Good Business

February 25, 2011

I received this lovely message today from a relatively new friend whose business I support:

“I’m busy responding to emails and dealing with remarkably less garbage than usual … and it got me to thinking about people I like. You’re cool because you do what you say and you follow up with things. You have no idea how refreshing it is when someone does that.

I just wanted to send a note. Positive feedback FTW.”

I began supporting his modest start-up because he had a solid, focused idea and buckets of enthusiasm.

I loosened up my traditionally padlocked purse strings because I genuinely like his product.

I was already a fan and a customer. This note elevated my commitment to his work.

Every dollar we spend is an investment in someone’s work. And starting a business is cultivating relationships, because initially we work with those we like.  Of course, then it’s up to them to keep us coming back for more.

That’s just good business.

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More on the Ranking System

January 21, 2011

I had a conversation with Heidi a couple of days ago that has been on my mind since.

Among other things, I was thanking her for her recent comment on this here blog and was reminded of Alicia.

Alicia provided tremendous encouragement when I first started blogging. She requested and published my rumination on booze and what our choices might say about us.

That day, Alicia wrote this to me:

“Today you will find out who your real friends are in the Twitterverse. They will retweet you and/or publicly celebrate the fact that you have the gift of words.

The ones who remain conspicuously silent will disappoint. Take it as a backhanded compliment: Your success today highlights some real or imagined inadequacy that they have.

Either way, you win.”

At the time, I thought it was lovely and generous. A year later, it’s so much more.

It occurs to me that it’s a continuation of the ranking system I introduced as rationale for leaving Facebook. In it, I wrote,

“There are one hundred thousand reasons why some fall off the radar but only one reason why others don’t.

Because you don’t let them.”

We can spout what great friends we are all day long, but our actions define us. How do you evidence your friendship?

It’s wonderful to always take their call and be available and supportive. Invaluable even. But what do you proactively do? You call them, of course. You make the time to reach out, to feel around in some mounting darkness to grasp their hand and hold it tight. You make an effort.

In bloggerverse terms, I have a suggestion.

Comment.

Post a comment on blogs written by your friends.

They labor over theirs just like you labor over yours and feedback is incredibly gratifying and encouraging. A comment shows your friends that you support them and want them to succeed.  Granted we only have so many hours in the day and can’t feasibly read everyone’s every post. No one should blame you for not doing that, but everyone will value you for trying.

Also, subscribe. I am giddy when I receive an email that Dorothy has published a new post. I can’t wait to read it and offer even a simple acknowledgement of her work. I’m not so good at checking Google Reader every day. Admittedly, the email option makes it much easier for me to prioritize my time to ensure that I let her know how much her friendship means to me.

Ranking system.

I’m so grateful to my friends who take the time to share their wisdom on FeliciaCago Land. I plan to practice what I’m preaching here much more in 2011.

Because you’re worth it.

Am I Racist?

January 20, 2011

To preface, no one has called me a racist.

I was involved in a benign discussion on Twitter that got me thinking about the ever expanding usage and application of the word. To reiterate, I was not called a racist and no one was wrong or right in this scenario, in my opinion.

It was simply a conversation that I wish to share here.

Cast:

Me – Ordinary joe. A nobody with an overdeveloped sense of justice, a wicked love jones for the power of words, and a big mouth.

Guy entitled to his opinion – A smart, civically-engaged man.

Innocent – Poor guy whose tweet I found amusing and retweeted. Related: from Alabama, as am I. NOT to imply that anyone is guilty, only that Innocent did not engage further.

It begins with me giggling at Innocent’s tweet:

Guy responds with this:

I prickle, but attempt to diffuse:

Yes, I could have simply ignored it, potentially avoiding more Twitter Fatigue. But I didn’t. Neither did Guy:

I find the generalization of generalizations a bit unnerving. I believe that context should always be considered. So I push, as I am wont to do:

Now, of course I don’t believe Guy hates Alabamians and I’m 100% sure he had no idea that Innocent and I are from Alabama. I offered this unfair accusation to equate with his. And to be funny. Guy does not seem amused:

Guy is absolutely correct. Unfounded claims add nothing to discourse.

But the other part of this really gets to me. No one chooses to believe anything? They just believe? Um.

Our beliefs are informed by experience, education, cultural and environmental influences, and myriad other outside forces.

One isn’t born believing in or doubting God or rooting for the Detroit Lions. Our parents, friends, teachers, clergy, or even strangers serve to form our beliefs until we, hopefully, choose to research and explore the foundation of those beliefs in order to strengthen them or to create new ones.

All by choice.

But by now it’s late, it’s bedtime for me as well, and I’m trying to embrace the notion that I initially ascribed to him in my mind: “Dude, lighten up.”  So I attempt to diffuse again:

Guy kindly tolerated my silliness:

To Guy’s credit, he hasn’t yet blocked me, which I greatly appreciate because I hope this leads to the discourse he referred to and surely values as much as I.

Racism is evil. Identifying and ending racism is everybody’s job.

First, I get it.  Generalizing about any race as superior or inferior is, at the basest level, just plain incorrect.   Generalizing about any demographic as any one charactistic is probably incorrect.  Case in point, an earlier tweet by Guy:

Should someone reprimand him for generalizing about vegetarian girls? Of course not.  Also, blind people do go to movies. But whatever word might be used to connote discrimination about vegetarian girls and blind people probably does not have the immense power of the word racism.

The accusation of racism can destroy careers and reputations in an instant. To bandy about this term is to diminish its meaning. Paul Wachtel posits that “for some people it has lost its impact, lost its power to shock, to evoke guilt or revulsion. A term that once referred to the most deplorable and shameful of traits and actions has been extended to include virtually universal human characteristics and to include within its purview practically everyone in our society.”

I believe it is prudent to apply the term carefully and responsibly.

Second, it was a fucking joke. On Twitter. Jokes can absolutely reflect racism and be hurtful. This one seems pretty harmless to me.

I hope Guy will see this and not be offended. Perhaps he will choose to weigh in. I welcome his feedback and yours.

And yes, I clearly have way too much time on my hands.

Twitter Fatigue

January 17, 2011

The phases of Twitter are well documented.

Whether there are Six phases or Forty-Six, the extremes are what I like to call Attrition to Addiction.

First, they tell you, you’ll dismiss Twitter as far too overwhelming. You’ll abandon, possibly for months and return only reluctantly because people you respect keep telling you it’s not what you think.

And then you’re hooked.

The fun, for research nerds like myself, is discovering what people respond to and how to effectively be heard over the din of millions. It’s watching a personality emerge in 140 characters until you just can’t wait to meet this brilliant, hilarious, ravenous, succinct, and simpatico-in-every-way gadabout behind the quip.

I do not recall my first real tweet but I believe it was in August 2008.  (A free Wow Bao treat for the first person to sift through all 20,000+ of mine to post the first in the comments.  Must redeem in Chicago.)

It began slowly, as it always does. Testing the waters. Coming to terms with the utter narcissism of it all. Getting into the proverbial groove.

I have blogged about the Phonatics timeline, which marks the beginning of my “Addiction” phase. As I approach the end of 2010, I realize that my entire social and professional life this year has been informed and influenced by Twitter.

Attrition to Addiction.

But what comes next? Because that’s where I am.

I propose that the next in the Twitter timeline of phases is Fatigue.

Fatigue is characterized by, but not limited to, the following:

  • You dread planning tweetups because the people you love say, “Ugh, I won’t come if so-and-so is going.”
  • You dread attending tweetups because so-and-so will be there.
  • You were giddy at the rollout of Mute functionality.
  • You make a new acquaintance with someone who informs you of your bitter rivalry/disagreement/argument with someone you’ve never met or even heard of.

Fatigue differs from Attrition in that you don’t want to walk away from the platform altogether because you’ve seen how powerful it can be. You haven’t lost interest. You’ve lost tolerance.

I’ve met more incredible people and made more lasting friendships in 2010 than in all my prior years on the Earth combined. I’ve grown professionally and cultivated clients and referrals all from Twitter. I wish to continue to do so.

But the honeymoon is over.

Much like that unceremonious but crucial point in a romantic relationship when the shit gets real, Twitter Fatigue sets in when the gloss fades. And in a romantic relationship, I generally love this part. I’d choose First Year over First Date any day because that’s when it gets good. And deep. And dirty. That kind of intimacy will decide whether you want more or no more.

So what have I learned after a year of Twitter?

I’ve learned that you people are fucking mean.

Perhaps it’s the assumption of intimacy that is bothering me. The ease with which people will take offense, lash out, or diminish another’s reputation or point of view. In real life, it’s simple to avoid toxic people. We just avoid them. Remember the ranking system? On Twitter, you simply can’t without being mean.

I’m not perfect. I’m quite often considered rude. But I won’t be mean.

Is there a difference, you ask? I think there is. Rudeness is often unintentional because it is defined by an individual. Meanness is always intentional.

A gal once told me I was rude because when asked my opinion about a restaurant she loved, I replied, “I went twice and didn’t enjoy it.  I should try it again.”

She then told me that I must have no taste.

Which was rude and which was mean? And wouldn’t it have made more sense if she were my sister or my best friend as opposed to someone I was just meeting at a tweetup?

So my cowardly solution has been to close ranks, develop a thicker skin, and manage my expectations of Twitter a bit.

On the flip side of this argument is my obsession with an Abe Lincoln quote that AnnMarie shared over dinner: “I don’t like that man.  I must get to know him better.”

Perhaps I have it all wrong.

How To Get Over Yourself

November 1, 2010

"Grumpy Hulk Need Mindy Time!"

If you have a blog or a website, you’re probably utilizing tools to monitor and analyze the traffic to better understand and grow your audience.  My friend Leyla wrote a great post about Using Analytics to Get the Most From Your Blog Posts this time last year and revived it today for an anniversary run.

As Leyla aptly outlines, these tools can help you to understand where your traffic originates, which ads are effectively driving traffic, and what content keeps them coming back.  The keywords section resonates with me this morning.

Keywords tell you which words or phrases were searched that led an eager, motivated surfer to your little corner of the web.  These are illuminating because they can tell you objectively how your content is perceived.

Or they can tell you that you’re fat.

I woke up to this rather shocking slap in the wordpress this morning.  This juicy nugget of analytics tells me little about my blog’s reach but it did deliver.

Initially, I obsessed (as I am wont to do) over the reality that someone recently encountered me at a happy social function, possibly engaging me with a smile, a hug, and promises to catch up one-on-one over lunch only to be thinking behind glassy eyes, “Dang, Felicia has gained some weight.”

What boggles my mind is that this person was motivated to actually SEARCH for information behind this weight gain.  What did this person expect to find?  A reason perhaps, or a discussion thread devoted to the topic. God forbid.

And then something wonderful happened.  I started laughing.  You would think being faced with the words that women fear more than death would give me a moment’s pause to blush or cry or vomit or something melodramatic.  Truth is, I was contemplative and then I was laughing.  And this reaction delights me.

I was too chicken to participate in Rachel‘s brilliant No-Makeup Week campaign for all the usual excuses.  It stands to reason that being called fat would appeal to the same ingrained self-image issues and cripple my confidence for at least a few minutes.  But it didn’t and here’s why.

I come from immigrants.

I grew up on public assistance.

I know people who are hungry right this moment.

I will never, ever complain about having too much food to eat.

I love and I am loved in return.  And I always try to be kind.  These things make me who I am.

So thank you, anonymous searcher, for the morning laugh and lesson.  This concludes my attention to the matter.  I have gained some weight and I think I look fantastic.  I will obsess no more.

And besides…you’re ugly.

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