You are currently browsing freshwatermermaid’s articles.
Speaking of keeping things short…
Marketers: start hiring viners to produce your YouTube video ads. Viners create hyper-short, shareable stories in very simple and sometimes very memorable ways.
YouTube has in-stream ads (pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll) that show an ad that can be skipped after 5 seconds. As a result, brands have been wringing their hands trying to make ‘unskippable’ ads, while users engage ad blockers more and more often.
Interruption is the problem. Even if your ad rocks, I didn’t search for it. I searched for something, found it and then clicked on it, only to then see your message about dish soap taking up my time, and, here Canada, my pricey pricey data.
This is where Vine beats YouTube. Vine can tell a whole story in just enough time for the skip button. You can then go on to additional storytelling, or just shorten your ad and call it an act of audience goodwill. Don’t ask me to not skip your ad because it’s so good. Make your ad so good that all you need is the five seconds you get. Hire a Viner, someone adept at making feature films that are only 7 seconds long.
Think you can’t get your point across in less than 30 seconds? Take inspiration from these brands who get it:
How many business op-eds have you read lately that talk about doing what you love? It doesn’t feel like work if you really care about it you know; just find your inner passion and really unleash it on a hungry business market and all things will flow from there.
It’s Labour Day. And on this day, I think it’s worth pointing out that the people who share this ‘advice’ are often people who have the exceptional privilege of doing so. Yes many of them ‘started from nothing’ and business people are certainly not the only ones to share this enthusiasm for ‘doing what you love.’ You might hear it from activists, artists, people who can claim some kind of higher calling for the work that they do.
What interests me though, is what these messages do to our perception of work and of value. There is a sense that because you like to do what you do, you don’t need to be compensated as much because it’s somehow a reward in itself.
No entrepreneur worth their salt would ever accept your haggling down the price of their product or service just because it’s what they’ve committed their whole life to doing. In fact the very opposite is true – they become expert at doing something they care about, and so they can charge more than those who are just putting in the time, because their product is better.
Why then, is it okay to haggle with musicians over the cost of their labour? Is it because music is fun? Is it because you can easily get some part-timer who practices perhaps once a week? Or is it because we all agree that no-one would pursue music unless they wanted a fun and easy ride? At an average income of 8K a year (yes, eight thousand a year, on a good year) this does not wash.
Oh, well it’s about talent.
Yes, the question of talent, a silly notion propelled by our addiction to biological determinism that suggests some inherent, foundational explanation for the ‘calling.’ Whether or not anyone is more adept than someone else at a certain task has no bearing on what you ought to pay them. None.
I’m just going to repeat that because we apparently live in a meritocracy (news: we don’t) and lots of people seem to think that pay scale should be related to talent. In fact, pay scale should be related to the amount of investment that goes in to a product. It is likely that someone with talent will still need decades of training to actually do anything with their skills. Musicians aren’t born knowing chord progressions, nor do they Socratically understand how to hand-make a reed (shout out to my Oboe pals!) it’s possible that they learn slightly faster than others, but ultimately, ‘talent’ helps guide life choices, such as which school to go to or what to do for a living far more than it predetermines success.
If a surgeon expressed a natural aptitude for dissection and anatomy (I leave to your imagination the grizzly details of how such an aptitude would be discovered) would you be more or less likely to pay that person for surgery, knowing that they practiced with their friends, every once in a while. Less? But this person is a genius! a Maestro! still squeamish? Good. We pay for experience, training and confirmation of excellence from peers.
Musicians who make a living at music study fucking hard. They work their asses off on weird schedules. They play until 1am and then drive all night to run music camps for your kids at 9am. The happy go lucky lifestyle you imagine comes much closer to opening a bakery at 4am and then leaving to serve cakes at a wedding – suit, tie after sweating all day near hot ovens – until 9 or 10 at night.
“Well my kids’ music teacher told me once,”
Don’t even continue that sentence. When I tell work stories, I share the funnest ones. The time I got to tour a place that manufactures Cyclotrons (they make pharmaceutical isotopes without nuclear waste) was a cool, fun day. It was also a really long, hard work day. It would bore you to tears to hear about my sitting at my computer or in meetings and then the traffic in getting there, it’s exhausting for me, so I don’t tell you that. Instead, I focus on the accomplishments, the fun stuff and it’s assumed the hard work comes with it.
On this day, take a moment to consider what goes in to a Master’s Degree in anything, let alone a specialized activity that requires it’s own muscle-memory, notation and ear-training. If you absolutely NEED a non-fiction proof-text, go with Gladwell’s Outliers. Think about what you’re paying for, and if you’re really reflexive, try thinking about the damage done by an industry that tells you a pop song is worth 99c or less, and that a whole album should only cost you less than ten dollars. Comparing that valuation with live music is definitely a mixed message, but it’s not up to the artists to bear the brunt of our sick way of valueing the arts.
Go to a show tonight. Pay for the music. If the club is passing a hat, put money in and then tell the manager to pay the musicians. If they’re not passing a hat, buy a few drinks and put your money where your mouth is.
We all deserve to be paid to do what we love.
Even musicians. (and writers)
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
“You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” ~ Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride
The word Utilize has a meaning.
It means: to use an object (or idea, or device, or word, you get the drift) for something other than its intended purpose. In 19th Century English, they’d say “put to use” which does not equal “use.”
Here’s how it works:
You can utilize a phone as a flashlight. You can’t ‘utilize’ a phone to reach out to your customer base. Because phones were made to contact people who also have phones.
Let’s try another one.
You can use a travel mug for a delicious boost during your commute. And you can utilize a travel mug to collect drips under a leak while you go and get a plumber. You can’t ‘utilize’ a travel mug for carrying a perfect latte to an offsite meeting any more than you can ‘use’ a travel mug to bean someone on the head with when they overuse the word utilize without knowing what it means.
Here are some synonyms for utilize: hack, MacGuyver, improvise, repurpose, upcycle, makeshift, appropriate, apply, exploit, put to use, take advantage of, exploit, turn to profitable account.
I’m certain that last one will seem tricky because the people most likely to misuse the word ‘utilize’ are in the SEO writing community. They are my people. I love them dearly, but due to our industry standards for keyword density, I have to read them misuse ‘utilize’ way more than any supportive friend ever should. Do you hear me SEO peeps? Stop hurting me!
Just because you can ‘turn a landing page to profit’ you don’t also by definition get to ‘utilize’ the latest techniques and tools. Most of the tools and tips you’ll see on a page about SEO and content creation will discuss how to ‘utilize’ some damn thing to its ultimate potential. Which is impossible.
WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE.
You can use something to it’s fullest, or you can utilize something to solve a problem.
Which is great! Utilize is a great word. It speaks to creativity, lateral thinking, innovation, ingenuity and problem-solving. We should be holding up this word as a standard for hackers, makers and innovators everywhere. When we suggest that sales managers ‘utilize’ sms technology to sell $0.50 coupons, we devalue a word that should mean the very best in human invention.
So now you know what it is and why it’s important. Go forth writers, and use the word utilize sparingly, and with the reverence language deserves. Language is the tool with which we create our reality. Don’t utilize language to ruin our expectations of one another. Use it to make something incredible.
I met Jack Layton just once and I’ve often wished I could have sparred with him again.
A good friend of mine has been with the NDP for many years, and when Mulcair was introduced in Quebec, he invited me to an event on avenue du Parc. I showed looking for some lively debate and microbrews and I wasn’t disappointed. I still had an election hangover from the most recent Federal election nearly two years prior, which had boosted the eminently reckless and vicious Stephen Harper to the highest seat in the land and I was looking for blood. Many of the campaign tactics and nonsense strategies I saw from the Greens, the Grits and yes, the NDP had left me supremely disappointed.
I also had a favourite, and to this day I still do. Gilles Duceppe is a devout separatist, but he is also one of the strongest socially progressive candidates out there, and as a party leader with a huge voting block who doesn’t actually want to win, he often said what he really meant without concern about alienating an audience outside Quebec. I knew that the NDP shared similar social values though from a Federalist perspective, but in my view they had failed to hit hard on the crime bills, on women’s rights, on the environment, taxes and myriad other issues. I was looking for these hippie-dippy yahoos to answer me when I demand why they wouldn’t do the obvious thing and start bitch slapping the Harper radicals up and down the Canadian shield.
I mooched around for a while, like any good proto-journalist, listening to conversations, sipping my lager. I nosed around with my friend and finally got a chance to talk to big J. I congratulated Tommy and introduced myself and asked if we could talk about the last federal election. Now remember, I’m a Quebecker. We have a shall we say, les relations complexe with religion. So I asked, completely aghast, why didn’t the NDP see what I saw? How is it that the disgusting and underhanded way that the Harper radicals used the machinery of the church in Quebec to gain ground wasn’t all over the front page of the NPD website and further, how is it that alternate religious groups weren’t engaged by the opposition?
Jack was very good natured and at first tried out some cheerleader boilerplate talk. Though I was focused on how many seats were lost to Harper in Quebec;
Jack: Well we won unprecedented seats in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
Me: Yeah, but there’s more of us here in Quebec than in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
That’s when he and I really got into it. He was being more than polite by standing there at his own event and really listening to me raise my voice (okay, I was yelling by the end) about the distinct need for a social democratic party that isn’t afraid to get savvy and vicious and religious. To get personal and really delve into communities that aren’t Evangelical Christian and who deserve representation, and to seek out Evangelicals who aren’t happy with the folks who want to represent them. I got really agitated and passionately decried the laxness of the last federal election strategy, and the failure of anyone on the left to call Harper out on what he was doing. I demanded to know why the social contract of this country is not treated like a moral issue, why attacking healthcare via penny-pinching accountancy or domestic violence by way of nonsense preserving-the-family narratives aren’t a serious moral failing of the blue-in-the-face-psycho-cons.
He looked at me and started talking about a growing network of religious groups, from Sikhs to Hindus, to Orthodox Jews who all care about social justice and want strong representation in Parliament. He really listened. And when I asked him where the hell this initiative was in the campaign and why the hell no-one was shouting from the rooftops about this network, he handed me a card and said we should talk about it. He asked point blank what he thought I should do about it. I said, “I think you should get on it. Start talking about this stuff on camera and online, not just in meeting rooms.”
I never forgot that. He didn’t try to weasel out of the conversation, he didn’t try to out-manoeuvre me. He gave me a lot of time from what I’m sure was a demanding schedule and he responded honestly. It’s kind of sad when something as simple as that is extraordinary, but there you have it.
He was a giant of a man. I confess, not my favourite politician, and not someone I regularly voted for, (as a woman in Quebec, I knew Gilles, the Silver Fox was a stronger advocate for me than anyone else), but he was present. He didn’t have some deranged vision of a strange new country, and he didn’t dismiss what I consider vital. He was there and he heard me.
The landscape now is vastly different than it was. Crazy things are happening and our parliament – not our country – is far more polarized than it was. Quebec is exposed and deeply vulnerable, Danny Williams is no longer a voice from the East and a deeply radical religious community has unprecedented access to the House of Commons. I mourn a person of deep conviction and immutable vision. A person of character and skill. A man of class and generosity. I’d love nothing more than to drive back to Ottawa, stop in at Darcy McGees and debate with Jack about the best ways to move our country forward, maybe over a glass of smoky amber…ah but now I’m romanticizing.
Canada has lost a strong voice and a tireless leader, but not the vision and not the insistence that we can be a stronger, better, more intelligent, creative and caring nation. Whomever holds these values, take some good advice from our dear friend: don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.
Jack’s final words to all of us.
Please donate to the fight against cancer, in honour of Jack.
Like many of you, I occasionally suffocate. This is relatively easy to manage on the day to day, daily snorts of steroids, a puff here, a yoga pose there, but there are times when stress, colds, allergies, anxiety and bad luck all conspire at once to throw you to the floor, thrashing like a very unlucky goldfish.
Last night was just such an occasion, where I was half-carried heaving and lurching into an emergency room and asked questions I couldn’t answer verbally. Since treatments for this particular disease tend towards masks or tubes, then puffs or drips, then a break, then repeat; asthmatics have a particular sense of the sheer tedium of sickness. If you don’t go to get treated you just gasp and heave for hours until someone finds you – DULL! And if you do go, there’s not much for your oxygen-deprived brain to focus on but ugly linoleum and why the air return vent is so dusty.
Last night, I had a series of canisters – taste bad – with a constant oxygen feed. This kept me neatly strapped to the gurney I was sitting on, next to my panicked and exhausted honey to whom I am forever indebted for dragging my listless, meat-sack into hospital whether I like it or not. Sweetie, I love you more than everything.
Anyway, I was sitting on the gurney trying to focus on getting air into my lungs. This is not a soothing, meditative process. My back ached from coughing and hunching, the cords in my neck felt like they were ripping through my skin and my sinuses all started bleeding in harmony once the oxygen came, oxygen not being known for its moisturizing properties.
So, I opened up my new Sony E-Reader. This isn’t a plug, you can read around elsewhere for that. It’s precisely what I wanted, DRM – free and easy to use. I first flipped to my collection of short stories, thinking I could easily lose track of how many I had read before someone came to do my blood test. Hah!
Then, between the blood and someone losing my urine sample, and then finding out it wasn’t lost, the test results showed what they needed so no-one needed to keep looking for it, I started Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue. I got to page 11 before it was time for my x-ray and I put it down, but let me tell you, subtle she ain’t!
When waiting for x-ray results and news on whether or not another treatment is forthcoming between room changes, I settle in with other political fare, The Audacity of Hope, by Barak Obama. It’s a different kind of schmaltzy than Palin’s book, and while equally self-serving, has far fewer spelling mistakes. Point: Obama.
The chaos of an emergency room shift change and an x-ray result might incline one towards Sudoku, for the soothing peace of knowing there is one single answer and you just have to quietly find it. Do not succumb! Doing a Sudoku puzzle is the only step between adding planes outside that separates an ER from a second-rate airport. The sheer panic that settles over you will induce another attack.
After another treatment, I was in a more contemplative mood, and I chose to stare up into the softly bristling beard of my sweetheart who had fallen sound asleep in the chair next to me and was certainly dreaming of the moment we could finally leave. Counting snores, comparing ceiling tile quality between rooms and mentally reorganizing the lighting design are all beneficial pass times after treatment five.
There are any number of other items to read, or just let pass through your mind in its heightened state of oxygen deprivation can help while away the time between the bubbles, the blows and those happy words, ‘here’s your prescription, you can go home now.’ I offer them here, for the respite of bored asthmatics everywhere:
- Fishing for orderlies
- Counting how many resident MDs will ask you the same questions as are already filled out on your paperwork
- Find the washroom * this one is REALLY fun! Test your skills at arcane cartography and hospital sign interpretation!
- Who’s sicker? * This game is great. You look relatively healthy, sitting up and responding to aural cues; while shaky, vomit-covered, half-asleep sickies eye you as they’re wheeled by. Don’t wave, but make a little notch on your hospital bracelet for everyone you think won’t make it through the night.
Get an e-book, or if that’s not affordable, get some crayons and an activity book at your nearest dollar store. Scoff now if you will, but at 3:45 am you’ll be striving to colour those posies within the lines.
Titles to avoid – some reading is not for the air-deficient brain, and some titles, while inviting during your regular day to day, aren’t advisable when you’re sitting in a hospital room, plugged into oxygen that comes directly out of the wall. Avoid the following:
Anything by Tom Clancy. Especially his prison work.
Lovecraft mythology. I love it personally, but suction sounds take on a sinister edge all too easily
Any business or marketing book. Haven’t you been through enough?
And beware, reading Hunter S. Thompson in a hospital scenario could in fact propel you all the way to wellness, but equally possible is your immediate delusions of persecution and grandeur, which will invariably not end well, and certainly won’t end in a book.
Good luck, bored asthmatics in hospital rooms everywhere. Prednisone, Salbutamol, good reading and A FUCKING CURE be with you.
In a move seen as a play at Skype loyalty and to enhance the already ubiquitous Gmail features for homes and business, Google released Google Voice from Beta in the last week of June. It appears at first to simply be a carrier-neutral voice app for the Nexus One, with lots of cool SMS features to make Gmail even more desirable over other email clients.
The Google Android platform and Android phone has thus far been treated as a way for the search and advertising company to compete with Apple technology. In a move that would please every Maker and consumer choice advocate’s heart melt, Google released the phone directly from its shop and refused to tether it to any particular carrier. The price is steep, but it means that you can use your phone however you wish, with whomever you choose.
The stage is now set for voice search on the Nexus One to overtake all mobile search. It’s the most efficient form of search on a mobile – qwerty, we love you, but our thumbs are about to fall off – and voice to text technology, while imperfect, could very well be programmed to adapt itself to uniquely understand your tone, inflection, voice and even breathing patterns. Goog-411 isn’t just about finding stuff for you on your mobile, it’s about finding out about you.
The company that masters this will rule mobile search because all of a sudden, we’ll be able to search on our phones, not try to search on our phones, as we do now. We’ll still need non-voice search for anything that we don’t wish to say out loud – at least in public – but make no mistake: once this works and Nexus Ones go down in price, search will mean voice search. Everything else will be non-voice search, or type-search or something equally handicapped with a descriptor. Voice search will be the norm. Gene Roddenberry would be proud.
It’s also going to be a lot of fun. Let’s say my phone gets to know me a little. It has a clock set to local time, and my voice changes throughout the day. When I ask for Coke, at 3pm it will know where I can stop for a can of soda. At 3am, it’ll dial a private number for me.
When I say chocolate milk, it will understand me and know that I didn’t mean milk chocolate. Instead of the current did you mean keyword guess which is genius, if a little condescending (and great for spell checking), it will get what I mean, because it’s MY search engine. It knows and understands me far better than my PC at work and even my laptop at home.
I personally can’t wait for any of this and neither can my carpal tunnels which need a break from all my txt to search. Instead of tiny pads that don’t fit my fingers because they have to fit everyone’s fingers, my phone will awaken and ask me what I need and then send for it. Instead of MacGuyver making do with what I have, I’ll be Knight Rider, with the coolest, most responsive, awesomeest technology ever developed.
Did I mention that all of this will be free? You see, every brand big, small and teensy will fall all over each other to get recognition on Google Voice Search. So much so that the program, perhaps even the phone can be offered for free. Yes, instead of freemium and the tethers that come with it or ads that interrupt your searches, videos and even conversations, Voice Search stands to outpace pc searches so much that it would be bad business to keep the technology locked behind a price wall.
The next generation technology will have video lip-read response for use by the hearing impaired. A phone for deaf people? Yes. Virtual currency is coming, but it can’t move forward if we need to type in search terms, choose sites, type in passwords and confirm sales with a qwerty keyboard. When we need to write the constitution of a digital world, we’ll crack out the keyboards and roll up our sleeves. …or just dictate it.
Phone: dial Alex. And bring me chicken for lunch! Bookmark video for commute home and confirm gas bill payment. All at once, right now.
Canadian content laws seem like a hokey, even outdated concept that only affects public television and radio programs. Sadly, poorly produced shows are the face of these laws, but the meaning of them is so much more. Beyond the production and regeneration of Canadian culture, diverse, self-contradictory and downright strange as it might be, it’s also a source of invisible revenue that means jobs for many Canadians.
Invisible because our Minister of Culture and our Minister of Industry – all of them, not just the current Rt. Hon – actually fail to account for the money created by Canadian companies. Companies who pay taxes, employ Canadians and who generate cash by making films and events we all want to enjoy. With this in mind, it is unconscionable for the Rt. Hon. James Moore to discuss any leeway for Carl Icahn, the chainsaw artist who ripped apart many a company seemingly just to see if he could, to purchase Lions Gate Films. Incorporated in British Columbia and operating out of California, Lions Gate, simply put, makes money. Lots of money. Money that goes to Canadian people and products.
In these unstable financial days, it makes no sense to allow a thriving business to be upended for one person’s personal gain. And this would be a big shakedown. Icahn was turned down on his last offer and now proposes to replace the entire board of directors with people sympathetic to him.
Lions Gate is at the moment, in a position to consider a bid on the library of MGM Inc. It is the biggest indie film and television studio in Hollywood and it’s ours. But ironically, if the company were to incorporate in the US, it would be safer from this type of hostile takeover. Company executives have already been in talks to do just that. If Canadian assets must either face being bought by hostile American ahem “entrepreneurs”, or moving to the US where there exists more legal protections against such activities, we may as well close the office of the Minister of Industry and Heritage too, while we’re at it.
It’s understood just how good some of our projects are and though much on the CBC and CTV fall short of Oscar-winning Mad Men (produced by Lions Gate), our cultural gems are far ahead of Taxicab Confessions and the Biggest Loser. We’ve got something special that deserves preservation and protection for reasons beyond mere sentimentality. Little Mosque on the Prairie might not be 24, but that’s sort of the point. We have a culture to protect, whether the business world or the Ministers in charge of it think so.
We make money for Canada. The Conference Board estimates Canada’s cultural sector generated $46-billion, or 3.8 per cent of Canada’s GDP, in 2007. And, according to the Canada Council, in 2003-2004, the sector accounted for an “estimated 600,000 jobs (roughly the same as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas and utilities combined).” Not only that, we make Canada for Canada. This country is ridiculously large and living life in one part of it is extremely different from living anywhere else. The diffusion of experiences, the discords, disagreements and discussions that take place around what it means to be who we are in different parts of our world is worth preserving, protecting and funding.