Just as clothes dryers eradicated clothes lines in most backyards ,and CDs overtook the production of Albums, email has put a crimp in old-fashioned letter writing.
Recently, my daughter spent eight weeks in Israel. I didn't send one letter. We talked two or three times a day --thanks to Skype and great international calling rates. I sent emails. But I didn't send a bone fide letter.
She commented on it when she returned. She had expected at least one letter.
Now, there's a Web 2.0 application called Shiny Letter that lets you create your letters on your desktop and then they'll mail it for you.
That's right. There's now a company that is in business that will take the letter you create on your desktop and they'll do all the stuff you may have forgotten how to do... Print it, fold it, put it in the envelope, lick the envelope shut, adhere the stamp and either leave it for your postal officer or actually take it to a mailbox or post office. And they'll do it for a mere $2.00 for a four-page letter.
"ShinyLetter is a very simple service, we have taken a low tech task & put it online, hopefully making your life easier & Grandmothers around the World happier :) Our service allows you to write a postal letter to anyone in the World, we then print out your letter, slip it in an envelope, address it, stamp it & mail it using the postal system. We mail from several locations around the World."
Why would you use it? Well according to Shiny Letter:
"CONVENIENTOur system has been designed to be very easy to use, we are open 24-7, write a letter whenever & where-ever you want, then let us get to work.
AFFORDABLE Just $2.00 for up to a 4 page letter.
COOL FACTOR Lets face it, it's a cool way to send a letter!
More features are underway & coming soon."
Now, there is one aspect of this service that is potentially cool. Shiny Letter has mail drops all over the world. So, it claims that instead of your letter taking weeks to arrive at an international destination, it will just take a couple of days.Of course, I didn't see any real tests of this theory
So Let's Create The Shiny Letter Challenge
I need someone from Europe, Someone from Asia, Someone from Australia, and someone from South America to participate. Here's what you have to do. Email me your address. I will send you three letters. One from Shiny Letter and two from USPS...one via airmail, and one just regular mail. All you have to do is send me an email when you receive each letter.
To participate, just send me an email with your mailing address.
As frustrated as I get talking to folks at call centers in India -- and it is a frustrating experience 90% of the time-- it is still better than trying to deal with companies who just don't think its important to give customers the option of a phone call.
Just today I wanted to try a new software called Notepager,I discovered it at a blog called Small Business Software which is run by the parent company of Notepager.
The concept sounds great. You install some software, create a recipient list and you can send txt messages via your computer. Why is that important? Primarily because I have a 17 year old daughter whose primary communication method is TXT messaging.
But also, TXT messages are a lot less invasive than the phone and there are many people I deal with in business that don't have a PDA or Blackberry Being able to send a quick TXT message to a regular cell phone is just easier than leaving a voicemail.
The only problem--I can't get it to work. I read the instructions but something is getting lost in the translation of the setup wizard. I am obviously not understanding something that I need to do.
I have tried it three times. I believe in the three strikes and you're out philosophy of doing business.
Yes, they have support forums up the yahzoo but I don't have the time or inclination to figure out which topic will provide me with the answers I need. Once I am at the point where I can't interpret the instructions, I want a translator and that usually means I want someone to talk to.
This company doesn't even have a technical support email system that I can send my questions to. So I sent it to the webmaster.If I don't get an answer soon I will be requesting a refund.
Then there is the design company that requests are discussions about layouts and creative design be conducted through a password protected communication system.
I sent the requirements, expecting the graphic designer would contact me to discuss the project. Instead they presented a layout. It was all wrong.
We gave feedback via their note system and explained what we wanted.They revised.It was still all wrong.
We gave additional feedback. I wanted to call. They don't do business via the phone.They came back with yet another design, and it was still wrong.
My client, who also believes in the three strikes and you're out philosophy of business, has instructed me to send them a note saying the job is cancelled.
Normally it is not something that I would do via a note. However, since that is how they want to do business, that is precisely what I did.
While I understand there is a benefit in having everything written so you have precise documentation, a quick 10 minute phone call would have been all the graphic designer would have needed to understand exactly what we were looking for.
After that call, if the graphic designer wanted to send a note confirming our requests.just for the documentation, then that would have been terrific.
But that's not how they are choosing to do business. Had they just picked up the phone at the beginning of the project, they would have saved time and kept a client.
On the one hand there's the Wall Street Journal declaring yesterday that "Corporate America Has Joined The Blogosphere" ( just not WSJ since I can't link to the article --subscription,baby) and on the other hand there is a major brouhaha in the PR sector thanks to the launch of Strumpette the randy, bawdy and tell all blog of a character named Amanda Chapel that promises to deliver "a naked journal of the PR Business"
In it's launch just last week, Strumpette demonstrated that she/he/they( it is a blog written by a character) knows how to get publicity. As the character shares in her bio:
"Bottom line professionally speaking, I am 5’ 4” tall, athletic, Pantene shoulder-length black hair, perfect perky boobs. I present well and am most accomodating. I’ve slept with clients. I sleep with my boss. I am the consummate PR strumpette. When I was 7 my mother told me I'd "never get anywhere with that mouth." I've apparently dedicated my life in proving her wrong.
I have a BA degree in Economics with a minor in Italian Literature from Columbia. I graduated cum laude. I went on to get a law degree from Dartmouth but flunked out after two semesters. They were just way too snooty and serious. To be fair, I think I was just bored."
Type in Strumpette on Technorati and you'll get a sense of how obsessed the PR sector has become in (a) Outing the creatives behind Strumpette and (b) utter dismay that this whoring character is a traffic-monger.
"I think this is a wee bit of a stunt and it sounds like the brainchild of a man more than something a successful woman would do, but either way I think it's great stuff. Professional life is often boring so I'm loving the spice.
Little bit of a display problem in MSIE 6.0 I noticed with the comments getting truncated on the left and right hand side - check this page as an example.
Other than that, my theory this is some guy doing this but it's interesting to see that the interest (in the form of comments) is pretty much exclusively from men. I guess that's usually how it works "
"T he worst aspects of PR and Word-of-mouth (WOM) were laid bare in one pitiful post this weekend. Filled with stereotypes and void of character (while masquerading as one), Strumpette busts on the scene and is quickly exposed by - a student.
The funniest part of the whole post, to me, is that a UK student PR blogger - Stephen Davies - was the first to point out that this is a lame copy of Spin Bunny, the first PR gossip blog - and from the UK. (That link/site is dead, by the way.) Who knows, it may be Spin Bunny coming out of the rabbit hole. I doubt it, though. That blog was creative."
Above all, remember that modesty doesn't get you anywhere.
Which takes us back to the WSJ and it's article "Corporate America has joined the Blogosphere". While it is definitely an interesting read, and if you have a subscription I do recommend it, it is also amusing.
Here's the interesting part:
"Despite the concerns, a slew of big companies, including General Motors Corp. and Boeing Co., have jumped on the blogging bandwagon in the past year -- joining high-tech firms like Sun Microsystems Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. For these companies, the bigger risk is being left out of an online phenomenon in which an estimated 5% of Americans maintain blogs and 20% read them, according to a February Gallup poll.
"The biggest risk with regard to blogs is not having one" because companies then miss out on a burgeoning communications medium, according to a report from Gartner Inc., a Stamford, Conn., firm that advises many companies on technology issues".
Here's the amusing part:
When you click on the hyperlink to General Motors or Boeing, it doesn't take you to their blogs. It takes you here...to their stock performance.
Now, in their defense, at the end of the article they do have a cute little chart that includes some of the top corporate bloggers and their URL's...its just that you can't get there from the WSJ because they are not hyperlinked. Maybe its time for the WSJ to join the blogosphere?
Notes: I was inspired to write this post after reading a couple of posts by Marianne Richmond on Blogher. And, to be completely transparent, Boeing is a client.
Here's the challenge. How long can you go without hearing ,saying,or reading about some one, some company, some country, some program that is committed to being transparent?
A week? A Day? A couple of hours? The word seems to pop up everywhere. However, a little research seems to indicate that I haven't been listening very well because as buzzwords go -- it's been a top 10 buzzword since the 20th century.
Where have I been? Why has it taken me so long to pick up on this trend? Perhaps its because half the time I have no idea what people are talking about when they say there is a need for transparency.
It's taken me until 2006 to fully understand how business and the media use the word. That's right for nearly a decade I've been suffering from Transparency Confusion. As a result, I have avoided incorporating it in my corporate patois.
So in the spirit of public service I thought I would take a closer look at Transparency...just in case there is anyone else out there that is not quite sure what people are talking about when they say 'It's transparent".
transparent, transparency:A favorite in business and government. It can mean open, visible, accessible, publicly accountable, etc. -- without privacy or secrets. "The computer age is moving society toward greater transparency." Not to be confused with the less admirable definition of transparent -- to have obvious selfish motives. Of course, we would never think of business and government in that manner. Nominated by Tim Blankenhorn
If that were the end of it, it would be fine. But of course, Transparency has become an entity of its own.
"Transparency" can be defined as a principle that allows those affected by administrative decisions, business transactions or charitable work to know not only the basic facts and figures but also the mechanisms and processes. It is the duty of civil servants, managers and trustees to act visibly, predictably and understandably. "
Transparency does seem to be an ideal in all sorts of ways at the moment," said the literary critic Peter Brooks. And it might have something to do with a confessional culture. "People don't think they exist unless they have something to confess."
Lear sees just the opposite: The passion for transparency is an attempt to repress hidden meaning. He takes his lessons from Sophocles.
"Oedipusthinksthat the only realm is what is transparent to the human mind," Lear said. He hears the oracle and thinks he knows exactly what the prophecy about killing his father and marrying his mother means -- Get out of town.
The only problems for him are practical problems. What he does not realise is that the gods' real message is hidden and opaque. He is blinded by the apparent transparency.
The article goes on to say that diplomats 'shudder ' at having to say the "C"word (corruption) so instead they speak in code.
If someone is corrupt, the diplomats say " they are not transparent.' transparency has become a code word for "not corrupt."
IAnd so in diplomacy instead of saying someone is corrupt...you'll hear them say 'they are nottransparent.'
And in case you're wondering how the whole transparency phenomenon started. We can thank the French Revolution.
The Jacobins believed that if you were not transparent, you had something to hide. You were an enemy of virtue. They sent people to the guillotine because they were opaque."
In my post that I lovely called, "Notes From The Road - Seattle Day 1", I shared my observation that the term Schadenfreude has become the 2006 vocabulary media darling --much like the overused gravitas did in 2000 ( first used widely to explain why Dick Cheney was good for the republican ticket --he brought needed gravitas).
I first read the term in an editorial by Kathleen Parker where she basically spanked people who had turned to blogs for their news.
"Schadenfreude - pleasure in others' misfortunes - has become the new barbarity on an island called Blog. When someone trips, whether Dan Rather or Eason Jordan or Judith Miller, bloggers are the bloodthirsty masses slavering for a public flogging. Incivility is their weapon and humanity their victim. "
Intrigued, I decided to keep a watch out for schadenfreude. I've heard it said by the talking heads on cable TV and then today, there it was again. This time in a column in the National Journal written by William Powers. He too was talking about blogs. This time responding to reports that the blog bubble has busted.
"The Chicago Tribunepounced on the blog bust in an editorial dripping with old-media schadenfreude: "You're forgiven if you cling to the conventional wisdom that blogging, like half-pipe snowboarding, enjoys an unrelievedly rich future. Forgiven, but maybe behind the curve."
So now I want to really start tracking schadenfreude. I'm more convinced then ever that this word is going to rival truthiness in the near future.
And so I ask your help. If you see it printed in a newspaper, magazine or online,or if you hear media types using it during their talking heads, add it in the comment section. I will continue to update the list, when I hear someone using schadenfreude to describe the attitude of a particular person, group or political party.
If someone can just explain how one minute your Google Toolbar is at the top of your screen and then with the speed of a click, it's gone. Not hidden. Not tucked away. It's gone. Where did it go? When I left my hotel room yesterday morning, the Google Toolbar was safely ensconced along with toolbar icons for my.del.icio.us, pluck, furl, skype etc.
It's as if my Google is a victim on an online kidnapping. Here's what I realized. I'm a Google girl.I have enormous brand loyalty. Having to rely on Yahoo! for my searches is unsettling,
None of this would be a big deal if I didn't run into a problem re-installing the Toolbar. Right now Spy Sweeper is doing a total system sweep and hopefully within the hour Google will be back in my browser smiling down on me.
Smiling is something that definitely didn't occur in the Used Book Store I visited on Sunday. The first thing I noticed was this sign:
BEWARE OF CAT
Petra, our orange and white cat, will sometimes scratch with little warning.
The human serving as the information guru, check out guy and one and only person working the shop was not the kind of person that made you want to return on a regular basis. Also Petra was sitting in the chair right next to him-- kind of like a guard cat.
I was hoping to find a copy of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated and ventured up to the counter, keeping a watchful eye on the unpredictable Petra.
The human didn't bother to get out of his chair but decided to share his view on Mr. Foer's writing ability. It was a rapid fire discourse on how bad the book was --he didn't actually finish the book but instead burned it because it represented "everything wrong with the American society and it was completely solipsistic."
Later he added that no American in the past 15 years had written anything worth reading. He shared that he reads poetry.
Knowing that I would never go into this establishment again, I confessed that I had no idea what solipsistic meant (and I struggled to pronounce it)
The human spelled it for me and then said it meant self-centered.
Not exactly, if you trust Merriam-Webster vs "I only read poetry guy" Solipsism actually means "a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing"
When I looked for synonyms, Merriam Webster Thesaurus replied, " No entries found that match solipsism."
Here's my shout out. I now feel invested in the word and would very much like to add it to my patois. Afterall, since I have now taken the time to learn how to spell and say it, I'd like to drop it into casual conversations...often. But the definition provided by Merriam Webster doesn't give me the confidence to use it as if I really own it. I want to own this word. So, I'd like to see it used in a sentence that I can understand. Perhaps there's a character in a book, movie or maybe a politician who has solipsistic characteristics. I look forward to your shares.
If I am successful with adding solipsism to my patois it will be my second new word for 2006...the first being Schadenfreude-- a word I'm absolutely delighted to know and one that seems to have caught the imagination of media pundits.
In case you are not familiar with schadenfreude it means taking delight in other's miseries.Listen up, I predict it could become as beloved by the media as their absolute love affair with "gravitas."
Until yesterday I was completely oblivious to a very hot trend that seems to be making the online rounds. It's the Johari/Nohari window . The Johari focuses on positive traits. The Nohari on your weaknesses.
"A Johari window is a metaphorical tool intended to help people better understand their interpersonal communication and relationships. It is used primarily in self-help groups and corporate settings as a heuristic exercise. Terms selected only by the participant, but not by any of their peers, are placed into the Façade quadrant, representing information about the participant of which their peers are unaware. It is then up to the participant whether or not to disclose this information.
Terms that are not selected by the participant but only by their peers are placed into the Blind Spot quadrant. These represent information of which the participant is not aware, but others are, and they can decide whether and how to inform the individual about these "blind spots"."
Like the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator, this is the kind of tool corporate teams adore. Businesses spend tons of money to hire certified Meyers Briggs consultants to administer and analyze the results.
Forget about tapping into your budget, you just have to go to Interactive Johari and have technology do the work for you.
I found out about this trend at But wait! There's more... a blog by Canadian Leesepea who, like my friend Tyler, is a first year teacher. Coincidentally I just chatted with Tyler and will be sharing that conversation very soon.
If I understand this correctly, instead of using it for work use, the bloggers have discovered this tool and are asking readers to assess their blogging personality. I wrote about this on Blogher and heard from Divabat who shared
"I've done one - it's making the rounds on LJ.
There are a ton of traits that people see in me that I don't really notice about myself. It's been interesting."
Leesepea at But Wait! There's more... invited her readers to participate in her Johari window. When I tried to check it out I got this message.
Server Overload. Sorry, try again at a less busy time.
I guess a lot of people want to know what people really think of them. The question I have is once you get your results ,do you take them seriously, or do you ignore what you don't like and blame it on spammers.
"The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else."
Over at What Pisses You Off which bills itself as the Best Damn Debate Forum, the posters are debating the issue.
Ray says," If the ISPs hadn't been so intransigent when people complained about TOS violations, and terminated accounts when it was clearly warranted, the new law would not have been necessary."
Chadwick Stone replied, "Your silly little law wont silence:
1. Non-anonymous poasters 2. Poasters living outside of the U.S. 3. Poasters in the U.S. who realize that it it is unenforceable due to it contradicting your first amendment
The thought of any prosecutor coming after an individual who posts an annoying comment to a blog is very funny(can you say the delete button) if it weren't so sad. As the C-net article states,
"Think about it: A woman fired by a manager who demanded sexual favors wants to blog about it without divulging her full name. An aspiring pundit hopes to set up the next Suck.com. A frustrated citizen wants to send e-mail describing corruption in local government without worrying about reprisals.
In each of those three cases, someone's probably going to be annoyed. That's enough to make the action a crime. (The Justice Department won't file charges in every case, of course, but trusting prosecutorial discretion is hardly reassuring.) "
Taking it a step further, does this mean that when journalists quotes a " high ranking member of the justice department" could those anonymous comments fall under this law? It was bad enough when journalists are hauled in front of a grand jury to disclose sources. Now, under the e-annoyance law, they may not even be able to quote them.
Think of this as a post holiday gift. I'm calling it Show and Tell Friday. During the break I stumbled across a couple of new tools ( at least they are new to me) that I thought I would share.
Are they really new? Probably not. I just hadn't heard of them. My friends hadn't forwarded any info on them, and so I found out about them the new -fashioned way by googling throughout the holiday break.
Having no idea how well known these tools are, I thought I'd share for the benefits of latebloomers everywhere.
Returnpath.net This tool/service allows you to do several things. Lost a friend's email?You can put it in return path and they will find it for you. Then, they'll send an email to the long lost friend and ask if them if they want to share their new address.
When I signed up for the service, I got a ton of "lost" emails. It's allowed me to reconnect with some folks that I haven't talked to in years and I'm planning on doing lunch with several. Very fun.
The other tool is LookSmart's Furl which bills itself as your personal web file.
"Furl will archive any page, allowing you to recall, share, and discover useful information on the Web. Browse your personal archive of Web pages, and subscribe to other archives via RSS."
This is a great tool for those of us who are folder-challenged and who have mini panic attacks each time we search for something in our "Favorites".
If you are using these tools, please share your thoughts. And, if you have some tools that you think others would be interested in, let me know. If I get a good response, I'll host another Show And Tell Friday in the near future.