Sunday, December 28, 2008

Walgreens Saves Christmas...

Each year we travel to St Louis and celebrate Christmas with my wife's family. In the last few years, we've opened presents before the trip. This year, we decided to follow our tradition and open presents early, but to leave the stockings for Christmas day in St Louis (we like to have fun with stocking presents).

To our shock, Christmas morning, we found we had left my son's stocking stuffers at home. Yikes! We felt terrible (yep, we had remembered all the other presents).

Thinking quickly, but not so clearly, I jumped into the car and ran off to Walgreens (the only opened store) and tried to work some Christmas magic.

Understanding his real stocking stuffers were at home, he seemed to enjoy his make-shift stocking.

He got Ramen noodles, beef jerky, lots of gum, cool stickers, his favorite candy bars and a deck of "kitty" playing cards. :)

Thanks Walgreens.

Christmas Lights and Music

My nephew (on my wife's side of the family), Ken Franke, grew up loving Christmas lights.  Ken  went  on to get a major in theater and now teaches in the St Louis school district. Ken is married, has his own home and hasn't lost his love for Christmas.  He shows his enthusiasm and creativity each year through a very nice display of Christmas lights (I don't recall the number) put to music.  Enjoy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Adopting Social Media

Yesterday I read Chris Brogan’s post “If I started today” in which he outlines a few starting ideas for working with social media. I would like to explore this question further.

I feel there is a strong component of change management which needs to be addressed. What is the culture in your organization? How do individuals in your organization value the web? How do you develop a culture of online engagement and networking; one of collaboration, sharing and participation?

Please understand that I'm not an expert in organizational change, but I think to be successful, it will need to start with individual change. I like the ADKAR model for individual change (see definition in Wikipedia).

This model describes five required building blocks for change to be realized successfully on an individual level. The building blocks of the ADKAR Model include:
  1. Awareness – of why the change is needed
  2. Desire – to support and participate in the change
  3. Knowledge – of how to change
  4. Ability – to implement new skills and behaviors
  5. Reinforcement – to sustain the change
In this model, I think the second and third building blocks, Desire and Knowledge, are the most difficult. While we can develop Awareness (which we do through our annual technology showcase) and Ability through training opportunities, Desire has to come from the individual perspective of value. How I feel about and use social media doesn’t always translate well to my colleagues. At the same time, I interpret Knowledge not as how to use technology, but how to make the change within your own time-constrained and political environment.

I’m not worried as much about Reinforcement (might be a mistake) because if you can find the value, gain the desire and skills, then I believe your new network will help sustain you. Of course having some administrative support at evaluation time (and possibly some nice numbers and anecdotal benefits will help).

I’d be interested in feedback. What do you think? What has been your experience bringing an organization (its people) into the world of social media?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dogs and Drums

Every once in a while, I will jump on my son's drum set and play around. It's kind of sad, my drumming skills were never good and now about 35 years later, not so good. But it can be fun. One day, Jackson, a Shih Tzu was visiting and we found he has a certain "scary" foundness for the drums. This video is my first on Vimeo and shows Jackson and his cousins Bo and Daisy reacting to the drums. Fun.

Jackson, Bo and Daisy versus the Drums from Floyd Davenport on Vimeo.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Roll Call – Where are Your People?

For the last few months (give or take a year), I’ve been trying to wrap my arms around a specific issue. How do you help a large, distributed, diverse and independent organization become more engaging online?

We’ve spent a great deal of time working on the web presence, developing a content management strategy and struggling with the issue of navigation and structure.

My conclusion? There is more to engagement than good content.

This isn’t to suggest that content isn’t important, content is critical. However, when you have a solid content management system in place; when your systems supports good SEO guidelines; when your presentation is set and you have a model for your site map; it’s time to look at other technologies and engagement strategies to promote your content and build an audience.

Something is missing… or better yet, someone is missing. Where is everybody? Who creates this content? What do they bring to the table? I want more than what is edited and formatted into news, announcements, publications or even educational modules. I want humor, ideas, guidance, and opinions. You want engagement? Talk to me.

Tell me what you are doing. What’s important and relevant in your area of expertise and why? How do you feel about current events? I need your help to filter and find the most useful resources. Help me develop context. I already know how to use Google, Wikipedia, or to browse your site (although I may not bother).

To borrow some relevant insights from Nicholas Skytland of NASA in his post “Social Media: What’s the Point?”. Participation helps:
  • Create a transparent and connected organization
  • Encourage a modern communications structure
  • Employ innovative technology to collaborate on and solve our challenges
  • Improve how teams integrate to solve problems
  • Ensure full and free access to information
  • Share your compelling stories with the Public
  • Flatten organization structures
  • Change our approach to advertisement and marketing

Build a real engagement strategy. Put a face(s) on your organization. Participate. Use networking tools like Twitter, blogs and Friendfeed. Share more than your content, share your experiences. Employ staff who have passion and a message (voice) and let them go.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Paper Pliers

Last weekend my son, Keegan, came home from his dorm at Iowa State University to work on a design project.  Keegan is going through his freshman year at ISU in Design.  I've heard stories about the first year in design; the amount of work involved, and now Keegan is learning first hand.  

His third project for this semester is to model a working tool using paper.  Evidently there are lots of rules (can do and can't do) involved.  Keegan was given a pair of pliers to model.  He was allowed to use a specific type of paper which he could weave and sew.  There a lot to this project including a design paper, measured plans... 

Here is a picture of the results... might not look like much, but I can attest to about four days of work on his part... I was most inpressed with his ability to sit down and from scratch layout precisely measured templates to create a working model.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Image of Heaven is Found on eXtension Tag Cloud!

I was amazed. Its the kind of thing you only read about in the tabloids. Was an image of Heaven really displayed in one of the eXtension tag clouds? Could this be real? A sign? What could it mean?

It was during a meeting on Friday morning. There was nothing special about this particular meeting. We were discussing online marketing and looking at the eXtension Ask an Expert widget. Then Latosca (our new web coordinator) noticed something odd... did the outline of the general eXtension tag cloud present the image of heaven?

Was this another miracle? Just like the images of Christ or the Mother Mary on window panes or within cut-up vegetables? I wasn't sure what to make of it, so I leave it to you to make your own judgement.

Below is an image of the Tag Cloud.

Now you may have to squint just a little bit, but if you look closely, you will see an image of Heaven... look closely.

Branding through Conversations

Kevin Gamble via friendfeed pointed me to David Cushman's paper titled Communities of Purpose are the Business Units of the Future. It was an interesting paper, but I was more interested in a referenced post by David, The Value of a Brand is in its Conversations.

I'm very interested in this topic as we consider the future of our own institutional web site, its role in strategic marketing and how we can better engage our clientele.

In addition to the physical attributes, a brand can represent the values and personality of a company or service. The key objective is to create a relationship of trust (Wikipedia).

In his post, David describes the Zappo's CEO's use of twitter.

Tony doesn't just tweet about zappo promotions, he reveals his life and his personality to you in every tweet. He presents a very human face of a company - and he does it in a way that is open to real live human conversation.

If we really want to make an impact online, reach new audiences, and enhance our brand, then we need to participate in these online communities and conversations.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Learning How to Filter...

Photo by Kyle May on Flickr When I was about 10 years old, I started to take an interest in driving. I was ready to hit the road. Watching my mother drive, I was amazed at how she managed to keep track of everything around her, stay on the road, read all the signs, including the car gauges such as the all important speedometer. (Once I even tried to count the white road lines - impossible)

There was simply too much information for me to digest in real time... and when traffic was bad, forget it.

Years later, when I did get my chance behind the wheel; along with rules of the road, I learned how to ignore irrelevant activity and information (noise). When I began to teach my own children how to drive, I remember teaching them what to watch for... the small child playing on the curb as you drive by... basically what I felt was relevant when driving.

With all the resources online today, we hear a lot of complaints about information overload. I'm sure we have all felt overwhelmed at times, just as I did in my first driving lesson. Our challenge is to learn how to filter information.

If you think about it, we have been doing this all our lives. I was reminded of this fact when reading the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon.

Chapter 181. I see everything

if they are in the countryside, it might be

  1. I am standing in a field that is full of grass.
  2. There are some cows in the fields.
  3. It is sunny with a few clouds.
  4. There are some flowers in the grass.
  5. There is a village in the distance.

and I notice these things

  1. There are 19 cows in the field, 15 of which are black and white and 4 of which are brown and white.
  2. There is a village in the distance which has 31 visible houses and a church with a square tower, not a spire.
  3. There are ridges in the field, which means that in medieval times it was what is called a ridge and furrow filed and people who lived in the village would have a ridge each to do farming on.
  4. There is an old plastic bag from Asda in the hedge and a squashed Coca-Colo can with a small snail on it, and a long piece of orange string.

Remember the first time you visited a very large and busy city? Didn't you feel overwhelmed? In time, you became more comfortable with your environment. Why? Because you learned how to filter out the noise and pay attention to those things which are relevant to you. We do this every day.

The Internet with all its services, information and technology can be very overwhelming, but in time, you can become both comfortable and productive once you begin to filter information in a meaningful way. Of course this requires that you participate. You can't develop filters without participation. It also helps to have tools which assist you in this process.

For me, this is one of the real payoffs for social networking. Good social networking tools help me filter information with people who share my interests both personal and professionally.

Another challenge for those who are in the business of publishing information is to make our content "filter friendly". What are the best filter tools? We have always talked about being "Google friendly". And while that is a must, we also need to consider how to become filter friendly in many new enviroments where people work and play.

Photo by Kyle May

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Advertising in Singapore

I spoke with my daughter in Singapore this morning via Skype. It worked very well. I'm sure you will be happy to know she is happy and doing well... I know I am. :)

She showed me an image of the advertising on cigarettes being sold in Singapore. Evidently everyone smokes all the time in Singapore (not Emily, yeah). Not sure the advertising is working...

Amazing... buy our product, enjoy, relax... oh and yeah, it will kill you. OK, thanks.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Marketing, Engagement and Content

For years we have been learning about managing content and how to build effective websites.  Or at least we thought we were.  Actually, we have learned a lot, but the landscape keeps changing and we find ourselves using old and ineffective strategies.

I think we need to consider separating the following elements of an online presence as we develop strategies for implementation.

1. Content.  I would suggest that content is comprised of educational units - FAQ, procedures, research findings, supporting data, reports ... - information relevant to our audience.

2. Context.  In the past, context was supported by site navigation.  This approach does not scale well, is hard to distribute, not very flexible nor very dynamic.  I'm beginning to believe content should be managed in a flatter structure, tagging would provide a more flexible and scalable approach for navigation and posting articles can tie together content (internal links) more effectively for context.  What's relevant and timely (context) and how do we support it (content).

3. Marketing.  Simply put, what are our campaigns?  What message is important now?  What services do we provide?  Marketing strategies should take advantage of context as well as our networks (thinking of Kevin's comment about "Page rank being the ultimate measure of online influence).  

4. Engagement.  How can we and how do we want to engage our audience?  Be selective.  Not every area should have feedback, nor does feedback necessarily provide effective engagement.  Keep in mind that web 2.0 is more than just giving your audience voice... it should be about employing that voice to increase the value of your services.  Also, engagement should be about people and trust.  

The challenge is to define an approach for connecting these four elements into a coherent and sustainable model.  

Who is doing this right?


Phone Call for Mr. Davenport

On Saturday, my wife and I headed down south to do some shopping... when she suddenly realized she had left a sweater which she wanted to return (part of shopping I'm told).  Seeing an opportunity, I turned left to work my way back to our home through uncharted territory.  How fun.

We came through Kelly Iowa... a very small town just south of Ames.  One street... a post office (which I'm not sure was open) and right there on the side of the road... a phone booth.  A phone booth?  No way.  

Way.  But that's not all... a working phone booth.  Sweet.  

Why was I so excited?  Certainly my wife didn't understand when I pulled the car over, jump out, tested the phone and had her take my picture. :)

I guess it is the same feeling I get when I put a 40 year old album on my record player... good times.  If only I had my superman outfit.

Now where did I put my old 8 Track player.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

I've been Tagged

Really I got double tagged... by my friends Brian Webster and Becky Nibe - and I've been really slow to respond. So here goes...

What was I doing ten years ago?
Pretty much what I'm doing now only in Illinois. At that time, I was an Assistant Director for Information Technology and Communications Services (ITCS) for Extension and the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. A few things have changed... my kids are older and pretty much out of the house. I started swimming again instead of just running. And I feel like I'm more into management than doing the hands-on technology work.

Five snacks I enjoy:
  1. Dark Chocolate (not sure what Brian is thinking)
  2. Mixed Nuts (not hot on cachews)
  3. Cookies
  4. M&Ms
  5. Corn Nuts

Five Things on My To-Do list today:
  1. Move son into the dorms at ISU
  2. Send daughter a gift box
  3. Get car fixed (struts and AC)
  4. Learn MS SharePoint (been on my list for a long time)
  5. Work on Accountability presentation (wish me luck)

Five Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
  1. Take care of the debts for my family
  2. Help others (not sure who, but wouldn't it be fun)
  3. Change my name?
  4. Beach property
  5. Feel guilty
Five jobs I've had:
  1. Paperboy
  2. Pizza boy
  3. Garbage man
  4. Air Force
  5. Programmer
Five bad habits:
  1. Procrastination (note late post)
  2. Staying 0rganized
  3. Poor diet (see snacks)
  4. Good intentions (which can get you in trouble)
  5. I need to read more
Five places I have lived:
  1. Oklahoma
  2. Texas
  3. Missouri
  4. Colorado
  5. Illinois
Five random things:
  1. I've been married to a wonderful woman for 23 years.
  2. I have two children, as different as night and day. I love them both. One is currently in Singapore and wants to see the world. The other would be happy living in my basement.
  3. I love to swim and do so about three times a week - wish I was better.
  4. Tall buildings scare me (just not right)
  5. I love good southern seafood.

Swimming Endures

I'm so happy to see how well the U.S. swimming team performed at the 2008 Olympics! It was amazing and inspiring - with a number of spectacular swims. While Michael was the star of the competition, there were other great swims by Natalie, Katie, Jason, Rebecca, Dara... and all the other U.S. swimmers.

I hope their performances will inspire and excite more young people around the country to consider swimming as a sport. And I really hope it will also inspire more athletic directors around the country to support swimming as a sport.

Unfortunately, while Americans are extremely proud of our U.S. swimmers and the swimming events took center stage, I'm afraid that pride and interest will quickly fade. I'm just amazed at the quality of swimming in the U.S., we continue to be a powerhouse of swimming.

In 1978, I was a senior in high school and part of a winning swimming team - winning our state meet all four years. I wasn't a great swimmer, but I loved the sport and was considering my options for college. This is when I learned first-hand about the decline of swimming programs around the country. Oklahoma State, my first choice, dropped its swimming program that year. In the end, I decided to attend Southeast Missouri State University and continue swimming for this small Division II school. SEMO dropped its program my second year in school. As an example of the decline in swimming programs, believe the Big 12 now has only three men's teams remaining.

Just in case you think you know where this post it going... I don't believe the problem is with "Title IX". I think Title IX has been used as an excuse to close programs and in fact, if it weren't for Title IX, we would have probably lost most of the women's swimming programs as well.

While I would like to put the blame on athletic directors who can't see past football and basketball, it really isn't about blame (OK, I still blame them). America has great professional sports, and I believe it is their success that overshadows our amateur programs.

So, I'm not sure there is a real solution, but I'm very thankful to our Olympic swimmers who have certainly inspired me to get back into the pool.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reaching New Audiences

One of the primary objectives of our recently "on-hold" portal project is to reach new audiences, primarily the under 40 age group. This may sound fairly straight forward using technology, but it has raised some interesting questions.

I can think of three target audiences to meet this objective.

  • Individuals who would be interested in the services you provide, but are unaware that you exist - a marketing issue in which the online environment may help you engage some of this audience (the segment which is online and should include the under 40 target).
  • Individuals who know you, but demand new models of engagement; non-traditional communications. Again, you might expect this to include the under 40 age group.
  • Individuals who are looking for new services/products, possibly not your target audience, but also possibly a relevance issue.

In the context of an online audience, specifically under 40 years of age, I will suggest that audiences #1 and #2 can be combined. My reasoning is that techniques and technologies to reach both these audiences will be the same, each are non-traditional audiences.

I'm willing to ignore audience #3 at this time since it suggests that we are in essence "selling Cadillacs" when we should be "selling hybrids". If this is the case, I would hope that audiences #1 and #2 will give us this feedback.

The next question is "how to engage these individuals?"

Over the next couple of months, we are going to attempt to answer this question, hopefully in partnership with the program teams.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Choosing a Name

This is my first post for my new blog. When I created the blog, I took my time to consider a unique and creative name and URL. What I learned is that I'm not very creative and Floyd Davenport is probably unique enough. I'm not that cool; I'm not selling anything; and the purpose of this blog is to share information with my friends... that's about it.

Although I did consider the name alphafloyd. :)