What is Hip? Tell Me Tell Me if You Think You Know

CharlesMingus.MingusAhUmIt’s pretty easy to understand the purpose of the recent viral Facebook poll, “100 Influential Albums” from the perspective of the creator. The quiz has links to buy all of those listed through Amazon, and the data mining of personal information is a goldmine. But  the motivation behind those taking the quiz to me is much more telling.

These sorts of quizzes and polls are becoming increasingly popular on the social networks as the sheer numbers of people willing to share just about anything about themselves publicly becomes a virus of its own. But why are we so drawn to these public displays of hipness?

Many I imagine do so merely out of curiosity. Wanting to know what these records are and whether we may have missed something that we “should have”, thus filling in an empty spot in our own cultural landscape. But one could find countless other lists that could help one accomplish this. Rolling Stone has it’s 500 Best Recordings of All Time, as does NME with theirs, “100 Best Albums Of All Time” How about 100 Best Lists of 100 Best Albums of All Time? Google that, I haven’t the time.

I believe that these polls work because of our need to be hipper than others. In the social world of Facebook, Twitter and Yelp where we share every last sound, bite and image that we experience, the only thing that makes us feel like an individual is doing, hearing seeing or tasting something that no one else (or any of our friends) have. The fact that I may own even 20 out of these 100 should make me feel better, because that’s better than 45% of others who have taken the poll. These numbers matter. To know that having only 1/5th of these recordings puts me above 45% of others? That’s validation. Imagine how good one could feel if they had say 60 or 70 percent of these? So maybe the tendency would be to work the numbers. I mean who “owns” records anymore? Sure I have heard and once owned “Trout Mask Replica“, but with music streaming services like MOG and Spotify amongst others, we can all “own” them all, or more accurately own none of them.

But boasting your personal numbers is not enough reason for many. No, the hipness level continues to rise above your percentile score, when you shout from your social mountain top that the list itself sucks. How on earth can “Clap Your Hands Say Yah” be on this list when there’s no mention of Charles Mingus’s, “Ah Uhm“? No metal bands? C’mon. No Sgt. Peppers? I am hipper than the list itself.

Did I take the quiz? Yes. Did I agree with the list? Some of it. How did I do? Well show me yours and I’ll show you mine. At least I won’t try and sell you something.

Now that we’ve met…

Hey wait ! Come back! Yeah you, the one that just read my blog. Who are you? What were you looking for? How did you find me and will you be coming back? And why didn’t you say hello?

It is not as if we are complete strangers anymore, you read my words. We just “met”.

It would be different if say we were in the street, say in a public square and you were looking around to meet someone. You had someone in mind, but was it me? There are people everywhere, surrounding us. Faces in a crowd don’t have keyword bubbles above their heads, nor is there a live action “search” option to find out what we might have in common, not to mention whether I might be dangerous. But we did meet, in a safe place. On my blog.

But you left without saying anything. Nothing at all. Was I not who you thought I might be? After reading maybe the first paragraph, did you just move on? Was I boring? Or maybe not the subject matter you were looking for. And what exactly were you looking for? I’d love to know.

You might have been looking for a job candidate. I could be that. I work hard, and am always looking for an opportunity that would enrich both myself and my employer. And if that’s the case, I probably failed the first interview. Which is unfortunate, because I never got to know you. We never had a conversation.

Maybe you just followed a link on my Twitter or Instagram pages, email signature or any other number of social media sites where I am present. If so, I’d love to know what I said, linked to or posted about that motivated you to go that one step further to read my blog. Even if you don’t like my blog.

There is no implied agreement in social media that you reply to what anyone says. If however we were face to face and I said something, I would expect a response. And you probably would say something, unless I was a raving lunatic and you felt the need to just run as fast as you could in the other direction. In hindsight a raving lunatic would probably get more response in social media venues than in public which is evidenced by the comments sections of many blogs.

Truth be told, I could find out how you found me, how long you stayed and where you went when you left. But honestly, that does not interest me. It’s not enough for me. I’d prefer we start a conversation. After all, you did hear what I just said didn’t you?

Getting back: The Value of Warming Up

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Being a recreational cyclist for nearly my whole life, I know better after being off the bike for more than 3 weeks, than to jump on and turn out a 60 mile spin. The results would be disastrous. It’s not that I wouldn’t finish the ride, but rather that in the end I would be so physically drained that I would be reluctant to get back on any time soon.

And it is with this in mind that I restart my blog with a quick spin around the neighborhood. Just getting the wheels under me so to speak. I’ll avoid the steepest hills and the more technical descents. Just concentrate on feeling the road, being aware of my surroundings and getting the feeling back.

Writing takes practice, lots of it. And just as I find myself 3 weeks from my last ride, I face the keyboard with weakened writing skills. The ideas are there. I have three unfinished blog posts to show for it. But I was so anxious to write that perfect post without stretching first, that I went nowhere. I read blogs about blogging. I scoured the Internet for the latest trends in social media and technology. I “followed” “thought leaders”. I rekindled my relationship with Twitter and subsequently found myself doubting that I had anything worthwhile to add to the conversation. That would be akin to jumping to the front of a pace line in The Tour de France and being disappointed that you couldn’t keep up.

The array of tools that we have to disseminate all our thoughts and ideas instantaneously to thousands if not millions has created billions of pages of information at our fingertips. And there are a myriad of tools available to help direct people to us. But unless we have something compelling to say, it doesn’t matter how many people we reach.

In a recent interview, Jim Messina, the man behind President Obama’s re-election campaign was asked about the technology heavy, social media and metric driven tactics that were employed during the 2012 election. Nobody had ever amassed so much data on the voters and utilized it so widely. Yet what stuck with me after reading wide-eyed at all the technological wizardry was this simple coda. 

“You can build a whole suite of analytics… but it all comes back to the campaign, it all comes back to having a message that matters,” Messina said.

That’s it. The message is what matters. Without well thought out and compelling content, a blog is just more words sent out into the digital ether. Okay, the legs are warmed up, and I can feel the rhythm of my cadence again. Think I’ll turn around and head home. Don’t want to push too hard the first day back, because even though my all carbon-fiber bike is one of the best that money can buy, in the end, it doesn’t go anywhere without me as the drive-train. 

Time for Some Analog Engagement-Record Store Day

Fingerprints Music, Long Beach, CA

With so much of our time being spent gazing at our reflection in a glass screen, having our personal “Likes”, “Fans” and “Friends” responding with resonant echoes of our thoughts, an opportunity to get out and rub elbows with real honest flesh and blood to really socialize is welcome relief. And on April 16th, a world-wide event gives us all this chance to return to the land of brick and mortar. Record Store Day , founded in 2007 by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave and Brian Poehner is a celebration of the independent record store.

There are legions of young folks that have built their music libraries of nothing but zeros and ones via the numerous download sites and don’t know the beauty of a wall of  oversized vinyl albums, much less the excitement of getting their fingers dirty flipping through stacks of previously loved treasures to discover a rarity. Sure, I still listen to almost everything through a digital device, but my favorite memories of my musical history lie in the places I once wandered the aisles listening to the whims of whoever was working that day and piling 10-15 must-haves that would be whittled down to the two that I could afford to take home.

For me it was a weekend ritual of taking the bus to the now defunct Arcade Music in the seedy downtown of San Diego of the 70s. My brother and friends would eventually build libraries of thousands of jazz LPs and teach ourselves the history of  this great American music on the recommendations of various clerks, and even strangers who would overhear our conversation or  see with a sidelong glance what we had picked up. In college it was Morning Glory Music in Isla Vista, CA. Alas this small independent is gone as well.

In Long Beach, CA , Fingerprints Music has opened a brand new store in the burgeoning East Village Arts District. Rand Foster, the owner has dedicated the last 18 years of his life assuring the Long Beach community that they had a place to come and share their passion for music. Rand and Fingerprints was featured in a recent article in the LA Times that focused on the importance of these stores.  You have an excellent opportunity to be sure that your favorite shop survives by attending a local Record Store day venue. There are special live in-store performance events scheduled as well.

On April 16th, shut the lid on the laptop (after you Google search the location of a store near you naturally) and spend a few hours hanging out in a real chat room. A room full of others like you and maybe not like you in many ways, but kindred spirits in the love of all that is music.

 

The Death of A Salesman

“Been so busy working, I have had no time to prospect new clients”.

As someone who spent over 10 years earlier in my career as a salesman, I know that these words promise a slow, but sure death of a successful salesman or business. I no longer am in the sales field, nor do I list my occupation as sales, but to be honest isn’t sales what we do every day? All of us?

What brought me to this post was a Facebook post by an exciting digital engagement agency based in Portsmouth, NH called Piehead. It was a link to an article over at Mashable about how sales has been slow to adopt social media techniques that other areas, such as marketing have made a required part of their operations. The article, “Why Sales is Still Missing from Social CRM” was a reminder to me that one can never stop prospecting for the future.

I had a great job for 14 years as a project manager at a Southern California design agency. We did groundbreaking work for a major power sports client. There were wetsuits hanging from the balcony in the courtyard, monthly BBQs on the patio,  and it seemed that it would last forever. Nothing does. And for those 14 years, the company stopped prospecting as well. Too busy. You can probably guess how that worked out.

So for the better part of a year, while I looked for a job, I began to sell again. The product was me. I engaged on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I began to use social media as a sales tool. And what I found, was that it was what I would have dreamed of having as a tool back when I was selling print. To be able to connect with my clients as well as prospects by engaging them daily, to share their work with others, to find out what they were interested in, both within and outside of the office would be incredible. So I was stunned to read in this article that sales forces were not utilizing social media in their daily work.

I am not going to reiterate all that was said in the article (that’s what the link is for), but what I learned from it was that it was time for me to re-start my sales engine. I know how to use the tools, in fact I use them everyday. But I swore over a year ago, to never stop prospecting or looking for new opportunities. You never know what the next digital engagement will bring.

Jumo.com: Chris Hughes’s New Direction for Social Media

When I read yesterday of Facebook’s Chris Hughes’s soft launch of his new project, Jumo.com, I immediately clicked, read, and followed. It was exhilarating. I was within the first 200 to follow on Twitter, an early fan on Facebook and, I began combing the web for more information. And I am sure that for him and his partners, it must be reassuring to know that his name has some equity.

With Facebook’s over 400 million users, that’s a pretty good base to start with. The question quickly becomes, how many of them will be attracted to an enterprise whose primary focus is connecting individuals to causes and concerns around the globe, not just connecting old classmates to each other or brands to consumers.

Jumo, is a word from Yoruba meaning, “together in concert”. And with Jumo.com, Hughes hopes to create a place where people can really engage.

As Hughes explained the project, “We’ll be matching people based on their skills and interests with organizations around the world that need their input. It’s a discovery process that first matches, then helps people build relationships, then let’s people share their resources.”

Watching the recent outpouring of money through social media during both recent earthquakes has shown that people are willing to click to pay, or text to pay to show support. What remains to be seen is whether the current social media model can sustain the long term needs of an organization like Jumo, whose goals are so lofty. I for one will not bet against Hughes.

I am curious as to how others feel about Jumo, and what its chances are of succeeding in the long run. Take a moment to check them out at jumo.com, and I would love to hear your comments.

Stickybits Meets Avi Buffalo at SXSW

Has my focus changed so drastically in the last year? Or has SXSW become more about indie software developers than indie music? (sorry, I hate labels too). And the subtext is that this year it’s all about the “Location Wars”. Not a battle of the bands, but more of a land battle of sorts. Everyone is fighting for geospace. All the “big” players will be out in force. Foursquare, Gowalla, Google, Facebook and Twitter will be posting their claim to know where you are and when. And naturally sell that information to the highest bidder. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Our recent recessionary economy has stimulated enormously creative ideas in marketing. And this is just the beginning. But just as established bands (meaning they’ve been around more than just 5 years) play SXSW alongside bands just looking for an audience, so too are the young upstarts in social media looking for their groupies! And just as with the bands, we’ll be hearing people tell us that they were in Austin in 2010 and saw the introduction of, say Stickybits.

Many of you have not yet heard of Stickybits. In fact, I had not until today. But trust me you will. The startup founded by Billy Chasen (Chartbeat) and Seth Goldstein (Socialmedia.com) introduces its seemingly quirky but potentially groundbreaking location based service.

The concept is simple. With the advent of barcode scanning in hand-held phones, consumers have a wealth of information at their fingertips. With Stickybits, you can attach digital data to any barcode. And when someone scans that barcode with their phone, that digital data is then fed to their device. Let’s say you as a young band playing at SXSW is giving away CD singles with a barcode on the sleeve. That barcode could be linked to a video of your band along with a link to your website. Or maybe your product has a distinctively low carbon footprint and your customer is interested in how the product got to the marketplace. Fine, attach a link to your website or a video that traces it’s journey.

There are no limits to how these little gems can be utilized. And no doubt this week at SXSW there will be a lot of creative and hilarious applications. Free adhesive Stickybits will be handed out to many of this years’ 12,000 attendees. These barcodes can be followed, so if your girlfriend slaps you on the ass when she heads back to the hotel, be sure and have your buddy check to see that she didn’t leave any Stickybits behind.

As for me? Well to be honest, I’d probably just assume see Avi Buffalo in their first SXSW appearance. I mean, I saw their first gig in a vegan restaurant in Long Beach!


As Bill Tweets

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