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Hello, Spring!

Trees are in bloom!

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Three years ago when we moved in, we had no idea that our overgrown property line had 18 apple trees scattered throughout it:

The view from the house

Overgrown property line on the left… (Before)

It’s taken a few years, but it’s really starting to look good!

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…and now it’s all cleaned up! (After)

 

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The Joys of Video Production

Of the many things I love about my current job, one that is at the very top of the list is the opportunity to dabble in video production again (check out some projects here). While I stayed active in college between Newhouse assignments and NATAS projects, there haven’t been a lot of chances to get back into shooting/editing/producing mode since I left AIER back in 2010.

While I’m still getting used to Final Cut Pro X (there are some things to love, but some things to hate), I had a lot of fun working with Fidelis Care employees out at our Buffalo Office. They’re holding a big “IT Professionals Career Day” on April 26 and we thought it would be a good idea to produce a video about what it’s like working in the IT Department at Fidelis Care to help promote the 4/26 event.

I encourage you to check it out and, if you happen to reside in the Buffalo area and are looking to start or continue your IT career, register for IT Professionals Career Day: http://www.fideliscare.org/careerday

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The Tale of Captain Whitecoat – A Tribute to Betty

“Betty” was not always known by that name…

You see, “Betty” was born on a ship…a pirate ship. By the time she was 25 (2 in human years), she had already earned the reputation of being one of the fiercest feline pirates on the seven seas.

She could drink grog with the best of them (earning her the nickname, “Boozer”), had as foul a mouth as ever there was one, and had seen her share of battles. They called her “Captain Whitecoat”–a name feared far and wide. The Captain was no stranger to violence–she had slain many a sailor and shown no mercy to her enemies. However, she was loved by her crew and they knew that she would always lead them to victory. 

Years of drinking and fighting would eventually have an effect on her. One day, she stood too close to a cannon in the middle of a battle and *KABOOM*–she lost her hearing. Swilling that grog also did a number on her kidneys–they began to fail her. The stress of always looking over her shoulder lead to high blood pressure and chronic nervousness.

Now in her 50s (10 in human years), she knew she couldn’t lead her crew much longer. One day, she gathered them ’round and told them she would have to leave them–it was the best decision for her and for them. They wished her well and gave her a small boat and some rations to sail away, hopefully to a tropical island to live out the rest of her years.

Unfortunately for Captain Whitecoat, her fierceness and loyalty didn’t translate well to a sense of direction–she got lost in the Atlantic. Adrift at sea for many weeks, clinging to a small piece of wood, she eventually saw land on the horizon. Now in her 60s, she did the only thing a famously fierce feline pirate would do: jump into the ocean and swim for land. At the end of her tiring swim, she found herself on the rocky coast of Maine–alone and without any food or friends.

Walking along the rocky cost, Captain Whitecoat had to draw upon the last of her energy and ingenuity to survive–battling fox, hounds, hawks, and other predators in a desperate battle to stay alive. Eventually, she found salvation.

IMG_2920That’s when we met Captain Whitecoat. My parents found her near their home on the Maine coast, deaf and very hungry. She had obviously been out on her own for many weeks, having seen her walking along the beach a few weeks earlier. My mother–a cat-lover herself, but with two kitties at home already–called me one night wondering if we would consider adopting the survivor. Giving ourselves a few days to think it over (we had just moved into our new house), we said, “yes.” We named her “Betty”–we had no idea then she was a Captain!–and brought her back to Albany. She was with us for two and a half wonderful years.

In her late years we shared together, her pirating days were over: she loved spending every second by our sides or on our laps.

On Tuesday morning, we lost Betty to chronic kidney disease.* Even though I always hoped she could tell us, we will never know Betty’s real story. But I prefer to think of her this way: a legendary fierce feline pirate who was the master of the seven seas. That’s the best story I can tell to do justice to her spirit. In her last years–as a “retired” pirate–she was our friend, our companion, and a wonderful gift to both of us.

We miss you Betty. Thank you for everything you shared with us.

*If you have a cat suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease (aka chronic renal failure), I encourage you to visit this website–it was an incredible resource for us as we tried to help Betty manage her symptoms: http://www.felinecrf.org/
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Open Letter to Twitter: Why I’m Not Buying Your Stock

Twitter,

I think it’s time we have a heart-to-heart.

When you first started out, I thought you were a little quirky, but you had a lot of promise. Over the years, I’ve come to accept you as an important part of any comprehensive digital communications strategy.

Admirably, you’ve grown beyond being a place to just stalk celebrities. Your introduction of hashtags has certainly changed the way the world talks, which has been both bad and good.

When you decided to become a publicly-traded company, I quickly came to your defense. I argued that you were more than just a fad or Facebook-lite. That you offered something unique and valuable.

I still think that’s true.

But investing in your company? That’s a whole different thing.

See, I thought that a company based on customer engagement would, well, offer customer engagement itself. But for the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to reach you. You don’t have a phone number listed. You only send automated emails. And you ignore most of my tweets.

Even when I’m speaking your language, you’re not engaging me. And that’s where you’re making your biggest mistake.

See, here’s the bottom line:

Nothing about you is innovative except your users.

Your users are what makes you great. They’ve done way more than you ever could have imagined.

davinci_paintbrushesNo one credits Da Vinci’s paint brush for his great works. We credit his mind, his creativity, his ingenuity, his unrelenting curiosity.

At the end of the day, you are a tool. An impressive tool, but a tool nonetheless. If you want to be a company that people believe in and invest in, you need to become more than a tool. You need to become a company that engages and supports its users. A company that protects and enables its greatest asset.

So, until that becomes your modus operandi, I’m not investing in you.

In the meantime, people are going to pull the curtain aside and find there’s no little man operating the wizard–they’re going to find that there’s no one there at all.

Sincerely,
Disengaged User

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Social Media Hypocrisy: Follow Your Own Advice, Twitter & Facebook

Facebook and Twitter like to give me a lot of advice.

They tell me that I should be posting more often from my phone to better engage my company’s followers.

Or they recommend “boosting” a post on Facebook or promoting a tweet on Twitter to get better visibility.

And underlying all these recommendations is a consistent message: use social media to engage my followers, listen to their concerns, and deliver excellent customer service.

I agree with all of their recommendations: social media is, after all, social. If a customer complains or has a question, we should respond (whether that response takes place on social media, by phone, by web chat, etc. doesn’t matter–all that matters is a response).

To return the favor, here’s a little advice for Facebook and Twitter: follow your own advice.

I’m sure the two companies would respond to their customers…if they actually offered their customers a way of contacting them.

Have you ever tried to contact Facebook? Let me tell you–you can’t. You’ll first get sent to a bunch of FAQs. Have a question that isn’t a simple one? You may find a backdoor way to send an inquiry, but Facebook tells you up front that there’s not much of a chance they’ll respond. If you’re lucky, they may send out a form response. But don’t expect to be able to have a conversation, over the phone or by email.

The same is true with Twitter. The company seems more willing to send out form replies, but there’s no way of actually engaging in a conversation. So, if you’re not happy with the response, tough luck–you won’t be able to get a more satisfactory response or get any additional information.

It’s fascinating that two publicly-traded companies who actively work with businesses to improve their customer engagement strategies don’t follow their own advice. It’s one of the reasons I’m not a fan of their long-term prospects (full disclosure: I do own some Facebook shares). If you look at other digital media leaders like Google and Apple, they thrive on offering excellent customer service. It’s incredibly frustrating that Facebook and Twitter can’t do the same.