Why shop when you can swap?

Today, I took a stand against consumerism. Instead of putting cash into the belly of corporate America, I traded something I no longer wanted, for something I did want.

Russell Brand (you know, the British comic who's dating Katy Perry, played the rockstar in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and is in the upcoming film Get Him to the Greek), hosted a one-day only pop-up and exchange shop in one of Los Angeles' swankiest malls, The Beverly Center. From 2pm until 6pm, people lined up to shop in the Buy Love Here store. The drill: find something you want and then tell Russell what you'll trade him for it. The idea was to promote the re-use of products in a surplus society.

Once you were allowed into the store (they only allowed a few shoppers in at a time), you could select one item to swap. The inventory included a random assortment of wares, including: clothes, shoes, brooms, a tri-cycle, a toaster, a microscope, shower curtains, vases, and my personal favorite, an unused pregnancy test. Over the course of the day, the items changed as people exchanged their item for a store item.

My mom found an old-fashioned box purse she wanted and I found a brand new Guess purse (girls and their purses, right?). By the time we got to the front of the line, the gal said Russell would be busy for 15 minutes and asked if we wanted to wait or just check out with one of the girls. My mom opted for the latter. Big mistake. The girls kept asking my mom to put up more and more of her things to get the purse. She ended up having to trade a bottle of wine, a brand new pair of Crocs, and Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans for her purse.

No sooner than I was about to step forward, Russell came back and asked what I had found and why I wanted it. Then, he wanted to know what I was prepared to give up and why. I started conservatively and held up a wooden theatrical mask which a neighbor had left behind when he moved. Russell loved my mask and the story I had made up about wearing it to hide my face for two years because I was embarrassed about not having a fancy Guess purse to carry around town. Russell stopped me at my first offering, held the mask up to his face for the cameras, and sent me on my way. Deal made! Obviously, the girls were much harder to please than Russell.

Today's pop-up shop was a one-time deal, but organizers told me it's likely Russell will bring the Buy Love Here store to other cities. Hopefully, they will iron out the kinks to improve the shopping process, though (e.g. I waited more than two hours to get into the store). The event will also be featured in a documentary about happiness that Russell is producing.

So, since Russell let me off easy, I still have a bike helmet, some DVDs, and a beautiful beaded necklace to trade. Who wants to make a deal?

NOTE: Thanks to the always hip JessieBR for posting the event on her Facebook page. If it weren't for Jessie, I'd have no idea how hopelessly un-hip I really am!

Google's logo chomps on cherries in honor of Pac-Man

Google is known for changing up the logo on its homepage in honor of holidays and other momentous occasions. Up until today, one of my favorites changes was when Google commemorated the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street (see image below). However, the move to celebrate the 30th birthday of Pac-Man takes the cake!

If you click "Insert Coin" the game starts and you can actually play! Avoid the monsters and eat the cherries, all as you maneuver around a Google-branded coarse.

I love the way Google brings fun to search. You never know what you'll see on the homepage and now it has really upped its game (no pun intended) by making the logo interactive!

Happy anniversary Pac-Man (and thanks Google)!

Does the Meeting Monster work at your office?

"Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity 
that corporations and other organizations habitually engage in 
only because they cannot actually masturbate." 
- Dave Barry, Pulitzer prize-winning American humorist

Have you ever worked in an environment that was driven by meetings? Meet to decide on a time to meet. Meet to discuss the agenda for the next meeting. Meet to analyze how the meeting went. Meet. Meet. Meet.

I once worked somewhere where I did nothing but go to meetings all day. As I rehashed my day with my family or friends, they'd quickly say, "Do you do anything but go to meetings?" or "How do you get any work done when you're tied up in all those meetings?".  On many days, I had to scramble to get my actual work done between the daily meet-fest and frequently took work home.

It may sometimes be the politics of a company that require excessive buy-in, via face-to-face meetings. Sometimes, people don't want sole responsibility for a project and call meetings to assign tasks and appoint additional stakeholders. And, other times, meetings are set because it's the culture. Not sure how to fill your day? Call a meeting. 

Can meetings serve a purpose? Absolutely! Can you resolve important issues and push projects forward thanks to meetings? Of course! But, do some organizations have a culture of meeting abuse? Heck, yeah!

As the economy continues to struggle, many employees are tasked with doing more with less. Time is at a premium and expectations are higher than ever. Meetings can serve a purpose, but if you are the one calling the meeting, be sure that it's warranted. Here are my some of my favorite suggestions for being respectful of your colleagues' time and ensuring a productive meeting:

  • Set a start time and a firm end time for the meeting (and stick to it!). This will prevent meandering and keep people on point. After all, the clock is ticking. Tick. Tock. 
  • Create an agenda and set a time limit for each item. This will help attendees come prepared and keep the discussion moving. 
  • If you invite someone to a meeting, make sure they know why they've been asked to participate. This will allow them to collect any necessary information prior to the meeting. Two other benefits are that the person can opt out if you've tapped the wrong individual and also that he/she can send you the necessary information in advance if all you really needed from them was to rattle off a statistic. (Nothing is more aggravating than being told you have to be in a meeting and then realizing two hours later that you didn't need to be there at all.)
  • If it's a recurring meeting for a project, move attendees to "optional" status once their contribution to the team has been made. This will allow them to continue attending the meeting, if they so choose. However, if they have met their obligations and are no longer an active contributor to the team, this will empower them to opt-out. 

Have you been the victim of a meeting-centric culture? Do you have a good or bad example to share? A favorite suggestion for running a good meeting? Let's hear it!

Doctor tweets to help mankind

Dr. Krupali Tejura
This week, at a Los Angeles meetup of Twitter users, I had the pleasure of hearing a woman speak about how she's using social media for the greater good. I've been connected with Dr. Krupali Tejura on Twitter for awhile now, and have traded tweets with her from time to time. However, up until Monday, I didn't fully realize how she was maximizing Twitter to help her patients.

Now, to be clear, this doesn't mean that I ever want to see Dr. Tejura professionally. She's an oncologist (yep, that's a cancer doctor) and I hope no one in my life ever has to enlist her services. However, I am thrilled to know that there are doctors like her out there. She really cares and has used her online presence to help her patients.

Here are two examples I'll share from her talk:

1) One of Dr. Tejura's patients had her cancer spread to her bones, which rendered her unable to walk. She was wheelchair bound, with only months to live. She and the patient talked about how fun it would be to dance on The Ellen Show (for those who don't watch, Ellen dances with her audience in the first segment of every show). Dr. Tejura tried to get her patient tickets to the show, but came up dry. In the meantime, the woman was making progress with radiation treatment and began to use a walker. Soon, she could walk with a cane. At this point, Dr. Tejura turned to Twitter. She sent a tweet to her followers asking if they could help, they retweeted it, and soon Dr. Tejura had VIP passes to the show to give her patient. This woman would now boogie with Ellen Degeneres herself, thanks to Dr. Tejura and the community of Twitter.

2) Dr. Tejura shared another story about a terminal patient who was sad that she'd never get to see the Steelers play. As she finished telling the tale to all of us at the event, the conference sponsor, Jeff Pulver, donated frequent flier miles to send the woman and her husband to Philadelphia. Another person donated a rental car. Then, the most moving thing happened. A man (who I later learned was Bruce Sallan) rushed the stage to give Dr. Tejura a $20 bill to help sponsor the trip. The audience followed suit and passed up more cash. Within two minutes, Dr. Tejura had more than $400 to help fund her patient's dream. (The next day, Yahoo! even donated money to pay for the hotel!). I was moved to tears and am getting a lump in my throat even as I write about it.

Now, for you naysayers, THAT is the power of social media! You can spread your message of goodwill and hope to others, you can really connect with people, and even though social media starts on the web, those relationships translate to the real world. Those of us who use social media, and really get it, are a community. We rally together, we support one another, and when we all come together--we are powerful!

I don't know about you, but in my entire life I haven't ever had a doctor who I felt really saw me. The doctor gets me in and gets me out. He or she doesn't know me, care about me, or even really take a second to see me as a person. I wish there were more doctors like Dr. Tejura out there. Thank you, Krupali, for reminding us to be human and kindhearted. We all have the ability to bring more good into the world, so let's be sure to do it.

NOTE: As I was linking to Dr. Tejura's blog, I noticed she wrote her own account of the evening. Check out her thoughts on the power of community by clicking HERE.

Cyberbullying finds new media platform to exploit

Two months ago, I wrote a post about the people in my social network who use Formspring.me (a site that lets anyone ask you a question and then posts your answer publicly). I implied these people were egomaniacs, but in the grand scheme of things, so what if someone thinks they're so fascinating that folks are dying to ask them questions. Having an overly confident opinion of yourself might be a turn-off, but a big ego is generally harmless. Today, however, I read a disturbing article about how teens have now latched onto Formspring.me and are using it to up the bully factor on the web.

Think back to when you were eight, twelve, sixteen. Were there things about yourself that you were self-conscious about? Your nose? Your height? Your body shape? Your clothes? Now, imagine giving all your schoolmates an open forum to call you out on all that--even anonymously.

- How come you wear that stupid shirt so much?
- Why are you such a loser?
- Are you going to get a nose job anytime soon?
- Do you know what a skank you are?
- When are you going to wash your gym clothes?


All I have to say is I am so grateful not to be growing up in this day and age. Being a child was hard enough on its own.

If these sites had been around when you were a kid, would your childhood have been any different? Would you be the same person you are today? Might you be less confident or have more hang-ups? I can't help but to think this generation of kids could be spending a whole lot of money on therapists when they grow older...

Get the "like" fest going on your Blogger blog

Facebook recently unrolled it's famous thumbs up "like" button to the entire worldwide web. So, in an effort to stay current on the tech stuff, I have added the "like" button to the posts here on Words Done Write. Now, the only bad thing I can say about the code is that it adds the button to all the posts in your entire archive. At a glance, it may seem as though no one "liked" any of your earlier work, but those who know better, know this feature is new and won't hold it against you.

There seem to be lots of tutorials out there on how to add the "like" button to WordPress blogs, but if you're on Blogger like me (I LOVE Blogger!) I found a handy plugin for you to use. Just click HERE to get the code and get the "like" fest going (you can also change the word "like" to "recommend" if prefer). Oh, and for you Negative Nellies in the peanut gallery who want a "dislike" button, well, click HERE to get one through Firefox.

Now, do you "like" this, my friends? No pressure, it's only my first post with the "like" button. Hint hint, guilt guilt.

Turn that Twitter bird into blackbird pie

UPDATE: JANUARY 2012 - Blackbird Pie has been discontinued. To embed a tweet, check out this video tutorial: http://youtu.be/SojBeZO6cD4

No, this isn't a post on cooking; it's about the wonderful new Twitter feature, Blackbird Pie. If you blog, this is a real time saver, if you don't, well, it's still good to know about the tools that are available to you on the web.

Prior to Blackbird Pie, if you wanted to include an image of a tweet, you had to do a screen grab and then clean it up in Photoshop (here's an example from an earlier post I wrote on Adam Lambert complaining about his fans). Now, however, all you need to do is paste the tweet's url into Blackbird Pie and, voila, it spits out code you can just drop into your HTML. You can even click on the links in the image!

Easy schmeezy, huh? Feel free to enjoy your Blackbird Pie with a cup of tea and let me know how it goes down, eh?

Read your Twitter stream like a newspaper

It seems like many people are on Twitter 24/7, but you have other things to do, right? You want to keep up with the news that your network is sharing, but can't possibly monitor your stream constantly. Well, here's a great site that should help you get through all that useful information.

Paper.li collects the best news from your stream and groups it into relevant categories (e.g. technology, business, entertainment, sports) and hashtags. It also embeds the videos and photos that people are sharing. As for the paper.li page, well, it kind of looks like a page in a newspaper.

Just allow Paper.li to connect to your Twitter page, it will pull the best info from your stream, and then give you a personally branded Paper.li page (in my case, for example, it's paper.li/wordsdonewrite). You can then either visit your page for the best news of the day, or maybe even share your paper.li page with friends. In any case, it's provides a user-friendly overview of what's happening in your corner of the Twittersphere. You can also follow other people's Paper.li pages to see what's happening in their networks.

In this age of aggragator sites, it's nice to have options. We all digest information differently, so if you need a better way to remain connected to your network and the info they share, check out Paper.li. If you like it, by all means, let me know what you think. Have a site you like better? Share it!

Happy aggregating!
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