Archive - Nov 2009
Today at noon, Eastern U.S. time, @ckieff and I will do a Social Marketing Tweet Chat. Chris runs the Social Marketing firm, 1 Good Reason and we often chat at various conferences. He has been running the Social Marketing Tweet Chat for some time now, and asked me to join him to share some of my perspectives.
While I pay close attention to social marketing, I approach it more from the technology side than from the marketing side. I typically present myself as an “Old guard, hardcore geek”. The closest I get to marketing is when I describe some of my work as “helping people tell their stories on computers”. So, I will present a different perspective than some of the other folks that Chris often speaks with.
The current themes that I’m most interested in, in this area, and that I expect to explore at lunch time are convergence, the long tail, and the technology adoption lifecycle. In short, I believe that too many marketers do not spend enough time focusing on convergence. Various forms of digital technology are rapidly converging, but too often, it seems, marketing campaigns are not converging.
At the conferences Chris and I attend, it always seems like all of the focus is on the really large publishers. However, the long tail suggests that marketers, and especially those focusing on a social component, need to look more at the publishers that are not at the top of the A list. That is where the social action really is taking place.
Finally, I suggest that marketers should look more at innovators in the technology adoption lifecycle instead of early majority, late majority or laggards. The innovators are the folks that test out technology, when they find a product they like, they become the champions of the product and are the most effective influencers for a product. It seems like technology firms understand this, but few other firms seem to focus on who the innovators and early adopters for their brands might be. As an aside, the original research that led to the sociological model of the technology adoption lifecycle was based on hybrid seed corn sales in the 1950s.
So, join in at noon and share your thoughts for what I hope will be a lively discussion.
Monday evening, the Woodbridge Board of Education held its monthly meeting. It started off with a motion to move briefly into executive session, and it was clarified that technically, it was moving into a non-meeting. With this completed, the board began its regularly scheduled meeting.
The meeting proceeded with the Pledge of Allegiance, a report on correspondence, an opportunity for public comment, and then the consent agenda where the minutes of two previous meetings were approved. This was followed by the Superintendents report. Dr. Stella spoke about a teacher that had recently been to Peru and the presentation by some of the students about the Andes. He mentioned a Skype call with Beecher Road’s sister school that will take place in the Media Center Thursday morning at 7:30.
There was a good discussion about the National Conference of Teachers of Mathematics. Principal Bequary and one of the teachers at the meeting had attended their annual conference and talked about insights gained about how to continue to improve the math program at Beecher Road. Dr. Stella mentioned the school’s tradition of constructivist education.
A Tri-State update, and Strategic School Profile were also discussed and the discussion moved on to the Act on Primary Health Grant application for 2009/2010. $25,000 is being requested for the ‘Project Safe Schools are Friendly Environments’.
Project SAFE promotes a secure and friendly school environment where all students have the opportunity to thrive socially, emotionally, and academically. This goal is accomplished through early intervention when adjustment problems are identified. The Child Associate and the School Psychologist support behavioral goals through PMHP Child-Led Play; Classroom Social Skills and Yoga; and lunch groups. Interventions include partnerships with Parents and school staff. Collaboration with community-based agencies and providers support interventions.
One of Fiona’s best friends comes from a broken family and goes to lunch with her feelings teacher once a week. Fiona and her friend have talked about these lunches and Fiona goes to the lunch on Social Skills and Leadership. She attended this last year and wants to do it again this year. She says the program is well worth it.
The largest budget amount in the request is for Parent Activities and reflects just one part of the important role that Beecher Road plays in the greater Woodbridge Community. This is also reflected in the Parent Teacher Organization report. PTO fundraising is down this year due to weak gift wrap sales and the postponement of the Halloween Hoot, but they remain upbeat for the year.
The next big issue tackled by the Board of Education was a proposal to change the policies about how the Chair of the Board of Education appoints committee members and the chair for each committee. Some members of the board felt slighted by the appointments this year and asked the policy committee to review the policy. The policy committee met on November 12th, and found that the policies of the Woodbridge Board of Education were in line with most other school boards that post their policies on the CABE website and followed acceptable procedures of Roberts Rules of Order.
Dr. Dudley-Smith moved that the recommendation of the policy committee which clarifies and reinforces the chair’s responsibility to designate a chair person for each committee be approved. Mark Livesay, who chairs the policy committee raised a procedural issue that this was not voting on the issue the committee had been charged to report on, and so after a discussion about whether or not the procedural move was really needed, Dr. Dudley-Smith amended her motion to ask the board to vote on the alternative policy proposal which would have given the power to select the chair of the committees to a vote of the committee as a whole. This was then defeated and the original proposal was then voted on and passed.
During the discussion, David Barkin read a long statement about work that he has done on behalf of the committee on facilities related issues. He expressed the belief that he had been passed over as a potential chair of the facilities committee, a position he had asked for, out of punishment by board chairperson McCreven for positions he had taken in the past.
Tom Handler noted that Mr. Barkin’s statement illustrated that one does not need to be chair of a committee to have a strong impact on the direction of the board. I would note that there is a strong reason why people with great subject matter expertise should not be chairs.
I remember years ago hearing about the Peter Principle; "In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence." The example that I was first presented with also came from elementary schools. It was the story of a kindergarten teacher, who was the best teacher around, whom you might call the subject matter expert, who was promoted to Principal. What made the teacher so effective was her ability to relate to everyone as five year olds. This worked very well in the classroom, but was a disaster in the principal’s office. If anything, there is a strong argument against subject matter experts being made chairs of committees.
After the vote, a brief recess was called, and at this point, Mr. Barkin left the building. He has also left previous Board of Education meetings early, and while there might be some other reasonable excuse, his failure to convey it to the board meeting as a whole makes it look like he is being a sore loser playing the game, “if I can’t be captain, I’m taking my ball and going home”. This behavior has also been exhibited by others who abstain from voting on financial reports after their preferred board member to lead the finance committee was passed over, again, apparently on Peter Principle issues.
The SAFE program helps students learn constructive ways of dealing with disappointments of not getting their ways and dealing with narcissistic injuries. Perhaps some members of the board need to talk about these sorts of issues with a feelings teacher.
The rest of the meeting proceeded smoothly, with good discussions about the cafeteria finances and various proposals to improve operations there.
It feels like each day throws new curves at me, getting in the way of writing my novel and potentially messing up business appointments. The latest was a message from a friend on Facebook that said, “Please live life like there may be no tomorrow. Dad is dead and it is unbelievable. Go hug someone“.
I copied down the message as I went to pick up my two older daughters for brunch before hitting the road back from Mary Baldwin College in Virginia to my home in Connecticut. It is a long drive, and I don’t get to see my older daughters that often.
We ate at Kathy’s, a good local restaurant in Staunton. We had eggs and pancakes and talked. Somehow, the discussion drifted over to One and Three Chairs, by Joseph Kosuth. The piece consists of a chair, a photograph of a chair and the dictionary definition of a chair. We joked around about a post-structuralist Goldielocks seeing the exhibit. First she sat in the physical chair and pronounced it too hard. Then she photoshopped her representation into the photograph of the chair, and pronounced that too soft. Finally she tried to use the definition of ‘chair’ and broke it. We all laughed, although there seemed to be a wistfulness in Mairead’s laughter. We are a family in love with ideas, yet somehow that love seems to have turned bittersweet for Mairead in her latest turmoil.
After brunch as we headed back to campus, I shared with them my friend’s note. As I departed, I gave them a typical farewell hug, with a little extra in memory of George Menard. With a turn of the wheel, I was headed north on I-81, listening to More Tales of the City.
Up in Massachusetts, friends are mourning the loss of a father, father-in-law, and ‘poppy’. I didn’t know George all that well. I met him at a few events, and we had many great talks, especially about his days in the Navy. The idea of a post-structuralist Goldielocks sitting in one of Joseph Kosuth’s chairs at his wake might not have meant as much as it does to my daughters and I, and hopefully to his daughter. Yet the admonition to “please live life like there may be no tomorrow” is something I can see him fully embracing.
Rest In Peace, George Menard
Yesterday, a child came out to wander.
So many times, I sat on the edge of the bed of my older daughters and sang that song to them as they fell asleep.
Fearful when the sky was filled with thunder
Then, one morning Miranda, when she was about five years old, wandered into my bedroom as my first wife and I were having the first argument that Miranda had ever seen us have. It was also one of the worst, the one that marked the beginning of the end of that marriage.
And the seasons they go round and round
It was a pretty rough period of my life, but with the help of friends, I got through it. I met someone new and we fell madly in love. A couple of years later, Kim, who was to become my wife in the fall, along with Mairead and Miranda went sailing on the Yacht Club cruise. We stopped at one yacht club at the end of Long Island where there was an evening dance. The club provided child care for the beginning of the evening, and Mairead and Miranda went to that. When the child care was over, the dance was still going on. Mairead wanted to go back to the boat and read. She was old enough to read quietly on the boat alone. Miranda wanted to see the dance.
So, Kim and I took Miranda with us back to the dance, and she had a wonderful time. As we walked down the dock afterwards, she asked us, “Is this what college is like?” We chuckled. It wasn’t the right time to go into discussions about classes, majors, theses and all the struggles of college life. We responded with something like, “Well, college can be a lot of work, but yeah, at times college can be like this.”
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Well, actually, it was forty-two. Kim and I had gotten married and Fiona was born. When I wrote about her birth, I also used ample quotes for Joni Mitchell’s ‘Circle Game’. Fiona adores her two older sisters.
Even more years have spun by and this weekend, I drove down to Mary Baldwin College where both Mairead and Miranda are students. Miranda is a junior and it was Junior Dad’s weekend; a weekend full of pomp and ceremony. We went to the “My Precious Someone Champagne Brunch”. We ate and talked with some of Miranda’s friends. Miranda went on with her newest dream. After school she wants to start an artists’ salon. We talked about other salons through the ages and the spice factory I lived in after college with various artists.
Miranda and I slipped out of the brunch early. We had eaten. We had chatted with friends. We weren’t all that interested in the various speeches. Instead, we went over to the art building. Miranda showed me some of her work for various classes. Then, we headed to the ceramics studio where she gave me a brief lesson in throwing pots. I threw two pots, which both eventually collapsed because I had not made them even enough. Miranda graciously complemented me on my work saying that I did much better than many first time potters.
Dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
Miranda then headed off to salon day, a different type of salon. This was the opportunity for all the young juniors of Mary Baldwin to get done up nicely for the evening ball. I sat down for coffee with Mairead. She recounted some of the latest difficulties in her life and it struck me, as often as I had sang about dreams losing grandeur coming true, too often, dreams gained an ever greater and horrible grandeur as they got crushed. So we talked. We talked about rebuilding our dreams, building new dreams.
I’ve often commented about suffering from aspirations of grandeur. Now, at the age of fifty, I’ve seen many dreams horribly crushed. I too often feel like Sisyphus standing at the top of the hill watching the bolder roll back down. I stand at the top and watch, hoping to find the beauty in the latest setback. Then I trudge down to the bottom of the hill and start pushing the bolder back up, knowing that another slip is likely to send it back down the hill again, yet hoping may be this time things will be different.
Like the little engine that could, I say to myself, “I think I can, I think I can” while at the same time fighting off nagging doubt.
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Miranda joined us for a light supper. Then, Mairead headed back to her friends and I went back to my hotel and rested briefly. Later, I joined Miranda, a friend of hers, and the friend’s family, and we all headed down to the “Junior Dads & Family Ball” Everyone was dressed to the nines. As our names were called out, the fathers and their daughters walked onto a small pavilion in one of the grand halls and the fathers gave their daughters their class rings.
Later, there was a dance, and as I danced with my little girl, now a college junior. I answered her question for years ago, “Yes, this is what college is like.”