Hello? Google? Is Anybody Here?

Google + — You were touted as the next big thing — the savior of social media — the networking platform to render all others obsolete.

I took the bait, sought out a beta phase invite, and was among your earliest users. I connected with a handful of acquaintances (most of whom were already connections on Facebook or Twitter) and waited …  for … the … magic … to … happen.

Just as I began to question the value of Google+, you introduced pages, and, again, I grabbed an account for my employer (a community college in the Philadelphia suburbs) on the very first day. This was it. I was sure.

But, you can’t add people to your page circles until they first add your page to their personal circles. And you can’t even message users to request or suggest that they add your page. Instead, the only way to promote your page on G+ is by posting a message to the people in your personal profile circles.

And here lies part of the problem. Acquaintances in my personal G+ circles have no interest in my employer’s page. So, besides posting the page’s link on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, WordPress, etc. (ironic, isn’t it?), there’s no way for people to know that a G+ page even exists.

Furthermore, if the right people are already interacting with our accounts on those other social platforms — which they are —  why would they need/want to connect with us somewhere else?

Who, then, you may ask, are the 300+ followers on my institution’s G+ page?

Good question. I have no idea who these people are. They are certainly NOT our students, faculty, local community leaders, members of the media, alumni, etc. Many of them post in languages other than English, and, as of recently, many of them appear to work for Google.

Really, Google? Are your employees now following pages in order to pad circle numbers? These people don’t care about what’s going on at my institution or in the world of higher ed.

Which brings me to yet another part of the problem. Since the people in my circles have no interest in my content, there is NO (zero, zilch, nada) interaction.

And as a page facilitator, I’m doing all the right things. I don’t make it all about my employer. I share and repost links and other interesting content. (How do I know it’s interesting? The same content generates a ton of interaction on other social platforms.) And I interact with other people and pages by liking and commenting on their content. Is there an ounce of reciprocation? Nope.

So, Google, the question is, at what point do I stop investing hours of my time on a platform that seemingly nobody finds useful? At what point is the “cool” factor of having a G+ page outweighed by its complete lack of ROI?


Ashley’s Breaker: Social Connections

My latest post on Ashley’s Breaker, our documentary project about the Huber Coal Breaker in Ashley, PA, discusses how social media (positively) impacts the work of writers and artists, and specifically how Twitter — in the course of a day — changed the landscape of our project.

Check it out: Social Connections

Thanks for reading!

‘Peer Review’ Legitimacy

Apparently, in the education world, being published in a “peer review” journal is a big deal. So, I’m excited to have my third piece of work published in this regard — a case study about how Montgomery County Community College uses analytics to inform decisions that impact student learning outcomes and success, published in EDUCAUSE Review Online.

Check it out: Efficiencies, Learning Outcomes Bolstered by Analytics, Data-Informed Decision Making

While I co-authored other “peer review” pieces, this case study marks the first time I took the lead. It’s a somewhat intimidating process that involves first submitting an abstract for consideration, then, if accepted, providing an outline, followed by several drafts, and — since this is an online publication — a variety of multimedia content. At each stage, the content is critiqued by editors, and revisions have to be made. Also, at each stage, the editors could decide that the work no longer makes the cut.

So, while the case study may not reflect my typical writing flare, it’s a huge boon to my resume and writing portfolio, and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity!

Finding Inspiration in Coal Dust

Sometimes it takes a little push to get inspired.

I was stuck in a creative rut — doing what I needed to do but nothing truly inspired — for months. Then, I found inspiration from an unlikely source — an abandoned coal breaker in Luzerne County.

A colleague invited me to join a small crew of storytellers in exploring the Huber Breaker in Ashley, Pa. Abandoned since 1976, the breaker is currently part of a bankruptcy suit that will, in all likelihood, see the property sold and the breaker demolished.

We’re telling the breaker’s story through a series of interviews, photographs, videos and first-hand documentation of our journey. Every trip to Ashley seems to expand the project’s scope — which is, at times, both overwhelming and exhilarating.

The outside-the-box-and-comfort-zone way of thinking has boosted my creativity in all things, especially blogging.

http://ashleysbreaker.org is our project’s home base. I’ll post periodic updates to Communication Art. In the meantime, check out two of my recent posts, The Shadow of Blue Coal and In Search of  Ashley’s Planes.

Media Round-Up

Here are some interesting communications-related articles/info from the past few weeks!

Angry Olympics Fans Tweet Their Protests, NBC RespondsMashable, 7/29/12

The Beginner’s Guide to SocialCamMashable, 7/28/12

How BuzzFeed Wants to Reinvent Wire Stories for Social MediaNieman Journalism Lab, 7/26/12

How We Look at Online Ads — Mashable, 7/6/12

5 Types of Phrases to Avoid in Your Twitter Bio All Twitter, 7/3/12

How To Turn Mistakes Into Your Best Content — Modern Copy Studio (undated)

Writing Through Tragedy

I was a journalist on Sept. 11, 2001, working for a local direct mail, weekly publication that included several pages of “good news” (read “fluff”) editorial copy. As editor, I had to put the paper to bed two days after 9/11.

I remember going to work the next day, sitting at my desk, and feeling numb…at a loss for what to write. Covering fluff in the Philadelphia suburbs, I had no business covering the horrific event. Yet, I couldn’t ignore it either.

I imagine it’s the same challenge faced by journalists outside of Colorado today and throughout this week. Of course, there are AP wire stories that will undoubtedly run in most papers. But local news must go on locally, regardless.

An obvious answer is to localize the story. And many journalists in my region are doing just that tonight — using social media to ask questions like, “will you still see the movie?”

I did my best to localize the story back in 2001 (oh how I wish social media existed then). Now defunct Philly radio station Y-100 was holding a 9/11 supply drive at a major shopping complex just outside of my coverage area. I interviewed one of the morning show hosts by phone and hung out at the supply drop, which yielded dozens of tractor trailers full of supplies for rescue crews in Jersey City and Manhattan.

In the scheme of things, the supply drive and story were small. But for those of us involved, it helped us get though the day/week feeling like we did *something* to help our fellow man. It helped us move on.

For my editorial column that week, I actually wrote about the challenge of going through the day as if things were normal. And the following week, I interviewed a rep from the local American Red Cross chapter about the ways in which people not impacted by the crisis can help.

Today, my thoughts are with the wounded individuals and victims’ families of the Colorado theater shootings – and with the journalists who must move on with their coverage in spite of tragedy.

Definition: ‘Expert’

How, exactly, does one become an expert in something?

No, scratch that. I know how. I even wrote an entire blog post about it last November.

I guess the real question is, what makes others perceive one as such?

Life teaches us that it’s more than the right degree, training, and experience. It’s even more than documented success or publication in one’s field.

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi that sets experts apart from their peers. It’s a confidence — an honest-to-god belief — that they are the best at what they do.

And while I, like many others, can strap on a game face and appear confident, if I don’t feel it deep within my marrow, the confidence isn’t real.

And it shows.

Is the key, then, to become arrogant? To actually convince one’s self of superiority? Life experience tells us yes.

And there’s the dilemma.

If confidence is rooted in arrogance, then gone is the drive to learn, to evolve, to better one’s self, to create, to explore, to play, to listen.

I am an expert in my field. All of the quantitive and qualitative documentation is in place. But I cannot — will not — surrender humility to arrogance; compassion to apathy; Ego to Id.

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