives in such positive ways. I think that you could argue it either way, and the answer is very subjective.

I’ve worked for people that I did not like at all interpersonally but whom I respected professionally, and who drove my thinking to the next level even though I despised their methods. I hated them for being so mean, but I still loved them for being geniuses. I’m a better professional for having worked with them, despite the pain. I think Steve Jobs left a slew of people behind with this very impression. He wasn’t good, he wasn’t bad. He was something in between: imperfect and himself.

Steve Jobs: Making Technology Cool

6 Oct

Last school year, my 10-year-old son did a science fair project involving some research on Steve Jobs. Last night when I told him that Jobs had died, he cried.

How powerful that a man’s influence can be felt by so many generations. Even some of my older friends who just started using computers are really only doing so because of Jobs. Face it: He’s the guy that made computers useful and useable for regular people.

And he took us beyond the geekly image of a loser with big glasses tinkering with a mainframe to a culture that wants technology because it’s a mark of being cool. Being without technology is uncool. No young person today is without a mobile device.

The coolness comes from a combination of three things, all created or enabled in some way because of Jobs:

  1. It helps us to get things done, in particular things involving other people. Jobs saw the social power of technology, to connect us and help us to communicate in a multitude of ways. Paradoxically, Jobsian technology helps us to be more human.
  2. It feels good. I have not moved up to the 4-series iPhone yet, largely because I have so gotten used to the feel of the rounded edges and smooth casing of my 3-series. Technology has got to be something that we enjoy touching, and that gives us that tactile response that feels good. Case in point: The swoop sound when I send an email. Again, like the feeling of popping bubble paper or eating cherries or ghosts when playing Pac-Man, using Jobsian technology just plain feels good.
  3. I read something recently that a market study on Apple users described their visceral reaction to seeing the Apple icon as religious in nature. Same kind of response as seeing a cross or a spiritual icon. An interesting finding…that the Jobsian technology has created a devotion far deeper than brand dedication.

This clip is making the rounds, and you may have already seen it, but if not I highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch. I’d read the speech a couple of years ago but didn’t see the video. And how ironic, that the man who created the technology most of us are using to view this, is the same man whose life that it helps us to celebrate.

“Stay hungry, and stay foolish.” Indeed.

The Death of E-mail?

25 Sep

crystal-ball-scary

Reposting this oldie but goodie….first published in August 2009.

Back in the early 1990s, e-mail was considered exciting and new. Hard to believe, Millennials, I know. There once was a time when e-mailing attachments was as exciting as sharing video with friends on Facebook. You could even send around prehistoric versions of Facebook quizzes and notes…they were called chain letters.

Long ago, in the dark ages of the 1990s, e-mail was considered revolutionary because it was “instantaneous.” We’ve come a long way, baby. “Instantaneous” is relative. It’s getting faster, and more complex, every day. Instant messaging tools from just a few years ago (like MSN Messenger and AIM) are now obsolete, replaced by social networks that facilitate instant sharing of pretty much any type of media that can be digitized–not just text. Even my mother, who is 71, recently joined Facebook so that she could see mobile uploads of her grandkids’ vacation photos.

As for snail mail, the U.S. Postal Service is considering the elimination of Saturday delivery. I won’t miss it. What about our not-so-old, reliable and not-so-instantaneous friend e-mail? What’s to become of one-sided messaging?

Here’s my prediction: As more baby boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials transition to regular use of social networks for both personal and business use, e-mail will fade away. More and more of our time will be spent in real-time interaction through tools like Facebook and Twitter, and their successors, and less time will be spent in cleaning out our in-boxes.

Why? Because in a world of information overload, we are hungry for friend-sourced information. Just knowing that a friend recommended a particular article or video makes me more interested in seeing it. And commenting in a venue where other friends can comment back just opens up the conversation for more thoughts. Social networking creates a forum where I can read the news “with” my friends–having the added bonus of their feedback and opinions built right in.

It’s all about engagement in the context of information. Social networking makes us happy because it informs us and keeps us connected with friends, at the same time. While it doesn’t replace in-person interaction, social networking is a good complement, when used judiciously.

Not Your Mother’s News Media

21 Jan

A post from the Werth Mentioning blog — one part of my day job.

Social Media Time Management

26 Oct

514845946_7922cff51aWhat’s that sucking sound? It’s the sands of time, the ticking clock and and my unfinished to-do list — all being eaten whole by Facebook, Twitter and my blog. I have succumbed to the time-sink of social media, and I’m all too keenly aware of my addiction. How do people draw the line between true engagement and online time-wasting?

It’s a difficult habit to kick when it partially drives the economic engine of my professional livelihood. Working in public relations, I feed the beasts of my own personal social media presence as well as my agency’s and certain clients.

I was recently asked a question about this on a panel. The question was: How do you find the time to “do” social media for yourself and clients? Doesn’t it take up all of your time?

The answer? It can if you let it. The best way to carve out the time is to set limits on how much time to devote to each social media footprint. The worst thing for me is to leave my time wide open. When I do that, I get caught up in “the zone,” or my “flow” space, where I lose all track of time. This is fairly self-indulgent for me—although it feels good in the moment, I can’t usually afford to let my time evaporate. I’ve got a family to get home to, client deadlines to meet and other normal life to-dos.

I try to spend 30 minutes on each Twitter account per day, 15 each in the morning and the afternoon or evening. With the blog, it’s a couple of hours a week. Just one post a week, usually. And then I’m reading others’ blogs through my reader, usually an hour a day.

Then there’s Facebook. How much sharing is enough, really? I try to limit myself to sharing just a few items per day of others’ content, with a couple of status updates and/or content of my own. This one is my real weakness, because I pore through information obsessively and tend to think that everyone should also ready the cool stuff I’ve come upon. This is where I have to reign myself in and exercise some judgment about not oversharing.

There are people I’ve friended that I filter out of my feed because they are constantly putting up stuff from third-party sources. To me, that’s as bad as someone telling me the minute details of their life second by second. Get original. Have your own thoughts and insights.

It does add up, all told. At least 10 hours a week for myself, probably another 15 or so for work-related items. When examined like this, the opportunity cost of social media becomes more stark. What real-life experiences am I missing due to social media interactions? How much outside time am I sacrificing?

What are others’ experiences? Amber Naslund, Director of Community at Radian6,  just put up a good post about time management in the midst of social media. Bottom line, it’s about knowing one’s goals and setting priorities aligned with them. She shares helpful information to guide social media priorities.

For me, it’s all about the balance. Easy to write about, not easy to strike!

Learning New Tricks

16 Jan

Ever since I can remember, I have been interested in learning how to do new things. For some reason, the learning is more important to me than the end point of having learned.

Some people are just never satisfied. I’ll admit to a bit of that. Growing up, my parents moved 14 times between my birth and finishing college. So I come by it honestly — my mom is a big believer in change. She likes the smell of new carpet, I guess.

But for me that searching is about new ways of thinking. My work is an outlet for this, in a productive way. The landscape of public affairs, PR, marketing and advertising is constantly in flux, which keeps my thinking fresh. My discovery of social media has been an outlet for me personally and a boon to my professional portfolio. Helping clients learn more about how to apply social media in the business environment has become one of my pet projects. I am impressed by how technology can help our productivity, and help us to pioneer new ways of delivering our work processes and products. Olivier Blanchard (blogger handle The Brand Builder) has a good post about this phenomenon.

Client account management is fluid–never a dull moment–and it also keeps my brain flexible. Working with people, including their infinite array of ways to surprise and engage my imagination, is fulfilling. I am fascinated by the dynamics of teamwork in the client environment. Just yesterday I facilitated a meeting that included several more junior associates that are all up-and-comers. We were brainstorming with a client, who happens to be a guru in his area of practice, and I observed such active creativity that would never have occurred via conference call or back-and-forth e-mail messages. The beauty of client engagement is the interpersonal, in-person contact that fuels our work. I was proud of our team for the ability to bring best-practice thinking to the table and infuse it with in-the-moment solutioning. You can make your agenda, plan the desired outcome of a meeting and anticipate how it will unfold, but so often it goes in a different and improved direction. In yesterday’s case, we were generating new ideas that will soon be moved into execution. It’s good to see a group’s ideas go from start to finish.

And knitting is similar. I just learned how to make cables–easier than I thought it would be. And they are just lovely. I am so proud of my cables.  Every new row of cables makes me happier. There’s a beauty in learning a new technique and repeating it row by row, letting it sink in. Mastery of one’s craft–for fun or for money–is rewarding.

Teaching is a natural progression for this admirer of change. Yesterday I led an informal lunch-and-learn session on using FastTrack for project management. I’ve found that PR professionals do not always see the benefits of this practice, but at Paul Werth Associates my colleagues understand the practical application and how this can help us to be better account managers. I would like to do more teaching in my field, and have equally enjoyed opportunities to share my knowledge of knitting with those who are learning their way.

I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn. – Albert Einstein

The teacher if he is indeed wise does not teach you to enter the house of wisdom but leads you to the threshold of your own mind. – Kahlil Gilbran, Lebanese symbolist poet and painter

Newsflash: No Fear

3 Jan

Before the official beginning of my illustrious career at the DQ 27 years ago, I delivered newspapers.

First, it was the Columbus Citizen-Journal, then The Columbus Dispatch. There’s nothing like a newspaper delivery job to make you appreciate the hard work of stuffing and folding papers (hard to wash off that newsprint) and collecting money from people who never seem to be home. While in high school, I was the feature editor for the school paper. In my late teens, I freelanced for a community newspaper called The Reynoldsburg Reporter.

Now, I work hard landing good client news as a PR professional. The sensation is not unlike the feeling of carrying your newspaper bag on a bike: You have to pull weight from the front bag and the back bag evenly, so you don’t get thrown off balance from the front or strangled from the back. (Those of you who’ve delivered papers know what I mean.) Despite my decades-long commitment to print media, I am considering the cancellation of my local paper delivery.

Because it’s official: The Web is now the more popular news source.

Some on Facebook have joined a group about not letting newspapers die. But all the positive thinking in the world can’t change technology. In the world of news, fast is good. And in a world quickly realizing that paper is expensive and environmentally wasteful, words are best delivered digitally. And so is the Sugar Daddy for print news–advertising. It’s no surprise that papers are getting thinner and thinner. The Cincinnati Enquirer just eliminated advertising from two of its seven daily papers. Technology is speedy and cheap, and the immediacy of the Web has overtaken the process of the printing press.

It’s time to admit that the newspaper as a vehicle for delivering news is dead. In fact, technology is changing the delivery of broadcast as well as print media. Every day, good people are laid off from media jobs. There are various services documenting the downsizing phenomenon in media. And some entertaining summaries of the fallen. This one documents the demise of magazines during 2008. It’s sad but true. The Web, with its lightning-fast delivery, has replaced the once proud newspaper carrier.

Large and universally known entities like CNN, Fox, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are using technology to their benefit, leveraging all forms of media on the Web, blurring the lines between online, broadcast and print. They are not afraid to experiment with new media. It’s not a huge commitment to play with technology’s array of options and back out if it doesn’t work. Successful local media are finding their niche in community-focused stories that tell the human side of local events. Those who can best harness technology will remain intact.

Savvy PR firms are no longer pitching to the masses or trying to publicize the irrelevant. Like heat-seeking missiles, we are in search of the relevant news organizations, local, national or international, who have lured our target audience. And our pitching has to offer up visuals and a multifaceted story line. More than ever, our relevance comes from sifting through the various pieces of information and assembling a pitch package that includes all the right elements of news, delivered through the richness of multimedia.

Our pitching now had better include bloggers and citizen reporters. News organizations don’t always have the clout they once did. There are times when our pitches are first covered by bloggers, then picked up by the news organizations where they freelance. These days, there’s more than one way in–and we have to be prepared for the various points of access. This is not to be confused with pitching everything to everybody. We have to know our contacts. Relationships count.

This means setting the context for our pitches, and part of that comes from sharing mutual respect with the news media. Make no mistake, especially in the midst of constant turnover at news organizations, relationships make all the difference. What this means is that we have to be trusted sources for media, appropriately proactive in our outreach and reliably reactive when media ask us for ideas or access to sources.

New media is no longer new. These days, that’s old news. Case in point: Use of Twitter for press conferences and citizen reporter coverage of the recent Mideast crisis. Traditional and new media have become one. The best of both will remain when the dust settles.

If you’re not ready for the change that’s been underway for years, step aside before you get run over. If you are ready, come to grips with this newsflash: Constant change and progress have always been part of the news. The difference today is the speed of technology, driven by the higher proportion of the population with access to absorb and create the news.

Smart PR pros will embrace the change and help their clients navigate the unknown. Fear is not an option.