Oh you didn’t know? The Learned Fangirl is on Facebook!

Big News! The Learned Fangirl is now on Facebook!

“Why should I care?” you’re probably thinking. “I get spammed enough on Facebook by my elderly relatives.”

Fair enough, but hear us out. If you like the TLF blog, then you’ll want to check out the TLF page for posts that we’re too lazy to flesh out  shorter, time sensitive posts and maybe, just maybe, some multimedia stuff like video  if we’re not too lazy to do that.

Anyway, “join the conversation” as the social media folks love to say and like the TLF Facebook page today!


There is only one thing that you can learn from The Muppets social media strategy

ImageI’ve read about 5 or 6 blog posts in the past month or so about the popular social media campaign surrounding the latest Muppet movie. In the past few weeks, they’ve been everywhere: YouTube, Google +, Facebook, etc, and of course all the big social media marketing blogs are weighing in on what other social media marketing people can learn from it.

Personally, I think there’s only one important thing to take away from The Muppets social media campaign: Be awesome like the Muppets. I personally don’t know anyone who dislikes the Muppets and if I did, I would probably judge their lack of humanity. The Muppets are the best. They are hilarious and fun and full of cheer and for many of us who grew up with them, they are like beloved friends. And of course, since it’s been proven (at least by Pew Research)  that most people are active on social media to connect with their friends, it’s a perfect venue for the Muppets to reintroduce themselves to the public.

So, if you are thinking that it may be great for your product/brand/company to have a cool Google + Hangout or mobile app like the Muppets did, I beg you to ask this question of yourself: “Is my product/brand/company awesome like The Muppets?” if that answer is no, you may wish to reconsider your strategy. Or more importantly, consider how you can channel a little bit of the awesomeness of the Muppets in what you do. Whether that’s a musical routine, or costumes, or movie parodies or wakka wakka jokes  do something that will make your company more fun and approachable (like actual fun, not marketing fun). THEN you can do that Google + Hangout and people will be more likely to join in, because you are awesome. Now if you will excuse me,. I’m going to go put on makeup and dress up right.

“Us” Versus “Them” – Community-driven media, Corporate media and the space between

Like most people over the age of 25 on the Internet, I remember quite vividly the pre-social media internet landscape: the days of Tripod.com , BBS and web rings.

Technically, a lot of this community-powered online interaction is “social media” as well, but for many of us back then it was simply called “goofing off on the Internet.” Connecting with others and sharing  stuff, whether they were rants, reviews,  poems horrible fan-fiction,  whatever,  part of being in an online community.

Now, I make my living doing stuff on the internet, so I look at the online world through  that lens  and as someone who has and still does create online content “for the lulz.”

But as social media because less community-driven and more profit (or outcome) driven, and companies move into spaces that used to be strictly about individual and community-generated creative work, I think about if there is a way to retain the bottom-up culture of those spaces. Can community-driven and corporate online culture can co-exist or will the latter completely drive out or exploit the former?

I was looking at a music video on the VEVO YouTube the other day (for those not aware, VEVO is an online music video website with a highly branded presence on YouTube) I came across a number of anti-VEVO comments that led me to the following Facebook Page:

One of the first comments on the page was the following:

Youtube used to be a place for people to upload and share their videos, but ever since VEVO started taking over, it’s all about Hollywood music videos. Anyone remember “Charlie Bit Me”? He deserves #1 Most Viewed on Youtube, not “Justin Bieber – Baby ft. Ludacris”. So Youtube, please get VEVO off of your website and return it to the website it used to be.

Now, to play devil’s advocate, YouTube hasn’t been that website in quite some time, if ever. It wasn’t a user video, but SNL/Lonely Island’s “Lazy Sunday” that put YouTube on the map. (And of course there’s the irony of using Facebook as the platform to protest this.)  But I understand the sentiment behind it. Some people just want a space online where they can find and share stuff with their friends and peers, stuff  they can’t find anywhere else, even  if its baby videos, or a goofy Tumblr blog or mediocre local grindcore. For some, like the ad-free blog movement, there’s a strong belief that corporations have no place in this space whatsoever, though the current state of blogging seems to indicate that most don’t feel this way.

So I still find myself conflicted at times. I am still of the belief that community-driven content is what has made online culture  and social media as currently ubiquitous as it is. It’s supposed to be different from mainstream mass media, it serves a different purpose. At the same time, I certainly don’t begrudge  those wanting to participate in this space and reach an audiences in a new way. I also understand the motivation to create an infrastructure for creative professional to a living from the work they distribute online. That’s space in-between: creative professionals and small companies and  organizations that  use  social media and the web to build an audience: I don’t begrudge them either.

So what can be done? I think the line between “us” and “them” is always blurred, most social media consumers are social media creators – some just do it for pay or exposure, but are we seeing an erosion of many of the elements that make online culture what it has been for years in favor of  traditional mass  media with a different face?

Guide for the Perplexed: QR Codes

From Clever Cupcakes, Montreal (@clever_cupcakes)

Ever seen those square bar code-looking thingies on the bus or train or in a magazine and wonder what they were? They’re called QR Codes and they are being used increasingly in interactive marketing in the U.S.

These little barcodes can store text or URL info and are used to  point  your phone to information  like websites,  videos, contact information, etc. Some visual artists have incorporated QR codes into their work,  such as this 2009 public art exhibition in Amsterdam , and some entreprenuers have adopted novel uses for the technology like the above QR Code cupcakes for Twestival Montreal, a Twitter – based charity event.

Having originated in Japan, QR Codes have been used for marketing and entertainment in Japan and Korea for years now and are nearly ubiquitous, but for the most part hasn’t caught on here in the U.S. with the same enthusiasm. I have two theories as to why:

1.) Consumers haven’t been sufficiently educated about what QR Codes actually are and how to use them by the companies/organizations using them.

I noticed an ad on the train earlier today promoting a non-profit. There was a QR Code at the bottom. The text: “Take a picture of this QR Code to learn more about us!”

Two people on the train were looking at the ad. One person asks the other, “What’s a QR Code?” The other says “Oh, it’s a Google app.”

There were two levels of fail going on here. First off, the ad itself failed to explain what a what a QR code is and only vaguely explained how to use it. Secondly, I believe the individual on the trainl who did recognize what a QR Code was had conflated QR Codes in general with one particular use of the technology,  specifically Google Places.

In general the  marketing/tech world has a bit of work to do to educate the public on this technology. It’s not difficult, but some level of explanation would help to encourage its use, which them brings me to the other issue hindering the use of QR Codes:

2.) Most of the time QR Codes point to really boring content that no one cares about

Most of the time, scanning a QR code doesn’t really offer much for the user. Marketers use QR codes as a vaguely interesting way to point people to existing content that users wouldn’t care about even if they were sitting at their computers at home: boring websites, boring ads, boring contact information. There’s still a “so what” factor with QR codes, where the content hasn’t caught up with the technology. What would motivate someone to scan a QR code when they can check out your organization’s website at home or work? Offering exclusive information or special deals could be the solution.

I was definitely on the QR Code bandwagon for a while, encouraging it for my workplace and for volunteer projects. I still think it’s a great technology with a lot of potential uses but waiting for it to catch on surely isn’t working. The company or organization that manages to educate users while offering something new and different will eventually win this race. It could be Google, based on the exchange I saw on the train, but time will tell.

Today in WTF: Grammys combine Hard Rock/Metal Awards

Among music fans/geeks, the news circulated quickly (mostly on Twitter)`that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences –  the folks that run the Grammys – plan to eliminate 30 of its categories , mostly to avoid redundancies among categories. Fair enough, right? Best Hawaiian Zydeco Instrumental Duo will probably only have one  nominee every year, correct?

But as a metal fan, I’m both amused/slightly annoyed at the news that the best Hard Rock and Metal performance categories would be combined.With this new change, bands like Velvet Revolver, Buckcherry and Nickelback will be considered as the same genre of bands like Slayer, Iron Maiden, Mastodon and Dragonforce. According to the Grammy’s, attempting to distinguish bands between the two genres was “splitting hairs.” To that I say, sure it’s splitting hairs if you only listen to metal from the 1980’s.

The hard rock/metal category was always rife with controversy from the very first  award in 1989, when the Grammy’s infamously snubbed Metallica in favor of Jethro Tull. Actually, it’s fair to say the Grammy’s never understood anything about metal considering they only just awarded Iron Maiden this year. But I have long hoped that the existence of a metal category meant at some point when the old industry vets finally retire, the award could actually mean something for the genre, in a small way,  that the best metal releases of the year would MAYBE be nominated, and MAYBE win and MAYBE turn on new fans in the process. Silly thought, I know, but a girl can dream.

Instead, I anticipate a lot of  Kings of  Leon and Daughtry to take up space in that category in the coming years. In the meantime, there’s definitely room for metal publications/blogs like Decibel or MetalSucks or even *sigh* Revolver to play the role of tastemaker while reflecting the scene more accurately.

The Future of the Publishing Industry (or why terms of service are so important): HarperCollins Part Two

LOLibrarian from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

LOLibrarian from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

So now that you’ve read in the first post about the possibilities of using new technologies to transform the publishing industry in a potentially positive way, now read the tale of how Harper Collins is using another technology — e-books and their terms of service — to potentially shut down e-books in libraries.

Overdrive, the platform that most U.S. public libraries use to circulate e-books, recently released a press release stating that

OverDrive [has] a licensing change from a publisher that, while still operating under the one-copy/one-user model, will include a checkout limit for each eBook licensed. Under this publisher’s requirement, for every new eBook licensed, the library (and the OverDrive platform) will make the eBook available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached. This eBook lending condition will be required of all eBook vendors or distributors offering this publisher’s titles for library lending (not just OverDrive).

So to cut to the chase, the publisher is Harper Collins, as discovered by Josh Hadro at Library Journal, with a lifetime lending limit of 26 checkouts. What this would mean is that libraries would need to keep track of the number of checkouts — and once reaching this magical number — kaboom, the “book” isn’t usable. Not only does this prove that ebooks aren’t books in the way that print books are, placed within the first sale doctrine, but that because they are licensed (and the license terms can be changed at any time prospectively), this type of ownership is meaningless.

Librarians and their supporters are understandably upset, with a variety of posts on BoingBoing, Librarian By Day, Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Literary Sluts, TechDirt, and many others.

Not only will there be many, many logistical issues for libraries, but Dear Author breaks down some of the overall problems with this approach:

Here’s just a few reasons why this move by HarperCollins is so unbelievably bad.

1) Restricting library usage of digital books will not slow down ebook adoption because ebook adoption is a by product of digital media adoption. As TV and movies and music goes, so will books. Or books will just be left behind.

2) Reducing visibility in the libraries will reduce discoverability by readers. Reduced discoverability is the last thing that publishers can afford to have happen to its books.

3) Reducing legitimate access to books will make it easier for readers to justify piracy. Don’t give them that opportunity.

So where to go from here? There is the Readers’ Bill of Rights for Digital Books , but it has yet to hit traction in the library/publishing world. Librarian in Black has a similar call to action, called the eBook User’s Bill of Rights:

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

Hopefully, the protests will change the decision by HarperCollins.

If you want to follow the discussion on Twitter, the hashtag is #hcod.

Thinking Out Loud: So wait, blogging *is* dead?

I admit I sometimes struggle to come up with ideas for this blog. I love to write and I love riffing on ideas, but sometimes the Learned Fangirl format can be too formal for my tastes and I feel like I have to be too thoughtful and insightful, rather than just spilling out random word vomit for shits and giggles. (Hence, my previous blog post, which was a lazy report of a blog I wrote months ago, but I also did it for reference purposes) So I don’t blog for weeks because I feel like if I don’t have anything “important” to say I don’t say anything.

Blogging fatigue hits even the most passionate bloggers, and if you are a veteran blogger it hits multiple times and you have to find a way around it. The pressure increases if you’re blogging for profit, something that I have flirted with but admittedly never really pursued because of my on-and-off fatigue.

There was an article in Crain’s Chicago Business about professional bloggers who have let their blogs go dark when they either hit the fatigue point or they realize that blogging can often be more work than profit. The article cites the latest research from Pew that cites a drop in blogging teens and young adults. Part of an overall trend that indicates the death knell of blogs? Hell, I don’t know. What I do know is maybe there is a shift in how we as internet creators and users look at blogs and their role in the internet ecosystem.

But maybe more blogs are meant to be transient. I like the idea of blogs having a shelf life, so it’s not a sign of quitting or failure when a blog goes dark but just a sign that author material runs dry, cultural relevance peters out or situations just change. One day, Learned Fangirl will go dark and I am OK with that, maybe looking at certain blogs as having a publishing end date is a better way to look at the medium.

And maybe not all blogs are meant to be monetized. I admit, as an old-school blogger, it’s still weird for me to hear about people who get into blogging as a career choice. But times have changed, I know and there are lots of people building careers from their blogs, but I rather miss the serendipity of blogging without a net, SEO be damned.

I really do sound like an old person, I know, longing for the old days of internet culture where anonymity and random self expression ruled the day, but I really think we will see a return to this, as dreams of internet fame and fortune fade away and the desire to share a passion is the only reward.

And hopefully this will be the last time I blog about blogging and TLF will return to regularly scheduled fangirl musings.