Picturing Your Life Data

wedding day smile

wedding day smile

I’m not a mother, but I’ve heard that a mother’s love sometimes can be described as “an awful love.”

I’ve witnessed a bit of that awful side over the past couple of days, as female friends of mine have taken to social channels, like Facebook, to share photos and express melancholy feelings, while leaving their first-year kids on college campuses for the first time.

It seems to be a time for “both sides of things.” Joni Mitchell famously pointed to these times in life with her “Both Sides Now” lyric, “something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.”

For all the different kinds of data analysis and exploration that’s happening right now on the business analytics front, wouldn’t it be interesting to apply a “Things Gained vs. Things Lost” filter to our own life experience data and examine the results?

What if you could quickly and easily assess all that you’ve gained and lost along life’s way? Would you conduct that type of personal analysis?

Or, maybe you wouldn’t prefer to examine your life in terms of gains and losses? Maybe you’d apply a different filter to your life experience data?

If I could analyze my life experience data, I’d create a frequency distribution report to reveal all the occurrences of my greatest personal joys – those moments when my smile was widest.

Until then, like my friends who are mothers of first-year college students, I’ll have to rely on pictures to record and reveal my most significant milestones. Pictures like the one, taken on my wedding day a few years ago, when my smile stretched to its limit.

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What Kind of Model (Data) Are You?

abstract model image

abstract model image

As a marketer, I pay attention to how corporations are leveraging the latest digital marketing channels to promote their brands.  For example, I recently enjoyed reading this post, “Five examples of brands that are nailing Pinterest.”

I’m just as, and maybe more so, interested in how individuals are using digital channels, like Pinterest, to promote their individual selves today.  In some cases, individuals on Pinterest are giving corporate brands a run for the money in terms of their number of account Followers – for example, one individual, Joy Cho, has more than 15 million people who follow her Pinterest account.

The majority of digital channels today make it easy for individuals to convey and share their preferences related to a multitude of subjects.  For example, Pinterest provides almost a literal picture of the interests and preferences of its users.

Other digital channels, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, also make it easy for individuals to indicate and share their preferences (on Facebook and on LinkedIn, you can hit the “Like” button to indicate that you like certain content, while on Google+, you can hit the +1 button to indicate your preferences).

Have you ever asked yourself why the latest digital channels include functionality that so strongly promotes individual preference sharing?  As I’ve stated in a prior post, online behavior is being tracked more and more often by companies who want to identify and target more individuals as potential buyers of their products. New digital channels providers are capturing and making the preference data of their individual subscribers available to those companies, usually at a some cost.

Also, many companies today are using software solutions to collect online data, mine the data, model the data, and then create visual representations of that data – all in an effort to gain new insights and knowledge that their organizations can use to propel their businesses forward.

Speaking of data visualization, I enjoy seeing different data visualization examples on the Information is Beautiful site.  What about you?  Have you ever stopped to think about what kind of model all of your personal, historical online data would create if summarily captured?

Would your online behavioral data present a Kate MossKurt Cobain-waif-like image, or would it reveal a more robust Kate Upton-like visualization?  What trends or secrets of your life would be revealed? Which of your data points would surface as uniquely beautiful, like the mole over Cindy Crawford’s lip or the gap in Lauren Hutton’s front teeth?

When I was a young girl, I dreamt of being a model.  I had no idea that I would actually fulfill that dream to the extent that I, like you no doubt, have become a data point in someone else’s data model.

Locusts, Chávez and News in Question

locust image via frenchtribune.com

locust image via frenchtribune.com

Have you heard?  Hugo Chávez is dead in Venezuela, and locusts have invaded Israel.

International news outlets have reported on those two happenings along with countless other occurrences within the past week.

In this era of non-stop, instant news, how do you filter the information that you receive and on which news sources do you rely?

Are all of your news sources online, or do you still read news publications in printed format?  Have you become a digital news consumer?

Mashable reported that, as of the end of 2010, more people were receiving their news from online sources rather than from printed newspapers.

So, if everyone is getting their news online these days, which are the most popular online news sites?

According to the eBusiness Knowledgebase (eBizMBA), Yahoo! News, CNN and MSNBC top the list.  Check out eBizMBA’s Top 15 most popular news Websites list.

And, what about social networks like Twitter and Facebook?  How many consumers today are relying on those sites as sources for news?

In their 2012 report, “What Facebook and Twitter Mean for News,” authors Amy Mitchell, Tom Rosenstiel and Leah Christian reported: “just 9% of digital news consumers very often follow news recommendations from Facebook or from Twitter on any of the three digital devices (computers, smartphones or tablets).”

What about you?  Do you trust the social networks to which you belong as legitimate news sources?

As a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the topic of news and how it gets distributed grabbed my attention and fascination years ago.

As a journalism student, I was taught the importance of questioning news sources and channels and was warned of the dangers of relying too heavily on one source of information to learn the truths of this world.

I wonder if all those folks listening to “state-run” news reports of Chavez’s death down in Venezuela share my news outlook.

Elves and Pied Pipers

Each year at Christmastime here in America, thousands of parents participate in the Elf on the Shelf Tradition with their children.

In recent years and with the advent of social media, I’ve enjoyed seeing my friends’ photos of their adopted Elves in surprise locations within their homes.

After the unspeakable school tragedy in Newtown, CT on Friday, a Facebook Friend shared this photo of one elf, Alfred, originally taken by Pumpkin Pie Photography:

Pumpkin Pie Photography image of Alfred the Elf

Pumpkin Pie Photography image of Alfred the Elf

I also want to include a poem that references the Pied Piper legend drafted yesterday, December 15, by my twin sister, Caroline Dobson Chavez:

Thoughts on Newton, CT

Yesterday I spied the Pied Piper,
Playing a deluding dirge.
I watched in horror as fear and grief began to quickly merge,
Into an olden memory lost
Of a time gone by
When I was in the first grade
Without a care of why
Oh Piper, yesterday you may have briefly won
A crowd of small ones lost
But there is One whose love out-conquers you,
Who never counts the cost
He holds them now within His arms
And His mercy does outshine,
Any tune that you could create
to cause your pipe to whine
So I awoke today and thought anew,
Of your uninspired trance
I thought of Who is in control
And my heart began to dance
They’ll sing and laugh and play again
Someday with their parents too
They just will have to wait awhile ,
All because of you.
So for the future I hope you’ll stop
And march a separate way
And let all God’s children live and grow
To enjoy all their days.
But if you play and play you must
another mortal tune
Keep in mind they’re not yours to keep,
Because of my Savior’s boon.

At a time like this one in U.S. history when words are difficult to come by, to me, the photo of Alfred the Elf and the poem that my sister wrote really say it all.

Thanksgiving in Sand

Thanks written in sandCare to take a guess about which hashtags were most popular during Thanksgiving 2012?

#Thanksgiving and #turkey, maybe?  Or, what about #Sandy?

I’m not sure about the hashtag answer, but I did read the ABC News report about the Instagram claim that more than 100 photos per second were being uploaded to its site on Thanksgiving Day with the #Thanksgiving hashtag.

What about you?  Did you express your thanks and gratitude this year via social media channels?

This year, rather than via snail mail or email, I sent a Thanksgiving card to family and friends via a Smilebox-enabled Facebook post.

And, what about giving this year?  Have you by chance made a charitable contribution to help those in need during the 2012 Thanksgiving season?

It’s not too late to make a donation to those in the U.S. who have suffered from Hurricane Sandy.  The Charity Navigator organization has provided a list of legitimate charitable organizations aiding Hurricane Sandy victims.

In the spirit of giving and Thanksgiving 2012, I’d like to mention another legitimate charity that is aiding Sandy victims and was recently established by a New Jersey-based musician and former N.C. high school classmate of mine.

Sand Aid is a New Jersey-based charitable organization, established by Rodney Hargis, that’s organizing benefit concerts to raise funds for Sandy victims.  I invite you to join me in contributing to Sand Aid.

Let’s let our fellow Americans in New Jersey know that we recognize that their dreams and homes are more than the “castles made of sand,” that Jimi sang about.  Let’s help them keep their foundations strong.

Passwords Protected?

Password and Username fieldsThis post is part of a 2012 monthly series of MySheCave.com posts on the topic of the U.S. Constitution.

Bob Sullivan’s online article, “Gov’t agencies, colleges demand applicants’ Facebook passwords,” is a quick reminder that questions about the U.S. Constitution and the specific liberties that the Constitution protects continue to be raised in today’s world.

The article, focused on the fact that some universities and employers are now demanding access to individuals’ private social media content, raises questions about whether those demanding organizations may be violating the rights of the individuals involved – rights that some would argue are guaranteed by the Constitution.

For example, a Washington D.C.-lawyer quoted in the article states: “I can’t believe some people think it’s OK to do this.  Maybe it’s OK if you live in a totalitarian regime, but we still have a Constitution to protect us.  It’s not a far leap from reading people’s Facebook posts to reading their email. …As a society, where are we going to draw the line?”

I was personally surprised to learn that my alma mater, The University of North Carolina, recently revised its handbook, adding a provision that requires each athletic team to “identify either a coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitoring the content of their team members’ social networking sites.”

Do you think that employers and universities should be able to require individuals to divulge their user names and private passwords for the social networks to which they belong?  And, if not, which individual right or rights do you think are denied when such policies exist?  Sullivan’s article references the individual right to privacy as well as to the right to free speech.

Turning back to the Constitution, do you know which Article or Amendment provides for an individual’s right to free speech?  The answer is Amendment 1, the First Amendment.  And, what about the right to privacy? Is that right protected by the Constitution?  The author of the online article, “Exploring Constitutional Conflicts,” contends that the Constitution “contains no express right to privacy.”

It seems like there are two sides to the social media coin today.  On one hand, we’ve recently seen social media tools like Twitter aid individuals in reclaiming their rights and defeating oppressive government regimes like Mubarak’s in Egpyt.  On the other hand, in the instances like those referenced in Sullivan’s article, social media technologies seem to be putting individuals’ rights at risk.

When it comes to the question of employees and universities demanding individuals to share their user names and Facebook passwords, which side are you on, and do you think the Constitution addresses the question?

A Second Hand Post

Handwritten Blog Post

Handwritten Blog Post

Note:  This blog post was originally handwritten.

The January 9 and 16, 2012 issue of Newsweek featured an article by Sharon Begley on how to raise your IQ along with “31 Ways to Get Smarter in 2012.” One suggested way to increase your smarts was to write by hand.  The article suggested that handwriting “engages more sections of your brain than typing” and that you can recall ideas more easily after writing them down.The suggestion made me think and wonder:  beyond the obligatory, occasional thank you notes penned on monogrammed stationery or the checks written for specific personal purchases or bills payments, how often do I handwrite in this increasingly digital world?

When considering my history when it comes to handwriting, I still remember the thrill of being allowed to write in cursive form in the third grade during the early ’70s.  I also remember that my father ,who practiced law in the ’70s, had a secretary who knew how to write in shorthand.  And, I remember the fun of writing in “Pig Latin” with early childhood friends.

I remember the excitement of receiving handwritten “love notes” from classmates in middle and junior high school as well as discovering the art of poetry writing.  And, I can’t forget how “exotic” it felt to communicate via handwritten letters with a French Pen Pal during my ninth grade year.  Such a global communication is so commonplace now, as we live in a world with global Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers.

I can recall handwriting my high school valedictory speech, the verbal delivery of which was preserved in a VHS tape, and how could I forget the countless notes hand-drafted during my college courses or those two-hour hand-written college exam essays?

Though I learned to type in high school, my transition from routine handwriting to the online digital world began with a Brother brand word processor in the early ’90s.  I became fully entrenched in online technology and endeavors when I began working as a communications specialist on the former IBM PC Company division’s internal SAP software implementation.  From that point, my online typing overtook my handwriting efforts.

Over time, many of my most treasured keepsakes are hand-written cards, poems and letters from family, friends and loved ones. I own journals and boxes to store the memorable words that carry so much meaning.

What about you?  What have been your most significant personal writings?  How have you maintained or honored those words?  And, how often do you handwrite today?

Maybe you should write your answers to those questions down.  According to the Newsweek article and author Begley, your brain may appreciate your doing so.

What’s in Your Favorites List?

The Sound of Music movie imageMany individuals throughout the world are familiar with the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical, The Sound of Music.

Several of the songs performed in The Sound of Music have become standards, including one of the most popular tunes in the musical titled, “My Favorite Things.”

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens” are instantly recognizable lyrics that have delighted countless fans throughout the years — children and adults alike.

For example, have you ever listened to John Coltrane’s near fourteen-minute version of “My Favorite Things” on his album of the same name?  In 1961, having been inspired by the original “My Favorite Things,” Coltrane released his version of the song, which became a jazz classic.

Ironically, a song with lyrics about one individual’s list of favorite things is likely now listed on thousands of individuals’ lists of favorite things.

It’s refreshing when individuals can clearly and easily define those things that they believe in and hold most dear.

Who could forget the famous “I Believe” speech that Kevin Costner made while playing character Crash Davis in the 1998 film Bull Durham?   As Susan Sarandon as Annie in the movie replied, “Oh, my!

Knowing your likes and dislikes is a key exercise for reinforcing self and individualism.  However, it’s important to be aware that announcing your preferences to the world can, by default, associate or segment you into a larger group of individuals who share your preferences.

Think about the last time that you “Liked” an organization’s Facebook Fan page.  Did you happen to notice new advertisements promoting content similar to that organization’s mission and services popping up in the ad section of your Facebook Profile page in the following days?  Without doubt, marketers today are focused on your preferences and the groups to which you belong.

So, the next time you publicly list your favorite things, you may want to ask yourself, “Who else likes these same things?” and “Which groups am I now a member of?”

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