Independence Day and the (Content-Fueled) American Revolution

American flag

When working with new or potential clients to help “demystify” social media, one of the notions I like to instill is that there really is no such thing as social media. It’s all just media.

Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are all just the communications tools of our generation — just as email, the television, the typewriter, and even the printing press were in previous generations. In each case, the key to success wasn’t the tool, it was strategy put into using the tool, and the content produced by the people owning the tools.

So, today, as we celebrate the 237th birthday of the United States, I wanted to take this opportunity to recall how our brave forefathers (and mothers) utilized the communications tools of their time to win our independence.

In the years leading up to 1776, the dawn of new content tools allowed ordinary citizens to communicate, protest their government and disseminate unique, compelling content that competed with the government-run press.

In fact, up until just prior to the American Revolution, there was only one newspaper in all of Virginia. That paper was heavily subsidized by the royals and, as such, was a de facto government mouthpiece.

As this research paper points out, the dawn of the Stamp Act changed all that.  This new law not only hurt the taxpayers economically, it also served to silence opposition voices by making it tougher and more expensive to produce printed materials.

So — a number of enterprising Virginians decided to bring in their own newspaper to compete with the government mouthpiece.  The research paper mentioned above points out:

Great changes came to the printing business in Virginia in 1765. About the time that Parliament passed the Stamp Act, a second printer was encouraged to open another shop in Williamsburg, marking the beginnings of competition in that field. This was an important watershed for the culture and government of the colony, for it signified a shift in the power structure. Control of public messages began to relocate from the royal government to the consumer marketplace. This was a transformation that had a major impact on civic discourse in the colony.

And Thomas Jefferson himself wrote:

 “Until the beginning of our revolutionary dispute, we had but one press, and that having the whole business of the government, and no competitor for public favor, nothing disagreeable to the governor could be got into it. We procured Rind to come from Maryland to publish a free paper.”

While we recall the muskets and cannons that painted the Revolutionary battlefields, we should also remember the content that helped fuel the Revolution.

Back in the 1770’s, they may not have had television, or Twitter, or Facebook, but they had ideas and they had printing presses. In this case, those were at least as mighty as the sword.

Today, as we see conferences, blogs and podcasts declaring that content strategy is the future of America, just remember that, if not for the winning content strategy of our forefathers, America may never have been founded.

I hope you have a Happy (and safe) Independence Day.  Happy Birthday, America!

5 Steps to Conquering Email Overload

Conquer email overload

If you’re like me, you can check your email, go into a meeting, and come out to find 30 new emails in your inbox. And, for me, it used to be worse.  That is, until I realized the direct correlation between the fullness of my inbox and my daily stress level.

A former boss once told me that a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind.  The same definitely goes for a cluttered inbox.

So, how can you beat email overload?  Here are five tips that have helped me in a big way. Continue reading “5 Steps to Conquering Email Overload”

App Review: Morning

Morning app review

One of the newest in a growing line of mobile productivity apps is Morning (by Tamper) for iPad. Billed as an app designed “to make your routine easier than ever before,” I loaded it on our iPad mini to check it out.

My first reaction? Nice, simple, and clean.  As you can see from the screenshot above, it’s mean to be a simple morning dashboard where you can quickly view your to-dos, the time, some news, the weather and your favorite stock picks.

The Good:

  • As I wrote above, it’s nice, simple and clean. 
  • The ability to pick a variety of different colors for the dashboard is nice.
  • For someone, like me, who likes to focus on 2-4 key priorities each day (rather than an endless and growing to-do list), the “reminders” panel is perfect for a quick glance and “check off” of those priorities.

The Bad:

  • The app developers write that, “with 8 customizable panels, the possibilities are endless.”  But, in reality, it isn’t that customizable. It’s rather limited.
  • For example, as of now, the reminders panel is only able to pull from your iOS “Reminders” app. I would’ve preferred the ability to choose from a variety of to-do apps, such as Google Tasks or (this would be excellent, though I’m sure complicated to develop) from a to-do list in Springpad or Evernote.
  • I don’t have any favorite stocks that I watch on a daily (or even yearly) basis, so that panel is useless to me.  But there’s nothing else with which to replace it, so I’m stuck looking at stocks every morning.
  • The news panel is customizable, in so far as I can enter various news Web sites and select how many stories I’d like to be delivered. However, you can’t click on the summaries or headlines to view the full stories. It would also be nice to be able to share the stories (via social, email, etc.)

Summary:

I can’t help but feel that this app is a Google Now-wannabee.  There’s nothing wrong with that — but this app is much more static, simple and limited than Google Now. To be sure, Google Now isn’t perfect, but it’s ability to send me predictive updates based on my recent search history, my calendar, and even my airline reservations, puts it way ahead of Morning.

I think Morning could be made much better with some of the basic tweaks I mentioned previously.  For now, I don’t think the app is worth the $3 entry fee.

Part of the problem is that I’d really like a dashboard for my iPad that is more like … well … my Android phone.  That is, the ability to add helpful widgets that allow me to glimpse at my calendar, the weather, my latest text messages or calls — without having to open up an app.

But that’s the topic of a separate, future blog post.

Why I Deleted the Vaunted Mailbox App

mailboxapp

During the past month or so, I’ve read countless blog posts about the wonders of the new Mailbox app.  I’ve read about the app’s million-person waiting list — and the app’sacquisition by Dropbox.  I’ve had a friend tell me how the app has change the away he process email.

And so, after weeks of waiting for the app, and then a week of using the app … I deleted it from my iPhone. Continue reading “Why I Deleted the Vaunted Mailbox App”