Category Archives: Uncategorized

Social Media Results

Most marketers will promise results to you.  But the results they promise are things like CTR, or likes on Facebook.  I’m going to suggest to you that these aren’t results, they are fluff, at least they are once you’ve established a firm community on social media.
You see, once you have an audience you shouldn’t simply be looking for likes.  What you need is sales, or for a nonprofit, donations.  And for things like events, you need people in the door.  But for whatever reason, most marketers won’t tell you they can make those things happen.

Now I will give a caveat.  If the event stinks or the product stinks no one can sell that.  But if your product is good, if your event is good, a good marketer better be able to get people in the door or get a product to sell.  And yes, it should be obvious that social made it happen.

Don’t believe me?  This Instagram post had at LEAST two people come in on a single weekday to see the bike and a number more asking about pricing.  Two people doesn’t sound like much but on a rainy weekday in January that’s actually pretty huge.

We’re not sure yet how many came in over the weekend to see the bike.  And these are just the folks who told us how they knew about the bike…  I have plenty more stories of proof of sales and event turn out to tell later but for now this is about getting people in the door during a time when no one comes in.

It can be done.  Don’t pay for someone who isn’t willing to make that happen.

A good marketer should be able to show you actual results, not just people clicking!

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Selling it on Facebook

LinkedIn Post Selling it On Facebook

While many dealers advertise their used bikes on Facebook, the way you go about advertising makes all of the difference between spamming your audience and giving people something they want so much they are excited not only to see it, but to share it with their friends.

One of the used bike ads I created was shared and tagged over 15 times.  That’s 15 times people actually advertised the bike FOR ME.  Think about that.  If you’re thinking that’s not a very large number, for a used bike in a small market, it’s HUGE.

This isn’t all that unusual.  Many bike ads have people sharing them or tagging friends they think might be excited about the bike.

But the important part?  Short of a handful of bikes, all of the used bikes I’ve put on Facebook have sold within a week or two of posting them on Facebook.  These are bikes that had sat on the floor for quite some time prior to being put into a Facebook ad.

Of course HOW you write these ads makes all the difference.  And therein lies the key.  Do it wrong and people will hate you.  Do it wrong and you’re just another gold-chain wearing used appliance sales person.

But do it right and not only will people be excited to see your ad, they will help you spread the word.

Facebook advertising has changed.  There is no easy button.  But when you create ads that people like it isn’t just cheap to advertise, people will help you make the money you spend go even further.

Learn more at www.JessicaDally.com


Metabolism- My experience Part 1

I’ve been meaning to write this up for some time but just haven’t gotten around to it.  Frankly it’s more than a single blog post, it could be a book but time doesn’t allow for that so I’ll start with this.

As many of you may know I’ve spent the last year plus working with a metabolism doctor.  Dr Emily Cooper is both a genius and an incredible scientist.  I’d call her a miracle worker but that would insinuate that what we’re doing isn’t science and frankly, unlike all the other doctors and diets I’ve been on, this is the first science I’ve actually been a part of when it comes to my weight and metabolism.

You see, when you go into Dr Coopers office you spend time doing blood work and can actually SEE what is happening in your body, how you’re body is responding to what you’re doing, why things are working (or aren’t as we’ll get to here) and how to fix it (which is her role).  Everyone else just sells you a bunch of pop science nonsense.  Yes, “calories in, calories out” is nonsense.  The scientific community has known that for a very long time but the diet industry makes a lot of money from it (it’s a multibillion dollar industry) and keeps pushing the myth.  After all if that weren’t true and every person’s body were actually different you wouldn’t be able to sell that one size fits all workout or nutritional plan.  In a bit I’ll post a blog that has links to medical articles (eventually) though if you really want to educate yourself just read Emily’s book which you can find here.

So a bit of background without going into it too much.  I went to Emily because I’d gotten to the point where I couldn’t lose weight no matter what I did.  Throughout my past I’d gotten to this point.  Indeed just yesterday I drove past a place where I’d had my metabolism tested years ago.  At the time I was working out 2-3 hours a day, 5-6 days a week.  I was being very careful and counting my calories.  Sure, I RARELY ate more than my allotted calories but I wasn’t binging.  What did my test show and what was suggested by the guys at the CrossFit gym (this was at the start of that trend)?  I just needed to work out an hour or two more a day.  An hour or two more a day.  An hour or two more…  You know, like quit my friggin job so I can work out 5 hours a day?!?  I’m sorry, but that’s not normal.  No one should have to do that to lose a few pounds.  And yes, I was overweight… I wasn’t one of those people trying to lose 5 pounds so I could fit into a size 000… I was trying to fit into something smaller than a size 14.

Anyway, years later I had started riding my bike all the time.  Planning for a trip to Europe I couldn’t afford, I determined that it would help me get in shape, lose weight and save money (my gas guzzler was costing me $200-300 a month in gas) to ride my bike everywhere I could.  That meant commuting from February (yes, even in the pouring rain) through October.  That meant carrying all my groceries up a gigantic hill every evening.  That meant climbing Phinney every evening.  And it even meant riding all over the city to get to appointments.  Indeed the only time I’d drive is if I had to carry stuff I couldn’t carry on my bike and I do mean COULDN’T… like 2x4s or cheesemaking supplies for a class I was teaching.  Heck, I even tried to figure out how I could do that since I had hauled the 3 gallons of milk up that huge hill on my bicycle but the pots along with everything else was just too much stuff to fit on the bike.

Anyway, I was also watching what I ate.  I made casseroles and broke them into 400 calorie servings.  I’d eat four of these a day to make 1600 calories and then give myself another 200 ish calories.  When I didn’t lose any weight I began going to the gym after riding my bike home.  And yet still nothing.

It was pretty crazy at that point.  Yet again I was at the “I really can’t do any more” stage.  I couldn’t eat less and still cycle everywhere.  If I tried to do so I literally wouldn’t have the physical energy to get anywhere.  I needed some fuel to get my body to function.  I couldn’t exercise more as there simply wasn’t time in the day.

So I went to Dr Cooper after hearing about her from a friend.  And after the first round of bloodwork we found why I wasn’t losing weight and why what I was doing (a lot of exercise) was actually worse for me.  I had insulin resistance.  Essentially the thing that comes before pre-diabetes.  Exercise was making everything worse because my body already thought I was starving (I could see this with my leptin levels) and the more working out I did the more my body really wanted to hold onto weight… after all I was obviously about to die.  Except that I wasn’t…. I was still quite overweight.

Anyway, flash forward a bit.  I’ve lost quite a bit of weight working with Dr Cooper.  I’ve lost it eating WHATEVER I want.  I mean that.  Cake, cookies, you name it.  I just want less of that than I did (I’ll get to that).  I literally never count calories or think about what I’m going to eat.

More recently however I changed my meds (most insurance programs won’t cover drugs for insulin resistance or pre-diabetes… you have to let it progress to full blown type 2 diabetes before they’ll approve medication.  Gotta love our medical system eh?).  The new meds were… different.

Before I get to the science of what was happening let me tell you what I experienced.  With my old medications several things happened.  First, I stopped wanting to eat a lot of food.  Indeed I went from consuming a ton of food at any sitting to eating very little.  It wasn’t some sort of self-control and I wasn’t stuffed or full really.  I was simply done eating.  It was truly bizarre.

Never before (well, not in a long time) did I have the desire to stop eating before I was really full.  I could mentally tell myself to stop but having my body and my motivation to eat just shut off?  That was completely foreign.  I just didn’t want anymore.  Anyone who knows me knows that now I eat precious little food.  My body knows that I’m overweight (see Leptin) and doesn’t want as much food as it did.  Before it thought I was starving and wanted me to FEED IT.  Now it’s fine with a lot less and really won’t let me eat too much.

Second, and this is a big one, I didn’t crave sweet stuff.  Let me say that again, I didn’t crave sweet stuff.  For anyone who knows me this is a huge thing.  First, there was never anything that was too sweet before and now, a lot of stuff sounds sickeningly sweet.  Second, while some sweet things sound good, the motivation to eat them or go get them is rarely there.  I’d often choose a mint over ice cream as an after dinner desert now.  That would have never happened before.

To be clear, before I would have almost killed you for something sweet.  No really.  I would get almost shaky wanting sugar.  There’s a very good reason for it.  We’ll get there.

So anyway, my meds changed and a few things happened.  My partner and I go out to eat on occasion (more often than not right now as I’m prepping my house to sell) and I noticed that food I wasn’t able to eat in its entirety I could now.  How the heck am I eating a whole burrito?  What’s more, since I was used to my body telling me to stop when it was done I kinda assumed that I must simply need more food… I must just be more hungry.

And the sugar cravings were back.  Now I was thinking about desert after dinner, concerned about what it would be and making sure there was something in the house whereas before the “something in the house” often went bad before I got around to eating it.  My favorite gelato actually got freezer burn because it just never sounded appealing to me before.

What was going on?!

Of course it was time for my appointment and that meant a blood draw.  Multiple blood draws actually.  Your doctor has not done this for you most likely.  You’ve not been tested for insulin resistance.  To do so you have to have a fasting blood test and then you have to eat and be tested again several more times on a half hour interval.  Usually the test takes about 3 hours with 5+ draws.  It’s worth it (and that’s coming from someone who has veins that are hard to find).

When I went in my symptoms were right there in the blood science.  First, my insulin resistance was back.  That meant that in about an hour after I ate my blood sugar was dipping very low (this is why the typical fasting blood test won’t work… it doesn’t show this hour after sugar dip).  Why was I craving sugar?  Because my body ACTUALLY NEEDED it.  I was crashing after eating… but well after eating at exactly the time I started getting hungry for something sweet.

But why was I eating more too?   Again, the blood told me.  My MSH, which had been better with the older drugs was now gone.  It didn’t show up on the blood test at all.  My appetite was through the roof because the hormone that regulates it didn’t exist in my body.

So now I’m back on the old drugs and working to a different drug that hopefully my insurance will cover.  Eventually I’ll likely be able to get off the prescriptions but it will take a while.  The other option is to not treat the problem and go into full blown diabetes and obesity as so many other Americans do.  All because we refuse to recognize that our hormones affect our cravings for sugar and salt and control our appetites.  We actually think it’s a willpower thing.  Is it that people who don’t have a weight problem feel the need to feel better than others?

Or more likely, having never had an issue with the body’s responses to food they simply can’t understand why someone would overeat or crave sugar.

When my body is functional now it’s so incredibly night and day from what it was.  I honestly rarely think about sugar.  No really.  In fact last week I purchased some M&M’s and I have NO IDEA where I put them.  Some of you know how truly bizarre that is.  Really, where the heck did they go?  The funny thing is that I forgot I bought them.  Forgot.

If you’re craving sweets all the time, if nothing is “too sweet”, if you can eat until you’re stuffed and don’t want to stop until that time it’s not you.  Well, it is but it’s not some character flaw.  It’s not something lacking in your motivation.  It’s very likely something screwed up in your body.

But, you say, “I don’t work out like you did… I just can’t motivate myself.  I don’t want to”.  What do you think motivates you?  Yup, hormones.  Indeed you can make mice lazy by screwing with their hormones too.

People want you to believe that you’re a bad person.  They want you to believe this because it makes them rich and hugely because they don’t understand the more complex science behind metabolism.  There’s a lot of reason for that.  It’s not easy is the big one.  But it’s not you anymore than my cravings for sugar or eating too much was me.  It was a system that was malfunctioning.

We assume our bodies are machines when it comes to weight loss (calories in, calories out) and discount their more complex systems (hormones) when it’s convenient to blame people but we’re more than willing to discount the machine answers (malfunctioning metabolic systems) when the science shows that it’s not a character flaw.  Why do we discount solid scientific evidence simply so we can blame people and push pop science that hasn’t worked and indeed has made us more and more sick for years?  Are we really so mentally ill that we can only feel good about ourselves by holding on to pop science to put others down?  More and more it seems the answer is a resounding yes.

And yes, I know that this is simply my personal experience and to believe that alone would be committing an anecdotal fallacy however with a ton of science behind it and a whole lot of other people having the same experiences we have to question why our current paradigm isn’t working and why I can see the science on my blood tests.  Further we have to really question why no other doctor ever bothered to check some of these basic tests to see if there was something bigger going on and why no one is checking the majority of people out there before telling them to simply eat less and exercise more, especially when that isn’t working and the problem is getting worse, not better.

Dr Cooper has started a foundation to do more research into the work she is doing.  Sadly very few doctors are doing good science around this (though it’s changing… slowly).  You can learn more here:  http://www.diabesityresearchfoundation.org/

There is a section for practitioners.  Send your doctor there assuming they’re up for learning new things.  Not everyone is.  Many already know it all.  If nothing else that’s another thing I love about Emily… she’s always gathering more information and doing more research.  Isn’t that what we should expect from our doctors!?

Finally, I wrote this up very late at night and haven’t had a chance to reread it.  I may change it a bit to make it flow a bit better so if you come back and it’s a bit different forgive me.  If I wait to make it perfect I’ll never get this posted!


You Make Reality

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I’m reading what might well be the best book I’ve ever read right now.  With this in mind this post is very much about Buddhist thought so if you prefer to believe that others are the cause of your anger, sadness, happiness or other emotions or if you prefer to believe that reality just is, IS what you see, think and feel please go no further, this post is likely not for you.

As many know I’m traveling around Europe right now.  I’ve found it interesting the reception I’ve received in each place I’ve gone.  Even at home I stand out as a bit of a weirdo, be it the pink hair, my desire to travel and camp alone or simply who I am.  It’s not likely any different anywhere.  But then again that’s just my story, what I tell myself.  That never became more clear to me than in a little town of Termoli Italy.

When I first arrived after feeling a bit like a stranger in most of the other countries I’d traveled through I attempted to show respect for the people of the town.  When I passed them on the street I’d give the American head nod and smile to acknowledge them.  The people of the town didn’t seem to like me as they didn’t respond and just looked at me with what I read to be disdain.

At one point I went into a gelato shop (OK, I’ve gone into a LOT of gelato shops but we’re just talking about this particular time) and the girl and guy behind the counter commented in broken English that they liked my hair.  It took a while to converse with them and I really appreciated it as traveling solo in countries where you don’t speak the language (any of them) gets to be isolating.

I walked out of the shop smiling, tired from the endless lack of sleep I’ve had here due both to my travels and my new found love of drinking espresso all day long.  An elderly couple sat next to me on the bench and for some reason I managed a conversation with them.  They were friendly, we spoke none of the same language but there was laughing and good times all around.  They were warm and accepting and it did indeed make my day.

What happened later that night furthered my experience into sublime bliss.  I was still exhausted but also elated and it showed on my face and in my attitude.  I was too tired for the tight expression of respect that was my norm.  I walked through town early the next morning saying buongiorno to everyone I passed.  Rather than them being caught off guard, they smiled with big, real smiles and responded with a warm buongiorno back.

And that’s when it hit me.  I had been telling myself a story.  A story that I wasn’t accepted here.  A story that I was an outsider, and my actions in response to that story had reflected that discomfort.  But more importantly my actions had been foreign, cold and even a bit rude to people who are used to warm greetings on the street even from people they don’t know. Indeed not only had my story caused me to find evidence that the story was true but it even helped to make the story true.  The cold behavior I perceived was actually caused by the actions I took because I believed people were cold and distant.  I didn’t just see things through the eyes of my story, I MADE the story true.

And when you think about it, it’s easy to see this play out in life all the time.  A person thinks everyone is rude and full of drama and they behave accordingly, acting with rudeness and drama to those around them and those people respond in kind.  Their very behavior creates the reality they believe to be true.

Or another person who believes their spouse no longer loves them.  They begin pulling away, seething under the surface with anger and sadness which then can result in their spouse feeling tension and anger and pulling away themselves.

How often we make our stories true with our behavior.

But of course there’s another option.  While it’s unlikely we’ll stop telling ourselves stories, it is after all how we learn, we can realize that these stories are simply fabrications, made up from our past experiences and our perceptions of current experiences tainted with our own skewed glasses.

In doing so we take away the power of the story and their judgment.  We open ourselves to other possibilities and the compassion that goes releasing our egotistic view of the world.  We can indeed create a different, more peaceful story.

This doesn’t mean you give up all stories.

On this same trip I wound up at a rest stop late one night in the north eastern part of Italy.  It’s not a particularly touristy area and I was the only female in the parking lot.  I didn’t feel safe as the truckers all eyeballed me with curious gazes.

So would I change my story and assume that I was safe, simply judging that this experience was dangerous for no good reason?  Not exactly.  I can honor my gut feeling that I don’t feel comfortable and still realize that this is simply my story. 

I don’t actually know if this is a dangerous situation.  These guys may well be curious because I have pink hair, am traveling along in an odd part of Italy to be at 10pm on some random weekday and likely it’s pretty odd to see a single foreign female there late at night.  It’s also possible they thought I was a hooker or that they really are dangerous.  The reality is that I don’t know. 

What I do know is that it doesn’t feel good to pass judgment on others for a story I’m telling myself with no real reason other than my own fear.  And why when I can honor my feelings without the judgment?  In doing so I’m also honoring myself and my emotions in a way that doesn’t require outside influences to be valid.  I can be scared for no reason at all if I want to be and that’s OK.

 

An exercise.

So how do we get past these stories?  Once we realize we’re making this stuff up we can decide if we like the story.  Does it make us happy, make us feel better about the world?  Or do we find it disturbing and difficult to deal with?  If we don’t like the story then let’s play a game.

Imagine that someone behind you is tailgating you and it’s making you fearful and nervous.  You say to yourself “what a jerk, he obviously doesn’t care about anyone but himself”.  But what if there’s a different story?  What if

He’s on the way to the birth of his first child, distracted and rushing, unable to really think clearly?

He’s simply from Europe where everyone drives like that and no one thinks anything of it because it’s normal?

If you happen to be a parent I can’t urge you enough to include your children in this game.  Not only will it encourage their creativity but they’ll learn as you do that there are lots of stories out there and in reality, you don’t know the “real” one.

Maybe this guy has a car that’s rigged like that movie Speed and if he slows down it will EXPLODE!

Maybe he’s an alien from another planet and he hasn’t learned what we consider proper following distance!

He wants you to move over so he can speed and catch any cops for you!

Your kids can come up with some great ones.

Or maybe he’s tailgating you because you tail lights are out and he doesn’t want anyone to hit you.

Maybe you think these ideas are silly… after all you already know the truth, the guy is a jerk. 

Well that last one, someone following you because your tail light is out?  My good friend Omar did just that to a motorcyclist.  With only one tail light on a motorcycle the rider was virtually invisible with no lights from behind on dark streets, an EXTREMELY dangerous situation for the unaware rider.  My friend worked at a motorcycle shop and had a bulb for that bike in his truck.  Once he finally got the guy to stop he came out with a screwdriver and bulb, changed the light for him and drove away. 

Eventually as we challenge our stories we can get closer to reality, usually by investigation rather than snap judgment.  But even before we become better at this we can practice recognizing that our stories are of our own creation and take steps to instead create the reality that we want.

One last story.  In Lucca an older woman was looking at me as she walked past.  Still tired (will I ever sleep an entire 8 hours on this trip?) I smiled at her.  She looked away, and then back.  I kept smiling at her and she kept looking away and then back.  Finally she returned my smile.

It wouldn’t have mattered to me if she had returned the smile or continued to scowl.  When I’m at my best my actions aren’t a product of those around me.  I can choose to smile even when someone won’t return the gesture.  I can choose to have “smile” as the reality I want to create, inviting in anyone who wants to join and letting those who don’t go their own way.  I can even give them the grace not to judge that they don’t want to join in.  I have no idea what’s going on in their lives right now.  But I do know that the world I want to create doesn’t come from outside of me, it comes from within.

I will not always get it right.  In fact I expect I will often struggle but when I do I can remember that I have the choice to create a different story and that often it helps to create a more peaceful world for those around me too.


Morrone

ImageI had no real intention of writing about my trip to Europe.  With me working my contract gigs there’s enough computer time without writing blog posts here.  And yet what happened these last two days can’t go without mention.  Magic needs to be recorded.

That said I’ve not slept much for days so forgive any misspellings, grammatical errors and just general bizarreness… it was a very weird day that may not lend itself to a strict straight telling.  Like many things in Italy including virtually all roads, the story is twisty and sometimes circular.

Yesterday I went to a restaurant to have dinner.  It had great reviews on trip advisor and looked to have delicious steaks so it seemed like a great place.  Sadly, like most places it didn’t open until 8pm and since I’d missed the noon lunch I’d missed any food for quite some time.  I contemplated skipping the restaurant and just getting pizza since I could get that at 6pm and I was starving.  But I’d spent so many days eating snack food I really wanted something delicious.  I looked at another place and planned to go there as it stated that it opened at 7pm, an entire hour earlier.  When I walked past it wasn’t actually opening until 8.  So I decided to go to the original restaurant and I’m very glad I did.  The brief synopsis is here as I’m too tired to record it again (from a facebook post so excuse the random writing style):

So you know how you go to some restaurant because it got good reviews on TripAdvisor and it has delicious steaks and then you mention to the owners that you’re in town because you’re heading to a town nearby because your grandfather was born there and then he calls some guy who is from that town and then he calls some gals with the same last name as your grandfather and some other guys stick aroun

d to translate for you because the owner doesn’t speak English and you don’t speak Italian? Yeah, well that was my night too. Tomorrow I meet up with some other Tommaso’s in Marrone because that’s just how things fly here in Italy.
 
Well today was no different but somehow even more amazing.  I was supposed to meet up with my possible relatives in Morrone or in Termoli and caravan to Marrone but they weren’t leaving until very late and I wanted to have a look around the town before it got dark.  I stopped by the restaurant again, getting the owners information in hopes that I can help him find his family that came to the US.  We’ll see.  Considering that there is very little English spoken it’s hard to know if I got the story straight and unfortunately you have to get pretty accurate with the whole ancestry thing.
 
I then took off for Marrone.  The town is said to be one of spies, not because it actually is but because it sits high atop a hill and on a clear day you can see more than 20 different surrounding towns, keeping an eye on all of them.
 
I arrived in the town and stopped for coffee.  I mentioned in my only Italian sentence on the subject that Mio nonno e nato qui.  My grandfather was born here.  The coffee guy wasn’t too interested but then this is a workman’s bar and it seemed a bit like very few women come to the place.
 
I decided to walk around the small town, climbing incredible hills to get to the top.  I couldn’t believe how many elderly people I saw making their way up and down these hills.  While they struggled (anyone would) it was obvious this was their regular life.  No lifts for them.  A basic trip to a friend’s a block away required climbing a mountain and they do it slowly but steadily, even with broken bodies.
 
As I walked I came across some very elderly people.  My ego told me not to talk with them.  “They won’t speak English and you don’t speak enough Italian to make anything clear” it said.  “Plus you’ll just look like a fool.”
 
I sent the ego off a cliff and again ventured that my grandfather was born in Morrone.  I pulled out a the family picture I had of the family and commenced to have a perfectly unintelligible conversation with the three elderly people, laughing hard with the oldest toothless woman at my lack of comprehension.  There’s a lot that can be shared without any words.
 
Eventually it became clear that they didn’t know of my grandfather or his family (no surprise as they left Morrone over 100 years ago).  “Grazie!  Ciao!”  I kept walking.
 
I found myself back at the coffee shop intersection of town and sat on a bench in the shade, completely sweaty from hiking the hills in the hot sun.
 
Not far away some ladies were talking on another bench and a little girl whose mother was deep in conversation came over to me.  I said hello, smiled and eventually she squeezed next to me to sit down.  We tried to talk but I don’t think she understood my tiny Italian with it’s American accent.  She smiled and I did too and we just sat together for a bit.
 
A minute later an older woman with a walker called to her and then came over.  Again with the “Mio nonno e nato qui.” and again I pulled out the picture.  Another woman came over and eventually I was pulled over to the group of women who were talking on the other bench.  We talked about my grandfather and how he’d left for New York… and by talk I mean a word here and there, mostly not understanding but sometimes breaking through the language barrier.  Again, they didn’t know of any family related to my grandfather from what I understood.
 
A friendly woman who had been watching me walk around came over as well.  She kept running off and telling me to stay.  When this kind of thing happens do as your told… life is too full of hurry.  Eventually I used an app on my phone to ask if someone in the village spoke English.  Yes, the friendly curious woman said, but she was not home now.  So we sat and talked.  Mainly they talked and I listened, not understanding anything but the game of tickle that one of the ladies was playing with the little girl… that one was obvious.
 
Ah!  Here comes the English speaker.  The friendly watcher woman took me to her.  The English speaker was actually a woman from Canada which meant I could speak full English sentences and really know that I was getting the whole idea across.  The friendly Italian woman, the Canadian and I conversed about my grandfather.  No one knew of his family but this was definitely the correct town from the Ellis Island documents.  The Canadian woman told me that she would ask around. There are a few more people who might know, especially since my grandfather had returned to Italy in 1972 and had to deal with some house drama of squatters in the old family home that he apparently still owned.  He had signed it over to the rest of the family.  It’s possible that this story lives on since it’s unlikely anyone would remember his family having left long before any of them were born.
 
The Canadian offered freely to ask about it, curious as she was and take a picture if she could find any more information.
 
Finally the friendly Italian woman (they were all friendly but she was particularly inquisitive about me) invited me into her home for coffee and biscotti.  We sat and talked about her family, my family and other general things using one word sentences in English and Italian. She spoke slowly enough for me to figure out many things and with a translation app I was able to look up words that were worthy of saying.
 
Unfortunately I was silly and took no pictures of these beautiful people.  I think most of them will be burned into my mind and I suspect I will return again not too long from now anyway.
 
While I don’t want to get too philosophical I can’t help but think what would happen if someone came to my town, speaking only a foreign language and asked about a long lost relative.  Would we gather the town looking for resources and asking everyone we know?  Or would we instead think how foolish that they come here not speaking the language, brush them off because we’re too busy to be bothered?
 
There is incredible beauty in the world and when we open ourselves it flows right in.
 
 
 

SXSW- Contacts and Tools Worth Talking About

At SXSW I talked to more people than I could possibly list here but here’s some of the interesting people, organizations and products I found throughout the week.

Most interesting connections:

  • Spoke with Dan Trieman of GameSalad, a games development platform that is free and easy for nonprofits. “Game creation for the rest of us” Very interesting for any nonprofit (or anyone really) looking to create games.  Haven’t had a chance to play with it yet but will in the next few months.
  • I Tour U iPhone app seems promising for nonprofits, libraries, museums. You can create a spoken tour of a given space. While there’s obvious implications for museums and libraries helping to explain their collections a less obvious use would be to tell the story of homelessness through a tour. How far does a person have to go to get their laundry done? Where do they shower? How far is that from the other social services they use? Giving people an idea of the amount of time it takes to be homeless could be powerful. There are ways other organizations such as conservation groups could also use this app to tell their story.
  • Photo Philanthropy– Connects photographers with NPO’s around the world to tell their stories and drive action for social change. A good resource for the NPO community as a picture can be worth a thousand words.
  • Erik Bjornard from Animoto. A GREAT tool for getting into storytelling with pictures and words.  A simple tool to make a talking slide show.  Also looking to play with this more in the next few months.

Panels

  • the AgChat forum which discussed how farmers are using tech (as a percentage more farmers use/have smart phones than the general populace).  Watching this made me think that I should get more involved with this community.  Food issues and farming is definitely still in my blood, even if I’m not working on a farm anymore and haven’t had enough time to do much urban farming lately.
  • The Tell/Sell panel was great… see previous blog post!
  • The best bit of information came from the panel put on by BAVC called Sexy Dirty Data. They have partnered with a Google developer to create the Impact Dashboard which I personally think will be THE tool for nonprofits and others to use to tell their stats story. The tool not only helps you track your stats from numerous social media sites (Facebook, Google Analytics, Twitter, etc) but it’s also open source, allowing you (and others) to build widgets to track other stats and allows you to track stats of in person/real world events by entering data that can’t be found elsewhere. To quote the site “it’s a super user-friendly cloud app with a Python backend that collects, hosts and visualizes your data in real-time, right on your website and your phone.” From what I can see it does exactly the job nonprofits are trying to do each time we write-up a stats report, showing the key features of what we’re doing in a visually appealing way that also speaks to funders, supporters and other nonprofits. It allows you to enter key tracking points to tell your story (did that jump in twitter have to do with a specific event? You can put that information into the tool).   I’m more excited about this tool than any other tool I’ve ever seen.  I hate stats, usually because they don’t tell stories without more work than necessary (so much work that often it can take away from the actual mission work) and this tool takes away my gripes.  I haven’t had a chance to play with it but I can’t wait and will definitely talk more about it as soon as I get my hands on it!  Sign up to get updates here.

Summary
To be overly blunt I personally think that SXSW Interactive is the best conference I’ve ever attended. Because of the focus on new technologies and the desire for businesses and others to get their work out at SXSW there’s a higher level of panelists and information than you’d find elsewhere. Many of the topics of discussion at SXSW become topics at other conferences several years later. If a nonprofit really wants to know what’s heading their way this is the conference to attend.


SXSW Rocks!

If you’re not sure what SXSW is you can find out more here.  While it’s about great music and films it’s also about Nonprofits and great panels unlike anything you’d find anywhere else.  OK, sure, you might find these panels elsewhere but where will you find 20+ panels and events happening in any given hour?  SXSW is the place to go fill your brain with good information.

Nonprofits aren’t the only people at SXSW Interactive of course.  This means there are a number of panels and events aimed at a larger or different audience.  The Tell/Sell Panel was one of them.  Meant for professional bloggers and journalists the panel focused on what makes a sellable blog or story.  It should be easy for anyone to see that this is a valuable question for nonprofits as well.  While we might not be looking to publish a book about our life story, we are looking to “sell” our story to our constituents, funders and others we hope to support our cause and looking outside of our nonprofit world at the bigger picture of what works and what doesn’t makes a lot of sense if we wish to expand our audience.

So here’s the 7 top take aways from this panel:

  1. People like lists.  They especially like lists of 3 or 7 total items.  Why?  Who knows, it’s just what research has shown are the golden numbers.  I should note that while I intended to make this list exactly 7 items long it turns out it was without me trying… I guess it really is the magic number!
  2. Make bulleted lists rather than huge chunks of text.  It’s easier to read and digest.
  3. PICTURE (S)!  Include them.  No one likes to stare at just words.
  4. Some topics require more space and more time.  Don’t worry too much about the length of your post if the topic needs more information to really make sense.  Obviously don’t be overly wordy if it’s not necessary.  Tell your story in the words it takes.
  5. Don’t write anything if you’re worried about what someone will think.  Editing a controversial post to make it “acceptable” will destroy it’s content, feeling and meaning.  If you’re worried it might offend someone it’s probably a good post so go ahead and be controversial if that’s what needs to be said!
  6. Basic storytelling applies to nonfiction, blogs, etc.  Beginning, middle and end.  Conflict is necessary.
  7. Think about how to market your story so your publisher (or in our case your funders, your constituents, your supporters, etc) can sell it for you.  What products/organizations/businesses/etc have you mentioned?  Those people can be marketing partners.

It may seem crass to think that we’re trying to “sell” our work but if we don’t think about what we’re doing or trying to do in that light we won’t actually sell it to anyone.  We really do want “buy-in” for what we’re “selling” which is our mission.  With out that buy in we can not have impact.

Last word: “Don’t let outside forces determine your brand”  Trying to keep everyone happy will destroy your organization and ruin your passion.  Know who you are and be a rock star!