A respectable wedding date

7 Feb

I wrote an entire post with the back story about how I came to do this, but WordPress zonked and no draft was saved. So back-stories aside, here is what I posted on Craig’s List today (the DC and Balt sites). A respectable wedding date.

UPDATE: My post got flagged and taken down from Craig’s List. The text I wrote follows the screen capture below. Read on.

A respectable wedding date

Title:(strictly platonic) A respectable wedding date – w4m

I’m looking to increase my social network in the DC and Baltimore areas. Last year, I was given a great project and New Year’s goal by a married farmer friend of mine: ATTEND TOP-TIER WEDDINGS as a date for men who aren’t looking to date, but need a date. I was, admittedly, a chicken, but I am going to do it this year. So, if you find yourself invited to a wedding or two in the DC-Balt area and need a respectable date, I may be just what you need.

Here’s what I need: The weddings need to be first-to-first, or at least the first wedding for the bride. The younger the bride, the better. The people getting married need to be of families in the higher echelons of government, business and philanthropy in this area.

And I need for you to be a gentleman.

I’ll be a lady. I can hold a conversation … and my alcohol. I can be charming, a good date and appropriately dressed. I’ve been told, in so many words, that I wear my 48 years well. I have a more-than-reasonable job, interesting hobbies and a life I enjoy living. Whatever your reasons, if you need a date for a top-tier wedding in the area, are in the 44-54 age range and you’re buying the wedding gift :-), consider inviting me as your “+one.”

The photo I’m attaching is recent, from a costume-heavy “Santa” event in DC. I was Ambassador Claus.

Occupy Baltimore

25 Jan

Monday night I attended a BMoreSmart event (a tech event) at which Rico Singleton, CIO of Baltimore City, was the key speaker. Among the many things he addressed that night, developing a relationship with the local tech community was key. He wants to/needs to be able to hire local people for many (mostly) coding and development projects the city needs done but doesn’t have the staff to do.

This is, of course, complex.

The city isn’t quite set up for this type of working relationship. Much is yet to be done to work out the kinks of that system.

The city isn’t really in the position to pay the appropriate market rate for the volume and caliber of work that needs to be done.

The sexy-shiny-social-public-facing apps are great, but it’s often the onerous, less-glam projects that really need doing.

The city isn’t set up to pay someone a portion of their fee and allow them then to own the code/product they create (so that they can sell it to others).

And, perhaps most importantly, the city lacks the talent to fill the jobs need in the whole city. (Don’t scream, you geeks. He wasn’t saying that there isn’t tons of talent and a great tech community; rather, that the volume of work to be done and the people able to do it just doesn’t exist at this time.)

There’s the Apps for Democracy, Code for America and a slew of other choices, but those projects and programs tend to be about sexy subjects/apps and such.

One of the speakers showed a website he’d developed on vacant properties in Baltimore. It was quite cool. And the data, well, it was quite fascinating.

I heard talk of Mayor SRB and her plan to bring — what is it? — 10,000 families to Baltimore in x years? And then I had a funny thought: funny, in that I laughed to see pieces of a puzzle come together.

“Occupy Baltimore!” was what I heard.

Yes, Occupy Baltimore.

Here’s a vision to try on in your head. I kind of like the way it is in mine.

Imagine the city were able to create a good system wherein it had a robust this-is-what-we-need procedure for short-term, specific tech projects. Imagine if decided to pay but a pittance for (probably, though not exclusively) young developers to work on these projects for below market rate. Imagine that the city would own the code, as their structured mindset so requires them to do so now if they pay for development.

Imagine that rather than being paid fully in cash for wages, or in code developed that they could resell, instead these coders were paid in Occupy Baltimore “currency:” in cash specifically and only toward vacant Baltimore housing. I’ll make up some numbers, but let’s say a project was worth $10,000 in a legitimate market, but the city only had $2,500 to pay for it. The person who took that job could get $2500 in cash and, say, for example’s sake, $15,000 in Occupy Baltimore currency. Maybe they took on another project, or worked with a friend or two to pool their Occupy Baltimore bucks. Who knows? Before a year could be out, a few friends could pool together to rebuild a vacant home.

Now, it might behoove the city to put these (mostly) young coders in group housing during there earn-less-than-market-rate days, assuming they were to work a minimum number of hours a week or month. It would need to be good housing. Dormitory grown up housing. Preferably near a fun area of Baltimore so they’d feel more connected to the city. These are Millennials of which we speak, and their long-cycle cultural legacy is affluence, technology and culture. They want all that and more, and adults do well to give it to them in childhood. Now that they are in young adulthood, we need to think differently about how to make as much as possible free for them. Not free as in hand-out free, but as in trade-energy-and-vitality-for-free. That kind of free.

I’m sure there are a 1,001 problems with this vision. And a 1,001 reasons why it’s perfect and right.

It’s one thing for a politician to say, “I’m gonna” (ref the State of the Union tonight and any other candidate on the campaign trail). It’s another thing to think differently and find solutions that are right for the times.

And the banks. Remember the banks, Wall Street, investment firms? Well, here’s a chance for the banks to redeem themselves; I’m sure they can work out some financing with the vacant properties, the city’s Occupy Baltimore bucks and some lovely form of a new housing program for young Millennials moving into city’s to re-energize them and bring brightness. Imagine the possibilities for bank’s (local ones especially) to transform themselves before the new generation of customers by doing right … for THEIR generation. To give them hope and possibility.

With Baltimore’s CIO, Rico Singleton, thinking in the direction he is thinking to get more coders who will do big work for little money, with Mayor SRB thinking in the 10K More Families direction she is thinking, with the insane vacancies in Baltimore (what, isn’t Baltimore the only major city in the last couple of decades to have actually lost population?), with shamed financial institutions needing a really good (and legitimate) win, with the massive and can’t-be-fought cycles of generational shifts and the opportunities for working with young Millennials at hand, my sense is Baltimore may just be the city perfectly positioned to make the OCCUPY movement actually mean something.

Occupy Baltimore!

Young geeks, if not you, then who. If not know, then when.


No, I didn’t edit or proofread this post. It is what it is.

I saw it in my dreams

10 Dec

I had a dream the other night: a dream in which I was walking through a city —  DC, presumably, as that’s what it felt like. Except I saw it in the future when the city had become (as all are now) more residential, filled with hip GenXers and bright-eyed, collegial Millenials. A city alive, vibrant, re-energized and with all the extra zing, color and shapes that are possible in dreams.

In my dream, there was a particular image that struck me, resonated. It was an apartment building: a particular type of apartment building. The apartment was a high-end, positioned in the best of the best spots in the city. Night time. Streets filled with happy people. A good feeling in the air.

This particular apartment building wasn’t just any building where any-ol’-anyone could rent. It was marked SATURN, and in this building lived only and exclusively employees of Saturn. The city was filled with such buildings: amenity-rich, decked-out and top-of-the-line places designed specifically for the employees of a particular company. In this future I saw, this type of apartment buildings had become “the thing.” They had become a part of the economy, the job market, a recruiting tool.

See, rather than providing salaries that put just cash (lovely as it is) into the pockets of employees, companies had crafted worlds in which their employees were treated as special, where they were protected and bathed in the focused affluence and comfort of their employers who held these employees as very dear.

Think about it from a generational lens: the generation of Millennial young adults was brought into the world during a surge of “Baby on Board” stickers announcing their parents’ precious cargo; they were lovingly watched over in monitored playgroups as toddlers; resources for education surged during their years in elementary, then middle and high school; playgrounds were made safer; programming for kids exploded as an industry and, in general, the world of adults turned attention, time, money and effort toward ensuring that this particular generation would not be like the one that preceded it.

Why would it be any different when they are the dominant generation in young adulthood? It won’t be. Their young adulthood years will be a continuation of the focus and care of adults and institutions, and that is how the cycle goes.

17 pages

19 Nov

17 pages. That’s it. A mere 17 pages. Oh, but in these 17 pages, the things will you learn. Generations, Fourth Turning, cultural moods, Millennials’ rallying cry toward the right to a middle class … and how to position yourself (your company, your brand, your family, your finances) to navigate the everything-can-turn-on-a-dime era known as The Fourth Turning.

Horizontal filing and an uplifting solution

24 Jul

I’m a horizontal filer.

The vertical filers, who assume their way is right because office products are made primarily to support their style, call us pilers, or stackers, or maybe even slobs. Well, they can call me and my kindwhat they want, but I am what I am, I know others who share similar thinking, and I’ve learned to work with my strengths and weaknesses. What I don’t have are products that work well for me.

I’m hoping someone will come across this blog, read the idea here and either point me to where I can buy the item I need, or perhaps they can figure out how to make it and get it to market. So here’s the quick flash idea I just had: The idea is to have a free-standing pole that has (in the right range of what is reachable while sitting or standing) trays accommodating 8.5 x 11+ paper horizontally and say 3/4″ high. The trays would, of course, be perpendicular to the pole and they would rotate around the pole, or at least partially. The intent would be that a tray could have a project label or file label on it that is visible from a sitting or standing position, but the tray could rotate out of the ordered stack so that the contents (the pile) could be accessed and then returned to the neat, tidy storage area.

Sigh. Not sure if that verbal description works. Basically the idea is to allow for piles, create a vertical stack and allow each pile to be pulled out and accessed as needed. It’d probably be useful to have different options for the actual tray height and then some adjustment option  for creating space between stacked trays.

The problem with all the horizontal filing systems currently  on the market is that they assume a person wants to file away a horizontal pile. But I know I just want to PUT a horizontal file somewhere until I need it again. The products for horizontal filing misunderstand the basic and initial need of Our Kind.

I need a product engineer! Herman Miller (and crew), can you hear me now?


Are Millennials less religious than other gens?

12 Jul

This morning I was reading a Boomer’s blog post about religion, churches and his view of generational shifts in “religiosity” (not sure if I made up that word). He wrote, “It is not uncommon to hear that the generation in their 20’s and 30’s are agnostic or atheist.”

My response through the lens of applied generational theory:

Millennials, those in the 7-ish to 29-y.o. range in 2011, are raised in a culture influenced mostly by Boomer values. Boomers orient as a generation toward vision, values and religion. It shouldn’t be too surprising then that if you’re raised by a generation that leans one way, that you lean the OTHER way. It’s not that Millennials are mostly agnostic; it’s that they’re less curious about their internal and spiritual worlds and more curious about the external and physical world. Boomers, who grow up in a structured and well-built world as children, in young adulthood created a cultural change to focus on the meaning and purpose (of everything!).

So as Millennials now define young adulthood, what do we see? Millennials grow up in a values-fixated world, and in young adulthood, bring a focus back to the physical world and the importance of structure.

GenXers, in between both, correct the excesses of a values-fixated world and lead the shift toward a world where systems function better, thus allowing the Millennials a platform upon which they can bring their “Hero Energy” into society and actually use it!
The Silent/Homelanders are another story for another day.

So I offer this to the Boomer who looks at Millennials and sees them, along with his generational cohorts, as more agnostic and atheist: generations always see other generations through their own filters. (Right? Makes sense.) Imagine what the Boomers’ values-fixation and generational unwillingness to define as important the care of the physical world, e.g. roads, bridges, public parks, IT systems, looks like to Millennials who are raring to go, raised for their role as Heroes and wanting very much to live in a world that is safe, gleaming and structured. Then let’s talk about which generation is more this and less that. Being more religious or more agnostic is not a good-er or badder (I might have just made up two more words) thing. It’s a cycle and a rhythm that happens naturally to correct excesses, provide what’s needed now and create the path for a future that’s coming. That’s what generations do; they balance each other, allowing for growth, renewal and evolution.

If it be your will

20 Jun

In W, of all places, I heard of this singer: Antony and the Johnsons. The photo shown in W and the opening line of the article had me curious instantly. Yeah for YouTube and the interwebs, I was able to find and listen to his music on the spot. (I’m hooked!) Now, while I don’t know the exquisite details of Antony’s biology or chromosonal make-up, my guess is Antony is a hermaphrodite. Talk about taking the gift of life and making it an exquisite prayer of gratitude and development! What an interesting and beautiful voice.

Sing, Antony, sing! Here’s Antony and the Johnsons singing, “If it be your will.”

And Leonard Cohen, singing his version.


A beautiful citizen uprising

12 May

“A beautiful citizen uprising!” Apparently, that’s what I said — and there’s video to prove it.

One of the most excellent regional unconferences (imo) is Transparency Camp, put on by the Sunlight Foundation. This year, I was interviewed as one of the participants, and my few moments of fame open and close the video.

Kate, Zell and a wedding dress

1 May

Wedding gown design, Rosellen Howell, 1946

I know it’s not an exact match, but I see some similarities. In 1946, my aunt, Rosellen Howell (whom, growing up, I called Aunt Zellie), headed to New York City at the ripe age of seventeen, where she then studied fashion design. Here’s a wedding dress design from her collection.

And here is Kate Middleton (the newest princess) and her dress:

Why are Deborah and Janet so successful?

30 Apr

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the cyclical naming of babies and how generations and Turnings (per Strauss and Howe) impacts popular baby names. A few days ago this earlier post came to mind when I came across an article about the most popular baby girls’ names in 2009. (These would be the Homeland generation: the generation that shares the same archetype as the Silent generation, born 1924-1942.)

Check this out. Notice how the names sound to your ears and the image that you have with the personality that would match such a name.

Design by Rosellen Howell, 1946

  1. Isabella
  2. Emma
  3. Olivia
  4. Ava
  5. Sophia
  6. Madison
  7. Chloe
  8. Abigail
  9. Emily
  10. Addison
  11. Ella
  12. Lilly
  13. Mia
  14. Alexis
  15. Grace

Then look at the most popular female names of 1999, when Millennials were winding down but still Millennials. More Glamour Girl (my child is special) names. Listen to how the names sound and the personality you’d associate — sight unseen — with such a name.

  1. Emily
  2. Sarah
  3. Brianna
  4. Samantha
  5. Hailey
  6. Ashley
  7. Kaitlyn
  8. Madison
  9. Hannah
  10. Alexis
  11. Jessica
  12. Alyssa
  13. Abigail
  14. Kayla
  15. Megan


Fast Company has an article based on Linkedin data in which it claims the best names to name your baby and future CEO. In my eyes, this article would be much more valuable were the author and the good people at Linkedin to have given generational theory its due. The article (per Linkedin’s data) concludes the most-likely-to-be-CEO female’s names are —

Design by Rosellen Howell, 1946

  1. Deborah
  2. Sally
  3. Debra
  4. Cynthia
  5. Carolyn
  6. Pamela
  7. Ann
  8. Cheryl
  9. Linda
  10. Janet

Hmmm, let’s see. Most female (not male) CEOs are in their 50s. So what if we go back and find the most popular female baby names in 1959. (These would be the tail-end of Boomers.) There’s some correlation between popular names for baby girls some 50+ years ago and the more-common names of 50-something female CEOs today. Duh.

  1. Mary
  2. Susan
  3. Linda
  4. Karen
  5. Donna
  6. Patricia
  7. Debra
  8. Cynthia
  9. Deborah
  10. Lisa
  11. Barbara
  12. Pamela
  13. Sandra
  14. Nancy
  15. Kathy

And, not to leave the GenXers out of the conversation, I looked at the top female baby names in 1971 (GenXers are born 1961-1981, so this is the mid-point in the generation).

  1. Jennifer
  2. Michelle
  3. Lisa
  4. Kimberly
  5. Amy
  6. Angela
  7. Melissa
  8. Tammy
  9. Mary
  10. Julie
  11. Stephanie
  12. Heather
  13. Tracy
  14. Dawn
  15. Karen

Cyclical time. Cultural turnings. Rising trends and fading fashions. These things are part of the experience here on this lovely planet. Always there is something being born, something rising up, something being solid and powerful and something fading and moving toward death. To my mind, and as I continue to study generational theory, I find the (approximately) 20-year turnings that occur each time a new generation moves into young adulthood, one of the more compelling, informative and insightful bodies of work.

On elephants and anthropomorphism

20 Mar

A tweeted @NPRnews article headline caught my eye the other day. Gotchya! Elephant Caught Cheating. It was meant “to catch” me, and it was successful. As I read the story about a young female elephant who figured out how to get the result (food) that she wanted without having to do the work (the learning and collaborative system designed by the researchers), I found myself bothered by the anthropomorphism of the author.

The young female elephant who figured out how to get the food through a means other than designed by The Humans is called “a cheat.” A cheat? Did she sign an agreement with The Humans to do the experiment as They designed. Perhaps in her “cheating,” she was actually exploring physics and solutions that were different? Perhaps she was applying her intelligence in a new way because the experiment was stupid and low-level. Perhaps she was exerting her dominance with the other elephant and she had Her Reasons.

These things I don’t know. And my attempts to figure it out have me being anthropomorphic also. It’s not my job to know her reasons for going around the parameters of the experiment. I will say that I found rather off-putting The Human Journalist’s application of pejorative adjectives to the elephant.

How I almost sold my soul for a box of labels

3 Mar

It happened like this: I tweeted a simple request. (It seemed innocent enough at the time.) I tweeted that I needed help getting some Avery labels printed for an upcoming hocoblogs party. And that’s when the snowball rolling toward my soul being owned by The Devil started to roll.

Good thing for me, my soul isn’t for sale, so I caught that potentially Hellish problem in the nick of time. “Whoa, Devil,” said I. “No souls for sale here.”

See, when I posted my request to the Twitterverse, a smart gal managing Avery label’s brand online spotted my tweet and responded to me right away. She offered that she could give me some labels if I were to blog about why I liked Avery labels.

I asked for the dollar amount of this “gift” of labels, and she said it was about $90. I explained to her that the blog post I was interested in writing had to do with respecting that a company was monitoring its brand in the social space and that it had empowered an agent (notably, a pr firm) to act on its behalf for community relations with brand ambassadors.

She told me my blog post focus that was a little out of the norm, but that she was game.

Avery labels sent from Red Sky Public Relations.

I told her that I was delighted she was game, because I was going to blog about the experience anyway; now I get to tell a happy, yay-for-Avery-and-good-online-brand-monitoring story rather than a “they tried to get me to sell soul, and they can’t have it” story.

Even better, the gal sent me the Avery product prior to my blog post being written: a statement of trust. (Nice touch.)  And, so folks, I now have a load of Avery labels … and my soul, fully intact.


For companies in need of some good online brand management, props to Leigh Ann Dufurrena of Red Sky Public Relations. (You can use this link in your own personal brand management, Leigh Ann; you get a shiny gold star in my book.)

Reducing board micro-management

27 Feb

For those of you who’ve ever experienced micro-management by a board (on either side of the table), here’s a potentially helpful document I wrote. It’s designed to help nonprofit organizations reduce unnecessary board intrusion, concurrently while helping the ED and staff serve the board and provide them what they need to do their strategic work.


See, I’ve served on two boards of late. And, educational experiences they have both been! I’ve learned through some rather twisted and uncomfortable ways about the roles of the executive committee, the board president, the committees, the executive director (ED) and the staff. I have not always been the easiest of board members to have around. I want information. I find it impossible to do my job of providing, among other things, strategic direction to an organization about which I know little.

In my frustration, I became a whirlwind of data requests. I had culture clashes with the staff and ED about what information I had a right to see. Me? I think Google Analytics are relevant when one is the Communications Committee chair.  And HTML newsletter open rates and clicks on links. Because I wasn’t receiving the information I felt I needed to do my job as a board member, and as my requests for information were often perceived of as stepping on staff and ED toes, the I-want-you-can’t-have push-pull became even more pronounced.

Now, EDs have to protect their staff from excessive board requests and ensure that mission critical operations continue. And usually, producing reports and providing information takes staff time that can impact the staff’s ability to do its work. So, what’s a sane organization to do? Well, I think the first thing is that people have to know is what they’re asking for and why … what purpose does the getting of the information provide? And what’s it worth? Is the information sought a $25 answer (a quick email sent), a $250 answer (perhaps a meeting with a few staff and follow up), or is it a $2,500 answer … perhaps a more extensive report? Board members should be able to ask a reasonable question of staff and get a reasonable answer. Equally, even without a master of science in management, board members need to understand “the cost” of their questions asked.

So, what’s a sane organization to do?

In my consulting work over the years (and in personal relationships), I see that it is my responsibility to ask for what I want and to make sure that I’m clear about what it is that I need as an answer/deliverable/date. My suspicion is that board member requests of staff would half and ED/staff resistance would subside tremendously if there were systems in place that required (forced) board members to be more thoughtful in what it is they need, and why.

So, I created a form, a document, a think-your-way-through-your-thought-process guide. I make no claim of perfection in this regard. I have yet to test and vet this form. I am, however, offering it for nonprofit boards, EDs and staff as a potentially helpful tool for navigating the sometimes-messy territory of board-staff relationships. (And for those of you who’ve got your thinking caps on but don’t serve on nonprofit boards at this moment in time, you’ll be able to see the business applications for such a form.)


Groundhog Day

2 Feb

Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies ever. For me, it has been one of the greatest messages from God/Mr. Everything/The Absoluteness That Is that I’ve ever received. Let me explain what I mean, in 500 words or less. Here goes —

The story line, most of you know: Bill Murray’s character gets stuck in eternity, in Hell on Earth (a hellish life, a hellish personality, a hellish job, a hellish town, on a hellish day …). And in this eternal hell, he is able to explore without consequence. He can explore his dark side. He can explore his kindness. He can be adventurous and do dangerous things. And he can explore his intellectual and emotional territory, including expressing his yet-to-be-reciprocated love for Andie MacDowall’s character.

In time, he comes to find not just peace with his life in eternity, but passion about his life, love experienced, goodness made manifest and the joy of Heaven on Earth. Now, I don’t know much about the Bible or religious writings, and the spiritual-but-not-religious folk have their own views, too, but in my view and experience, Earth is the mid-point between “Heaven” and “Hell,” where Heaven is union with Mr. Everything and the magic of everyday living, even and especially among the dark and thick world of the physical, and “Hell” is the separation from all of that and the experience of everyday living as hateful, difficult, cumbersome and hard.

Now, when Bill Murray’s character finally does break the bonds of eternity, he chooses to stay where he is. He has come to understand that it’s not the place (the town) that he was in that was Hell, as he had originally believed, but it was his life that was Hell and hellish. In his transformation, he has found that the gates of Heaven are open to him and he can do anything, anywhere … not because he is “immortal” and will wake up once again at 6:00 a.m., unscathed, but because he now has enough experience in his life to be at choice about how to navigate the world and find the Heaven that is here to be had.


Another thing that I have come to understand about my life is that I enjoy the seasons. And while it’s easy to see life through the lens of time moving linearly and in one direction, I believe time moves cyclically and in a spiral. Seasons remind me of this, and crossquarter days are midpoints in our seasons.

Just as Punxsutawney Phil and groundhogs across America are slated to predict a cold second half of winter (staying in Hell) or a quicker arrival of Spring (moving toward Heaven), the movie Groundhog Day, to me, brilliantly represents that choice:

Where am I headed? Heaven or Hell? Or stuck somewhere in between?

Happy Groundhog Day!


Are Hollywood “mega-fauna” going out of fashion?

29 Dec

I didn’t make up this term: mega-fauna. I heard it once and liked it. Mega-fauna was the term used to describe the pop culture fascination and focus on big, camera-friendly animals such as tigers, (polar) bears and pandas, oh my. The Mega-fauna movement — loosely organized as it was — spoke to the importance of the large-in-volume, small-in-number animals and their plight in the face of human choices about land use, pollution, and so on.

bacteria electron microscopeWhile I have no literal data at hand, I’d say that the Mega-fauna movement tied in very much with the Third Turning (Society’s Fall) and the era in which Boomers had primary cultural dominance. Boomers (Prophets) orient as a group toward causes, messages, vision and values. They are masters at messaging that is filled with spiritual importance, moral direction and Big Picture Vision.

Come now, the Fourth Turning and the age of Winter: the era in which GenXers (Nomads) have the primary influence on leadership and the direction of action Society takes. (This role naturally aligns with whatever generation is ascending into mid-life, and that’s GenXers at the moment.) GenXers orient as a “group” (snicker, snicker) to that which is broken, needs fixing now and can be addressed with minimal resources and consensus. GenXers are also the masters of tending to things which are small and seemingly unimportant yet are critical to effective system functioning. Here, think microbes, bacteria, the small and unseen. Talk of microbes and bacteria in personal health (fermentation, gut health, the quality of soil in agriculture and thus food), in the water, in our environements will become a subject of increasing importance as GenXers replace Boomers as the dominant generation in midlife and, thus, change what is considered to be a focus and concern for society.

Is it just me, or have movies, news, advertisements and cultural focus been on bees, ants, bugs, germs and bacteria? I love-love-love this commercial by Kleenex and find it a cultural marker. Take note! Expect more conversations and focus on the unseen, for that’s how GenXers have experienced their childhood and young adult years.

Taking inventory

15 Dec

When I begin working with a new client, one of the things I ask to see is an inventory of online communication tools used. Sometimes this can seem to be an unnecessary task in the client’s eyes, but my experience is that while most companies “know” the information I’m requesting in the network of their team, rarely is the information fully documented in one specific place. Once the list is together, it becomes a most-useful resource to have on hand for new marketing and communication projects, for when new hires (or interns or volunteers) come on board, and when working with consultants who may not know the day-in-and-day-out details of your company’s communications.

The information I request, per tool, is —

  • The tool name,
  • The access URL,
  • The account name,
  • The password (redacted, but in the document for their records),
  • The email to which the account is connected (très importante!),
  • Who at the company manages the account, and
  • And a two- or three-sentence statement for how the communication tool is used and any other important account management points to note.

The result of that query, for one tool, might look like this —


  • Sign in:
  • Account name: @hocoblogs
  • Password: (redacted)
  • Connects to: jessie (at)
  • Account manager: Jessie manages the account daily and Kimberly TP fills in using Hootsuite when Jessie is off the grid.
  • Twitter is used primarily to promote blog posts by Howard County bloggers which is done with short announcements and retweets. It is also used to announce local blogger and social media parties, workshops and events. Hootsuite is often used for posting and and are used for URL shorteners.

Of course, the quick-to-name tools that come to mind for many organizations nowadays include —

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Linkedin (for your company profile and any groups you might run)
  • Flickr
  • Blogs
  • Slideshare
  • Scribd
  • Eventbrite
  • Email newsletter services such as Blue Sky Factory, Mail Chimp or Constant Contact

Then, of course, there’s the endless list of online tools used inside a business, such as —

  • Google Analytics (or other sources),
  • Web 2.0 tools, such as Highrise, Basecamp, Huddle and DropBox,
  • The company website and/or CMS
  • And on and on and on …

For the nature of the work I typically do, I’m looking for information about who is managing what communication tools, so I don’t need to know too many business processes beyond this realm, unless, of course, they relate to communications, community-building and pr. If you run a communications department, or work closely with one, and don’t yet have this type of inventory together, now is a good time to do so. Oh, and it’s helpful to date the document so that you and your team are able to tell when the list might need to be reviewed and updated.


Four little pigs

23 Nov

Amy, of Buckland Farm, and not one of the younger pigs.

This weekend I had the privilege/joy/opportunity to help transfer four young pigs from the barn at Buckland Farm to their new woodland pen, also on the farm’s property. While the video here shows four happy pigs, I can tell you that the capturing and transport process was not a squeals-of-delight type of event. No sirreee. But, as my fellow pig handler, Ms. Brooke Kidd, said when we were done — and as I now concur, “The moral of handling pigs is you can’t force a pig to do anything … but you sure can bribe ’em!” They’ll go most anywhere if you’re offering them food.

The Role of (generations and) Civility in Democracy

4 Oct

My local library is hosting a symposium this week; it’s titled, “The Role of Civility in Democracy.” With mid-term elections, the prevalence of nasty political campaign ads, and the library’s Choose Civility initiative, all these factors add up to a well-timed event. I also believe there is another reason this  event is well-timed, and it has to do with generational dynamics and cultural change. Now, I’m not a historian, but I am well-versed in the generational theory, so come with me on this path, if you’d like to see “the role of civility in democracy” through a generation-theory lens. Here goes —

There are four generational archetypes that appear in a fixed, repeating cycle. They are affected by and affect other generations. They each have their strengths, their value, their weaknesses and their paths. Each generation is approximately 20 years in length, or the equivalent of a phase of life (childhood, young adulthood, midlife, elderhood). Right now, the constellation of generations in America is this:

The Silent Gen are moving into elder-elderhood. Born 1924 – 1942, they are 68-86 years old in 2010, and their numbers, per the U.S. Census, are about 30 million. Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of pluralism, expertise and due process. This is the true Civil Rights generation that fought for rights from a perspective of sensitivity to the weaker among the community.

The Boomer Gen is moving into elderhood. Born 1943-1960, they are 50 -67 years old in 2010, and their numbers are about 62 million.Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of vision, values and religion. They are the “principled moralists, summoners of human sacrifice and wagers of righteous wars.”

The GenX Gen is moving into midlife. Born 1961-1981, they are 29-49 years old in 2010, and their numbers are about 81 million. Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of liberty, survival and honor. They are the get-it-done generation and are “cunning, hard-to-fool realists—taciturn warriors who prefer to meet problems and adversaries one-on-one.”

The Millennial Gen is moving into young adulthood. Born 1982-2004(ish), they are 6-28 years old in 2010, and their numbers are about 80 million. Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of community, affluence and technology. They are a bright, upbeat, team-working generation.

The Homeland Gen is being born now and just entering the K-8 system. They will, assuming the generational cycles repeat, have a life course that is similar to the Silent Gen.

All the quoted text in this post, by the way, is from Strauss and Howe’s work, e.g. Lifecourse Associates.

So, let’s look at “civility and democracy” through this lens … not just that there are generations, but in which phase of life each generation has been, and how it will impact the phase of life it is now moving into and the surrounding generations.

In the past 25 years, Boomers were the primary gen in mid-life. Mid-life is about power. Think about it: it’s the 42-62-years-old people. Families are mostly started and kids, if they are still young, are typically in elementary school or beyond. School is done. Professional capacity and community leadership are realms of directed energy for many in mid-life. Boomers in midlife, per @lifecourse, “preach a downbeat, values-fixated ethic of moral conviction.” In other words, they are argumentative, passionate, focused on their values (one does not negotiate “values”) and more interested in their convictions than they are in solutions. To have even talked of civility in democracy while Boomers were in midlife would have been an argument, in and of itself, about whose values were more civil.

In the past 25 years, GenXers were the primary gen in young adulthood. Young adulthood is about vitality, about serving institutions with energy and the excitement of a life to be experienced. GenXers in young adulthood are “brazen free agents, lending their pragmatism and independence to an era of growing social turmoil.” To have asked GenXers in young adulthood to speak of civility in democracy would have been seen as a joke. GenXers are not trusting of institutions, by and large, to do right by them as individuals or as a generation and, therefore, do not put a lot of faith in democracy and governments to solve problems. Nor would GenXers compete in Boomer turf to gain voice at that phase of life. Boomers were simply too culturally dominant then, both by phase of life and certainty that their values were more relevant and needing to be heard.

In the past 25 years, Millennials were the primary gen in childhood and have been “nurtured with increasing protection by pessimistic adults in an insecure environment.” Millennials in childhood have grown up believing that government is good. All they have to do is turn on the news to hear campaigning politicians proclaim that they are a more child-friendly candidate than their opponent. In their childhood years they experienced a stream of increasing child-focused programs and initiatives being funded. They have no memory of Civil Rights tensions, nor of the contentiousness around the Viet Nam war-skirmish-geopoltical maneuver. They have watched their next-elder GenXers scramble and tumble through McJobs, unreliable contract work and extreme sports-behaviors-attitudes that are a bit too edgy for their tastes.

In the past 25 years, the Silent gen were the primary gen in elderhood. They have lived life by the rules, keeping their heads down in young adulthood, and hitting phases of life at relatively uneventful times to be the age they were. So, in their elderhood, while midlife Boomers slashed society with their moralistic rants, and GenXers rapidly transformed the culture with their take-what-you-can-and-cash-out-quickly approach, the Silent Gen helped “quicken the pace of social change, shunning the old order in favor of complexity and sensitivity.”

OK, “so what,” you might be saying. Well, generations move through time, which is why unless someone is pinging to the archetypes, years and definitions of Strauss and Howe, they are really talking about “demographics” and not “generations.” But I digress. OK, so time has moved along. We are not 25 years back, but 25 years forward. Let’s look at each of these generations and their impact on “civility in democracy.”

Today, Boomers are moving into elderhood where they “push to resolve ever-deepening moral choices, setting the stage for the secular goals of the young.” In other words, Boomers (will) finally have a moment of realizing as a generation that they are the elders and that their legacy as generation is perilously close to being abysmal. And Boomers are about their moral legacy, so this dawning sense that their moralistic rants and red-state-blue-state politics are putting in peril not just the nation, not just the rising generation of young adulthoods (their beloved Millennials), but their l-e-g-a-c-y, as well … this is the wake-up call for Boomers to self-correct and align in a more civil, go-forward direction that is — while not-less-moral — less polarizing. Or perhaps I should say, the Boomers who wish to have their voices included in the coming dialogue about where our nation is going will do so. Those who continue to polarize will be marginalized, which will be a system-shocker for those Boomers who’ve come to believe that polarizing is how to get attention/focus/dollars.

Today, GenXers are moving into midlife with the first POTUS of this generation currently in power. GenXers in midlife “apply toughness and resolution to defend society while safeguarding the interests of the young.” The challenge for GenXers in midlife — long at the edge, the extremes, the fringes — is to come  in to power structures, bring their capacities to solve problems without all the bantering around moral direction and vision that Boomers have done, and to force change toward fixing broken systems, businesses, governments and more. GenXers in young adulthood have been a cranky generation, a grunge-y generation, a leave-me-alone generation. To be included in the public conversation about what needs to be changed and how it will be done, GenXers need to release much of their crankiness and instead lead and make things happen.

Today, Millennials are moving into young adulthood with a trust of government, institutions and corporations do not only do right by them, but do right by their generation, and — by their thinking and the cycle of generations — do right by the nation. Millennials in young adulthood “challenge the political failure of elder-led crusades, fueling a society-wide secular crisis.” Millennials don’t understand (don’t have any personal experience with) moralistic, values-based battles to which many Boomers still cling. Millennials don’t understand GenXers’ crankiness, as they have received the opposite treatment as GenXers got in childhood; they were precious to adults, while GenXers were forgotten. They are being exalted and talked about and supported while they are moving into young adulthood and new careers, while GenXers were met with temp jobs, contract work and a “no vacancy” job market in their young adulthood. More to the point, Millennials like team work. They are bright-eyed and upbeat. They believe their generation to be very capable of solving large-scale problems and don’t need experience to prove this: they already know it to be true about themselves and their generation. Heck, they’ve been getting awards, gold stars and adulation since they’ve been in kindergarten! In other words, Millennials don’t understand Boomers’ nastiness and GenXers’ crankiness. (Was I just cranky in my explanation here?)

Now, are generations the only influence making “civility and democracy” a timely issue? No, of course not. But generational theory does provide some clues as to why “civility” is becoming a more a desired and important value at this point and time. It is time to be civil once again in democracy and politics. Or at least for civility to start to have a stronger toehold in the conversations. Nobody except Boomers cares about Boomer values wars anymore, and, I’d add, some Boomers are growing tired of the same-ol-same-ol from their generation. Nobody cares about GenX crankiness anymore, except equally cranky GenXers. And Millennials are showing up in jobs, in politics, in communities and in organizations, believing that life and work and community and governance can all be balanced and good. It won’t change overnight, for sure, but — and perhaps — a bit more civility will get us there faster.

Rock on.

Banana – Sorghum Syrup – Almond Smoothie

2 Oct

Sorghum syrup from Rebecca’s Garden in Columbia, Md.

Making a smoothie for me is honing the art of my intuitive voice. The smoothies I make develop as each ingredient “comes to me,” to speak in such language. Good smoothies are the ones where I listen to my intuitive voice. The horrible ones — and, mercy, I have had some of those — are the ones where I think my way to the result. So, without further ado (and, yes, I had to look up the spelling of “ado”), here is today’s smoothie —

Banana – Sorghum Syrup – Almond Smoothie

  • 1/2 c soaked almonds and hazlenuts (couldn’t get my eyes off of them)
  • 1 Tbsp sorghum syrup
  • 1 banana
  • A couple shakes of cinnamon
  • A super-small pinch of nutmeg (because a little nutmeg goes a long way)
  • A pinch of salt
  • Ice, because the coldness of smoothies makes them more drink-like and less gloop-like
  • Water, to spread the taste out over a larger area

I pureed the ingredients in my beloved Vitamix and … voilà: A banana – sorghum syrup – almond smoothie!

Here’s what I like about it: the sorghum syrup (which is really sweet) finds a landing place with the banana. (I find bananas rather bland and too banana-y. I don’t really like bananas except in smoothies.) The soaked almonds and hazelnuts add depth, richness and fat, as nuts do. The cinnamon is layered with the nutmeg for a slightly complex flavor that neither overpowers nor underwhelms. And the salt, of course, punches the flavors. It makes flavors a bit more sophisticated, I think. Overall, it’s somehow almost a milky flavor-texture without having any actual dairy ingredients.

Millennials: an “I want to help” generation?

22 Sep

I’m reading Millennials in the Workplace by Neil Howe, my generational theory super-hero. His latest book, produced with the help of Millennial super-star Reena Nadler is, imo, a must-read for anyone who gives a hoot about HR, workplace issues and general cultural shifts. In full disclosure, I’ve been working with Mr. Howe on some pr, branding and social engagement work in and around this book and his brand.

Any time I read any of Mr. Howe’s books, I read it slowly. I highlight the heck out each book he writes. I talk about the book with friends and colleagues. I digest it. And this book is no different. Recently, I read about how “team oriented” and helpful Millennials (born 1982-2004) are and the implications for employers. (Really. Heads up, folks. Generational cycles impact workplace issues. Heed the experts here to your own advantage and peace of mind.)

Anyway, as a GenXer and one who has been watching the media frenzy and giddiness around Millennials and whatever phase of life they’re in, I’m reminded that when talking about any generation, it’s most informative not to look at a generation as isolated and separate, but as part of a constellation of generations all moving through life phases, with each of the four generational archetypes influencing and being influenced by each other.

So, come with me here as I look at this view of “team oriented” and “helpful” Millennials. How true are the claims that Millennials are more helpful? More likely to feel their career choice or company mission or volunteer work needs to help the community, help others and have a positive impact on society as a whole? Well, when surveys ask that question, guess what? Survey results demonstrate really high stats that show Millennials are much more oriented toward such goals. Not too surprising there.

But what if the survey question looked more like this:

Are you willing to tackle a messy, disastrous project, by yourself — perhaps with the help of some online friends you’ll never meet in person — and to do endless hours of work, never get credit, never see the limelight and never be personally acknowledged for your efforts (except and perhaps by a handful of others doing the same work who will, by the way, also get no credit)?

Hmmm, I don’t think many Millennials would check that box on the survey. But this is exactly what hundreds of thousands of GenXers did in their young adulthood years. What about this question?

Are you willing to tackle a project for which you have no guarantee of success but with the slight chance that others behind you (businesses, nonprofit organizations, governments and individuals) will benefit? Can you do this knowing your effort may help others not have to deal with the horrible  tech tools, software, unusable manuals and unresponsive help desks at hundreds of companies across the country and globe? (Remember: no credit, no limelight, no tuition reimbursement, no Volunteer America website acknowledgement, no awards, no shining smiling adult faces looking at you and praising your value)?

What do you think? Do you believe Millennials would score high as “helpful” on this kind of question? I don’t think so. And yet, this is exactly what the GenX generation has done, mostly on their own dime and time. But this GenX effort and time will never be recognized in surveys as being “helpful,” mainly because GenXers didn’t do such activities to get recognition but to do — as GenXers (the Nomad archetype) do — what needs to be done, regardless of or in spite of the obstacles, blocked pathways and unwillingness of those who created the problems (older generations) to recognize the complexity of the mess they’ve allowed to be created.

So, back to Millennials in the Workplace, the surveys that show them to be ever-so-statistically higher in a helper orientation and, by result, interested in jobs and careers with a obvious helper role: this is really important information to know, understand and apply. Read Mr Howe’s book! And it’s true. They are — as a whole — much brighter in their optimism, desire for collegial work experiences, belief in themselves and their generation to “be helpful.” I offer that while acknowledging this as true, my own generation has helped in a way that is equally significant, just not the type of work that will lead to ceremonies, acknowledgement or recognition.

GenXers do what needs to be done because it needs to be done.

Millennials help and get involved because they see and experience themselves as trusting of institutions, team oriented and helpful.

It’s all good. And it’s all part of the mix.


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