Oops, I moved…and forgot to tell you.

November 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Forever in Beta has moved to  lizasperling.com, and I forgot to tell you. I hope you will consider visiting me there.

You can also check out Beta Bits, where I share bits and pieces of what I find interesting – you may not agree, and that is okay, too.


It’s About The People, People, Not the Wine.

February 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I am writing this on the ride home from Time4Wine. To those of you who made it to Time4wine, YOU made the weekend. It was a weekend of wine, food and, yes, debauchery — but not without the intellectual comfort of great conversations about social media, technology and all the gadgetry that makes us tick.

Geeks and wine…why?

Don’t we spend enough hours together at conferences, tweetups, et al? Yes, but much of that time is also spent multitasking, focusing on work or developing new business relationships. It’s not ‘our’ time and is compromised by professional distractions and obligations.

Indeed we work together, but we also play together, and those who could have asked their employers to foot the bill decided to go on their own dime to ensure that the direction of relationships were untangled by business objectives.  No doubt, we developed valuable ties, that process never ends, but without name tags, sponsors or VIP’s, conversations began over flights of wine and plates of cheese. Even geeks bond by breaking bread, and nothing much has really changed about human nature.

During the wine blending session at Alpha Omega Winery, we learned to choose a metaphor for wine, relate it to something you already know, and suddenly wine is less complex. Nothing new, right? Consider Time4wine our time on the golf course, without the rigidity of uniforms or the old boys’ club.

Take a look at the Twitter and Facebook activity around Time4wine (#Time4wine), and you’ll notice there were no keynotes or super stars. Even Gordan Getty and Mayor Gavin Newsom made unplanned appearances, but they didn’t steal the spotlight for long, and I like it like that.

It’s about the people, people, not the wine.

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What’s Your Tap Code?

January 18, 2010 4 comments

Everyone Needs A Tap Code. What’s Yours?

By Liza Sperling

I recently watched PBS‘s  This Emotional Life, a series focusing on humans’ emotions.  One story, that of Bob Shumaker, stuck with me. Shumaker, a former Vietnam POW who survived three years of solitary confinement, credits his survival in part to the Tap Code, a social network comprised of tapping letters of the alphabet on the prison walls to communicate, educate, inform and provide support.  Shumaker and his fellow POW’s overcame structural obstacles and taught eachother new languages, discussed how to fix broken gadgets and provided one another with moral support by tapping out letters of the alphabet on their cell walls. As Shumaker explains, the Tap Code was an integral part of making three years of solitary confinement, well, less solitary.

The POW’s resilience and tenacity were extraordinary, but their basic need was ordinary:  the need to connect. Call me Twitfaced, but I was struck by the similarity of how the POW’s used the Tap Code and how I use Twitter.  People use Twitter for a variety of reasons, but many of us have found Twitter  to be our modern day version of the Tap Code. It does not replace real world connections, in fact, for many it enables more offline interaction.  Chris Brogan noted one advantage of Twitter is that he will never have to eat dinner alone in an unfamiliar city. I have far fewer connections on Twitter than Chris, but I have Twitter friends all over the world, and we meet in person at conferences, meetings, and informally in dozens of cities. My family, friends and colleagues who either do not use Twitter or who use it to communicate with people they already know, are appalled by my behavior and warn me to beware of stalkers and rapists. Yes, there are inherent risks in interacting with humans in any scenario, but after months, sometimes years of communicating, l feel pretty safe. Please note: the same people who warn me about Twitter meetings advocate online dating, an online means of connection that even I haven’t tried.

Given a difficult economy, an increased emphasis on careers, and people marrying later in life, jobs determine where we live.  Many of us find ourselves isolated in unfamiliar cities, without our families or an immediate network of friends. Sheer distance, multiple timezones and long work hours make traditional means of communicating a challenge.  Phone calls and face time have become scheduling nightmares, and emails lack intimacy or real-time immediacy. My solution: connecting with friends in real-time when we are mutually available, no matter if it is 2am or 7pm. Twitter has become my Tap Code.  Sure it requires investing time and energy to develop these relationships, but in return I am rewarded with a sense of connection.

Both Shelly Kramer and Anna O’Brien recently wrote blog posts about women in social media, and the dozens of conversations and comments that followed included many listing those who inspire them online, often people who have never met in person. While science may suggest that women are hardwired to seek out such relationships, both women and men are finding inspiration, advice and support on Twitter from people our parents call “strangers”.

As PBS’s This Emotional Life contends, science has proven that human beings’ survival is based in part on connection.  Modern day circumstances strain traditional means of connection, but technology provides more options than ever to connect with friends, family, and “strangers” any time of the day. Frankly, everyone starts out as strangers, online or offline, but, as the POW’s tapped on the walls, we tap on our laptops and phones, and soon strangers become friends.

Everyone needs a Tap Code. What’s yours? Tell me about it.

Liza Sperling

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Give Her Something Geeky: Valentine’s Day List For The Geeky Girls In Your Life

January 3, 2010 5 comments

Give her something geeky…

When I mentioned I was creating a list of my favorite geeky items, I asked if others would like to take a peek.  I was surprised by how many people responded, so here it is.

Valentine’s Day is around the corner,  so you have NO EXCUSE.   These items range from inexpensive to pricey, and  each has brought form, function and style to this geeky girl’s  life.

Asus EEE Netbook

9.5 hrs of battery life, lightweight and available in many colors.  Mine is boring black, although, I can’t use it in public without sparking a conversation.  It turns Mac owners green with envy, because it is lightweight and will free you from chasing power outlets.  I use both a Mac and an EEE, but the EEE is ideal for travel.   It won’t break the bank, either.


Rolling Stones Magazine rated these clever little magnetic balls the best gift of 2009.  I got Buckyballs for Christmas, and they are almost as addictive as Twitter.

If you think this looks like a mere toy, check out the YouTube videos of Buckball pros showing off their skill.

What are you waiting for? Get Buckyballin’!

Barcelona Bags

Available in many different sizes and colors, these pouches are perfect for chargers, small gadgets, business cards and  post-its. Each ballistic nylong pouch has  three sections: a zippered nylon mesh front pouch for easy visibility, a zippered middle pouch and velcro fastened back pouch.

Hayden Harnett Ibiza Flight Tote

This bag comes in many colors, is made of durable nylon AND has a built-in  padded laptop sleeve that fits my 15″  MacBook Pro (and everything else I need) all without making me look like a hobo.

What you don’t see is that the bag comes with instructions on the multitude of ways it can be folded, snapped and contorted to go from massive to tiny on the fly.

I also adore InCase’s sleek bags and laptop cases, but I am not lucky enough to be an owner, so it’s hard to comment on usability.  Hayden Harnett’s Ibiza tote, however,  is the first bag I have found that works with or without a laptop.

Fran’s  Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels

Dark chocolate, buttery caramel, a dash of salt  and compact enough to slide into your pocket for a quick fix.  Need I say more?

CB2 Bed Tray

Surely it was meant for breakfast in bed, but I use my tray for my laptop, Blackberry, newspapers, snacks and whatever else I want within arm’s length.


Few items this amazing can be found at Walgreen’s. Imagine the possibilities.  I have this trusty pack, but I am still drooling over the deluxe travel set.  Why? Because a gal can never have too many Sharpies.

Canon PowerShot SD1200IS 10 Digital Camera

Ideal for impromptu photowalks. You’ll be surprised at how great the photos turn out.  Pair it with an Eye-Fi card as I did, and it is twice as much fun.

Smashbox Limitless Long Wear Lip Gloss

Before you say no way, consider the magic inside of this little tube:  it stays on for hours, acts as a moisturizer with  SPF and the colors are so sheer that they look good on anyone.  I consider it Carmex with a kick. Geeky girls can be girlie, too!

What am I missing?  Please help me add to this list.  I look forward to hearing what’s on your list.

Liza Sperling
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I Resolve To Screw Up

January 2, 2010 2 comments

By Liza Sperling

I recently enjoyed an evening at Cirque du Soleil‘s, Ovo, the best work holiday treat I can imagine and my first Cirque du Soleil show.  I was blown away by what seemed to be less of a performance than a celebration of reality.  Seeing the dancers’ muscles shake with fatigue was an odd comfort, as if they, too, were humans, in spite of their ability to move like insects and contort their bodies in ways that make yoga look like child’s play.

Those whose stumbled or dropped props, remained confident and moved on without losing their focus.  The audience was unable to discern the intentional from the unintentional.  Only when we consider mistakes something to hide or worthy of shame and embarrassment do they become glaringly obvious.  Ovo resolved a paradox:  achieving mastery requires embracing imperfection – you cannot have one without the other.

Outside of the circus tent,  if you attempt to master anything, be prepared to embrace screwing up, consider it confirmation that you are pushing beyond what is safe and familiar.  When you stumble,  and we all do, it is only proof that you are challenging yourself, you are growing.  Growth is impossible without growing pains.

#Twitterville #Tbash
Image by @Photo . via Flickr

2009 was a year of highs and lows.  Instead of stumbling gracefully, I tripped and fell flat, doubting that my goals were possible.  A good friend asked me why I had given up hope, and it was only then that I realized I had in fact given up hope. That night I sat down with a sheet of paper and wrote the word “hope” over and over until I filled the page. I got back on track, but I won’t forget that painful evening.

Ovo served as a timely reminder to start the New Year resolving to accept screwing up.  When I  screw up, I will remind myself that it is simply a part of the process.  If that does not work, I will head to Vegas to see another Cirque du Soleil show.

I wish all all of you a happy and healthy New Year.  Thank you for reading, responding, and sharing your wisdom with me both online and offline.

Go forth, conquer your resolutions and be prepared to screw up along the way!

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All I Want For Christmas

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment

This year,  I managed to avoid holiday preparation altogether.  I neglected to even make a list (forget about checking it twice). When I landed in Eugene, Oregon on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and was met by my mom and 98 year old grandmother, I felt empty-handed and ill-prepared.

At the last minute, my mom and I hung some Christmas lights and headed to the local pharmacy to pick up some Oregon Ducks socks for my grandmother.

We wrapped up anything that didn’t move, dipping into my grandmothers’ locker of ancient holiday wrapping  supplies. The packages included salted caramels I purchased in San Francisco, a package of dish towels, a lagniappe of odds and ends.  We were also sure to include plenty of ribbons for my grandmother’s brand new kitty, Inky.

Christmas morning, I thought of friends and loved ones who were far away and recognized that I had forgotten to send many cards or gifts. I drew a doodle for my friend, Tara, and sent her a photo of my efforts.  The fleece blanket I picked up at Walgreen’s for my grandmother’s new kitty made both my grandmother and Inky purr.  Inky finally hopped onto my grandmother’s lap for the first time, to burrow her face in the fleece.  My mom surprised me with Buckyballs, an addictively, geeky toy I can’t put down.  We shared the salted caramels, and now we are spent, full & happy.

Buckyballs FTW
Image by Rich_Lem via Flickr

No fancy gifts or patent leather shoes – more importantly, no overhyped expectations of what Christmas should be or what I should give or receive.  I have had many difficult holidays, but not this one. This Christmas has been sublime, and it’s not over yet.

P.S. Thanks to Chris Brogan and the holiday photo project for inspiring me to share my holiday with you. I have enjoyed the photos and videos of so many Christmases thanks to his efforts.

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I Am Loud. So What?

December 12, 2009 3 comments
173.365 - Come on, feel the noise
Image by Jeff the Trojan via Flickr

C’mon feel the noise….

If you follow me on Twitter, you know this already:  I am loud.  I tweet a lot, to a lot of people about a variety of topics.   I  support and communicate with the people and communities I care about, express my opinions,  and analyze the products and companies that interest me.  Does my volume mean that I don’t listen?  NO.  I listen a lot.  I observe others’ thoughts, wishes, wants, reactions, statements and behavior in this uncharted territory we call social media.  I love to respond and join the conversations.

Please do not assume that because someone talks a lot that they do not listen.  I accept your decision to unfollow me, but don’t tell me that I must follow certain “widely accepted rules” about online communication.  I’d be lying if I said I don’t care what others think, it’s just that I don’t know how to predict what others think, so my only alternative is to be me.

Many of us are trying to figure out how our online and offline personal and professional lives can coexist, but no one has the magic bullet.  Don’t let someone else’s rules become your rules.  It’s a time of trial and error and constant change for everyone in this space.  Go with what feels right to you.  Create your own rules and don’t forget to remind yourself that the only thing we know for sure is that everything is subject to change at anytime.

Do you have rules? Have they changed over time? Tell me about it!

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Community Effort

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment
Carpenter at work on Douglas Dam, Tennessee (T...
Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

A year ago I was commuting to Palo Alto daily, seeking to be a part of
a community, yet unsure how to make it happen. Today, I am sitting at
my local coffee shop, where I know every barista’s name. The Creamery
is one node in my local community that reminds me that I have managed
to join many communities, but how?

We don’t become a member of a community by default, by moving or
getting a new job. Being a part of a community requires time,
patience, effort, investment and supporting the community and it’s
individuals. Sounds like a lot of work? It is, and maybe it’s not for
everyone. For me, every ounce of effort results in compounded returns.
Relationships are no longer linear, but take on new dimensions. I
support others’ efforts across multiple communities, and I see others
doing the same. It’s not utopia. There are barriers to entry,
disagreements, misunderstandings in any community. There is, however,
one shared goal: to keep the community thriving. It’s just not
possible to maintain a thriving community without each member’s

You are probably a part of many communities, too. Do you agree? Do
you work to maintain your community and its members? How did you
join/select desired communities? Do your communities overlap? If so,
do you work to create areas of overlap? If not, do you prefer the
separation? I’d love your feedback as I nurse my coffee and ask myself
the same questions.

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The Need For Speed

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment
Learning curve
Image via Wikipedia

The more technology races ahead, the faster we want to go, the more we
want to cram into every second of every moment and, accordingly, we
are less tolerant of even minor delays. We complain when systems
crash or the fail whale interrupts our tweets, While it’s exciting to
see how technology allows us to automate and expedite many things we
once did manually, I wonder if this expectation of speed is setting us
up for disaster. Not everything can be expedited. Example, the
learning curve.

Starting a new job has left me giddy with admiration for my coworkers,
yet eager to get up to speed – yesterday. I want to know all of the
systems, learn every aspect of the product and be able to communicate
all of this knowledge to others flawlessly. I know it is impossible to
do so from the get go, and yet, the learning curve feels like an itch
I can’t scratch.

Learning a new role is not as simple as downloading an app. It’s time
to accept that I am no robot and to tolerate, perhaps even enjoy, the
ambiguity of not knowing. It does not come naturally, but it beats
being a robot.

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Business Cards: Do Titles Matter?

November 3, 2009 4 comments
Attorney business card 1895

Image via Wikipedia

Today was my first day at Scout Labs. When I started my first full-time job out of college at Morgan Stanley in 1998, my first day was devoted to paperwork followed by an entire month of training. Today I started with a brief, yet comprehensive overview of Scout Labs and the online brand monitoring landscape from Jennifer Zeszut, ran over to hear Margaret Francis speak on a panel at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, and got up to speed on the systems and technology.

The most painful part of the day? Choosing a title for my business card.  Everything sounds either too narrow to encompass what I actually do or too broad to convey any meaning.  My role involves a variety of responsibilities – this is becoming more common today in a world where nearly every industry is questioning and reshaping its business models.

My solution, to leave the title field blank.

Does a business card require that I define my role? Isn't that my job? A business card provides contact information, and if I can't leave a meeting or conversation without an individual knowing what I do and/or knowing why we should stay in touch, then my business card is likely to end up in the trash anyway. 

What do you think?

Liza Sperling
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Hotel Metrics: Taking Soup Metrics On The Road

November 2, 2009 1 comment
Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California

Image via Wikipedia

In social media, we measure, quantify and analyze even seemingly intangible concepts like trust, authenticity, even friendship.  When Tara Hunt (aka @missrogue) wrote Soup Metrics, she defined the soup metric as “the number of people in your social network that you know would bring you soup if they knew you were sick and/or get your back in any other real friend way – to help you feel better OR help your career.”

Soup metrics gauge relationships well if you are in your hometown, but for those of us who have scraped together resources to attend conferences all over the country I have seen another metric emerge: the hotel room metric. I know it sounds far less wholesome than chicken soup, but the definition is 100% innocent. The hotel metric is defined as the number of people at a conference who will offer up an extra bed or a place to crash without expecting anything unsavory in return.

I have shared rooms, taxis, meals and even toiletries at multiple conferences to save money, and I am not alone. The social media community that gathers at conferences is not as uniform as one would think. Many conference attendees have free tickets to conferences but can’t pony up airfare, hotel expenses, etc… Let’s face it the economy is rocky, and it’s impossible to know who is in need unless we make our needs known.

It was not until the 140 Conference in LA last week that I noticed the hotel room metric popping up over and over. Fortunately I was offered a place to stay in LA, which was a pleasant surprise, until the offer was rescinded.  I spent a hectic morning dragging my luggage down Hollywood Boulevard and did my best to ignore the feeling of being homelesss in a strange city to stay.  I shared my problem with people, and I was overwhelmed by those who offered up solutions, some of whom I had literally met that day. Ultimately, the lovely Sarah Kennon put my name on her room registry and left a key for me at the front desk. A hotel room has never felt so inviting as the Hotel Roosevelt that evening.

Later the same day, Zane Aveton, a dear Twitter friend I met in person for the first time at the conference, sent me a text message. She needed a place to stay. I reached out to Rich Greenberg, who had an extra bed in his hotel room.  He was pleased to donate the spare to Zane, although they had never heard of each other.

Let me be clear – I don’t encourage anyone to show up in a random city for a social media conference expecting free digs or a hotel room.  If, however, you do find yourself stranded at a social media event, reach out to the people in your network.  My guess is each of us have friends who are willing and able to help. You never know when the person in need will be you.

Liza Sperling
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In social media, we measure, quantify and analyze even seemingly intangible concepts like trust, authenticity, even friendship.  When Tara Hunt (aka @missrogue) wrote Soup Metrics, she defined the soup metric as “the number of people in your social network that you know would bring you soup if they knew you were sick and/or get your back in any other real friend way – to help you feel better OR help your career.”

I Am Joining Scout Labs

November 1, 2009 6 comments
Scoutlabs: sentiment analysis tool

Image by inju via Flickr

I am thrilled to announce that I am joining Scout Labs. As a natural born evangelist, this is what I consider the ultimate role: to promote a brilliant application that addresses companies’ needs to interpret online conversations, determine consumer sentiment and identify signals in the noise.

In my quest to find the this opportunity, I have focused on the caliber of people as much as what the company does.  My goal all along has been to find a company whose product is as mind blowing as the people.  If I am going to devote most of my waking hours to a company, I want to be as impressed by the people as the technology. After several dozen conferences, meetings and interviews and researching hundreds of people and companies, Scout Labs impresses me on both levels, but if it were not for a random offline encounter I may not have found this opportunity.

I met Mars Hall at my local coffee shop. I asked him what he was working on, and he explained that he is a developer for Scout Labs.  He was kind enough to give me informal demo, and I probably drooled as we discussed the technology. Mars laughed because he does not meet many strangers at coffee shops who are fascinated by online brand monitoring or understand what sentiment analysis actually means.  Our conversation was not limited to Scout Labs, however. Mars and I discussed yoga,  hiking and his love of Austin, TX.  In short,  it was an opportunity get to know a member of the Scout Labs team from both a personal and professional perspective. Mars and I exchanged contact information, and shortly thereafter, Jennifer Zeszut, Scout Labs’ CEO, emailed me to meet for coffee.

It is ironic that offline interaction lead to an opportunity to join Scout Labs, a company that monitors online conversations.  I am intrigued by online communication, and I spend a lot of time interacting online, but I continue to say over and over that it is impossible to replace real world interaction.   For those of you who spend a lot of time online developing connections and interacting, don’t forget about about the local coffee shop, taqueria or happy hour.  Don’t forget to show up.

P.S. Mars, I know I sound like a broken record, but thank you.

Liza Sperling


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Getting People Right Is Not What Living Is All About Anyway. It’s Getting Them Wrong That Is Living. – Philip Roth

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment
A Twisted Family Tradition ~ The Lime Jello Brain
Image by hurleygurley via Flickr

Last week I met the CEO of a biotech company.  He spends much of his time trying to understand how our brains work.  In spite of decades of hard work, he admitted that scientists know very little about the dense grey matter packed into our skulls.  The exchange reminded me of a quote by Philip Roth that has stuck with me.  I share his words with you below to see what you think:

You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank.

You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion. … The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that — well, lucky you.

— Philip Roth

Is living about getting people wrong? Surely we are always wrong about others, and, yet, this quote still seems jarring. What do you think?

Liza Sperling

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Fall In #GISTLOVE Or Let Me Know Why Not

October 14, 2009 4 comments
"A serious relationship"
Image by Toban Black via Flickr

I am smitten. It’s love, or as I called it over a month ago #GISTLOVE.

Utterly smitten by Gist. Sound funny? Well, I am not kidding.  After griping about LinkedIn (remember this post: https://lizasperling.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/dear-linkedin-do-relationships-matter/) and wondering when someone would come along with a solution managing contacts AND related content on both social and professional networks, Gist has done it.

I am working on my post about Gist, but BEFORE I post it, I want your feedback.  So here is your Beta Invite link: bit.ly/PmY0c

In the interest of full disclosure, Gist is offering a free trip to Defrag to whoever is able to move the dial the most.  While this is a nice perk, I started using (and Tweeting about) Gist and even created the hashtag #GISTLOVE far before I knew about the contest. While I will always be an evangelist for the technology companies I love, I will never compromise my opinions for perks. You have my word on that!

So, please, what do you think about Gist? Love it? Hate it? Why? Why not?

You know I love it, but I want to hear your feedback to ensure that I am not drinking the #GISTLOVE koolaid.

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His Story

October 10, 2009 3 comments

What does this picture mean to you?


It's fair game, I don't know who took the photo, nor do I know the subjects' names or circumstances.

I have, however, heard many detailed interpretations. Why do people connect with the photo and feel a need to describe a deeper meaning.

Isn't it just a guy with his dogs? Or not?

What do you think?

Liza Sperling
San Francisco, CA
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Beyond Two Cents

October 9, 2009 1 comment
Here's My Two Cents

Image by ahockley via Flickr

Just when you think you have found that perfect app: infinitely useful, easy to navigate, cheap (or free!), possibly “life-altering”, someone tells you that it is unintuitive.

You start to see the flaws that only another perspective allows and demands.

Really? I never thought about it that way. Hmm

Do you effortlessly accept another opinion? No. Do you hold firm to your own, too blinded by perfection to consider what someone else considers flaws? No. Either extreme is avoiding the effort that improvement demands in any realm.

To explore how the experience is different from another user’s perspective because it truly matters to us – that is adding value.

Anything else is just pitching in your two cents.

Liza Sperling
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Doodle Has A Home In Tokyo

October 7, 2009 2 comments

I have always doodled to decompress or to take my mind off of challenges that confound me.  Usually I lose track of time, and it’s hard to drag me away from whatever I am doodling.

A while ago, my mom picked up a set of markers and a large pad of newsprint paper from an art supply store. When I saw the supplies, I sat down and began to doodle, eager to fill the massive swath of paper in front of me.  My mom eventually gifted the supplies to me, and I have put them to good use.

A blank sheet of paper offers possibilities.  I never know what will result and withhold judgment until the page is filled.  It is similar to writing, but with a more immediate visual effect.  I  doodle without the rules that sometimes get in the way of writing.  No rules, purpose, I just enjoy the process.

After I shared a few of photos of my “art” on Flickr, friends began to ask for their own doodles.  I laughed off most requests, until my friend, Arthur Huang, asked for a doodle to take on his move from San Francisco to Tokyo.  I made sure he did not leave empty-handed.

Just the other day Arthur sent an email with the subject line: Doodle Has A Home In Tokyo.  He included a photo of the doodle handing in his apartment.

My doodle hanging on Arthur’s wall in Tokyo:

I feel like a proud mom, knowing that something I made is hanging in a friend’s apartment on the other side of the globe.  Arthur, I wish you the best with you new job in Tokyo and hope that the doodle acts as a good luck charm as you embark on your challenge.  Be sure to visit soon, or I will be tempted to drop in on you in Tokyo to be sure my doodle is still hanging on your wall.  Thank you for bringing a big smile to this girl’s face.

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How Do You Define Your Desire To Be Useful?

October 1, 2009 Leave a comment
Egypt scenes - Aswan, street works
Image by Xavier Fargas via Flickr

Danielle Laporte posted the quote below today on her blog White Hot Truth, and it was too good to keep to myself.  I think Henri Nouwen was on to something. He has a clear mission and defines his own desire to be useful, but he is wise enough to question it.

The Desire To Be Useful

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

Henri Nouwen, Catholic Priest

How do you define your desire to be useful? Does it change with age or wisdom?  I don’t think anyone knows with 100% certainty how to answer these questions, but isn’t it important to ask them?

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He Said, She Said: Anatomy Of A Twitter Thread

September 28, 2009 7 comments

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Some people will never understand Twitter.  They don’t understand how it is possible for people to communicate in 140 characters in a sea of millions of users. These critics assume that because there is plenty of nonsense on Twitter, that it is all nonsense

Beneath the noise, however, connections form, personalities emerge, and we communicate on a level that seems impossible to non-Twitter users.

Like most people I “met” Chris Brogan on Twitter, but, I am also fortunate to have met him in person. Each of us has our own lives online and offline, and every now and then we cross paths.  This afternoon, our paths crossed. This is what exactly what we said:

From Chris Brogan:

@marlamarkman – my 3 yr old is a scaredy cat. My 7 yr old girl is brave until she’s not. : )

From Liza Sperling:

@chrisbrogan I am your 7 yr old, but somehow turned into your 3 yr old. Working on getting back to my old ways.

From Chris Brogan:

@lizasperling – now that was interesting to read. : )

From Liza Sperling:

@chrisbrogan Did it make sense?

From Chris Brogan:

@lizasperling – made perfect sense. I just liked the poetry of it.

This took place in a about a minute, but at the same time it was happening amongst millions of others people sending their own messages.  Earth shattering? Hardly, but it shows how much meaning can be conveyed in an isolated thread.  This communication was public, and, yet,  it is a pretty personal exchange. There is meaning on Twitter, if you take the time to unravel the strands.

Liza Sperling

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Rocking the Red Carpet at DEMO

September 28, 2009 4 comments
Fotógrafos no São Paulo Fashion Week edição 2007
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As I stepped onto the long red carpet connecting the conference to the pavilion, I confessed to the man beside me that the long red
carpet made me uneasy.  I  joked that I was glad to see there were no
paparazzi.  He asked me why.

I love taking photos of others, and I obviously enjoy attention, but I
don’t enjoy having my photo taken. To combat this fear, lately I do it
as much as possible. Thanks to kind photographer friends, I am less
scared of the camera, and sometimes, if I am really enjoying myself, I
hardly notice the camera’s presence. The “faux red carpet”, however, was a
new challenge.

So when a virtual stranger suggested we enjoy our red carpet stroll
and offered his arm, I agreed.  Why not, I said, let’s pretend that
there are flashing cameras, that we are dressed in our finest
clothing, and let’s revel in our stardom.  I loved it and was dismayed
when the carpet ended.  Inside the pavilion we toasted to our red
carpet moment and, only then, did we finally introduce ourselves and
talk business.

There is joy to be had in these small encounters.  We think of
“conferences” as uber-networking sessions, but if you open your eyes,
you’ll find endless opportunities to get to know others beyond their

Isn’t this what counts? Isn’t this why we get on planes at the
crack of dawn, cram onto hotel shuttles, and sit with strangers over
coffee long after we have finished our buffet breakfasts?  If these
“moments” did not matter, teleconferences would make conferences

Would you rather do business with someone who can rock the “faux red carpet” or someone who only shows you their professional side and a slidedeck? You know my answer, but what do you think?  I want your feedback, please!

Dear LinkedIn:  Do Relationships Matter
Artificial Authenticity at Google I/O

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DEMO 2009: What’s Next for Chris Shipley? The best is yet to come.

September 22, 2009 Leave a comment
Chris Shipley, founder of Demo Conference
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Chris Shipley announced some pretty amazing news on the Guidewire Group blog during DEMO 2009.  Here’s an excerpt:

Today, Guidewire Group is taking advantage of this unique economic environment to launch new initiatives that will deliver on this promise:  the Guidewire Assessment Framework, Studio G, and Innovate!100.– Chris Shipley, guidewiregroup.com, Guidewire Group

My first DEMO experience exceeded my expectations in many ways, much of which is due to the culture Chris Shipley has promoted at DEMO.  While Chris leaving DEMO marks the end of an era for many, my hope is that the values and community she created will continue to flourish.

Best of luck to Matt Marshall as he takes the reigns  – if Matt’s dancing skills are any indication of his future at DEMO, he is off to a great start.

I also can’t wait to see what Chris Shipley and the Guidewire Group have up their sleeves.  My bet:  the best is yet to come.

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Dear LinkedIn: Do Relationships Matter?

September 21, 2009 1 comment
Hub Cap on Ledge

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What Would You Tell Your 20 Year Old Self?

September 20, 2009 1 comment

Danielle Laporte’s blog White Hot Truth is my stomping grounds when I have overdosed on reading and writing about technology and feel inundated with tools, applications and gadgets. Rather than creating content for readers to digest and swallow whole, Danielle’s writing prompts more questions than it answers. Her posts act a reminder that each of us can and should write the story only we can tell.

I recently read Danielle’s post Notes To My 20 Year Old Self. which includes a list of what she has learned as she approaches turning 40. I included Danielle’s list below from Notes to my 20 Year Old Self:

  1. Algebra really is useless.
  2. Credit cards are mostly evil.
  3. Talk is cheap.
  4. If he doesn’t stay until morning, he’s probably married or deeply insecure.
  5. There is no soul mate. I know, this is particularly hard news to take because you are longing for The One 24-7. But, guess what, The One is The One because you say he/she is. And that’s way more liberating and empowering than anything preordained or supposedly destined.
  6. And while we’re ‘dising cosmic romanticism – there’s no such thing as destiny. Life really is what you make it.
  7. Tragedy happens. Yes, everything happens for a reason, but life can be cruel and wrenching and while it all comes out in the cosmic wash, some souls collide and mistakes do happen.
  8. Louise Hay is a magnificent woman, but there is more to the machinations of life, illness, and cosmology than the simple explanations offered by You Can Heal Your Life. Cancer is not necessarily a result of repressed guilt, and you may not necessarily choose to heal your life this time around – that’s okay. Illness doesn’t make you a New Age Loser.
  9. Diplomacy is overrated.
  10. If your boss tries to french kiss you, it’s out of bounds.
  11. Only lend books if you don’t want them back.
  12. Go to more concerts.
  13. If you don’t kiss girls in your twenties, you’ll probably never get around to trying it out. You should try it out.
  14. You’re right – kindness is one of the most powerful natural resources there is…infinitely renewable.
  15. Your feelings are exceedingly more useful than your ability to rationalize your fears or other people’s poor behaviour.
  16. Your heart…your heart…your heart is where it’s at.
  17. When you turn 40, you shall be rocking like never before, grateful for absolutely everything, and you will finally, finally feel like earth is home…for the most part.

-Danielle Laporte

Thanks, Danielle, for continuously forcing me to dig deeper (even when it hurts like hell) and for inspiring me to write my own list.

As I work on my own list, I wonder why I did not not think to do it sooner. We all deserve to celebrate the lessons we have learn. I encourage each of you to write your own lists. I will share mine with you, and hope you will consider doing the same.

What would you tell your 20 year old self?

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Pleiad: The 7 Deadly Posts

September 16, 2009 1 comment
The Pleiades (see Pleiades (mythology)) Oil on...Image via Wikipedia
I have 7 blog posts  that I just can’t bring myself to publish.  Each day I attempt to tackle one, and each day I solemnly save another draft, tempted to just delete the post from existence (and my memory). Today I decided that rather than let these 7 posts dominate my day, I would ignore them.  My strategy: to spend more time reading others’ writing and less time focusing on my own writing.  By chance, I found Christi Craig’s blog, Writing Under Pressure. In her post,The Word Escapes Me, Christi describes her struggle with her self-imposed Wednesday Word of the Day exercise wherein when she forces herself to write about the word of the day.  I encourage you to read the post yourselves, because her solution is brilliant.  I will, however, share with you the word ‘escaping’ Christi:


MEANING: A group of (usually 7) brilliant persons or things

Pleiad!? 7 brilliant things? Aren’t I trying to forget about my 7 crappy, unfinished posts? I think I heard my computer shout: Hey, you 7 Deadly Posts, none of you are brilliant. You are the antithesis of a pleiad! A-ha, my unfinished posts were at once mocked and christened, “the 7 Deadly Posts”, and I actually laughed at myself, out loud.  (If you have not laughed at yourself out loud lately, try it.)

The belly laugh and absurdity of discovering such a maddening, yet humorous word of the day, melted my frustration.  I mused about the meaning of the word “pleiad” in online conversations and asked others to define their ideal pleiad.  Melissa Rowley identified her pleiad, the 7 Chakras, while Sean Gilligan asked if he could claim the 7 nymphs. Why not?  I was smiling, not glaring at my screen as I have done much of this week. Heck, If I had known the word escaping Christi lead to so many belly laughs, I would have started chasing it down sooner.

I have been writing my entire life, but blogging is a different craft. For me, the pressure of is less about what others think than how I will feel when I look at what I have published online.  While I rarely critique my old journals, notebooks, or word docs, online content is far easier to access (and maul). I become more forgiving of myself by reading others’ blogs. Who doesn’t have a blog nowadays? Of those who do blog, does everyone love everything they have written?  The larger question: do the the 7 Deadly Posts really need ‘fixing’?  I will always be my own worst critic, and while I jokingly call them Deadly Posts, would readers feel otherwise.  The only way to know is to publish them.

Do you have 7 Deadly Posts? Maybe you have more, less?  Do you delete them? Or perhaps you hit publish and feel relief to get them off of your plate.  Please share your thoughts with me. Maybe I will share my 7 Deadly Posts with you…

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Practicing Self-Promotion

September 8, 2009 2 comments

Practicing Self-Promotion: Where Do We Start?

By Liza Sperling

PSST…I think I just had my 15 minutes of fame.  Don’t Tell Anyone. – Overheard

I have joined several discussions both online and offline on the need for BOTH men and women to learn to promote themselves, so it’s about time I start to eat my own cooking.  One post that drew a lot of attention and placed the ball squarely in each of our courts is Cathy Brooks‘ guest post on Brian Solis‘ blog: Gauntlet Toss or Clarion Call.  I am going to do my small part now. Don’t worry, though, I promise not to let the stardom go to my head.

Please enjoy this great article where my friend, Ken Yeung, said some great things about me. I am truly flattered. http://blog.thelettertwo.com/2009/09/04/followfriday-its-all-about-the-awesomeness/ (Thanks, Ken! I hope you are all following Ken’s blog, The Letter Two.)

Big deal, right?  Well, I am just getting started. I still think promoting others is a heckuva a lot more fun, so consider this is an experiment. Jokes aside, I am working on more creative tools to promote those who we think are superstars AND ourselves. I WELCOME your feedback, so please let me know what you think. Tweeting or blogging a link is NOT the answer, but if we put our heads together, we can develop and execute new ways to help our friends and mentors sell more books and hear them speak more frequently at industry events.

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Dear Google: There is Always Mr. Bing

September 2, 2009 Leave a comment

By Liza Sperling

I love Google Profiles. Ironically it makes “Googling” someone less of a necessity.  If you pull up a Google Profile, you can garner the basics about someone without doing a broader Google search or bothering to visiting my LinkedIn profile to see if we have shared a professional relationship.

The Bada Bing's logo
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Compare this to the Facebook profile: Google did away with the clutter and the dreaded “relationship status” field.  As a rule, I leave that field blank, no matter what the case may be. Unlike most of my tech savvy peers, I can’t get comfortable with even entertaining the idea of combining the internet with romantic relationships. Just today, however, it hit me, Google can probably guess who is single or not, and that scares me.

While the Google Profile masters simplicity it’s newly souped up siblings, Google Reader and Google Friend Connect, serve as an indication of what may be next in Google Labs.  I am afraid, very afraid. The stage is set, and I fear that my innocuous Google Profile will not remain the same for long.

I see what you are up to Google, and if my intuition is correct, we are about to have a very nasty break up. How soon before my Google Profile decides to play matchmaker based on data co llected from dozens of sources including Friend Connect, Latitude, Reader, etc…?  When I see “I Feel Lucky” on Picasa, I wonder, is this a hint for the next Google Labs contender: “Get Lucky”?  Or perhaps “Love Connect” would be a less risque name to launch a brilliantly-engineered online matchmaker?  I envision an “uber match.com”  with fantastic algorithms to determine the ideal match for each Google user. While I understand some people may like the convenience of finding a date based on how one organizes their GMail labels or the content one shares on Google Reader, but I curse the day Google Labs offers a matchmaking option to include on my profile, or worse, suggests that I may need a matchmaker!  Who asked you?!

I don’t use Google or the internet to find a date.  Many great matches are made online, but I reserve the right to leave this one area of my life offline. So, Google, before you try to scare me into thinking I have no choice, or bully me into believing I can’t do any better than you, there is always Mr. Bing. Don’t think I won’t go there.
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Free Content Is King: Baby, Give It Up

August 30, 2009 5 comments

FREE Content Is King

337/365: The Big Money

Image by DavidDMuir via Flickr

I recently watched a TED Talk, A Kinder, Gentler Philosopy of Success by Alain de Botton and emailed the link to Karen Hartline and Tara Hunt.  Tara watched the clip, tweeted several quotes linking to the video and published a post entitled, What Is Success, with the embedded video of the TED Talk.  When Karen and I discussed how quickly a single link spread, she suggested that I write a post about free content.  One person emailed a single link that lead to several conversations both online and offline, dozens of tweets and the creation of two blog posts. Not bad exposure, especially considering no one received a dime to promote the content.

I share this anecdote to demonstrate how giving away content allows for the promotion of content in ways that are unlikely (if not impossible) with paid content.  Free content is more viral, leads to the creation of new content, in this case, Tara Hunt’s blog post and my blog post, and increases good will, or “Whuffie”, for the organizations and individuals giving it away.

What Are TED Talks ?

As Virginia Hefferrnan, explained in Confessions of a TED Addict in the New York Times Magazine: A TED talk begins as an auditorium speech given at the multidisciplinary, invitation-only annual TED conference. TED then creates videos of the speeches and puts them online so they can find a broader audience — and usurp my life. Ms. Heffernan jokingly considers herself an “addict”, but I consider her an “evangelist”, or an individual who passionately supports a product, idea or company without any expectation of financial gain.

Empowered evangelists drive value and form communities of evangelists, or fans, when organizations give away content.  Self-proclaimed “Tedsters”, or fans, forget that they are not invited to the pricey conference when they are given access to the content and the tools to share, promote and enjoy the content in their respective communities.  TED has spawned thousands of enthusiasts, a Facebook fan group dedicated to TED Talks and dozens of  blogs focused on reviewing, highlighting and celebrating TED Talks.  Furthermore, the conversation continues on TED.com long after new content is posted.  Would people pay to view TED talks?  Of course, but the talks would not be the viral marketing tools they are today if viewers were required to pay to view the content.  The speakers, the fans and TED itself benefits from the viral nature of the talks and the goodwill associated with sharing such valuable content.  In line with the slogan, Ideas that Spread, TED figured out that giving the content away was far more valuable that charging a fee.

TED is not an isolated example.  Look at Radiohead, who gave away their album and Girl Talk who followed Radiohead’s example.  Hundreds of companies in a many industries benefit from free content, and they all share something: they maximize free content by leveraging vocal evangelists’ expertise and a variety of tools that allow widespread dispersion of the content.  Evangelists, or fans, and the growing number of tools available to share, personalize, discuss and add to content have given free content a life of its own.  The companies, brands and individuals willing to experiment with the options and engage evangelists are creating new ways to build a brand and promote their products.

Much of what I have said is anecdotal, and I recognize it is useless without action items.  Here is the rundown, in case your boss laughs at you when you suggest giving it away.

Why give it away?

  • Free content is more viral, and its value increases as others add insight. A speech, video, article is made far more valuable when it has been questioned, analyzed, praised, and, yes, critiqued by others.  It not only becomes more viral, it also becomes the inspiration for new content.
  • Let your evangelists work for you, and trust in their ability to do what they do best. Evangelists know how to promote and spread content and enjoy sharing free content with others. In fact, they thrive on it.  Give them the tools, and they will make the content viral, reach new audiences and convert new evangelists.
  • Free content creates Whuffie, reciprocity and those warm, fuzzy intangibles that actually matter today more than ever. You all know what it is like to feel ripped off, but it is rare that you feel like we have gotten something for nothing.  When you do get something valuable at no cost, you see the source of the gift in a more positive light, and, if you are like me, you may even want to pay it forward, by telling others about the experience.

How can you maximize the value of free content?  TED takes an “all of the above” approach, which, if you can afford it, is great.  If not, I included a list below, so do what you can.  Do not be afraid to get creative.  Here are the basics to get you started:

  • Provide a prodigal kitchen sink of tools. There are dozens of ways to share, discuss, personalize and contribute via email, social networks, bookmarking apps, play lists and RSS feeds.  Do not forget offline options either!  Offering options gives the content more “legs”.  I may want to send a link to a friend with a personal, private note, while someone else may prefer to embed a video on a website or blog.  Trust that your audience knows their audiences best.
  • Facilitate content download to ensure viewers can capture exact quotes, and make it easy to link to the original source. TED provides transcripts, and NPR recently decided to release free transcripts.  If you do not give users this information, you risk botched quotes and lose the opportunity to draw others back to the original source on your website.
  • Connect the audience to others with similar interests to increase the depth and duration of the conversation. This can be done on a website with a comments section, but there are also many other ways to connect members of the community.  Allow users to create a profile, favorite items, create playlists and share information with each other both within and outside of your community, online and offline.
  • Replenish content often, and alert your audience when new content or functionality is available. Keep the source of information dynamic and fresh, so that users return and find value each time.  Ask for feedback often, float new ideas and respond to comments as quickly as possible.  Your evangelists will tire if your website feels stale, and, since they are not on the payroll, there is no way to force them to promote old content.

FYI, if you are new to the game, there are dozens of amazing professionals who know how to maximize the value of free content and engage and create evangelists.  Let me know if you would like some names.

Baby Give It Up

None of what I am saying is groundbreaking.  How many years ago did The Cluetrain Manifesto teach us that markets are conversations?  What IS new is that there are many new people who are initiating and leading the conversations, or, as Tara Hunt says in The Whuffie Factor, ‘picking up the torch’.  Armed with new tools and technology, these evangelists, know how to promote free content, and, what’s more, they do it at no cost, but only if you are willing to trust them.

As KC & The Sunshine Band said, Baby, Give It Up Try it out, stick with what works, change what does not work.  Look to your evangelists for ideas, and if you have none, free content is a great tool to create evangelists.  “Free” is not a dirty word if you know how use it to your advantage.

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Who ARE You?

August 22, 2009 2 comments

At a recent tech event, I found myself looking for a place to escape the crowd and made the mistake of sitting in a “reserved” booth.  An angry woman confronted me, and when I asked if it was okay to borrow the booth until the party returned, she blanched and asked, Who ARE you?

I blew my top, yes, lost it.
Who am I? Why does it matter to you? And who made you the Paris Hilton for the night? Now that I am calm, I realize it was a great question, so I am answering it right now, here I go…Who are you?

Tough chick | Loyal friend | Straight shooter | Quick learner | Heavy walker | Loud laugher | Passionate tech evangelist | Killer negotiator | Devil’s advocate |  Organizational freak | NYC refugee | Nawlins’ girl | Award winning apple-bobber | Enemy of passive aggression | Friend of imperfection| Believer that life’s not fair, but it’s fun | Curious georgette | Guy’s girl | Dog lover | Book worm | Certified Mounted Police Patrol Officer (And, yes, I have a badge & uniform to prove it)….Phew all in one breath.

How’s that for a start?

Now it’s your turn: Who are you?

Liza Spering
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Old-Fashioned Advice (Or How to Go Budget Without Feeeling Budget)

August 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I spend a lot of time reading, commenting, sharing and linking to a variety of of technology articles, lists and tips.  Recently it occurred to me that in spite of the volume of information I consume, I rarely absorb information that has long term value.  It may be interesting and helpful today, but tomorrow, technology will change, and the information may no longer be relevant.   Specifically, I rarely stumble onto old-fashioned advice, the the low/ no-tech tips that are timeless, however their value is often overlooked.

In the spirit of reviving the trend of passing on those tips that may seem simple, but prove valuable over the long haul, I will share on of my favorite tips a friend shared with me years ago:  baby shampoo. Years ago, my friend exclaimed, baby shampoo is a godsend.  Obviously an overstatement, but her tip has saved me a lot of money (and packing space) over the years.  Baby Shampoo

Baby shampoo is a way to “go budget” without feeling like you are giving up anything.  A few ways you can use baby shampoo:

  • Save some money, already.  We are in a recession, folks, so as much as I adore Bumble & Bumble products, I can’t fork over the cash for Seaweed Shampoo like I did in the past.  I am pretty sure you’ll appreciate it when you get your next credit card bill.
  • Wash your undergarments (or just about anything) if you are on the road or too cheap to buy laundry detergent.
  • It’s not just shampoo, it does a good job from head to toe without making you smell like your dad’s cologne  – or Axe body spray, ack.
  • Use it as a facial cleanser- it won’t irritate your eyes, even contact wearers. Remember “No more Tears”?
  • Leave it at your significant other’s place.  You are unlikely to get any flack for the innocuous clear bottle filled with magical golden goodness. In fact it may be the only toiletry that is uniquely unoffensive to any gender.
  • Use it as a pick me up.  The hint of a scent appeals to all ages and conjures up fond memories for most of us.  For me, the scent brings back memories of snuggling with my niece after washing a melted Dairy Queen Blizzard out of her hair.
I suggest you pick up a bottle to test my advice.  (FYI:  If Johnson & Johnson is not on sale, go with the store brand. I actually prefer Walgreen’s baby shampoo to J&J because it  works just as well and is available in a handy three ounce, flip-cap bottle for under a buck. TSA  won’t confiscate it and you won’t  lose the itty bitty cap on the J&J travel size, which I have done many times.) Let me know how it goes, if you find new ways to use it, or even if you hate my advice.  I am willing to bet you’ll like it…Or your $0.99  back.

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Spotted: True Love At My Local Starbucks

August 17, 2009 3 comments

Today I spotted real love at my local Starbucks.  I took a picture for those of you who will insist that love does not, cannot exist. You’ll say, Impossible. Not in this crappy economy with scorching unemployment.  Not when we have protesters showing up at town halls with ammo. Not when we have aircraft crashing into each other over the Hudson River.

Liza Sperling/Flickr

Suspend your disbelief and take a look. I stumbled onto this scene at your typical Starbucks in San Francisco. This photo is not posed or made up, in spite of the clever placement of Starbucks advertisements.This is the real deal. A guy and a girl enjoying eachothers’ company, unaware of the irritating gaggle of people complaining about the slow barista, oblivious to the mob of loud tourists who just added to an already ridiculous line.Look at her extend her hand, and how he hangs on to it. He is literally gazing at her in a way I have only seen in black and white movies from decades ago.

Sure, I had a moment of doubt: Maybe I am wrong.  Maybe she is feigning a smile to thank him for the goodies he picked up at Sephora? Or because she is finally over the ego-bruising fight they had the night before? I don’t think so, though.  Here’s why: when I asked if I could take a photo, the couple could hardly take their eyes off of each other long enough to shrug and say, Why not? Indeed, why not?

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Confessions of A Natural Born Evangelist

August 15, 2009 7 comments
Electronic red megaphone on stand.

Image via Wikipedia

by Liza Sperling

In the past month, I have been asked if I work for Eye-Fi, Posterous, Twitter, even Friendfeed.  I don't work for any of these companies, but I do talk about them a lot. The only way to describe my relationship is as an "evangelist."

What is an evangelist? Beyond it's old school, religious roots, an evangelist has been redefined in the technology community as shorthand for a passionate user, fan or cheerleader for of particular product or brand. To clarify my thoughts, I asked others this question on Friendfeed and Twitter to see others' opinions (http://ff.im/6povW). Here are some of the responses:

  1. Someone who is so passionate about the product/service/cause that he/she is willing to spend the time/energy to spread the word about to everyone even without any compensation. – Claire Chang
  2. Someone who consistently promotes an idea, concept, technology or some other tangible or intangible entity for its own sake. – LANjackal
  3. An empowered and knowledgeable cheerleader. – Andy Sternberg
  4. It's someone that knows a lot about a product and that looks to promote or spread the good that product makes to other people. For example, promoting apple's many features like, easy to use, better performance, best software, etc. An example, could it be Scoble and Friend Feed. – Jorge
  5. Someone who spreads the good news about something. – Gus
  6. Someone who loves and pimps the hell out of something they love to do – Holden (First God Of FF)

Evangelists are self-motivated and are expressing their views because it is their nature to support what they love. They are not seeking pay for their efforts, but that does not mean it is is a thankless task.  There is an enormous amount of joy in contributing to success. It is irrelevant whether I am talking to peers or perfect strangers, I will always support what I love, whether it is my favorite novel, coffee shop or technology.

As an evangelist, I find my enthusiasm is often misunderstood. We are intelligent and, as power users, we typically know a great deal about the ideas we support.  Don't underestimate our intelligence or think of us as groupies.  We are also quick to acknowledge flaws and a big part of our role is to suggest ways to improve the products, so criticism is fair game.

Many of the people we look to to provide guidance in the age of new media will tell companies the importance of finding individuals who will pick up the prodigal torch and express enthusiasm for their ideas and products

The challenge is not finding evangelists but creating them. Can you create evangelists? Probably not, but you can nurture them by recognizing who these individuals are and responding to them as if they do work for you.  We are not asking for much in return for our word of mouth support, no money or swag, we seek transparency to better understand your products, feedback to our suggestions and the tools to respond to others' questions. Sounds like a fair trade to me, what do you think?

Liza Sperling

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I Blame Drew’s Cancer For Not Thinking of #Blamedrewscancer First

August 6, 2009 1 comment
Drew Video Chat at BlameDrewsCancer

Image by Laughing Squid via Flickr

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]By Liza Sperling

For a while, I assumed the references to #Blamedrewscancer on Twitter were an inside joke.  Who is Drew? Does he really have cancer? If so, why are people laughing about, even blaming Drew’s cancer for everything from AT&T’s pathetic network coverage coverage to getting dumped .

If you take a look at Blame Drews Cancer, you’ll learn that Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with cancer May 20, 2009.  It did not take long, and already Drew has replaced an outdated model of mobilizing support with a simple hashtag: #blamedrewscancer. To date,   nearly 10,000 people have blamed drews cancer on over 20,000 things.

Who could have imagined a a hashtag could launch a viral movement to raise awareness for cancer? Drew did. Since when is it okay to laugh about cancer and talk about chemo so casually? That’s just it – it is more than okay, in fact, it may be the ONLY thing that works in a day and age when traditional PR strategies are losing their efficacy.  Another PSA featuring a celebrity to whom I cannot relate? No thank you.

Team #BlameDrewsCancer Skydive (7/18/09)

Image by Drew Olanoff via Flickr

Last night I headed over to Blame Drew’s Cancer Blowout expecting an ordinary social media gathering.  I was wrong. Drew came on screen, thanked us for attending and ‘blamed his cancer’ for not being able to attend in person.  He’s real, funny, wore killer red goggles, and he is not a “cancer victim”, he is one of us. He did not let a diagnosis change him or his ability to relate to others.

I want to be a part of something larger than me-don’t we all?  Drew inspires his supporters with his brutally honest portrayal of cancer and offers an easy way to engage supporters in his mission – the hashtag is the tool that lead to what is now a nationwide movement.  The hashtag, however, is just the beginning: I am hooked.  I want to see President Obama in a Blame Drew’s Cancer tee-shirt. Why not?

I have already reached out to friends of mine who are already involved in Blame Drew’s Cancer to see how I can help. So, if anyone wants to join me (and many other phenomenal people) to support Blame Drew’s Cancer, let me know.

Feel free to contact me at any of these links:
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Are You Having Fun Yet? The Lost Art of Play

July 31, 2009 1 comment

Image by lizasperling via Flickr

  The Lost Art of Play:
Are You Having Fun Yet?

I am 33 years old.  I have spent nearly a decade on Wall Street, two years starting a fund and volunteering as a Mounted Patrol Officer in Wyoming,  and I am currently enjoying my second year in San Francisco. I have proven that I can hack it in the toughest of professional and social environments. I read voraciously, DVR Charlie Rose daily, and need my Sunday New York Times, but it recently ocurred to me that these activities had become so routine and feel like a part of my life’s carefully planned choreography.  I was doing just about everything while focusing on the next rung on the ladder.  I had forgotten how to “play”.

What is “play”? My definition: to explore or engage in an activity with enjoyment as the sole objective, or doing something for sheer pleasure rather than factoring in the potential learning quotient, monetary gain or the intellectual value the activity provides.  Sure,  the desire to master, achieve fame & fortune and tackle new goals may result from playing, but it’s NOT play if we seek out those outcomes. I set out to relearn the art of play and to have fun for the sake of having fun.

  • I doodle. Using my sublime set of 36 dual-tipped Copic markers and a massive pad of inexpensive newsprint, I draw swirls, polka dots, whatever comes to mind. I post the doodles on Flickr.com and received an handful of offers to purchase my doodles, but they are not for sale. Instead I give them to friends or use them as wrapping paper. You can see one of my doodles in the photo above.
  • I take pictures: I bought a point and shoot camera, and I take photos of whatever draws my attention, without any criteria or purpose. I began posting the pictures on Flickr and found others’ examples as inspiration that even the mundane can be fun to photograph.  You can check out my Flickr feed here: Flickr
  • I Tweet, Friendfeed, check-in, follow & engage online & offline: I am an an active participant on multiple social media networks, and have made a point to take my online friendships offline.  Somehow I have managed to make great friends who I would otherwise never know had I been hesitant to engage in these online networks.
  • I Whuffaoke: Yes, that’s me in the Whuffaoke or Bust track jacket, singing without a care in the world.


(I produced Whuffaoke.com, which is an entire post, if not a book, in itself. I will just say that being a part of Tech Karaoke and Whuffaoke is the single activity that you can enjoy without any skills.)

  • I blog: I do not publish as much as I would like, but when I do a post it is because I want to, not because I have to, and I don’t worry about who, if anyone, will read it. Wordpress
  • I code (?!): In an effort to learn HTML, I am using a website targeting 10 yr. olds,(www.Neopets.com) My interest in blogging and technology, lead to exploring WordPress, Posterous,  Blogspot and the integrations of tools and widgets like Zemanta, Disqus et al.  While incorporating some of these tools into my blog is easy, others have forced me to look at the underlying code. After breaking many templates, it is fun to finally understand the components of a new language.

The big question: am I having fun? Yes!  Of course, learning or relearning anything takes time, and many activities are an acquired taste that require patience before the enjoyment kicks in.  Many people have been playing since the day they are born, some do little more than play, but there are also those of us who forget the basics as we transition into adulthood.Don’t let any more time pass without asking yourself these questions: Do you know how to play? What do you consider play? As always, I want to hear your thoughts, so please join the conversation.

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Watch this, and I dare you to resist the urge to dance.

This is group bonding at its best.

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Fairy Tale Wedding: Do You Believe in Happy Endings?

July 20, 2009 3 comments

originally uploaded by lizasperling.

On Saturday, I found myself in the middle of real, live “Fairy Tale Wedding”. The pictures don’t lie.

What’s more interesting is how many onlookers were mesmerized by the idea of a funky, dress up wedding, where the guests are dressed as dwarves and bunny rabbitts. The parents did not seem amused, but it revived my hope in my idea of a happy ending, finding someone who appreciates the quirky parts of us we all have.

Shouldn’t a wedding be a celebration of what the couple loves and the future they plan to carve out together? And if it is Santacon, Alice in Wonderland and pancake makeup, so be it. Why should a couple spend the time and money to create an illusion we have all seen awkwardly replicated too many times?

I admit, I teared up as these perfect strangers said their vows, but I was not alone. The wedding drew a crowd, and as the couple departed, we all cheered and clanked our bottles of beer in the air.

Here’s to happily ever after.

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Simplicity Is Not Simple

June 27, 2009 3 comments


Simplicity. Simplicty is often oversimplified.

There is a misunderstanding that simplicity is easy; that complexity is difficult.

Simplifying communication, however, is incredibly difficult.

Why do we spend so much time struggling with simplicity, defining ways to simplify our written and spoken messages?

I hate to admit it, but simplicity is not simple. It is difficult and often demands far more energy and decision-making abilities than communicating longer, more complex messages.

Those who have nailed simplicity are pretty brilliant. Seth Godin and Garr Reynolds are two names that come to mind.

Imagine writing fortune cookie messages, a haiku a day or describing yourself in one word. Simple tasks, but far from easy, right?

Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

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The Authenticity Backlash: Are You In?

June 14, 2009 1 comment
Juno in Juno *--*
Image by NOWHERE fast.- via Flickr

Feeling grumpy? Me, too, and my informal research indicates that we are not alone. Something has gone awry in the Twitterverse.  No, I am not referring to the Twitpocalypse. Rather than ignore this creeping feeling, let’s discuss it.

Recently several Twitter events left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Many others are also not their usual easy-going selves. Flaring tempers, personalized attacks and a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ mentality have crept into that I once deemed a safe place to mull ideas, discuss conflicting points of view and be my quirky, eccentric self without expecting personal attacks. Others have attempted to explain the recent increase of snarky attacks on astrology. I wish it were that simple to explain, but I don’t think we can blame it on the stars.

My anecdotal evidence:

  • A friend mentioned that the recent negative vibes on Twitter were contagious, causing her to feel under attack. Several others chimed in and readily agreed. Typically positive folks, all rattled by the increasing frequency of their tweets being misunderstood and resulting in extreme reactions.

  • Another friend with a large Twitter following remarked that more frequent negative interaction caused him to limit his level of engagement, frequency and transparency. He is considering abandoning Twitter completely.

  • Several friends and followers suggested that I monitor my outgoing tweets more carefully to avoid my words being taken out of context and sending an unintended message. (Huh? I thought I define my boundaries in this place!)

I think this is authenticity backlash, or the result of a semi-public sphere going mainstream. Now that Twitter has attracted a larger audience, there is a sense that Big Brother has entered the room, and he is not going away anytime soon. Big Brother has many of us on edge, questioning and defending Twitter (and ourselves). Corporations and celebrities are using and misusing Twitter and then publicizing its flaws. Trolls are multiplying beyond Twitter’s ability to quash them, and they are amping up their efforts to incite negative reactions. With so many people looking for chinks in the armor, should we be surprised that they have found them? It is only logical that increased scrutiny makes authenticity more difficult, but I am not ready to throw in the towel.

Online authenticity is a new phenomenon, and we are just now exploring it’s complexities. Each of us has the option to self-censor, to protect our reputations and public identities. Personally I am unwilling to spend my time honing my tweets to ensure that they are morsels of perfection. I propose that we accept the inevitable trade-off that online authenticity demands. Online communication is a medium that lends itself to misunderstandings, and if you increase the size of the network, the rate of misunderstandings is likely to increase.

Let’s take responsibility and remind ourselves that many of us opt-in to Twitter to be ourselves and to interact with others eager to do the same. This only works if we agree to follow a simple rules: debate without personalizing, respect others’ personal boundaries, don’t take yourself or others too seriously, own up to screw ups, etc…basic golden rules, right? The kicker is to also accept that each of us will break these rules from time to time, because we are, after all, human. Authenticity requires acknowledging human imperfections including crappy moods, hot tempers, dropping F-bombs, drunk tweets, occasional stupidity, the list goes on…

Do you really want to hold a grudge, seek revenge and remain grumpy or recognize that growing pains are an inevitable part of Twitter (and each of us) growing up? Let’s admit, it is getting crowded in here, but there is still plenty of room for each of us. It’s okay to be grumpy, I was when I started writing, but I feel better already. The note in the movie, Juno, said it best: If you’re still in, I am in.

I will end this as I end and begin most conversations, with a question: Are you in?

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Raise a Ruckus: Support Whit Scott’s Rolled

When was the last time you raised a ruckus? Do you remember childhood mischief? It once came naturally to us. Doing what we loved to do because we loved to do it. Gradually we learned about the consequences of our actions and became risk-adverse. Decades later I am surrounded by start-up founders advising us to do what we love because we love to do it.  Did we forget? How do we remember? My suggestion: start by recalling what it felt like to raise a ruckus as a kid. 

Meet Whit Scott, the man behind Rolled: 32 Years of Toilet Papered Houses


 Are they still rolling? Whit created a Kickstarter project, to finish the story. Each of us can nurture our inner-mischief maker by helping in the following ways

  • Spread the word: Share this link everywhere.
  • Pledge a buck (or a thousand) HERE:128 people have so far! FYI, Whit needs to meet his goal for the project to get any funding.
  • Pass on the video to your childhood friends: Chances are that it will inspire some great conversations about your own ruckus-raising days.
  • Write: a blog post or share this post. 

Raise a ruckus without the risk of getting grounded, while helping the talented Whit Scott tell his story. 



Google Plus: Cross-posting To Facebook Without An Extension

July 27, 2011 1 comment
Google Plus has become a great place to share and discuss how to make Google Plus “play friendly” with other social networks. Unfortunately keeping up with the dozens of extensions and apps and ensuring their safety is time consuming. Many of the solutions are focused on cross-posting to Facebook, so here is a quick trick to post to both Google Plus and Facebook without using any new extensions or apps. It won’t work for photos or lengthy updates (50 characters is the max), but it worth taking 5 minutes to set up. 

1. On Facebook, go to your Account Settings, and select the Mobile tab.


2. Click “Go To Facebook Mobile”.


3. At the bottom of the page, you will see the option to: Upload via Email.
  • Copy the email address specific to your Facebook account 
  • Note: do not share this “secret” email address with anyone – notice I am not sharing it here


3. On Google Plus, create a new Circle. 
  • Name your Circle. I named mine Facebook.
  • Add a “new person” by adding the emaiI you selected on Facebook.


Now when you want to update your status or share something on Facebook, simple select your Facebook Circle.  You can also send updates to Facebook only within Google Plus by selecting only the Facebook Circle. 

Enjoy, and let me know if you have any questions!  Of course – you can find me many places online, including Google Plus!

Liza Sperling
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What Do Google Plus/Google+ and Turntable.fm Have In Common?

A late 20th-century phonograph console and record.

Image via Wikipedia

Have you heard about Google Plus (Google+)? What about Turntable.fm? Both are recent launches that have attracted the early adopters (otherwise known as geeks). I admit that I spend hours daily on both sites, often simultaneously. While Google+ and Turntable.fm may seem unrelated, users are drawn to both Google Plus and Turntable.fm for very similar reasons – they remind us what drew us online in the first place.

Different Animals

Google Plus is Google’s new social network designed to make sharing on the web feel like sharing in real life. 

Since Google already knows a lot about the users with Google accounts, setting up relevant “circles”, or groups of contacts, and getting started is fairly easy. 

Once I got the hang of sharing photos and links and commenting on others’ posts, I noticed Hangouts. What? Press a button and hangout live via web cam with ten people at one time. I noticed Vic GundotraMichael Dell starting these hangouts, and soon I found myself in Hangouts with people I have known for years but have never met in person. Coworkers, friends and others I have met in passing on multiple networks are available real-time, for real conversations, offering an experience that previously did not exist. 

Turntable.fm is an online service labeled as a social music discovery platform. What does this mean? Users are DJ’s and can play songs in “rooms” while chatting. In truth, the real draw of Turntable.fm is not about music at all, but about combining music with real-time chat. Users are welcome to just listen or vie for one of five available DJ spots in each room organized around genres, themes or groups. Each user has an avatar and can win points when others vote on their songs, causing the room to look like a bobbing freak show. Users chat about music, but more often the  conversation moves from music to other areas of interest. It is a collaborative environment where ideas, resources and feedback are shared. In a little over a month, Turntable.fm beta users have helped transform a buggy, yet addictive experience into a reliable, yet still addictive experience.  Independent developers shared Github links to lines of code, built and rebuilt Chrome extensions, and unofficial groups organized to communicate with users when the Turntable.fm is down. Many users compare their Turntable.fm experience to  their experience in Twitter‘s early days and in IRC chats decades ago.

What is driving geeks to Google Plus and Turntable.fm for hours on end? Both are offering users exclusivity, accessibility and real-time connectivity, which is no longer easy to find online. If it feels familiar, it is because many of us felt this way once apon a time.

Scarcity creates demand, and amongst geeks this phenomenon is intensified. We love to play with “cool new stuff” first. We covet these opportunities and accept the growing pains of servers crashing (Turntable.fm) and being spammed with email notifications (Google Plus). Turntable.fm turned off new invites altogether. Google+ cleverly included the following language (see blue underline) on the Welcome Page. 


A part of a “small group helping to test Google+”? This is music to any geek’s ears.

– Accessibility: Stakeholders Show Up, Listen & Respond
Seth Goldstein, who leads Turntable.fm is easy to find DJ’ing and chatting with users to garner their feedback. He is as accessible to me as he is to the CEO of a major record label. Vic Gundotra, who is leading the charge at Google Plus, is among dozens of Googlers active on Google+ responding to feedback and answering questions real-time. Vic’s Hangouts fill up instantly with those eager to speak to him face to face via web cam. The feedback is welcomed both formally and informally, and users know their opinions are valued, because developers are implementing changes at a fast clip. Part of the draw to both experiences is discovering new changes each day and feeling as if your participation drove action.

– Real-Time Connectivity
If you feel like it is noisy online and that you cannot be heard, you are not alone. Social networks have become pretty isolating and, even at times, creepy. Many of us who found connectivity on Friendfeed, Twitter, Facebook, IRC, etc…are drown out by the crowd and noise as the technology is adopted by those who do not value connectivity. People are tired of shouting, filtering and adjusting settings. Play a song while DJ’ing on Turntable.fm, you are likely to get immediate feedback, both in the form of votes and chat. Post a link to an interesting article or even a photo of the burrito you had for lunch on Google+ and others respond more frequently and faster than on Facebook or Twitter. Both Turntable.fm and Google+ may fall victim to the spam and noise that has lowered response rates on other networks, but for now both offer users real-time connectivity with real people.

In hindsight, the attraction of both Turntable.fm and Google Plus seems obvious. Each offers something that is unavailable elsewhere. The real question remains: Can Turntable.fm and Google Plus scale to become commercially viable while continuing to offer users the same experience? What do you think? I don’t know the answer, but I will stay tuned.

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Rules or Excuses?

I love to write. As a kid, I shared my writing freely, until something changed. I learned grammar, rules, and that there IS an appropriate salutation for a former President of the United States. I found comfort in my copy of The Elements of Style…Okay I gripped it until my knuckles were white.

Rules matter, but for many, myself included, the rules become cozy excuses. Instead of publishing a wobbly blog post, I save it for a final proofread. In reality, that post joins piles of unpublished posts reminding me that sometimes rules are just cop outs.

This post is going live. Now. No excuses.

Magic Eight Ball

Picture of the face of a magic 8-ball taken by...


Maybe you did not get the memo, the emails are stuck in your automated filters, or you are ignoring the obvious signs? Maybe you have heard it, but you don’t want to believe it? I will say it again: traditional demographics are dead. The data which once acted as a crystal ball and offered insight into what consumers buy and why, is no more helpful than a Magic Eight Ball. In fact, a Magic Eight Ball will set you back far less than the cost of a single focus group.

There is good news, though. Consumers are telling anyone who cares to listen what they do and don’t want, why they want it and how much they are willing to pay for it. Is this information manageable, neat, obvious or always actionable? No. Is it useful? Yes. Revolutionary? Yes. Thought provoking? You bet. Those who are waiting for the perfect, tool, product or solution to change their marketing strategies, will be, errrr, waiting a long time…Even imperfect processes are superior to relying on antiquated methodologies. 

How Did We Get Here?

I never thought I would say, “Today I was on a panel with Tac Anderson.”…, but today I was on a panel with Tac Anderson. When I found Tac Anderson on Twitter a couple of years ago, I did not envision ever meeting him in person. How did I get here? How did I go from reading Tac’s blog posts to sitting beside him offering up my opinion at a conference?

Many people downplay the effort required to switch careers and find full time employment in an evolving space, as if they took a completely different path by accident. Today alone, I heard all of these explanations:

  • Low barriers to entry
  • Couches to crash on
  • Luck
  • Serendipity
  • Twitter


Sara Lingafelter answered how she went from being a divorce attorney to driving social media at REI in three words: I said yes. Sara nailed it. Most of us got here by saying yes. Over and over and over.

Put another way, we got here by showing up. The only secret to social media is that most of the good stuff happens offline. Like sharing ideas over lunch, as shown in the photo taken by Tac Anderson below.


Yes, grown ups having lunch sitting on the floor of Microsoft Conference Center. This is work. This is play. This where personal and professional lives blur. This is the path I chose, and I did not get here by accident. None of us did.

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