What Is Or Isn’t “Real Life”?

I have a good friend who is a couple of generations younger than I am.   While we are very different people,  with very different personalities and world views we share a fairly large number of interests and often enjoy just shooting the breeze with each other.  Sometimes though,  our very different perspectives lead us to disagreements.   As a blogger,  to me a “meme” is a blog post that sets out to answer some formulaic set of questions or follow some set of rules,  and which tags some (often specified) number of other bloggers to do a post of their own according to the same formula.    Sometimes these “memes”  can become quite popular and the person who created a meme that goes viral may get hundreds and hundreds of backlinks as more and more people do a post according to the formula and link back to the original.

My friend seemed quite puzzled when I explained to him  “what a meme is”.    I’m not certain that he actually said that I was “wrong” about memes,  but to my friend a “meme” is a picture such as the one shown here,  which each successive participant is to change the displayed caption on.   (If I were actually doing this meme according to my friends rules,  I would change the words from “WHY ISN’T THIS A NON FICTION BOOK”  to some equally clever (one hopes) phrase of my own.    Way, way back in elementary school I seem to recall learning that fiction is a make believe story and non-fiction is “true”.    This is somewhat accurate,  at least in as far as 3rd or 4th graders are capable of understanding the concept.    However any writer or student of literature who has gone on to or beyond the under graduate level knows that good literature is successful in large part because it presents universal truths using fictitious characters and settings.    Some writers and critics of non-fiction might also argue that good non-fiction succeeds because it examines, explores and illuminates veritable truths rather than because it uses the correct names of the “characters”  the story is about.

All of which is preface to asking, just what about our online lives (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) is “real life”  and what does that mean.    I am thinking today that this is not in any way an academic question,  but rather a critical question that anyone who participates in blogging or social media must at some point come to terms with if they are to be successful in these areas.    I am well aware that Empire Avenue is very much a game.    And yet I find myself disagreeing with a friend who remarked recently that it is  “just a game”.    Consider,  that most of the “players” on Empire Avenue are using their real “wallet names”  on that site and have connected Empire Avenue to their Facebook (and or G+) profiles– both sites that explicitly require that one use their real wallet name.   (Not that either site is particularly sophisticated or successful about weeding out folks who sign up under an alias.)

Is it fair to publicize,  such as on blogs or other social media,  instances where people seem to be cheating on Empire Avenue or “not playing fair”?    It’s not a simple question I don’t think and to be perfectly honest,  I have not as yet come to any conclusion either way which seems satisfactory to me.   What do you think?    Is Empire Avenue “just a game” or is it “real life”?   Is it fair to bring repercussions into people’s real lives for their behaviors on Empire Avenue?    Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.

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I Love Pintrest. But I don’t want another one.

I genuinely like Pinterest.   I have boards of gorgeous pictures,  and I add more all the time.    Occasionally  I edit a pin to point it somewhere I want it to point to,  but mostly I just leave the pins pointing to wherever I noticed the image in the first place.     I try hard to be fair about using pictures that are not mine,  though I admit sometimes I just scrape images,  and link them to the blog they appeared on before.    The number of complaints I’ve received so far–  one.    And that person didn’t actually want me to take it down,  just wanted me to cite it properly.     No problem.    Full disclosure– I am what the lawyers would call judgement proof.   The image owner could sue me but would never collect a thing.      Pinterest might not be such a great thing for you.   But as I say all the time,  you have to tailor your social media plan to your particular needs and goals.

It really frustrates me the way any time a team has a bit of a success,  there are suddenly 100 teams trying to duplicate what they just did,  and by and large all of the ME TOO products seem horrible and useless to me.    Pinterest came up with a clever and distinctive interpretation  of what could have been just the  zillionth book marking site or photo gallery site.    I have to say that I was honestly appalled that the Empire Avenue team included in it’s update a very Pinterest looking page that channels the blog and social media rss traffic of all of your shareholders and those you hold shares in.   This same information has always been available on  each persons’ profile page.   What I don’t like about the new eav page is what I found I didn’t like about the social CRM software I tried out a while back.   While I love the theory of being able to see all of my streams in one place,  the fact of it is I currently manage different social networks using different tools and my first reaction to having every last tweet, facebook msg, stauts update,  etc etc etc all dumped into one big stream….was OMG,  how can I focus on anything with all this jumbled together.  My friend  Nakeva on the other hand found real utility in that program and gave me some good advice for setting it up.   Different tools for different purposes and different people.   The right tool I do believe is the one that works well for YOU.

My other thought is that it appears they are completing eliminating the indices.   This is a good move in that being listed in a particular index  (I’ve been CEO of Games, Social for a while) gave some pathetically small bragging rights to a handful of CEO’s but contributed nothing to the game play nor the user experience.    That will be a long section I can just delete from the book,  while I will have to write a lot more about missions.

Button Dancing With The (Blog) Stars

Sometimes I really do wish that I were the one who came up with the expressions that go viral.    I first heard the expression “button dancing”  on my friend Holly’s  blog.   She quotes Hajra Khatoon  with coining the phrase “button dance”  for the act of clicking all the like and share buttons on a blog post–the high speed intersection of blogging and social networking.   It is an apt expression,  and more and more of us are doing it every day it seems.    Sometimes I do it because a friend sent me a request or offered a few eaves in an Empire Avenue mission.  Other times just because I found myself  impressed with someone’s comments or content.

It seems to me that button dancing is just one part of what I am coming to recognize as an entire global economy in social recognition.     I’ve written before that reciprocity is really what makes most things  go around online.    In Walking Down The Avenue, I mention the “speed dating”  that used to be frequently practiced in the #SocialEmpire Facebook group.  Not nearly as naughty as it sounds,  speed dating merely involves creating a thread or an event.  Each user who signs in to the event visits the Facebook profile or page of every other participant and Likes everything on the page and leaves a comment or two.   Sometimes you find interesting information or discover cool things on your friends’ pages.   And sometimes real conversations  (and sometimes great and or hilarious conversations) take place on Facebook pages.   I often find myself shooting the breeze with Randi, Jake and Sharon among many other friends I talk to on Facebook.

Empire Avenue missions fit neatly into the social recognition economy.  They allow bloggers and social networkers to give their friends an incentive to do the button dance or to perform any number of other   actions that make the recognition economy go around.   I’ve used missions to revive the #definethis  daily word game on Twitter.    I’m having a great deal of fun with my friends who enjoy obscure and unusual words.   And I’ve found that the more I succeed in my goal of having fun with my friends online,  the more my Empire Avenue scores, dividends and share price go up.    What about you?  Do you do the button dance?  Have you ever like bombed a friend’s Facebook page?

It’s Not Writer’s Block

a blogger suffers from writer's blockAdding a category cloud in the sidebar made me realize that I really need to do something that will allow me to use the #amwriting tag a bit more.   Actually,  I hardly feel as though I have “stopped writing”.    I am publishing a new 500-word or so post every calendar day,  and on some days more than one post.    I am making a real effort to respond to every comment I receive on this site.   I continue to participate in conversations on Facebook and on Twitter,  as well as private chats and IM’s on lots of different sites.   I can’t honestly say that I have taken any meaningful  break from “writing”.    And yet my plan to quickly update Walking Down The Avenue with a new section on Empire Avenue Missions and push out a version 1.2 early in the new year is,  I am just a bit ashamed to admit,  kind of on hiatus so far.

I could blame poor @Dups and the  #EAv team.    It is true that they are listening to user feedback and implementing some refinements to the new featue.   The fact that you can now target your mission by four fairly limited criteria,  does bring additional functionality to the feature,  although I am crossing my fingers that as Brad Grier indicated in a post in the #SocialEmpire group on Facebook that they may make it possible to restrict Missions by the length of time an account has been active on the Avenue.   This functionality would bring Missions from ‘that’s nice’,  ‘through Hey!  I can use this to drive traffic to my new blog’  (how many of you first visited this site through an Empire Avenue mission– leave a comment to raise your hand!) to ‘I can use this to target my book to the folks who need it the most’.   Let them earn eaves for reading a book that they really need to read.    It could be my Eureka!  moment on Empire Avenue.

So I resolve again to put the new blog aside and actually work on writing my book.   (I wonder if my successful writer friends like Brent and Susan  go through this procrastinating sort of routine?)   However of course I am not going to do it until I Schedule this post.   (With a daily deadline I am FAR too anal to leave it until it is the day it is due to start working on it.   And if as I intend I put this in the hopper just before midnight on Tuesday January 17,  I will be two days  ahead on the schedule,  and obligated at least in Theory to open up the manuscript and try real hard to force myself to working on the new section.   And yet I know that my Inner Lazybones  (I KNOW I have to give him a name but unlike Holly I’m not quite self-confident to call him something like Prunebutt) can still make endless excuses.

“But I said this new section was going to be part of the advanced guide,  the book for social media professionals  and I’m scared they will laugh at me and tell me in no uncertain terms that I am not one of them.”   (‘You’ve been making and keeping great friends with incredible people through online connections for more than 20 years now.   You’re even smart enough never  to tell people you’ve been “doing social media” for twenty years.  Why even Anise Smith appreciates that.’)  “But but but…  you’re doing so good and your share price keeps going up,  and the new blog is really doing well.   Surely you don’t want to stop that!!”)   ‘Well of course I don’t.     I’ve got two days in the can.    I might let you talk me into working on and scheduling a third post,  but if there’s three days in the can  I have no other deadline it is inexcusable not to at least try to complete an assignment’.   “BUT BUT BUT….”

I don’t honestly know what Lazybones will come up with after I schedule that third post.    But who knows,   maybe you will see the #amwriting hashtag from me again before too long.

It seems as though…

I will just never be a consistent, regular personal blogger.    While Empire Avenue has made some changes this month,  in particular a new and improved layout for profiles and support for mobile check in service Four Square and iPhone photo sharing suite Instagram.     So I am going to have to do some re-writing and revising in the next two weeks,  for the most part the book’s text will stand as written.      I am going to allow a handful of other players to send out a free coupon code for Walking Down The Avenue 1.0 via shareholder mail.     I will also send out the coupon code via shareholder mail to both my (e)LIBDRONE and (e)WALKING accounts and via e-mail to everyone who signs up for my mailing list.  (Look in the right sidebar!)    For those who do not receive a coupon code,  the list price will be $2.99.   Since I will be heavily promoting the 100% discount coupon,  I don’t know how many copies I may or may not actually sell very many copies,  but I am looking forward to at least potentially beginning to make some money from the eBook.

Still to be done,  I need to get a new book cover image ready.   I also need to finalize arrangements with the folks who will be sending out the coupon codes for me,  and make those last changes and additions to the manuscript.    August 30 will be here before I know it.  (Although the book will officially launch on September 1st,  I intend to actually upload it on August 30th,  to allow time to be sure that the book is up and available on launch day.)   I am so pleased with all of the great people I am meeting on Empire Avenue and am especially grateful to the nearly 250 folks who (as of this writing) have downloaded the free beta edition of Walking Down The Avenue.    The free beta will continue to be available until approximately August 30th– the new 1.0 version will replace the beta version on Smashwords.    If you download the beta version from Smashwords prior to the upgrade,  you will be able to re-download that beta version again for as long as Smashwords exists.    However, you will not be able to download the new 1.0 version unless you buy it,  either for $2.99 or using a coupon code as described above.

Thank you so much for your help and support.   I look forward to continuing to write and update Walking Down The Avenue for as long as Empire Avenue itself keeps going.

Sometimes….A Bear Just Has To Be A Bear

My friends who know me well already know that I am a bear.  Both in the bear sense and  in being especially fond of bears iconicly and totemicly.    In Walking Down The Avenue I wrote that the Books index on Empire Avenue was such a natural fit that I would not switch to another index just to be a CEO.    And yet today,  I just did.   After three months of being visually identified mostly with my Libdrone Books logo, with scads of pie pictures and for awhile with a Seattle Space Needle picture I used as my Facebook avatar,   I decided on a whim this morning to post a handful of public domain bear photographs on my Facebook page.     And rather a lot of my friends Liked them.

I previously stated that when I reached 2.3 million eaves in net wealth I would sell off some shares and buy my third Bigger Piece of the Pie.     I have reached that wealth milestone and spent an hour or so today going through my portfolio.    Don’t own shares in me.  SOLD!   Sold off my shares when we were max/max and you still acted friendly to my face?   SOLD and BLOCKED.   Compared to my previous experiences buying pie,  this third slice came rather easily.   For the first time in more than a month,  I went through my entire portfolio yesterday evening and made and identified all of the tickers I held shares in that didn’t own any in me.    Where I only owned a small number of shares and/or the dividends were awful I went ahead and sold right away,  and re-invested the proceeds in shares that I want to keep.    Those that paid great dividends I put on a list.   And just as soon as dividends were paid I started selling.   Selling off those that had not invested in me netted me about 210,000 eaves.    I sold down in a few shares where I owned a lot more shares than the other party.   I also sold about 50 (out of 300 owned)   in two or three friends whom I know will understand.  

In honor of my third slice of pie,   I  will this weekend be serving up yummy delicious pie to everyone who invests in me.   However instead of posting it in my Empire Avenue avatar I will post pie pics on the buyer’s Facebook wall.   I will acknowledge all buyers on my Empire Avenue profile.   Alas,  the pie that I am serving is only pretty pictures,  rather than Empire Avenue upgrades.   If you’d like a slice and you aren’t already on Empire Avenue,  sign up now and get 2,000 eaves free from me.   My thanks to  Ryan who taught me and so many other players the value of having a newbie farm to finance pie upgrades.   My take away today is that change is good for creating new interest and getting out of a price rut. (With all of the likes my bear pictures garnered,  my share price is up over a full eave today.)  And that sometimes,  a bear just has to be a bear.

Social Media Motifs

My friend Holly wrote a piece yesterday about the rather small number of motifs that all fiction can theoretically be reduced to.    I’m familiar with the point and it is a good one–  there really is nothing new under the sun and most all novels tell one of the same old stories,  in a unique new way.   And the idea of the same old stories being endlessly repeated certainly resonates with me in my social medial activities these days.   Sometimes it seems that every other thread I read deals with one of a handful of seemingly endless arguments.

The “Google + is the greatest thing since sliced bread” threads  (now numbering 12,344,963,021 as of 7/14/2011 05:29 GMT) aren’t really arguments.    While I am definitely underwhelmed with G+ and very frustrated at Google’s inability to let me use one account to access all of their services I desire,   I am hardly a strident critic of Plus itself– it seems to me ridiculously early to be passing any sort of judgment about a brand new product still in beta.

Another debate,  which is a bit livelier is over whether it is okay to Like or +1 your own material.  Some argue that it is simply basic SEO, while others feel that it is silly, tacky or even unethical to to Like yourself.   I don’t see it as an ethical issue, really,  and I’m sure the SEO advocates have a valid point.   But I am so trained by years of using StumbleUpon to be very restrained in giving thumbs up to my own material  (like yourself often on SU and you get sent to a kind of purgatory– click up all you want,  no one will Ever see those posts) that I really just can’t bring myself to Like and Plus myself.   Luckily I seem to have friends who are willing to do it for me.

The question “what is spam” certainly brings out strong feelings.   Most everyone hates spam.  Most everyone is certain that they themselves do not spam.   Yet the beat goes on.   Those who have things up so that every time they type 140 characters they score 1 tweet, 1 blog post (on Tumblr), and 1 Facebook post certainly don’t think of themselves as spammers,  though other folks certainly do.   There are  lots of gray areas,  reasonable arguments about different audiences on different sites and it seems to me the chances of this question being definitively resolved within the lifetimes of anyone who will read this are, pretty much, nil.

The most contentious perpetual argument on Empire Avenue is,  I have come to believe,  “What IS A Blog?”   Those who read my earlier piece with that title will recall that it is not a simple question, but rather a sorting mechanism that pits creators against curators against copiers.    And which participants may accurately be sorted into which of these categories and when generates,  I have come to believe between a third and half of all conversation on the Avenue, in the communities and in the Facebook groups.  (The G+ crowd is so busy crowing about plus,  that they ignore even this most insoluble of the endless social media arguments.)

While I can at least hope that some of the hype around plus will eventually die down and we can have a chance to use it and work with it and see what it can and can’t do and importantly how Google handles the issues that will inevitably arise as they roll out Plus to the entire planet.  I quietly point  out that Google does not have an especially enviable record for user satisfaction, and is very Facebook like in making it pretty much impossible for users to contact a human been for support when something goes wrong.    There isn’t really anything new in social media.   Only people clever enough to have the same old discussions in ways that seem new all over.

I don’t like noisy bars

This is a rant.    If you’re in no mood to hear it,  please click here to go somewhere else today.    I’ve been genuinely pleased with the modest success of my beta release of Walking Down The Avenue.   More than 70 people have downloaded a copy already,  and all of the feedback I’ve received has been positive.    I am working on adding additional material for the 1.0 release,  which I am not in any hurry to rush out.  

As previously mentioned,   I have not been enjoying Google + very much.    Due to Google’s restrictions and profile requirements I find that I am now using THREE separate Google accounts– and while it is possible to get two of them going at the same time in separate browsers,   I literally have to log out of my e-mail to use G+  or to post to this blog.  #IAmSONotAHappyCamper.      And the G+  feature that everyone seems SO excited about is a complete non-starter to me–  the group video chat thing appeals to me not at all.    I am severely hearing impaired and web video chat does not work for me.   Period.   Paragraph.   Page Break.    I can watch tv or movies by relying on the closed captions.   In person I can sometimes read lips and interpret expression and body language— though this can be hit or miss,  particularly with people I don’t know well.    Honestly,  even my spouse sitting five feet away from knows to type me an IM if we Really need to Talk.    G+  sure doesn’t look like a Facebook killer to me,  at least not in this early iteration.

All of which is by saying that I continue to do most of my socializing in Facebook groups.     It appears that Empire Avenue is Not going to be adding FB groups to EAv scores any time soon:  they seem to be focusing on improving the discussion boards in the Empire Avenue communities and trying to lure the discussions in house.   Unfortunately I don’t believe I’m alone in feeling they are a long way in terms of both ubiquity and user interface from making much progress towards this goal.     I know from my 20 years online that change,  often drastic change,  is the only constant in any online community.    And  it really saddened me today to see that a community I had really enjoyed seems to have become Way too spammish for me to enjoy.    The rule has always been that Buy Me spam is strongly discouraged but members are allowed to celebrate “significant game milestones”.    I know that everyone has a slightly–very different experience of Empire Avenue.   The more active you already are on the connected social networks the more rapidly your price will rise, and your dividends may well keep up.

I am experienced on social media,  though I’ve never really tried to be “most popular” and after more than three months in the game,   I seem to be seriously plateauing at 80.    I have gotten as high as 82 but today am back down to 80.    After a heavy day of active social media,   I’ll probably go up again tomorrow but I am reaching the limits  of how much social media I’m willing to Do and am beginning to wonder if I will have to come to grips with being an 80 dollar stock that just isn’t going to go on to become a centurion.   (At least not without a lot of help from my friends.)    And in all this time,   I think I have Once posted a buy me-ish type spam to One group,  when my shares were going for 42 and I made a Hichiker’s reference.   So this gorilla icon guy,   whom I haven’t met and don’t know posted the _n_th  Buy Me spam thread  (I saw at least 6 buy me or single player recommendation threads,  both of which are supposed to be against the rules) before the gorilla guy’s post prompted me to ask if the rules had changed.

Gorilla guy  (whom I’ve blocked, thanks) took offense and told me to sell him or whatever.   No need,   never bought.    Like I said the guy posting was a stranger to me.    Who seems to be a good bit newer in the game than I am.    Who posted a thread and got tons of replies about his big push from 77 to 80.      Whatever.    (I firmly believe that it is quite impossible to be friends with everyone;   the ability to civilly ignore people you don’t wish to engage is the most useful online social skill imho.)   But then one of the groups moderators posted,  not to trash the guy for spamming,  but to assure me that I am a valued group member too and would be more than welcome to share my significant game milestones too.   Oh—–kay.      The problem is if now 600 people are allowed to spam any particular price milestone they choose  (and not just the traditional 100– which like a bridal shower is more properly pushed by one’s friends rather than by the Bride) what had been a cool place to hang out and shoot the breeze with some incredible people has pretty much become a spammy snake pit that I am just not likely to hang around very much.    There’s another group I like and respect and belong to,  but I rarely go there anymore because the scroll rate is so high and the signal to noise ratio has gotten way noisier than I’m comfortable with.    What I hope the mods  (and even the gorilla guy for that matter) understand is that it’s not about being angry or taking my marbles and running home.    It’s about too much noise making the good conversations too hard to follow.

Revisiting: What Is A Blog?

There’s been a  very interesting discussion today on a an Empire Avenue-related Facebook group.    Adriel Hampton posted in the X-Bar that he was disappointed that Empire Avenue seems to be permitting “content farms”.

On Empire Avenue,  the seemingly simple question “What Is A Blog?”  can be anything but simple to answer and there was a spirited discussion about, well the morality of having a Tumblelog that consists of embedding videos from YouTube and adding just a one line quote from the lyrics and two tags,  connected to Empire Avenue as a “blog”.

I’m a writer.   For years I updated my book review blog about one or more books three to five times per week.    I am very well aware of the difference in terms of time, effort and skill between researching and writing a professional quality three hundred to five hundred word blog article vs re-blogging a picture or a video that someone else has already created.    And yet,  I found myself arguing on behalf of folks like,  well myself,  who regularly “blog” twenty or thirty music videos every day.   It is,  I believe,  a curatorial endeavor.    My music tastes are a bit narrow,  a bit odd and rather well-defined.    I listen to select pop/rock music from the 1960’s–1980’s for the most part.     And the fact is that I have through Tumblr made a few friends who share at least some of my tastes in music and tell me they enjoy having my videos in their Tumblr stream.   And every day it seems,  there are people who Like and Re-blog the videos that I post.   It seems to me that if what I am posting is reaching out and connecting with an audience,  my posts create real value in my personal social network.     Which is why I don’t in any way feel that I am “cheating”  on Empire Avenue.

My friend Jake,  whose Tumblr curates amazing landscape photographs from all over the world pointed out that he has made real friendships through sharing amazing pictures– which he pointed out he spends a great deal of time selecting and in the cases of photographs he takes himself editing.   Jake argues, and I am inclined to agree,  that he does put as much time and effort into his photo blog as any of us writers do on cranking out those 300–500 word posts that many people do in fact find challenging to do more than once a day.     One thing that many folks in that discussion did seem to agree on, is that Empire Avenue should regard Tumblr as another content site,  like Twitter and Facebook, etc.  rather than as “blogs”.    As my new friend  Roger Hoyt and I agreed– we’re supposed to be networking and making friends–not arguing over what a blog is.   So how about a nice, non-spammy campaign to convince Dups and the EAv team to make Tumblr another top level network.

cc: @adriel  @dups

Bucking For The Corner Office

Image Credit:  Vlado,  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For my friends who are not involved with Empire Avenue,  my apologies.   Today’s post may not make much sense.    I promise to try very hard to write more generally again tomorrow.  I had something of a revelation this morning.   I was checking on my index– Books,  where I have been in the number 2 President’s position for several weeks now.   Honestly,  I never really considered it possible that I would overtake my CEO.   But since Empire Avenue began showing activity scores on the indices ranking,  my activity score has been going up and the CEO’s has been falling.   Today I noticed that I am less than 9 points behind my CEO.  (He’s at 291.6 while I am at 282.8.)

My more sophisticated Empire Avenue buddies say that the indices are just a play thing,  and point out that your ranking within an index, even if you are in the top three (CEO, President, CFO) really doesn’t mean anything at all.  There are after all more than 200 indices and some of them are certainly more competitive than others.   Part of me is just a little bit secretly thrilled that this week I may become CEO of the Books Index.  But unlike a particularly brain dead acquaintance,  who is creating a Facebook group exclusively for Empire Avenue CEO’s and former CEO’s,  I know that it really means almost nothing at all.   And I’m certain that when and if I become an Empire Avenue CEO,  I will not be joining a Facebook group.