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Looking Back On Connections With Timehop

I saw a quote by C.S Lewis last week “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…”. This is one reason I try to journal everyday. I like to look back on how things have changed. Sometimes it reminds me of the things that need change.

photoA couple of weeks ago Carissa O’Brien reminded me of one of my favorite blog posts, one that was inspired by a conversation she and I had during the last day of CES 2011 in Las Vegas. She had found it using Timehop, an app for iPhone that pulls your tweets, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Flickr posts from exactly one year segments ago.

I was first fascinated by the app because of it’s milestones attributes just like my journals. I often look back to the exact day a year or more ago to see what I was thinking and doing. Many times those entries can be way-points in relationships, my career goals or personal milestones.

As I started to use the app I noticed something even more profound. I was seeing who I connected with most a year ago and more. People come in and out of our lives. Those that we have a deeper connection with stand the tests of time. Often we allow connections to wane because of circumstances and trials. If you were to look back on your connections a year ago, what would you find? Would those milestones reveal flightiness, connections that skim the surface and never result in meaningful content? Or do they reveal true relationships that continue to grow over time?

Preparing For A Digital Fast

I started taking weekly digital fasts about a year and a half ago at the prompting of friend Tiffany Shlain. I have found that to do it well you have to prepare. But first, let me explain a bit about these fasts.

My career centers around digital connectedness. After watching Tiffany’s film Connected, ( now available on iTunes) she and I had a conversation over dinner about  digital addiction, losing touch with the analog world and the impact on our relationships. That day she was in the  middle of one of her weekly fasts she calls digital shabbat.

I remember thinking at the time that it was going to be tough doing one. I had become accustomed to working just about everyday of the week. Being involved in a tech start-up required a lot of work and it seemed to never end. But I was feeling burned out. Monday would roll around after another weekend of mixing family time with sporadic working. I noticed that I was losing my passion when it came to the things I love in my career, connecting with others, tech and communicating. Tiffany urged me to give it a try.

I took the challenge. At first it was a bit strange turning off my phone, ipad, kindle and any type of communication on my Macbook. To be honest I felt a bit panicky.

Wow, maybe I had become addicted to a digital world.  But then the panic subsided and I began to enjoy my day a lot. Now it has become a time I look forward to every week.  Here are a few things I suggest if you plan to take a weekly or monthly fast.

Come Prepared

  • Notify others that you will be unavailable. I made a voice-mail message saying that I would be unavailable from sundown on Saturday until sundown on Sunday. On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram I send out a simple message “Shutting down for a 24 hour digital fast.” Those closest to me know they can reach me through my home phone or my wife. At first I even had a few people upset that they could not reach me easily for 24 hrs. They soon adjusted.
  • Try to not schedule activities that require you to be on a smartphone or social network. Sometimes this is unavoidable. With a little planning I have found that I have only had to break a fast a few times. Pick a day that makes sense. Takes one on Saturday if it is more convenient.
  • Gather resources that can replace content like ebooks or computer note taking and writing. I keep a few books around specifically for this purpose as well as journals and sketchbooks. I reserve my paper copies of Fast Company and Game Developer to enjoy during the fast.
  • Plan time outside since it is a great time to reconnect with nature without the handy iPhone in hand to distract you from the moment you are trying to enjoy.
  • Encourage your family or those you spend the time with to join you. It can be tough hanging out with others that are glued to devices when you are all analog. I have yet to convince my own family to join me.
  • (Oh, and one last addition. I added this after my latest fast.) Don’t get overwhelmed by the chaos you might come back to after the fast. The world does go on with out you and yes there might be some work that piles up. You will be able to approach it with much more clarity though.

For a great conversation about these fasts I encourage you to listen to Aaron McHugh’s podcast with guest Jon Dale. Jon has some great suggestion for getting your family to join on.

One thing that I also do is not take this too seriously. I will watch a film with my family or even play a video game. Each of us has a different digital lifestyle. Some may need to fast from TV or other types of tech. For me I try to eliminate anything that keeps me from the natural world and the people closest to me. I would love to hear your thoughts if you are doing a weekly fast or are thinking of taking one.

Friends or Professionals?

Yesterday I was having dinner with a few people, one of which was Chris Skaggs. He was getting to know my friend, cinematographer Sean Brown. We had just finished a full day shoot for a Kickstarter film. Chris asked me if Sean and I knew each other as professionals or friends? I asked if there was really a difference. Chris replied, “for you there isn’t. But that isn’t normal.”

I am still wondering why that is. Yes, I am one of those super connectors. Every personality I have taken indicates it. I constantly make new friends and connect others. I easily become friends with those I do business with. But why doesn’t everyone? Is it because most people want to keep a dividing wall between work and private life? Is it because they hate their jobs? Do they not want to have leaks between the two?

I have been there before. I understand that. But even in jobs that were not well fitted for me I felt a pull to become close friends with co-workers and clients. Part of it comes down to personality. But I do think there is something deeper going on here.

I think it is ultimately because we all make comfortable establishments against anxiety and change. We do this in all the sectors of our lives. In many ways these structures allow us to be different people in specific situations. It feels safe. Getting to know more people in a deeper way, many of them in our professional lives, destroys those barriers we have so carefully built. People challenge or disrupt comforts or assumptions we have made about ourselves and the world.

So what about you? If you were to survey your friends, professional colleagues, co-workers and clients, would they be the same people or completely different groups? Why or why not?

Tweaks in communications: Google Plus, Focus and More

Last week my good friend Mary Breslin Nichols of Karmic Marketing asked me how I was managing post  on Google Plus (G+) as opposed to Facebook and Twitter.  Since before Christmas I’ve really cut back on my social media time and blogging mainly because I have been in the middle of a big game launch for Wind Up Robots (check it out as Gaming App of the Day on Kotaku and one of the Android Apps of the Week on Gizmodo last week). We also launched  Santa’s Giftship.  After all, if we do not ship we run out of anything good to share, right?

As I re-engage I have thought a lot about Mary’s question, not just in regards to G+ but all of my communication tools and practices.

This summer as I explored G+ as an early user I decided that it would be a good place to curate and explore my passion for technology, design and art (mainly as it pertains to tech and games and consumer mobile tech).

Twitter, since my first post, has an extension of my blog where I talk and discuss communications, leadership and company culture as well as publishing. Tech fits in there as many gadgets are meant to be communication tools.  There is much that I like to share that does not fit into that grouping.

For two years now I have curated many of my tech musings on my Huffington Post Blogger page. I try to keep those posts focused on the “bigger ideas”. G + seemed like the perfect place to daily seek out information as well as post what I find.

I think I came to this conclusion because Google itself has innovation and tech at its core. Google’s integration of so many tools makes it easy to share information via photos, links and video.  Add to that the power of hangouts, search, geo-location and you have a great tool.

Facebook is….well it is Facebook, a whole different beast. My personal account is for close friends (and yes I have a lot of them). Pages are where I can engage with devoted fans of the companies and brands I represent.

I do cross feed some of the information. If I do I try to tailor it for the audience and not inundate them with chatter.

Here is an example of my day on G+:

I usually check into some of my searches to see if anything relevant has happened over night. Then I read through the streams of some of my favorite tech resources, one of which is +Robert Scoble . Next I usually try to keep tabs on some of the brands that I work closely with like +Intel . I also track conferences or events as well. Right now +International CES (Which I am missing this year) and Mobile World Congress (I have not found an account or circle yet) are on my radar. For CES I have been watching Robert Scoble’s CES Circle.

Truthfully I am still thrashing to find the sweet spot here. It can seem like a jungle at times since Twitter is so familiar and has been a treasure for me. It will come though. Right now Chris Brogan ‘s book on Google Plus  is helping me organize things greatly. I highly recommend it.

I post the most interesting things I find and try to personalize the message. I always try to attribute the person I found the information from. I am also trying to funnel the stories I find throughout the day.

And if you are wondering if it is worth your time as a business person I think yesterday’s example will be of value.  I commented on a post and the author responded back asking if I would mind being quoted in his article.  I obliged.  I soon found out that he is the Senior mobile analyst for, Jamie Lendino.  His article “Hey, Google: Here’s What Fragmentation Means” , largely built around my quote ended up being on the front of all day putting my two companies names Code-Monkeys and Soma Games in front of thousands of people.  This happens more often than you would think.  Just engage and be honesty. Put your best out there and build relationships. You will eventually stand out.  G+ is a great tool to get you there.

One last thing. I use G+ within Chrome while at my desk or on my MacBook Pro. While mobile I use my iPhone G+ app. I am still trying to find a fit for the iPad.

You can find me on G+ at


Taking a break

It has been nearly a month since my last post.  I took a deliberate break for a few reasons.

Some big transitions are in the works.

My wife started her new career as a special education teacher.  You can read her blog where she writes not only about special ed but all about overcoming life’s obstacles.  We are moving to be closer to our work as well and the one thing that has really required me to walk away from the blog most is my team at Soma Games is launching a new game calles Wind Up Robots.

For a couple of days I struggled with not posting.  A year ago after reading Gary Vaynerchuk‘s Crush It I decided to make the goal of posting consistently for a year.  Then after a year I would decide if this blog was something I wanted to continue.  October was the anniversary of that goal and I am even more passionate about this blog than I was a year ago.  I have long list of posts I still want to write.

The last reason I took a break was I was feeling a bit burned out. I needed to step back and reassess my own communication.  In my last post I wrote that I was planning to do an audit.  Here is what I found.  Like before I realized that I needed to rengage with those in my inner circle.  They are the ones I turn to most for many reasons. Because of busyness and the general blessings of an ever widening tribe, I had begun to lose connection with the core people in my life.

In order to reconnect I got out my tool box and found some ways to make sure I know what that inner circle is doing.  I started reading their blogs again.  I kept up on their social media updates before I read anything else.  I will post in detail how I did that but the main thing I continually learn is that to grow and sustain a community both online and in the real world, we need to invest, engage and participate.

Next week I will begin regular posting.  Have a great Thanksgiving.

Personal Communications Audit

Wow, that is a really dry title. I am going through one though. I try to go through one every other month. Personally I find that if I don’t I will begin to drift from some of my main goals. Mainly this happens because of busyness, but it can occur for many different reasons. One I see common is striving. We all fall back on some instinctual practices when it comes to business and relationships. Times are hard for everyone and I am seeing more people, as Gary Vaynerchuk would say “crushing it”. That does not mean that we have to sacrifice some of the main tenants of healthy relationship building and maintenance. Remember how you got to where you are today. Remember the friends that you made along the way. And don’t forget how much more solid your base is because you built it on solid connections. I will post later this week what I found dring my own personal communications audit. Stay tuned.

Spending Social Capital

We earn it through trust and relationships. Early on I probably spent social capital when I did not even have it, ending in a negative balance. Luckily it did not hurt me too much. We all have many causes that want our attention. We only have so much to spend though. Unlike financial wealth, it is much harder to deal with the loss of community and there is no place to go for bankruptcy. But having it also gives us influence for change. A couple of years ago Jon Dale and I were able to raise a small but significant amount of money almost over night by exercising some of our influence for change.

So how do we choose which causes to leverage our community? I think each of us have to answer a few questions before we can arrive at a decision. For me, at least right now I ask these.

1. Does my influence hold potential to really help?

2. Is this one cause relevant to my community or my core values?

Today I thought about theses two questions as well as many others when my friend Tom Davis asked me to spread the word regarding a horrible situation of human trafficking in Haiti. Tom is someone who knows these situations first hand. I trust Tom a lot. When he says the situation is dire, I believe him. I am connected to people like Tom and Jeff Power who are making critical changes in the world, a world that has a seemingly endless supply of need. People like Tom and Jeff make that change happen. That is why they can have my social capital, even if it breaks my bank.

Why are you hiding?

I just read probably one of the smartest assessment of the continued privacy discussion I have seen in a while. Brian Solis’ post found via friend Clay Hebert’s twitter  stream this morning, covers much of what I have written in regards to being responsible with our own privacy online. Brian says so much more. I love this one quote:

“it’s up to us to help another while taking responsibility for what we do and say online. At the end of the day, we can’t blame Facebook or developers when those whom we care about change how they see us.”

In the past I have written several times about privacy, with my Unboxed You post being my favorite right up there with my Privacy of Jesus post on Liquid Cloud 11.  I continually come back to this. I seek out a time where I am online the person you meet offline, meaning what I have to offer and all I stand for are the same as the person I am behind closed doors (or for you behind a Facebook ever-changing privacy curtain).  Out of who I am I hope to add not take away, strengthen and not weaken those around me. If I continue to filter, categorize and box I am really just posing a person unlike the real me. I know there are real concerns with safety and those concerns are valid.  But I believe there is a much more important issue here. What matters most is being honest with ourselves and others regarding our true selves. This is what probably drives Zucherberg hate the most. We fear lost control of the person the world sees as compared to the person we truly are.

A while back I was advising a company with their online presence.  One of the main employees who would be managing the Facebook page turned to me and said “ I am not on Facebook”.  Curious, I asked him why.  He replied “because I don’t want people (meaning employers and such) seeing pictures of me doing dumb things at parties”.  I had one reply for him “don’t do stupid things at parties”.  At the time I had one of those gut instincts about this person. Gavin de Becker writes about this (thanks again Clay for the book) in The Gift of Fear. We all have them. I should have acted on it. He turned out to be a criminal and had plenty of reason to keep his personal life hidden.  Do you though?

Wasting our words on folly

Reading through blog posts and other platforms like Google Plus this week I began to notice something common.  When someone asks a valid question many of the responses just add nonsense to the comment stream instead of  answering the question or offer solutions.    Now let me be clear, I have done this as well. It really is just folly.  Like chattering, folly is described as lack of good sense; foolishness. Sometimes I wonder how many words are spent on it. It happens in blog comments, Google Plus, Facebook and in personal conversations on the phone or in person.  Do we adequately evaluate what we are saying before we say it?  What it would be like if we were limited to a ration of words a day?  How valuable those words might be to us?  I know I would dole them out with care and art.  Would we speak to each other in kinder ways offering value instead of filler?  One reason I love brevity is that it makes us think about the words we choose (or not).

I am thinking about the words I speak in valuable time with friends in any context or tool. I want to make them count, and not for folly.

She’s a communications manager! Now what?

Today a friend contacted me with great news.  She was recently hired as a communications manager for an event center.  She has reinventing herself. So at the outset of this she asked what advice I could offer as she ventures out into this new space.

Not wanting to overwhelm, I decided to keep the first steps really simple.  So I shared these three principles: Listen first, engage, and most of all promote others.  Yes,  it is much more complex than that.  What I see too often is communications made too complex.   So here is how I broke those three down for her.

Listen:  Gather all the interested parties that exist in your business world (customers, collaborator/partners, vendors, champions, friends and colleagues. Never discount anyone as the contact database and scope is developed.  It is hard to gauge who will be a valuable contact. Sometimes the most unlikely ones will be the best.  Hangout where the community gathers, both on and off line.  Really learn about the community before you jump in.  Use tools like Rapportive to gather all the outposts they use.

Engage: Once you have a feel for the community, begin to engage and add value. Be sincere and open.  Don’t be afraid to take risks.  Some things will work and other won’t.  Only trying will tell.  Don’t assume that a tool like twitter is the one to use.  Fill the toolbox with what the community already uses.  Most of all give them a place to gather; preferably your home base (like a blog) where the attention gained can easily be guided to the things you want to offer.

Promote Others: Luckily this principle is a staple in the event business.  Other than just being a good practice because it is the right thing to do, you will become known for someone of value, someone to be connected to.

Please add more since this is an ongoing conversation.  I am so excited to see where she goes with it.

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