contentgrrl

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Archive for the ‘community’ Category

LinkedIn Does A Better Job of Communicating

Posted by contentgrrl on January 23, 2012

OopsSurprising phrase in an email from LinkedIn:

We could have done a much better job communicating about this change, so we want to clarify what this may mean to you…

This was the second message I’ve gotten about its changing feature set for displaying Twitter feeds.

The first alert had left me wondering if my Tweets would still update my LinkedIn status stream. This second message clarified that this service was still intact and unaffected by the change.

Now, Alsup’s Number 8 of 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation is to recognize your shortcomings. “We could have done a much better job of communicating” rang very loud about the faux pas. Think for a minute: LinkedIn might have been a little quieter about their previous oversight. But if they had left out that statement, the message would have come off as a high-handed afterthought, as though the audience was too dumb to realize the previously unspoken detail.

So that statement:

  • Brings LinkedIn down a notch
  • Keeps their reputation friendly and self-deprecating
  • Fulfills that rhetorical appeal of Ethos, or character. Kudos!

Ideally, when alerting customers about a change in services, you include a little disambiguation from the get-go. A good writer knows to anticipate and define terms the audience may find confusing. The writer’s challenge is to select details that will clearly support the purpose of the alert, while assuaging their biggest concerns and promoting a positive reputation for the organization.

In the first message, LinkedIn could indeed have done a better job of distinguishing the Twitter feed box being discontinued from a related feature that automatically integrates Tweets into your LinkedIn status updates.

But they freely admitted their oversight. Bonus, they successfully communicated the difference, while educating members about a feature that many might not have known was available.

It’s good public relations, too. If you want to temper bad news where you must take something away from your customers, come back to admit an oversight and highlight something great that you offer for free!

I may steal this trick sometime in the future. Shhh…

Two questions for discussion:

  1. What did you think of LinkedIn’s decision to remove the Tweets box from member profiles?
  2. What other examples have you seen of companies turning bad news around?
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Posted in community, heroes, persuasion, writing | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why I Write? Because I Can Spell

Posted by contentgrrl on April 12, 2011

Dictionary Indents By Till Niermann (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsI was discovered as a writer because I could spell.

Spelling is not difficult when you have:

  • Great teachers early on fostering a love of etymology.
  • Great books peppered with foreign languages and highfalutin’ vocabularies.
  • A great father who gave me my first dictionary, set of encyclopedias, and book club membership. (Am I dating myself? It’s obviously before the Internet 🙂 .)

My writing had humble beginnings. In Texas, each school district sends students to district University Interscholastic League (UIL) meets, running the gamut of academics to arts to sports.

I was a geek: I won best actress in One Act Play, regional contests in Accounting and Typing, and several respectable ribbons in Ready Writing and Spelling.

Dr. Tom Buckner, director of the journalism department at McLennan Community College, had the dubious honor of judging such contests. Bless him, he always contacted the winners of a certain age for followup interviews, to recruit them to his department.

I got a scholarship, joined Dr. Buckner’s staff, became one of his editors on the Highland Herald, and went on with his guidance to win collegiate awards in headline writing, editorial writing, and investigative reporting. After I received a degree in journalism, he introduced me to an internship at a national trade magazine, Occupational Health & Safety, which hired me for my first full-time job as an associate editor.

I followed in Dr. Buckner’s footsteps a few times volunteering to judge UIL contests. I still keep in touch with some of the cartoonists, and other editors of the time. My contacts there have led to several gigs over the years.

For Dr. Buckner, I am very thankful. I have a career that I love.

How were you “discovered”? Please comment!

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Poll: Email Newsletters or Onesies?

Posted by contentgrrl on April 11, 2010

Posted in citizen, community, marketing, office, persuasion, publishing, reading, tools, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Making Work Addictive like World of Warcraft

Posted by contentgrrl on March 8, 2010

Hi, my name is Tere, and I’m a workaholic. The projects I do and the communications I draft make me feel productive, needed, adept.

But I am extremely averse to housework. I have tried to reframe it in terms of blessing my home, blessing my family and pets, blessing the neighborhood, blessing the friends and family who visit. That works sometimes. But more often I just downright hate pulling the same weeds that cropped up last year and picking up the same clutter as yesterday.

Today I was reading Jim Lee’s blog on KMEdge.org, Knowledge: How Much Is Too Much? and especially his comment lower down in response to another link, A better way to manage knowledge. The Harvard Business Review article said,

“the real value is in creating new knowledge, rather than simply ‘managing’ existing knowledge. …That’s why we’re not keen to spend time entering our latest document into a knowledge management system. …

We’ve found in our research into environments like World of Warcraft (WoW) that new knowledge comes into being when people who share passions for a given endeavor interact and collaborate around difficult performance challenges.

The HBR article touted how WoW player Gullerbone completed The Burning Crusade expansion pack within an impressive 28 hours after its release in 2007. How did he do it? By using his guild, and related videos, blogs, wikis that make up the social media “knowledge economy.”

Jim Lee’s response: “I’ve said for some time if ‘KM systems’ could mimic the behaviors of WOW players, that we would see immediate impact and improvment [sic] of collaboration and outcomes.”

I sometimes feel the same way about updating old documentation as I do about cleaning the toilet. It’s gotta be done, but it makes me feel all grungy, and I’ll just have to do it again soon enough.

Fishing in World of Warcraft, by Captain Oblivious on Flickr Creative CommonsIn World of Warcraft, that kind of chore is akin to fishing. If you want to level up your skills enough to make some great coin and get the ingredients for the meals that will elicit extraordinary buffs for your guildies in raids and dungeons, you gotta pay your dues in the water. Many dedicated players are so addicted to getting that next level, they don’t mind putting in a few hours at the shore. Of course, it’s not as physically messy as it would be away from keyboard.

And so I’m trying to find a new way to reframe some of work’s less glamorous chores.

I wish that someday we may bring the addictiveness of gameplay into the world of work, and even (ugh!) housework. Can you imagine being able to track in reality:

  • how much coin you’re earning or wasting on your current task,
  • the buffs you gain by eating well/working out/working well with certain people, and
  • the upgrades/badges/titles you can win along the way?

Wish, wish, wish…

Meanwhile, here are the ways I’m making my chores more attractive:

  • Breaking them down into bite-sized chunks. For example, I made a long outline of what I need to do, and categorized it, counting the documents and estimating how much will fill a half hour or an hour.
  • Scheduling the bite-sized chunks across several days.
  • Rewarding myself for completing a bunch of chunks with a fresh cup of Joe and a break where I do something more creative like the next newsletter draft.
  • Testing it like my target audience would, and putting myself in their shoes when I find it easy to learn how to do what I want.

I’m glad I work in a place where the coffee is free, even the flavored kind, and the cleanup is minimal. 🙂

The next challenge is even more social: making technical edits fun for my wonderful developers, product managers, project managers, and technicians. There’s gotta be more than bringing cake and asking pointed questions. Any other thoughts?

Posted in community, games, grrly, learning, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Real Me & My Authentic Niche(s)

Posted by contentgrrl on March 5, 2010

Isn’t the point of blogging to offer insight, value, and entertainment?

But I abandoned blogging for several months, partially because it became inauthentic. It didn’t feel like me. And I have precious little time to be anyone else.

My new profile pic.

Here is reality. For proprietary reasons of course, I don’t reveal much if anything about what I’m working on for my paycheck company or even my freelance work. I have also been escaping from housekeeping, procrastinating administrative tasks, spoiling my kids and then struggling with their behavior, stuck behind boxes of un-scrap-booked photos and memorabilia, losing and gaining the same five pounds, and wallowing in unfulfilled yearnings in my spiritual journey.

There: transparency. 🙂 Sounds just like hundreds of thousands of other working moms slash writers out there.

But I love writing, and I love having a blog. I would like to publish an blog entry weekly. I could even schedule a poll/survey or book review for when I’m in crunch time elsewhere.

Maybe I can spend time with an editorial calendar, leaving a bit of leeway every month. My interests are so broad, and something new is always happening!

Maybe I can narrow it down to a niche of topics I actually care about, that can help mentor other people. Something that makes me shiny and happy.

Something may come to me as I purge and reorganize my bank of drafts. Some of my older essays discuss things I don’t actually want to associate with my name. For example, even though I did well years ago to train in JavaScript, ASP and MySQL, I have to admit I am not a programmer; it’s use it or lose it.

Better, I like to use and polish my wordsmith skills to make life and work easier for people.

My own niche is in there somewhere. I can spend some time formulating my direction and exploring the passions where I will invest the next 10 years or so of my life’s work. I can’t even think about moving to my own hosted URL until I’ve got this down.

I tried an elevator speech:

“I translate experts from various industries into plain, compelling English (and sometimes images), making them look even better on paper and online.”

But elevator speeches and mission statements may not be enough.

Here’s the big question:

Does contentgrrl need to split into two or more niche blogs, or disintegrate?

Here are some possible splits:

  • writing & inspiration from news, media, TV, movies & books (Some gems may go to my freelance editor’s site, http://www.MarketItWrite.com)
  • wife, mom, home & gaming stuff (these get more hits, but newer material may go to Facebook & BigTent)
  • spiritual stuff (I thought I would blog more about the heroes who influence me, but I never seem to do them justice. I may just return to my favorite forums, like http://www.parentingbeyondbelief.com/forum/)

Related links/tweets:

@cywitherspoon “You can’t build a reputation on what you are about to do!” -Henry Ford (1863-1947)

anything on http://copyblogger.com

Entrepreneurs Who Blog Well Foster Trust Among Prospects, Partners, Industry | Mashable http://bit.ly/ahErtx

30 Tips On How To Make Your Company’s Blog Rock http://bit.ly/bxmLYQ

StoryToolz: Readability Statistics, another online tool with FleshKincaid reading level and detailed counts http://bit.ly/c2e2Bu

Good tool for bloggers on the go, per @10000Words: http://www.polishmywriting.com – not only spellcheck, grammar, but style guidelines too

Posted in community, grrly, learning, project management, publishing, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Lose Visitors To SurveyMonkey’s Default Landing Page

Posted by contentgrrl on February 4, 2010

While SurveyMonkey.com is one of my favorite tools to collect feedback and information from various publics (readers), the default settings can be rather self-serving on SurveyMonkey’s part.

Especially when your visitor finishes the last question: By default, SurveyMonkey will invite them to create their own survey.

If you leave it at that, you’re losing your visitors. They’re a click away from leaving your site to sign up for a free SurveyMonkey account.

Why not take the opportunity to give your visitors one more call to action? For instance, you can direct them to related articles and testimonials on your site, or to relevant product categories, or to details about the contest they’ve entered just by answering a few questions.

The nuts and bolts of it are surprisingly easy, and here I’ll tell you how. (I will say the steps were a tad buried somewhere outside of SurveyMonkey documentation, which is why I felt the need to write this up.)

The instructions below assume you’ve created a survey, and have a landing page on your Web site ready to thank your visitors for completing the survey, and provide the next call to action that keeps them engaged on your site.

  1. On the My Surveys page, click the Collect icon for your survey.
  2. If you haven’t already, select Create a link to send in your own email message or to place on a Web page, and give it a title that makes sense for your purpose.
  3. Click the Collector Name you entered.
  4. In the warning: “Before you send out your link, be sure to review the collector’s settings and restrictions” click the settings link.
    • SurveyMonkey Collector Settings - ! Before  you send out your link, be sure to review the collector's settings and restrictions.
  5. In the Collector Settings page, set fields as follows and as shown below:
    1. Allow Multiple Responses: No.
    2. Allow Responses to be Edited: Yes until they exit.
    3. Display a Thank You page: No.
    4. Survey Completion: Redirect to your own webpage and enter a URL to jump to on leaving the survey.
    5. Save IP Address in Results: Yes (This can give you another way to count unique responses)
  6. Click Save Settings.

That’s it! I welcome your feedback. Stay tuned for more entries on different ways you can put SurveyMonkey to work for you.Collector Settings in SurveyMonkey to point to your own landing page.

Posted in community, marketing, persuasion, publishing, tools | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Create Free Online Quizzes for your Blog, Site, Social Network

Posted by contentgrrl on November 12, 2008

OK, so I’m on my business system software company’s year-end task force. Every year for the last five years. The mission: to make year-end easier for both our customers and for our technical support team. That means publishing updated instructions, communicating tips, hosting customer Webinars, and conducting internal training.

This year, we were looking for a way to make it easy to hold other support techs accountable for setting up their test systems, practicing lab procedures, and acquiring knowledge & troubleshooting skills.

Oh, sure. I’d love to have a Learning Management System. But do we have the budget for that? No. Is there an LMS that’s easy to implement? Maybe.

Meanwhile, are there free alternatives? Yes. Bingo!

I found ProProfs.com’s  QuizSchool. Here are 20 reasons I think it’s cool so far.

  1. It’s free. Woo-HOO!*
  2. It’s very user-friendly. YAY!
  3. It’s easy to share/publish via iframe on your site, or via email link, or via widget for your Blog/Forum/social media.
  4. You can create multiple choice questions, including multiple answer and true/false. There’s a standard limit of 5 possible answers.
  5. You can create short-answer or fill-in-the-blank questions, and give the system up to 5 possible versions of the expected answer, typical misspellings, and so on.
  6. You can create essay questions, and set a maximum character count.
  7. Although each question will accept any text, picture, logo, video, or media widget you want, the answers at the time of this writing are strictly text.
  8. For all questions, you can add explanatory feedback for display post-answer and/or on the detailed score report.
  9. Scoring is instant for multi-choice and short-answer questions, as long as you set the correct answer.
  10. For essays, although you can’t have the system automatically score it, the test author can review score reports with pending answers after a student has completed the test, and select how many points the essay answer has earned. The system automatically calculates how many points each essay can earn based on the number of points assigned to the entire quiz. Interestingly enough, somebody’s apparently using this as part of the process for conducting job interviews.
  11. You can customize the quiz banner with any text, picture, logo, video, or media widget you want. Same thing with the end-of quiz message.
  12. You can randomize the quiz questions to fight cheating.
  13. You can set the time limit up to 180 minutes (divide by 60, that’s three hours).
  14. ProProfs.com QuizSchool Score Options

    ProProfs.com QuizSchool Score Options

    You can customize the scoring criteria as shown here.

  15. On the score report, you can enable the display of scores, answers, and certificate of completion. The individual score report also allows students to enter comments and suggestions about the quiz.*
  16. You can set up a quiz as public or protected by password. *
  17. You can require that each student enter a name and/or password.*
  18. Each quiz’ score report shows each user’s attempts at a quiz, including their IP address, city/state, country, time taken, and link to their individual score report, with an option to delete attempts or entries.*
  19. Each individual score report lets the quiz author assign bonus points to add to the total score for any student’s attempt.*
  20. The quiz stats provide numerical and graphical representation of scores and pinpoint the locations of students on a world map.*

* Update May 2010: features marked with an asterisk (*) are available in Educational and Commercial versions that track scores/analytics and hide ads.

The only three things I have trouble with is:

  • There was no online help when I authored my quiz, and I had to experiment with a few things.
  • I worked for several hours on a number of questions without Saving Changes and lost it. Lesson learned: Save often.
  • I couldn’t find a way to limit the students to taking the test only once. (subject to change)

Word of advice: Save Changes after every question.

And although I keep forgetting my password (that’s user error, I kept forgetting whether I capitalized something) the Forgot Password process is super fast.

I’m looking forward to completing the 50-question Year-End Tech Support Knowledge & Troubleshooting quiz in a few hours. For the test data system setup, we’re using a checklist using the forms available on SurveyMonkey, where our company already has an account (SurveyMonkey, by the way, does not offer automated question scoring). For actual procedural lab work, we’re using a worksheet where you can compare before & after; I may eventually find the time to build a tutorial/exam around it.

I’m also looking forward to including a couple of quizzes right here in my blog. Should be fun.

Posted in community, games, learning, publishing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

This Means Something … Generational

Posted by contentgrrl on October 3, 2008

Today I told what turns out to be a generational joke, and for the first time in my life it it went flat due to an age difference.

The department where I work brought in Babe’s for lunch today from Roanoke, TX (I highly recommend Babe’s, but you can only choose chicken fried steak or fried chicken. Those are the only entrees on the menu.).

We were in line serving ourselves, and the guy ahead of me had a plate laden with a mountain of mashed potatoes, which — in preparation for Babe’s wonderful country gravy — he was molding with a fork.

“‘This means something,'” I quipped.

No reaction.

“You mean you’re too young for that one?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m ’83.”

I thought he might mean class of ’83, which would certainly put him in movie theatres when that infamous quote was around.

“That was Close Encounters. You’ve never seen it?”

“Was that from the 70’s? I don’t even remember when ET was out.”

“Oh, you were born in ’83. Wow.”

Oh, he’s young. I don’t always get those one-liners in at the perfect time. I know, that one’s done to death. With people my age, who are in the know ;^), It would get more groans than chuckles. But I started to be proud of myself for a funny, and ugh! fell flat on my face.

Well, this is a first for me. Is it all downhill now?

Posted in community, culture, humor | Leave a Comment »

5 Ws and H interview questions for news writing: part 4, discovery

Posted by contentgrrl on January 25, 2008

In the art of news writing, we still use tried-and-true formulas to get started with researching, interviewing, and organizing basic news according to the 5 Ws and the H.

Let’s look at how these questions can play out for news stories about discoveries. The questions below apply to science, technology, medicine, art, music, fashion trends, relationship patterns, polls and statistics, and even religious revelation.

  • Who initially made the discovery or work?
  • Who have confirmed the veracity or value?
  • Who are the critics and detractors?
  • What are the hypothesis, circumstances, conditions, or limitations of the discovery?
  • What authority and experience does the subject have?
  • When did the discovery occur, after what length of time working on it?
  • Where did the discovery take place?
  • Why is the discovery significant?
  • How were obstacles overcome?
  • How do we know it’s true or valuable?
  • How does this change what we’ve assumed before?
  • How can other people best appreciate or take advantage of it?

Previously, we looked examples for stories about policy, events, and aftermath. Thus ends this series. Soon, I’ll share the GOSSEY formula for feature stories.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, publishing, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

5 Ws and H interview questions for news writing: part 3, aftermath

Posted by contentgrrl on January 24, 2008

In the art of news writing, we still use tried-and-true formulas to get started with researching, interviewing, and organizing basic news according to the 5 Ws and the H. We discussed policy examples previously, and event examples last time.

Now, let’s look at how these questions can play out for news stories about aftermath. The questions below apply to analyzing the causes and consequences of conflicts, disasters, losses, and mistakes.

These stories may include war’s battles, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, fires, stormy weather, epidemics, extinctions, sports and other competitions, transportation wrecks, market crashes, crime, utility outages, closings, civil suits, industrial accidents, even product and software defects, illnesses, injuries, and other broken promises and dreams.

  • Who is the injured or affected party?
  • Who witnessed the event or reported the problem?
  • Who is blamed or taking responsibility for the problem?
  • What damages have taken place?
  • What are the symptoms that affected parties suffer?
  • What is the major cause of the problem or failure?
  • What additional mitigating factors contributed to the problem?
  • When did the event, problem, and cause commence?
  • When is a solution expected to be complete?
  • Where did the event, problem, and cause occur?
  • Why is this event or problem significant?
  • How do we know what caused the problem?
  • How is the problem being treated or resolved?
  • How are we proactively preventing this problem in the future?

Next, we’ll look at how these questions can play out for a more positive type of news story: discoveries.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, publishing, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »