Nancy

Our e-book is here!

For the last few years we’ve been doing a lot of public speaking for a wide variety of audiences.  We’ve talked about everything from traditional vs. interactive design, to privacy and security in the digital age, to work culture and user experience.  But the one topic that we get the most requests for is still social media — for both business and personal use.  But Meghan and I don’t try to teach people how to use social media tools. Instead, we spend our time talking about how to think about social as it relates to telling our stories; telling our personal and professional stories, and our company stories.  We talk about being deliberate and thoughtful about the creation of those stories, and that approach seems to resonate with so many people.  And it’s surprising because you’d think that the subject of social media would be worn out and over by now.  I mean it’s been the topic du jour for the last couple of years.  How can there possibly be anything more to be said? 

At every one of our speaking engagements, we met people who’d ask us where they could buy our book.  We actually pitched a book about social media to Peachpit, but the feedback was what we expected: there couldn’t possibly be any interest in our book because the subject of social media was exhausted.  Still, people asked for it.  Last year we did a series in-depth workshops for the Minnesota Regional Arts Council.  We didn’t just want to talk to these folks about how to think about building and supporting their arts organizations with social, we wanted to create some useful tools to guide them through the process.  So we assembled a workbook to accompany the presentation and it was pretty well received.  From there we realized that this was the point of difference: we could provide value in the steps to thinking about social, along with instructional context to illuminate the kinds of possibilities that existed there.

For the last six months we’ve been refining that approach, and the content, and we’re proud to announce our first e-book, Social Media For Humans: Minding and Managing Your Personal Brand Online is now available to download.  Publishers may not have seen the value of another social media book, but people were asking for it.  We couldn’t ignore the pretty constant demand for an easy, digestible, overview of social media and personal branding.

In recent weeks I’ve seen some pushback around the concept of people being brands.  I get that.  We live in a culture where we tend to commercialize everything and the idea that people could be deliberate about their brand stories suggests a lack of authenticity.  That’s not at all what our book encourages.  It’s not about over-promoting yourself as an individual, or being contrived or less than genuine about the stories you tell.  Instead, what we hope our e-book does accomplish has more to do with encouraging people to be thoughtful about how they are represented with content online.  We take time to think about how big companies and brands should be perceived.  Yet when it comes to ourselves — we just jump in blindly with no rhyme or reason, and then we act surprised when privacy settings change or our friends post content and we are somehow misrepresented.  If businesses have social media strategies and plans why can’t individuals be at least sort of mindful?  We think they can be.  And they should be.  That’s why we put together our workbook and called it Social Media For Humans.  (You can also read a related blog post that Meghan wrote in 2010 to help explain our approach to social media for individuals.)

We are pretty proud of this book.  We hope you enjoy it.  Tell your friends.  Send them our way.  Download the book.  It makes a great holiday gift!  As always, any questions, comments or feedback are more than welcome.  And thanks for spending time with the Geek Girls Guide.

Home Entertainment How-Tos

We got into so much detail about our home setups in Podcast #33, we thought it’d be helpful to provide some videos and photos!

Kyle DeLaHunt’s set-up:

Kyle explains how to get files into iTunes without copying them (SO HANDY if you’re storing movie or music files on an external drive!):

Photos of Kyle’s home set-up:

The 250-pound Television
Apple TV and Amplifier
External Hard Drives

Meghan Wilker’s set-up:

Meghan gives a walk-through of her entertainment system:

Meghan’s husband, Jeremy, explaining how to recreate their setup component-by-component (in 5 minutes):


Nancy Lyons’s set-up:

Every Day is Cyber Momday

Today is Cyber Monday, the day when millions of shoppers set forth on the web to find unprecedented deals on merchandise.  Retailers large and small are participating in Cyber Monday, either passively or deliberately.  The truth is – Cyber Monday is a marketers’ dream.  The day itself marks the beginning of the very concentrated holiday shopping season on the web.  People are actively thinking about their holiday gift needs right after Thanksgiving and they return to work, and their computers, today.  So essentially they are stealing time from their employers to shop in record numbers.  And retailers are encouraging them to do it by coining the day – Cyber Monday. The next few weeks will see a significant upturn in web-based commerce.  More than likely, in order to beat the traffic and the crowds, you’ll be buying a good portion of your holiday gifts and supplies online.  While you’re surfing and shopping, though, criminals and mischief-makers are hitting the web in record numbers too.  It’s more critical than ever to have some awareness of what you’re up against when it comes to protecting your data and your credit and to be somewhat prepared to counter the efforts of the (using a term my son uses often) ‘bad guys’ on the internet.  If you’re new or still a little unsure about cyber shopping then this post is for you.  Well, it’s not, it’s actually for my mother and everyone like my mother – those people wanting to jump into the excitement of web shopping but who still have a tendency to believe every crazy email they receive and click on every errant pop-up that dances across their screen.  Here are some simple tips to help mom, and the entire family, stay just a little safer online this holiday season.

Avoid The Deal-In-A-Message
It’s hard to ignore the personalized notes that we receive via email or Facebook messages.  You know the ones I’m talking about – those messages that come addressed to you and seem to have read your mind.  They talk about a hard to beat deal and then include a link directly to a seemingly reputable website where you can purchase the item to realize these fabulous savings.  These messages are generally a phishing scam.  They trick you into believing you’re actually on the Amazon site (for example) and get you to share personal information and credit card data.  They do this by using that link to take you to a website that probably isn’t legitimate at all.  It’s unfortunate that something so simple can fool so many people.  But don’t feel bad – the scammers are really good!  They make the link look believable and the pages themselves could really BE real pages from (again for the sake of example) Amazon or Target.  Here’s a not-so-secret secret, though.  If Amazon is really selling your dream item at this unbelievable price you don’t need that link to access it.  Visit Amazon (or whatever site the link claims to represent) directly – just type the website into your browser without clicking on a link.  Once there, search on the item you want to purchase.  If it’s on sale the search will reveal the sale-priced item.  Don’t risk clicking on those links.  

Be Wary of Links On Facebook
An added layer of security, and one you should have some awareness of is HTTPS – when you look at a website’s address it looks like this:  http://www.geekgirlsguide.com.  But a site that uses SSL encryption for server verification and to encrypt the transfer of data will look like this:  https://www.geekgirlsguide.com (don’t click on that-it’s just an example).  Start noticing the S.  Look for it AND the padlock when you want to share data and make purchases.  Check here for a full explanation of Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.

You might want to try to force a secure connection with every web interaction.  You can do that by downloading and installing a plug-in that will do exactly that — literally force a secure connection with every (or as often as possible) website you visit.  This is handy when you’re using public wi-fi. But it also helps to protect you from the danger of packet or data sniffing in which real criminals do engage.  It is exactly what it sounds like – cyber thieves try to find holes in the data exchanges between your computer and the server where a website lives.  They try to sniff out or grab any data they can that may be less than secure.  Forcing this kind of connection is one additional way you can protect yourself from this kind of activity.  One Firefox plug in that does this is Force TLS.  If you’re a home user and you generally transmit data via an ethernet (or hard-wired) connection, this might be overkill.  But if you use a laptop or other portable device and/or you tap into public wireless internet, do consider forcing that extra layer of security.

Choose Good Passwords
Security starts with you.  In fact, your security starts with your passwords.  The biggest favor you can do for yourself and your data is to select solid passwords.  This means that you have to stop using your kid’s names, your dog’s names, your husband’s name.  Start making up passwords that are truly hard to figure out.  Longer strings of characters (letters, numbers and, in some instances, additional characters) — think about a 20 character password.  I am not kidding.  This is the primary thing that stands between you and criminals trying to get at your data.  20 characters might seem like a pain, but it’ll save you heartache and real true pain in the long run.  

Many websites that require passwords help you rate the strength of your password when you create an account.  There are also services online that are available via reputable brands and companies that provide a password strength rating service.  Microsoft has one – search the Microsoft site and check your passwords to see if they are weak or not.  You might be surprised at what you find.

Being safe on the web begins and ends with you, really.  Understanding what to look for and hesitating when you have even the slightest doubt help you to avoid getting into trouble and losing your data to the ‘bad guys.’  There are no sure-fire ways to avoid being a victim of data theft.  But the more you know, the more you can protect yourself.

Happy Shopping!

Podcast #27: Keynote News With A Side Of Security

We’re excited to announce that we’re one of the keynote sessions for MinneWebCon 2011! Along with that good news, we’d also like to encourage other female speakers (and really anyone with solid, innovative content) to submit their proposals for this year’s event. If you’ve got something good to say, make sure you share it!

In Podcast 26, we mentioned a Firefox plugin called Firesheep. While we didn’t go into much detail, we did promise a deeper conversation about it in the next podcast. This is that podcast! Listen further to find out more about how the plugin works, and what it means for your information. While we’re on the subject of sharing information that you may or may not know you’re sharing, we also touched on the new Facebook Friendship pages. Do you know what Facebook is saying about you and your friends?

Additional Resources

Listen Online


Podcast #26: Social Engineering (or whatever)

In this podcast we touch on some recent reader questions around Facebook privacy and the importance of being smart with your profiles, pages, and other accounts online.

We discuss the difference between phishing and social engineering scams, and the ever-present annoyance of spammers and and weirdos.

Tune in next time when the ladies dive in for a closer look at Firesheep and some of the surrounding controversy.

Additional Links:

Listen Online


Event: ClockworkShop – Social Media 101

Next Wednesday, November 10th, Clockwork is hosting our first ever (and first in a, hopefully, long series) ClockworkShop – featuring the Geek Girls Guide.  Once again, Meghan and I will be discussing Social Media and providing an overview of the social landscape.  Our Social Media 101 presentation has been billed as one for ‘newbies’ and the deck is certainly one of our more well-traveled slideshows. To be honest,  The Geek Girls Guide is ready to get past the social media hype and start exploring new ideas, emerging technologies and bigger conversations.  We are the first to say that we have no interest in pigeon-holing ourselves as ‘social media speakers’.  The more compelling part of the social discussion is how we are changing culturally.  There is so much to discuss and to be explored around that cultural shift.

One of the points we make on the Clockwork website, and in so many conversations, is that the web has always been social.  This recent, overwhelming interest in social channels has been fun to watch.  But it’s not new.  The web has always been about connections, conversations and relationships.  The tools that facilitate these are just that much more accessible.  Business is about relationships.  Our culture and how we communicate is changing.  There are much bigger conversations to have.  We want our Social Media 101 session to be the first of many – empowering our audience to tell their own stories and connect with messages and influencers that resonate with them. But we want to make sure that everyone is on board for the next ‘big thing’.  We can’t push so hard for what’s next if there are still people with questions about what’s now. 

This website was developed to be a resource for people outside of our industry.  Many social media practitioners are talking about the value of the medium inside of a vacuum.  They are talking to each other.  We wanted to add another voice to the discussion and focus our energy outward.  These workshops are not for people in our industry.  They are not for Social Evangelists. It’s just that there are still so many questions and still so much confusion around social media – what is is, how it should be used and how we should be thinking about it – that we still think these introductory discussions are necessary.  So, as much as we want to continue to push the needle forward and encourage and facilitate new conversations and new adventures, we also can’t disregard what our audience is asking of us.  

Do join us next week on Wednesday evening.  There are only a few seats left.  And do look for future ClockworkShops featuring the Geek Girls Guide, and many other brilliant and talented Clockworkers covering everything from knitting, to bicycle maintenance to technology and usability.  We are excited to expand our education and outreach efforts.  We look forward to sharing that work with you.  And, as always, we thank you for being a fellow geek, or geek wannabe.

Podcast #25: Facebook’s New Button

In this week’s podcast, we discuss a new button. No, really. A button.

Facebook switched its Friend Request options from “Accept and Ignore” to “Accept and Not Now.” On Wednesday morning, the Marketplace Tech Report had an interesting take on it (which you can listen to here) that got us thinking: what does this mean? How does Facebook change our social behavior and how does it affect social norms? There’s a lot more going on than just buttons.

Here’s TechCrunch’s take on it.

What do you think?

Listen Online


Geek of the Week: Rachel Baker

This week’s Geek of the Week is Rachel Baker, a freelance IT consultant in Chicago. A few months ago, Rachel sent us an email about how much she enjoyed our site and podcasts. When we discovered that she’s quite a geek girl in her own right, we promptly crowned her Geek of the Week. It was a pleasure to talk to her, and we really only scratched the surface of her geekdom. We hope you enjoy our conversation with Rachel as much as we did!

Rachel credits her parents for putting her on the path to nerdery by buying her first computer in 1983, and insisting that she look things up in the Encyclopedia when she asked them a question. She’s worked professionally in technology for over 12 years, and now works on her own doing IT consulting and WordPress web development as Plugged In Consulting.

In February 2009, Rachel and a few friends founded the Chicago Nerd Social Club where they host and throw events for nerds. Yeah, we’re already trying to figure out how to get to Chicago for their next event.

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Podcast #23: Entertainment Solutions

In our 23rd podcast we talk about the upcoming Minnesota Blogger Conference, as well as some DIY entertainment solutions for kicking cable to the curb and still getting to see your favorite shows.

Minnesota Blogger Conference

When: Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where: CoCo – coworking & collaborative

213 4th St E., 4th Floor

St Paul, MN 55101

(612) 735-7425

Schedule

Resources: Entertainment Solutions

Keep an eye out in the next couple weeks for the videos and descriptions of our systems as well as some more information on gaming.

Listen Online


A Streetcar Named Desire To Post My Pic On Twitter.

A couple of weeks ago some friends and I attended a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Guthrie Theatre.  It was a real night on the town, with dinner beforehand, and excellent seats to a truly entertaining production.  For those of you not in the immediate area, it should be noted that the Guthrie is a world renowned theatre that attracts exceptional, even famous talent to it’s stage and behind the scenes, and it isn’t unusual for Broadway bound shows to begin at the Guthrie.  Streetcar was no exception, boasting a killer cast with remarkable pedigrees, and even pulling in a bit of pop culture with the casting of Ricardo Antonio Chavira from the ABC show Desperate Housewives in the role of Stanley Kowalski.  The role made famous by Marlon Brando in the 1951 film.  This isn’t a review of the show.  My feelings for the production are pretty straight-forward.  I loved it.  The staging was perfect.  The casting was brilliant.  Everything about that show made for a perfect evening.  But for the last two weeks, one moment has been gnawing at me and I wanted to share it here, to get your thoughts, and perhaps contribute to a conversation that has got to move forward.  

We were seated just before curtain and our seats in the theatre were excellent.  I was thrilled.  The lights were dim, the stage was set, the warm glow of a streetlamp the brightest point in the room.  That set was impressive, it looked like an actual spot in New Orleans.  The weathered brick, the dingy interior, the colors and textures perfectly muted to suggest a certain age to this exterior.  I pulled out my iphone to take a picture of this gorgeous set and as soon as I got it up to eye level the usher was next to me telling me the set was copyrighted and I wasn’t allowed to photograph it.  I nodded and tucked my phone into my pocket.  That was that.  Only it wasn’t.  There wasn’t sufficient light for me to get a decent picture anyway.  But that wasn’t the point.  I really just wanted to rave about that initial impression of the set and the mood it set for the audience.  But, the set was ‘copyrighted’ and that wasn’t ok.  

These last couple of years arts organizations have taken a big hit with the economy.  Seeing plays falls low on the priority list when you are watching your finances take a nose dive.  As this sort of entertainment falls lower on the list, it may fall away from the radar.  Certainly arts orgs are countering the effects of the economy with more aggressive marketing and trying to pack a lot of value into ticket prices.  But non-profits never have enough money to really market the way they want to.  There are always corners being cut.  Meanwhile, someone like me, with zero interest in ripping off any set construction ideas, and a couple thousand followers on Twitter, has a desire to do some free marketing for an arts org, and I can’t.  It makes no sense.  

Recently, Meghan and I have conducted a series of workshops for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.  We talked about websites on a budget and the basics of social media.  Sure, the Guthrie didn’t have anyone in attendance.  But they aren’t entirely unlike so many of the arts orgs we talked to.  Because of budget constraints and different priorities, arts organizations are sort of slow to recognize the power of web and social tools.  They know they can sell tickets on the web.  They know they can present marketing messages there.  But, beyond that, they seem to focus much of their dollars and energy into the things they’ve always done.  I am a closet theatre geek, and I’ve watched that slow progress with a special interest.  My old college theatre took forever to get a Facebook page, and they made little, if any, use of their website.  They weren’t on Twitter, and I doubt that they are there now.  And yet, ticket sales and community support are vital to the ongoing health of that department.  Even here, the biggest, most prestigious theatre, The Guthrie, took forever to invest in a redesigned website.  Settling for a giant image as backdrop for their site for years.  Now they seem to have a dynamic, Drupal powered website and a very active Facebook page.  In fact, the Guthrie is doing some of the things we talked about in the MRAC discussions — letting their audience in on how elements of the stage come together.  It’s so compelling watching the actual craft of stagecraft assemble whole, realistic sets.  Theatre isn’t just about the actors — the set and the costumes tell the story too.  Sometimes, as in the case of A Streetcar Named Desire, the set IS pretty darn close to a character.  Hot and heavy and dingy and weathered and well traveled, and noisy – setting the tone and even aggravating the heat and tension of the plot.  

Having worked on a number of stage crews in my youth, I know how tedious getting to that final set can be.  But how miraculous it seems when everything comes together.  It’s a real art – deciding how to present a setting, considering the staging, the actors and what they need from a set, what the text requires combined with what the director envisions.  There is so much that plays in to those choices that would, honestly, be riveting to some audience members or potential theatre-goers.  Not to mention the opportunity to reach new audiences, sell more tickets.  Maybe the Desperate Housewives guys wasn’t such a great draw to some.  But perhaps that set would have inspired someone to want to see it close up.  

I guess I just think that arts orgs, and especially theatre arts, need to start embracing some of the new social tools and abandoning the way it’s always been.  Sometimes we stick to what we know because it works.  But these days, when the economy is in the toilet, and people are staying home, we can’t afford to be stuck.  We have to look to our evangelists and our ambassadors to do what comes naturally — to talk about us. To rave about us, even.  There is something romantic about going to the theatre.  The whole experience, the entire event, has an air of romance.  A good theatre experience can take you along for a multi-sensory ride and when done right you’ve got something to think about and talk about for days or weeks.  Let us talk about it.  I’m not going to steal your set.  Chances are anyone who does have unethical intentions around your ideas has other ways to pursue them.  We don’t need to get crazy and shoot flash pictures during a performance.  Nobody wants that.  But I do think letting us borrow details to tell the story and talk about our experience with it will only serve the production, and the theatre itself, very well.