I've been able to spend a little time recently digging into some social media tools to understand how they work as well as their potential value for someone like me, i.e. an executive coach and change management consultant with an abiding interest in technology. So here's a quick rundown:
Utterz is an extremely user-friendly service that allows you to capture and publish audio, video, pictures and text. The site essentially creates a link between your phone, your camera or your webcam and the web at large. You can call Utterz and use your phone to record an interview, snap a picture while you're at it, and publish the audio and the video not only to your Utterz page but also to just about any other site you designate on the fly--the audio's captured immediately, and you simply text the photo to Utterz. You can do the same with video, but if you're like me, A) your phone's OK for stills but terrible for video, and B) uploading video via your carrier sucks up too much time and bandwidth. No problem--just use your laptop's webcam and send the stream directly to Utterz, or upload a previously recorded video file. (You can also opt to send all your Utterz videos to your YouTube account simultaneously.) I see Utterz as a way to turn any conversation into an interview you can share with colleagues AND as a personal podcast for friends and family (depending on where I choose to send the files.) Very cool and stone cold simple. Many thanks to my old--well, let's say former--colleague Holly Ross for the inspiration.
Tumblr is sort of like Utterz but a bit more lightweight, which makes it both easier to use and slightly less useful--or, rather, useful in a different way. It's another service that allows you to capture and publish links, text, and photos, and although it doesn't have built-in support for audio and video, it's really easy (especially via their Firefox bookmark button) to publish to your Tumblr page and to anyplace you can insert a little code. I see it as a great way to share and promote links to articles, posts and photos that don't merit a full-on blog post but merit something more prominent than a del.icio.us tag. Many thanks to Mark McGuinness for the (continued) inspiration--he's THE most tech-savvy executive coach I've met since I stopped working in technology to launch my coaching practice, and I learn something every time I stop by his site.
[Seinfeld] told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."
"Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis.
True? Who cares. It's a great story that translates brilliantly into a free web service. Your "Chain" account serves as the online equivalent of Seinfeld's big wall calendar, and you use it to "X" out days on which you accomplish your given task. (The image above indicates that I've gone running three straight days--no mean feat this past year.) You can create multiple calendars to track different goals, you can customize the display a bit, and if you want the world to help hold you accountable, you can copy-and-paste a little code to publish your calendar anywhere you'd like.
Twitter is a service that's clearly useful for many people..but not me--at least not right now. If Utterz makes it easier to blog audio and video, and if Tumblr allows you to turn your tags into a mini-blog, then Twitter is a sort of micro-blog, allowing you to send out even more ephemeral messages (up to 140 characters) via your phone or the web to your personal Twitter network. The How? isn't an issue here--if you've used IM or sent a text message, you know how to use Twitter, but the Why? (or Why not?, in my case) is more complex. I signed up for a Twitter account months ago, but it's never seemed useful to me. This is primarily because my work as an executive coach involves a lot of face-to-face interactions that can't be interrupted, and my time online (or text-accessible) is limited as a result. But I'm also aware that I need a certain amount of distance between the world and myself in order to think, to focus, to stay grounded. I understand the appeal of feeling more connected with the people in my network via a steady stream of Twitter updates, and I could see myself using Twitter if others on my team did as well, because although most of our work with clients and students is face-to-face, we often work from separate locations--but until that happens, I'm content to opt out. (See Common Craft's typically well-done Twitter in Plain English if you'd like to learn more.) UPDATE: One day later, John Unger posts a Twitter manifesto, describing how he uses it--and he notes that his initial response was "Why the hell would I want to do that?" It didn't change my mind about Twitter's utility to me at the moment, but it did open my eyes to the creative ways people are adapting the service to meet their needs. UPDATE 2: OK, I give--with Mark McGuinness weighing in as well, I'll see if Twitter can add value despite my unusual schedule.
Finally, even though the services rendered by Creative Commons are nothing like those described above (and even though I've been a CC user for years), my work on this post led me to realize that my CC license was out-of-date, and this seems like a good opportunity to point anyone unfamiliar with them in a helpful direction. CC provides an alternative to copyright that allows people like me to share our writing, our photos, and any other type of content with the world under the restrictions of our choice. For example, everything I post on this site is published under CC's "Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States" license, which means that you're free to copy, distribute and/or remix my work as long as you also 1) attribute it to me by linking to this site and 2) further distribute any remixed works under a similar license. Almost all of the photos I use in my posts (including the one above) have been published under the same CC license as mine, and I'm both grateful for the right to access such highly creative work and hopeful that my contributions are as useful to someone else.
Photo by Paul Schultz. Yay Flickr and Creative Commons.