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The Original Social Media Guru June 8, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Book Reviews, Networking.
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If you spend any time doing anything on the internet, you will soon stumble across a special kind of expert who is just dying to help you improve your virtual social life.  These self-professed Social Media Gurus promise to reveal deep secrets about Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, all designed to garner you more followers, more attention, and more interest on the internet.

Let’s face it: the vast, vast majority of Social Media Gurus know just a teeny bit more than you do about all this stuff.  If you really wanted to learn their secrets, ten minutes with Google (or Bing, which is growing on me) will make you a Social Media Guru, too.  And if you really want 100,000 followers, or friends, or connections, one mortifying YouTube video should do the trick.

All these social networking tools are just communication tools: conduits for information. You can learn the mechanics of any of them in a day, and absorb most of the culture in a week.  But that doesn’t make you any more social, although you may have made a good start at a network.

What matters is what you send over those conduits.  The information you share and how you respond to others is what’s important. It’s the content that counts, not the mechanics of the tool.

Most modern Social Media Gurus want to teach you the mechanics.  This is not social networking, just like understanding the mechanics of a piano is not going to make you a piano player.  Very few Social Media Gurus can teach you what to send using these systems, once you have mastered the mechanics.

Sadly, the very best Social Media Guru died in 1955, before any of these things were invented. Fortunately for us, he wrote down all his secrets well before he passed away.  That Guru was Dale Carnegie, and his secrets are revealed in his book, How To Win Friends & Influence People.

If you have never read this book, do yourself a great favor and pick up a copy.  For Amazon’s bargain price of $8.70 ($0.96 on your Kindle) you can learn the secrets of the greatest Social Media Guru in history.  Carnegie’s book is easy to read, with each concept presented in a short chapter with supporting anecdotes.  If even that’s too much for you, he summarizes each chapter with a one-line moral at the end.  The anecdotes are delightful, recalling social situations from the 1920’s and 1930’s that are still relevant today.

If you have read this book before, read it again.  You will have the same revelations all over again, and be even more committed to changing the way you communicate with people. Carnegie was among the first, and is still the best, Social Media Guru.

I won’t even try to summarize Carnegie’s advice here.  Click the link above, buy the book, and start your summer reading with the one book that could truly improve every relationship you have.

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Book Review: Unlocking The Sky January 14, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Book Reviews.
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Everyone knows the story of the first airplane flight: working tirelessly in their Ohio bicycle shop, Orville and Wilbur Wright develop the first modern airplane, which they successfully fly on the coast of North Carolina in December of 1903.  They go on to refine their design and earn their rightful place as the fathers of modern aviation.

Right? Wrong.  Following their initial success, the reclusive Wrights continued their work in Ohio but shared absolutely nothing with fellow aviators of the day.  Although the Wrights borrowed extensively from those who preceded them, they spent the rest of their lives litigating against anyone who dared to build any other aircraft.  Their secretive nature impeded early aircraft development and nearly ruined the true father of modern aviation, Glenn Curtiss.

Seth Shulman shares the story of Glenn Curtiss in Unlocking The Sky. Detailed and well-written, the book recounts a crucial phase of modern technology in an accessible and compelling fashion.  Truthfully, the book is hard to put down and is easily read in an evening or two.

Glenn Curtiss began his career as a motorcycle designer, building fast small engines that propelled him to a world land speed record of 136 MPH in 1907.  At that time, lightweight engines were the real key to aviation success, delivering enough thrust to push early inefficient aircraft into the sky.  With no formal education, Glenn Curtiss found himself designing and building the first modern aircraft, far exceeding the achievements of the Wright brothers.  He made the first publicly announced (and witnessed) flight in 1908, covering a kilometer before a panel of judges, and set the world speed record in Rheims, France a year later in 1909.

His achievements incensed the Wrights, and they spent the rest of their lives trying to destroy Curtiss.  Using a few patents that had been inappropriately interpreted by the courts, the Wrights sought to bankrupt Curtiss and regain control of aircraft development throughout the world.  The Wrights went as far as to force the Smithsonian to remove references to Curtiss from their history of aviation as a prerequisite to displaying the Wright Flyer in the museum.  (The Flyer was initially displayed in the British Royal Museum for years until the Smithsonian acquiesced to Orville Wright’s demands.)

Beyond the excitement of early aviation and the drama of the Wright litigation, Shulman’s book offers other lessons to modern developers one hundred years later.  Although Shulman did not set out to write a book about open versus proprietary software development, anyone versed in the field cannot help but draw conclusions between the distressing behavior of the Wrights and the open, collaborative nature of Curtiss.  Curtiss believed in sharing everything he learned so that the dream of manned flight would be realized and enhanced.  The Wrights sought to contgrol and protect even the smallest details of their airplanes to extract as much profit as possible.

Certainly, the Wrights represent the most restrictive approach to technical development.  Curtiss, while making seminal contributions to the field of aviation, never fully capitalized on the value of his inventions.  Readers seeking to find a happy medium between the two will certainly enjoy learning more about early aviation as they read this compelling, fascinating book.