Pioneers Of Digital (USA Today Book Review)

Pioneers of Digital-book coverIf you’ve ever wondered why things look and work the way they do on the internet; you’ll enjoy reading the book I recently reviewed for USA Today; Pioneers of Digital:Success Stories from Leaders in Advertising, Marketing, Search and Social Media.

The book profiles twenty extremely influential, but not generally well-known people who have shaped online experiences for billions of people worldwide.

From search engine marketing, to pay-per-click, online political fundraising, and even virtual reality gaming; these unsung heroes of the internet have literally made your online experience what it is today.

Click here to read my review on USAToday.com: ‘Pioneers of Digital’ Has Key Start-Up Advice‘.

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‘Yes To The Mess’ Explores Link Between Jazz + Business (USA Today Book Review)

I was really happy when my Editor at USA Today gave the me the opportunity to review Frank J. Barrett’s new book “Yes To the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons From Jazz”. (Click here to read review).

That’s because I’m not only a jazz fan and singer; but also because I programmed music for businesses and homes worldwide for more than 10 years, when I worked for AEI Music/DMX in Seattle.

Through classic jazz at Talbot’s, Smooth Jazz at Hilton Garden Inn, Bossa Nova at World Market, and electronica-laced Acid Jazz at Polo Ralph Lauren; the colorful palette of jazz, and jazz-hybrid styles helped me paint unique and compelling audio brand images for my clients.

Programming music for business also taught me how working for a company that adopts the collaborative and improvisational jazz mindset, can lead to increased creativity, innovation, and harmony in the workplace.

So, when I read “Yes To The Mess”, I had the most amazing “ah-ha!” moment. What Frank Barrett outlines in his book, is exactly what I experienced in real life at AEI/DMX.

I was lucky to have bosses who would collaborate instead of dictate, to have co-workers who would share, instead of compete, and to work in an atmosphere that encouraged individual creativity instead of corporate conformity. This collaborative, improvisational, and jazz-like approach, helped us create unique and compelling signature sounds for our customers.

But, it wasn’t all collegial bliss and Kumbaya. Sometimes there were rather vigorous disagreements, snarky comments, and system meltdowns. Sometimes, it seemed to be completely out of control; exactly the kind of creative “mess” that Barrett explores in his book.

To find out more; click here to read my USA Today book review of “Yes to The Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons From Jazz”, and here to order it from Amazon.com.

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What If You Die, But Your Email Doesn’t?

I really enjoyed Laurie Frankel’s new romantic novel “Goodbye For Now“, about a Seattle software engineer who creates what he thinks will be a way to ease the suffering of the living, by finding a way for them to digitally talk to the dead.

When Sam Elling, a semi-nerdy, but brilliant programmer, first develops his miracle software; he does it for love. But Sam’s computer-dating algorithm not only delivers his perfect soul-mate, Meredith; it also morphs into a program  so intelligent that it can almost perfectly recreate dear departed loved ones in digital form.

The book is funny, touching, and oh-so-very sad. It accurately captures the tenderness of love, and the desperate, gut-wrenching emptiness of grief.

The book’s premise; that digital data such as emails, texts, video chats, and blog posts that you create while you are living, could power a program that is virtually indistinguishable from the real you after you die; is both intriguing and kind of  creepy.

If you had the choice; would you video chat, email, or text with the digital doppelgänger of your dead loved one, instead of facing the unbearable loneliness of life without them? Would that keep you from actually healing and moving on? Even if it did;would you care?

These are the questions that Sam and Meredith face as they start “Repose”; their new business that reunites the living with the digital dead. They’re also the same ones that haunt them as their love unfolds in ways they could never have imagined.

But, what made the book special for me, was how accurately it captures  life in Seattle. When I left there two years ago; I really didn’t think I’d miss it all that much. It may be beautiful, but after 14 years of steel-grey skies; I’d pretty much had enough.

But as it turns out, I really do miss it. In a quirky twist of Pacific Northwest irony; a book about digitally reanimating the dead, brought Seattle very much back to life for me.

It’s the perfect book for computer geeks, romantics, coffee-lovers, and rainy beach walkers everywhere.

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Is Social Media Really B.S.?

In the book”Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Divides, Diminishes, and Disorients Us“, author and talk show host Andrew Keen explores the dark side of social media. (Click here for my review of the book in USA Today)

So, it was pretty interesting to watch him interview B.J. Mendelson on    TechCrunch.com, about Mendelson’s new book; “Social Media Is Bullshit“.

You’d figure since both authors share a distrust for social media, as well as the same publisher, (St. Martin’s Press); they might see things the same way.

But they don’t.

While Keen is concerned about issues like cell phone tracking and privacy, Mendelson’s gripe, it seems, is all about the Benjamins. He complains that even with 770,000 Twitter followers, he hasn’t made enough money.

“We live in a world where it’s far easier to make money telling people how to get rich using the internet than it is to actually get rich using it,” he says. “All the hype” about the effectiveness of social media marketing is BS even if you have a lot of followers; he contends, unless you’re already famous.

That reminded me of a story Kenny Loggins told when he played a private concert for us at DMX Music in Seattle, back in 2003.

Loggins, who achieved worldwide fame with hits like “House at Pooh Corner” and “Celebrate Me Home”, observed that independent musicians don’t have it made just because they can sell direct to their fans over the internet. In fact, he said, it was only musicians like himself who already had a global fan base who could make decent money selling their own music online.

That’s because their former record labels had already spent millions to market their music through all kinds of different channels; such as newspapers, billboards, radio, TV, concert venues, and record stores. In addition, the artists themselves had established an enduring connection with their fans through their recorded music and live performances.

It’s hard for a anyone to make decent money selling ads on their own social network. 770,000 Twitter followers may sound like a lot, but based on my experience selling digital advertising; I can tell you it’s not that much. If he had 7 million followers, or 770 million followers, and he was doing something that was engaging enough for them to want to continually interact with him; now we’re talking revenue opportunity.

Also, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have unless they choose to interact with you long enough and often enough to see or hear the ads you want to serve them. And, they’re not going to do that, unless they have some compelling reason to do so.

Mendelson admits that he got the vast majority of his Twitter followers simply because he had been involved with a breast cancer charity, and that he was somehow able add all of their followers to his own (I’m a little hazy on how he was able to do that; but he did).

So, if they really weren’t his followers to begin with; why would they have any incentive to interact with him on Twitter now?

He needs to find new followers who have a personal reason to want to connect and interact with him. Writing a book is a step in the right direction.

It not only gives him the opportunity to sell something more than just advertising impressions on his social network; it also gives him the opportunity to build a fan base of readers.

If that fan base also includes people who meet him in person at book signings, speaking engagements, and other events, they’re way more likely to want to interact with him on social media.

So, is social media BS?

No. Having unrealistic expectations about what it can do for you–that’s BS.

Click on the links below for more information.

Andrew Keen’s Book:

Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Divides, Diminishes, and Disorients Us

My review in USA Today: “Digital Vertigo” a Hitchcockian Tale of Web Angst

Tech Crunch Interview: Keen On…B.J. Mendelson, Social Media is Bullshit

Social Media is Bullshit

The Dark Side of Social Media: “Digital Vertigo” (USA Today Book Review)

Do you share even the most intimate details of your life online?

Find out why that’s not such a great idea, in Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us.

I interviewed the author and reviewed the book for USA Today. Here is a link: Review: Digital Vertigo A Hitchcockian Tale of Web Angst

“Mobile Wave”: My Book Review In USA Today

Catch the “Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything” by software entrepreneur, Michael Saylor.

My review of his new book was published this morning by USA Today.

Here is a link:

Review: iPads, Smartphones in world-changing “Mobile Wave”

You can buy the book on Amazon.com.