My Own Words To Live By

Everyone has a code, whether it’s well-defined or not. I do my best to live deliberately, to lead an examined life, and sometimes that means I have to stop and take stock of both what I’m doing and what I’ve done. Everyone needs to course correct from time to time. I don’t always succeed, but definitely continue to try to live my life by the things listed here:

  1. Do something nice for someone else each day, and don’t tell anyone about it. You’ve taken enough from the world. It’s time to give back, one small kind gesture at a time. Ideas? Push some shopping carts back to the rack, hold a door open, let someone go in front of you at the market, and it goes without saying, when you see anyone in need, help them (like the guy whose car died in the intersection…help him push it to the curb). You get the idea. Important caveat: if you tell someone about it, you’ve just canceled it out. Talking about what you’ve done makes it about you…it isn’t about you!
  2. Chew your food. Pay attention to what you’re eating. It’s also good for your belly.
  3. Use your turn signals. Ever get stuck behind someone who doesn’t announce that they’re turning until you’re right up behind them, or who cuts you off without a signal at all? Of course you have. Don’t be that guy.
  4. Clean up the wreckage of your presence. When you make a mess (figuratively and literally), clean it up. Don’t litter. Put things back where you found them. Try to leave places you visit / hang out at better than they were before you arrived.
  5. Take the stairs. Unless it’s over 5 or 10 flights, there’s no reason not to take the stairs. Unless there is a reason. Here are the only acceptable ones: broken leg, in a wheelchair, carrying something over 50 lbs…hmmm…yeah, that’s about it. Take the damn stairs, man.
  6. Stop worrying about what you shouldn’t eat. Add the things that you HAVE to eat in order to be healthy (like tons of greens, and colorful fruits and vegetables), and you won’t have room for all of the other crap. But don’t stop eating the other stuff completely…life is meant to be enjoyed, and yes, that includes Double Stuffed Oreos from time to time.
  7. Drink lots of water. A good measurement is to drink half of your bodyweight + 10 in ounces. I’m 190lbs. so that’s: 190 / 2 = 95; 95 +10 = 105. 105 ounces it is. Gulp, gulp, gulp…it’s the greatest gift you can give yourself…gulp, gulp.
  8. Use your body. Walk, swim, bike, run, jump, climb, play, stretch. It’s the only one you get (until science perfects the full head transplant), so take care of it.
  9. Work hard. Nothing else to be said here.
  10. Create something. Do it, right now. Whatever it is. A paper airplane. One of those paperclip crickets. Sketch the person sitting across from you. Make something. Go! What’d you make? Upload a pic!
  11. Learn another language. I’m sure you have a close friend who speaks another language. Learn it. Or, perhaps you might be able to get promoted quicker at work if you were bilingual. Whatever the case, new languages open doors to different worlds.
  12. Travel. Time to go visit the place where they speak the language you just learned… See you later!
  13. Process, then let go of your anger. Holding onto anger and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
  14. Act as if this is the only life you get. It’s entirely possible/probable that that’s the case. I’m a firm believer that heaven and hell are here and now. You have nothing to fear in the afterlife (if you believe in that) when you’ve lived a good life and been kind to people.
  15. Pay attention to the life beyond your own nose. We all have problems. But spending too much time in your head isn’t going to make it better. The solution is beyond your nose, not in between your ears. There’s a whole world out there that’ll keep things in perspective…get out of your head and go make today a great one!

This post was as much for me as it was for anyone else. You can’t have too many rules, and I simply wanted to write mine down. Above all else, we’re all in this together. Think about other people as you’re out in the world. You never know what other people are going through. Give people the benefit of the doubt, when possible. Keep things in perspective…

Please feel free to share your thoughts, agree or disagree, or add your own.

Photo credit: Run by Hernán Piñera | This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Make A Plan For Your Day Before You Start It

Far too often, I begin my day by walking into my office, sitting down, signing in, and jumping straight into the fray. I need the reminder (read the quote and article below) that we greatly benefit from building a plan for our day before starting the material work.

There are times where I spend a few minutes filling out a 3×3 post-it note with the day’s tasks before digging in, and not surprisingly, those days always feel more fulfilling. There’s a greater sense of accomplishment when you say, “I’m going to do these 5 things today, come hell or high water,” and then check them off one by one as the day progresses.

Writer and consultant, Ron Friedman, Ph.D. suggests the following on a recent post for the Harvard Business Journal:

“What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at your desk? For many of us, checking email or listening to voice mail is practically automatic. In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day. Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage. They are the equivalent of entering a kitchen and looking for a spill to clean or a pot to scrub.

A better approach is to begin your day with a brief planning session. An intellectual mise-en-place. Bourdain envisions the perfect execution before starting his dish. Here’s the corollary for the enterprising business professional. Ask yourself this question the moment you sit at your desk: The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?”

As Friedman points out, “the single most important ingredient of any dish is planning.” Get planning!

Read the full article, and hopefully you’ll find it a useful read. It’s quick. Two to three minutes, tops…

HBR: How to Spend the First 10 Minutes of Your Day


Why Does Your Content Have A Gatekeeper?

Why do news websites like,, and continue posting articles on social media that require you to be a subscriber to view the entire article?

A recent exchange I had with @FTcare (Financial Times’ customer support Twitter account):

And their response, which to me offers an unintuitive and clunky experience:

Subscription gates make sense, but entice a little better

Of course, everyone is concerned with the bottom line. You need money to keep the doors open and the lights on. While subscription rates continue to decline for most major news publications, we’re beginning to see an increase of those news organizations keep their content behind a subscription gate, which makes perfect sense.

It’s an understood, and expected evolution. Digital subscriptions replace doorstep delivery. Display media replace print ads.

But you’re not going to convince me that I should pay you (sometimes a hefty sum) each month for your content, if each time you send me to an article, I have 100 words to judge the quality of your editorial. It’s just not going to happen. In fact, in many cases it will plant the seeds from which will grow a wall distancing the common user from their voice.

They just need to allow for easier access to shared stories, especially when the publication is the one doing the sharing. It’s the gateway drug. Let’s say there’re 1-5 articles a day that’re the cream of the crop. Share those, and make them free. You’ll have a much higher likelihood of converting the casual reader into a paying customer if you allow them to see the power of your editorial staff first.

Here are the options, as I see them

  • Allow all content to be freely accessed. Commence littering your site with ads, small and large, as well as bogging your videos down with pre-roll. Oh, and don’t forget the interstitials…
  • Ensure that all content shared out directly from the official social media accounts of the company / organization are able to be freely accessed. Cookie users and block their second page view, if needs be. Just don’t create the experience described above.
  • Make all content that’s shared by anyone free to view, again, putting up a subscription gate on the second page view. If you need to, put an interstitial. Forbes does this, and while I hate the interstitials, they are very easy to close out.
  • Let users access a limited number of articles per month, but require that they register. This is reasonable, but still the experience is prohibitive and unintuitive.
  • Screw everyone, and make your front page a login / register screen. I suggest painting subscribers on the company walls if you take this route, because there won’t be any new subscribers joining your ship. Also, all employees should take their vacation days and sell their stock. This vessel is going down.

Hell, what do I know?

What do you think is fair? What’s the best user experience? What helps conversion the most?

Discovering Your True North, Your Primary Purpose

It sounds so official, I know. But if you intend to live a life examined, it’s probably a good place to start. If you don’t intend to do so, please carry on.

“The unexamined life is not worth living. ―Socrates”

What is my primary purpose?

I’ve asked myself this question many times. And at different times in my life, there have been variations of the answer. At times, there have been two. Other times, none, if I’m being honest.

But since as early as I can remember, I always wanted to be a father. My father was always there, and both of my grandfathers, too. I suppose it was their impact on my life that planted the seed. Who knows, maybe it was my nurturing mother who fostered it in me. All I know is that if you asked the five-year-old me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I smiled and said, “A dad. And, a baseball player.” And while I played high school and college baseball (and later competitively in adult leagues into my early thirties), it became clear that being a great father was really my primary purpose.

And since my late twenties, it became my true north.

For the better part of the last ten years, being a better father has been the focus of each and every day. I fail at times, as we all do, but always work towards raising my three wonderful children. And while I have a ton of interests, when everything shakes out, the number one purpose in my life is to raise my children well, graduating them through the stages of development with love, attention, and care, to the best of my ability.

Your primary purpose can be anything, but it should be something

Are you driven by the conviction that you’re going to be the one to cure cancer? Is being the best American bobsledder what drives you? Do you have your sights set on winning the student-voted award for the best teacher at the high school where you teach?

Do you just aim to be kind to everyone you meet? Or to do one thing nice for someone every single day, without getting caught? Or, are you aiming to become the richest person on Earth?

It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is finding your true north.

This seems kinda serious

It’s not. Well, it’s not any more serious than living a life where you feel challenged, alive, and contented.

More than anything, this is a reminder to pay attention to where you are right this very minute. Look at where you are. Is it where you want to be? If not, are you on your way (both literally and figuratively) to where you want to go? Are your shoes pointed in the right direction?

Don’t let your breath go wasted. We only get so many days. Don’t just occupy space and file to and from your work. Put your action where your heart is.

What’s your primary purpose? I’d love to hear from each of you what makes you tick. Cheers.

How To Find The Right Talent For Your Team

For years, I have relied on the various and sundry job boards to supply quality creative candidates. Whether it’s, Coroflot, Behance, AIGA, Dribbble, AuthenticJobs, or any of the other competitive and viable job listing sites, that has always been the foundation of the candidate search.

In the last couple of years, however, I’ve turned that idea on its head, and to great effect.

Create the team you want

I’ve been doing the search myself. Instead of sitting back and waiting for quality candidates to reach out, HR sifting through applicants, HR forwarding potential candidates to Creative Services, weeding out the candidates we want to talk with, and then HR reaching out to set up phone interviews, now we go directly to the source. Aside from being much less time consuming, it is wildly more efficient.

For each open position, I create new (private, if possible) lists of designers and prospective talent on and Behance, and keep a spreadsheet of potential talent to reach out to via LinkedIn. I send a lot of emails, which yes, is time consuming, but I try to keep them short, just introducing myself, our company and team, and expressing interest in a further conversation.

Much higher yield on time spent

I’d say the response rate is a bump over 50%, and we probably have constructive conversations with half of those people, roughly yielding a 25% candidate return. In addition, many of the designers that respond, but whom aren’t interested in a full-time position, often turn into freelancers that we reach out to when we’re overbooked on projects (which happens consistently for us all, right?). So, the time and effort we spend on this method of candidate development really is a quality investment in the overall future and health of our team.

Reinforce your efforts

My company still posts on job boards as one prong of the approach, as well as listing the position on our corporate site (the yield of which is a total crap shoot), but three of the last four people I’ve hired, I found myself (two on Dribbble, and one on LinkedIn). It becomes more of a safety net in the process, rather than the go-to approach for culling quality designers from the ether.

This process isn’t going to work for everyone, of course. And for others, it just isn’t realistic. But for me, as the Creative Director of DEFY Media‘s in-house agency, it’s what needs to be done. While our company is buzzing and in the news left and right, it’s hard for an in-house creative services team to have the same allure amidst all of the startups and name brand digital shops / agencies.

If you’re HUGE, Google, Big Spaceship, Facebook, F-I, Deutsch, etc., the talent seeks you out. And while we’re building towards that day, of course, this process will have to do, for now…

Please, share your tips and strategies for how you’re finding great talent.

Build Space For Your Creative Process

When my co-workers try to schedule meetings with me or my team in the morning, they nearly always find it impossible. Given that I run a small, internal creative agency inside a growing digital entertainment company, there are a lot of meetings throughout the day; kick-off meetings, brainstorming sessions, meeting to cull and collect reviews and feedback, etc.

Without a way to keep them in check, without a way to put up some barriers, meetings can overrun our designers’ days. My team has been given the greenlight (by me, and only me), to block off their mornings to focus on actual work. Meetings often add value, but they also can stand in the way of the work that we hire our creative staff to contribute and create.

Put some structure in the day

We get in, by 10am at the latest (we can talk about that another day), and start things off with a daily standup meeting. It’s short, 15 minutes max, and let’s us all connect on what we’re working on, identifying obstacles, and outlining our goals and deliverables for the day. Then everyone jumps into a block of work that’s at least 90 minutes.


The door shuts to the design office, producers have been instructed to leave everyone alone, email is closed, and they get to dig in and really make progress on the day’s work.

Afternoons are a different story. We have to make room for meetings, but even then, you have to limit them if you intend on being productive. Don’t tell anyone here, but I’ve also told the team to decline meetings if they already have 90 minutes of meetings scheduled on any given day. How can we be expected to hit deadlines if our designers are consistently locked in meetings.

How other historic creative people have spent their time each day

I think it’s always interesting to see how other people spend their time. Take a look below at how some of (recent) history’s minds have split up the hours in their day.

You also need creative space

Overhead fluorescent lights, loud talking, foot traffic; these are all the bane of anyone trying to focus.

We fought and fought and fought for it, and finally, our design team has their own office. No producers, no creative director, just designers who are given the freedom to shut their door and focus. Rarely will you find overhead lights on in there (still don’t think I’ve seen them on, except for an errant flipping of the switch here or there). Ninety-five percent of the time, all of the shades are drawn. And it’s completely up to them to set a mood that works for the collective.

You have to be comfortable in your space. You need certain constants you can control, things that can become habitual, to help create the creative rhythm.

I like how Sarah Lewis terms it in her presentation at the 99U Conference (below):

“Putting out something that’s new in the world, requires a temporary removal from it.” – Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis: Creativity and Privacy Go Hand in Hand from 99U on Vimeo.

Clearly, what we create out of passion, and the work we do for income are not always married. We may strive for iconoclastic status with our personal projects, art, or passion work, while our goals might differ when we’re building for our clients and/or our day jobs. Of course we strive for success and greatness in everything we do…

But the space required is very, very similar.

And, it’s not just creative people that require this level of focus and directed attention to task. Everyone at our company, be they in finance, production, engineering, or human resources; we’re all open to meetings, and can all suffer at the productivity they potentially inhibit.

It’s on you, and no one else to create the space

Personally, I like to get in earlier. At least 3-4 times a week, I’m one of the first people through the door for the entire office. I can get in, turn on the music, and get to work without the distractions that arrive with the rush hour.

Find balance in your day. Create space for creativity to bloom, whether it’s in your personal home studio or in your corporate cubicle. And if you find yourself consistently overbooked…book yourself time for the following week before someone else does. Give yourself the time for the work that you’ve been tasked to complete.

As always, if you have any tips, please share. I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts.

Social Media Must Be Human to Work

The Harvard Business Review just ran a piece by Umair Haque called “The Social Media Bubble” in which Haque likens growing social media buzz to the subprime trading that put our banking institutions into the death spin they’re still trying to recover from (a great read…make sure you take the time to do so).

I agree with his most of his suppositions, however I think there’s a very clear path to avoid the “pop” when the bubble bursts. You just need to be human. You have to be personal.

Social media has unfortunately become a numbers game, with people and brands doing everything they can to gather audiences and build the size of their following / fan bases. Many rely on auto-bots to follow (and unfollow) people, and have tons of programs to manage the connections.

Everyone wishes they had the Twitter following of Ashton Kutcher, or the Facebook fan base of Starbucks, and they end up getting stuck building up their numbers instead of making sure that they’ve got a clear purpose backed by great content.

Ashton and Starbucks are great social media case studies because they both do a stellar job of connecting with people. (By the way, I’m an ardent Peet’s supporter, but Starbucks’ social media success is undeniable.) They listen to their criticisms, they answer their detractors. They’re doing everything they can to add value to the people who follow them on the respective networks.

This must be a driving force in any effect and long-tail social media strategy: focus on your connection with your community, not only on the size of it.

Yes, you can use a hundred different tools to build substantial Twitter followings, or Facebook fan bases, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can run giveaways to pull people out of the wood work. But mark my words, people won’t stay and continue to follow you if you aren’t engaging. If you aren’t providing compelling or contagious content, you’ll be discarded.

So, pay attention to what Umir’s talking about, because he’s right about a lot. Social media relationships can be shallow, and at times hollow, but you can change that by working hard to connect with your community in each and every way possible.

Try it right now. Instead of spending time building up your fan base or following, spend the next two days only working on improving the quality of your conversation and communication with your existing community.

Do it, and let me know how that works out for you.

Please jump in and get involved in the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below and sharing/bookmarking this article. Thank you kindly.

Is Social Media the Front Lines of Customer Service?

Last week, a few days before heading out of town to South By Southwest in Austin, I ordered a box of Kodak’s (relatively) new handheld HD cameras, the Zi8. When I received the cameras, a few days before leaving to SXSW, I immediately opened one up that we had purchased for me, and tore into the box eager to play with the camera.

I was pleasantly surprised by the camera, and was blown away by some of the smaller details and unexpected items in the box: an HDMI cable (which many other devices require you to buy separately), a convertible USB/power cable, and a very nice and sturdy leather strap with a great little “Kodak” stamp in the steel piece that held the strap together. The screen was big, the controls simple, and I really couldn’t wait to start shooting my first HD footage.

But when I pressed the power button, nothing. No response. So, I looked around and found the power cable, and plugged it into the wall to start charging. I’m not one to get stuck on something minor like that, so I kept sifting through the box to make sure that everything else was in order.

And then came strike two in the new product experience came with the realization that there wasn’t any internal memory on the camera, nor was a memory card included in the kit. At this point, let me be clear – neither of these things take anything away from the camera itself – it’s a great full-featured camera, and I love the purchase. It wasn’t a completely negative feeling, but I really wanted to play with my new toy, and I imagine that I wasn’t the only person to experience this disheartening realization. As it was, I had to go out and buy something else for this camera to work.

I think we should be able to open up any new equipment we buy and be able to turn it on and immediately start recording/shooting/listening (depending on what the product is, of course). That seems like a pretty reasonable thing to want as a consumer, and a fairly attainable goal as a product company.

Instead of getting bent out of shape, I did what I felt was the best possible solution: I sent a tweet to Kodak’s wildly visible and gregarious CMO, Jeffrey Hayzlett, and their Chief Blogger, Jennifer Cisney. (Important to note: the role of ‘me’ will be played by @Breakcom, which I write and manage for my employer, Break Media.) In my mind, it’s important to share both your frustrations and your happiness with the products you purchase, because then you can help make the products you love, better.

So I sent this tweet through, excited to share my happiness, and to offer my suggestions on how to improve the initial customer experience with their new product:

Needless to say, when this arrived as the response, I was less than thrilled:

Let me be clear here, I hold no malice or resentment, but I don’t understand the response, and from their CMO for heaven’s sake. It was bookended with a little :) emoticon as an attempt to keep it light-hearted, but that just cheapened the response even further.

In fact, I immediately started packing the camera back up into its box, and didn’t follow through only because I was quickly hit with a barrage of tweets from @KodakCB, who, in my mind, completely outdid her superior in every single way.

The reason that I’m writing this blog post is nearly identical to the reason I sent the tweet through in the first place: I believe in sharing my experience with companies when it is exceptionally great, or poor. If we listen to our fans, whether dissenting view or praise, we have a real chance to learn how to grow and become more effective. Hopefully, Kodak will pay attention and find ways to communicate a little better in the future.

After all, isn’t social media the front lines of customer support? For a company still struggling to find its way in a world that doesn’t need film any longer, you’d think Kodak would be more eager to embrace every fan willing to still patronize the brand. Companies interested in improving their products and branding don’t get defensive when offered constructive criticism – they welcome it.

As a company, and as a marketing team, they’re doing a lot right, for sure. Hopefully things like this don’t happen often for other customers, because it really bummed me out and had a deleterious effect on the experience with my new camera.

After a Twelve Year Arch, It All Comes Full Circle

When I graduated from college in 1997, I had a degree in Ecological Anthropology and Writing under one arm, and a driving passion to jump headlong into the publishing game. As editor-in-chief of my college’s weekly rag, I was sure I’d found my calling…the classifieds section just didn’t seem to agree with me.

break_logo-160square_plainI became a designer (which I had always been passionate about as well), because I figured it could be a way in the side door. After kicking around a couple of shops building up my skills and resume, I figured I’d be working in a publication’s layout department within a couple of years at most. But in reality, two years later I’d already forgotten about that passion, as I was hired to be Media Temple’s (a brand-new web design and hosting company at the time) first Creative Director.

Twelve years later, I’m now working for one of the bigger content companies in the game. I’m no longer designing (full-time, nor by title), and I’m not writing either. I’ve found my way right into a position that fits me quite snug.

October 1st (a day that’s held some pretty important events in my life, oddly), I started as the new Director of Social Media for Break Media (purveyors of,,, etc). My sixth week will start on Monday, and I’m having a blast. The last five weeks have been packed full learning the ins and outs of my new company, and getting accustomed to not working in Photoshop and Illustrator on a daily basis (which has not been the easiest transition).

As I said, this position fits me well. I’m a social person by nature. I love people. I thrive on communication. And most importantly, the last few years have shown me that I really enjoy digging into the strategies and bigger picture.

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years building websites, corporate identities, and various ephemera for a wide range of clients. It’s been fun, but I’m keen to the idea of backing up a step and being able to implement concepts across the entire spectrum: websites, social networks, mobile devices, offline networks, etc.

I’ll do my best to document this adventure, and I’d love for you to be along for the ride. With that, I’m going to get back to some much needed rest, and I’ll leave you with this quote from the man who said most things the best:

All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.” – Mark Twain

This Blog Has Fallen Silent – It Needs a Rebirth

These words are my first on this blog in well over two months. It geniunely is my hope to use this site as a way to connect with people on a variety of topics that are important and pertinent to me, but apparently, other things find higher priority right now. So, instead of just being completely quiet, I figured it might be best to show you what I’ve been doing, and where I’ve been doing it.

First and foremost, my beautiful wife and I gave birth to our third child, Ameenah Jane Ololade Huntoon in late April of this year. Without a doubt, she has been my primary focus. It’s an absolute joy and blessing to have such a wonderful family and incredible kids. It has always been the greatest goal of my life to be a father, and I’m a lucky guy to get to realize that dream each day.

In the past couple of months, things have been shook up on the work front as well. I left my job as Creative Director of Musicane (which recently launched a new homepage – my last site design work before leaving) in early July to jump back into the freelance world. While I enjoyed my time at Musicane, it was time to move on and get back into client work. Things are busy, but you know how freelancing goes. I’m still looking for the next right fit for me full-time, but for now, am quite happy and busy with the projects on my plate.

For those of you who don’t know, I also opened the doors of a new company, Humanity Snowboards, with my business partners Ryan Monson (also a childhood friend) and ex-Olympian snowboarder and champion, Tommy Czeschin. We’re just getting fired up, but this first season is looking to be a promising one. Ryan and I worked hard on hosting our first online contest on July 17th, which was met with great success. Check out the wrap-up.

Lastly, being a jock at heart, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of writing stories for fan-fueled sports channel over the course of the last year or so. In June, I was notified that I had been chosen to be a syndicated writer, and have been doing my best to cover my favorite teams: USC Football and LA Lakers, as well as a couple of articles about USA Soccer. But, as you’ll notice, my writing there has suffered too. Some days I really wish I could just write all day long.

I’m not sure how long it’s going to be until I’ll have the time to be constantly writing on this blog again, but I’m going to do my best to write as much as possible. Right now it has to take a backseat to family, deadlines, job searches, interviews, etc.

Twitter, Please Stop Asking People What They’re Doing

Maybe I use Twitter differently than its intended purpose. I try to use Twitter as both a mass communication tool and also as a source of nearly instant conversion and chatter around a variety of topics, news and interesting/relevant links. Since very early on I’ve done my best not to update with “Eating a sandwich” or “starting the day with a cup of tea and inbox sorting” types of emails.

Unless I’m going to provide a link to the restaurant, the tea, or the GTD application that’s helping me achieve and maintain my inbox-zero status, I become one of the millions of people standing around yelling into this empty tunnel hoping someone hears me…or the reverberation of my nonsense. I have this visual of millions of people lined up with their heads stuck inside a big pipeline that stretches off into the horizon…and if you could see in, you’d see these million people just yelling things like:

  • “Just finished my coffee, off to class.”
  • “Loving this cake.”
  • “Think I’ll walk today.”
  • “I’m going home now. I’m bored, and hoping there’s something good on tv.”

Something tells me, if we could have something different next to the status update box, instead of “What are you doing?”, we might be able to reduce the amount of useless blabber. Maybe something along the lines of: “Anything interesting to add?”

I look down my list of tweets on my profile page from time to time to see how much red there is (red is my link color). The more tweets I have without any red…the more I’m one of those ostriches with my head in a tunnel.

Now, not everyone is going to find what I have to say relevant or interesting all of the time. I don’t presume to think that I’m that important. But I do know that there’s probably a reason that people follow me: either a) we’re friends in real life, b) know each other in the online space (or design arena), c) they’re following me because I follow them (in which case, they might not be listening at all), and/or d) they’re following me because they get something out of what I have to say.

So, in my mind, it’s my job to provide something of import or relevance when I tweet. A link. A picture. A reply to a question or conversation. Something.

But look, this is just my opinion. What do you think? How do you use Twitter? Do you try to provide added value to your stream and followers? What are you doing, if you’re not doing that?

Please jump in and get involved in the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below and sharing/bookmarking this article. Thank you kindly.

Epic Change – Building a Locally-Led School in Tanzania

Drop what you are doing right now, for about 3 minutes, and you can help build a technology lab for a locally-led primary school in Tanzania. All you have to do, is go to this website Ideablob, and vote for Epic Change in a $10k contest. If Epic Change is still at the top of the list come midnight tonight, these kids in upcountry Tanzania will get themselves a brand-new technology lab.

A line of eager kids forms to vote for EpicChange

Don’t doubt that the money will immediately go to great use. Read about what Epic Change did with Tweetsgiving this past holiday season. They know what they’re doing when it comes to grassroots fundraising, bolting from a literally unknown non-profit to an instant darling of the then-(relatively)-tightknit Twitter community.

There really isn’t anything simpler for you. This won’t cost you a single penny. It won’t take but a minute for you to register with Ideablob, check for the confirmation email in your inbox, and click to vote in the sidebar on the right of their page. And by taking those simple steps, you can have a significantly positive effect on improving the education for these children.

So, go vote. And when you’re done, please share this blog post with your friends. Tweet about it. Share it on Facebook. Post it as a Myspace bulletin. Make it happen!

This blog post is part of Zemanta’s “Blogging For a Cause” campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

Are You Doing What You Love, Right Now?

I fell into my career in design by circumstance and fortune, and certainly had no great plans to be doing what I’m doing now when it all started. My education was all geared towards fieldwork, language study, and sustainable development. I figured that eventually my path would lead me back into the university life as a professor. Yet here I sit drawing and making things look pretty on a daily basis.

Some days I wish I was here

Let me be clear on this point: I love my job. I would not be doing what I do if I didn’t love it. That’s just how I’m built. I’m not someone who can do the mundane droning jobs and find happiness and satisfaction. I paid my dues working those kinds of jobs when I was younger, and put myself in a position to (hopefully) avoid going back – you never know, life’s a trip and filled with surprises and unexpected turns and twists.

But right now, I wonder regularly if my efforts are actually making anyone’s life better. Does my job improve the world, take away from it, or as a third option, does it have a significant effect either way? I think I’m sitting in the third seat right now, just whiling my time away making things function. Of course I’m learning skills, honing my tools (take it easy dirty birds), and hopefully fostering the different talent I work with on the daily.

However, I am filled with a sincere passion for affecting change, and when that variable enters the equation, I can’t help but wonder whether I’m where I should be. No regrets though, for sure.

Honestly, ten years ago, I figured I’d be living in East Africa (or at least spending all sabbaticals there) studying/teaching. I have sketches for rainwater catchment systems and village planning diagrams that (I think) could actually help people live better lives.

Today’s not the day to make the change, for certain – I have a wife and three kids (two of which are very young) – but knowing that the fire is still burning is what’s important. Maybe I need to be sharing ideas at this point, and maybe the right opportunity will present itself. Hmm, what do you think?

You Can’t Ever Have Too Much of a Good Thing

This should be subtitled: “Even when that good thing really, really pisses you off to begin with.” Yesterday was a bit of a rough day for me. Towards the end of the day, I had an email forwarded to me that a friend of a friend launched a project which is nearly a carbon copy of a non-profit project I’ve been putting together for about two years. It was a crushing blow when I first read the email and saw the site (not quite ready to discuss the details…but maybe sometime soon).

As I read through the site, it was as if this organization had poured over all of my notes and ideas…at least a year’s worth of ideas on how the non-profit was going to be run, the event(s) that it would first put on, and how those events would be setup and managed. My stomach turned as I read on.

I spent a good deal of time tracing my steps and rethinking every conversation that I’d had about my project. I was absolutely certain that someone I’d spoke to had turned and shared the idea with this group. Convinced. The thoughts tugged at me as I drove home, as I cooked dinner for my kids, and once I put them in bed it just picked up speed. Gnawing at my brain, I just couldn’t seem to figure out how it was possible that someone else could have the EXACT same idea.

But mostly, I suppose the major feeling was sadness and anger that I took too long launching. I was beat to market.

Defeated, I started to sulk. Poor me, I didn’t get this out quick enough…

And then it hit me: I was more upset about the fact that I wasn’t going to receive the proper recognition for the idea and the project. WTF? That realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Am I really so self-focused? Am I missing the whole point of what I am doing in the first place? Like the clouds parting a huge storm, I saw the light.

I mean, sure, I wish I launched my project last year, but I’m still only a couple of months away, and why should this derail me in any way? In fact, shouldn’t this be exciting? The fact that someone else has the exact same idea is affirming and reinforcing. And in the realm of non-profits, the more people helping, the better, no?

You can’t ever have too much of a good thing.

Changing Lives: What Are We Doing Today?

If there’s one thing that has become clear to me, it’s that the world can use as many people as possible linking arm in arm to fight against social and economic decay. Even though conferences like G8 and campaigns like the Bono-fronted RED campaign have helped raise much needed awareness, the recent global economic collapse is widening the gap between the miniscule rich and ever-increasing poor.

In all of our endeavors, we should take a look to consider how proceeds, profits, or other benefits can make it into the hands and lives of those less fortunate. Remember, when times are tough for us in “first world” countries (a term I despise, but that most people understand), life hangs in the balance for many more people. If 1 out of every 6 people aren’t sure whether they’ll eat, drink clean water, or find shelter at night during “normal” times, you can be assured that the ratio weakens as global purse strings tighten.

Until this world starts thinking of poverty and hunger, homelessness and disease (preventable disease, my friends) as our problems, all will continue increasing.

We must be the solution.

Each and every one of us has the ability to do our small part. Think, if all your energy was placed or directed at a non-profit (or other charitable cause) for one day a month, or even every couple of months…wouldn’t you then be part of the solution? Do the math. Even if only a fraction of us lent a hand in those frequencies, there would be all of the necessary manpower and effort to begin changing lives. Isn’t that a simple request?

After all, a waterfall begins with a drop*…the true power of the singular is in the plural.

They are, in fact, our problems. And they need our solutions.

Please discuss. Add suggestions, ideas, successes. Any and all stories are welcome. If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below and sharing/bookmarking this article. Thank you kindly.

* This idea was pulled from on of my favorite movies: The Power of One.

Fritter? What Facebook’s Opening Up Means for Twitter

twitter-vs-facebookFacebook has just made a bunch of significant updates today, most notably opening “up access to the content and methods for sharing through…status, Notes, Links (what we used to call Posted Items), and Video…” Not sure if you read the article awhile back over at AllFacebook, but Nick called it a few weeks back. I’m concerned that we will lose the inherent privacy that, for me, is so enjoyable.

Personally, I enjoy the two applications/services operating differently, but it was only a matter of time until Facebook realized a way to compete with Twitter in their ability to facilitate a means for instantaneous and widespread conversation. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to see a bunch of Twitter-inspired clones that will be taking up the cause clawing for their stake of the Facebook open status game.

Twitter applications like Tweetdeck, Twhirl, and the ton of other applications operating as satellites around the Twittersphere would do good to investigate and see how difficult it would be to recreate their applications displaying Facebook streams.  That is if they care about being involved in a niche that is about to completely blow wide open.

Twitter has a few million users, which admittedly is on the significant rise over the last few months with all the new celebrity users, media mentions and resulting attention, but their userbase pales in comparison to Facebook’s gargantuan 150m+ users. That being said, I wonder how long until Myspace decides to jump into the fray…I’m sure that they’ll arrive fashionably late.

What do you think about this? Do you think we’ll see people jumping ship for Facebook, as there will be a completely different level of integration with all of your other Facebook data and information? Or do you think the Twitterworld will buckle down and get ready to fight the good fight? Or will this really change little for Twitter faithfuls that already sync their Facebook statuses to their Twitter posts?

Can Facebook create the same level of underground endorsement and loyal buzz with their service? Do you think Facebook will have a greater ability to capture trends because of the wider user-base and dedicated audience?

Honestly, my biggest concern is that Facebook is going to become completely overrun with marketers and as a result we’re all going to get 100x the amount of friend requests that we currently get. I enjoy keeping my Facebook friends list filled with real-life friends. Facebook, for me, is a completely private opt-in community. I share different things on Facebook that I’m less likely to talk about publicly on Twitter.

In fact, I probably only have 10 or maybe 15 people that I don’t actually know who are my friends on Facebook. This is something that potentially could ruin the Facebook experience, and turn it into Myspace all over again…sans the horrible PimpMyLayout services.

What do you think? Chime in.

Please jump in and get involved in the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below and sharing/bookmarking this article. Thank you kindly.

The Best Ever Failed 63% of the Time

Ty Cobb failed 63.4% of the time, finishing his career with a .366 lifetime batting average. The ultimate benchmark for greatness for a hitter is the .400 mark, and that has only been eclipsed 26 times in history. Hell, some of the sports’ greatest hitters failed 72-73% of the time, and made up for it with the ability to hit homeruns.

Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson
Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson

I think life operates much like baseball does. What makes professional athletes so incredible is the resiliency required to perform at such high levels in pressure cooker situations when the odds show that you will fail more often than you succeed. They endure weeks-long streaks of failure and still figure out a way to dust themselves off and return to (relative) success.

Would your job keep you if you failed at your primary function for a week straight?

The reason that batting averages vacillate between .200-.400 is because of the high level of competition and the incredible skill required to hit a 4.5 ounce ball which is traveling upwards of 90 mph all the while moving laterally, dropping or changing pace as it covers the 60′ 6″ from the pitchers hand to the plate. Some consider it the hardest feat in all of sports.

In comparison, I just have to navigate clients, come up with some fun creative concepts, move some pixels around, and make some things look pretty. Success in my industry is measured by the ability to increase sales (and/or membership), effectively communicate and inspire a message, spark conversation with the design, and an increase in site traffic (or brand engagement, if not an online project).

What are the benchmarks for success in your life? In your career? When you fail, do you learn from your mistakes? How do you deal with failure?

Loss is research.

It’s not always straightforward quantitative research, but if you mull over the situation you’ll be able to figure out what went awry and why you failed if you are honest with yourself. That is the ultimate key. Self-honesty, if taken seriously, can provide the greatest insight into your own performance and weaknesses (strengths, too, of course). While there might be external circumstances adversely affecting you, figuring out what you need to change will always keep you ahead of the game.

As long as you are willing to fail, and learn, you’ll continue to find overall success.

Crowdsourcing Is Poison to the Design Community

Pawning sites like Crowdspring,, GeniusRocket, and 99designs off as “crowdsourcing design networks” is covering the wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s one thing to run a design contest online – a true contest where there’s an objective, a prize or prizes, and most importantly a singularity of purpose.

Don't get stuck moshing around for the scraps

It’s a completely different thing to build a contest factory that milks a large group of eager and hungry individuals for their best ideas with no promise of compensation. It, simply, is against design business ethics. This is spec work, plain and simple.

If you are a hungry designer, I promise, this will not keep you fed well. They say that they “pay cash for real work”, when in fact the client will pay a pre-determined amount of money (in other words, a budget set by someone who might have no clue what design budgets should be) to one (or more) winner(s). This is not “work”, this is a circus. This will not create a career for but a few people. Perhaps it’s a short means to an end for some people keeping food on the plate, but this it completely counter to the ethical guidelines for designers.

What these sites will do is drive the prices clients pay for design down, and allow companies to receive tons of unpaid-for design comps. Companies have an eager audience and can set low “prizes” for the winner, but are receiving tens if not hundreds of submissions – while they only own the winner’s concepts, do you think that they don’t take and incorporate other ideas they see in unselected submissions?

Hopefully you’re able to find work. Hopefully you don’t have to resort to throwing away great ideas for a chance to sit at the client’s table. I’m not judging anyone – times are tough and work is much more scarce than in years past – but I have little problem judging the companies who have the money to be paying proper rates and budgets to designers.

While the design contests will continue for sure, I hope that more designers take a long, hard look at their involvement in such practices. It runs counter to all of the groundwork designers have been laying for decades.

I pray the tides change, or who knows, in the future we all could be making our living through such competitions. With a bit of despair, I feel like I truly understand the feeling behind Murrow’s famous “Good night, and good luck.”

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining (or starting) the conversation by leaving a comment below. Thank you kindly.

Set Your Clients Up to Succeed

Every service provider, regardless of their discipline, has at one point or another performed great service for a client only to have them call back a month later saying something broke. For us designers, we cringe as we close the email or set down the phone, and type in the client’s web address “”, because 9 times out of 10, someone decided that they should play around with the HTML or CSS and broke the site or created a 403 error.

iis_errorBut as time wears on, and more experience is packed into your belt, is it your client’s fault for breaking something you’ve built, or yours for not properly planning for the inevitable? If I know that my client is going to keep trying to mess with the HTML of the webpage that I’ve delivered, shouldn’t I give them a CMS solution that will avert their desire to muck around, allowing them to make all necessary changes in a way that can’t completely destroy the site? When I see images being formatted incorrectly, repeatedly, shouldn’t I make a tutorial showing the client how to set up batch actions in Photoshop to help them prepare correctly?

Perhaps sometimes it’s our improper planning that is to blame, not the knuckleheadedness (lovely, Webster’s, please take note) of our beloved clients. Of course, clients are still going to break stuff (just ask the plumber who comes back to your apartment over and over telling you to make sure that you clean your drains regularly to avoid clogs…do you ever listen?). But as service providers, we have to go the extra mile because we want our work to show beautifully and for our clients to be happy. Happy clients are always talking up to their friends, family, and colleagues.

Besides, don’t we get paid to make the best possible product? How would my employers feel if I was cutting corners and not always setting our company up to succeed? I think too often we get myopic on our approach to projects, focusing on the design, the beauty, the aesthetics; at times forsaking the most quintessential piece of everything we do: creating happy and satisfied customers.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining (or starting) the conversation by leaving a comment below. Thank you kindly.

Microsoft Songsmith Ad Crushed By Blow-up Condom Animals

Let me start off by just squashing all of the “you can’t compare those two videos” kinda comments. Because two things: a) I am fully aware that these ads are not going to run against each other, are in completely different genres, and that the Durex ad will most certainly be blocked and prevented from making it to televisions in the US, and b) I just don’t care. These are just too hilarious when viewed next to each other.

Microsoft Songsmith ad

Watch this ad for Microsoft’s new application Songsmith, which will operate only on the Windows platform (thank god). Please, try to watch the entire video so that you can fully see what I’m talking about:

Inspiring, huh? Makes you wanna go out and start making videos with your band, or quit your day job to become a dingle dong…err, or maybe not. Maybe, in fact, this is one of the worst promotional videos ever created. (Credits go to Techcrunch for the find.)

Durex Commercial

I don’t even think there’s a point in introducing this video. Just watch, and enjoy.

This video is just hands down awesome. It’s one of the better ads I’ve seen in a long while. It says, very clearly (at least to me), “You can have lots of fun having protected sex. Condoms don’t stand in the way of you having a blast (no pun intended).” Nevermind the fact that it won’t be shown in the US. It’s creative, engaging and just the kind of video that will enjoy rampant You Tube success.

(Important to note: the Microsoft video will probably get far more views on You Tube, but I think it will only reinforce their struggling brand identity issues.)

Wrap up (pun intended this time)

I’m not entirely sure what is going on with Microsoft’s advertising efforts lately. It’s clear that they’ve been getting worked over by the Mac vs. PC ads, but they are just fishing for gimmicks, and failing miserably. The Jerry Seinfeld / Bill Gates ads were horrendous. I actually liked the “I’m a PC” campaign, but it didn’t fair too well in the market either. This however, should never make the light of day (beyond the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve already viewed it on video sharing sites). It is attrocious.

The Durex commercial is just pure fun. It’s creative and carefree. Remember, it’s not like Durex is the market leader, nor the media darling in its space. Trojan owns 70% of the market share, and has had quite a bit of success in its recent campaigns. They definitely deserve credit for taking a risk on this one, especially because it won’t ever be viewed in the States.

So while these videos aren’t an “apples to apples” comparison, I think it’s totally fair to say that one has taken the right route, while the other continues to flounder. (All inuendos appear in this article free of charge. You’re welcome. Hehehe.)