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

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Funding transit yields happiness

Below is my submitted written testimony to the King County Council on sustaining funding for Metro Transit. For more information, please refer to the links below
Thank you for ensuring that public testimony can be submitted online. This is quite helpful for individuals like me who cannot always attend hearings due to work and child care responsibilities. With that, I want to voice my support for sustaining Metro funding through a council vote, rather than turning it to the voters at large.

Like the majority of Metro riders, I depend on it to get to work. While I can drive, I actively make a choice not to do so. Part of this is a financial concern. Another concern is that for the environment. Most of all, I ride Metro for my own happiness. Having driven to work in previous jobs, when I am stuck in traffic, I am stressed. This was not good for interpersonal relationships with family, friends, and even my neighbors. Now, my time on the bus enables me to put aside the stresses of the day, and of traffic. I can choose to engage with my other passengers, read a book, or just relax and look out the window. No matter what I do on the bus, this helps my piece of mind and makes me a better partner, father, neighbor, friend, and resident of our great region.

The proposed cuts to Metro would dramatically limit transportation options for me, and millions of other residents. If just a fraction of them take time on Metro to have a moment of happiness, not funding Metro will lead to an overall decline in the overall well being of hundreds of thousands in the region. I encourage you to represent the residents of King County with your vote to sustain Metro funding and lead us all to a place of greater happiness for us all.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

a look back at Participate

Recently, I ran across a re-post by social business analyst, Jerimiah Owyang, about his experiences at a "dot-bomb" company in the 1990s. This post resonated for me on many levels because there are some that think we are in a similar bubble in the industry today, in addition to my own experiences as a dot com survivor. Below are my reflections on that era.

Fresh out of college, I entered the job market in 1999. Armed with my liberal arts degree from Carleton College, I wanted to go into journalism. After pounding the proverbial pavement I eventually landed a gig at MSNBC as a part-time producer. Because of the lack of hours, I also took up a job at a startup called basically built and ran online communities for businesses back in the day. Some of our clients included AT&T Worldnet, Ace Hardware Corp., Cisco Systems, SAP AG and Microsoft. My first role at Participate was that of a chat host for AT&T. Basically this meant I was there to answer questions (like a support desk) and make sure people weren't doing things they weren't supposed to do. In many ways, I thought my experience as a college dormitory resident assistant was the perfect training for the job. Anyway, I did this for a few months, and eventually started managing the community for another account (Careerpath, now CareerBuilder), and then MSN Games. But enough about the job, and let's explore the environement and culture at the time.

Being situated next to the El in a Chicago loft, the environment was interesting. There were rooms where you would not hold meetings for when the train passed, you couldn't hear a thing. Being a loft, the heating and cooling was always a challenge. There were days where it was so cold (hot air rises in a loft) that I would wear gloves to type. Also, the ceiling leaked. There's something to be said about affordable rent, I suppose. For the most part, the office was an open floor plan with desks grouped together in pods, and offices around the edges with no ceilings. As the company grew in size, we added folding tables like you see at picnics, and folks moved downstairs to the basement. We affectionately called these co-workers the "mole people." We eventually outgrew our space in Lincoln Park and moved to the western loop. For reasons beyond me, we also had our name on the building -- but that was what you did back then, I suppose.

As for the culture, I could not have asked for a better group of co-workers and friends. Everyone there was incredibly warm and passionate about life in their own way. Aside from working together, we drank, hung out, and generally had good times together. In many respects, my life at PDC set the bar (no pun intended) for what a work environment should be.

A few times stand out in my head for life at PDC. One was St. Patrick's Day. Being in Chicago, this was a big deal. I remember that we pretty much wrapped up the day after lunch and headed over to the local pub (conveniently, less than a block away.) We spent many an hour there, only to go on to a different bar when it got dark. Another time that sticks out in my mind was the first company holiday where we shut down the bar/restaurant/pool hall. Our VP at the time was passing our $50 bills to people leaving so they could take a cab. Bear in mind, we were next to the El, so taking a cab seemed rather silly. Who was I to argue with the VP though -- I took the money and then got on the El. When we moved downtown, the culture did indeed change, but the people were still great. When it was time for me to move on (literally, to Seattle), Participate offered to move me out to Seattle. It helped that I worked on the MSN Games account and would be in the Redmond, WA region. Still liking the work, how could I say no?

While the company lived on for several more years before being acquired by another company called Outstart, for all intents and purposes my life at a dot com in that era ended when I left for Seattle. Looking back, I am certainly one of the lucky ones. While I didn't become a paper millionaire overnight, I also didn't lose my job. Things were crazy at times, but I'm not sure how much of that was the industry as it was a certain time and place with the right people.

I cannot thank my colleagues from Participate enough. Not only was it a great place to work with wonderful people, it helped me find my passion for community -- online and offline