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Book Review: SOCIAL WARMING and the Effects of Social Media

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[DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided for review purposes. All links are non-affiliate links, and all opinions are my own]

Over the past five years, social media usage has shifted away from communications and marketing and into darker areas. Two years ago, P.W. Singer’s Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media outlined how social media has been used to drive dissension and division. However, Charles Arthur outlines how social media networks have facilitated this process in Social Warming: The Dangerous and Polarizing Effects of Social Media from Oneworld Publications.

In his book, Charles Arthur describes “social warming” as a gradual process that occurs over time and usually happens (in his words)

“…when interactions between people who used to be geographically separated and infrequently exposed to each other’s views are more frequently brought together, and kept in orbit around topics that will engage them and create addictive experiences”

Social Warming, p 4.

With social networks becoming increasingly accessible (and mobile devices/smartphones becoming more available), there are greater opportunities for network algorithms to amplify “engaging” posts. This amplification of posts encourages users to log in more frequently and for longer periods of time. Since this process is unregulated and unrestricted, users become gradually more accepting – and less critical – of social media content.

Throughout Social Warming, Charles Arthur highlights key examples of how unchecked social media activity has adversely influenced social media user behavior. For example, he sites social media’s over-reliance on algorithms to promote “engaging” content without context as a factor in swaying political and social thought. Arthur also notes how “scissor statements” (things said to deliberately spike controversy and division) have often driven further dissension. Social Warming also highlights how a lack of foresight and critical thinking on the part of social media networks drove a wide variety of political and social upheavals, with one chapter dedicated to issues around COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theory.

Although making similar arguments to the previously mentioned Likewar, Charles Arthur focuses on how the leadership and procedures within social media networks have frequently abdicated responsibility through relying heavily on algorithms, developing a laissez-faire attitude towards monitoring, and focusing exclusively on user growth. Arthur makes various concrete, practical recommendations for social media network leadership towards the end of Social Warming.

Like many other people, I saw social media as a unique way of connecting people across communities. As a professional, I worked to help smaller organizations and nonprofits (as well as larger brands) use social media in a healthy, ethical way. Although it is easy to make social media the ultimate cause of dissension and division, Charles Arthur’s Social Warming: The Dangerous and Polarizing Effects of Social Media makes a very strong case for that belief.

And thankfully, provides some solutions. Highly Recommended.

Please feel free to continue the conversation on our Facebook page, or leave a comment below.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Written by gordondym

September 7, 2021 at 8:08 pm

BOOK REVIEW: Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War

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Two things have kept me busy in the past few months: new employment and Star Trek. Reengaging with past Star Trek series (mostly Deep Space Nine and Enterprise) has reminded me how much the franchise has affected my life as well as inspired several Star Trek-themed blog posts). So I came across The Klingon Art of War (not an affiliate link), I was curious about whether it would be a similar-themed leadership guide for nonprofits and social enterprise as Wess Roberts’ Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Although it is less didactic than Make It SoStar Trek – The Klingon Art of War functions as a smart, savvy reworking of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Organized into ten “principles” with related stories, Klingon Art of War serves less as a practical leadership guide and more of a metaphorical exploration into leadership strategy. (In fairness, author Keith R.A. Candido’s intention was focused on highlighting Klingon history and lore, not focusing on business leadership). However, recontextualizing Sun Tzu’s theories through a Klingon perspective provides an easier way to understand. (Especially given the high prevalence of “honor” in Klingon society which could easily be translated into “integrity” in our present times).

klingon_d-7_class

Even for those working remotely (like me) and dealing with COVID-19 related issues, The Klingon Art of War provides some strong ideas about personal conduct. Despite harsh-sounding phrases like “Choose Your Enemies Well” and “Always Die Standing Up”, Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War promotes a positive, straightforward approach to handling matters. Even the book’s main narrative conceit – a Klingon scholar describing his reaction to these stories – provides insight into how text can be interpreted and misinterpreted. As much as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War focused on strategy and winning every battle, Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War focuses on personal integrity and perceptions of situations. Although it isn’t a substitute for other resources, Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War provides a metaphorical exploration of living with integrity.

For Star Trek fans, The Klingon Art of War also provides some great background on Klingon culture and society within the series. Several appendices explain Klingon weapons, a practical application of Klingon principles, and understanding a historical context. Although it may seem frivolous to give meaning to tie-in literature, Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War cannot help but feel appropriate during this time. With several Star Trek series attempting to deconstruct Trek lore, The Klingon Art of War (published in 2014) reconstructs Klingon lore into a great mix of insightful tie-in literature and practical guide.

I highly recommend Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War for nonprofit and social enterprise leaders, Star Trek fans, and people looking for an entertaining diversion.

For now, though, I am now considering taking Klingon language lessons thanks to this book.

Have comments? Please leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you wish to email me, use this contact form.

And thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

September 1, 2020 at 8:11 am

Book Review: TREKONOMICS – The Economics of STAR TREK

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Much of my professional career (working with nonprofits, social enterprise, and private clients), as well as my personal philosophy, has been shaped by Star Trek. Whether adopting leadership lessons from Jean-Luc Picard or ethical principles based on the Federation, I have always gravitated towards Trek’s values (second only to those of Doctor Who). So when a recent YouTube video on the economics of Star Trek name-checked Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek by Manu Saadia, I was intrigued enough to check out the book for myself.

As someone who finds higher-level economic theory relatively dry, I thoroughly enjoyed Trekonomics. Far from being a how-to-get-there guide, Saadia uses Star Trek as an endpoint for this theoretical exploration. Focusing primarily on Star Trek: The Next Generation and its follow-ups, Saada explores the implication of various types of technology (like replicators) and the change in attitudes around wealth and money. (As Saadia himself states, the original Star Trek series mentioned currency, commerce, and other economic factors. Balancing both economic theory and fannish enthusiasm, Trekonomics explores the greater meaning of how an “ideal” world like the Federation might emerge. With the growing conversation about Universal Basic Income, our society appears to be moving slightly towards a shift in perspective.

Picard

In many ways, however, Trekonomics feels like a very well-considered argument of support for another book featured on this blog. As much as Winners Take All by Anand Girharadas highlighted the ways in which “elites” fail at social change, Trekonomics provides insights into the end goal. (Granted, it assumes that the society of  Star Trek was fully conceived rather than enhanced by scriptwriters and production crew). Even though the book can feel a bit draggy at times, Trekonomics does a very good job in providing a slightly fan-oriented theoretical base to a fictional economy.

So why review this book? Many nonprofits, social enterprises, and individuals are driven to foster social good and social benefit. Frequently, they engage in utopian thinking without considering the consequences or believe that their actions have minimal consequences. One of the advantages of Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek is that it successfully reverse engineers such a society, examining the attitudes that could move society forward towards such a future.

It’s also a really good read for any Star Trek fan, and it’s highly recommended.

Please feel free to join us on Facebook or leave your comments below…and as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

September 22, 2019 at 7:50 pm

Book Review: WINNERS TAKE ALL

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Like many startups, nonprofits, and social enterprises, many businesses are adopting a mission-driven philosophy of driving social good. For many organizations and highly prominent individuals, doing good should be “baked into” their corporate mission. As Anand Giriharadas argues in Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, this attitude can inadvertently perpetuate the very systems they are looking to change, and his arguments make Winners Take All a must-read for any socially-minded mission-driven organization or individual.

Despite the book’s subtitle, Winners Take All takes a well-mannered, thoughtful approach to its arguments. As Giriharadas explains throughout the book, many organizations and individuals taking a “business” approach to driving social good often rely on tactics and thinking that not only lack awareness of deeper systemic issues, but avoid engaging the greater community and can exacerbate certain problems. Many of the “social elite” (consisting of higher level businesses and individuals) focus more on superficial changes than handling deeper, systemic issues, and this approach “treats symptoms, not root causes; it does not change the fundamentals of what ails us” . Adopting problem-solving strategies that provide business-friendly results, those organizations and individuals looking to drive social change avoid acknowledging or addressing greater systemic issues…or even worse, remaining silent about acknowledging their own complicity and/or responsibility for addressing those issues

Winners Take All supports its criticism with some exceptional examples and well-reasoned arguments. Discussing a variety of issues ranging from philanthropy to new business models, Giriharadas provides sharp insights without ever descending into derision. With its matter-of-fact prose and succinct, descriptive manner, Winners Take All manages to highlight concerns without condemning those involved. One great example is how Giriharadas discusses the Sackler family’s involvement with philanthropy as they fostered the opioid crisis, as recently featured on Last Week With John Oliver:

 

Moving from the microcosm of TED Talks to the larger view of globalism, Winners Take All advocates a strong case against the prevailing belief that “what’s good for business is good for greater society.” In a business landscape that is becoming more focused on greater social benefit, there is also a greater need for introspection and honest self-exploration about their own potential complicity in fostering systemic issues. Such introspection and self-inventory, Girharadas argues in Winners Take All, is a critical step that needs to happen to ensure success…and that many organizations seem unwilling to take.

Many nonprofits, social enteprises, and mission-driven businesses – both within and outside of Chicago – should consider reading Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World as part of their strategic planning processs. Many individuals looking to drive social change should also read Anand Giriharadas’ book as well. Fostering social change is not an easy process, and Winners Take All provides an exceptional argument for self-inventory, introspection, and awareness. Highly recommended.

Further thoughts? Insights? Please feel free to leave your comments below or join the conversation via our Facebook page. Please feel free to join our Patreon community, or email me directly via this contact form.

As always, thanks for reading!

Book Review: LIKEWAR – The Weaponization of Social Media

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Once upon a time, social media was seen as an online ‘town square’ enabling a diverse array of opinions. Soon, it became a way for marginalized individuals and groups to have their voices heard. Now, in the age of Trump, ISIS, and “Russian bots”, social media has become a weapon for sowing dissension and division. If you’re seeking a thorough examination of how this happened, Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media by P.W. Singer and Emerson Brooking is an indispensable guide for learning how this happened and provides great historical insight into the forces that shape our current online landscape.

If you’re looking for a breezy, easy-to-understand guide to social media and online warfare, Likewar is not that book. Singer and Brooking provide a dense, thorough examination of how social media and online communication have morphed into an abstract battlefield. Starting with Trump’s first Tweet in 2009, Likewar provides a great overview of how many entities have adopted the principles of digital marketing and social media engagement (like controlling the narrative) to engage users.

But more damning is the central idea that many social media algorithms, with their emphasis on “likes”, provide an opportunity to make false information “viral”, allowing it to remain within a conversation and create an ideological echo chamber for the user. One of the points that Singer and Brookings make in their book is that these strategies are not created by hackers experienced in technology…but people with marketing strategy and insight into online engagement. Think of it as the dark side of “clickbait” and “viral memes” – online information designed not just to engage, but to sow dissension amongst users.

Individuals and groups are using these techniques to enable others to fight in a new kind of social media-based warfare, and Likewar provides a field guide to how these conflicts are waged.

In light of the recent federal shutdown, Likewar provides not only a strong historical context but an almost uncanny prescience. We are already seeing some of these tactics used by the right around the Covington Catholic incident. Consider online conversations about Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) comments about algorithms despite some research backing her claims. With the Department of Homeland Security issuing a directive in response to DNS attacks, we are seeing a rise in Internet-based strategy and warfare. Knowing the changing landscape can help many individuals and organizations adopt and prepare…

Consider Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media your must-read book of 2019. Informative, insightful, yet also cautionary.

Please feel free to leave comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you wish to contact me privately, please reach out via this contact form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

January 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

How Harlan Ellison Influenced My Writing

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Harlan Ellison in Boston
Photo by Pip R. Lagenta via Flickr
With Harlan Ellison’s recent passing, I have to admit that…well, he’s been on my mind a great deal. Not out of concern…just a group of unread ebooks on my phone. In fact, I was so bored recently that I found – and watched – the 2008 documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth to pass the time…

And now, I realize that Harlan Ellison’s work has not only had a notable influence on my work but has also provided a great example of courageously expressing your values and opinions…even if it means facing criticism. In a time when “civility” is promoted as a community ideal, Ellison’s I-don’t-care attitude and blunt realism serve as both welcome examples and cautionary tales. Sometimes simultaneously.

Growing up, I knew about Harlan Ellison – after all, he wrote one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, as well as a really memorable Outer Limits episode. He even wrote the introductions to Pinnacle’s first wave of Doctor Who paperbacks. I knew the name…but I didn’t know the man or his other work.  But it wasn’t until my first year of college – an abortive year at the University of Chicago – that I was formally introduced to his work by a woman I was quite…infatuated with.

That summer, I checked out The Essential Ellison from the West Lawn Branch of the Chicago Public Library…and read it cover to cover. That led to searches for well-worn paperbacks in thrift shops, with Ellison’s work competing for my hard-earned dollars with Doc Savage paperbacks. Reading his work voraciously, I found myself not only enjoying his prose…but sought out other ephemera, like tracking down the episode he wrote for The Man From UNCLE or even catching adaptations of his work for The Twilight Zone such as  Shatterday or Paladin of the Lost Hour. 

I have always believed that great writing always looks easy to do…until you actually have to do it. Ellison’s prose and essays had a sharp, incisive attitude. Yes, I heard all the storiesabout Ellison’s difficult attitude (and to be honest, I share Harlan Ellison’s predilection towards disruptive behavior and blunt honesty). And his later life was not without controversy…but there was something straightforwardly honest about the man.

West Lawn Branch - Chicago Public Library by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Harlan Ellison called it as he saw it…and realized that he might be wrong. He stood his ground and spoke his truth. He also called for social change where it was needed, but more importantly, he actually lived his principles. (He often mentored new writers, including Octavia E. Butler). And one of my favorite Ellison quotes has not only served as a personal mantra but has greater resonance in our time of “civility” –

“We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our INFORMED opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble. It’s like a fart in a wind tunnel, folks.”

It’s that willingness to be honest, to see writing as much as an art as a craft, to see where the piece leads has not only influenced my blogging for Chicago Now but also my fiction writing  and “writer’s commentaries” on my short stories and essays.  It’s that total dedication to pure honesty and integrity in writing that has not only influenced me but has also helped me appreciate Harlan Ellison’s work even more.  I could quote several other writers who claim that Harlan Ellison is one of the greatest writers who ever lived…but I would rather let you seek out his work and enjoy it for yourself.

Ironically, for a man who led such a tumultuous life, Harlan Ellison passed away peacefully in his sleep. Somehow, I wish he would have gone down fighting…but I won’t complain.

Please feel free to leave your comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. Please direct any personal correspondence via my contact form.

And thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

July 1, 2018 at 9:54 am

Book Review: DISRUPTED by Dan Lyons

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I’ll admit, I went into Disrupted (written by Dan Lyons) with a knowing familiarity; like him, I entered the startup world ten years ago, having just moved back to Chicago. Like many other reviews, I enjoyed the book’s slightly snarky take on startup culture….

But in light of that recent Google memo and various responsesDisrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons reads less like a satiric jab at technology, marketing, and startup culture and more of a clarion call for greater diversity and inclusion…as well as a rallying cry against ageism and elitism.

Let’s be clear – Disrupted is a very funny book, and Dan Lyons provides some scathing insights into startup culture. After all, having been involved in journalism for over 25 years, Lyons (then in his early 50s) decides to work for Hubspot.  From there, he receives a very gradual introduction into the more absurd aspects of Hubspot culture: the unusual language of HubSpeak (which requires a wiki to understand), the emphasis on personal politics over accomplishments….after all, Lyons only wanted a job where he could learn marketing, and then more forward in his career. It wasn’t meant to be anything serious…

But things begin to turn for the worse. Granted, Lyons is unsparing in assessing his own behavior (after all, he’s not a writer for HBO’s Silicon Valley for nothing), but he also notices some strange things. Insisting on buying free candy for employees rather than, say, paying them a higher wage. Noticing a preponderance of young, white dudes (in a particularly damning move, Lyons publishes a group photo and asks the reader to point out people of color. SPOILER ALERT…there aren’t any unless you count co-founder Dharmesh Singh). In short, the story continues on a nice, snarky path, but then….

Things begin deteriorating to the point that by the time you read the last chapter of Disrupted, you would swear that Dan Lyons shifted gears and wrote a paranoid techno-thriller. It’s hard to describe without spoiling, but Disrupted manages to make serious points about the nature of technology/startup/marketing culture – a tendency towards homogeneity and lack of diversity, emphasizing “dudebro”-style culture and self-aggrandizement over accomplishment and status. (As well as address blatant sexism, ageism, and other -isms that you can name).

(One particular damning fact: according to Disrupted, HubSpot has never made a profit. In most corporate cultures, that’s a bad thing, but in many startups, that’s considered healthy).

I don’t want to paint all startups with the same broad brush, but having worked with several in my professional endeavors….I’ve found several that have a sincere lack of self-awareness and a belief that they are doing “wonderful things” without justifying why they’re so wonderful. (Yes, I’ve also worked with startups that focus on results). With recent conversations about women were “genetically unsuited” for tech jobs, and with the increased need for more diverse populations in technology….Disrupted ends up making some serious points through a snarky, sarcastic attitude.

As I was planning to write this review, I would have said, “Read Disrupted by Dan Lyons for a fun, satiric look at tech culture.” Now, in light of recent events, Disrupted by Dan Lyons feels more like a call-to-arms….and either way, it’s a great read.

Please feel free to share your thoughts below or via our Facebook page….and as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

August 6, 2017 at 2:43 pm

More Nonprofit (and Life) Lessons from STAR TREK

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Earlier today, I made a guest appearance on WBEZ’s Morning Shift to discuss the 50th Anniversary of the original series of Star TrekThe idea was simple: discuss the lessons I had learned growing up watching the show.

(Really – I came of age during the beginning of syndication, and I’ve not only discussed the show on WBEZ in the past…I’ve also written several Star Trekrelated posts for this blog).

One of the areas that I touched upon in the conversation was how, as a nonprofit professional, the show influenced my own attitudes around social justice and social conscience. However, I think Star Trek contains many lessons that resonate not only within my own work in community organizing (and yes, I can draw a straight line between Star Trek and community organizing around tobacco prevention), but that I think have important resonance for other Chicago-area nonprofit and social enterprise professionals in their work….and their life.

So, just a few nonprofit (and life) lessons from Star Trek:

  • Missions matter…and knowing your mission is critical: One of the great aspects of Star Trek was that its mission statement was built into the fabric of the program. To quote: “Our…mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before”. Yes, it reflects the show’s 1960s-era times (and would later be amended to “where no one has gone before”), but Star Trek wasn’t just a show that took place in space – it had an organizing philosophy (unlike its competition Lost in Space). Knowing your organization’s mission – and defining your personal mission – can often mean the difference between getting by and moving forward.
  • Everyone is capable of both great good and great malice…and professionals learn to how to manage both capacities: Episodes like The Enemy Within and Mirror, Mirror show (in dramatic terms) how people often have two sides to their character, and that character assets in one context can be character defects in another. As nonprofit professionals, we can easily forget that we’re expected to always be noble, positive….but that the best of us work to integrate those negative impulses. And like Mr. Spock, we can work to integrate our emotional and intellectual selves in a unique manner.
  • Diversity and inclusion aren’t just phrases – they’re active principles: Many cite Star Trek‘s diverse cast as a touchstone for its futuristic thinking….but I would like to go one better and suggest that Star Trek‘s stories promoted the idea of healthy diversity. Journey to Babel highlighted differences between various alien races while in the midst of a crisis. Day of the Dove and Devil in the Dark focused on accepting differences, and how divisiveness never benefits anyone directly. (If you’ve been following the current Presidential race, Day of the Dove seems very timely). Nonprofits and social enterprise are both committed to the idea of diversity, but it means full diversity in ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and thought. Star Trek provides some great early – yet critical – thinking about these issues.
  • “Genius doesn’t come on an assembly line basis – you can’t simply say, ‘Today I will be brilliant'” –  Many nonprofit/social enterprise professionals struggle with both integrating new technology and maintaining a specific level of creativity and innovation. As this quote from The Ultimate Computer suggests, innovation and creativity are not traits that can be brought on demand, but require time, thought, and effort. Like many other nonprofit & social enterprise professionals, I find myself frustrated because I’m not being “creative enough”…but this quote reminds me that creativity and innovation require work.

Many of us who work in the nonprofit/social enterprise field find ourselves challenged to make a greater impact on the community with limited resources. However, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series, we can find many great lessons that the show can teach us about our work. Let’s end with a famous quote from Return to Tomorrow – although focused on space travel, Kirk’s words about risk make it clear that despite our challenges, driving social change is definitely worth the effort:

What are your thoughts on Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary? You’re more than welcome to join the conversation via the comments below or on our Facebook page. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally either through the One Cause At A Time About page or this Contact Me form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Written by gordondym

September 8, 2016 at 5:10 pm

2015 In Review: One Cause At A Time

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Examining 2015 in review, Chicago can easily make one very important claim:

2015 was the year in which Chicago residents actively built and strengthened their communities one cause at a time, and technology played a greater role in making that happen.

From a highly contested mayoral race to protests around police conduct, from library hotspots to startups, there have been a variety of ways in which residents, nonprofits, and social enterprises have enabled social change and social benefit in Chicago. In fact, many cultural aspects within and outside of Chicago have reinforced the idea that advocating for communities goes beyond the clever social media graphic, and that technology can drive greater opportunities for social change.

Thankfully, this blog has tried to cover a wide range of activities….and we’re taking the opportunity to provide a glimpse of 2015 in review for this blog. So for each month, we’ve quoted and linked to one blog post which we feel represents some greater insight into community engagement and efforts in social change in Chicago over the past year. (We’ve also selected some key insights into working for nonprofit/social enterprise on various levels

So let’s dive into 2015 in review for Chicago Now’s One Cause At A Time:

January – Many people involved in nonprofit careers (whether transitioning into or out of the field) find it hard to survive in our current economy. Many are taking “side gigs” or smaller jobs to either bring in extra cash or – perhaps – spin their efforts off into a new career.

February –  So am I glad I served as election judge? Yes: it may be a long day, and there’s a rush of activity towards the end, but I’m also proud that I helped strengthen my community’s voice.

March – Although both candidates made an effort to address the issue, perhaps now is a good opportunity to discuss the “digital divide” – and “digital excellence” – as they impact the city.

April – Nonprofits, social ventures, and other organizations work to make a positive impact – now, there is the opportunity for individuals to learn how to make a positive impact.

May –  As a nonprofit communications professional, I think the 2008 – 2012 series has a strong sense of social justice, beginning with its opening narration (Note: the show in question returns to Ion Television – digital channel 38.1 – on January 3rd)

June – Knowing what I’m good at helps in the short term, but those areas of improvement….will keep me going for a lifetime.

July – Not only was I a frequent participant of the Library’s summer reading club, but I eagerly awaited the summer movie series….if only to get a yearly view of George Pal’s War of The Worlds

August –  Recently, I participated in Chicago Cares Serve-A-Thon 2015, and although I wrote about the experience, I don’t think my prose did the event justice.

September – But my main purpose is to congratulate you on being named “America’s Social Justice Warrior” by Mashable – the tech site that reflects America’s taste in potatoes

October – In our current media culture – and especially in Chicago – we’re rather indifferent to the power of blogging, and that needs to change. Immediately

November –  “If you’re going through hell, keep going”

December – Too often, the idea of “crowdsourcing support” seems counter to the idea of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”, or more towards “cyberbegging” than building support.

In fact, one of the things you’ll be seeing over the next few weeks are some changes in the blog – not a shift in focus as much as changes in layout. Many of our subpages and features will be better organized. We’ll be sure to post on a more consistent basis.

But one thing will never change: we’ll still cover aspects of nonprofit, social enterprise, and community organization activity in Chicago. After all, looking at 2015 in review, it’s safe to say – we’ve found our niche and hit our stride.
Is there anything we’ve left out, or things we should cover in 2016? Please let us know your thoughts either via thee comments section below or our Facebook page. (Both blog and Facebook comments are moderated). You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

 

Written by gordondym

December 29, 2015 at 9:37 am

Book Review: JAB, JAB, JAB, RIGHT HOOK

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C Now Vaynerchuck

To be honest, the past few weeks have been rough for me personally – family health issues have kept me busy, resulting in sudden changes in my schedule that have made it . At one point, I was fortunate enough to carve out some time to “sharpen the saw”, as it were, and keep up on my professional reading. Knowing how many Chicago-area nonprofits and social enterprises are relying more on social media as a communications channel, I thought that reading a book that was highly recommended to me – Gary Vaynerchuk’s Jab, Jab. Jab. Right Hook: How To Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World – might be a great diversion.

And after I finished reading, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook was a worthwhile read….but I have some ambivalence about fully recommending it.

On the plus side, Vaynerchuk’s book has some really strong ideas that any organization should adopt as part of their social media strategy: focusing on benefits rather than selling; telling a cohesive story; and understanding how placing strong content in the proper context can work wonders. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook‘s central metaphor – providing relevant content that meets an audience’s needs before going for an overt sell – seems a bit more belligerent than helpful. (It’s not just about promoting a product or service…it’s also about driving engagement with an audience, and finding those opportunities to build community). Perhaps my own bias is showing – I am so used to working in this field that many of these recommendations may be geared towards someone who is new to social media engagement, or who has not “seen and done it all”.

(In other words, I may not be the target audience – or in the right frame of mind – most receptive to Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook)

Although Vaynerchuk has many great “best practices” of consumer brands using social media, much of the book feels more hype-driven than practical. For many mission-driven organizations like nonprofits or social enterprises, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook‘s examples may seem out of reach, and the book’s tone may be a bit overwhelming to casual readers. (For some examples, you may want to check out Vaynerchuk’s YouTube channel). The book has some very strong recommendations, and provides insight into how to engage audiences in our current media climate….but much of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook feels a bit too overenthusiastic, almost bludgeoning the reader into adopting every single recommendation as working policy.

Still, I am giving Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook a very qualified recommendation – it’s a great introductory book for nonprofits and social enterprises on how to approach social media strategy. However, checking Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook out of the Chicago Public Library is a good strategy to read the book….and you can decide later whether to add it to your bookshelf.  

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Written by gordondym

December 23, 2015 at 6:31 am