Scratching for Ideas

I found myself working way too hard at my scratching exercise. When I read the chapter on scratching in The Creative Habit, these were my primary takeaways:

  • The act of changing your environment is the scratch
  • The Environment should be conducive to “finding an answer” though
  • Scratch for little ideas first to get you going
  • Scratching can be reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature
  • You can’t just stop at one idea. You don’t have a workable idea until you combine two ideas.

I found myself trying to identify the answer I was looking for and plot where I would go to “change my environment”. I felt stuck because I am a very reflective person, always letting my mind wander to creative ideas no matter where I am, but here I was up against a deadline to perform this “scratching task” and arrive at some kind of epiphany about my final project. I felt like my creativity was just on the other side of a glass wall and I couldn’t reach it.

Twyla Tharp says, “Scratching takes way longer when you are rusty.” Rusty is an understatement for me because I have never done an exercise like this before. It felt foreign to me so I found myself clinging to the “instructions” of how to do it.

Ultimately, I decided to let go and make this assignment whatever I wanted. I went to Barns and Noble to check out some magazines to try and get a better idea of what true connection between two people looks like. I haven’t been to the book store in years but going there always puts me in a different state of mind – almost more open. I browsed the magazine racks looking at every cover, even if the magazine was on a subject that was completely uninteresting to me. I wrote down all of the words, either ones that I saw, or that popped into my head because of something that I saw, that captured the feeling of true connection to me. I didn’t come away with a “workable idea” but I do feel like I am one step closer to describing my vision of interpersonal communication.


Reflections on COM 546 Final Class Presentations – Day 1

Last Saturday was the second to last day in class and was a day filled with class presentations. Our Team, the MINI Challenge, was the first team to present. It felt good get my nerves out of the way so I could concentrate on presentations by the other teams.

We were asked to itemize each each of the presentations we watched and respond to this specific question: “if this had been a real-world presentation, what’s the one additional piece of information that would have furthered the presenters’ case for you?.

Pod #2 – Pollinator Pathways

I loved this presentation. The reason before building these roadside gardens is different but the process for implementing them is almost exactly the same as for stormwater rain gardens – which I have been heavily involved in implementing in the past. Their presentation was beautiful. The explanation about the levels of behavioral engagement was helpful.

I felt like they outlined the problem very clearly. I was left wanting more about their vision or what the outcome would look like if they were “successful”.

Pod #1 – MYPulse

I enjoyed learning more about big data and privacy issues. I felt like I understand the issues around privacy more and wasn’t left with any questions about it.

I would have liked to see more about how the different privacy choices may affect sales.

Pod #10 – Changing Recycling Habits

I loved that this team used Prezi for their presentation. I have only recently learned about Prezi and was impressed with what could be created using it. The presentation was also very engaging and I liked the role playing.

The role playing was so in-character that I feel liked they missed pointing out the learning opportunities for the class. I questioned the idea of Comcast donating anything. Although it was explained later that Comcast might wish to elevate their public image, they have done nothing notable, ever to do so. It doesn’t seem like they are interested in doing that because why should they if they are pretty much the only game in town. I also wondered if Zillow lists multi-family rentals where Millenials are living. I didn’t know that they did.

Pod #9 – Root Magazine

The problem was well defined. I questioned the plan to rely on revenue from a print magazine, declining in sales for, funding of expensive online magazine development. I understand that once it is developed and has significant readership that it can be supported through internet ads but the up front costs of development and marketing would not be bolstered by online ads.

Overall I thought the presentations were great and loved how everyone took ownership of their project and ran with it. I look forward to seeing more presentations on the 23rd.


Cognitive Psychology May Offer Clues to Creating Engaging Content

I see a lot of bloggers asking ”how can I get more readers?”. Personally, I have asked myself that question and also “how can I keep them coming back once they have discovered my blog?”.

There is a lot of noise out there in the online world of blogging. Besides spending time writing content for your blog, you also need to hit the social media streets to promote it. There are a lot of avenues to choose from to do that which brings a lot of challenges though. In most cases the challenge can be accurately summed up by the phrase “too much to do and too little time”.

So where should you be spending your time you ask? You have probably heard the phrase “content is king”. I still believe that quality, engaging content is the #1 thing you should be spending your time on. Get your blog in order before you even start promoting it.

You should concentrate on creating sharable content. You need to be writing quality posts that will keep people coming back and keep attracting new people in the first place. If you can do that effectively, the content will practically sell itself.

I recently read a paper by Nikki Pfarr titled Dangerous Assumptions. The paper is about using intentional design to influence human behavior. In it, Nikki borrows from fields of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics help us understand what really motivates people.

The paper is an interesting, high-level discussion about incentives and what motivates people. However, I think it offers some insight into writing quality content that can motivate people to visit your blog every day.

Nikki presents the seven key factors that motivate people and asks us to answer yes or no to 7 statements she created based on these motivators. She says that if you check “No” next to any of the statements you should ask yourself: What would it take to be able to check “Yes” for this?

I think three of those statements are particularly useful when trying to write engaging content. When these statements are combined, some important questions emerge.

  • Is the blog post engaging? Is there a story or idea that draws the reader in and motivates them to read further?
  • What value is the reader getting in exchange for their time (spent reading it)?
  • Is there something the reader can immediately take away from the post? Perhaps it is a new way of looking at things; perhaps it inspires personal reflection that results in a key insight; or perhaps it is a tip or trusted opinion?

I would suggest keeping these questions in mind when writing your blog posts. If you can’t answer these questions upon review, I would suggest making a few tweaks to it.

Doing this is not an exhaustive method for creating engaging content, or in no way a guarantee that readers will flock to your blog, but I believe it is a move in the right direction.

Will My Fridge Be My New Diet Partner?

I recently learned about the Internet of Things.

In the simplest form, the Internet of Things means putting RFID chips, or other tracking devices, into things so that they can communicate with computers and devices on their own.

According to the original definition on Wikipedia, this would be beneficial because “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost.”

Imagine if this technology was used in groceries.

I could see how it could be really useful for a working Mom trying to keep a food budget for her family and trying to be efficient with her time. Imagine if a woman went grocery shopping armed with a list and a dollar amount she wanted to spend. The shopping cart could be equipped with a reader and when hen she got to the store she could upload her shopping list to the grocery cart computer. The cart could create a route for her to follow around the store that would take her from left to right, and past each item on her list. Then, as she put items into her cart, the item would check itself off of the list. She could navigate to another screen that would show her the cost of each item as well as a total for what is in her cart. In this way she could move through the grocery store efficiently, not have to look into the cart and visually everything was in there and know exactly how much she was going to pay when she reached the register.

I could see this technology being useful for me when it comes to food too. As I took items out of my fridge to eat them, it could register the calorie count of the food. In my imagination, the fridge would also have the ability to weigh an item if I put it back in (say, if I filled a glass with milk and put the carton back) and calculate the calories for the portion I ate. I could then view my calorie count for the day with a push of a button instead of having to track it with a notebook, calculator and scale. This would save me a lot of time and the calorie count would be more accurate than if I did it myself.

One of the controversies surrounding this application of technology is the lack of privacy. I have always said, where there is information, there are people who want at that information. I think in the same way big companies pay Facebook for data on its users, brands would want to know what you are putting in your fridge and your eating habits. Eventually, a person could start seeing individualized product and sale recommendations when they enter a store based on their eating habits at home.

I am not sure if this freaks me out or not. On one hand, I do find it a bit invasive.  However, I spend a lot of time connected to networks so I don’t have any illusions that people and companies don’t already know more about me than I think…or at least have access to more information than I think. I have always lived my life as an open book anyway so I don’t feel frightened by this kind of exposure.

The bottom line for me is that I think it is an inevitable progression of an increasingly connected world and, I would argue, should be embraced to stay ahead of the societal curve.

How do you feel about the use of this technology?

I Really Want to Speak At BlogPaws

BlogPaws is THE biggest conference for bloggers in the pet industry. I applied to speak last year about social media analytics. I didn’t get chosen but I am applying again this year with a different spin.

I think I have the experience I need to give this talk. I have been a pet blogger for almost 3 years. I completed the 9-month University of Washington Social Media Technologies and Implementation Certificate.

After I found out I didn’t get chosen last year, I asked a friend who DID get chosen to show me her proposal. I concluded that 1) my presentation wasn’t thought out well enough and 2) it wasn’t presented very well.

After hearing Matt McGarrity speak on Saturday, I wonder if main problem wasn’t something bigger.

Matt said, “presentations should be about what the audience should take away from the presentation”.

I think that my first presentation proposal focused on what I wanted to tell the audience. I focused on showing them that I knew what I was talking about and trying to persuade them that paying attention to the numbers associated with their efforts was important.

I am still writing the speaking proposal this year. I think I need to go back and look at my presentation idea, pull out what it is that I want the audience to walk away with and structure the presentation outline with that in mind. I also may need to reduce the number of goals that I have and simplify the message.

Matt gave me some really good things to think about that I hope will increase my chances of getting invited to speak  at BlogPaws this year. I still have a lot to learn about speaking proposals though.

I am curious if any of you, my fellow students, have successfully submitted a speaker proposal. Do you have any tips or pointers?

What Am I Doing Here?

Taken from my letter of Intent submitted to the University of Washington Communications Leadership, Masters of Digital Communications program:

There is no going back for me now

In the article titled The Anatomy of an MCDM Foundation Course, Shay Colson wrote “…MCDM students find new and exciting ways to see their world, tell the stories they find compelling, and build and grow the communities that will make a difference for us all.” This exactly how I envision the future me – being a catalyst for change and making a difference through creative storytelling and meaningful relationship building.

Now that I have seen this future, anything but moving forward feels stifling.

The world is moving and changing so quickly today. We live in exciting times. I feel that there has been no other time in my life when the saying “innovate or die” has not been more true. The “rules” are disappearing and making way for “anything is possible.” The key to surviving and thriving in this new world is being able to see what is coming and develop a game plan of how you will adapt to the new environments. I want to embrace innovation and change.

At first, I wanted to save the world

In my early 20s, while working on a wetland restoration project, I drew a connection back to one of my defining childhood experiences. It was at that moment that I found my calling in environmental conservation and restoration. I headed off to college to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Geology and onto a successful career in the environmental field.

I had a very successful career but was unhappy and restless and I didn’t know how to fix it. It was after I had reached a level of expertise in my career that I found myself crafting environmental education messages that it became clear. I have a talent and passion for connecting with people and bringing people together for a common cause, goal, or idea to make a difference. I realized what I was capable of and wanted to have an impact on the world that was greater than what I could do in my little corner.

Now, I want to CHANGE the world

I see digital media as a way to capture the innovative products, genius ideas, and passions of other people and then amplify them through the use of the internet. I see myself “changing the world” by helping to reach the right people with those messages and inspiring them to take action.