Twitter Street Team – Gamification

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Today we had our marketing meeting. I sought help from the marketing team. I needed their help in determining how the points will function in our Twitter Street Team Kiosk. We met for a good 30 minutes but it was barely enough time.

We listed out the behaviors we are interested in increasing. Then we assigned points to each of the behaviors. It was so helpful to get this kind of feedback before I build out the system.

Just in case you can’t read my scrawl, here’s what it says:

  • Points will be tallied in real-time
  • (10) – Find/Follow good source
  • (10) – Tweet (engage)
  • (2) – Retweet other sources
  • (150) – Live tweet an event
  • (5) – DM gets a quality response
  • (1) – DM new followers

Dynamic points are added as the tweet performs online:

  • (5) – For each click tweet receives
  • (5) – For each reply tweet receives
  • (1) – For each like the tweet receives
  • (10) – For each retweet the tweet receives

I’m working with the point system in Python. No code to show yet. I am excited about this project and, now that I have most of the information I need, I can get started.

We also discussed the list topics were are interested in pushing:

  • Programs
  • Services
  • Focus 2
  • Articles
  • Live Tweet Events

Student leaderboards will consist of the following attributes:

  • Avatar image of user
  • Screename of user
  • Total points

Here’s what it looks like now:

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Here’s how I’m hoping it will turn out:

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Finally, here are some examples of the ideal leaderboard UI that I would like to see in the finished product:

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Keep checking back here for updates. Here’s a link to the project on Github.

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The first draft of anything is usually complete sh*t

img_2273 I had a meeting with my supervisor today. She congratulated me on writing such thoughtful posts 🙂 She mentioned that she had a hard time writing posts herself. So, I thought I’d write a blog post to discuss the procedure I use to write posts. It’s the same process every time.  I’m proud of the results. The difficulty of just getting started can be daunting. The “tyranny of the blank page” is terrifying. Read on to learn about my process.

TLDR; Follow these steps to get over your fear of writing a blog post:

  1. Read a lot
  2. Highlight the good parts while you read
  3. Transcribe the notes you made from the book
  4. Identify the quotes that speak to you the most
  5. Copy and paste the best quote at the top of the post
  6. Freewrite for 20 minutes by elaborating on the quote
  7. Don’t even think of posting this online
  8. You did it! Now get comfortable with shitty first drafts
  9. Read it over 3 times
  10. Take out the redundancies. Add more quotes.
  11. Embolden your most salient points
  12. Tell them what you taught them
  13. Leave the reader with a challenge or a question

I hope that by the end of this blog post you will have learned how to find blog post ideas, get over the fear of the blank page, learn how to format your post for easy scanning, and ideally start posting regularly.

Read a lot

Here’s a list of the books I recently finished reading:

How do I manage to read so many books?

  • Schedule an  hour of reading time every day.
  • Split your time between 3-7 books so you never get tired of one.
  • Don’t read books that suck.

I read nearly every book on the history of computing that I can get my hands on. One book keeps coming up: “Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age” by Michael A. Hiltzik.

Sorry Mr. Hiltzick. I’ve tried getting through this book multiple times. But the writing is so stilted I had to finally just say, “I pass.”

Most books aren’t required reading after college. Don’t waste your time. Find another book that holds your interest. Life’s too short to waste time reading dull books.

Highlight the good parts while you read

I don’t read without a mechanical pencil. If I don’t have a pencil to take notes while I’m reading there’s no point.

Here’s a photo of the mechanical pencil I use to do my bracketing:

img_2277When I find a great quote, book recommendation, or a wonderful turn-of-phrase, I draw a bracket in the margin curling around the quote that I want to remember.

If it’s a book that I want to read, I draw the bracket with my mechanical pencil in the margin and write a little “b” to remind myself that I was interested in borrowing this book in the future.

If it’s a word I don’t know, I bracket the word in the margin and write a little “d” next to it. This reminds me to look up the word I didn’t know.

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Transcribe the notes you made from the book

My friend’s mom was my English teacher in 12th grade. She said something in class one day that I didn’t understand at the time:

You only really understand a book the second time you read it. While you’re reading the book the first time, you don’t know the points the author is trying to make. Only, once you’ve finished the book, do you have the full picture of what the author was trying to say.

This advice didn’t made sense to my high-school-brain. It only made sense when I started bracketing out the quotes, book recommendations, examples of good writing.

Transcribing the notes later give me a chance to reread the book. This way, I’m not re-reading the entire book, I’m reacquainting myself with the best parts that are now clearer having read the entire book.

As I reread through the book I transcribe all the good parts into my notes. I like to call these notes my “Takeaways.” These takeaways are the gold I’ve uncovered by reading the book. By transcribing these takeaways, the points have a chance to hit me again.

Identify the quotes that speak to you the most

I read through my list of takeaways and fix any typos along the way. During these error correcting passes, I pay attention to which quotes provoke a reaction.

I highlight these reactionary quotes and continue to fix the typos. Now you have the list of quotes that will be the starter for your blog post.

Copy and paste the best quote at the top of the post

Open up your favorite writing program. Mine is Sublime Text. It’s free and great for writing. Sublime Text simplifies the process of writing.

Got your writing app open? Great! Now copy and paste the quote at the top of the page. Got it? Good, let’s keep going.

Freewrite for 20 minutes elaborating on the quote

Set a timer for 20 minutes. Now get started. Free write. Do not stop freewriting until that timer dings. No. Matter. What.

Sit with the problem. Stare it in the face. You’re not on stage. This private time with the page is for screaming your crazy ideas into a pillow.

Write like a little mouse scratching at a wall to break through – blindly, passionately, like your life depends on it.

Get it all out of your system. Discover connections between different types of work, politics, money, ethics, favorite foods, behavioral psychology. Make connections! Dig deep! Mine that gold!

Write and write and write. Go off on tangents. This doesn’t even have to be prose! Make lists. Compare pros and cons. Come on! Just get started and keep going until that timer dings…

Ding!

Don’t even think about posting this online

Finished writing? Immediately take a break. Close down the text editor. I mean it. Hell, shutdown the computer. Get away from it.

Go wash the dishes. Go do anything else that will take you away from the page.

Resist the urge to read through what you wrote. No one is going to see it. No one is going to judge you on it. Especially not you if I have anything to say about it.

This is not the time to revise. This is the time your subconscious has a chance to chew on the content you just created.

Feel like you need to look at the first draft again to refresh your ideas? NO! Keep away from it. Let it mature on its own. Trust your body to work on the content while you give your conscious mind a break.

“A watched pot never boils.” – Arcade Fire

You did it! Now get comfortable with shitty first drafts

Steven Pressfield is famous for writing “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The War of Art.” He’s a fantastic writer with a voice that cuts through the bullshit, addresses the lizard brain, and produces results despite an active inner critic. I reread his books and relisten to his audiobooks to “defeat the inner critic.”

Pressfield blogs too. He wrote a great post on accepting the shittiness of first drafts, getting them out, and allowing them their need sit untouched:

“If you start re-writing, you will despair.  The reason is obvious.  The first draft of anything, until you’ve written 10,000 stories, is usually complete shit.  That’s just the definition of a first draft.  If you despair, you will not finish the draft. Simple logic.”

Read it over 3 times

Now you’ve let your first draft mature like a fine cheese.

Your subconscious has been working overtime, redrafting your points, making connections between your writing and other disciplines, and things that have happened in your life that remind you of what you’re writing. You might even get flashes of lessons you learned growing up. If you’re lucky you might even get insights into your hidden culture.

After this proofing time, your subconscious has digested enough that it will guide your through the process of pruning your first draft.

Take out the redundancies. Add more quotes.

Remove passages that waste the reader’s time.

Take out the passive voice. Read it over and over and over. Craft it. Steer it. Feel where it’s going.

See points you made that need more examples? Find more quotes in your takeaways that support the point you are trying to make. The quotes don’t have to come from the same book.

Better yet, look for quotes from other books to reinforce the points you are trying to make.

Great! You’ve pulled out the shitty parts of the first draft and added supporting quotes. Now it’s time to think about the presentation of your blog post. The content is great. But we need to persuade the reader to read what you wrote. We do this by cutting the post up into visibly digestible sections.

Embolden your most salient points

What would happen if you opened a 200 page book and there were no paragraphs? I know what I’d do. I’d close the book and take it back to the library.

People are not willing to waste time reading something that has not been formatted for easy digestion.

Cut up long paragraphs. This is not a book. This is a blog post. Make it easy to read.

“Short sentences get read.” – Seth Godin

Tell them what you taught them

I learned this lesson from my professor. The hardest thing in your life will be communicating your ideas clearly and having the receiver (your readers) hear the message you intended to send.

This advice can be applied to blog posts, presentations, books, trainings, etc:

  1. Tell them what you are going to teach them.
  2. Teach them.
  3. Tell them what you taught them.

Leave the reader with a challenge or a question

Shitty first drafts are required. They are expected and thus acknowledged and accepted. Do not stop until you have made your point. It doesn’t have to be eloquent. It just has to exist.

I hope this has helped remove the “terror of the white canvas/page.” Finish your first drafts no matter what! Then let them sit. Clean them up, pretty them up, and add more quotes to reinforce your ideas.

Gambate! Go forth and write shitty first drafts!

Has this blog post helped you write a shitty first draft? I’d love to know! Email me a link!

Self-criticism is one of the most common obstacles to great performance in any field

“Self-criticism is one of the most common obstacles to great performance in any field. It’s often called the silent killer of business, because so many executives suffer from it, yet so few dare to speak out about it. I’ve heard a variety of people, from junior associates to the most senior executives, privately admit that much of their workday was consumed by negativity, their inner critics constantly pointing out their failings, or predicting disappointing outcomes for their projects and initiatives. In some cases, they (and I) were amazed that they got anything done at all, considering that, as one executive reported, ‘Eighty percent of my day is spent fighting my inner critic.'” – The Charisma Myth

I’m still working on quieting the inner critic. Buddhists call it the “Monkey Mind”: that endless, chattering, berating, irritating, loud, abrasive voice that constantly mocks, taunts, and trashes us.

The worst part of this, and something we can get hung up on is, this voice is us! Or is it? Where does this voice come from? I believe it comes from unregulated self-hate. How do we stamp out the monkey? Is there a metaphorical banana we can give him to quiet him down? It’s hard to talk when you’re eating right?

Words frame our entire world view. Words frame our sense of self. Words encapsulate and border in our personalities. Have you ever heard the saying, “Words can’t express how upset I feel right now.”

We all know there are limits to words. Words are limiting. How do we make this obstacle become the way? We need to prune words of self-loathing from our conversations with ourselves. Let’s play a game:

What are some of the worst things you can say about yourself?

  • I suck at programming. Everyone’s going to find out.
  • I’m so angry right now!
  • I hate you.

Here are different ways to phrase them.

  • I’ve assessed my strengths and pinpointed my weaknesses in programming. I can study hard and work on the parts I’ve identified.
  • I’m experiencing anger right now.
  • I’m experiencing frustration now. It will pass. Please give me time to calm myself down and I will loop back around with you to discuss this further.

In Buddhism, we talk about feeling anger rather than saying, “I am angry.” We do not identify with the anger and become our anger. We realize that anger is a passing feeling. And we know that most feelings only last about 2 minutes.

Takeaways

Think about the words you use when you are condeming yourself. Try to be aware of the way you are talking to yourself. Are the words your inner critic lobs at you compassionate? What can you do to take the sting out of your own worst enemy? Trim his words. Craft your self-message to build yourself up.

As we begin to see and appreciate our essential selves, we manifest automatically that beauty and our true capacities, simply by letting them happen

41psrbzymcl-_ac_us160_“Many people carry around with them an image of the kind of person they wish they were, much as a tennis player imagines the kind of serve he wishes he could deliver. When our behavior does not seem to measure up to our ideal, we grow dejected and then start trying hard to correct it (‘Perhaps I should take a series of lessons, or a course on personality development, or read a book about how to become less self-critical, or undergo therapy, or join an encounter group’). Such steps are not necessarily foolish – I have taken them all – but what is needed is not so much the effort to improve ourselves, as the effort to become more aware of the beauty of what we already are. As we begin to see and appreciate our essential selves, we manifest automatically that beauty and our true capacities, simply by letting them happen.” – Gallaway

During the last few weeks of high school, we were asked to come up with a quote that would accompany our senior portrait in the yearbook. If you open my high school yearbook and flip to my portrait you’ll find the following quote next to my face:

“Each day I will strive to be better than my former self.” – Thom Yorke

But what does better mean? Better in what ways? Who are we competing against? How will we know if we’ve won? When does it end?

Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you I spend too much time in my head. “But I’m striving to get better,” I’ll tell them. That’s when they say, “Yeah, but you think too much.”

“What is needed is not so much the effort to improve ourselves, as the effort to become more aware of the beauty of what we already are.” – Galloway

Where are we meant to draw the line in self-improvement? What is good enough? Does it exist at all?

“As we being to see and appreciate our essential selves, we manifest automatically that beauty and our true capacities, simply letting them happen.” – Galloway

Perhaps the lesson lies within the striving.

Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit” suggests setting cues and rewards to make any habit stick. He goes on to say that we need to perform a behavior for at least 30 days before it becomes a habit.

We aggressively block off our precious time for our most desirable habits. Let’s take it a step further. How about we start aggressively scheduling our downtime too? We need time to appreciate our accomplishments.

Let’s play a game

In our over-scheduled lives, why not lean into the obstacle?

Get your phone. No, really. Go get your phone. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Got it? Good. Open your calendar. Add a recurring 20-minute event: “Me Time.” Now set it and forget it. Each time that reminder comes up, stop, take a deep breath and shake it out.

Come back in a few weeks and let me know how it’s helped. You might find that this one little break in your routine will ease your mind, slow things down, and give you a chance to reflect on the accomplishments you’ve made this week.

We need to check in with ourselves to be better than our former selves.

We have to earn the attention and trust of our listeners and readers

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“None of us ever truly has a captive audience. We have to earn the attention and trust of our listeners and readers.” – Rachel Toor

I find myself talking at length about subjects I am most interested in. Perhaps to the chagrin of my colleagues. Sometimes I get heated and animated because I love the concepts or feel that I have something brilliant to say and I speak loudly, quickly, and intrusively.

After reading this article on the Chronicle of Education I’m having second thoughts.

In every situation, simply carrying on, is going to bore your audience. A conversation needs a back and forth. Or else it’s a soliloquy.

This aint no Shakespeare play. This is real life!

“Early-career professors who worry about their authority may feel the need to prove that they deserve to be at the head of the class. They may suffer from impostor syndrome, having just learned the stuff they’re teaching. Eager to cover any inadequacies or incomplete knowledge, they trot out what they do know. They may be uncomfortable with silence and rush to fill it.” – Rachel Toor

Guilty.

“Or it’s possible that, like me, they just get so excited about the material that they can’t refrain from pointing out every single thing they think is cool. I’ve learned that it’s often a bad idea to teach a book I adore because if my students don’t love it as much as I do, first my feelings get hurt and then I rush in to show them what they’re missing. In class I’ll talk too much instead of waiting for them to say all the things they would have said if I’d only given them a chance. I try to be aware of that; sometimes I succeed.” – Rachel Toor

Guilty.

“How do they manage to miss the way the temperature in the room cools when they filibuster? Do they not see how people shut down? How suddenly everyone’s cuticles need picking or there’s a rush to use the bathroom?” – Rachel Toor

Guilty.

Takeaways

“Since then, at the start of every course, I ask each student to wait until three others have had a chance speak before they pipe up again. That can allow time and space for those who need a few extra moments to have their say. I try to follow the same rule myself in meetings.” – Rachel Toor

I love simple rules. Rules to live by. Rules that can be applied universally. When I find a rule like this I immediately put it into place and test it out. What’s your experience with this?

Can you stop yourself from talking about subjects you love until at least 3 people have had a chance to talk? Test it out and let me know!

Deposits and Withdrawls – What’s your balance?

“You can think of relationships – in the marketplace and in your personal life – as a set of deposits and withdrawls. At JetBlue, devotion over the years of being people-friendly was a major deposit. The Valentine’s Day massacre was a big withdrawal. Expressing a genuine, heartfelt apology, offering compensation, and creating the Customer Bill of Rights were new deposits that helped the company recoup public confidence.” – Peterson

I like the metaphor of banks here. Everyone knows what a bank is. They store your money. You put in $100 one week. You take out $100 the other week. Take out too much money and you go into overdraft – we’re all guilty of this at some point in our lives.

It’s a zero sum game. You’re not going to get rich leaving your money in the bank.

In order for money to be useful it must be used.

Consider actions that strengthen relationships:

  • Calling when we haven’t heard from our friends in a while.
  • Texting a friend, “Happy Birthday!!!!!!”
  • Buying a round of drinks.
  • Saying “Thank you.”
  • Saying, “I’m sorry.”
  • Treating your friends friends as friends
  • Picking up the tab.
  • Telling someone they look nice today.
  • Listening.

Next, consider actions that weaken relationships:

  • Failing to celebrate the achievements of your friends.
  • Not calling your Mom on her birthday.
  • Forgetting important details.
  • Not really listening when your friend is telling a story.
  • Taking control of the situation without asking for feedback.
  • Not really caring
  • Not returning calls
  • Ghosting

“Trust inescapably contemplates risk.” – Peterson

With these ideas firmly in place, consider the ways that you are taking and not giving back. Mary consistently goes out with us. But she never offers to buy the next round. Instead she soaks up the good times and doesn’t refill the petty cash.

Don’t be like Mary. Repay your friends and colleagues  for the withdrawls you make. Buy the next round. Celebrate the achievements of your co-workers. Don’t be a user. Be a schmoozer!

“Life is a carnival ride and a game of dice.”

How much have you benefited from the deposits of your friends and family? What’s your balance? Gained something? Out of balance? Pay it back and we all benefit  🙂

Regaining charisma in stressful situations

Charisma seems like a fairy tale trait – something only for born leaders and presidents. But we all need it. Maybe it feels like we don’t have it. The secret is, it can be learned.

Today I wanted to share a 6 step plan for regaining charisma in stressful situations from Olivia Fox Cabane’s “The Charisma Myth”:

  1. Take a deep breath and shake out your body to ensure that no physical discomfort is adding to your tense mental state.
  2. De-dramatize. Remind yourself that these are just physical sensations. Right now, nothing serious is actually happening. This only feels uncomfortable because of the way your brain is wired. Zoom out of your focus to see yourself as one little person sitting in a room with certain chemicals flooding his system. Nothing more.
  3. De-stigmatize. Remind yourself that what you’re experiencing is normal and everyone goes through it from time to time. Imagine countless people all over the world feeling the exact same thing.
  4. Neutralize. Remind yourself that thoughts are not necessarily real. There have been many times when you’ve been certain that a client was disappointed, only to discover that the exact opposite was true.
  5. Consider a few alternate realities.
  6. Visualize a transfer of responsibility. Feel the weight of responsibility for the outcome of this situation lifting off your shoulders. Tell yourself it’s all taken care of.

Takeaways

Have you tried any of these techniques yourself? How did they work out for you?