Five Consulting Reality Checks

nickThere’s a reason for stereotypes: Sometimes they’re true. But a lot of times they’re not. As a freelancer for 16 years, I’ve gotten all of these questions, multiple times: Do you wake up at noon? Do you charge clients every time they pick up the phone? Do you hate any of your clients? The answer to all of these questions is an unequivocal no, but I will spill intel that you won’t hear elsewhere.#1 You’re either a consulting type or you’re not

Plenty of friends and colleagues talk about starting their own businesses. It’s fun to chat about but hard to do: You work your ass off most days. You scour for jobs on the others. Your business and your personal life blend too much. Vacations are a rarity. And there certainly is no job security. While not an easy path, it’s very rewarding. I’ve known some folks who go in and out of consulting, but 99% either stick with it or not—there’s not much in between.

#2 We have different rates for different clients

There, I said it. This might come as a shock and even seem unfair, but consulting is not a one size fits all business. If you’re a big corporate client, for instance, I know the going rates versus a small business who can’t afford as much or is cheaper. Or a nonprofit. Or a friend of the family. Or the project is long-term versus a one-off. There are lots of reasons for different pricing. You can be sure I won’t gouge you, but all factors are taken into consideration to come up with that magic number.

#3 Expenses. Are. High.

I’m not asking you to take out the violin, but understand that even if you think you’re shelling out a small fortune, much of that money is already allocated: besides life expenses like housing and food, there’s health insurance, office costs, gas/travel, marketing, client meals and gifts, and that little thing called taxes every quarter. Know that a fair chunk of that 1099 check is going to it. The high rolling consultant trope is only a fantasy held by clients and well, us.

#4 We’ll work harder for you than the typical employee

This might seem presumptuous and even downright cocky, but there is a reason we put such effort into our work: We’re only as good as our last job with you. Employees have an ongoing flow of work and opportunities to show their stuff, not to mention a semblance of job security. Us?

We’re judged on every engagement. Being too comfortable can be the biggest downfall. It’s a great motivator to go that extra mile, every time. Which leads me to the last truth…
#5 We’re committed to you, but we’re always dating.

It’s not that we’re planning to cheat on you by running off with the competition, but we don’t have blinders on either. And don’t forget we have other clients. Like any open relationship, we still go to networking events, meet with other work suitors, and scan the job ads. We know that you could leave your company or get laid off. Budgets get cut. Or a new person comes in with their own cronies. We have to protect our investment in you. Remember that variety is a reason consultants do what we do. We don’t just love working for ourselves; we love working with lots of you.

One last truth: We are nothing without you. Clients are the lifeblood of our business and we learn a lot from these relationships, even if we don’t tell you that. We become smarter, grow as a work partner, hold up a mirror to our strengths and weaknesses, become better problem solvers, and even help evolve our businesses.

So thank you for letting me do what I love—but my payment terms are still net 30.

6 Networking Rules to Break. Now.

social_network_networkingTrue confessions: I have not always been a good networker. When I started my marketing communications business 15 years ago, I lived in the middle of Silicon Valley and was lucky enough to have a client base right out of the gate. In fact, I rarely went to networking events unless there was an interesting speaker, it was free, or there was the promise of a raffle prize that had the Apple logo on it. I was fortunate to get most of my work through word of mouth, random outreach, and a little bit of kismet.

It was a much different story five years ago when I moved to San Francisco. Though only 50 miles separated these two bustling tech centers, the business landscapes were a tale of two cities. While Silicon Valley gravitated toward older tech like semiconductors, hardware, and software, SF was all about social media, apps, and the sharing economy, inhabited by scrappy startups. Picture the days of rents just beginning to climb to ridiculous rates, the sight of cranes a bit more commonplace, and brogrammers starting to taste the wonders of hand-crafted, artisanal beer out of mason jars. In other words, pre-Google bus days.

It was an exciting time but also a scary time for me. While I possessed the general tech cred, I knew I needed to expand my reach and grow my business locally to make it in The Big City.

So…picture if you will, mild-mannered Diane Prince turning into Wonder Woman, or in my case, Janice Cuban transforming into San Francisco Networking Woman (sans the tight superpowers outfit and arch enemy fighting). I flew through city, industry, Meetup, and other myriad of events—shaking innumerable hands, swapping a gazillion business cards, and eating hundreds of sub-par hors d’oeuvres washed down with mediocre wine.

Through it all, here’s what I have learned as a networking pro who’s been through the San Francisco trenches.

Conventional wisdom: Arrive when the event starts

New rule: When was the last time you showed up at a networking event at the beginning and it was crowded? Exactly. Fellow networkers typically are racing from work, fighting traffic, etc. Depending on the length of event, I recommend showing up 30 minutes in for that perfect “networking tipping point”—the best buzz in the room, conversations are flowing, and the highest odds to shake the most hands.

Conventional wisdom: Approach a group of people and introduce yourself

New rule: Um, no and no. What’s more intimidating at a networking event than walking up to two or more people and cutting in? This doesn’t even include the possibility that you could be interrupting a good networking moment and might even get that “stalker look” from said group. Instead of this intrusion, help out a fellow solo attendee: if someone is standing by him or herself, they’ll appreciate that you saved them from an awkward moment munching on a carrot or checking their phone by their lonesome. And who knows, it might even be a good contact for you. Which takes us to…

Conventional wisdom: If someone is prattling on, make up a fib to excuse yourself

New rule: Politely end the conversation by saying you don’t want to keep them from meeting others at the event. Who can argue with that? And it’s actually true. Don’t give the person some B.S. about talking to someone you know in the room (unless you really do), or getting another drink when your glass is half full. People are not dumb and will sniff out that you’re bored or done talking with them. They’ll also remember that move if you contact them in the future wanting an introduction to a lead. Manage your networking time carefully but be nice.

Conventional wisdom: Prepare and memorize your elevator pitch

New rule: Well, this is a half-truth. Of course you should have a spiel ready to go, but before you spout off your own mouth, find out more about the person with whom you’ve just shaken hands. If you’re in a business like me where you write for different types of industries, knowing that someone’s profession is real estate versus tech marketing is going to make a difference in how I talk about my services. Since most people naturally love to talk about themselves anyway, ask questions first and find out what makes them tick, their interests, and who knows, it might even lead to a discussion about their potential work needs.

Conventional wisdom: I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to get new business

New rule: Of course we all want new business. Duh. But one of the nice surprises I’ve found over the years is that these events can also be a resource for new friends, colleagues, and mentors. Bonus: these folks are more inclined to help you in the future just because they like you. In fact, I’ve made an entirely new circle of friends in San Francisco from networking alone. In other words, “friendwork” it too.

Conventional wisdom: Always dress “professional”

New rule: No word has become more confusing than this the past few years. Long ago in a tech galaxy far, far away, it was expected that you wear a work outfit to a networking event consisting of suit or dress slacks. This uniform has been changed considerably. Even “business casual” can now translate to jeans, leggings, and more creative outfits, especially in San Francisco. If you’re going to a lawyer or banking networking event,  be buttoned up of course, but this is the exception, not the rule anymore. Common sense dictates that no matter what city you live in, keep it professional: a messy look, dirty jeans, or too-tight tops are still no-nos and make the wrong first impression.

So…are you ready to use your superpowers? Now that you’re armed with new networking mojo, get on that cool outfit, dust off your business cards, and fly yourself off to that next event!

The 7 Types of Visuals on LinkedIn


Have you noticed that visuals have taken over your LinkedIn status update pages? If you’re too busy or impatient (or both) to scroll through all of them, I’ve saved you the time. You’re welcome.

As a value-added service, I’ve also rated their LinkedInability rating from 1 to 5 (1 means “must disappear ASAP” and 5 means “bring it on”). Note: The names behind the graphics are not revealed to protect the innocent (and in some cases, the embarrassment).

#1 The “If I See This Cliché One More Time ..”

I get it, LinkedIn is work-related so a lot of visuals spread around have to do with that. It’s a no-brainer. What’s odd to me is how many times I see the same thing posted by different people again and again and wonder: hasn’t every single person on LinkedIn come across this already? Sure I can hide the post, but the damage is done. Can’t unsee.

LinkedInability: 1

#2 Weird and Inappropriate Sh*t

Admittedly I am connected to a few folks who put out some pretty unLinkedIn-like graphics, which always get my attention, for better or worse, but I have to question their judgement. For the record, here’s how I decide about posting on LinkedIn…with one simple question: Would I ever bring this topic up in a work convo? If the answer is “no,” it’s a non-starter. Most of these types of posts are more suited for Facebook or fodder for when out for drinks with friends. Common sense dictates you might not want to discuss things like politics, religion, and bodily functions in a professional environment–just sayin’. In fact, someone felt strongly enough about this to create a graphic to make the point.

LinkedInability: 2 (should be a 1 but it spices up my status update feed)

#3 The Clever Cad

 I don’t see these types of visuals as often as #1 unfortunately, but when I do, I do so enjoy them and might even learn a thing or two. These graphics tend to be commentary or educationalsmart, funny, and can have a long shelf life. Bonus points: these  visuals can be shared on your social platforms to impress colleagues with your perceived wit and content curation skills.

LinkedInability: 5

#4 The Senseless Graphic or Venn Diagram

There is something about a circle with words and boy, add those arrows and kapow! These types of posts look, feel, and act  impressive even if conveying obvious or useless information. Let’s face it, visuals trump text every time. But the truth is, most of these chart, diagrams, and assorted data drivel say much ado about nothing…or do they? I’ll get back to you after studying with more coffee and wait for that “aha” moment.

LinkedInability: 2

#5 I am LinkedIn LION, Hear Me Roar

When I first saw term “LinkedIn LION” years ago, I knew it meant at least one thing: you have helluvalot of connections. Turns out this is actually an acronym stands for LinkedIOpen Networker. This means you have 500+ connections and according to this how-to be a LION article,  “…(a LION) will connect with almost anyone on LinkedIn regardless of whether they know, trust, or even respect the person.” Really? You don’t respect them but will connect? Yikes. LinkedIn’s Help Center’s less-than-flattering definition of LION makes its opinion known. Even so, that big kitty sure gets around on the site and it’s pretty majestic as most lions are. It’s like the unofficial LinkedIn mascot that’s not endorsed by it (very edgy)

LinkedInability: 3

#6 The Magnificent Meme

When used properly, memes will not just get attention but make you think, or even better, laugh. For some reason Liam Neeson and LinkedIn have a special bond (OK, the secret’s out, it’s the Taken movie franchise). Since Liam has one of the most viral memes on LinkedIn, those smart marketers at 20th Century Fox seized on this popularity by having him “endorse your particular set of skills” as part of its social media promotional campaign for Taken 3.
LinkedInability: 4

#7 The Cheesy Stock Photography Club

Let’s face it, we are all tempted by the stock photography devil . It’s like when we’re really hungry and we drive by that sad Burger King. It’s quick, easy, and no one will know the better. But pictures don’t lie, since at least 100 other lazy people will use the same exact image on that same day (and maybe even on the same site). But that doesn’t stop this annoying habit. Sure, it’s not as many calories as fast food, but you’ll hate yourself just as much the next day.

LinkedInability: 1

So there you have it… By no means is this an exhaustive list of LinkedIn visuals posts -there are more out there to lasso: The Humblebrag, the Useless Treasure Trove, and WTH is This? Most importantly however, right now, is deciding which image will accompany this post on your status updates.

LinkedInability: TBD

If It’s Called Customer Experience, Why is it All About the Company?

_HY_7338RWhile companies clamor to get their share of revenue from new and existing customers, the delta between what brands say they do for customers and what actually happens has never been larger. Perhaps it’s because of stats like: 90% of executives say that customer experience is central to their strategies, but a whopping 86% don’t expect to see a significant uplift in business results from it. See the math problem here? Too much company-centered thinking and not enough customer-centric business management.

To get more insight on this disconnect, I sat down with Lynn Hunsaker, a customer experience expert who helps companies love and be loved by their customers, through her firm, ClearAction. She should know a thing or two about this topic—she’s directed customer experience programs for 25 years with leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies.

Q: What are the biggest customer experience issues are these days?

A: The first problem is transparency—customers see behind the company’s motives—If there’s a gap between what they’re saying and what they’re doing, it’s harmful to the relationship.

The other big issue is that companies need to get it right the first time— as in don’t roll-out a product prematurely and don’t have surprises in your processes and policies. Brands with the best customer experience or service like Zappos, REI, Trader Joes, Nordstrom, Ritz Carlton, Adobe, Boeing, and American Express—they pay attention to their customers first and themselves second. Whether it’s B2C or B2B it makes no difference, the focus is on the customer, and that’s what matters.

Q: When companies don’t get it right, customers are taking to social these days to gripe about it and get action.

A: Yes, but “social media” tends to be rigidly defined as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other popular platforms. It should also includes online communities of other types, including online rating systems like Yelp, TripAdvisor, just to name just a few. In fact, the ratings mentality now permeates the psyche of every generation, from Millennials to Baby Boomers, empowering them to critique brands and be forthcoming with their opinions. Ultiimately, though, what tends to happen with social media complaints is that companies try to resolve these very public criticisms by responding to it at a micro level.

Q: What does “micro level” problem solving in customer experience mean?

A: Companies resolve issues one customer at a time, one service rep at a time, or within a single department at a time—a quick fix and then move on to other priorities. If you really want to make a difference for all customers and for your company’s revenue and profit growth, prevent issues from happening again altogether. That usually requires departments to work together to resolve the root causes of issues—that’s harder and takes longer, but it’s what’s needed to build trust that earns loyalty.

Another example of micro response to customers: when a customer complains on Twitter, it apologizes and tweets out the happy news to counteract the bad press caused on social media. Sure, it may appear that the problem is solved, but it’s really just a case by case response and a Band-Aid for a bigger problem. And when this “resolution” is over-the-top, like giving six movie complimentary passes to apologize for the theater snafu of two people, it really just masks an attempt to generate positive word-of-mouth. Again it’s about the company, not the customer.

Q: So are customer surveys just a waste of time then?

A: Brands tend to use customer surveys as a barometer or a report card, hopefully with good news for their public relations department or to increase their Net Promoter ratings, showing how many customers would “recommend” the company.

When a service rep or sales person tells a customer that a survey answer other than “highly satisfied” could ruin their bonus or performance assessment, yes, a survey is a waste of time and money for customers and the company. This situation happens because employees are penalized or rewarded too heavily on customer behavior instead of monitoring their own behavior internally.

Instead of looking at surveys as a one-by-one solution opportunity or a means to show how awesome your company is, you can get more value by looking for patterns in it, as well as in other sources of feedback, like complaints on the 800 number, social media, or customer anecdotes—it’s really a collage of information that matters. These patterns help companies elevate the response to a macro-level, and that’s ultimately the goal. When you connect the feedback dots, you make things better for all customers, not just one at a time.

Q: Can companies turn their customer experience reputation around?

A: Absolutely. An example is Suntrust Bank, who saw the financial meltdown in 2008 as an opportunity to see how they could rebuild trust with their customers. One of the executives would often ask in meetings: “Are we deciding on this because we’ve been bankers for so many years, or because customers told us?” This question became a habit for managers across the company, and changed their decision-making to be customer-focused. This is the kind of habit more brands need to adopt.

Q: Sounds like there is hope. What do you see ahead for 2015?

A: Yes and no. Brands will be pushing harder on the customer experience manager to show business results. They’ll try to do this through more surveys, customer journey maps, social media, content marketing, customer engagement events and campaigns, and loyalty programs. Some companies, though, will disband their investment in customer experience altogether, getting rid of entire departments. For a lot of companies, it’s going to be business as usual mantra, with the mismatch between what the company says and what customers experience is.

Thankfully, there is that small group of companies—which is maybe a good thing since it’s easier to stand out from the crowd—that are going to step back and ask themselves: is what we’re doing more about us or customers? These companies will persistently seek patterns to resolve issues from happening again. They’ll earn trust and down the line business results by improving ease-of-doing-business for customers. In other words: it will be about the person buying their products, not the company, and that is what customer experience management is all about.

What Becomes of Content in 2015?

cwordThe word “content” has supplanted itself as The Marketing Word in 2014, to the point that I’m hard-pressed to find a digital headline or article without it this past year. Then there are the white papers, conferences, books, and even the Content Marketing Institute (sounds very heady, doesn’t it?). You get the idea. But let’s get some perspective here: Content, in all its incarnations over the years, was simply called something else—be it copy, copywriting, promotion, website content, marketing blurbs, plain old writing, insert big etcetera here. With the rise of social media and other digital marketing to further a brand—whether posts or podcasts, vines or viral videos—this marketing expansion now sits under the same umbrella: Content. One and all. The blending of terms combined with the craving for sky high shares brought to the forefront big changes swirling around in advertising, journalism, and marketing the past several years. Some good, some not so good. I believe we reached a tipping point in 2014 and are venturing to the point of no return. Sure, there is plenty of smart, insightful, and creative content out there, but it is overshadowed by junky digital filler caused by “content mania” and insatiable need to feed the social media sharing beast. Let me explain.

Sponsored Content, aka Native Ads

This kind of promotion has been around for ages in other forms (corporate advertorial in trade magazine, anyone?) But online sponsored content is a bit more dangerous in such prolific quantities. Why? It’s more than a hoodwink; it confuses consumers expecting unbiased articles, whether they care or not.

Sponsored content has seen explosive growth in the past few years due to the expansion of digital publishers, coupled with news outlets desperately looking for a panacea to cover plummeting ad profits. Mission definitely accomplished, but the tricky (read: ethical) part is the barely-there line between “real articles” and those brought to us by our favorite and not-so-favorite brands. Even the bastion of buttoned-up news, the New York Times, got into the sponsored content business. You see, the lines have really (really) blurred, even for the Gray Lady. The FCC stepped in to help consumers identify sponsored content, but many readers eat it up if it’s “interesting” no matter how indigestible the thought of brand involvement might be. Studies show it decreases trust of content, but it doesn’t stop them from clicking.

Brand Journalism

Which leads us another trend from the content explosion—brand journalism—companies who deploy articles the way a news reporter might—factual information? Yes, but with words that supports the brand’s message, liifestyle, or agenda. This content fuels brands with a great resource for well-written blogs, C-level ghostwriters, and sponsored content, not to mention spawning new careers for jaded journalists, frustrated fiction writers, and corporate careerists looking for a fresh start.

Hootsuite’s CEO Ryan Holmes even nonchalantly dropped a reference to its corporate “newsrooms” at a conference earlier this year. A reach perhaps, but it appears to be the future of The Brand. Welcome to the new blurry world of the “news” where articles you read might not have a clear bias but the source of the materials will.

Attack of the Content Creators

Another way content has taken hold lately is the crazy-big growth of “content creators,” “content experts,” and other fill-in-the-blank content titles (full disclosure: I brand myself this way too). Hardly anyone is simply a “writer” anymore. Sure, including a white-hot industry in your title might make your keywords stand out more, but consider the downside: lots of competitors use this title too, making it a crowded field.

Digital publishing outfits like the Huffington Post, Gawker, and other media companies large and small often won’t pay or divvy out peanuts based on article shares. After all, if you won’t write for free, someone else more hungry for the lure of digital fame will. The more that writers that offer their services without compensation or laughably low pay, the more devalued the profession becomes. This cannot be undone (another disclosure: I have written for zero pay to get my name out there). I get why it happens—it’s called supply and demand—but there is collective power in writers holding out for what we deserve instead of giving in to this pressure.

On their own, none of these trends is necessarily catastrophic for content. But when you put them together it gives me great concern to think where content is going in 2015 with the jumbling of words, images, and audio breeding only as share fodder, the cocktail of news and brand agenda, coupled with the cheapening of writing as a craft, I wonder if we’ve lost some of our core quality standards and beliefs in what content is about. Like the “click-bait headlines” that trick us into thinking we’re getting one thing instead of another, we’re fooling no one but ourselves to say it doesn’t matter in the future.

Image: Velocity Partners

Small Business Saturday is Every Day

openOn November 29, as American Express does every year, it will again promote Small Business Saturday—and so will retail, consulting, and other entrepreneurs in large and small towns across America. Truth be told, I’ve always had mixed feelings about this annual event. While it puts those of us who work our butts off every day in the limelight for day (coinciding with Black Friday—surprise), there is still the smell of corporate money that permeates the air, and it reeks just a tad. That said, with small business and entrepreneurship stronger than ever, I offer my ode to “us”, the small business owner. I should know, I’ve been a consultant for 15 years and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Labor of love

Everyone who has ever started a business has a story, myself included. Maybe corporate life was becoming too much of a grind, there was an unexpected lay off, or that Next Big Idea just wouldn’t go away from our brains. Whatever the motivation, the end result is to be a small business owner. It is a core part of our identities, and we want more than anything is for it to be successful. The alternative? Not much. This is our lifeblood and doing something different usually just doesn’t feel “right.”

We have blended lives

If any small business owner tells you they leave work at their retail store, desk in the upstairs office or on their tablet, they are lying (or gently fibbing to themselves). Running a business is a constant process—whether it’s bookkeeping, ensuring that orders get out before a holiday, or planning the next marketing campaign, our brain neurons are always firing (or misfiring) ideas, to-do lists, and ruminating what we did wrong or perfectly right and want to repeat again.

We never go on autopilot

One of the best things you’ll get from a small business is creativity: it might be uncovering that one way to make a deal work, whipping up a new promotion just for you, or coming up with fresh ways to differentiate ourselves from the competition. Experimenting with something new is a regular occurrence, if not, business gets stale. We are always thinking and wanting to make ourselves invaluable to you (but not in a desperate way), not to mention us entrepreneur types get bored easily.

Special orders don’t upset us 

As with corporations, there’s always that “one”. Liken it to your customer that always calls the complaint line, revisits the contract 50 times, or any other time-sucking and irksome behavior. The difference? We deal with it on an intimate level instead of as a company. We can’t sluff it off to a manager or customer service—we are customer service (and CEO and CMO and everything else). We are composed of nerve and grit and rely on this often when dealing with our, um…our “special” folks. In the end, these types of customers make us stronger, teach us lessons, and can bring positive changes for how we manage our business in the future.

You are our “regular paycheck”

When you have a full-time job you know you’re going to get paid on a schedule.  For those of us who have a small business it is not an assumed. We put our trust in you to be our source of income. We give you our all and expect that we’ll be compensated fairly and on time. Customers and clients that stretch out payments, lose invoices, or use delay tactics make a difference in our financial lives (and not in a good way). Small businesses don’t have the cash flow that corporations  do—those dollars really matter to us. We may not tell you that directly but it’s true.

We go the extra mile

I can’t speak for all small businesses, but as a rule, if you want an article turned around ASAP, a substitute in that gift basket, or an extra rounds on that consult for free—we will do it. Why? Because we have a relationship with you, appreciate your business, and can “make up our own rules” (otherwise known as flexibility). This can’t always be said for a corporation. Our relationship gives us a sense of satisfaction and pride when we can give you what you want. “You saved the day” and “You’re awesome” means a lot to us. That one-to-one exchange can’t always be replicated with larger companies.

Word-of-mouth is our bread and butter

There’s a reason reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and LinkedIn carry such weight in the online world: they make up the referral world that we all live in, and we rely on it heavily. Then there’s offline—the real world—which has been around since business has: an introduction through a colleague or a neighbor that steps into your store after hearing a glowing recommendation. These help add up to business sustenance. They also drive us to do better and strive to be the best for you.

At its core, Small Business Saturday may be just a smart promotion for one of the largest companies in the free world. But kudos to Amex for recognizing the trials, tribulations, and hard work of millions of small businesses—at least once a year anyway. More importantly, a toast to us—the ones who do the work all the time.

Blog Power Grows Up at WordPress Camp

wpstarrynightIt was my first and last WordPress Camp in San Francisco, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because it’s outgrown its location and will be transformed into a global event next year. It’s no surprise either, with the WordPress mission to “democratize publishing” on a trajectory to being realized. Fact: WordPress powers almost 25% of all sites on the web or 342 blog posts a minute (that’s 7.9B annually). After 11 years, WordPress hasn’t just arrived, it’s getting its extreme close-up. This was also reflected in the topics. My expectations of widgets and coding were met with many “big picture” presentations. Here were some of the more interesting old-to-new themes (get it? get it?).

The State of Word

Matt Mullenweg, WordPress God and co-founder, with his low-key, wry and affable demeanor, talked honestly about the bittersweet growth of WordCamp from 9 to 81 and outsizing the Mission Bay Conference Center. Other topics included the site fixes coming up this year, including better managing the reviled plugins that frustrate its users, security issues tightened up, and cleaning up the stats system and making it more user-friendly. The big hope? The  dream of an auto-updated WordPress site instead of the current patchwork of versions and manual upgrades (Side note: ironically, WordPress often makes random changes to its interface, both small and large, which I’ve always found a bit odd and discombobulating. Then again, WordPress is free so I can’t complain).

It’s a Multi-Device Platform World, Let’s Deal With It

Sizing right or “responsive design” on mobile, tablets, and PCs is a no-brainer these days, but we need to think about this equation differently, according to Luke Wroblewski, who runs a digital design and strategy firm. He gave a fascinating talk about how human behaviors and ergonomics associated with them are equally important as quantitative factors like distance, size, and other “hard facts.” The free-flowing, multi-device platform world we live in now ranges from the smallest of computers, like Google Glass, to ginormous LED screens that we slide seamlessly among for the technology we need at that particular time. How we interact between devices, sometimes simultaneously, counts as much as anything else. Taking all of these factors into consideration is key for product development of the future. In other words, using human behavior and environment as guideposts, devices will be designed according to what we do with them, not by their physical form. In many ways, this is new territory.

Know Blog Rules But Break Them, Too

We’ve heard a million times about how the consumer ultimately decides what your brand is, but according to Internet-famous bloggers at WordPress, your blog should ooze and seep your personality, in a good way. Crafty Chica enthusiastically talked about finding your purpose and style within “the lane that works for you” (while also spreading the word “glitter” generously in her talk). Or as Chris Lema put it, “Take a corner no one is fighting for” when you choose your blog topic, and go bold with a strong stance. He pointed out that readers are tired of lists and how-tos; they crave and expect more these days with all the content out there. Why do you like one SEO strategy more than another? What is behind your opinion? Writer and academic Christine Harkins pointed out that, “Blogs exist for two reasons: to move people to action or to connect with people.” She defined blog voice as “writing the way you talk, sharing what you know, and telling the truth.” Amen to that. She even offered up a smattering of amusing copyrights suited just perfectly to the personality of the blogger.

So look for this impromptu copyright on my blog one of these days: “If you’ve got a big following, go ahead and steal my stuff—I’ll just quote you later and take credit.”

Image: Moufflets blog (and Van Gogh), WordPress logo contest, 2009 entry. I hope it won!