The depressing truth

Many of you might have noticed a change in tone on the blog lately. My co-worker Jacob had this idea that controversial content gets noticed. Worse yet, rude and abrasive content is the best of breed. Not one to shy away from interesting experiences, I set him loose to create some less than appropriate content. Meanwhile, I went down the path of creating what seemed to be useful and productive content.

After a few posts and several weeks of downtime a few things stand out:

  1. Both types of content pulled in our normal readers
  2. Both types of content drew in new readers
  3. Jacob’s flavor of content had far more shares and reach

In a world where social shares equals curation, the idea that basic rants and absurdities are made more prominent than productive content both frightens and depresses me. It’s not that I find Jacob’s passion for railing against what he finds annoying, wrong. I simply question if his shock jock approach is really the best way to create a conversation. Is this the content we want our friends, family and co-workers to base decisions on?

Anyway, in reality I guess it’s just sour grapes. Jacob’s tone works because it’s entertaining. It’s unexpected and in some ways refreshing in its honesty. Perhaps that’s the difference in news and information. Even more, perhaps it’s the general attitude of content where we rely on the reader to add context?

The lesson in all this for me? Don’t stop taking risks. I most likely won’t have the ability to match Jacob’s tone and annoyance with products, but I won’t be stifling him either. Much like the radio, if you don’t like it then you don’t have to read it. If you do, then enjoy.

Do you want to hear more rants from Jacob? Let us know in the comment section below.

Google Docs (Sharing with teams)

It’s been quite a while since my last post, but in that time I hope you had a chance to try out Google Docs. Perhaps you’ve even taken the time to check out Google Drive. In this session I’ll show you some of the ways you can use Google docs to share, edit, and collaborate.

Perhaps the most common use for Google Docs is to allow others to review and edit documents you’ve created.

For example, in our office we have an edit and review process for our e-newsletter. One or more people write stories that are sent to an editor and consolidated. From there the e-newsletter is attached to an email and routed to several people for review. Each person reviews and supplies edits and returns the document to the editor. The editor then manages and merges these changes. Simple enough but time-consuming none the less.

When I write content, I create a draft (roughness depending on mood) share it with my editor and my content experts. Content experts can modify the live document, and the editor can work within the same document. What makes it even better is they can all be working on it at the same time if they choose.

The biggest difference is that many documents become one document. So how’s it done?

First click the share button in the top right corner:

This will open the sharing box:

Use the “Add people” box to add the person you want to share with. Once a person is added you can use the drop down to the right of their name to select permissions for them. In this case I want to allow others the ability to edit the document. When you’ve added the people you want to share with, click done. This sets the permissions on the document, sends them an email with a link, and adds the document to their Google Docs for editing.

If someone you’ve shared with accesses the document the same time that you do you will see a notification under the share button at the top right of the page. Any number of participants can access the document and make edits simultaneously.

You can also see where other users are editing the document. Below you can see that I’m editing the text highlighted in grey, as another user is editing the text highlighted in pink.

Granted the system isn’t perfect, at some point somebody will overwrite, or delete something you wanted to keep. Google Docs offers a solution for this as well. Revision history is located under the file menu and gives you access to all document revisions.

The Problem with Pinterest

Like the inimitable fuzzy creatures of a similar alliteration, users of the social networking site Pinterest are reproducing like, err, rabbits. Just how fast is the little pinboard that could growing? According to never-wrong Wikipedia, in March of 2012 it surpassed LinkedIn and something called Tagged to become the third largest in the world.

I never really got it, though, at least, until recently. But I’m still not sure I get it. I mean, I get it in theory — Pinterest allows visual organization of items into categories, useful for storing, say, recipes, paint colors, carpet swatches, wristwatches, renovation ideas, or photographic inspiration — I don’t get it in practice and implementation.

Upon perusing the website for the first time, I was struck by a veritable avalanche of eye shadows, half-naked men, lipsticks, wedding rings, platitudes, eye shadows, wedding rings, half-naked men, platitudes, eye shadows, eye shadows, platitudes, lipsticks, half-naked men, platitudes, and eye shadows. I know the site’s demographic is mainly women (85% feels like the right number, although I’m too lazy even while typing this to source that for you or verify it in any way, shape, or form — think with your gut, not with your brain!), but it felt like I had stumbled onto a digital 14 year-old girl’s bulletin board. Surely the female form must have more varied interests than this. (But really, seriously.)

After further visits with and persuasion from female associations, I saw the merit of visually organizing food ideas, clothing ideas, and decorating ideas, and signed up an account.

And then I saw Pinterest’s dark, seedy underbelly.

  1. The vast majority of Pinterest users seem to be functionally illiterate. No, cupcakes are not Men’s Apparel. Neither are women’s engagement rings. Neither are pictures of naked men — technically, they don’t belong under any kind of apparel. Similarly, mascara does not belong under Cars, baby pictures are not a form of Travel, and god damn it, stop posting pictures of naked men and cupcakes everywhere.
  2. Pinterest forces a kindergarten-like atmosphere. You see, being mean or seeming intolerant are bannable offenses on the website.
  3. The site offers no way to moderate or punish users who pay no attention to the site’s organizational structure.

These three factors combine to create a sort of “wild west of kindercare.” You see, there’s kind of an unspoken rule of the Internet: Either your website is an unmoderated wasteland, or a self-moderating civilization, or a heavily-moderated fascist state. Pinterest tries to combine aspects of all three, and, I think, is suffering from a terrible disease from it.

So please, new found place for mascara pictures and also occasionally my well-organized recipes, pick a path and stick with it. Because I’m tired of the little girls running around in my room.