Thursday, January 05, 2012

Fleeting Memories

"You don't take a photograph, you make it."  Ansel Adams

News of Kodak preparing for bankruptcy made me rather nostalgic.  It is indeed is bittersweet to see such an icon stumble especially since they helped pioneer the marketing of consumer technology products.  This is not so much an article on the business strategy, but rather a reflection of photography on my life and how something is lost for me as film fades away.

Christmas -- 1980s

One year I got a Kodak Disc camera for Christmas and I loved taking pictures with it.  On every family trip, I would take pictures documenting the experience.  As the camera got older, the pop out flash broke and stayed popped out.  As a result, I rigged it with tape so it wouldn't stick out and flash for all pictures.  There was one time I recall taking pictures with my cousin Wes with each of us shooting one another with our respective camera and saying "Gotcha with my Kodak Flash."  I don't recall if that was the marketing tag line, but it made for an enjoyable time.

High school -- early 1990s

Given my interest in photography as a kid, I decided to take a photography class in high school.  My first few pictures were pretty pedestrian, but with the help of a great teacher, I started to get a feel for composition and the art of film.  I loved spending time in the darkroom developing the film, making prints, and perfecting my technique.  Pretty soon, I was that guy with the camera in high school shooting for the yearbook.

College -- mid to late 1990s

One summer I worked for a photographer who had his own photo lab.  The place was not so OSHA friendly but I loved being in the darkroom.  I didn't like the spiders or the equipment failures, but it was still a memorable experience that I appreciate today.  I also managed to continue working with photos in college, where I shot for the publications office and school paper.  As a result, I even managed to get some things published in random journals and local newspapers.  I enjoyed that experience so much that I tried to pursue journalism as a career path after school (more on that later).

Chicago -- 1999-2001

After college, I hit the pavement looking for work in journalism -- photography or otherwise.  Fortunately with the aid of my network, I landed a gig working with MSNBC.  Granted, it wasn't photography, but it was a related aspect of the business.  It gave me a taste of film in a different light, but already it was clear digital was the way to go.  Despite the huge battery packs with early digital cameras, and the relatively low resolution by today's standard, it was only a matter of time before the technology improved and digital would dominate photography.

Seattle -- 2001 to current

Since moving to Seattle, I haven't really gotten back into photography as I once knew it.  Part of it was not finding a darkroom to rent like I did in Chicago, and part of it was the pace of change with digital cameras.  In the span of a few years we've gone from 3.x megapixels being the top of the line for a point and shoot to an 8 megapixel in my phone.  


While I love the instant nature and always present nature of digital photography, I do miss those darkroom days.  I miss the feel of the paper between my fingers after it's been fixed.  I miss the trial and error aspect of Polaroid transfers.  I miss the physicalness of dodging and burning.  I miss the sound of the water, washing the prints.  I miss the smell of the chemicals with film and photo processing.  

Filters, auto-correct software, and now incredibly awesome multi-focus cameras like Lytro -- while they make photography easy, and accessible -- for me they lose that special quality of something I made.  Yes, the memories are captured and the image looks great but the tangible aspect for me is gone.  They say memories are reinforced when multiple senses factor into its creation -- smell, sound, touch, etc.  With the old school way of film and photo processing I engaged many of those other senses; with digital, not so much.  As camera technology improves, do we run the risk of losing our memories by making them so easy to capture?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Seattle Leadership

Since moving to Seattle more than ten years ago, I came to realize that local leadership has often been derided as the "Seattle Process."  Indeed, when you look at some of the recent articles on Crosscut, it's easy be dissatisfied with today's leadership in Seattle:

Though it may be easy, I don't think it's really accurate.  When looking at the big picture of problems facing the country, I am proud to see Seattle well represented in providing leadership.

The first example is Amazon.  Recently hammered on Wall Street for missing their quarterly estimates, I think the article in The Business Insider is spot on:

The most pressing problems in the US economy right now are two-fold:
1.  Near-record-high unemployment at the same time as near record-high profit margins
2.  Income inequality that is now the highest since the late 1920s, just before the Great Depression
By balancing near-term profits with investing for the long-term, Amazon is helping to address these problems.

The second example is from Starbucks.  Recognizing the need for jobs around the country, Starbucks is teaming up with the Opportunity Finance Network to get money into the hands of people creating work.  More information can be found at

If those aren't examples of exemplary leadership, I don't know what is.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Today I start my new job at Ant's Eye View as a Director of Social Business Strategy.  In many ways, I have been building my way up to this since I started at in the late 1990s.  Back then we called this space an "online community."  Tools of the trade consisted mostly of message boards and chat rooms.  Now we have Facebook, Twitter, mobile and countless other platforms and tools at our fingertips.  The tech may have changed over the years, but the need for businesses to adapt to the changing social landscape remains incredibly important.  Having worked on the product and community development side of things for various companies over the years, I believe the need for a holistic Social approach for all organizations, regardless of where they are on their journey, is even more important now.  That is why I am humbled and excited to be joining such an amazing team at Ant's Eye View.  Not only are all of the Ant's incredible in their own right, but I feel incredibly at home the nature of the work.

I look forward to working with my new colleagues, and wonderful clients in the years ahead!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Update on the Psychology of Sharing

A few months ago I storifyied some posts about the "Psychology of Sharing" report from The New York Times.  Not having been there for the presentation, I captured what seemed to be the more salient tweets from the event.  Now, I ran across the actual presentation (hat tip John Porcoro) and there are some great nuggets I missed.  Specifically, they identified key motivations about why people share.  At it's most basic, it's about relationships:

  • bringing valuable and entertaining content to others
  • defining ourselves to others
  • grow and nourish our relationships
  • self-fulfillment
  • to get the word out about causes or brands

For me, the motivation for why someone does something speaks volumes.  If you are a business or organization wanting to address the needs and challenges of prospective customers/clients, understanding the underlying motivations will help everyone be successful.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book clubs and social objects

Recently I had an exchange with Rich Millington about community building.  He made a comment about the need to modernize traditional ways of community building -- book clubs, game nights, etc, and also wondered about a better, modern unifier.  Whether or not community gatherings need to moderinize  is a good discussion to have, but this got me thinking about why people gather and what ultimately comes from it. 

Personally, I think it's less important as to why people gather as it is that they gather in the first place.  In my own experiences, I find that the initial reasons for people connecting may wane but the relationships will remain.  Here are two such examples:

Pub quiz.  When I first moved to Seattle over 10 years ago, my friends and I started going to a pub that held weekly trivia competitions.  We did this religiously for years.  Team members would come and go, but a core group of us remained until the quiz master retired.  The team still gets together often to socialize, but it has been several years since we went to a trivia night together.

Team Works.  This is a program through a local nonprofit geared at team based volunteering.  The premise is that people gather in groups and volunteer in the community once a month.  After each volunteer session, people would typically gather for drinks and food at a local establishment.  I inherited a team from a long time team captain, and I brought on some of my friends to the team, who in turn brought their friends.  The team has now changed ownership multiple times, and I'm not as involved, but several team members still volunteer frequently.  We have been to each other's houses for informal gatherings, in addition to significant milestones in our lives.  Though it did not happen in my team, I know of people who got married as a result of volunteering together.

In both of these examples, the impetus for gathering -- pub quiz and Team Works -- sparked connection between people.  These individuals then chose to continue the relationship outside the initial bounds of the gathering. In many ways, I am reminded of "social objects" as described by Hugh Macleod:

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. 

Objects will come and go, and that's fine.  It's the relationships and connections that make it all worthwhile.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Where is content shared the most?

VatorNews - StumbleUpon bests Facebook in sharing... maybe

According to the article, sites using https are not factored into the data on sharing.  Does this mean that sites with https enabled are undercounted? 

Wednesday, August 03, 2011