Category Archives: Infrastructure

Bookshelf Review: the Rise of the Naked Economy

In the ongoing re-organization called Life, I came across this book and skimmed/read it to make keep/discard decisions.

It’s in the ‘Keep’ pile, but only just barely; and only for the function of identifying fallacies and wishful thinking.

I found the facile tone and smudged glossiness of the imagery very off-putting.

This book described happily the new work reality, in which many of us are super-specialists, providing very highly polished skills to a perpetually delighted market.

Others of us are to be generalists _ also very crucial, we’re told_ filling in gaps and doing – you know – general things.

All the infrastructure and ‘normal’ trappings of work are to be discarded – offices, established work relationships and protocols, permanence of any kind. Except for managers perhaps  – they can have trappings. But none for the rest!

It mentions at the end a few minor glitches – health insurance (and other benefits), collections problems, taxation policies that burden entrepreneurs vs. customers.

So ok, in reality – those minor things are kind of major, and many unstated problems exist which vastly outweigh the benefits.

For one thing, earning enough money to live on as a freelancer is very difficult to do in conjunction with maintaining the skill sets and knowledge base of a specialist. Apparently these new roles come with some sort of time-turning magical device!

Most utilization of freelancers takes place within a mature, structured workplace; because of all the ways in which that structure is necessary. The main body of activity in ‘getting things done’ will always need to happen within a permanent structure. Large groups of people engaging in innovation or existing service provision require permanent physical locations, computer and telephone technologies, long-standing interpersonal relationships.

There won’t ever be a ‘flash mob’ of people who are able to come together all as strangers for a short period to get a new design from research through the marketplace etc..

The flicking-off of a small percentage of positions from employment to contractor status weakens the people in those positions, as well as the organization itself: whether the specifics are adjunct faculty or accounting contractors. A great deal is lost when functional responsibility is lost in the shuffle.

I strongly feel that this push will turn out to have been profoundly wrong-headed; beneficial to small sets of people who managed the provision of freelance service and also to the people making the outsourcing decisions – at least until enough time passes to make clear the full impact of those decisions.

Meanwhile, from day one all the way through until a more complete relationship is re-established, the person providing the service is under-compensated. Financially, and on the wider basis as far as ongoing stability and life-planning foundation and career-wise and so on.

So many building blocks of a solid future exist only within the employment relationship. To actually replace those for freelancers – sincerely and in good faith – would take much more generous monetary compensation as well as a range of other substantive realities that have not at all been even explored, much less implemented. The reality is that these relationships have not been in good faith, but have been part of the hollowing out of the middle-class.

These authors – Ryan Coonerty and Jeremy Neuner – are themselves not distanced observers, but directly within the paradigm they’re discussing – they are both involved with NextSpace, an early pioneer in the coworking model.  Which brings up another aspect of this book – it weaves present and future, concrete realities and wishful generalizations, coal and diamonds to such an extent it’s difficult to digest.

But coworking itself is fascinating, and a great environment for certain types of functions. For folks in social media for instance, I can see how it would be perfect. It has its downsides (one example set), and will have growing pains as it matures (real estate prices for instance). But as it solidifies it also becomes one of the ‘infrastructure’ pieces that it itself is replacing, reminiscent of the conclusion of Vonnegut’s ‘Player Piano’.

This book also suggest using free resources whenever possible as a freelancer, to support the no-overhead model. Those free resources are reminiscent of procurement-chain management, in which smaller business were replaced with corporate/global supplies. Both paradigms deprive small, locally-held businesses of needed volume, causing constricted decision-making and diminished futures. More evidence of the wrong-headedness of this model

“Fun to Read!” says the book jacket. Not always ‘Fun’ to live!

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Strength & Vibrancy of Twin Cities

There was a display at the Cargill room in the Downtown Minneapolis Library a few years ago, celebrating the sesquicentennial (150 years) of Minnesota. It contained displays showcasing Minnesota’s inventions over the years. They included an extensive array: Medical (pacemakers, etc.. work by Bakken and many others), Computer, Food (wheat varieties created by Borlaug, credited with saving  the lives of millions; zillions of apples and much more at the University of Minnesota). Also random things like the Tilt-a-Whirl, Roller Blades, and Spam (which has, again, saved the lives of millions probably).

The University of Minnesota, one of the original Land-Grant institutions, has been doing everything possible to improve life for Minnesotans – and Everyone – since the 1850’s. I graduated with a degree in Accounting from there. I don’t know if you can tell. Anyway, even with the University’s various campuses and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system,  we have a wealth of smaller Universities and Colleges as well. Truly something for every interest and life path.

We have much more diversity here than others imagine. Minnesota schools  are helping kids learn English in addition to their own languages – 200 different languages are spoken in their homes. Our four main languages in Minneapolis are English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong. We are a vibrant community of cultures, ethnicities, neighborhoods  and communities.

We have a thriving arts community, more theater per person than almost anywhere else, storytelling, dance, live music and much more.

Politically, there’s just no end. But let me just stress our high voter turnout, and leave it at that. Except to also mention politics at its best – the Center for Victims of Torture, based in Minneapolis, doing everything possible to heal the human spirit.

That is one nonprofit of hundreds in Minnesota – part of a thriving nonprofit community that seeks to ensure the vitality and well-being of its citizens and address today’s challenges in coordination with government entities, foundations, benefactors and volunteers; in a way that is transparent and accountable.

We have a thriving technology arena with innovation and real-world application, new breakthroughs and efforts to bring technology’s benefits to as many as possible.

Our Minnesota State Fair is perhaps a good place to stop. For many on the coasts (the reason this post exists, see here and here), the State Fair justifies your belief systems about Minnesota. And, as I’ve said before, there’s a certain level of inevitability about all this which I accept.

Despite that, I’ll just say this: the State Fair is like life.

You have huge numbers of people, all of whom are doing what they want to do for their own reasons. Some have brought to the Fair the best of their years’ efforts – animals, artworks, recipes, large vegetables, seed art. Some have brought information and arguing points to try and change others minds and spark action. Some have brought items to sell, and/or money to buy. Many are artists and performers, there to incite joy, laughter and dancing. Many-many are present to take it all in and have a wonderful time.

There is a little bit of almost everything, and a zillion choices at every turn. You can – as in life – decide what experience you want to have, and then set about to have that experience. Things may go a different way, and you can adapt. There may be streets filled to the brim with unwashed masses – and alternate routes. Long lines at these times, shorter lines earlier/later. Coupons and deals to utilize. Extensive work and volunteer opportunites. Too much heat, rain, cold and blah days, disappointment, social goings-on with drama and heart break, families (in matching t-shirts sometimes) with best intentions, crying babies and their huge baby carriages always in the way, people moving about with assistive technology, people physically adjusting themselves to all those around them constantly, people who’ve been coming to the fair for decades, people who only recently landed in Minnesota and are still just their bearings, breaking technology and the newest in kitchen convenience. It’s all there, it’s all in the Twin Cities, it’s all the same in slightly different ways everywhere.

We are completely engaged in what we’re doing here. You are welcome to join us. It’s ok if you want to keep doing what you’re doing where you are. But we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing our own selves, in any case. Namaste.

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Filed under Business, buy local, Community, Cooking, Entrepreneurship, Food, Fun, Infrastructure, Leadership, Local, Marketing, Minneapolis, Minnesota, NonProfits, St. Paul, Technology, Uncategorized

Rankings – Twin Cities

List of high rankings recently for Twin Cities

(Note, given our inherent modesty, it’s excruciating to pull this all together, but in moments like these the struggle is part of the reward).

Two of America’s Top 12 Cities – BusinessWeek

Bike City – # 1 (Bicycling Magazine)

Bike-Friendly City – #2 – CNN

Best City Park System  – Trust for Public Land

Top Best Cities for Young Adults: # 10 (Forbes Real Estate)

#1 City our size for National Night Out participation

Travel & Leisure: High rankings for multiple aspects including intelligence and summer

Dog Friendly Cities # 10 – Estately

Forbes #23 best place for business and career

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Socially Medium

With my ingénue eyes, Social Media is a fascinating, vibrant field full of mystery and excitement.. and twists and turns equal to any film thriller. Since I don’t work in the field, it is always new and fresh. And I’m not encumbered by too much actual technical expertise.

So I’m launching a sometime-series of Social Media from the layperson’s point of view, or the consumer’s point of view, or something like that.

Catchy title in process — currently ‘Socially Medium’ under consideration.

Today I just have to mention that HootSuite, much as I love it and celebrate it every day, is making me crazy.

I have used it with a range of accounts, from 2 to 5 at any given time.  These accounts are mine, family members, work places.  I’ve found HootSuite really has a serious ceiling on its functionality, and 2 accounts seems to be a limit (I’m using the free version).

So in my comments today, it’s with that framework in place – 2 account, each of which has all 20 lists in place.

Problem #1: Favoriting – when I favorite a tweet within Hootsuite, it doesn’t give me the choice of which account I want the favorite to be added to.  It makes a decision based on which account I’ve used more it seems like.  So, often the wrong account is used.. not a big problem, since I do the process knowing that that is the likely outcome, but it’s annoying. I could go to the Twitter site and favorite it there, but I’m usually trying to spend fewer minutes rather than more, and staying in Hootsuite is simpler.

Update: You know what? Classic case of the utility of writing — I figured something out about this since releasing it in this post. When Hootsuite doesn’t ask which account the favorite is for, it assigns the favorite to the account that owns the column from which the tweet came.. so if it’s a company-list, it favorites the tweet on to the company account, personal list – personal account. Finally. Still doesn’t work for me, because I put things in lists in a very organic manner, and that 1:1 correspondence is pretty off base. Good to understand though!

And when the thing I want to favorite is in a list/column from the other account, not the one I want the favorite on, just realized: If I click on the account of the tweeter (bringing it out of the paradigm of the particular column that tweet was in), then Hootsuite does ask which account I want the favorite to be on. Hallelujah.

Atleast, those are my working theories for now..

Problem #2: The lists. I often find interesting accounts on Hootsuite that I want to add to a list, or several.  One thing is that the add-to-list process works for one list at a time, which is painful. The other is that Hootsuite doesn’t update the list names from changes made in Twitter .. at all, it seems. So I have to know that X old name = Y current name.

Also, Hootsuite constantly changes the order of the list names that it presents. So I can add an account to a list from either of my accounts in Hootsuite, which is nice.. if I can find it in the constantly newly-sorted order.

Also, it presents some list names twice.. so it’s either showing two different lists with the same name, or one list twice. Neither is optimal..

I have somewhat randomly redundant processes, and overlapping list memberships, so it’s not fatal, but it bothers me. I wish there was some way to tell Hootsuite to update its list info from Twitter periodically. And I’d love to be able to order the lists that it shows in that ‘add to list’ function myself, or just have it use the list order established in Twitter.

Also, the bit.ly links – seems like for a while Hootsuite would just not send scheduled tweets that included those kind of links, so after noticing that, I started trying to remember to replace each of those links with a Hootsuite –generated link. Not time-efficient much.. and then sometimes I forget, and now it seems one tweet with a bit.ly link did go through. So maybe that isn’t required any more.

Finally, I noticed somewhere something about 6 characters being set aside for the tweet wrapper or something.. it had been the case that Hootsuite would send tweets that were longer than 140 characters. My understanding was that other Hootsuite users would see the full tweet, folks using other interfaces would not. But now it seems that Hootsuite won’t send tweets over 134 characters: 140 – 6.. but that’s not always the case either.

Clearly, there is a LOT of mystery involved for me! A smidge less would still be completely sufficient, honest.

Adapting to conditions is constantly required, would be nice though if the conditions would remain consistent – or get better. If only Hootsuite would fix these things, I’d be a very happy participant!

Insights/suggestions welcome. But save your breath if you would tell me to use a different interface – honestly that’s just not going to happen any time soon. The investment is too great.. I save most of my computer-y energy for work, constantly getting the best out of the different accounting software programs I’m using (3 different ones right now, between work and home).. everything else is secondary.  Including this site, etc.. simple suggestions welcome, anything more is probably not realistic. This is the elsewhere-focused outback on social media, hopefully with some attendant charm, despite all interwoven deficiencies!

P.S. Some other things I want to write about soon include Facebook advertising and that new option ‘Listly’..

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Google Plus for Business is open! (for.. business!)

Google + has opened business pages to the wider community – I set up one for Clarity Solutions! I’m so excited!

I’ve been holding my breath ever since Google Plus first launched, waiting for this moment. I really want my primary presence online to be that of this business entity, Clarity Solutions. And then I also will have a business-owner Claire Stokes twitter, and Google Plus account (the original one). But those personal accounts will provide content that is specific to me, and is not intended to be “useful” necessarily, etc… Useful and constructive and sustaining and all those intentionalities belong to my business content, which will now finally be able to begin on Google Plus.

So, as when Google Plus first launched, I’ll post interesting tidbits here and will be interested in hearing about the experiences of others as well! Cheers!

Here are some resources for those of us just starting out with a business Google Plus page:

Here is the Google Blog Post about the roll out, and an intro (videos) in to some of the new features!

CNet article on the new features, including an interesting point – the Google Plus business page cannot follow a customer first – the customer must first follow, then the business can follow back. Also lots about ways to connect in to your Google Plus business page from your other sites, and so on.

Technorati enthusiastically jumps on the Bandwagon.

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Storify and Journalism: An Exploration (via Anna’s Cubby Hole: Ramblings of a Cub Reporter)

Interesting, have heard about this but not explored it yet. Thanks for the info!

Storify and Journalism: An Exploration It's a little embarrassing for a media/journalism junkie to admit, but I just discovered Storify this morning. I'm hoping to use it for future blog posts, but my first story will be an investigation of Storify's impact on media and journalistic potential. From what I can tell so far, Storify is an interactive tool for people to easily create stories using tweets, Facebook statuses and links. From their FAQ: Storify is a way to tell stories using … Read More

via Anna's Cubby Hole: Ramblings of a Cub Reporter

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Using WordPress – why and for how long?

A new member of my work community just commented on my blog being here at WordPress rather than separately hosted with its own URL and all.

So here’s a blog post about it, and an opportunity for further conversation with anyone considering these questions.

First, I agree. Real blogs should be hosted by your nearest awesome ISP (which I have), and have all the serious trappings that come with that. I’m a firm believer in doing things the substantial way whenever possible, for best results and also because that inherently benefits the whole business community.

Right now, though, I’m here. Temporarily.

A little background: I worked at Minnesota Regional Network from 1997 – 1999, back when they were the backbone of the internet in the state of Minnesota (along with the University of Minnesota). That was a great experience. I remember looking at websites for the first time when I started there, back when there weren’t all that many on line (many times fewer than the number of Google + accounts right now!).

The browser, Netscape, had ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s cool’ buttons, and those buttons were relatively authoritative regarding the entire internet. Our engineers generally scoffed at the World Wide Web, being much more engaged with UseNet and bulletin boards and so on. We were an early provider of online access to the masses, our employees helped many people log on for the first time.

One year when I was there we had a booth at the State Fair, which was really fun too. We would ask people walking by if they wanted to see the internet. There was a lot of skepticism and plain lack of awareness, but sharing those initial exciting experiences was really great.

I developed a huge respect for the Internet Gurus who keep it all running for the rest of us, great fascination for Unix, and a life-long loyalty to the Mac OS.

I consulted for the first time after leaving there, and set up my own website using Dreamweaver and other tools. HTML coding didn’t appeal to me very much, and there were many who were focusing exclusively on it, so I didn’t spend much time gathering that skill set. What little coding I did was much more fun thanks to BBEdit than it would have been otherwise.

And I remember launching my website! And then waiting for a response! Waiting for an audience! Scanning the hieroglyphics of my web logs, trying to understand trends and future promise. Waiting! Waiting for an audience that never really materialized.

That feeling of launching the website — to resounding silence is one of the main reasons I was interested to try WordPress this time around. Built in audience (sort of), built in community (kind of). Built in mainstream normalcy (for what it’s worth).

Also I wanted to start this way because I may have clients with WordPress sites, and wanted to share that technology knowledge base with them.

The other whole reason goes back to my not learning HTML. I have another core belief that it is optimal to let experts engage in their expertise, and pay the valid rate they charge. There are a lot of challenges to that practice right now, but to the extent we can return to that practice, again there are multiple community benefits. But right now, I don’t have the resources to allocate to that. WordPress does that for me, allowing me to gain a clearer idea of what I want when I do launch my actual site.

So I do definitely see this as a short-term situation. I’m establishing blogging habits, becoming slowly familiar with how this site can interact with other sites, making initial attempts at a category and tag system, seeing how my content feels in this particular visual setting.

At the optimal future point when it is time, I will give my awesome ISP a call and start the next step. My ISP, ipHouse, is run by some of the most dedicated folks in the internet-serving community, and it’s great knowing that there’s no further decision to make in that area.

At that point, with all the social media tools available, I know I will be able to connect in with my existing audiences seamlessly. It’s all such a different world from back then. It’s not all perfect, there is a lot of noise. But the amount of content and ease of access to that content on today’s internet continually thrills me.

So thanks for that comment, Glenn. And would love to hear further comments from you and anyone else on comparative benefits/costs of WordPress vs. independently hosted & managed website.

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Filed under Infrastructure, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media, Software, Technology