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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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The Demise of Print Media February 9, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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As a long-time subscriber of PC Magazine, I was distressed to discover that, as of their February 2009 issue, they were abandoning their print edition and moving to an all-digital online publication model.  I’m the first to admit that it seems a bit odd to complain about an all-digital magazine in an online blog, but hear me out.

I’m all for nifty modern conveniences like computers and electricity, but paper provides a delightfully tangible user experience.  The feel of the paper, the sound of the pages, the weight of the magazine, even the smell of the ink: all contribute to the complete sensory experience that is reading.  While you can shift the glyphs to a screen of some sort, you cannot replicate the complete feel of reading.  As more and more publications move to electronic distribution, these non-visual components of reading will just disappear.

I like to read magazines cover-to-cover.  I don’t jump to articles, I get there in time, working through the magazine page by page.  You never know what you’ll find as you read your way to the main body of a magazine. A well-edited magazine places all sorts of interesting tidbits in your way, rewarding your sequential trek through the pages.  Letters, reviews, product announcements, and the like decorate the linear path through a magazine.  Digital magazines have no such meander available to you; you are expected to click (and click and click and click) to go directly to the stuff that interests you.  You may find what you want, but you often miss what you need.

Just as important, magazines go everywhere.  Planes and trains, cars and boats: you can read them anywhere.  When I backpack, I stick a magazine in my pack, to be read by headlamp in my tent after everyone else has gone to sleep.  It’s tough to get a connection in the woods; indeed, the whole point of the trip is to get disconnected.  I don’t want to drag a “reading device” with me on these trips; I just want to bring paper covered with words.  Plus, you can start fires with a magazine in a pinch.  Its name to contrary, no one is going to be burning a Kindle any time soon.

Finally, there is my visual impairment.  I suffer from a vision condition called “getting old.”  Teeny letters on teeny screens were much easier to deal with ten years ago.  Now, by the time the font is big enough to be seen, I can only fit a handful of words on the display.  Constant scrolling is the true enemy of comprehension.

So farewell, PC Magazine.  You shall be missed.  I hope PC World can stick it out a bit longer, but I am not banking on it.  I’ll hang on to my anachronistic role as long as I can: an agent of digital change clinging to ancient media.