Gmail, We Have a Problem

I recently made an important discovery:

I have too much email.

It weighs on me mentally every time that I look at my inbox. The 600+ messages feel completely out of my control. There are a few bad behaviors that I can pinpoint that contribute to this problem:

  1. I check my inbox in the morning, usually when I first wake up. (yes, I know that’s generally a no-no)
  2. I read emails even if I don’t have the time to write an adequate response.
  3. I leave Gmail open in my browser almost all the time.
  4. I receive many email-based notifications – some of which I don’t actually need.

Suffice to say, I know that I have a problem. What I’m not sure about, however, is the best way to solve it. I’ve tried Inbox Zero before without much success, and Gmail’s priority inbox feature doesn’t make much sense to me.

The email, the email, what what the email.

Recognizing the problem is the first step, but now I need to take a few concrete steps to improve the situation. For starters, I’ll take a page out of The 4-Hour Work Week and limit the number of times I check my email. 3-4 times per day is probably enough to be in the loop without too much delay between message receipt and response. Next, I’ll try to handle each email only once. If I read it, I’ll respond to the best of my ability in order to get it out of my inbox.

If I can apply these two techniques successfully, then I can, at minimum, curb the current email onslaught. Then I can do massive triage on the remaining emails in my inbox.

Let’s do this.


3 Best Practices for Advertising on Music Streaming Services

3 Best Practices for Advertising on Music Streaming Services

Check out this post I wrote for the Digital Influence Group company blog. I even make some music references. 🙂

Diary of a Summer Intern: Part 1

Hey Blog Readers (if you’re still out there),
I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, and I have to say, I’ve been missing it. So, to make it up to you, I’m going to share a blog post I recently wrote for Brown’s career center about my summer internship at Digital Influence Group. (I would just link you to it, but it’s unavailable to people outside the university.)

Hope you enjoy! In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @madelinesall for more updates.

When I tell people that I’m interning at an advertising agency this summer, most people ask the same question: “Is it like Mad Men?”  Well, not exactly. Especially since we have the Internet.
This summer, I am working for Digital Influence Group (or DIG, as we call it). As you can probably guess from the name, DIG is a digital advertising agency that focuses on building online experiences with social media at the core. DIG has a sister PR agency called Racepoint Group, and both companies fall under a parent holding company called W2 Group. We work with some big name clients like IBM, Glidden Paint, HBO, T Mobile, and others. Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about how I got this internship, what it’s actually like to work at DIG, and what I’m learning about the advertising industry and about myself.

But first, a few tidbits about myself:
  • I study Music History, Theory, & Composition, and I’m planning to write a thesis on the use of classical music in advertising.
  • Outside of classes, I work at WBRU, Brown’s commercial radio station, and I am the Social Media Manager for the CareerLAB.
  • Both of my parents work in marketing.
  • This past fall, I wrote a paper about the ad campaign your ad campaign could be like. (No seriously, it was the best assignment.)
  • There’s nothing I like more than taking a long, aimless walk outside.

Through my parents, I learned early on that marketing and advertising interested me as a potential career. I was excited by the combination of creativity combined with strong analytical thinking in order to direct that creativity. With marketing & advertising in mind, I started my internship search process in early October and applied for 19 internships before I accepted DIG’s offer. I just made that process sound much simpler than it actually was. In mid-April, I lost my best opportunity with a different advertising agency to another candidate, and I had not received any job offers despite having numerous interviews. I was beginning to worry and felt pretty desperate.

Then, through a chance encounter, I found DIG. My mom ran into the CEO (who I know because I went to theater camp with his son) and told him that I was looking for an internship in marketing or advertising. I sent him my resume, and two interviews later, I had an internship offer.

Now, I may sound like a broken record when I say this, but networking is so important. Without telling my friends and family what I was looking for, I would not be working at DIG this summer. It makes a big difference when you know somebody at the company where you want to work because they can turn your black & white resume into a colorful & lively representation of you. Of course, I still went through the same interview process at DIG as the other applicants, but a personal connection can really help you get a foot in the door.

I am not trying to tell you how to network, the CareerLAB and the Internet can provide great resources if you want some tips, but it can be hard to understand the types of opportunities that networking can open up without concrete examples. Consider my internship search an example.

It can be tempting to fill out another online job application when you feel the job pressure, but I truly believe that spending those 30 minutes to an hour searching for people you know at companies where you want to work and asking them for advice (not for a job) is a much better use of time. Plus, when the time comes for a job/internship search, you have a better sense of those companies, which often results in an opportunity that better aligns with your values and interests. I have been lucky that DIG has been an incredible fit for me, and I have my mom and DIG’s CEO to thank.

More about DIG and what I’m learning in future posts!

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Keep Your SOPA Hands Off My Internet

SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill currently going through the House of Representatives. For people who spend 7+ hours on the Internet per day like I do, You probably have heard about SOPA, at least in passing. Maybe you’ve even heard that Google, Facebook, reddit, CNET (though their parent company CBS supports SOPA legislation), GoDaddy (after a huge user boycott), and many other companies are anti-SOPA. I wanted to figure out what was going on for myself, so like any good citizen, I did some research (and not just on Wikipedia).

SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act, the Senate companion bill) would give the US government more control websites that illegally publish or distribute copyright material. Proponents of the bill want to crack down on international websites that sell Hollywood movies and TV shows for profit. The original bill states that the government could force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block entire domains that publish this offending content, but lawmakers have reportedly given up on this restriction.

Despite this victory for Anti-SOPA activists, the bills have not yet been defeated. SOPA/PIPA are supposed to help Hollywood studios police their content and prevent illegal commercial gain, but in their wake, they will destroy access to Winnie the Pooh dubs, disgruntled office workers screaming at a printer, and this explanation of an important US holiday.

Here’s the bottom line: SOPA/PIPA promote censorship of the Internet. This sets a bad precedent for freedom of speech and gives the US government significant control over a major communication channel.

On Saturday, the White House announced that they will not support either SOPA or PIPA, but the work is not done. So do yourself a favor, if you care about the Internet at all (and you must because you’re reading this blog), call your representatives using this call script and let them know that you stand for the Internet.

And that they should get their SOPA hands off of it.


Additional Links

Great Summary Article

Turns out, Wikipedia’s article about SOPA is pretty good.

A toolkit for Anti-SOPA Activism

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How do you feel about SOPA/PIPA? Let me know in the comments!

Facebook Timeline and Social Convention

After a long, school-induced hiatus, I’m back, and ready to blog. In 2012, I’m planning on making this blog more of a priority, and I’ve reduced some of my other commitments to make that happen. Look forward to some more regular updates, starting with this one. Happy New Year!

Facebook Timeline has caused quite the stir in the social media community and among the 800 million or so active users. Timeline is polarizing, and based on anecdotal evidence, most of my friends are not happy with the changes. Sound familiar? Almost every change Facebook makes follows this pattern, for better or for worse. Remember when the News Feed first came out? Or the last time Facebook redesigned profiles? We had similar gripes.

facebook timeline

Another reason for Facebook users to feel entitled...

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are truly relentless in their efforts to change the way that we interact with one another online, and I think that Timeline has the potential to change our social interactions. Any type of social change requires time to occur. Just as it took time for text messages to take the place of some phone calls, it will take time to see the true effects of Facebook Timeline. For now, I can only speak to my primary thoughts as I’ve played with it over the short time that it has been generally available.

Traditionally, when you meet someone, you learn about their current activity first. As you become closer and get to know one another better, you learn more about their past. Individually, we each choose when to disclose certain information about ourselves. With Facebook Timeline, that past information is immediately accessible and in some ways, is more descriptive and demonstrative than a mere description of prior interests, motivations, and passions.

For example, in high school, I was very involved with the theater department. This is not always information I immediately volunteer to my friends, mostly because it isn’t particularly indicative of my current interests. Using Facebook Timeline, however, one could easily look through and discern my involvement. Now I don’t think there’s an inherent problem here, but I do have to wonder what this will mean for social interactions. Are we now expected to know information about our friends’ history, even from before we met them?

Does Facebook Timeline create new social expectations?

Only time will tell.

Steve Jobs, A True Icon

In the hours since the untimely death of Steve Jobs, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I would like to address my feeling about him. What I can do is give a personal account of the relevance of Steve Jobs in my own life and in my understanding of the world. So here’s my attempt at that:

I’m too young to have strong impressions of early Macintosh computers, but I do very clearly remember the first iPod. A 5GB, white, decksteve jobs of cards, which for its time, like most other products that Steve Jobs put his hands on, was revolutionary. I remember being jealous of my Mac-using friends who were the first to lay hands on this device. The idea that instead of toting a Walkman, I could have small copies of my music in a single device that everyone could use (even certain technophobic members of my family).

It’s easy to look at the iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, iCloud, iTunes, and really any other trailblazing Apple product as an inevitability. In retrospect, we say of course keyboardless phone makes sense and of course you don’t need to build in a optical drive, but that is where Steve’s true genius lies. He is well-known for his dislike of focus groups and traditional market research methods, but I won’t be the first to say that he anticipated consumer needs in a revolutionary way. I hope, as a marketer and a technology enthusiast, I can grow to understand the true impact of Steve Jobs on Silicon Valley, consumer technology, and ultimately, the public consciousness.

Steve Jobs was a great man. Even with his personality quirks, his strength of character, doggedness, and resilience influenced and will continue to influence others years down the road.

Perhaps then, the rise of another tech giant taking lessons from the school of Jobs is inevitable. It shows that there is a place in the world for a tech company CEO to be more than just a rockstar programmer. That management, vision, and consumer understanding sometimes come from a wholly different perspective. To me, that is the most inspiring aspect of Steve Jobs’ life.

Rest in peace Steve, and thank you for creating and embodying a revolution.

Additional Links

Steve Jobs: Imitated, Never Duplicated from David Pogue, tech columnist for the NYT

Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech at Stanford, one of the most inspiring speeches I’ve ever experienced (and it is an experience)

Beautiful Steve Jobs Tribute by my friend Chris

NYT Obituary

Apple Homepage Tribute

When Facebook Wears Too Much Makeup

Facebook is notorious for quickly iterating through new versions and testing of new features. From profile summaries to privacy settings to the news feed, the engineers at Facebook are working constantly to be on the cutting edge of whatever new design or feature trend that is coming next.

At some point though, you have to sit back and say, maybe my product should just stick to a niche category. Twitter is a great example of

girl with heavy makeup

Take off the makeup, and go all natural.

this. The defining aspect of Twitter is the mandated 140 character limit. This limit makes its function as a social media platform inherently different than any other platform out there. (Except for heello, but that is a distinction barely worth mentioning.)

This paradigm exists outside of social media. For example, consulting firms almost always specialize in a specific type of consulting because in order to gain significant traction and business in a competitive market, you need to pick a segment to call your own. This isn’t to say that specialization is the only way to success or that becoming too general can lead to failure. In my experience of technology, however, the transition from specific to general almost never goes well.

Facebook has lost its way. Now that they are rolling out features that are almost complete copies of Google+, they are cluttering the very corner of social media space they helped to create. Facebook, instead of maintaining the simple, clean-cut UI and feature set it had in the old days is trying to add subscriptions, a real-time mini news feed, and a stylistic redesign.

If I were Facebook (somehow personified in a single entity), I would be freaked out by Google+, but I don’t think the rational response is to roll out 3 major changes all at once. (And I’m not counting the other recent changes to privacy settings and to Facebook chat.) To craft an analogy: Facebook used to be the girl in high school who was cool and confident without putting on a lot of makeup, but now, she thinks it’s necessary to be cool.

Facebook, take off the heavy eyeliner, mascara, and bright pink lip gloss and remember what made you awesome in that first place: that confident don’t-mess-with-me Zuckerberg style.


Additional Links
Facebook is about to feature-creep itself into a usage U-turn, an article I found (perhaps somewhat ironically) on Facebook
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How do you feel about Facebook’s changes? Love them? Hate them? Want to ditch Facebook and live in a cave? Let me know in the comments!