Robot Building for Beginners by David Cook is, as to be expected, a beginner’s guide to building a small working robot. In this case, the robot’s body is mainly constructed from a sandwich container, so the robot is named Sandwich. Its intended usage is to follow a line. I purchased and read this book in an effort to understand more about my colleagues and work at my employer, Neuron Robotics. I was not disappointed.
In order to get Sandwich constructed, Cook walks the reader through various aspects of not only robot building and design, but also basic electrical engineering concepts. While the book is certainly no substitute for even one semester of Electrical Engineering, it does help to bring some understanding to a layman like me (in the interests of full disclosure, I majored in Philosophy in college, but my father and father-in-law are both engineers, and my husband is an engineering draftsman. I have heard some of these terms before). Terms like multimeter, capacitance and resistance are explained fairly well, and in a lively and engaging style that never talks down to the reader.
Cook’s good humor extends to a section showcasing equipment that he’s fried by making various mistakes. He makes it clear: be safety-conscious and budget-conscious (he provides specifics and current pricing for most of the items used and referred to) but recognize that, sometimes, stuff is just going to happen. You’ll break or burn things, or just not get them right the first time. Shrug it off and move on — it’s all a part of the learning experience.
The book is large and difficult to digest except in small bites. It is intended as a step by step guide to Sandwich’s construction, but I think a better usage — in particular for laymen who are reading the book but not actually building the ‘bot — is as a reference and resource guide.
It almost makes me want to try soldering again — but I’ll have to fight my coworkers to get to the soldering station.
The device that is used to access Facebook and the speed of its connection”
EdgeRank has less importance than it had, but it’s not quite gone from the mix. It consists of –
“Affinity: The closeness of the relationship between the user and the content/source
Weight: The action that was taken on the content
Decay: The freshness of the content”
Dyer lays out four steps.
Optimize Facebook content. Test what’s working, and what isn’t. What are people clicking on? And are they clicking through to your site? Look at Google Analytics for your site, and determine which content is the source for your Facebook-generated traffic.
Create incentives for sharing content. Whether that’s offers, contents, or just can-you-believe-this types of posts, create the kind of content that people want to spread to their peers.
Work a multi-network campaign strategy. Use hashtags; they show up in all sorts of places, and not necessarily on Facebook. Put your hashtag in all of your promotions, e. g. blogs, television commercials, literature, etc.
Track data, and act on it accordingly! What’s happening with your links? Where is your audience coming from? Dovetailing with step #1, be the company that knows where your traffic is really coming from. Know where your audience is clicking.
1. Title Your Post – Place asterisks at the beginning and end of your first sentence of text to make it bold, treating it like a blog post title.
2. Introduce Your Post – Offer a short précis of the subject, as if you were writing a newspaper article.
3. Ask Questions – Encourage engagement by asking questions, either in the body of the piece or at its end.
4. Include an Image – If you’ve got great images, share them as full images.
5. Mention Influencers – When appropriate, mention key influencers in your post. For example, I mentioned Allton as he is the original author of the work and deserves full and proper credit.
6. Include 2 – 3 Hashtags – Google+ will add two or three hashtags, but it will copy the ones you provide, so give the program the right hashtags.
Plus three extras –
7. Share to your Blog Notification Circle – This is not for you to spam everyone and anyone. Instead, as Allton recommends, set up a Blog Notification circle where you specifically ask people if they want to be notified of your new posts, and then only add them to that circle if they respond that they are opting in.
8. Respond to Comments – Once you’ve shared your post, take the time to respond to people who take the time to comment and engage you. Show appreciation, answer questions, and demonstrate your expertise.
BONUS: Include a Pin It Link – There is great synergy that can come from having a strong Pinterest presence alongside Google+.
Want more tips on how to use Google+? Go straight to the source!
Shama Hyder Kabani’s prose style is engaging and direct. It’s great to learn that, if you go to her own website, the way she writes is an obvious reflection of the way she really speaks. Major points for authenticity.
Shama says that the three main social media areas/sites you should be focusing on are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Forget most others. I would agree although I think that MySpace is still somewhat useful if you are marketing a band. If, though, you aren’t, the Big Three are, well, they’re not the Big Three for nothing.
The idea is to present your company (and, by extension, yourself) on all three with a kind of what I like to call professional intimacy. That might sound like an oxymoron but the idea is, be genuine and sincere but also hang back in terms of too much sharing and togetherness. Your customers want to know about your company and your product, to be sure, but a little personalization is fine (and, in fact, can help to build trust). But too much personalization is not so great. Your prospects and customers really do not wish to hear that you’re going in to have a root canal.
Shama’s three points come under the ACT acronym:
Attract – bring the prospects and customers in with good, lively (and up to date) content
Convert – turn your prospects into customers (and this may take several visits by them before this happens) and
Transform – turn successes into magnetic forces of attraction
Attraction is your brand, your outcomes, your differentiators. Social Media marketing is extremely good for this. Clarity of communications is key.
Social Media is a less optimal tool for converting strangers (prospects) into clients (paying customers). However, it is good for converting strangers into information consumers, which can often be a major step in moving them along the path from prospect to client.
Tranformation involves social proof, e. g. we’re more inclined to do something if we see others doing it.
Therefore, you have to do a good job, and use your success in order to attract more successes. That is, ask your clients if you can retell their success stories. Make it easy to buy and pick your tactics (means of marketing) last — you need to get the essentials (such as theory) in place first.
Strategy is the big picture. Tactics are the when, the where and the how.
Blogging is also key. The idea behind blogging is three things:
Educate – use your blog to add value by giving away good information.
Market – make it attractive to buy and
Sell – make it possible to buy.
The book is a brisk read. Of particular interest are the testimonials in the back. As you go along, you realize that Shama is practicing what she preaches on every page of the book. And, it worked, didn’t it? If she got you to buy her book and check out her website, then she’s already converted you to a client. All she needs to do is sell you her services and she’s hit 100% of her target. The most amazing thing is, even after you realize how much you are being marketed to, you just don’t seem to mind any more.
I have been in the social media space for years, long before the term was even so much as coined. I go back to Usenet.
It may be tempting to just plunge right in and start hyping your work on Facebook or Twitter or the like. After all, everyone else is doing it, right? It seems so easy. It doesn’t hurt that it’s free. But I want you to take a step backward because we are going to do some basic strategizing. It’s called the POST Strategy.
P is for Personas
A persona, or a buyer persona, is the person who would typically buy your work. This is demographics, generally including gender, age range, and race. It can include highest educational level attained. It can also include marital status or sexual identity, time zone, and sometimes household income.
I know you don’t have the bucks to hire a team to build a demographic profile. That’s okay. You’re more or less covered online, if you don’t mind some vagueness.
Once you’ve got your general demographics together, write a short thumbnail sketch of a biography of them. E. g.
Steve loves science fiction as he enjoys the escapism elements. He’s in his thirties and lives in a small town where he has a technical job. Unmarried, Steve wants to escape into the strange worlds that are a staple of science fiction. Because Steve is bi, and he’s in a small town where that might seem strange to his neighbors, he is semi-closeted. He wants to read about people like him or more or less like him. He enjoys action and adventure but doesn’t mind some romance in the storyline so long as it’s not dominant.
This is a description of your ideal reader. That person might be a lot like you. They might turn out not to be. Plus you might find more than one persona. That’s okay, too.
O is for Objectives
We’ve all got pie in the sky notions, where we want to be recognized for our art, published, get an agent, make a mint, and hobnob with the best writers we can think of. Or maybe that’s just me. But you’ve got to be realistic here.
What’s realistic? Breaking even, on a first novel, is probably not realistic. But selling at least one copy to someone you do not personally know? That’s a good, attainable goal. It may not sound like a lot, but this is where you start.
To know your objectives have been met, do some measuring. Amazon shows sales data, and many places show read counts even if you aren’t publishing for $$ at this time. I personally use spreadsheets but I’ve got a data analysis background so this appeals to me. You don’t need to go nuts! You can get by with just vague ideas, such as to see that sales have gone up, or you haven’t broken 1,000 reads, that sort of thing.
S is for Strategy
What’s your plan? Allow me to suggest one thing right off the top – get HootSuite or Tweetdeck or Buffer or some combination and learn how to use their scheduling features. Don’t be tweeting in the middle of the night. Schedule stuff. Trust me; scheduling will save your offline life.
T is for Technology
Now let’s start thinking about platforms. Do some more research (Pew is awesome!). Where is your buyer persona going online?
Our mythological buyer persona, Steve, is fairly young and male. I bet he likes Tumblr and Twitter. Plus he’s on Facebook because many people are. While he might be on Pinterest (it’s not 100% female), the likelihood is greater that he’s elsewhere.
What’s your mission? To post your promotional links where Steve is. Or Betty. Or Lakeisha. Or Hong. Or José. Or whoever your buyer persona is.
Want to know more about POST Strategy? Go to the source!
This barely scratches the surface. There’s a ton more to know! Where can you get started? I just so happen to have a book for that. It also just so happens to be free. Ask me anything, here or on Wattpad in the comments for that book. Am I missing something? Does anything need to be updated or clarified? I gladly take requests to update the Social Media Guide.
Recently, Grassroots Giving Group published some great Social Networking tips. I agree with their ideas but would like to expand upon them a bit.
They were essentially exploring when Facebook and Twitter are useful. Here are some of their ideas:
Announcements – the idea is not only to announce upcoming or new things but to also add links in order to drive traffic. Agreed! But what I would add is a targeted landing page. If you’ve got people coming in from Facebook, why not create a new landing page whereby they are personally welcomed (e. g. Welcome to our Facebook Friends!). The best part about that is that, since it’s a separate page, Google Analytics will track the clicks separately. You’ve got a fighting chance of getting good metrics, so you’ll know whether your announcement of the opening of a new branch of the Widget Factory played better on Facebook or on Twitter.
Sending shortened website addresses on Twitter – their idea is to use an URL shortener. Of course! But why not use one (such as from Social Oomph) where you can get some click metrics? Using both a personalized landing page and an URL where you can get click metrics can give you an even clearer idea of how traffic is flowing. Oh, and they don’t tell you why you should shorten an URL on Twitter (even if the URL fits), but I will: it’s to make it easier for people to retweet.
Planning in Advance – nothing new here. You should keep up with things and plan in advance. Absolutely. And that means, when you’re hot and creative, write, write, write! Keep drafts and ideas going, and also think about how you can expand on your own blog entries or others’ (such as this blog entry is). Get yourself a stable of other blogs/blog writers, news sources, etc. Who inspires you? Who interests you? I am not talking about repeating or stealing, of course. Rather, expanding and commenting. These are perfectly legitimate ways to update your blog.
This Day in History – I absolutely love this idea. Commemorate occasions in your company! There’s got to be something you’ve done that is good blog fodder. Of course, not every day is memorable, but it’s another way to keep the pipeline going. If July 12th is an important day in your organization, make sure that the July 12th blog post and Tweets are ready to rock and roll, and they are updated to the correct year. Heck, in SocialOomph (mentioned above), you can schedule Tweets. Why not schedule the Tweets for July 12th (or whatever your special day just so happens to be) and be done with them?
Quote Collection – I like this idea, and I think it can be used for a lot of purposes. This is not only quotes about your specific organization or its work, but even more generalized quotations. Surely there is something from Shakespeare (My Kingdom for a horse!) or the Bible that could work for you in some capacity or another. It can be another jumping off point for creativity.
Ask Your Audience Questions – I think this is more useful if you have a somewhat large and actively commenting readership. While a rhetorical question is lovely, I think it’s just better if you can get at least a little feedback. Otherwise, it feels like you’re just shouting out to the wilderness.
Staff Introductions – this is another great idea. While the Neuron Robotics site already has staff biographies, that’s another way to get the readership acquainted with who’s making the product.
Notes from Your Day – I don’t know about this one. Your day, maybe. Mine? I guess this is, in part, centered around the event reviews I’ve done. But otherwise, my days tend to be spent, well, here, blogging. Which may or may not be thrilling to others. But I can see where my coworkers could have some very interesting days. The process of invention is pretty fascinating.
So there you have it. Some pretty amazing ideas for getting and keeping things going. And, while the post wasn’t, specifically, about blogging, it rings very true for that very specific — and sometimes challenging and elusive — task.
I suppose, in the back of my mind, when I was first starting to write (age four or five or thereabouts), I had an idea about becoming a published author. I also wanted to, at times, be a cowgirl, a veterinarian, an archaeologist and other things. Becoming, for real, published, is one weird world.
Let me tell you all about it.
No, I was not bitten by a radioactive spider.
For probably any aspiring author, the road is a long one. When I first started writing, it was what you’d now refer to as graphic fiction. I was a child and so I would draw little figures in addition to a few words. As I got older, the words began to dominate, and I have never written, as an adult, a graphic novel.
I wrote fan fiction for a while and then began to migrate over to wholly original fiction. I had wanted to write for NaNoWriMo back in 2012, but I did not have a decent idea that year. I also wanted to make what I wrote wholly original fiction. In 2013, I was fortunate enough to come up with a great idea and so Untrustworthy was born. I submitted it to a contest being held by Riverdale Avenue Books and was lucky enough to be chosen as the winner in February of 2014. My thanks, of course, goes out to the wonderful people there, particularly Lori Perkins and Don Weise.
The Start of the Wild Ride of Publishing
I took a few months for things to really start clicking along. Lori was busy, there were other submissions, plus of course they had a business to run. I was in school at Quinnipiac and so, while I noticed the time passing, I was okay with it.
In November, Lori contacted me and we started to get down to the nitty gritty. This included editing the manuscript, getting together a blurb about me, getting an established person in the business to review my book (a thousand thanks to Cecilia Tan!), and deciding on a cover. I felt that the aliens in my novel would be too difficult to draw, and making up a model like them would be costly (such things are at issue if you’re a first-time author, folks) and wouldn’t necessarily evoke my vision. Hence I instead suggested an image of broken glass. Adding to that effect were the concepts that (a) the moon, Wecabossia, would be nearly the same size as Caboss, so it would be rather large in the sky and readily observable during daylight hours, and (b) the Cabossians breathe methyl salicylate, or wintergreen oil. Those gave the cover designer (the incomparable Scott Carpenter) some design elements and ideas to work with. I truly love the cover and how the huge moon gives a sense of foreboding as the one broken window amidst a mass of perfection is a nagging hint that something’s not quite right.
Nuts and Bolts
There are a ton of strange things that go along with being published. For one, you need an Amazon Author page! But you can’t make one until your book is actually for sale on Amazon, in any format. Furthermore, Amazon’s many domains have different rules. Author pages can be made and tended to on Amazon.com (the US), Amazon.co.uk (the UK), Amazon.fr (France), Amazon.de (Germany), and Amazon.co.jp (Japan). Amazon Author pages exist on Amazon.ca (Canada), but you can’t change them! For Amazon.it (Italy) and others, there are no Author pages. My hope is that Amazon makes this feature more uniform across the board.
As for what to put into your Author page, you need a good recent headshot of yourself (mine is from two years ago; I could use a newer one) and links to things like your Twitter stream and your blog RSS, if any. For works that are available in countries whose native tongues are not English, you might want to have a trusted friend help you with translations (or do them yourself, if you’re able to). Trusting Google Translate is not in your best interests. Get a native speaker.
Dealing with autographing books is interesting when you’re being asked to do this by someone hundreds of miles away. I’ll pass along this tip from New York Times bestselling author Dayton Ward: arrange it all through PayPal. For him, the best way to take care of this is collect the cost of the book and two types of postage: one is to his home or a post office box, and the other is to the fan’s location. I’ll add to this – if it’s a person you know, and you don’t mind giving out your address (or if you have a PO box I suppose your relationship with them would be moot anyway), have them have Amazon (or Barnes & Noble, wherever your book is available in dead tree format) ship the book directly to that location. Then all you need to collect is return postage. Conceivably, someone who doesn’t want to work with PayPal could even supply a money order and slip it in the mail to your PO box.
Reviews are gold and you need them. How do you get them? If your friends are buying your work, once they say they’ve finished, ask them to write you a review. Reviews can be short – a five-word sentence is better than nothing. There are also book bloggers. Do your research and find some that are (a) semi-available, (b) write decent, unbiased, honest, and constructive reviews, and (c) read your genre.
It’s all rather satisfying but also a tad freaky. Every now and then, I just want to run around screaming – I’m a published author!
Here’s the scoop. At attorney named Sean Conway wrote a blog post, about what he perceived to be an injustice going on in the Florida courts. According to him, “Judge Cheryl Alemán was asking defendants whether they were ready for trial only about a week after their arraignment”.
Okay, so far, so good.
Except Mr. Conway decided to use inflammatory language in order to get his point across. He did go through normal channels initially, and got no satisfaction (the problem with the one-week prep lead time is that the lead time, apparently, is normally some four or five weeks. Hence Mr. Conway felt there was an injustice being perpetrated, e. g. the right to a speedy trial).
He apparently referred to the judge (who is now deceased), as follows:
“evil, unfair witch”
“seemingly mentally ill” and
“clearly unfit for her position and knows not what it means to be a neutral arbiter.”
Now, let’s see. I can go along, perhaps, with unfair as a descriptor, particularly if other defendants, perhaps in other area courts, were being given more lead time. After that, Mr. Conway, what the heck are ya doing????
Seriously. Why was there any sort of a belief that this sort of overly inflammatory rhetoric would be acceptable, at any time, ever? Now, I am not, specifically, suggesting a Bowdlerization of language, or of using softer words to describe hard actions. But we’re not talking about genocide here! We are not describing babies being pummelled or any other awful image you’d like to conjure up (I leave this to your own devices, Gentle Reader). Rather, it is a difference in lead prep time of three to four weeks. And it’s nothing more.
Is it a Civil Rights violation? Possibly. I’ll even give him that one, although neither he nor I are the arbiters of same (er, that’s why we have courts in the first place). Rather, the over the top language is just, well, it’s a very, very bad idea.
Surely the point could have been gotten across with far less churning. Conway feels that the invective was necessary to get the point across. According to the article, “[t]he Florida Bar, however, concluded that he had violated five ethics rules, including Rule 4-8.2(a) (making false or reckless statements regarding the qualifications or integrity of a judge) and Rule 4-8.4(d) (engaging in professional conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice). Conway argued that his actions were protected by the First Amendment, but the Florida Supreme Court rejected this. In the end, Conway acquiesced with a public reprimand and a fine of $1,250.”
No one said he couldn’t talk or write about this. It’s just the overly inflammatory rhetoric, truly, that is at issue here, although, by making the statements, possibly without too many supporting materials, he could’ve still been dinged on Rule 4-8.2(a), the “false or reckless statements” clause. But, truly, the very stuff that he added in order to try to make his post stand out (e. g. the over the top statements and name-calling) were, most likely, the very things that made the Florida Bar not only sit up and take notice but also ding him an amount that, for some people, equals close to one months’ worth of mortgage payments. It’s not a huge sum, but it’s not a small, one, either. Clearly the Florida Bar was less than pleased.
So, what have we learned here? To my mind, it’s two things. One, we’ve got Free Speech! Yay! Awesome! And, two, that doesn’t mean we should be reckless with it. Certainly, if we’re gonna make accusations with our free speech, we might want to do some research and back up our statements well.
Oops, we’ve also, I hope, learned a third and fourth thing as well. Three, Social Media is actual speech and it’s pretty dang permanent, so we might wanna think twice before putting stuff out there. And four, yeah, we’ve got free speech (yay!). It doesn’t mean we have to be jerks about using it.
Now, this subject has probably been done to death but, here I am, doing it all over again. Perhaps (hopefully!) my perspective will be fresh and/or of some value.
This post is inspired by The ABA Journal’s take on Social Media. Yes, it’s the online magazine for lawyers. And they’re going on about Social Media, much like I have during the year and others have, as well.
And I can’t help feeling that that, in and of itself, is feeding the ole hype machine. Is Social Media hyped? Well, let’s put out an article about just that, and we’ll rev up the hype machine and get the word out and and and …. Suddenly, there’s hype about the hype.
There is, perhaps less of a hype issue than there is one of unrealistic expectations. I suspect that most people, if they give Social Media more than a passing glance (and, in particular, if they need to touch on it for business), take one look at it and think: free. Ooh, goody! This marvelous free thing will supplement (and perhaps eventually supplant) all of the things I have to actually pay good money for! My wealth will increase, in an incredible and exponential manner, because I can put my advertising and marketing dollars elsewhere, outside of traditional (read: expensive) channels, and instead shove it all into some investment that catches my eye. Llama ranching, perhaps.
Okay. Let’s back up. The real thing is, Social Media marketing isn’t really an apples to apples comparison with traditional marketing. It’s more like holding a town hall meeting and seeing what people have to say about your product. It’s like doing community outreach (e. g. having your company send people to work at a soup kitchen or build a house). It’s like a million networking events. In short, it’s that dreaded, over-used term: relationship building.
And creating relationships is hard. And messy. And not necessarily terribly free, at all.
I have seen, in many instances, when software on a website changes. In particular with community forums, people tend to freak out. They have a mislaid proprietary interest in a whole lotta sameness. They want the site to be the same from day to day, because that’s familiar to them. Moving the post button from the left to the right, or changing its color, is akin to moving their cheese. It tears at them.
But, ultimately, they figure it out. And they give it a chance and come back, and pretty soon, so far as they’re concerned things have always been the new way, and were never the old way. For them, it’s not about the tools; it’s about the people.
The same thing should be true for you — and that should knock the hype right out, and for good. It’s not about the tools. It’s not about Twitter, or Facebook, or Foursquare, or Groupon, or Yelp, or MySpace, or LinkedIn or StumbleUpon or a billion others. It’s about the people.
The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott
The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott was a fascinating book that was required reading for Quinnipiac University‘s Social Media Platforms course (ICM522).
The premise is, like a lot of other books about the Internet and social media marketing, that marketing has become less of a one-size-fits-all/push system and has instead involved into a far more balanced bilateral conversation.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the rules themselves, which are in Chapter 2, on page 31 and are as follows –