In the mail lately, I’ve gotten a strange combination of the usual credit card spam (Bank of America, trust me in saying, our relationship will be over as soon as humanly possible), bills, and other things (reminders to tip the building staff). With that also has come birthday cards (thank you), Christmas and holiday cards, and sympathy cards as well. It’s certainly a strange mix of emotions – frustration, anger, joy, sympathy, irrelevance, hope.
But in the last few days I’ve received, in a large stack mind you, a large number of sympathy cards from North Shore Animal League, denoting the donations made in memory of my mom. I’ve taken much solace in these cards – my mother was a huge animal lovers, and had donated, and adopted many animals from the people at North Shore, who always have done their best to be helpful, loving, respectful and understanding to pets and their owns. I just wanted to take a second and thank those who took the time out to donate a little something, and while I know your holiday dollar is a little tight this year, to encourage you to donate online now to keep North Shore’s efforts moving forward.
Courtesy of The Streets’ track “On The Edge of a Cliff”.
For billions of years
since the outset of time
every single one of your ancestors survived
every single person on your mums and dad’s side
successfully looked after and passed onto you life
what are the chances of that like
it comes to me once in a while
and everywhere i tell folk
it gets the best smile
At a wonderful day at BarCampPhilly yesterday, I was treated to a wonderful day of meeting amazing people in the Philadelphia tech scene, and a bunch of wide ranging sessions, covering the full gamut of technology – playing “Jedi Mind Tricks” to help aid cross-team/function communication,’ learning about the best practices in moving from a full-time job to a being a consultant (by the delightful, Whitney Hess, who is one of my best friends and helped NYC bring some thunder), and of course, an awesome hour spent with one of Social Media’s rising stars, the electric Walt Ribeiro.
But one of the sessions that’s always informative and refreshing speaking to maintaining your corporate brand, through the wilds of social media, was Beth Harte’s session on Brand Management. Having been part of a nascent social media “team” (if you could call two guys trying to find time to Twitter for JetBlue a team), the lessons that have been learned and the tools now available to do this sort of brand management (things like Radian6) are clearly better than anything we had a year and a half ago. Basically, the long and short of it is that, people are saying things about your brand, good and bad, and there’s no use in trying to control what people think, so you had best be listening.
So, after Beth’s session, and Walt’s before it, and based on some of the discussion after my BarCamp session on how JetBlue’s social media plan started with all out crisis, I started to think how this could this could apply to the “age of the personal brand”.
We, as individuals are always our own brand. In this world of open communication, through Facebook and the always-on lifestyle I’ve written about before, we’re always “on”, subject to the falliability of human nature, to express opinions, under emotion or duress, indeed, under less than ideal circumstances. The same filters that brands use to limit the amount of information they choose to say, and the arguments and they choose to engage in, often set by governmental, legal or corporate standards, are not always as easy to control for individuals living in an always-on world. In fact, human emotion (love, pain, suffering, emotion, frustration, exhaustion) combined with external factors (peer pressure, work pressure, excessive drinking, irrational behavior), often take down these filters, lower inhibitions, and loosens lips.
The words people choose to say (or not to say), are the hallmark of this personal brand, clearly. And the words people choose to communicate about themselves publicly often help you to understand a person well before you’ve ever met them “in real life”. Laura Fitton likes to say, “the best thing about Twitter happens off of Twitter”, after all.
But, what is also clear that, in the same way, you can’t control what people say about your company, product or brand, you can’t really control what people think or say about you either. Trying to manipulate this sort of thinking through channels (public, private or covert) just doesn’t help the situation.
So, what to do. Well, allow me to wax poetic about what I’ll dub “Matt’s Golden Rules for Personal Brand”. This, are of course, just one man’s opinion, based on my personal experience, but hopefully they are helpful to someone, somewhere!
1. Remember everyone has the right to their own opinion. Even you. People aren’t always going to agree with you, but they have the right to say what they wish. And, it sometimes will not be something you like.
2. You can always choose who you engage with. This is why Twitter has unfollow and block tools. You don’t have to engage with everyone. And, in many cases, things are better just left alone. Karma has a way of working these things out. But also, remember, you ever even attempt to change people’s opinions without engaging them. So, consider this when thinking about it. But, it shouldn’t be viewed as a personal thing if people just aren’t interested. They can “opt-out” of you as well.
3. Watch the fine line between opinion, attack and slander. Just because someone expresses an opinion based on their own personal experience, don’t assume it’s an attack. The written word is horrible for context and tone, and anyone who thinks can understand tone through the written word is kidding themselves. There’s a large amount of misunderstanding possible. Opinions are rarely attacks and even more rarely slanderous.
4. Doubt on the side of the “good thing”. The vast majority of people I’ve met over the last year or so in tech spaces, and Twitterscenes and Facebook have been good, upstanding people who have been welcoming and open to the idea of making friendships and networking happen. Always do “the right thing” by everyone you meet, because you just never know what can happen. I’ve seen incredible things ilike sm4sc come out of this openness and willingness to come together. Embrace it. Good things will come most of the time.
5. Worry most about the people you care about. There’s a finite number of hours in the day. Focus them on building yourself, your friends, your family up to do great things. No sense in wasting time on people who don’t know you, try to attack you, or worse of all, express open disdain for you. They obviously don’t like you, so why bother?
6. If external factors rule the day, turn off the channel. If you’re feeling extremely emotional or are out of control of yourself and your thoughts, don’t start Tweeting. It’s one thing to be in control and expressive, quite another to communicate when your filters are down. Don’t send e-mails. Don’t IM. Just turn the cellphone, Blackberry or iPhone off. You’ll be glad you did. These sort of communication often reaches “epic fail” status before you know it, and does more to destroy your personal brand. Twitter search doesn’t forget. Neither does Google.
7. Be true to yourself. There’s a reason authenticity, truth and honesty rule the social media world. Have principles. Stick to them. Review them. Fix them if you feel like you need to. Communicate the same way publicly and privately, and exercise extreme tact at all times. Private communications are rarely private anymore. Do the wrong thing by someone, and they will inevitably find out. Everyday, we’re faced with situations that challenge us. The lifelong battle to define who we are continues daily. But always be true to that. Fight for whatever you believe is right.
Hopefully these have been helpful. I wanted to again thank the BarCampPhilly team for helping me to synthesize some great thinking yesterday, and thank you all for allowing me to share these with you.
In my younger, headier teenage days, my dad would talk about how “everything came back” after a certain amount of time. And, of course, being the super rebellious teenager I was (well, in terms of thought and emotions, at least), I’d say.. nah. My father would then proceed to be able to find influences in popular culture of things he’d been very much involved with in the 50s and 60s, TV shows, movies, and music (well, most music anyway, he was a big fan of vocal harmonies and doo-wop and would try to point this out with such 90s pop icons as Color Me Badd, and… insert-your-favorite-boy-band-here, for that, I’ll give him a half point…)
But, as I get a little bit older and start to better understand the world around me (does anyone ever completely understand everything about the world they live in? I don’t really think so), the prophecy begins to ring true again.
We live in a serious of constantly rotating circles.
Now, I’m not sure if this is a product of human nature, culture, religion, popular culture, science, philosophy or anything else, but just look at a few examples:
The stock market. It’s been about 20 years since the last major market correction of consequence, and it appears again as if the market is having itself an identity crisis. Will this one result in the collapse of society? Well, I sure hope not. That doesn’t really say much for society, does it?
Oil crisis. While the “recession” has had impact on oil prices, we had one of those in the late 70s as well. It’s my genuine hope that this one accelerates the much needed reduction of dependence on foreign oil (or domestic oil for that matter), and moves us spiraling into a generation of cleaner running vehicles that focus all of the technology we have available. Painful next 20 years, but long-term benefits make this almost a “good thing”.
Geopolitical crisis. from a relatively quiet 1990s through to now, we’ve got the specter of world crisis looming, if not as close as after the heavy emotional days following 9/11, then still off in the ether. Economic crisis The pressure of this looming crisis, referenced quite well in the Mad Men season finale called Meditations in an Emergency, where the threat posed by the Cuban Missile Crisis caused everyone to reevaluate priorities. Seems like that’s happening a lot now too.
Personal relationships. I’m sure in our personal lives, all of our relationships have a way of encircling as well. Friends fall out of favor, back into favor, out of touch, and into touch. This is what drives a lot of the social networking successes of the early 2000s – this fact that relationships that have fallen off the radar can be renewed so quickly, and often, very successfully (although, admittedly, it’s just as common to remember the reason you fell out of touch – just as quickly). And even in personal relationships, from day to day, people fly in and out of life. Family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, networks – they all apply.
Personal style. Well, this is certainly a point that can be argued, but you can easily say that style of today often has influences to the past. For example, I now wear a hat that my dad thought was cool 30 years ago, and I swore I’d never wear. I think in general, I personally wear too much retro baseball garb.
The point is, I think, that these circles are just that – at some point, all of these things will be changed for better or worse, and they’ll be in a slightly different state than they were yesterday. And I think this is where the change is always constant. And I’m believing that there’s no master control panel for life that will ever align these circles.
More than twelve weeks, countless IMs, text messages, tweets, blog posts, direct messages, e-mails, phone calls, volunteers, supplies, bus trips, plane trips, Kinko’s runs, first winds, second winds, and third winds (I can’t tell you how much work went in after midnight) led up to the inaugural SM4SC fundraiser in Boston.
And it was outstanding.
For the entire night, the thoughts in my mind shifted between three major themes:
I’m so glad to be here tonight, to be here to support Gradon and Jane Doe and make this event come alive.
These thoughts speak to a lot of things – most notably the power of social media, the good hearts, minds and thoughts of people who genuinely care, and the fact that we can come together to use our collective will to make something bigger than ourselves.
And I think that’s what it’s really about.
The collective good. Doing things that benefit everyone. The “we’re all in this together” spirit. The fact that even divided by distance, passion and love know no bounds. People make all the difference.
We all had different reasons for contributing to SM4SC, and different ways of contributing. And I had a wonderful time meeting so many amazing people, who said such kind words about what we were doing, and about me specifically.
I was especially inspired by how people gave unconditionally. And how gestures small and large online resulted in tangible results in person.
My favorite thoughts of the evening:
The kamikaze run to get Gradon’s gift ready – it was a surgical operation in the back of the Harvard Club, and I’d like to thank the surgeons: Shelley, Maria, Courtney and Rebecca for helping to make it happen.
Meeting in person and watching Meg Fowler and Gradon Tripp meet each other, and share in pure, sweet, wonderful love.
I’d like to again thank EVERYONE who was involved.
I hope that everyone can keep the spirit of giving going – for themselves and others. It doesn’t take a big event, a large contribution to give, in fact, the small acts that are shared between us everyday can start a revolution.
I can think of few people who put on a show better than Ben Folds. I’ve seen him solo and with Ben Folds Five at least half a dozen times now, and I’ve never not had an amazing time. The story of his leaking of his latest album “Way To Normal” is genius. (check it out here from Rolling Stone)
Both the “legitimate” “Way to Normal” and the “leaked” version (which you can find by Googling “Way to Normal leak”) are highly recommended. Go see him if you can – and click on the photo for a few more snapshots from the show on Oct 1.
Too often when bands or TV shows have reached a certain pinnacle, they step back, take a look at what they’ve accomplished, and “mail-in” an episode or an album on the hopes that they’ll fill, I don’t know, minimum requirements for contracts, seasons, or just because they can. In television, it’s called the clip show – where they throw together highlights from previous episodes (my personal favorite, of course being the The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular, band it together with a narrow strip of storyline, and call it “new”. Just about every TV show of any real duration has done it, so that makes it ok, right?
The music equivalent, of course, is the “Best of…” or “Greatest Hits” album. ( Imagine my surprise to see that Wikipedia takes the time to clarify the difference between a “Best Of” album and a “Greatest Hits” one… hmm). The implication, of course, is that they’ve had some time to, you know, have actually made hits? (see the humorous breakout in the Wikipedia article about “The Best of Hilary Duff”… I kill me!)
So, in the spirit of the time (and because I haven’t finished my Web 2.0 Expo NY post yet) and still, giving people what they want (or at least think is above mediocre) I present to you the “Best of…. tagsmith.org”, a selection of posts to get to know this blog by. Hope you enjoy.
(Author’s note: Each year near the remembrance of 9/11, I share this post as a testament to the day itself, it’s events, and the heroes and people we lost in hopes that people will share their stories as well. Please feel free to share your story in the comments. Thank you. -mK)
I was sitting on my bed. Still living at home at the time, out on Staten Island, a old chap of 23 at the time, having just graduated college the year before, I was running a little late to work that morning. I was gainfully employed, had been for more than a year with About.com, who had just recently moved their offices to West 40th Street and Broadway in the Fashion District (they’ll say Times Square, I suppose it was close enough). It was before the bubble had burst, and I was working in the Marketing department as an HTML code monkey/production coodinator/slash whatever. Hey, what did I know. I was out of college, working at a dot-com in the best of times, before the bubble had burst; indeed, before America seemed to lose some of it’s swagger and idealism. Millions were made on companies with shoddy business plans and no revenue – it was an economy of hope, dreams and intentions (some better, and some worse).
That morning, I had just gotten out of the shower, about to get ready to leave for work. I lied on my bed for a quick moment of relaxation before I headed off to work, and the door knock came.
“A plane just hit the World Trade Center.”
Half-dozing in my momentary slumber, I didn’t immediately comprehend the sentence. A plane? The World Center? What? I figured it couldn’t be real. These were the buildings I rolled by on my bus ride home from Manhattan many nights – I actually remember thinking the night before as I rolled by, in the night, what a beautiful and majestic sight they were – remember thinking about how beautiful they looked at night with all of the lights, and yes, how amazing dinner would be when I finally asked my girlfriend at the time to have dinner at Windows on the World.
I’d gotten my current job at a job fair there, had many dates with my then girlfriend there (including our first real “date”, she worked in the building that housed CUNY’s Fiterman Hall, at the time we first met, just north of the Trade Center Complex. She had since taken a job much further uptown.
We shared in gifts that I gave her from the Mall on the concourse level, and indeed, on pesky nights, enjoyed Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the ground level of Building 5 on the Church Street side of the complex. Pace was, after all, just three blocks away, and I’d spent many days near the WTC, on Vesey Street, and near the plaza where the sculpture lived. (It is called The Sphere, by Fritz Koenig and now sits in Battery Park a few miles distant from the WTC site).
September 11 is also my father’s birthday, and some informal dinner plans were being tossed about for later in the evening, usually just a little jaunt to a casual dining place for some food and the quintessential ice cream cake – long a family tradition. Birthday’s were simple but happy times.
So when I finally came too, and rolled over to turn the TV on, there it was. Undeniable proof. The trademark lattice work facade of World Trade Center Tower 1 had a gigantic hole in the side. The news reports first had it was a “small private plane” that had veered off course that had crashed into the building. The “veered off course” part of it was tangible – I mean, why else would a plane fly into a building. But it soon became very apparent that it wasn’t a small plane – no Cessna or Gulfstream could do damage like that.
Where I lived on Staten Island, was at the top of a hill, that provided a birds eye view of the proceedings. After the first plane hit, I ran outside with both my parents, and sure enough – off in the distances was the World Trade Center, the top quarter engulfed in smoke. Cars and trucks started to pull over to watch what was happening. People milled about the very quiet block. I had just run back inside to listen to more news coverage when the newscenter, completely obvilious to what was happening on screen (he was likely looking at copy and listening though an earpiece), missed the silver glint of a second plane. The second plane was banking over and turning and went into the second tower nearly at 90 degrees and, then the crash into Tower 2. We’ve all seen the images from hundreds of different angles, but the news crews at the World Trade Center, and from the studio let out a collective gasp. As did everyone outside – as both my parents and the dozen or so people who had gather outside watched did, watching the plane fly in over New Jersey as an extremely fast moving glint of silver in the distance.
Everyone instantly knew that this was no accident.
The towers burned. And burned for a long while. And inside, the stories of those who made it, and those who didn’t were playing out. Phone calls to 911. Phone calls and voicemails to loved ones. But no one – no one thought the towers would go down. After all, they had survived the power of a giant truck bomb in 1993. It was very much a feeling of … this is horrible, but now what. Can they put out a fire so big? How will they get up there? How many people are there?
At this point I picked up a video camera and brought it outside. I filmed for what seemed to be about 45 minutes – the contents of which I haven’t watched since. It probably shows the towers burning, and tilting – we could see in the distance that Tower 2 was starting to tilt ever so noticeably before it collapsed. And then it did. And the pictures from the dozens of media crews, the photos of the people running for their lives, on streets that just that year before I’d tred on regularly, the dust filling the air – the people covered in dust, and bloodied, just etched into my mind in a way that will never be forgotten. The most staggering of them all – the hints of people, who left with no other decision than to pick the way they wanted to pass on – jumped or were blown out of windows from ungodly heights. That, that is what to this day haunts me the most.
In the distance on Staten Island, the visual changed – but we couldn’t tell the tower was down until the news told us it was; indeed the smoke from the debris of the tower rose to some crazy heights – 10 or 20 stories at it’s highest peak. But we knew. It was just a matter of time for the other tower as well.
And then… as Mayor Giuliani continued his evacuation from World Trade Center 7 – which would later collapse in the afternoon started to summarize – the people. All of the people – who worked in the Center, who went to fight the fire – who were in the area, who were tourists. On the PATH trains. The subway trains. The enormity of the thousands of people in harms way that day. Some counts as high as 25,000. Everyone knew someone. The mental math of it all was staggering. All of these people could very well have left us. In a split second.
Staten Island went on lockdown. The ferry was shut as people ran away from the scene to get to the last boats that were leaving. All three bridges leading to Staten Island were closed. There was no way to get on or leave the island.
My girlfriend had called me after the collapse from a landline in midtown to say that she was fine, but she was stuck. I was extremely fortunate having never left the house to be home already, all links with Manhattan and the outside world had been cut and she had no way to get across the river to get home. Her boss offered to put her up in a hotel, and that was were she went for a while. She was at least safer there.
The airports were shut. First the Northeast, then after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, the entire nation went on a groundstop. Events were happening so furiously – there was really no way to “make it stop”, and everyone panicked. Everyone was suspect, and everyone wanted it to be over. The next three hours were utter chaos. Our President was airborne to avoid attack. Our Mayor was hiding in a bunker. And everyone tried to get through to loved ones on cell phones which didn’t work – because of a combination of the fact that most of the major antennas in the region were on the World Trade Center buildings, the circuits were overloaded with people trying to get through, and the collapse of WTC 7 wiping out a large communication center.
When the heroic passengers of Flight 93 managed to fight their captors and risk their lives so they many more in Washington, D.C. would live, the first part of this drama started to wind down, replaced by the bigger drama of the fate of all of the people affected by the tragedy. At the World Trade Center. At The Pentagon. In Shanksville, PA. The first responders. All of their loved ones. The millions now stranded in New York City.
My mother, at some point in the middle of this, remembered it was my father’s birthday and feeling bad for him on this crazy day, perhaps in an attempt for some normalcy said, “We need to get your father a cake”. Unfortunately, at this point, most of the businesses on Staten Island had too been shuttered.
My girlfriend had decided to go home – not really wanting to be in the city anymore, and decided to figure out a way to get out. She ended up getting on an express bus, with a driver who was nice enough to take anyone he could find in order to get them out of the city. On that bus she stayed for hours, until finally, around 10 or 11, he was finally able to cross one of the bridges back to Staten Island, with a police escort. We were reunited around midnight, and the next two days became a blur of 24 hour news coverage with the rescue effort and the questions of who.. and why?
And as this part of the story played out over weeks and months, the deaths of 2750 people became clear and apparent and implausible and horrific and sad. I’ll never forget the rush of emergency vehicles towards the scene. Coming from everywhere imaginable. Professionals putting their own lives on the line in impossible circumstances – the bravery of these men and women were the foundation from which New York and America would eventually rebuild and recover.
The stories of the heroes of that day – first responders, civilians and ordinary people became known.
I tried to go back to work that Friday, because, after 4 days straight of news about the WTC, I was no longer scared, and I needed to fill my mind with something else. The same bus ride I took by the WTC, was now detoured to go the opposite direction. But when I came out of the Battery Tunnel that morning, right near the site, I could see the smoke still billowing on the pile (which it did for months after), and a single 8 or 10 story by 20 feet wide piece of the facade of Tower 2 sticking out of the rubble. When the bus turned left away from the site to the right, I distinctly remember a pile of crushed police cars and fire trucks and more smoke. The entire area was full of smoke.
When I emerged back on 23rd Street, every street corner had 4 cops on it. It was raining, and they all had yellow and orange slickers on. Police cars from all over America were seen for weeks afterwards. Everyone was trying however they could to help. It was a strange day at work, and most of it was spend telling stories of where we were, much like mine right here.
The weeks after were a strange combination for New Yorkers – tragedy and loss, shock. But determination to never let it happen again. The Dow plunged nearly 1400 points the week after the markets reopened. No one knew what was next for New York, or even, America. The kindness displayed by New Yorkers was unnatural – it was as if everyone looked out for everyone else. The support for the rescue workers. The amount of people who volunteered on “The Pile”. The fact that everyone really cared about everyone else again. This was an attack on OUR city, and New Yorkers just were not about to take it lying down. But the love and support of America helped more than any rugged New Yorker will ever admit. But, it helped to usher back New York to it’s place on the world stage (and on behalf of all New Yorkers, thank you).
9/11 was a watershed moment in the generation who lived through it. Some compare it to the Kennedy assassination, or John Lennon’s murder in terms of having so deep an emotional impact that people, years and years later, will be able to tell you where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
I’m 40 now. That girlfriend has gone off and married someone else (and now has a TWO adorable daughters), but we’re still friends. I’m married to my best friend now too, and we live with a dog and 2 cats, and we live north of NYC now. I came back to work at, and have since left About.com again. And we remember. We remember those we lost (now, also including my mom who first broke the 9/11 news on December 6, 2008). We remember why life can be good, and valuable and precious, and why it really is too short. We remember how we felt, and how it makes us feel now.. 18 years later. We should never forget. We remember by telling our stories.
When I was back in high school, what now seems like a million years ago, my high school offered a couple of different options for the required physical education courses.
The “gym” class was always the great equalizer among the freaks and geeks, the jocks and the needs and very one in between. There was no “honors” gym, as the adjective itself seemed in complete contrast to the spirit of the affair. Going to Staten Island’s largest high school (my graduating class was 303, I was 27th), gave a big mix to this melting pot of people you’d end up with in gym class.
And, given the NYC Board of Educations continual budget crises, gym activities were simple in scope. Basketball. Softball in the summer. Touch football. Soccer. The equipment provided was barebones. Usually a ball. Maybe some cones. But, the most interesting were the people. The superseniors. The superduperseniors (I remember one kid in my junior gym class was 21, and a peer). The kids who had pledged themselves to ROTC and to fight for America. Having been in “gifted” classes for basically my entire education, these tended not to be the people I saw often. Whereas, getting a B or a C in a class, or getting just a 3 on an AP exam was a big deal to “us”, “life” was just more difficult for them. And at the time, I had barely an understanding of what “life” really was – I was by no means “rich”, but my parents had never made me want for anything either. At the same time, I was really lucky to be the first in my family to graduate college.
But what I think about now is these people, and how the gym class created these unlikely friendships, playing on the same pick up teams day after day. Over gym. I wonder what’s become of them. I wonder if they ever think of me. And I wonder if the hand life dealt them ever got better. And I am again thankful for who I am, and what I’ve been allowed to be. And I realize, as I only begun to understand then, that I wasn’t “better” than them. That there’s no way to know how I would have gotten through “life” – in real terms.
And then, I again believe in the power of people. That “life” is the great equalizer, that the “melting pot” had taught me more than I realized at the time.