Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tomorrow is Email Bankruptcy Day

A few months ago I started a new policy.l On the first of every month I declare Email Bankruptcy Day. You can read all about it here.

So, since today is the last day of the month I am making a desperate effort to get through everything in my Inbox to see if i can end the month with a zero-Inbox for the very first time.

I have 40 emails to go.

Yes, it's Saturday, and it would be nice if I had some fabulous plans, but instead I'm trying to avoid Email Bankruptcy Day.

Thanks for your support :)


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Some cool BlogHer-related contests...especially if you're looking for a free trip to the conference

There are always cool things going on over at BlogHer, so I don't often write about them, but with the BlogHer '08 annual conference less than 60 days away I thought I'd make sure you were aware of some of the related contests and opportunities to get your BlogHer on with a little help from our sponsors.

The first post to check out that outlines four different ways to win passes and/or travel expenses to BlogHer is here. BlogHer event manager Kristy Sammis outlines the details and tells you how to participate in these 3 contests/offers:

1. Win a free conference pass, plus hotel and airfare vouchers by sharing your secrets to getting your kids to eat healthy. Details here. (This one is sponsored by Ragu.)

2. Nominate your BlogHer Hero and qualify them to win two passes and trips. Details here. (This one is sponsored by Wiley.)

3. Sign up to get a hybrid vehicle to drive to and from BlogHer, including having your gas paid for! Details here. (This one is sponsored by GM.)

Finally, sponsor CafePress is providing the tote bags for our conference, and we're holding a contest to add a tagline to the tote, along with your blog name and URL. This one is more about fun and self-promotion than about winning something of monetary value, but it is like getting free advertising on 1,000 bags that will be carried by a bunch of cool bloggers, and really if this were a MasterCard commercial I'd be saying "Priceless" right now. Propose your tagline here.

There may be even more contests and drawings coming, but if you're still trying to figure out how to get your butt to BlogHer, hopefully some of the above might help.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

I cannot resist the link bait

Anyone else this BusinessWeek's 2008 update to their 2005 cover story about blogs and businesses is just incredibly, well, boring?

It may be 4 pages long, but what does it say?

Not to mention that it's the same old faces and names (90% male of course, despite the fact that women comprise half of bloggers.)

There's no there there.

No clothes.

I'm filled with ennui.

As Bad Willow would say: Bored now.

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More on NY Times and the marginalization of women's "issues"

So, Virginia De Bolt, over at BlogHer, wrote a post about the most recent NY Times article placement gaffe that I wrote about last week.

Here's her post, and an interest conversation ensues, particularly this comment from Trisha.

To me it wasn't the discussion about whether or not BlogHer should break out a separate Science category that got me musing and ruminating. We have these debates topics have gotten broken out as the community clamors for them, like Green, Body Image, I'm sure a couple more since we first launched in 2006.

No, I was really mulling over this statement:
If science and engineering continue to be marginalized in media that targets women, women will continue to be marginalized in science and engineering. And in business, in education, in government - in life.

Something about the statement was bugging me, but I couldn't quite articulate it...until I had six hours to spend on a plane.

I started to leave a comment on BlogHer, but you know my rule for myself: >3 paragraphs, and clearly I need to write a post.

So, here's the post:

Again, nothing to do with the BlogHer site issue, but about the larger issue of how to solve the marginlization of women, women's "interests" and women's "issues" by mainstream (read: male-dominated) media. And in that context, I think following the logical conclusion of Trisha's statement would actually be expending energy focusing in the wrong direction.

Because, it is not that women haven't created interest groups, and vocal ones, in every male-dominated industry or subject area out there. In every niche from the ones I've been a a part of, such as telecom, and others, there are usually women's advocacy and yes, media, groups. And there are also umbrella organizations like Women in Technology, the Anita Borg Institute and many others. Same goes for business, politics, not just technology. Those groups exist and are visible.

Not only that, but when the editors of this specific piece were figuring out where to put it they were looking RIGHT THERE AT THE DATA that showed that women are interested, involved etc. in these fields.

So, sorry, I don't agree that it's what decision makers think women are doing or not doing that drives these bonehead decisions. I think it's what decision makers think men do or don't do, think or don't think, care about or don't care about.

IOW: They didn't put the article in that section because that's the only place to find women and so women would read it. It's more that they didn't put it in a section where it would be seen by men, because they don't think men care, or maybe they don't even think men should care.

Bottom line: It's awesome for any women's interest group, site, etc. to be interested in continuous improvement, just as any organization of any kind ought to be. But the question is how much can we accomplish by focusing inward in hopes of impressing outside forces enough to effect change? How much is that just placing more of the burden on the (I hesitate to say it) victims of marginalization, than you place on the perpetrators of said marginalization?

What do you think?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How to avoid hotel hell in NYC

First step: Don't use Travelocity to book a hotel.

For this current trip to NYC, I used Travelocity, since the conference at which I was speaking didn't have a room block yet set up. Turns out Travelocity booked me in a hotel that wasn't open yet, and isn't due to open until August!

How did I find this out? Not form Travelocity. No, I found it out becuse I had let the conference organizer know about the great rate I had found and when she called to try to get a block, she discoverred this news and let me know.

When I called Travelocity to doublecheck not only did it take 20 minutes just to get the operator to understand what I was trying to tell her (and I've been told I'm quite articulate, so no, I don't think I was stating "The hotel doesn't seem to be open for business yet, can you confirm?" in some convoluted way) but then she promised that they would look into it and that someone form Travelocity would call me back within 24 hours.

Of course they didn't. So, I cancelled online. Hope they don't try to charge me a fee.

Second step: Ask these three questions

1. "Are any of the buildings immediately surrounding you under heavy construction?"

A cheap rate is just not worth waking up to really loud constructions sounds at 6:30AM. Some of which sound like they are the harbinger of the apocalypse. Do construction companies toss loads of concrete off the side of a building, several stories up, to get it closer to the dumpster? Because that's what it sounded addition to the pneumatic drills and jackhammers.

2. Do you think guests in your hotel are too hip and cool to require privacy in the bathroom?

OK, I already don't like a place that doesn't just have a DOOR to the bathroom. I'm a bit flummoxed by a place that instead has this sliding screen that goes back and forth between blocking off the shower area to blocking off the toilet area...neither 100% blocked off mind you, but close. I'm annoyed by a place that doesn't seem to have working light fixtures in the shower or toilet area. But finally, the piece de resistance, is a place that has frosted glass on its big bathroom windows that goes only halfway up. Which might work if this was a one or two story building surround by other one or two story buildings. But I'm on the 9th floor surrounded by much taller buildings. Anyone in any window of any of those buildings could have a very enjoyable time watching various people on various floors take their morning showers.

Am I not supposed to care? I guess I'm just an old stick-in-the-mud that I never realized I was, just because I don't feel like even the possibility of giving someone a free show in the bathroom is my obligation.


RoomLinx is pretty much incompetent to deal with you if you have a Mac, and they will tell you it's all your fault. Or rather, Apple's fault. You can explain to them all you want how you've traveled from hotel to hotel with your trusty Mac across this country and that plenty of internet vendors seem entirely capable of handling it, but they will not care. They will not care if it is a server/configuration issue on their end.

And why do I know this is a RoomLinx issue? Because they are the same vendor at the Hotel Affinia where we held BlogHer Business, and the symptoms are exactly the same. And the lack of interest or concern (even when we warned them that a crowd of 200, maybe half Mac users, would be descending on the hotel for two if they didn't fix it now, they'd be really sorry) is exactly the same.

This will now be the first question I ask, and the first reason I will decide not to stay at a hotel...and I will tell the hotel so.

In fact, I'll be telling the Hotel Affinia we can't have BlogHer Business there next year if they don't change vendors. Which is too bad, because the hotel treats us very well.

Oh, and where am I staying now? The Hotel QT on 45th between 6th and 7th. Come on down and see the show. I hear if you climb above the 9th floor in a surrounding building you can see a blogger shower for free!

Grumble, grumble.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

BlogHer scores in-person video interview with Barack Obama

No, this isn't a marketing or tech or business story, but it's an awesome story, so I'm telling it here and everywhere, so sue me!

Check out this exclusive interview with Barack Obama at BlogHer!

Woo hoo!

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

NY Times puts a women in tech story in the Fashion section...again.

A couple of months ago, prompted by Mary Hodder, I blogged about the NY Times and its odd placement of a technology story about girl geeks in the Fashion & Style section.

Well, they're at it again. And this time it is even more egregious. Check the article Diversity Isn’t Rocket Science, Is It? In the Fashion & Style section.

The article is about some hard facts about women in technology, the stats on how they fare from college onwards, and some of the factors that might explain their declining numbers. Yes, "work-life balance" is a part of what is discussed, and yes, most discussions about work-life balance are immediately marginalized (because I guess we all know men don't actually care about that stuff, is that the implication?) But a lot of the discussion is about honest-to-God sexism that still remains in tech culture.

Isn't that a Technology issue? And a Business issue. Or a Political issue? Just about anything other than a fashion and style issue, if you ask me.

Hat tip: Stacy Higginbotham from GigaOm, who says:

I actually think the “macho culture” inherent to these fields has less to do with the lack of women sticking around than the persistent assumption that’s behind the NYTimes confining the article to the Style pages. The assumption is that work-life balance is a female issue.

Yup, there's that "liberal" NY Times being a part of the macho culture itself. I only wonder if the female reporter is OK with where they placed her article. Because the article is actually pretty good, but a lot of the people who might find it useful, enlightening, interesting or compelling might not find it buried amongst stories about Bret Michaels and Spiced Bubble Tea.


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Thursday, May 08, 2008

This month's Silicon Veggie

Tips on converting a non-vegan-looking restaurant menu to vegan with a few simple ingredients most restaurant kitchens always have on hand.Or, as I entitled the piece: Survival tactics.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blink and you'll miss me

But if you don't blink, you'll see me utter three words...that's right three words...on this morning's Today Show:

The film actually is over a month old, from when Today attended BlogHer Business. I'm always utterly amazed that the MSM can take a pithy, substantive 10-minute interview and boil it down to, literally, three words.

I'm also a little amazed that not only didn't they ID me (not surprising, since I spoke for literally one second...or three words...but also didn't ID the marvelous Maria T. Bailey or Lindsay Lebresco (both BlogHer Business speakers, i'd like to point out) who got to say like 20 or 30 words!

I don't get that.

And don't get me started on Kathie Lee Gifford disapprovingly judging Blogher '08 keynoter Heather Armstrong about writing about her kids. On the internets. With her computer thingy. That the WHOLE WORLD can find.

I lived in NYC in the late 80s, and I actually watched Regis and Kathie Lee every morning. I knew a little TMI about Cody, let's just say that and leave it at that, shall we?

Hello kettle? You're black.

Anyway, I'm learning to deal with the fact that I don't even get 15 minutes, I get but 1 second (or three words!) of fame.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sorry dudes, I think it makes you seem kinda skeevy

Jake McKee, who I've met IRL and is a good guy, is enamored with this post by Martin, the blogger at the Community Spark blog.

The premise: "Why your online community is like a beautiful woman"

I have to say that I think that these posts make both of these guys seem a little skeevy...which I know Jake is not.

If the premise was "Why your online community is like a lover", I could totally go with it. The concept is that an online community and a beautiful woman both need:

To be well treated
To be kept interested
To be allowed to be seen and appreciated
To also have personality
To accommodate occasional conflict
To get past occasional jealousy

Sorry guys...we all need that, no matter where we fall on the beauty scale.

Adding the "beautiful" part, plus each guy adding a picture of a beautiful woman to the post to illustrate the point? Kinda skeevy, sorry. Not only that, but by specifying the "beautiful" part and illustrating as you have (instead of leaving to the imagination) you send a message of exclusivity not inclusivity. Which could be fine if your online community is meant to be exclusive, I don't know, but I'm guessing most companies have their hands full enticing and sustaining any kind of community...most of them are not in a position to be exclusive!

Meanwhile if you simply opined on "Why your online community is like a lover" you would be equally edgy without being so off-putting to at least some significant portion of your readership...whether most people will speak up about it or not. Hey, I see what they're saying and why they like it as a jumping off point, I merely suggest that the analogy could work a lot better...and feel less icky.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

May 1 Was Email Bankruptcy Day

I have a new policy, only a few months old. It is a policy of total capitulation and surrender. It is a policy that is essentially meaningless, but makes me feel marginally better.

I call it Email Bankruptcy Day, and it happens on the first of every month.

I'm a Filer, not a Piler. I realize with the powerful email search functions available with such tools or Gmail or Apple Mail, many people have gotten in the habit of just leaving everything in their inbox and searching when they need to retrieve a particular conversation thread, but I cannot operate that way. The size of my inbox is a visual sign of how much I need to get done.

I actually touch every email as it comes in and try to sort it into one of two general categories of email:

-Emails to be filed: Something that is purely an FYI and requires neither an action from me nor a response from someone else gets filed right away into one of the many folders I have.

-Emails awaiting response: This is a folder I keep of emails sent by me or others that are awaiting a response from someone else to move toward completion or resolution. I occasionally check that folder and start pinging away to nudge people into responding when they haven't.

That's really about it. If I believe an email deserves a response or action from me, I leave it in my Inbox. And I have long believed in not letting your inbox get filled with over a dozen, maybe two dozen messages tops.

Cue maniacal laughter.

Because, seriously, I can't remember the last time I was actually able to hold to that philosophy. It is probably over a year, since before BlogHer '07, that I was able to keep the Inbox under control.

And it made me feel really bad, and overwhelmed, and on the edge, and like I had to work ALL the time.

So a few months ago I decided I simply had to declare Email Bankruptcy. I moved everything from 2007 into a folder entitled Action 2007. yes, in my heart of hearts I still believe those emails deserve my care, but let's face it: They didn't get it and may never get it (and oh, by the way, the world didn't totally come to an end.)

I moved everything from January and February into folders entitled Action January 2008 and so on. (The "Action" designator ensures the folders are at the top of my folder queue, so I still see those folders and know they're there.)

On April 1st, I moved March emails into their own folder.

And on May 1st I did the same to April.

Have I changed the fact that I have hundreds of emails I believe I should be answering that I haven't? No, I realize that I haven't.

But does it somehow alleviate my email panic to do this? Yes, for some reason it does.

Whenever people ping me apologetically, I actually thank them for it, and just about everybody seems to get it.

Whenever I finally do answer an email two months late and apologize for my very delayed response, it is now rare for anyone to act offended...most people seem not at all surprised and not at all put off.

I actually think the whole world (or perhaps just MY whole world) is full of people straining under the burden of Email Overload too.

Yes, I would be a better person if I was as responsive and efficient as I wish I was. But in the meantime, the first of every month is now Email Bankruptcy Day, and now I'm going public, outing myself about it, and wondering if anyone else out there has resorted to this policy too.


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