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Archive for March, 2009

"What is Real?"

March 24th, 2009

My son and I are having lots of conversations these days about what’s “real” and what’s not. Some of this prompted by scary things he sees on TV (oh how I wish some of them WEREN”T real). Some of this is prompted by his new fascination with Calvin and Hobbs. “Is Hobbs real?” Mostly I think he is growing up and trying to make some sense out of the world that comes flying at him at lightening speed every single day.

As we were drifting off to sleep last night, he wanted to know if he could make his beloved stuffed dog “Polka Dots” real. “What does real mean?” he asked.

You know what’s coming next, right? I mean does anyone explain “Real” better than Margery Williams in The Velveteen Rabbit ? Promised to read this to him tonight. In the meantime, I thought I would share this timeless passage with all of you. :-)

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

Twitter can absolutely change the world ('cuz it just did!)

March 20th, 2009

By now most of you know that Twitter is my hanging out place. I’d rather be there than just about anywhere (unless you count hanging out with the Young Turk – which trumps any other groovy experience I can think of). The reason I love it is that it is so engaging, so accessible – so REAL – plus it is just plain fun.

Some pundits call it a complete waste of time – which is insulting considering the connections I make and others make that would be impossible without the intimacy of Twitter. And, after yesterday’ 12for12k blowout – I dare anyone to substantiate the ‘waste of time” argument. Here’s what went down:

The formidable Danny Brown (@DannyBrown) dreamed up 12for12k to make a sizeable financial impact on causes that are making the world a better place. Causes such a children impacted by war, children suffering in silence after enduring sexual assault and children who are hungry every day. By leveraging the reach of social media, Danny knew the potential to make a difference was world-changing.

January and February’s results were thrilling – as the word spread and momentum grew. The 12for12k avatars starting popping up everywhere! Those of us who’d caught Danny’s vision were certain this project was worth our efforts.

And then March happened. The unofficial mayor of Twitter, Scott Stratten, threw his formidable Twitter clout – plus his personal time and energy into raising awareness and serious cash for www.strength.org which is dedicated to ending child hunger. As Scott so eloquently said in his video “I don’t need to talk about child hunger, I don’t need to explain child hunger. It just needs to STOP.” (Just thinking about his passionate emotion as he delivered those words bring tears to my eyes as I type.)

Others joined his effort and donated incredible prizes and giveaways as Scott masterminded a 12 hour Tweet-A-Thon with a goal of raising $12,000 in a single day – all on Twitter.

Prizes

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taligilletteDonated by Tweep: TaliGillette

Sterling Mama Necklace ($250)

TaliGillette.com

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sexythinkerDonated by Tweep: sexythinker

iPod Touch ($229)

iPod Touch

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_mschechter_-12k-avatarDonated by Tweep: MSchechter

HONORA Sterling Silver. 9+mm ringed freshwater pearl necklace, 17″ ($140)

Honora

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_mschechter_-12k-avatarDonated by Tweep: MSchechter

HONORA 9+mm ringed freshwater cultured pearl bracelets, set of 3 ($140)

Honora

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jengrooverDonated by Tweep: JenGroover

Butler Bag, Hybrid – 2009 collection ($165)

Butler Bag

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12for12k-banner2-1Donated by Tweep: Anonymous Donor

Kindle2 eBook reader. Valued at $359

Kindle2

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redhotcopyDonated by Tweep: RedHotCopy

She Factor Marketing System (DVD’s, CD’s & Workbook) (value $697)

Red Hot Copy

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ergotron_1Donated by Tweep: ergotron

Neo-Flex™ Notebook WorkBase Perfect for extensive laptop computing ($99)

Ergotron

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rossbeckhamDonated by Tweep: RossBeckham

Flip Video Ultra Series Camcorder, 60 Minutes (Orange) ($149)

Flip Video

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mi_webspreadsgifDonated by Tweep: webspreads

$AU250.00 Amazon Gift Card (Australian Dollars)

Amazon

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daimanuelDonated by Tweep: daimanuel

P90X complete fitness program. Value $119.

FitnessTown.ca

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12for12k-banner2-1Donated by Tweep: Anonymous Donor

$500 worth of free reservationless conferencing (Toll Free Conference Calls and/or Web Conferencing)

AccuConference

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jonfieldsDonated by Tweep: jonathanfields

Signed copy of the book “Career Renegade” and a 1-hour, private phone marketing/strategy/brainstorming consult (normally $500 value) CareerRenegade

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matt-leonard2Donated by Tweep: mjleonard

Wii Fit is a combination of fitness and fun, designed for everyone, young and old. By playing Wii Fit a little every day, you, your friends, and your family can work towards personal goals of better health and fitness. ($90)

Wii Fit

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johnmorganDonated by Tweep: johnmorgan

Internet Fuse 6-Month Marketing Bootcamp Enrollment (date TBA) ($1800)

InternetFuse.com

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jasonfbDonated by Tweep: jasontryfon

Custom Epic Twitter background like mine that you see on my profile ($150)

MassiveSocialMedia.com

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vpgDonated by Tweep: VPG_Printing

1000 Full Color Biz Cards from

Vertical Printing
At 9 am yesterday morning, Scott sent his first tweet-a-thon tweet:

Help end child hunger, and win incredible prizes during my 12-hour Tweetathon #12for12k Details: http://ub0.cc/77/3b

Immediately people jumped to support the cause. They gave, they tweeted, they retweeted and then they gave some more. It was an amazing thing to behold. There are over 100 pages of tweets in just over 24 hours just about the tweet-a -thon – that is a ton of tweets! If you really want to see the emotion and fervor created in a community around this event – just to a little twitter search on #12for12k and be prepared to spend several hours reading some of the most passionate tweets I’ve ever seen!

Granted the prizes were awesome – Scott gave everyone who donated $120+ a free, personal website review plus 10 raffle tickets for the prize drawing. And throughout the day other rockstars stepped up with additional incentives to encourage donations. And yes, there were some big gifts – Yanik Silver and Kevin Nations gave $500 each – for starters. BUT, the most frequent tweet of the day had this theme: ” Just $12 will help”.

Those $12 gifts added up. People gave up lunch. They gave up lattes. Tweeps who are unemployed gave. Tweeps with big pocketbooks gave. (Even the Young Turk gave but if I write about that I will cry and not finish this post.)

Heroes sprang up everywhere determined to make the Tweet-a-Thon a success. If you gave, if you tweeted, if you encouraged others to give – you were a hero yesterday. Your super-power is caring enough to get involved. The world needs as many of you as we can muster. And let me just take a sec to say “Well Done.”

Then my heart literally stopped at 3:20 EST when this tweet went out:

 WE’RE OVER $12K BABY!! http://ub0.cc/3H/09 #12for12k YOU GUYS ROCK!!

Twitter busted through the $12,000 goal in just about 6 hours. It would have been easy to stop there and claim victory. The unstoppable Scott Stratten, however, just kept right on tweeting. More people stepped up, more gifts were made, more tweets, more re-tweets. And, by the end of the day over $13,000 was added to the coffers of www.strength.org so they can do the heavy lifting on stamping out child hunger.

Clearly I could write a book about this because there were so many people involved and so many moving stories to share. I’m betting over the coming weeks and months, The 12for12k Tweet-a-Thon will be held up as an example to all on the amazing power and importance of this community we’ve built called Twitter.

I am proud to be part of an online world that never, ever stops amazing me. You guys ROCK!

(And I want to say out loud and in public that Scott Stratten is MY hero. I totally and completely adore you, Scott. Thank you for what you did yesterday. You changed lives that you will never even know about. And you changed the future of Twitter. Well done.)

An Interview with Wizz-e.com Founder & Mompreneur, Jeanette McLeod

March 9th, 2009

Jeanette_mcleod_ebooks4kidz_jpg

Lucky me! I got the chance to interview fellow mompreneur and super savvy business woman, Jeannette McLeod, about her new company, Wizz-e.com. She’s figured out how to harness our children’s insatiable appetite for the internet to strengthen their reading skills – awesome!

Below Jeannette, a Londoner and busy mom of four, kindly answers ALL of my questions about Wizz-e.com!

I am fascinated by the concept of Wizz-e. Can you tell me how the idea got started?
I recognized in my own kids that the computer was far more attractive than sitting and reading a story book. They are such a tech savvy generation. I thought – ‘why not leverage the medium they love to get them reading more?’ Rather than converting existing picture books to PDF files and putting them on the internet I thought how the technology can bring reading and books to our newest generation in a way that makes reading fun? After all if it is fun, they may not even know they are learning!

You’ve chosen e-books rather than traditional “hard” books? How did you come to that decision?
It really was because if I asked my kids to read to me they would be itching to get up after 10 minutes- give them the opportunity they would be on the computer for hours!! So rather than children spending their time just playing games, I wanted to create something that would educate and help children to learn. My ultimate goal is to give these books to developing countries so that they can learn to read. Without an education starting with the basics of literacy real world-wide change cannot happen. There is obviously the environmental impact of paper books too.

I’m in the “my son already spends too much time on the computer” camp, and I know other parents who are too. What can Wizz-e ebooks provide that traditional books cannot?
Kids want to use the computer. They enjoy it. They are comfortable with it. So why not use the time that they already enjoy spending on the computer encouraging them to read rather than just playing games? Traditional books, (unless read aloud by you), cannot model fluency, cannot check the child has paid attention to the story, cannot help emerging readers by telling them a word they do not know. Reluctant or disengaged readers can be encouraged to start to enjoy books in a format that is less threatening. Learning to read is an involving process, I am a time pressured mom too who can leave her kids to read/listen to a book on the computer whilst doing homework with the other. It is not a substitute for a bedtime story or reading a book together. It is another choice for helping kids learn to read and develop a love of books using the technology they enjoy.

Your e-books also carry an environmental message, don’t they? Can you tell us a little about that?
Paper books consume far more of the world’s resources in their production than eBooks. Firstly, there is the paper production – trees required to make the paper, as well the paper making process, chemicals produced in making dyes for the inks. Transportation of the paper to the factories. Then the books have to be printed, stored and then shipped. All this uses energy. There is also the sad fact that books that do not sell are simply destroyed (more than 1 billion books in 2006) some are re-pulped (using energy) others end up in land fills. Our eBook business is completely electronic. Apart from the energy we consume using computers in their development we do not have a detrimental impact on the world’s resources.

Some key facts:
-The carbon footprint of a book (2006 figures): 8.85 lbs, in carbon dioxide terms
-The total carbon footprint of the book publishing industry (2006 figures): 12.4 million metric tons
-The biggest contributor to the industry’s footprint: using virgin paper – forest and forest harvest are responsible to 62.7% of the industry’s total carbon emissions.
-The book world (in the U.S.) uses up more than 1.5 million metric tons of paper each year.
Full report here http://www.ecolibris.net/book_industry_footprint.asp

On your site you have free e-books and e-books for sale. Is there a difference in quality between the two?
Absolutely not. We chose to have 2 free books so that customers can understand what eBooks are all about. Each of the books for sale allows customers to view the first few pages, including animation and audio files.

I’m thinking about getting a Kindle. Can I download e-books from your site for my son to read on it?
No. The kindle and other eReading devices only have black and white screens at the moment. We are working on producing versions of the books which will be compatible with the iphone/itouch and similar popular (‘Android’) devices as these do have color screens. Color e-readers, from all the rumors, are on their way!

Are you looking for children’s authors to feature on Wizz-e?
Yes, we are currently accepting submissions from children’s authors. The ‘author zone’ on the site gives lots of details about what we are looking for. We’d also love to hear the views of children’s authors.

I love that you’ve chosen to donate 10% of your profits to the non-profit Room to Read. Tell us more about what they do and why you chose them.
I was truly inspired by John Wood after reading his book ‘Leaving Microsoft to Change the World’. Room to Read is a charity that builds schools, libraries and computer labs in developing countries. They also sponsor education for girls. 76 million pre-school children throughout the world are not enrolled in school. Without access to even a basic education real world-wide change cannot happen. Room to Read is set to change this. If you haven’t visited their website or read the book I would urge you to do so.

How has the launch of Wizz-e impacted you as a mom? Were you ready to enter the world of the mompreneur?!
I think the kids have got used to me being attached to my laptop!!! But it does mean I am home rather than dashing out of the house early in the morning and not back until it is late. They appreciate that. And it comes in handy when there is a request for a fancy dress outfit with less than 24 hours notice!!!!

I think the biggest impact on me (apart from the spreading backside from sitting at my computer all day!!) is spending my time doing something I love and believe in passionately. If I have an impact on one child who is turned back on to reading and develops a love of books I will be happy. My ultimate goal is to have that same positive impact on millions of children, giving them a better chance to make a change in their lives.

And what do your kids think of your business?
I am lucky that our 4 kids think the business is really cool. I have involved the younger ones in the design of the website, choosing voice over artists, trialing the books etc. One of the kids has also done the voice over for one of our books for charity (yet to be released). He really enjoyed that.

Anything else you’d like to share?
My passion for starting the business is to get kids reading. There are over 750 million adults who cannot read or write. Let’s not let the next generation contribute to that figure. With teaching resources in schools stretched and more parents working and unable to spend time everyday reading with their kids something has to fill that gap. So by leveraging the technology that kids feel comfortable with and enjoy using they can read and have fun at the same time.

What an amazing concept and company! Thanks so much Jeannette for sharing your time and energy!

The ROI of Relationships

March 4th, 2009

Someone asked me to explain “the point” of social media the other day. I thought for just a moment and replied “It’s about building relationships.” “And what is the point of that?” came the skeptical retort. “Well, no matter what you are selling, you are in the business of relationships. If you don’t think you are, you’re business isn’t going to be around for very long.”

For those of you who have signed up for my “3 Keys for Kicking Up Your Maverick Mojo” you know that one of the most critical Keys is called “It’s All About Relationships”. I passionately believe that if we are going to succeed in today’s economy, it won’t be because of whatever fabulous product or service we offer, it will be because of our ability to foster truly meaningful relationships.

How do we do that? It starts with a true desire to be of service. Does a client or even a competitor have a problem you can solve? Or perhaps you know someone who can help them solve it? Step in and offer to be of help, even if it doesn’t make you a penny. The deposit you just made in the relationship bank will reap huge dividends in the future.

I’ve had clients do this and then they’ve gotten calls “out of the blue” from the people they helped that led to very lucrative business transactions.  A coincidence? No – it’s just an example of the ROI of Relationships.

Because I am so committed to doing business this way and because I can’t ever learn enough about how to do it better, I am thrilled that the theme of SOBCon09 is “The ROI of Relationships”. An incredible panel of speakers will teach what they know and then we, the attendees, get to put our knowledge into action on a live project. Sound like fun, yes?! I’m going and hope to see you there!