Friday, March 26, 2010

Got TechFatigue? You're Not Alone And You Can Fight It

Mark W. Schaefer has been blogging daily (and well) for months, maybe years (when did you start, Mark?). Last week he tweeted a query to his now 9,200-and-growing followers:

“Thinking about living the life less posted. Good? Bad? Inevitable?”

I don’t know what’s driving Mark’s thought to cut back, but I know I recognized and acted upon a similar urge to battle TechFatigue. It's coming at us from so many directions now.

• Take a look at Phone Scoop’s myriad cell phone options posted within the past three days! Only technology journalists and bloggers appear vaccinated against the catatonia-inducing choices, options, and changes that comprise mobile fatigue. Add the noise from carriers -- Sprint, AT&T, t-Mobile, and Verizon -- and the invasion just quadrupled. (Are we tired yet?)

• How about macro to nano computing devices-- the desktops, laptops, netbooks, i-pads, minis, and micro-mobiles? Does all this jiggery pokery make you want to hang on stubbornly to your old computer, gosh darnnit!

• Speaking of computers, had any confusion about software choices or system upgrades lately? How about all those viewing choices inherent in Direct TV, Dish, or Fios vs. Comcast (okay, sorry, no choice there, but still…). Have you figured out Justin TV or Hulu? (Say, what? Okay, I feel an anxiety attack coming on …).

• How about storage devices and computer back-up systems .. or viruses and phishing scams, crashing hard drives, computer theft, home security systems, cars that don’t have keys, self-checkout at Giant. Even some gasoline pumps scare the fumes outta me.

All of this -- and gigabillions of bytes more -- adds up TechFatigue and leads to 21st century complaints like exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, irritability, and illness. Heck, we know technology lies at the root of car accidents (25% of accidents, according to this source) and that it's blamed for obesity. But technology is so ... beguiling. It's so addictive.

Last fall, neuro-biologist Susan Greenfield delivered a speech in which she said, “…We might be entering a world that is more sensory than what we would traditionally call cognitive. …I'm just thinking about young brains exposed to different experiences. And it could be that the multimedia -- the sounds and the colours and experience -- is so great that that becomes the premium - 'yuck!' and 'wow!' - 'yuck!' and 'wow!'

Dr. Peter Kahn, a developmental psychologist, worries that the substitution of screen for green robs us of the healing qualities of nature itself. "People might think that if technological 'nature' is partly good, that that's good enough, but it's not. Because, across generations, what will happen is that the good enough will become the good. If we don't change course, it will impoverish us as a species...We are a technological species, but we also need a deep connection with nature in our lives."

Back in the late nineties, articles like this about technology and workplace stress abounded, as did reports of technology attacks on the home front. Curiously, though, for this decade, Google turns up fewer alerts to the threat of technology. If these effects were true a decade ago, shouldn't our psyches today be in tatter? Oh... right.. we have exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, irritability, and illness.

Sometimes it seems we simply gave up and gave in to the "inevitable" takeover. But maybe we haven't. I’m sensing the backlash lately and noticing that some thought leaders are cooling their own obsession. Examples?

Guy Kawasaki said on March 12 that, for him, blogging is now "an asynchronous, interruption-driven activity."

In a March 3 interview with David Armano, even the frenetic, energetic, kinetic (and, admittedly, loveable) Chris Brogan acknowledged that he's a bit tired. "I'm having a really tough time scaling," he said, citing the sources of TechFatigue. "I get several hundred (over 600) emails a day, plus maybe 50 daily contact form requests, plus about 200 DMs, plus several hundred @ messages, plus 50-100 comments a day. It's getting to be hairy."

Chris also thinks "social media will flash and then simmer. It's at the brightest part of the flash right now. I'm watching the curve drop." I agree. The temperature of SocialMedia Pox is down, as I noted in this blog last week.

Our willingness to back off the frenzy gives hope -- and direction -- to battling TechFatique. Popular strategies include dumping email wholesale; auto-filing and later scanning ezines and blogs once every 10 days; visiting Twitter purposefully but not obsessively; unfriending Facebook "friends" by the hundreds, until only family and real friends remain; using the cell phone more for talking and less for email; and – just maybe and inevitably – blogging when events compel commentary.

What do you think?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hapless Request from Newbie Magazine Fires Up A Storm of Vitrol

Angelia W., magazine publisher, surely had no clue what she was asking when she invited a group of freelance writers on LinkedIn's "Writers' Showcase" group to send articles to her recently re-launched women's magazine. Angelia was looking for "experienced writers," but was "currently unable to provide compensation." Correct. She wanted us to work for free.

The group administrator cut off the outrage at 13 comments, but the group made several points worth repeating.

Freelance writer, Arlie MacGregor, said, "Apparently, the magazine industry is different from the rest of the business world in that they expect employees to work for free and line the owner's pockets. If this were any other business 'just re-launching,' such as a restaurant, legal firm, gas station, retail store, etc., asking for free labour would be unthinkable (and covered on the local news no doubt)."

Writer/journalist/editor/visual artist Andrew Brooks added his two cents: "Arlie, I've often wondered why the mag industry is plagued with this 'no-pay' approach when it wouldn't be tolerated anywhere else. I think the problem might be that most people think anyone can write. After all, we all have to write at some point, even if it's just a grocery list or directions to a house. 'So how hard can it be??'"

Arlie took exception, saying, "We make it easy for them to offer 'exposure' for our hard work .. To the publishers out there who are 'just starting, launching, organizing, structuring, etc.' -- People die of exposure .. If you can't pay professional writers, prepare to get your hands dirty and do the work yourself. If that sounds like too much work, it's because it is work."

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Social Media Was "the Kool-aid of 2009." In 2010, Marketers Will Tweak the Recipe.

The Washington, D.C.-area Ad-Marketing listserv managed by Mitch Arnowitz (@mitcharno) has been engaged in a lively exchange addressing whether or not the Netpreneur listserv should hop to another more "modern" venue, like LinkedIn.

The conversation led to various viewpoints of what "social media" is, how long SocMed has been around, and whether or not LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. meet today's needs better than older social networks like the listserv, launched in 1986. Ultimately, long time Netpreneur Dirk Johnson dubbed social media hype "the Koolaid of 2009." Dirk is on to something and here's why.

The Urban Dictionary defines "drink the Kool-aid" as follows: "To completely buy into an idea or system, whether good or bad" and/or "to go along with what a crowd desires." The term connotes being lured by the apparent sweetness of an idea, without attention to its more serious undertone.

Colorful language perhaps, but the characterization of Social Media as "the Kool-Aid of 2009" rings true for five reasons.

1. Social Media was a buzz term; the bigger the buzz, the more dramatic the silence. 2009 was the year everybody heard the chatter. Along with "social media" as the buzz du jour, a certain level of accompanying hysteria predicted outcomes for those who declined to "adopt it" or, worse, "do it wrong." Blog after blogster, expert after expert warned folks engaged in marketing to jump on the SocMed bandwagon and ride. The buzz worked. Today, a Google search for the precise term "social media" returns over 33 million results, along with the predictable response, "So what?"

2. Charlatans invaded the realm. 2009 also spawned the explosion of the so-called "social media consultant" -- folks who claimed expertise in "social media" and promised to help the uninitiated establish an effective Internet presence, particularly on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs. Back in September 2008, writing on ReadWriteWeb, Marshall Kirkpatrick posed the question, "Is social media nothing but snake oil?" In that blog, Kirkpatrick cited seven people as the real-deal in social media consulting (Note: All remain stand-outs in the social media landscape). Dawn Foster, who was cited as one of Kirkpatrick's seven, observed in February 2009 "social media consultants popping up like dandelions." Today a Google search turns up close to two million entries for the exact term "social media consultants."

3. The term "social media" increasingly defies definition. Research by Danah Boyd at the School of Information, University of California-Berkeley defines social network sites as "web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system." Boyd notes that the first recognizable social network site launched in 1997 with Today, Boyd refers to "the existence of "hundreds of social network sites (SNS)." Clearly, there is no such "thing" as social media.

4. Having a "presence on social media" was meaningless. RJMetrics reported 75 million Twitter accounts at the end of 2009. About 15 million were "active tweeters" [whatever the heck that means]. In short, with social media, "there's no there there."

5. Being "on" social media was not at all to understand how to return value from social media. Among marketers, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were arguably the big social media winners last year. Much has been written about how to participate well and some have reportedly succeeded brilliantly (Google returns 578,000 hits for "twitter success stories" and 37,500 for "facebook success stories"). On the other hand -- despite advice to the contrary -- too many have focused Twitter and Facebook efforts on the number of "followers" or "fans." Likewise, for the majority of LinkedIn users, this venue merely adds up to an "online resume"-- not that there's anything wrong with that (while the term "linkedin success stories" returns just 27,500 Google strikes, search traffic hits related to networking and jobs remains high for LinkedIn, according to Alexa.)

So, yeah. Social Media was the Kool-aid of 2009 and we drank lots of it. In 2010, Marketing Brillo guesses that we'll come to more deeply appreciate this cool beverage, understanding that a) the mix isn't instant, b) the drink leads to more effort than gratification c) as with all disciplines, there truly are few experts d) one swallow won't quench the thirst.

scrubbed by Marketing Brillo