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Category Archives: Web Community

I do not do this very often (not sure why, but I don’t), but I wanted to take the time to blog about work specifically.  In case you have forgotten, I work for this little cool startup (at least we like to think so) called Mixx.com.  Here at Mixx, one of the things that we pride ourselves on is our level of engagement with our user community.  In this day and age, you can find countless examples of how companies are engaging their users in new and interesting ways, that they have an open line of communication with their users, blah blah blah and so on and so on.  Yes, we can say all that too, and it is all true.  However, last week I think we took that level of engagement to a whole new level.

Let me set this up by saying that it is not uncommon for us to exchange e-mails with our users, hell we even get phone calls from some (you know who you are) and we even engage in a little tomfoolery with them from time to time.  Several months ago, a group of our users thought it would be a good idea to see who could come up with the funniest picture of me.  Trust me there were plenty, but one in particular took the cake.  I was a good sport and went along with it, knowing full well that after it’s 15 minutes of fame, I would never have to worry about it again.  Boy was I sadly mistaken.  For whatever reason (unbeknownst to me), someone decided to wake the sleeping giant.  This time around, I figured well those that live in glass houses should not cast stones, so I took t upon myself to have a little fun of my own.  In kind, I produced a picture that was equally as funny.  I could not just stop there, so I decided to submit the photo to Mixx and to tweet it out to all of my followers.  Well, needless to say that sparked a little battle and before I know it, the original picture of me was being retweeted all over the Twitterverse, and by some very influential people (social media speaking of course).  It was all in good fun, everyone got a good laugh, no harm no foul.

In running a company, whether it be online or off, engaging your users is critical to your success.  After all, they are ultimately the ones who wind up paying your bills, keeping your company alive and successful.  Finding new ways to engage them and stay connected is sometimes hard, but every once in awhile it happens by shear accident and is a huge success.  Am I advocating that you engage in the sort of  shenanigans that I found myself in (perhaps not if you are the faint of heart type), but there is no rule that says you should not or cannot have a little fun with your users.  We sure do, and it works.

In case you were wondering, here is the original pic of me and the one I retaliated with.  ENJOY!

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According to good ol’ Uncle Albert Einstein, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is called insanity. So then why is it that some people continuously do the same things over and over again, as if they have not learned their lesson already?  I think that perhaps it is out of habit, or lack of focus, or maybe even fear.  Whatever the reason, if the end result is not changing, then try it a different way.

Here is a scenario.  There is a co-worker, let’s call him Bob for this illustration.  Bob is a fantastic team member, in fact, he is extremely talented at what he does.  Problem is (or is it a problem) Bob is a team player and would never be one to take the limelight.  He likes to work as a group, and likes to see the team succeed as a whole or fail as a whole (not really the latter, but understands that it is a team effort either way).  Bob has a task list a mile long, and knows that the release is coming up, so he is going to have to work overtime to get things done.  As luck would have it, he gets done ahead of schedule and decides to offer his help to his teammate John, who is falling behind.  John is working on a piece that is extremely important, it is a feature that has been requested by the VP.  Bob pitches in and help John out, actually realizing that John had not even started work on it and finishes it for him.  Everything gets done on time and is a success and the VP really likes his “new shiny feature”.  He praises John for a job well done, and instead of saying he could not take the credit for this one, he keeps his mouth shut and soaks it all in.

Bob is fuming, after all he is the one who completed the “shiny new feature”.  Bob being the nice guy, says nothing.  Bob is furious inside, and frustrated that John took all the credit.  Next time around, similar thing happens and Bob is left out again. Poor Bob :-(.

Lesson for Bob, if being the nice guy and not taking credit for the work he did is not working, speak up.  Take credit where credit is due or someone else is likely to steal your thunder.

Web 2.0 has been in full swing for some time now, O’Reily coined the term back in 2004 and in Internet years, that was like decades ago.  There is a lot to be said about web 2.0, from what it actually means to whether or not it is over.  Whatever your thoughts are on it, I am sure you can make a case for them to be valid.  However, call it what you want, there are definitely some re-occurring themes in web 2.0 companies.  From a design perspective, there is definitely a trend.  Bigger fonts, rounded corner, rounded corners on your logo fonts, the list goes on.  One might even venture to say that the design of web 2.0 is “cute”.

Cute is all fine and good, after all who does not like cute.  With that being said, like anything else, too much cuteness and it is no longer cute, it is bordering on gaudy or just over design.  At this point, you are probably asking yourself what in the world does this crackpot know about design, he cannot even draw a straight line.  Correct, I cannot, never claimed to be able to nor ever claimed to be a designer.  But I know something good when I see it, and I have seen enough things to know what is good and what is not (although good is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder).  For the sake of my argument, that eye is mine.

Any who, back to the story.  So instead of trying to one up the latest cute thing, just design and build something that solves a problem.  Don’t over complicate things and over design them, keep them simple and too the point.  Stop missing the forrest because you are too focused on the trees.  Take a step back and have a true understanding of what it is you are trying to build and build a solution that is simple to use and easy to understand.  If that solution winds up being “cute”, great, bonus for everyone.  Don’t let the cute factor drive the solution or you may end up designing yourself right out of a product.

When I was a kid, my parents would sometimes say “Do as I say, not as I do”.  As a child, I did not really fully understand what they meant by that, I just thought it was one of the many things they would say to me when I was doing something that they did not like (conversely, it was usually something that I liked).  Now that I am a parent, I have found myself on occasion, saying this exact same thing to my children (Okay, if not saying it, definitely thinking it).

So then, if we are defined by our actions, then why would we not lead by example? Is it fair of us to tell our children to behave a certain way if we, ourselves, cannot do the same?  How can we expect our children to grow up to be responsible citizens of society if we are not setting a good example?  In a world where we get sound bites here, two second video clips there, we are forced to make quick first impression judgments of people and things.  Those first impressions are usually lasting impressions and if all someone has to go on for you is an action that was less than desirable, how are they supposed to think of you?

I, for one, want to be defined by good and just actions.  I want to do what is right, not just for me, but for everyone around me.  I want to strive to be a better person, a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend.  My actions (and to a degree my words) shape who I am and how the world sees me.  Do I want to be painted in a bad light?  The simple answer is no, but there are times I am sure in which a bad shadow may be cast upon me, and I am to blame for that.  After all, it would have been my actions that caused it.

I cannot change the past; what is, is.  I do possess the power (as does everyone else) to change the future, to do just and right things so that when someone thinks of you and how you are defined, you know that your actions have defined you in the light that you want.  It is something that we can all work on, strive for something better.

There is no better time than the present to get started.