Saturday, April 23, 2011

Didn't Saturday Used To Be A Slow Day Online?

Wow.  In the years that I have been publishing the book review blog,  weekends, in  particular Friday evening through Sunday afternoon have always been a slow time online.    This is I believe the third weekend that I have spent my Saturday hanging out on Empire Avenue,  Facebook and Twitter.   And for both personal and game reasons,  today totally  ROCKED!

The incomparable Frederic Denomme  tipped off  his Team Zen Community first thing this morning about the arrival on the Avenue of AT&T.  (e)ATT   I had to sell off some shares to raise cash.   There were a couple of players in my portfolio who had made no investment in me.   These I ditched quickly.   I then reduced my holdings in some of the shares I was least bullish about.    Within 15 minutes I owned 200 shares in AT&T,  which as of this writing have appreciated by more than 3,000e.   While lots of folks on the Ave spent the day racing to buy AT&T and pushing its price up, up, up  I spent a day at times almost feverishly chatting with my #SocialEmpire buddies,  a couple of whom are kind of moving past chat buddies to actual friends and one who is even moving along to family.

This personal stuff occurred against a backdrop of yesterday's post, which discussed (e)FORD's entrance on the Ave and questioned how the huge companies would stack up in terms of dividends, and which  succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.    Scott Monty,  Ford's VP for social media commented not only here on my blog,  but accepted the invitations of a whole bunch of #SocialEmpire members and joined our FB group and commented right there on the thread where we'd been discussing (e)FORD all day.     Honestly,  I have to say I'm genuinely impressed by Scott Monty.    His recent blog post about Empire Avenue indicates that he really does 'get it'  in a way so many 'copy/paste'  social media  'experts'  really don't.   Monty stressed that Ford wanted to work with Empire Avenue players in a way which does not "disrupt the ecosystem" (of game play).    While not everyone who has purchased shares in (e)FORD has gotten a buy-back yet,  lots of people,  such as Stu Rader report having engaged with folks from Ford and sold them a number of shares.  (I was very gratified that even before Scott engaged with us in the afternoon,  Ford invested in 150 shares of (e)LIBDRONE.)

That Ford is buying back but not all that rapidly suggests that they may be limiting their purchases of EAves, so as to, as Scott mentioned not disturb the game ecosystem.   This would seem to address some of the concerns that users like John Henry DeLong and Stephen Tiano  expressed-- to the effect that if companies like Ford can come in and buy a couple of million eaves,  how can players who are relying only on their wits and social skills hope to compete at all.   That Monty and team Ford seem to have put a considerable degree of thought and research into their Empire Avenue campaign is evident to me.    And by and large player reactions seem to range from enthusiastic to cautiously optimistic.     All in all I think it's been a dramatically successful introductory weekend for (e)FORD and the most active Saturday I ever remember having online.

Please visit again tomorrow when,  barring a crazy Sunday filled with other incredible news I hope to talk about some of the other big companies recently arrived on the Ave,  including (e)AUDI and (e)ATT.    I also hope to talk a bit about whether and how the arrival of all these big companies will change the dynamics of game play on EAv and  how players may or may not have to adapt.    Here's hoping that your Saturday too was filled with good friends and good fun.   Goodnight.

It Isn't A One Way Street

It was exciting.   When I heard from Frederic Denomme that Ford-- the huge car manufacturer-- had just listed itself on Empire Avenue,  I admit that I rushed over and bought a few shares.   And then I thought about it for a few minutes and  bought a few more and a few more and within a couple of hours I was maxed out with 200 shares in (e)FORD.   I also bought 200 shares in (e)INTEL-- another big name that suddenly appeared on the Avenue late last week.   As of this writing,  it's not clear what kind of dividends these huge companies will pay.    Given the .01 div per 1 share price ratio that most sophisticated Empire Avenue users apply when evaluating shares,  Ford would need to pay off about  .50/ per share to be a good value and I'm not at all sure they can do that.   At any rate I am thrilled with the enormous growth the stocks have quickly accomplished--  I'm up over 4,000e  between the two companies' stocks.

The problem that big companies run into on social networking is that they are very rarely prepared to enter into two way back and forth communication with other users.   Partly this is a question of resources--  if a company has 30,000   "friends" it would take not merely a full time employee but a full time department to remember their spouse's names,  inquire after their children and keep up a social chit chat.   Their real life (as opposed to EAv) shareholders would never stand for it.   But it also seems to me that the cost of genuine engagement is not what stops most companies.  Shannon Morgan  has talked about how challenging it is to get even the relatively small companies she is a consultant for  to understand that a blog is not just another place to distribute your press release.  So I do give executives like Ford's Scott Monty props for his presence on the Ave and for putting (e)FORD and (e)LINCOLN into the game.

I have to wonder, however,  how well  Monty and his Ford team can do in the one on one socializing that is the essence of Empire Avenue and which the most successful players on the Ave inevitably excel at.   It's not enough just to buy shares in your investors-- while Ford does appear to have bought into some of the  "big name"  (usually in other words "copy/paste") "social media experts",  they have not as yet thought to make an investment in (e)LIBDRONE,  although as I say I am maxed out in their shares.    It will be very interesting to see if major corporations can learn to play in this currently popular sandbox.   It's possible that they can.  However it is also possible that via investment or other means they will manage to pressure (e)DUPS (Empire Avenue founder and chief executive Duleepa Wijayawardhana) and the Empire Avenue team to make the game a bit friendlier to major sponsors,  rather than as at  present to the unusually sociable average Joe.   I will not even speculate as to how well Ford and the other major brands flocking to the Ave will fare.   But I am thrilled to have a front row seat to watch and find out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

With A Little Help From My Friends

A reprint of an article I published in 2008 on Chain Drop, a now defunct social networking blog.   Given my discussions with Spiggi,  I believe it remains relevant today.
When I stop to think about it, I realize that for me All social media and social networking and (insert other buzzwords here) all really boil down to one thing. Making friends.
That sounds so simple, too simple really. It has no "secret formula", no Web 2.0, no sense of having just let all of you in on some big secret. I started blogging because I had fallen into the habit of keeping up with two of my oldest, dearest friends (Hi Ron, Hi Bev) via their blogs and I wanted them to be able to keep up with me too. And I included book reviews in my blog posts almost from the first, because I work at a library and I am genuinely passionate about books and reading.
And then something funny happened. I was looking at my traffic report one day and I noticed that there were people coming in Just to read the book reviews. People I had never met and had never told about my little backwater of the blogosphere. So I started thinking maybe it would be neat to actually promote my blog a little bit. Somewhere or other I found a list of blog directory sites and began submitting my URL to them. A few at time, when I had time. And then one day I got to one of the sites on the list, Blog Catalog. My life, and my blog would never be the same.
I started hanging out on the Blog Catalog discussion boards and soon found myself engaged in conversations with all sorts of really incredible people. Having been involved in many online communities before, I knew instinctively how to ease myself into the group and make friends with people whose virtual company I enjoyed. Honestly, I had no agenda at all in pursuing these friendships. I just gravitated to people that I liked.
When I upgraded my blogspot template and my site went all FUBAR, I didn’t think twice about posting an appeal for help on BC. Though I Was a bit surprised that I soon had two top notch HTML developers fussing over my code and fixing the problem for me. When I casually mentioned that I was thinking about moving my blog to Word Press I was amazed that a buddy offered to host it on his server and set it up for me. When I had questions about how things really work or what I really need to know and do as a fledgling web publisher, I was incredibly gratified to receive expert advice and counsel from business professionals, attorneys, college professors and many, many other people whose expertise would have been far, far beyond my means or reach had it not all been offered in friendship.
And the thing about focusing on making friends with other bloggers is that they Never stop surprising me with their gifts. Which is how it is that I find myself collaborating on what I hope will be one of the hottest new sites in Social Networking with a man I respect enormously and who has already taught me some invaluable lessons about blogging, about life and about friendship.
And my blog? It’s taken a lot of work, quite frankly, but it is really starting to take off. With a tip of my hat to my friend Lucy Dee, I remind you of the old saw about the ten years it takes to become an overnight success. I am well into the first of those ten years. And whatever the other nine point something bring, I’m quite sure that whatever success I enjoy will be due to the help of my friends.
This post was lost to me when the blog died. I recently retrieved it from the Way Back Machine. All of the links in this post are to the Way Back Machine's January 2008 archive rather than to the actual sites. If you follow any links, remember that you are web surfing in January 2008 rather than today. Also, as you will see the archives saves only limited information and the archives do not in most cases display custom themes and other site specific graphic elements. Oh, and I still hang out on Blog Catalog where I continue to keep in touch with many old friends and often continue making new ones. My address books are a huge intangible assett that continues to get me access to and assistance from people I could never afford to pay for their professional advice and counsel.

Friends and Games--For Me the Relationships Are the Point

I have a confession today.  I am almost 47 years old, but I am still more than a bit of a little boy when it comes to games.   I tend to be a monogamist when it comes to games.   As a child I went through phases with many different board games like Monopoly and Battleship and Scrabble.   As a new computer user I got really hooked for several years on Tetris.   And then I went online for the first time and stumbled into Multi User Dimensions.  It was a sort of Dungeons and Dragons-- but played with people all over the world and with none of that tiresome fixation on various-sided die and no need to continually buy additional sets to keep the game fresh.

I spent hours and hours every day  using Telnet to connect  to 4150.    Honestly,  I had never been real big on Dungeons and Dragons;  some folks took it  so seriously that it was hard for a casual player not to exhaust their enthusiasm, long before the perpetual arguments about what a particular roll Really meant in terms of game play or just how the words in the book should be interpreted could get fully underway, let alone resolved.   In my real life experience,  D & D people were dull because they rarely wanted to talk about anything else.   The wonderful thing about Timewarp was that it was a place I could constantly chat with an ever-expanding roster of good friends that I talked to every day, and whose real lives I was a part of, as they were a part of mine.    Online friends, and particularly people I met on Timewarp changed my life, perhaps as much or more as any other experience.

My friend Mangus, it eventually developed worked in Tech Support at Microsoft.   When I pissed and moaned about my job one day, he said to me "Why don't you move out here, Outofit.   I could help you get a job with a tech company."    I had long decided that Boston was not the right place for me.    And when I kept on talking to him, and he seemed to honestly believe that I could get a much better job in Seattle,  I quit my crappy job and my crappy apartment, leased a new Toyota for three hundred bucks and set off down the yellow brick road to Oz.   In Chicago I stayed with one online friend (on Christmas Eve-- she took me to her sister's dinner and they made me feel like family, even though I had never before met them face to face).   I detoured to San Rafael, California to visit and stay with a friend who had fled Boston not too long before me and had a great job with a Marin software company.    After a breathtakingly beautiful and deeply emotional, almost spiritual seven day journey I docked in Tacoma, Washington  and spent three month's camping out on my incredibly generous and wonderful friend Loofa's couch.     All of these people were just "folks I played games with".  But they all gave me food,  a place to stay and a real chance to change my life so much for the better,  that I know I will never, ever be able to re-pay them-- except of course to the extent that I too extend love and kindness to people around me who are in need at the moment they pass through my life.

Today Spiggi  told me that "friends and games are unrelated."    This post is to reply, in friendship and without rancor that that is the most asinine thing I have ever heard.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Riding The Rollercoaster

Image: anat_tikker /
Some days,  I just really hate riding the roller coaster of bi-polar disorder.   Usually,  I sort of enjoy the manias.   When I'm manic I have tons of energy and enthusiasm.   I'm likely to begin new projects, chatter merrily both to the people around me face to face and to distant friends online.   I'm quite lucky in that I don't have problems with doing very destructive things when I am manic;  often times people in manias are known to spend money they don't have, embark on business ventures they can ill afford and do other things which will have consequences they will have to pay and pay for, long after the mania has passed.

And inevitably,  manias do pass.   Usually I am well into a day that seems to be going very badly when I realize that the problem is that I have become depressed.   It is always such a shock, somehow,  even though of course it is a long familiar experience.   When I get depressed I seem to take every little set back as a huge major big deal and become inordinately frustrated at the very least provocation.   And what is most frustrating about it, is that understanding that the problem is my bi-polar disorder very rarely has any impact on my feelings of  anger and frustration.   At these times I feel like a small child whose teacher repeatedly tells him  "I know you could do this if you would Just Try!" even though the child knows that he Is trying his best and simply can not do what is asked.

As is often the case on days that depression begins to set in I did not accomplish very much today.  Although I did finally publish a book review which I had been working on for weeks  (albeit a day late).   I also participated in the #definethis  word game that I frequently enjoy;  today's word-- disseise  was wonderfully odd ball.   When the squiggly red line spell checker has never heard of it,   it's a great word for me.    Here's hoping that your Wednesday has gone a bit better than mine did,  and that Thursday will be a better day for us all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tweeting Away To Margaritaville

I've been using Twitter for three or  four years now.    I don't in any way, shape or form claim to be an expert Tweeter.   Though I do well understand that Twitter is all about conversations.   I only have a bit less than 400 followers.   Yet I actually know most of these people.   I've visited their blogs and  chatted with them on various websites and forums.   In many cases I know their spouses names and their children's names.    Some of the publicists, publishers staff and authors in my  TweetStream are a bit more professional contacts than friends,  but again I do really know most of these folks.

As I said, I  know that Twitter is all about conversation,  and I have developed a pretty fair knack for having real back-and-forth conversations in 140 character blips.  (If only there had been a college course in editing down to 140 characters back when I was in college--- would have saved me nearly 4 years of experimentation and discovery.)   My activity level on Twitter has certainly had its ups and downs over the years.  There have been days when I tweet and tweet and tweet all day and other days when I just couldn't be bothered.    But yesterday and today as I  (SHHH!!! don't tell) prepare to launch a quirky new site in collaboration with a dear new friend,  I found myself reaching out to people I haven't spoken to much in ages,  calling in favors,  exchanging re-tweets.    I found that Twitter enabled me to put my name and handle in front of a whole bunch of people-- in preparation for the big launch which we will be doing in a week or two.

Today,  I find myself falling in love with social media all over again-- excited and thrilled by all of the great friends and acquaintances  I interact with online and looking forward to a future in which the sky is the limit.   Thank you so much for being part of my online 'family'.

Walking Down The Avenue

I'm reminded, frankly, of the early days of Entrecard.  Before bad management changed a clever and effective social network to a tired traffic exchange,  Entrecard attracted a group of smart, clever bloggers and allowed them to meet, mix, mingle and place small box ads all over each other's blogs.    For me it was a very exciting time when in short order I met dozens and dozens of great bloggers,  made a whole bunch of new friends and saw my blog's popularity skyrocket.   I've been involved in many web sites and forums since then,  but until my recent foray onto Empire Avenue  I had not experienced anything like those heady early days on Entrecard (which, btw, were also remniscient of my early days on Blog Catalog.)

I remember explaining to Rich Becker, shortly after catching the Entrecard bug that Entrecard was Really a social network,  decked out in advertising service clothes.    Likewise Empire Avenue is Really a social network that struts about dressed as a stock trading game.   Each member of EA selects a  Ticker Symbol (1--12 alpha-numeric characters) and other users buy shares in their stock.   You can of course invest your precious Eaves (a virtual currency) in such luminaries as Tony Berkman(e)MEDIAMOGUL,  Johh Gushue (e)GUSHUE,  Richard Becker (e)RRB  or even your humble correspondent, (e)LIBDRONE.

You will connect your social network accounts-- specifically Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Flickr and YouTube,  as well as your blogs to your EA profile.   Your participating on each of these networks, as well as your participation on the Empire Avenue site contribute to raising your share price,  which also goes up each time someone buys shares in you.   Your shareholders earn dividends each night, which are based on your level of activity on your blogs and social networks.    As successful photography blogger Henry Plumley  (e)PHOTOSBYHANK observed:  "It really is a great new way to approach networking. Soon after you sign in, you become wrapped up in researching your target audience and making sure your message is out there for all to see.  What I feel is the best feature of Empire Avenue is the ability to see all your other social networks at a glance. Empire Avenue uses a 0-100 scoring system to rate your performance on all your networks. It’s so easy to see where your strengths and weaknesses are which helps you decide where you need to improve.  "

I've spoken with many members who have found that Empire Avenue gives them the push they need to keep focused on creating quality content and interacting with their audience,  both for the success of their blogs and careers and to keep their share price up.   When someone's share price increases over 100e  they are declared Centurions and are toasted by everyone on the Avenue.   If you do sign up,  be sure to send me a private message.   I'll be happy to invite you to join the #SocialEmpire group on Facebook,  where lots of great EA players hang out and talk about everything from tips on social networking, blogging and EA success to movies, music and their personal lives.    It's a boat load of fun AND it helps you to succeed at blogging and social networking.   What do you say?   Why not try Empire Avenue now,  and receive 2,000 Eaves on me!