Category Archives: Social Media

Keyboard Control in Forms

It’s just a pet peeve of mine.

Years ago, during a period when I was using Access a lot, I got to design forms and you can set the tab control in an MS Access form pretty easily. Down one side and then to the fields on the right? Or across then down, across then down? You think about user interface, and make decisions. Then as you use the form, can modify and improve.

So many times these days, especially in web forms, that capacity seems to be lost. Maybe it is really really hard to control on sites, I honestly don’t know. But I feel quite skeptical.

You go to a site page which exists solely for the purpose of typing data in, but you can’t simply start typing, you need to click in the field first. And then when you tab out of the first field, it doesn’t necessarily take you to the next field! Some pages / screens, you need to mouse from field to field.

It used to be that there were keyboard commands for navigation in nearly every instance.

I strongly encourage anyone involved in such things to take that back in to account, and move us forward to a more efficient process.

Any tips / suggestions/ feedback much welcome!

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Filed under Social Media, Software, Uncategorized

Reality

My Paradigm

I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. People on the US Coasts tend to not know where that is, and to not know much about it. I’m fine with that, in general. A current article in the NY Times about the Minneapolis bars/singles scene generated some commentary, and that sparked my thinking about perception vs. reality, in life and in work.

People almost never really see each other, and that is an essential attribute of life, and certainly of business.  And that’s all right.  Our whole selves are not really prime-time ready, not really palatable. We’ve seen comedies involving saying the exact thing one is thinking at every moment – doesn’t work very well. It’s OK to bring our best-constructed selves out to play, intentionally, for best outcomes.

And optimally, we recognize that what we see of others is a constructed picture. We translate and adjust accordingly.

In these current economic times, those translations and adjustments are even more necessary, and that’s what came to mind as I was thinking about New York’s perceptions of Minneapolis.  The economy is enormously challenging for many, many people. It’s hard to know the best way to respond to that at every moment. In this piece I’m exploring ways to do that involving perceptions and reality-constructions.

My take on constructed realities comes mainly from two early fascinations: theater and magic.

Reality Constructs: Theater & Magic

At my first audience experience at Park Square Theater in the 70’s, I was completely fascinated. The space was so small, the actors were Right There, but inhabiting an entirely different paradigm. It was a vivid introduction to the fourth wall (that between audience and staged situation).

I became somewhat involved back stage in High School on the East Coast (where I lived briefly), and then in college, I again became involved in theater, this time in a company called Punchinello Players (second oldest student-run community theater in the US at the time, no longer exists). We did ‘Waiting for Godot’ and other great things, and some that weren’t so great.

Throughout these formative experiences, it was endlessly fascinating to go from the earliest ideas and strategies for putting on a show, through the whole process, to audience reaction and financial outcomes. Particular aspects: knowing the shared script, following the script, improvising in response to the unexpected – were all very useful to my development as a person.

One night there was a bat – a live bat (the building was quite old)- in the green room during the whole show at Punch. Back stage we were very quiet, and moved around as little as possible, in the hopes that the bat would remain still for the duration. And it did! Just like in Noises Off, the drama behind the scenes rivaled that in front of the curtain. And the adage really is true: ‘The Show Must Go On.’

Prior to all that though, when I was 9 or 10, I became fascinated with simple magic tricks. The most important thing was to understand the concept of mis-direction: making a conscious choice of what you want the audience to pay attention to, and acting in such a way as to make that happen. The magic trick of course needed to happen elsewhere.

In both cases, perceived reality is not true. Perceived reality is constructed in a way as to be mutually beneficial to both parties, and it is acted out according to plan, and at the end, both parties are happy.

East Coast & West Coast and… Minneapolis

I’m not upset about how folks on the coasts perceive us here in Minneapolis – it isn’t the truth. There’s no way it could be, most of them have never been here or anywhere but where they live (or the other coast). Their constructions of us are beneficial to them, and they don’t really cost us anything at all. It’s pretty much a win win.

When High School was finishing, and I was letting folks know I’d be coming home to Minneapolis to attend the U, they would say, “But why?? You’re here now; you don’t have to go back there! You can stay Here!”

Some of the messages were:

But you’re OK! We like you! You can stay – you don’t have to go back and be with those lesser-folks!

 Now that you’ve seen what real life is like, how could you give it all up again and go back there?!  Don’t you want what we have, here?!?

 You must resist! Stay strong! Evolving takes effort. You’ve already made great progress. Just stay the course!

And other nonsense.  They simply had no idea! They weren’t that different from folks back home, things weren’t hugely better, certainly not more civilized or evolved in any way, and what the conversation really consisted of was group-defined presumptions and superiority constructs – paradigms that fit for them, but were not accurate for me at all.

Their lack of accurate perception could have cause negative outcomes for me if I’d based my actions on them, but I didn’t and everything worked out just fine.

Constructed Reality and the Workplace

Mass media/stereotypical views of our communities are similar to the marketplace for workplace professionals – an aspect of life, but not a defining factor. It’s simply becoming extremely necessary to see the fourth wall, to spot the misdirection.

Constructed narratives are a crucial linchpin in the business world. Employer and clients each present one, and it’s usually carefully crafted. In the past, employment was thought to be an instance of simply providing one’s work skills, and being paid. I believe now it’s much more about providing a skill-set related narrative, and fitting that in to each work situation. While knowing, just like in theater, that it’s a shared process; and also constantly updating it. Passivity is not your friend.

During these challenging times, some people find themselves in the position of being able to take advantage of their workplace power to reduce costs,  increase their comfort levels and so on. The other side of that coin is that others may receive less and/or have to work harder or under more difficult circumstances.  I feel that these aspects are temporary, for a variety of reasons. But even so, actively seeking that particular best workplace mix for you is always useful.

I saw a tweet recently – things won’t get easier until you get stronger.  I feel that the most true part of that is when we get stronger, it nearly always guarantees that things get a bit easier. And gaining strength – same as any other positive attribute – is always a useful goal. Even more so in times like these.

Workplace Challenges

Some perceptions of the work world today are that it will consist almost entirely of short-term ‘stints’, as in this article by William Ellermeyer describes.  I think there will always be more of a mixture, but the fact is employment no longer carries the long-term assurances it once did. Every person who wants to be working tomorrow, whether they are working today or not, as an employee or a contractor, needs to be learning about the marketplace in order to create their best script that most closely matches their skills and attributes to the optimal client/employer.

We have the choice to try and respond to changes in the marketplace in the way that is best for us and best for our customers and our community.  Part of that involves perceiving things accurately – looking for the misdirection, seeing the paradigm that is being presented and the reasons for it.

For instance, take Facebook. It is presenting the image of a portal for people to have social relationships with each other. It is also selling the presence of consumer-social-space to advertisers. Seeing the inherent misdirection is useful in choosing one’s level of interaction with Facebook.

Each workplace consists of individuals, who are unique, and groups that have a particular culture, and activities that are organized in a certain way. Now especially, people in power want to do things according to their own paradigm. They may choose to present an incomplete view of that to co-workers and employees. Over time, additional information and actions may contradict that presented view. It is crucial to take in non-official information and create your own understanding, and to not be surprised by the difference between your understanding of your workplace, and the official ‘story’ in place. Don’t block things out because they are confusing or contradictory. Take in the information, try and construct a way in which it all fits, and try and match your role on stage to the real situation you are discovering. But understand you also still need to fit the official script as well.

Take in more information; adjust your actions today and your plans for tomorrow. Often. Become nimble. Separate wants from needs.

These days require new skills that prior times didn’t as much. It’s important to be honest with ourselves about what we are willing to do, and what we’re not willing to do. About what is important to us in a workplace – ethical context, work being done, staff attributes, managerial culture, geography, marketplace perceptions, long term strategies. And then using that value information in making all these active choices.

Meeting the Challenge

We have to know ourselves well to constantly determine whether we are willing/able to be a match for this or that situation; when the optimal work relationship is in place and when it has ended; what meets our needs best for the next period; and so on, on a somewhat constant basis.

We all have specific quality markers that define our work. In my case, accounting, I define quality as:

Adhering to GAAP and complying with all federal, state and local laws and business best practices; while instituting and maintaining transaction systems that fit the particular organization and are effective; in order to produce timely accurate information that meets the requirements of external parties and the informational needs of internal decision-makers.

I am going to continue to do that, even when the marketplace changes the workplace relationships and structures.  Over the years through it all I continue to prioritize my most essential workplace actions, doing the rest as much as possible, and communicating about my work within the language of the marketplace today and my workplace relationships.

It requires constant re-thinking; comparing  current demands not to how things used to be done, but to what optimally can work now. There is constant prioritization, value definition and horizon scanning. This article by Christine M. Riordan in the Harvard Business Review is an example of the constant re-formulating I’m talking about.

Back to the theater: the marketplace forces are similar to that bat I mentioned, perched on the mirror backstage during the show: it’s a hurdle. It has to be incorporated in to our actions, but it doesn’t have to exert undue control over the quality of our work or our well-being.  We can still do our best and coordinate that process into the ever-changing workplace narrative.

The show goes on.

And Minneapolis continues to be its authentically wonderful, albeit imperfect, self – regardless of external simplistic perceptions of it.

Ed. Note:

There is a likelihood of future revisions of this piece. I tend to do that for a bit, it’s what works best for me. For those of you who’ve already read this, it won’t take anything away or change it substantively: just will increase the clarity for those coming after you.
The other thing is, I may add links – to external pieces, and to related pieces that I’m going to write in the future. If any of you reading this have opinions about notifying readers of that, I’d be interested.
I could add links added to this section for instance, or in a separate page, or not at all. So any thoughts on that are welcome.

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Filed under Business, Community, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Minneapolis, Social Media, Uncategorized

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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Workings – Accounting

Returning Online Message to the World. Hello World!

I do accounting, and I don’t talk about it. Almost ever anyway. The one time I do talk about it.. well, it’s this blog post! This is my sole episode of self-exposition, hopefully a foundation for the rest of my social media life going forward. There are links to this, so that other main posts can be as pithy as self-awareness suggests they be. I hope this is illuminating to those interested, while still not getting me in any trouble. (Maintaining that delicate balance is strenuous, hence the singularity of this event).

Accounting is a dynamic, variable, and intrinsically-confidential process that most people in the best of times are unaware of. In the current moment, the accounting process has been rendered even more invisible, because of the paradigms that have sprung up around it.

Talking about it in an interesting way that is relevant to others yet also maintains all necessary confidentiality is generally impossible. Despite that, I’m going to share some information about it this one time, in re-joining the social media world after a long absence.

In my work, I create and maintain accounting structures and practices that enable efficient, correct financial transactions; and that also result in those transactions generating a data trail. I do additional steps with sets of transactions at periodic or project-specific intervals, to put that transaction data into specific patterns. And then I turn that data into information, both to meet external requirements and to provide useful organizational and programmatic information to internal managers and staff.

All of that is done within the framework of GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), as well as federal and state laws (regarding payroll, sales tax, and all sorts of other things), particular structures established within specific grants, and the body of established practice within each entity.

A significant part of the work is also engaging productively with the organization itself, participating in relevant decision-making, sharing information, and implementing change proactively; also helping with the organizational work itself sometimes.

All of that happened a certain way when I started out, in the mid- to late- 1980’s. That established ‘normal’ for me. I thought things would always be that way. I imagine now that, if they had, it’s possible I would have ended up in a certain comfort zone, a set of habits and practices within which I would have been content in a static way, and work would have existed within 9-5 and the rest would be my personal life.

Instead, things turned out differently.

These accounting practices in general have since been subject to a series of pressures that I did not at all foresee when I started out – as is the case with many work practices. I may write more about them at some point, but here’s a brief description.

Quickbooks – which I can honestly say I identified as a very mixed change agent right from the very beginning – operates on the basic premise that accounting as a theoretical framework or structured practice really doesn’t exist. Anyone can do it. There are qualifiers inherent in that statement over time, but that’s the basic gist. Anyone can do it, and any negative outcomes from that process are manageable. If outcomes are to be better managed, you can get help after the fact to fix it. (Stop rant now/)

And while I support all small businesses and entrepreneurs, and I know it’s been an effective tool for many to some extent, I am critical of the messaging and the implementation and the reaction to it by the other entities. (And that last part is something I’ll probably never talk about, which leaves a gap, but so be it).

Outsourcing of financial work has been another huge sea change. I only ever briefly worked for ‘Corporate America’ – but the shift from there of people looking for work has been substantive in the arena I do work within. It’s been just as impactful of the shift from the bottom up caused by the Quickbooks mindset. I was angry at India – you know, that one big entity that is India-of-Outsourcing-Fame – for a time; and then ended up in a discovery process with India, and became very fascinated and enthralled. More about that some time too perhaps. Not angry now (not directed there, anyway!).

And the last huge change has been the recession of course, which has had pervasive effects in the number of employment options for everyone everywhere in accounting, and the related pay scales. I know it didn’t affect me nearly as much as so many, but it’s still been quite a change agent in my life.

My mother has worked in organizational consulting in the practice of nursing for several decades; familiarity with her practice and implementation of it has fueled my belief that I could adapt sustainably to this all, and keep going. And I have done that. Some aspects involved have been SWOT, Social Media, continual learning and the serenity prayer.

I’ve considered other options, and explored some, discarding them due to the long lead-in time required, market aspects, investment requirements, my own interests/skills/strengths and so on.

The main other area I was interested in early on, and partway through my college career – computer technology – has also been very over-populated; in addition it’s been dominated by monopolistic entities and the barriers to entry at this point are as high as my interest level today is low. It still works well for me to simply focus on accounting software, and to some extent the relationships with related other software packages, web technologies and operating systems, although I haven’t done as much with that lately.

Writing and everything about the written word – always a primary interest core to my being – remains as an internally-rejuvenating interest only, for the time being at least.

So as a result of those pressures, and those explorations, and every experience to date, I’m still in accounting but it’s quite different from how it was in the 80’s. Not only no more ledger paper (sigh), but organizational paradigms are very different, cost pressures are huge, and regulations/adherence monitoring is much more significant. It’s a 24/7 continually changing social-media-enriched client-focused experience, very different from how I thought my career would be way back when.

I’m continually grateful that I have been able to continue in the practice of accounting, in a sector of it that I’m happy to be in (nonprofits, and entrepreneurial entities), in physical locations that are often Downtown and always transit-friendly, with organizations that are doing great work and people that are truly wonderful.

The social media result is that I’m here, but talking about myself as others do gehts nicht – it’s not going to happen.

I’m thinking now, after being away for a while and within my current complex work situation, that I may write something once a quarter or so, about distillations and non-specific accumulations that might have relevance.

The whole rest of the time though, my online presence is about the goals of my work, which is to support entrepreneurs, creativity, adaptation, communities, and best possible futures. Sometimes that support lends itself to writing, such as new technologies or new impactful situations etc.. but I like to support the writing of others who have invested much time and energy in doing that well also – I respect their commitment to that process.

There, hopefully we’re all still standing and no lasting damage has been done.I know I feel Better.

So you see, my lack of original writing: it’s just the way my work is.

Although I know it’s true – the one constant in life is change!

Comments/feedback always welcome! Thanks for visiting.

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Filed under Accounting, Business, Community, Entrepreneurship, Minneapolis, NonProfits, Social Media, St. Paul, Technology

Pinterest: Exciting new outlet.. but be careful!

Pinterest – located at pinterest.com – is a social photo-sharing website. Users can establish accounts, and then set up collections of images that reflect their interest.

Other users can browse their collections, ‘like’ various items, collect images from each other, and establish mutual interest relationships and so on.

Launching as a closed beta in March 2010, the site has in stages opened up to the public, and has generated a lot of enthusiasm in the process.

On August 16, 2011, Time magazine published Pinterest in its “50 Best Websites of 2011” column.(Wikipedia)

Just in the last few months – December, January – the site has been skyrocketing with users. It crossed the 10 million user mark last month, being one of the fastest sites to do so.

Users love it’s visuality, ease of use, and it’s ability to facilitate relationships with others of similar interests. It links in with Facebook, Twitter, has an RSS feed feature, comes with WordPress widgets and there’s an iPhone app for it too!

But recently, awareness has been growing of downsides for users of the site. In particular related to the very use of images that is such a big part of its appeal.

I literally only heard of this site about a week ago.

A few days ago, I retweeted this tweet about it:

56 Ways to Market Your Business on #Pinterestj.mp/yt2cO8 via @copyblogger RT @brasonja #in

And that tweet of mine was RT’d about 4 times, more than almost any other of my tweets. Clearly it is a topic of interest right now! So as I began to read today more concerns about the site, I thought I’d pull together this blog post about it all.

Here is a clearer link to that article on CopyBlogger: .

It talks about a wide spectrum of ways to use Pinterest for marketing your business, everything from social media immersion techniques to branding to traffic analysis techniques to webinar support. Seems all very exciting and wonderful, but read on, please!

Another Pinterest-excitement tweet I saw recently:

How the medical industry is using (and could use): Pinterest bit.ly/zaonKE RT @MelissaOnline

This MedCityNews article showcaseshow the medical industry already uses and could even more use Pinterest to boost patient morale, improve patient education and, of course, engage in cutting-edge marketing activities.

This page also mentions the revenue stream aspect of Pinterest, which involves affiliate marketing via Skimlinks and changing the codes linked to images to replace the original marketer with Pinterest . That practice, described further in this MarketingLand article: is generating interest and concern as more people become aware of it.

But copyright theft is a much more serious concern, since it involves legal ramifications that are completely beyond what users have in mind when they sign up to use Pinterest. This BusinessInsider article describes those concerns.

In a question and answer format, the piece explores the idea that Pinterest may be more illegal than Napster was, due to its use of images not owned by the user, thereby violating the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). Pinterest actually ‘requires’ that each user ‘own’ rights to the images they post, but they in no way reinforce that requirement.

This article explores the fair use argument and how it applies to Pinterest (and Tumblr, for that matter), and also mentions that Pinterest grabs whole sites when people ‘pin’ an image from that site, making it all even more serious.

Pinterest makes users even more uncomfortable in its statement that it reserves the right to sell any image posted by a user. This article by RWW mentions that several businesses, after initially signing up to use Pinterest, almost immediately closed their accounts as they more fully explored the implications. What it boils down to is that, if a user posts a photo which they don’t own the license to (a license given them free, world-wide, very broad and open rights to), they could be sued for posting it (and thereby granting Pinterest the right to sell it).

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Filed under Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media, Technology

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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