14 Ways to Be Awesome in 2014

ted cruz, ted cruz green eggs and ham, ted cruz green eggs and ham gif
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Do you remember everything that happened in 2013? Neither do I, but a lot did happen. In the spirit of helping you set real-life goals for 2014, let’s all embrace a model that hopes to learn from the past and press on toward tomorrow.

And, let’s do it in .gif form.

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I cannot meme today. I has the dumb.

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There is a social media component to my job. In my mind, this means remaining up to date on all trends in social media and reacting to them in a way that has a positive effect on my company.

As I am physically unable to do this, there are times when I wonder whether I’ve grown too old for that part of my job. Should I relinquish this responsibility to one of the college students on my staff (which is how I got the job in the first place)?

Normally, I recognize this sort of thought as mere insecurity and move on by writing a blog post or stoking my confidence by reading the mentions, re-tweets, and comments that have appended themselves to the original content I’ve created via my company’s social media accounts.

Then, on Thursday, one of my colleagues sent me this:

After some 30 seconds of reading and analyzing, I was no closer to understanding its meaning than I was to understanding who created the “shoes” pictured in the upper left corner, or who would wear them.

According to popular social media sources, these types of memes have been all the rage this year. I had a much easier time interpreting the meaning of these memes when I accepted that I have never read surrealist literature nor will I ever devise to call myself a surrealist, then broke down and viewed a few more memes that better fit my personality and knowledge base. Like this one:

Full disclosure, though not the exact same as those pictured above, I do have this one pasted to the back of my office computer, visible to anyone who enters my workspace:

The image sharing power of Pinterest and Facebook as well as the ease with which we can now edit photos has made popular this kind of content creation. But, honestly, what the hell?

I can’t count the number of times, while browsing through my wife’s Pinterest account, I’ve uttered that line. The things that people create are, more times than not, completely inappropriate for any context outside of their own. Take the surrealist meme pictured above. It’s funny to some people, mainly people like my colleague who sent it to me and have the knowledge base to understand it. Beyond that circle of culture, the meme is dead .

It’s also entertaining in its own specific time. Once created, the shelf life of said meme (there is no research on this that I can find this morning, check for an updated post later) probably mimics the normal distribution curve associated with innovation diffusion theory, happening in real time and in hyper-speed. My best guess about a meme’s interpretation by a specific culture, and if lucky the mainstream, is that the meme itself is dead as its exposure begins to fall to the right of the curve’s peak. There is little chance that it will ever become popular again, at least for that particular generation.

Shifting gears, Richard Dawkins conceived of memes and mimetic behavior as a specific trait of evolutionary relevance. Particularly, as humans mimic the behavior of others in their culture, the hope is, these new behaviors will have some sort of positive effect on their biological sustainability (this is my interpretation of what I’ve read of memes on Wikipedia, and I plan to read more of Dawkins soon). If we apply this definition of memes to, say, a study of what is popular on Pinterest or what people are sharing the most on Facebook, what will we find out about the culture of which we are a part? According to my wife’s homepage, the sustenance for us includes laboriously decorated baked goods, abbreviated/hyper-focused workouts, one’s hairstyle, and finger mustaches.

For my entertainment, I want to see cats in adorable poses illustrating some life concept superimposed over the cute images. For my brain’s sake, I hope social memes like these begin to die off like our ancient ancestors. For the researcher inside, I hope the meme wars continue, drafting more creative minds in the fight toward whatever we’re hoping to accomplish. At least we all have plenty of, “What the …” moments ahead of us.

An ideological proposal for local media collaboration

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KWBU-FM | NPR for Central Texas

In Waco exist the four basic television news outlets (NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox affiliates), one daily newspaper (Waco Tribune-Herald), and one NPR affiliate. Two years ago, our NBC affiliate was proud to be “first in high definition” while the CBS location was equally as proud with their slogan, “first online,” (and was trying very hard to become the second in HD). Around the same time, the Trib chose to place all of its content behind a pay wall. Just recently, the president of KWBU announced that its current funding goal is far from being met (they will begin the winter pledge drive tomorrow).

Everyday when I partake in these three media types, I wonder similarly to all of Robin Scherbatsky‘s friends in the CBS show “How I Met Your Mother” – is anyone out there actually watching/listening to/reading this?

If we buy in to the rumor that media are dying, especially in locales where subscriptions or funding are difficult to come by, why not think forward toward greater collaboration among outlets?*

There are reasons beyond funding that the major newspapers, for example, are able to offer at least some free content online. If this is a contentious statement to you, notice that the major papers all operate on some kind of online subscription or pay wall method now. Major outlets have the ability to produce truly unique content for featuring online. This, of course, is done in the hopes of drawing more visitors and increasing possible advertising revenue.

Smaller, local papers don’t have human or technological resources to achieve this kind of content creation, in the way of video and audio additions. If a merger were created, new content opportunities would be available to each outlet, and some costs, such as operating independent websites, would be eliminated.

This may not work in all situations and is an extremely ideological suggestion (ideological in that I fully believe all these media should survive and flourish), but it’s certainly worth meeting about.

*Caveat: I’m not trained as a business man. This means that I have not thought out the full financial implications of this suggestion, though it does seem to make logical sense.

An old and a new

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I read a fun blog post from the folks at Wired two weeks ago about the capitalization of the word, “internet.” AP Style dictates that you ought to capitalize the word, but others across the globe have done away with this rule.

Why? Because it’s too commonplace to warrant the same status as other proper nouns, like “Web site”.

Actually, “web” and “net” go lower in Wired‘s case.

This caused me to think about things that still exist, regardless of their anachronistic style, as well as things that have not yet been invented, but may not be far off.

The one “old” thing that literally appeared into my line of sight this evening is the picture located to the right. If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to view the photo, it is an icon of a floppy disk. By clicking this icon, you can save a search, journal article, or citation from the online database I’m surfing. What’s funny is that I haven’t owned a computer in the past six years that even has a way to process these things, and yet they are still an iconic representation of what we have all learned is the process of saving something electronically.

It would be interesting if the databases and online spaces that used this image replaced it with something more modern, say, a picture of a cloud? It would make logical sense, but would it get the message across?

My “new” thought for the day deals with social media. I was watching one of my authors on television two weeks ago and realized that, no matter how much I tweeted or shared on Facebook the link to the Book TV website advertising the show, I could not make people watch the show, nor could I make it any easier for them to do so. Someone without access to a television, or one they can control, might get frustrated that I keep sharing non-television content about a live television show. This could even foster negative will toward me.

The technology already exists, based on your television service provider, to program your television to record specific shows without ever having to be in front of your television. I predict that this technology will develop to the point where even the lesser-known providers make available recording apps for DVR subscribers. When this technology is finally adopted by a chunk of the population, the wise entrepreneur will design a social app that allows individuals to share television content, offer people the option to record the content directly from their device, and even interact with the programming – among peers.

In the same way I find out about dozens of new pieces of content each day through the social web – that is, content I would not have discovered otherwise – so to will people be able to watch television they may never have known existed. This could mean great user engagement with television (seen until recently as a one-way medium), the lessening importance of the television schedule, and even the demise of primetime television.

Senators take on Facebook (this could get ugly) – You and 4 other like this…

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When do you know you’re powerful? When the Senate sends you a letter concerning your dorm-room creation and the potential harm it could serve for the American society.

Today was probably the first time I’ve ever heard the words “Senator” and “Facebook” mentioned in the same news story, nay, same headline. While the government is throwing a hissy fit about what Facebook has done with personal privacy this week, what they’re neglecting is that regardless of whether your information is being shared via third-party sites, your information is still in cyberspace – no matter how many times or ways you lock it up.

The Senate is simply trying to delay the process.

Of course, all of this is even funnier when you think about what Facebook will probably look like in five years. It may very well not exist, which is the opinion of more than a few people around here. Our Senators are not doing a horrible thing by trying to keep Facebook in line, but couldn’t they be spending their time doing something more useful. They must think we’re really lazy or that we’re too ignorant to figure out how to use the social media sites they (the Senators) have probably never even seen.

Technology overload!

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Being in the book industry, I’m around talk of Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad on a daily basis. And, I must say, the more I hear about these technologies, the crazier I’m becoming about them and the more I must have one. Or two. Or more.

I’ve already discovered that my wireless Apple keyboard should sync up with the iPad, thus eliminating one of it’s downers (lack of content “create-ability”), and I’ve become quite happy with the Kindle and its functions allowing users to mark and make notes on text, thus giving the device a more “book-like” feel.

To satiate my longing for a new piece of technology, I’ve viewed a number of video reviews, tutorials, and tours of the devices, all of which say and film basically the same things. As I started watching the latest review sent to me from my Nashville musician friend Bradley, I actually scoffed at The Wall Street Journal reviewer who claimed to have spent the past week doing nothing but playing with the iPad.

Can anyone tell me which piece of technology in the past 20 years has received the kind of mass interest the e-reader devices have in the last two? Who spends the majority of their time awake (and some of the time they should be sleeping) experimenting with a new toy? And, what kind of toy allows you to experiment all day and night and still surprises you with a handful of undiscovered features the next morning? What we have here is a generation of entirely novel technology paving the way for how we view and act toward personal communication.

All this aside, I have never witnessed the extreme number of individuals so invested in the future of a single genre of devices. And, the number is so high that the more I watch videos and read reviews, the more I feel that yearning, insatiable need to have one of these devices strangely satiated. People may talk a good game about virtual reality being the way of the future, but with so many independent bloggers and forums showing me every in and out of the newest technology, I actually feel as though I’m experiencing the features (dare I say used the device) for myself.

I love getting new backpacks and winter coats. There are new zippers, pockets, and secret compartments to be explored, and I never fail to discover a new key-holder or hood-stasher a month post-purchase. These findings keep me entertained with my purchases, but soon the excitement wanes. I wonder if the same can happen when I watch these iPad and Kindle videos.

Will the excitement of having a new technology be overcome by my viewing of commercials and detailed tutorials?

It sure seems worth an experiment.

Collecting dust

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It’s a beautiful Spring day. I opened the window allowing large swaths of sunlight into my small apartment kitchen-living-dining room. You know how letting natural light in the room reveals the dust bits present in the air? Well, it also reveals where that dust lands, and at this moment, it’s collecting on my television screen.

I also make a conscious decision to weekly dust off my computer screen.

Now, I know there’s not a real correlation here, but doesn’t it seem interesting that our most-used media tools are also the dustiest? When I think of the things I use on a daily basis, my shoes, my bicycle, my toothbrush, even my books, I’m really glad they don’t collect dust.

But, I also use my computer and television quite a bit. If the “interactive” media we use collect dust while they’re just sitting there, what does this say about those of us who use media more than eight hours per day?

Are we just collecting dust too?