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My promise to you

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Wow – it’s been over 3 months since my last post which, if you’ve ever heard me talk about social media best practice , is definitely a case of do as I say, not as I do.

The truth is, I’ve been incredibly busy which isn’t much of an excuse since there are a lot of amazing people who are even busier than I who still manage to pump out great content daily. And since I’m about to embark on a new adventure in the next few weeks (more on that later), I either needed to hang up my shoes or recommit fully to this blog.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do: I’m going to post once a week at a minimum to this blog about the things that are grabbing my attention in digital marketing in addition to the regular Communication Junction podcast – or at least as regular as Sarah, Jason and my schedules will allow.

There’s so much really interesting stuff going on in marketing today that there’s no excuse for not having anything to talk about. Even with so many other distractions competing for my time, I still love blogging both as a way to share what’s on my mind and to force me to think through the issues I’m facing daily. Hopefully it’s a win-win and we’ll both get more out of it.

BTW…. if you read this on the website and not in your RSS reader, you might notice some theme weirdness. I’ve got itchy feet again and am playing around with some new themes including customising some older unsupported themes which I still really like (I’m nostalgic in that way)

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Does the iPad = 1960?

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A friend recently asked me whether they thought an iPad or a laptop was better for their child.

If you thought I would have said “iPad” straight away – you’re right. After all, seeing a child interact with a tablet makes you marvel at how intuitive and accessible it really is compared to a laptop which seems ancient in comparison. Besides, I love my iPad but the more I thought about it, the more my answer started shifting towards a laptop.

Escaping technology bias

apple devices are multiplying

They're multiplying

With minimal start-up time, convenient size and beautiful screen, it is clear that tablets are biased towards consumption over creation.¬† However, since reading Douglas Rushkoff’s book Program or be Programmed I’ve become far more aware of the importance of recognising and not giving in to the natural bias of technology.

In a media environment that is becoming increasingly participatory, stories and mythology are no longer told but co-created. As the rise of social networks, blogs, podcasts and online video has shown, digital media is biased towards creation by enabling everyone to write and publish. We are no longer resigned to being passive consumers of media – as was the case when traditional mass media was the only player in town – but active participants with real influence and the power to shape communications.

When you look at it through this lens, tablets are almost a throwback to the past as it discourages longer, meaningful creation. It’s well suited for short bursts of content creation such as a tweet or a status update, but not so flash at long emails or blog posts (as Prakky opines).

Learning to create

The long and short of it is that although there are apps for creating – word processing, spreadsheets, photo editing, etc. – they are shallow compared to the same thing on a laptop. At this point in time, touchscreens are yet to offer a depth of interaction that a keyboard and mouse offers.

Much like the argument that Google bypasses critical thinking, so too have tablets removed the need to understand how software and hardware works, offering up instant solutions. For this reason, while I think there’s a place for both, for children who are just starting out, it is vital that they explore, question and test the limits of technology without restriction.

What do you think? Are iPad’s and tablets better learning devices for children or is there still a place for laptops?

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Walking away

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“To thine ownself be true.”
– William Shakespeare

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”
– Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”

We all like looking at pretty things; especially if we’re the ones creating it.

It can be really hard to resist the lure of dabbling in Photoshop and Dreamweaver. Particularly on the web where part of the brief is to experiment, test and optimise, many digital marketers (myself included) love nothing more than to roll up our sleeves create.

In pretty much every case (unless it’s core business), this is a mistake.

We should learn to let go of those things we perceive as being ‘fun’ to do and focus on what really matters. This means letting go of tinkering and letting the experts do the work even if it’s going to cost you in the short term.

It’s cheaper to DIY

For some businesses this may be true, but for most, this argument doesn’t hold any water.

The cost imperative is often misplaced as the cost in terms of salary/lost productivity of you spending several days designing a new website far outweighs the financial cost of just getting a web designer to do it. Unless you have no money and there is no one else who could possibly do the job, there is no way you can say that the time you spend (a) figuring out how to do something; and (b) doing it at a suboptimal level, could be better spent doing something else that is more core to your business.

Having come from the NFP world where everything was done with shoestring, rubber bands and sticky tape, my thinking has shifted somewhat from trying to do everything myself and putting out an amateurish product, to engaging a professional who shared our vision and had a desire to work with us at a price that wouldn’t hold us to ransom. There are now so many design houses and agencies out there that its not too hard to find someone that matches your ethos and budget.

Ok, so what then?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given was from the Managing Partner of a large Adelaide law firm who asked me, “What do you want to be known for?”

While slightly out of context, his point was that if you want to get ahead you need to be an expert at something – your competitive point of difference, if you will – and that if you aren’t clear about what your objectives are for both your career and your job, it’s easy to get distracted. But if you know exactly what you are trying to achieve, it becomes much easier to walk away from the ‘nice to do’ stuff so you can focus on the task at hand and get the job done.

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What are you reading?

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This is a question I often ask people I meet in my professional life.

The reason for this is both curiosity but also to gauge how serious they are about what they do.

Studies on human cognition and the impact on media multitasking show that we just aren’t very good at processing information simultaneously (or near simultaneously) from multiple sources. Social media, it turns out, is not the best way to learn and if you want to take your professional development seriously you need to be reading.

It’s ok to be unplugged

Anyone who has spent much time with me or caught a glimpse of my desk will know I am perhaps one of the biggest culprits of this. Plugged in from the moment I wake up to when I power down at night, I am fed a constant stream of information from Twitter, Facebook, podcasts, RSS feeds and email to name but a few sources. Worse still, most of this content – like¬† this blog and Twitter’s 140 character nuggets – is created for snacking: bite-sized chunks of information to be grabbed at short intervals throughout the day.

While I must admit to a perverse sense of satisfaction in feeling up-to-date with everything that’s going on in my industry, the trouble is that it’s often misplaced. Studies show that this behaviour generally leads to an endless cycle of seeking out new stuff rather than taking the time to think about old stuff.

The very nature of snackable content means that these thoughts often end up living in isolation with little hope of being integrated into our overall understanding of a topic let alone something we could hope to effectively execute. If all you are doing is reading blogs and listening to podcasts, you probably will know a lot, but whether you can put it all together is another issue entirely.

Get back to basics

This is where reading comes into it.

Blogs and podcasts are a great way to stay abreast of new trends, but when I truly want to strengthen the foundations and integrate my thinking, I’ll pick up (or download) a book and read.

In my case, there is no better way for me to synthesise all the information I collect throughout the day then by undertaking further, in-depth study. Not only is it an opportunity to dig a bit deeper then a typical blog (Brian Solis, excepting), but it helps clarify my thoughts and allows me to better see how seemingly abstract concepts all relate to each other; a kind of spatial awareness, if you will. To use a basketball reference, it’s like watching Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, where their superior basketball IQ and vision meant they instinctively knew where everyone was on the court and could make the most ridiculous plays.

So next time you’re sitting on the couch or on the bus about to check your Google Reader or Twitter stream, why not try reading a book instead and seeing if this gives you a better perspective?

P.S. If you’re looking for a book, why not check out my Amazon recommended list in the sidebar [Disclosure: I’m an affiliate], otherwise here are two that I’m currently reading: The Dragonfly Effect and Content Rules.


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We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

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This tweet from YouTube caught my attention last week.

Increasingly better, faster processors and connectivity are the hallmarks of the Internet age. Combined with the convergence of technology, access to knowledge and information is now truly (or at least nearly) ubiquitous.

What we can do with content and how we consume it is changing every day.

Who would have thought that online video would constitute half of all mobile data traffic, let alone that we would even want to watch it on our third screen?

And now, according to YouTube, not only is the rate at which video is being uploaded growing, but so too is our capacity to download and watch it faster than ever before. We can now watch video almost as soon as it is uploaded.

Our appetite for information has grown, but is there a point where won’t be able to consume any more, any faster? Will the day come when we say enough is enough or will our consumption keep pace with the technology?

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