Getting Ready for the New Year

27 12 2008

No New Year’s Resolutions. No get rich schemes or slim down diets. I am not here to offer you a magic quote that will put life in perspective – after all, even if I were to hand you what little advice I might have (check my profile, I am not an overly succesful guy on paper), these things can only be learned if you’re willing. But if you want to start the year on a good foot and learn from someone who has learned to be happy with what he has, here are a few tips:

Routine. Substance. Form. Dedication. Spontaneity.

Explain? Sure.

These days after Christmas, before New Year’s, I am prepping for a new routine before the New Year begins. I am not stating specific resolutions. But I am:

  • Determining what is important to me. I do this by reading.
  • Coming up with a way to instill those things in my life – through routine.
  • Making sure the things in my life have substance and that I focus on the form of those few things I do and not trying to do much without substance.
  • I leave room for spontaneity to enjoy those things – good or bad – that life throws my way.
  • And then, I plan on sticking to it.

These are the things that matter to me: health, staying in shape, staying sharp, keeping family around, meeting new people, keeping close friends, finishing college and doing more with my life after college than I did while in.  So I am dedicating time to do these things each day. Stay tuned for more details on such and comment on here if you have questions.

Also, Tweet me at @jacobsummers or e-mail me at jacob.summers@gmail.com.





I thought I would pass this on…

12 12 2008

So, I got this incredible comment back from an English teacher of mine… and it stings. Not because its stinging, but because it reminds me of a struggle I face everyday:

I can do well, but I often am apathetic to actually doing well in school, because I find most of it to be redundant and I know a lot of companies don’t look at GPA as much, except as a last ditch determining factor between two identical candidates… maybe thats the wrong motivation. I should not worry about jobs… but about doing well for myself. But even at that, the materials still don’t interest me – MOST of the time. I liked this class, so I decided to chip minimal extra effort. I can get a B or C without trying. I can get a B+ with a little effort, and with an hour to kill, I could make a solid A… but I am so busy doing other things. I will leave you with that, and this:

“Jacob – What an improvement! I feel like I’ve waited all semester to see work that adequately represents you, and here it is. An excellent “second coming.” …”

Paper: B+

I don’t know… my EN teachers have always cared about me and taken a special interest in my potential, but its hard for me to tap into it. I finally began to see it, but now its hard to realize that potential, and put forth energy into those things I am not interested in: school.





Social Media in Our Changing World: The Tools

9 12 2008

Social MediaBusiness & relationships
The term “public relations” brings to mind two key concepts: “business” and “relationships.”

One cannot have effective PR without building a relationship, built by communication with the key publics. But there would be no need for most forms of PR if there were no businesses — be those business corporations, agencies, nonprofits or public figures.

Simply defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, “business” is:

“A pursuit or occupation demanding time and attention; a serious employment as distinguished from a pastime.”

This is the closest of 24 separate definitions for the word, most all of them implying one’s personal tasks. In fact, the word “personal” appears more often than the word “business” itself. That’s because business is personal — it is a set of goals set about by an individual or company. In the case of the company, its success still heavily depends on the success of the individual worker and the direct connection with individual consumers. Business is personal.

So, then, it makes perfect sense that in addition to the mechanical inner workings of each company, there would be a department to focus on building and maintaining relationships above all else — the business of “public relations.”

The OED breaks “public relations” down as such:

“(The state of) the relationship between an organization or an important person and the general public; the occupation of establishing or maintaining a good relationship between an organization or an important person and the general public; (also) a company department or group that deals with such matters; abbreviated P.R.”

Importantly, this is one of only two definitions the OED has stored for this term. The other provides shocking insight:

“The relations a person has with people outside his or her immediate circle; (also) the relations between persons, bodies, or nations at a public or political level. Now rare.”

Note that even by the standards of the OED, the phrase “now rare” is included. What does this say about the the current state of effective PR?

It says that consumer reactions to PR are high, and opinions are low – even if the author of this definition was once a PR practitioner, they and all other editors have had enough other bad experience with PR. Furthermore, they feel that this statement is concurrent with enough other consumers as to be valid.

Adding more tools, upgrading the toolbox

As we all know, PR is nothing without the tools to help relationships along — even the best meaning, most talented, popular individual will need certain tools and skills at their disposal in order to gain larger numbers of relationships and maintain them.

So far, we have used much of the same for years — meetings, conferences, letters, commercials, video, audio. The problem is that these are becoming outdated and they really never were very interactive in the first place.

Now businesses are scrambling to make things interactive, and keep up with what has already begun this process among consumers themselves: social media.

Yet others are scoffing at the idea, and insist on no social media use or are ignorant of such. This would be remiss, of course, for many reasons. See any of these articles about the increased functionality of users and producers of social media or direct examples of social media in PR:

Not Wasting Time (Social media evolves the learning process, improves networking)

Hire 14 Year Olds (So easy, a child can do it)

Social Media Statistics (How many people can be potentially reached)

Are You a Social Media Expert (Get involved and see where you can go)

Hockeytown Blog (An example of a professional blog run by PR practitioners Shannon Paul and Christy Hammond for the Detroit Red Wings)

However, mainly, social media is important because companies are already being targeted by consumers through social media sites like YouTube, where customers can voice their reviews to the world . . . including an overall perception of how the company succeeds or fails.

As an old axiom goes:

“If a cluttered desk is an indication of a cluttered mind, what is indicated by an empty desk?”

The point is that, sure, the rush to engage customers has become fuddled, but in order to engage customers, it requires some effort. This effort requires more than scrambling to create completely new means, and rolling with the software that is already out there: social media.

“The big problem with social media is that there is never really a downtime,” Jeremy Pepper, a PR practitioner and author the Pop PR blog, says. “Issues can come up at any time, but you have to draw a line in the sand and say when it is your personal time. In business, not everyone is ready for social media . . . Each business, company, product – well, each campaign needs to be individually crafted. Some companies aren’t ready, not should they ever really be in social media. It’s a case-by-case examination.”

One new multipurpose tool – social media

What is social media? Many definitions fit, but here are a few, as pointed to by some professionals in the field of PR, marketing and communications, via Twitter, a social media site.

As pointed out by Damien Basile (@damienbasile), a professional in user interface/experience design and where business & technology meet in Web 3.0, via Wikipedia.org:

“Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and ‘building’ of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences.”

Basile is considered a younger user and has grown into social media at or around the time it began to develop – and his definition is fitting, yet rather broad and does a good job of focusing on the consumer and producer ends.

Richard Becker (@richbecker), ABC, president of Copywrite, Ink. had this to say about social media:

“This is the definition I currently use when I teach: social media describes online technologies that people use to share content, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives, and media. Collectively, these technologies reach more people and shape more opinion than all other paid and unpaid media combined.”

Becker is an accredited business communicator and the president of Copywrite, Ink., a strategic communication and writing services firm. He currently serves as an examiner for the IABC International Accreditation Board; and as an instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It’s fair to say that Becker has a little bit of experience in the business and is highly valued, but his explanation is but one example, albeit a powerful one, and provides technical insight into the definition.

As pointed out by Shannon Paul (@shannonpaul), who works in new media communications with the Detroit Red Wings where she is the contributing editor for the organization’s Hockeytown Blog, Robert Scoble says it best at scobleizer.com:

“When I say ‘social media’ or ‘new media’ I’m talking about Internet media that has the ability to interact with it in some way. IE, not a press release like over on PR Newswire, but something like what we did over on Channel 9 where you could say ‘Microsoft sucks’ right underneath one of my videos.”

Breaking down social media

The above quote, taken from Scobleizer.com is one man’s, Scoble’s, take on “New Media” or “Social Media.” Scoble, a proclaimed American blogger and technical evangelist, breaks it down as such:

1. The media above can’t be changed.
2. You can interact with it.
3. You can get some sense of the popularity of material in real time.
4. With the “new media” you can look at archives and see all posts.
5. Here on blogs you can mix media.
6. Here on blogs you don’t need to convince a committee to publish.
7. The new media is infinite.
8. The new media is syndicatable and linkable and easily reused.
9. The new media can be mashed up with data from other services.

Therefore, social media is incredibly exciting and rewarding – users can directly interact. This is not something scary. This means businesses/producers have the advantages of (according to a presentation by Platform Online Magazine to Capstone Agency, 2008):

—Gathering a large scope of information from users
—Gauging perception and popularity
—Correcting misconceptions
—Interacting with customers
—Reaching target audiences otherwise not readily reachable

In fact, many companies have already realized this and begun to establish themselves as the Vanguards of the business world: Marvel, Nike, Edelman, Apple and many more.

However, none of this makes much sense without at least a vague technical understanding of what social media is.

Social media are tools that enable these things, and can be browser, desktop or mobile based (according to a presentation by Platform Online Magazine to Capstone Agency, 2008):

—Social Networking
—Social Bookmarking
—Social Notification
—Social Event & Planning
—Social Communication
—Social Gaming

Brand names & social media to trust

Now that social medi (SM) has been generally structurally defined, any reasonable PR practitioner (or general user for that matter) may be thinking “how in the world do I sort this all out?” It’s simple – social media is made for you – the user and producer – in mind. So simply pick the social media that suit your needs and the needs of your publics. In order to do this, start by:

—Determining your purpose in using social media.
—Determining what type of social media serves this purpose. This can range from instant messenger communication to blog posts.
—Determine which of the platforms for this type of social media is used by the most of your consumers.
—Follow up by making it easy for general users or passersby to use and grasp.
—Start using the tools to process this social media. If other platforms suit you better, invest some time in finding a platform that allows you to use your interface and reach the platform used by the consumers (e.g. Digsby, the all-in-one instant messenger client, reaches AIM, Yahoo, GChat users and many more).
—Make and keep your content relevant and current. This involves assigning someone to keep things updated.

Suggested tools:
Firefox. As a web browser, there are many add-ons available that allow for quicker communication and streamlined consolidation of SM. For instance, FastDial, an add-on available for Firefox, allows consumer to open a tab that shows them their often used sites and switch over. This would enable a producer to quickly open all SM sites used and post new material within seconds of worthy content made available.
Twitter. A social utility using one liner statuses to quickly network with likeminded individuals – for professional or personal reasons. Many celebrities, including Shaq and Britney Spears, utilize this service. One needs only to look at the number of users to see the impact potential. An article here, published by Dave Butler of the North Colorado Beer Examiner, even suggests that Twitter may replace the common pub for low-key small talk and in-person socialization.
TweetDeck. This is a desktop application to keep Twitter feeds simple and easy to reply to, as well as to visualize the stream of information coming in scan for relevant content. Aaron Wall of Seo even suggests using this tool in his article “TweetDeck, Ordering the Chaos.”
Facebook. A social network where common users can interact and businesses can learn more about users on a personal level.
Reddit. A social news site, where users can submit links to news they feel is important, then push it up or down in importance based on other submitted links.
Digg. Similar to Reddit, but for a different brand of users that desire a more pleasing interface.
Google. Google as a brand has launched many applications/utilities/gadgets that have caught on in user appeal. Any of their products are thorugh and use user information to improve productivity immediately. And its all free. —Suggested Services: Google Search Engine, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Labs, Google Alerts, Blogger
WordPress. Much like Blogger offered by Google, this blog site allows users an easy interface with which to create their own listings, or a place for you to do so and allow users to comment on yours. The upside to WordPress is that it is much more widely recognized, respected and it has more visual themes with which to work.
YouTube. A social video posting site that allows any user anywhere to upload videos up to around 10 minutes in length. This is a necessity for posting podcasts or other viral videos as well as to check on which videos – good or bad – are being posted about your company.

Just a tool, not the purpose

However, all of these wonderful tools and toys are great for our profession – when kept to tools and toys. They are there for our use, but only insomuch as to create that vital relationship with the consumer, regardless of our service provided.

Tips to establish and sustain that relationship using SM:
—Allot a lot of time for SM use.
—Establish key SM users, with allotment for other employees to get on and blog/post/update as appropriate.
—Update constantly.
—Value fewer quality responses over more pointless responses, but do ensure that the max amount of users are knowledgeable and subscribed to your site/SM/software.

Additional tips can be found here: “Tracking a SM Expert“.

In closing, Social/New Media and its relevance to PR can best be summed up as Pepper has summed it up for his professional use:

“One of the key things about SM is that it keeps you honest as a PR person – it keeps you engaged, it keeps you thinking about the customer, as well as the corporation. While many people like to talk about PR as dead, or PR as changing, social media is forcing PR people to think beyond press/media relations and go back to the public conversation.”

Sites to Consider & References:
Jeremy Pepper
http://pop-pr.blogspot.com/

Damien Basile
http://thecauseisthehabit.com
Perry Belcher
http://www.perrybelcher.net
Christy Hammond
http://www.sportsprblog.com
Rich Becker
http://www.copywriteink.blogspot.com
Shannon Paul
http://veryofficialblog.com
Mack Collier
http://moblogsmoproblems.blogspot.com

–JMS–





Unaligned

8 12 2008

I am many things to many people,
but next to nothing to myself.
I am all places at once, helping others out
and never settling down.

I rhyme on time when I want to please
and break my schemes up when I want to make a point.

I am perfect and I’m flawed.
I’m selfish and I’m not.

I… am unaligned.





Yeats Message of Inescapable Doom

4 12 2008

In case anyone is a literary nut, this is my paper on Yeats for my final paper of Poetry Writing at UA.  I liked it, its a bit dry, and its 6 pages.  If you like this kind of thing, knock yourself out, then comment and critique me. I like it, it helps me think better.

Jacob Summers

EN 366-001

12/4/2008

Essay II:

Yeats’ Message of an Inescapable Apocalypse in “The Second Coming”

Yeats’ “The Second Coming” is a warning that the world is approaching a new apocalyptic meltdown – and that there is nothing that can be done about it. Furthermore, he insists that it is both necessary and has happened before with similar intents and similar results. Based on minimal biographical references (in order not to assume meaning not readily discernable in the poem), Yeats may have been predicting World War II, based on the timing of the creation of the poem: immediately after World War I.

First, Yeats is telling us that the world is approaching a new apocalyptic meltdown. This is accomplished in four ways – use of heavy language, use of cryptic language, the direct message that something is coming and the use of disturbing images. In these ways, he builds a three-dimensional picture with the core message that “it’s coming.” The message is an ancient and visceral one built on our own fears and the three-dimensional picture plays off images that we have been fed through ancient stories, poetry, religious contexts and contemporary media. Therefore, using our own conventions and at the same time writing in a matter that puzzles us, Yeats is able to compel us to fear our own apocalyptic doom.

To begin to see this picture, Yeats uses his first dimension of storytelling and poetry writing: heavy-worded language throughout this poem. The presence of heavy language indicates that there is a heavy message which must be told using heavy language, just as a poem about beauty must be told using words that recall beauty. Examples of this heavy language are “Things fall apart” and “the center cannot hold.” These convey heavy messages – messages we cannot easily accept – that destruction is at the heart of most things and therefore inevitable. Furthermore, other phrases like the last two lines of the first stanza indicate even heavier messages – that we are in fact the cause of the inner turmoil and destruction:

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst

are full of passionate intensity.”

Next, Yeats compounds this dread of self-inflicted destruction by using his second dimension of storytelling and poetry – use of ancient cryptic language tells us that the heavy message is ancient and well understood, but not easily defined. This is consistent with most prophetic religious texts or works of art. The reader has been hit with the message that destruction is inevitable for all things including him. Now he is led to believe he is the reason. Also, instead of offering a solution, some hope or even silence, Yeats has added hidden meanings, cryptic language and obscure religious references to confuse and compound things:

“Surely some revelation is at hand;
surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
when a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi”

For most of the culture in which Yeats grew up, the world revelation was almost certainly a reference to the revelations of the Christian Bible – in which there is an entire book dedicated to and named “Revelations.” The reader would then use this frame of reference with ease and necessity when reading the next line with the phrase “the Second Coming.” After all, few things are referred to as a coming in anything outside of a prophetic or Biblical sense and most of the time, nothing is worthy of the being called a first coming. Surely few things are drastic enough to be followed up with a second coming – in which case something important might be back referenced as a first coming. So naturally, these things are either clearly Biblical (which still makes them highly cryptic, as many great scholars struggle with the ideologies of the Bible), they are of no specific reference and conjured up for the sake of the poem or they are references to some other source material not readily known or understood by most readers. This makes any reading of this intentionally cryptic, which compounded with the fear of inevitable destruction, means the poem is foreboding.

Next, for understanding the final of Yeats’ three dimensional tools in this poem (graphic and violent images), it is important to realize something – the previous tools tell us that the message is “something is coming.” After all, as concluded at the end of the first two tools, the poem is foreboding. Foreboding, simply defined, warns of something yet to occur – either in physical, mental, spiritual or literary form. If we are to keep with the word choice used, it is Biblical in nature. It may not be something actually predicted or revealed in the Bible… but rather something like the prophecies of Revelations. After all, Yeats never directly mentions anything that is strictly Biblical – he has been cryptic and heavy to this point and drawn on the connotations of “revelations” and “the second coming.” However, he has done so without mentioning the name of Christ, God or any key characters or stories of the Bible. In fact, he even wrote “Surely some revelation is at hand,” not “Surely Revelations is at hand.” Neither does he write “were vexed to nightmare by Christ’s cradle,” he writes “were vexed to nightmare by rocking cradle.”

Finally, Yeats’ third three-dimensional tool (use of graphic and violent images) tells us that whatever is coming is going to disturb us and remove us from our sense of order. This is easily found in the first several lines:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
the falcon cannot hear the falconer;
things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
the ceremony of innocence is drowned;”

Two things are accomplished here: we are told that our sense of order (followers obeying their masters, materials with a natural center and law) will all deteriorate. This is a point established through both the first three dimensional tool (heavy language) and this, the third tool (disturbing images). To drive the point home that whatever is coming will be worthy of the disturbance of our hearts caused by fear – we are given imagery like “the blood-dimmed tide” and “the ceremony of innocence” – images that are violent and imply something intimate and almost sexual (the word innocence in this sense implies a depravation of innocence).

Therefore, when we combine this horror with the message that everything will inevitably destruct as a result of our own apathy and that it is so cryptic and ancient in nature that it cannot be easily understood (and is therefore nearly if not completely unavoidable), we are led to the natural conclusion that this is nothing short of an apocalypse – and a second one at that. The definition of apocalypse does not strictly limit it to complete obliteration of its targets, therefore rendering it a compatible term and allowing it to indicate that however powerful it was the first time – it nearly obliterated us and that a second coming is nothing short of devastating.

Additionally, along with the message that the end is coming and that it is futile to attempt to change this fate, Yeats tells us that the end is, in fact, necessary. He even indicates that it has been used before to enact the same results it seeks to enact now:

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst

are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;”

Here, it is as though he seems to wish for revelation: “surely some revelation is at hand to correct such thing as apathy in the best of man” he seems to be shouting. He goes on to cry out for this revelation:

“Surely the Second Coming is at hand.”

Finally, he makes a reference to this happening in the past:

“That twenty centuries of stony sleep

were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

and what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

After all, if in fact this rough beast is awaken, then it must have at one point been awake before and fallen to sleep – it is here in the mention of millennia along with the brief hint of “gyre” at the beginning of the poem that indicates that this is, in fact, a cycle.

Of the last points to be made about this poem, I firmly believe that Yeats is trying to tell us of an impending World War. He has just seen the first World War and knows the political tensions of his time. And surely, after the destruction of the first, a second one would destroy even further resources, he might believe (based on his vantage point). If not for the fact that he wrote this between World Wars I and II, then this might be true due to a direct reference in the phrase “Spiritus Mundi” or “world spirit.” This could mean something religious, or it could imply that “world” tensions are so high that further (and possibly final) destruction is inevitable.

The Second Coming is no doubt ancient, cryptic and religious. But the key message that not all readers might believe present is that Yeats is warning of an apocalyptic future brought on by ourselves and which is inescapable. This destruction may in fact even be cyclical and necessary and have happened once (if not several times) already. This is accomplished through very specific word usage and minimal social context, relying on conventionally superstitious and religious images. In this way, Yeats shows his poetic mastery in using our own conscious and subconscious tools to incite an emotional reaction in us that runs deeper than happiness or awe of poetic works.





Can Bama Win?

1 12 2008

Silly question. Of course we can.

That said… no one blame me for any outcome later – win or lose. I did not do it. Our team did it and to get onto me for being too cocky… is silly and I don’t answer to that.

Why? Because the Gators suck. Not in the typical “actually based on stats and performance” kind of way. More like a “we’re underrated and the underdog in this fight” kinda way. And we hate being the underdog. It still, however, results in the same reaction on our parts – proving we’re not underqualified.

Check the end of this video for what Saban has to say about being called the underdog.

And let’s see… we’ve been that all season. Where are we now? 12-0.

What did they say about the LSU game? “It’ll be close… but we don’t know if they’ll win.”
What did they say about Clemson? “There’s no way, Jacob. Be realistic.”
(Though this guy has apparently not caught up.)
What did they say about Georgia? “They’re wayyy too good, no way.”

Each time… we won. And then each time plummeted… we demoralized them. People say we played crappy teams. I remember them being unstoppable at the time. Then we beat them, then they became crappy.

Guess that’s what happens when you call yourselves unstoppable.

Heck, atleast the other teams’ fans and cheerleaders were hot.

Heck again, other coaches and offensive coordinators have even been fired/resigned in light of us or to prepare for us next year: Auburn, Tennesee, Clemson.

They’ll say its not cause of us… but we know the truth.

I will say this, however… it is a shame that Croom is gone. He does not deserve it. That man was rebuilding the program at MSU right.

But really… so many coaches down right before/after we play them… an undefeated season… number one by most polls, except for the #3 computer ranking. Improved play across the season… better offense, better defense, learned to start putting points up fourth quarter… we can do this.

Plus Percy Harvin is down, and most of his fans don’t seem to care. So they have no class, no pride and limited chance.





Movies I Predict to Fail/Suceed

1 12 2008

Wolverine

Based on the actors, the set interviews from extras and film crews and the amount of work going into this, I think it will be epic. Beginning with a great class of actors including Hugh Jackman himself, and a list of characters including Wolverine, Gambit and Deadpool… this movie has potential. And the fact that there is still so much unknown about it leads me to think Fox learned their lesson from X3.

Prediction: Epic Win.

GI Joe

This looks like cheese wrapped around a nice fat ham – and for those slower among us, that is a metaphor for campiness. Who knows? Maybe they can make it work. But it looks like a bad B-Flick at this point in the game, with only a few points for the hot lead actress.

Prediction: Epic Fail.

The Spirit

Oh, my, goodness… this is an epic win. And, its an example of where cheesiness can be succesful… this takes the serial Sunday paper comic strips of a moonlighting detective very similar to Dick Tracy, and kicks it up a notch under the sage direction of Frank Miller. I love the screen re-color and I love the interaction of the romantic interest, villainy and film noir chic.

Prediction: Epic Win.

–JMS–