Arrival at Heathrow

I must admit, nine hours of attempted sleep on an airplane tends to dampen one’s excitement about travel. But the ride was uneventful and the flight was light enough that most of us had two or more seats to rest on. Don’t think I’ve ever been on a flight that provided breakfast and dinner, three drink runs, AND blankets, pillows and headphones that they encourage you to keep.

Heathrow is a little wild an really, really dirty. Trash is all over the floor. Except in the bathroom, which is pristine. The immigration line was a mile long and I’ve learned a valuable travel tip: the less information you volunteer about your trip, the better your experience will be with the immigration officer. He asked everything but the color of my toenails: “Yes, Future of Web Design is a real conference. Yes I can prove it. Yes I’m married. No, I’m staying with Nadina because she’s an old friend, not because I’m having an affair.”

Nadina said to buy an oyster card and take the tube to Knightsbridge. Except there’s no one at the ticket booth(?)!

Taking off for London

At the Houston airport, waiting to board the flight to Heathrow. With the monthlong saga of the board report and meeting over, I am finally allowing myself to feel some excitement about the trip. One track mind, that’s me.

Traffic here and in Shreveport is as light as I’ve seen in a long time. On the flight from Shreveport, it was me and about ten other guys. We all had to sit in the back because there was not enough luggage to balance the plane’s weight. The FEMALE captain joked they probably wouldn’t have had that problem if 11 women had been on the flight instead.

No travel problems at all. Just that peaceful, easy feeling.

I just bought two travel guides: First was Frommer’s guide to London because it had a fold-out map. Then I ran across Rick Steve’s London 2008. I’ve been a Ricknik since my early twenties, when I’d watch his show and dream about being a world traveler. His guides are for folks who want to immerse themselves in the culture. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time here, so the purchase was largely symbolic.

Already overwhelmed, but looking forward to the new experiences.

Fast times at WordCamp Dallas

My wife took this picture. Does that make it a three-way?
This is what happens when you ask to take a picture with the magnificent Lorelle

I know just enough code to be dangerous, and my wife has never even heard of WordPress. So it was with equal amounts of faith and trepidation that we loaded up the truck last weekend and moseyed over to Dallas for WordCamp 2008.

Now, I’m a communicator and my wife is an educator. Both geeks in our chosen fields. But how would we hold up in a room of 150 pro bloggers? Between talk of php, sql, seo and “link love” would we understand anything being said? Did we even want to?

My descent into social media madness will likely be detailed in another post. For now, the relevant fact is that I’m attempting to build the elusive social media newsroom for the federal organization with which I work. I chose WordPress as my platform because it’s a content management system that regular folks can figure out. It’s also Web 2.0 saavy, with a plug-in and widget for every flavor, nationality and orientation of social media. I’m a big fan of it, which brings me back to WordCamp.

I’ve been jonesing for professional development in social media in the worst way. But federal travel cutbacks, the insane cost of conferences these days, and the rural location of my hometown has limited my training to webinars. Then I subscribed to the WordPress podcast a few weeks ago. Hosts Charles Stricklin and Jonathan Bailey were talking about WordCamp Dallas. Dallas?! Four hours away. I can do that! Just 20 bucks? You’re kidding me. A T-shirt and lunches too? Then the kicker: Charles lives an hour north of me and Jonathan a few hours south, in the Big Easy. The stars were aligned. I had to go.

Continue reading Fast times at WordCamp Dallas

Thanks for the Legacy

Last week, I spoke to a local historic preservation group about how to use social media to advocate preservation causes. Considering the vast majority of the audience were retired people, the doubtful expressions were expected. There was one face, however, that was encouraging and attentive.

But then again, attention to the needs of preservation and people has always been Saidee Newell’s trademark.

Although I didn’t know “Ms. Saidee” all that well, the loss I felt on hearing of her death Easter Sunday was very real. It’s the same loss being felt by preservation folk all around the world.

Saidee was good at figuring out people’s talents and calling on them when a need arose. It’s how she got so much done, and why she had such a wide circle of friends.

Occasionally, she would call on me to promote some cause or another. I’d jokingly ask her what “hat” she was wearing at the time. The world may never know how many boards, memberships, consultancies, etc., she was actively involved in. One thing you could be sure of is that she was guarding cultural heritage in some form.

As a fellow native on Saidee’s hometown, Natchitoches, La., I wonder if an obsession with protecting heritage is hardwired into our DNA. There’s so much to be proud of. And still so much to do. She knew that. She may not have heard of social media before my presentation but, judging from her questions afterward, her mind was clicking on its potential to get younger generations involved in preservation.

So in launching a site featuring heritage journalism, our first blog post dedicates this endeavor to Saidee’s legacy–a legacy that is still tangible because of her efforts. And one we hope to continue.

PR + Web 2.0 + Teaching equals one real mashup

In January, I took over as an adjunct instructor in the capstone “Campaigns” course for PR majors at the local university. Three hours, one night a week. Piece of cake.

After all, I had 15 years in the PR practice since graduating from that same university with a journalism degree. Lots of experiences to pass on to these pliable young minds. My plan: make the class exciting with a cool social media spin. I’d be brilliant (thumbs in suspenders). It’d be fun.

Who could have known the extent to which a social media focus would challenge the traditional PR pedagogy. When I talked to faculty, the conversation took on a “oh how cute” sheen. The students scarcely had a conception of what “social media” was, and OMG, you mean we have to, like, APPLY it in REAL LIFE PR?!!! After the first two classes, I would have settled for Second Life.

We all persevered, hopeful that the team-based nature of the class would inspire the ol’ Higher Order Thinking Skills to kick in. Then I started seeing it–those moments when a face would light up, expression intent on my stumbling monologue. A raised hand. An honest-to-god social media “connection.” And one-by-one, I’ve witnessed those moments on each face.

But then I look at them and know the field they are going into is much different than the one I faced in the mid-1990s, back when a lot of the internet was still text-based. In the last couple of years, the learning curve has steepened within a rapidly changing spectrum.

Continue reading PR + Web 2.0 + Teaching equals one real mashup