Tag Archives: social media

Book Review: The Impact Equation

The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise? Book Cover The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?
Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Chris Brogan is a superstar in the social media world, and engagement with audiences is where he holds most sway. Written with Julien Smith( who I adore for "The Flinch"), “The Impact Equation” is a book focused almost solely on this topic. Centered around the equation “Impact = C × (R + E + A + T + E)”, Brogan and Smith detail foundational principles of influence online. Here’s the quote that hooked me:

“This book is an opportunity that comes from a moment in time. As you read it, you will discover that some of it is relevant to you and some of it isn’t. That’s okay. If you’re in a small town in central Louisiana, your needs will be different from those of someone in New York City. If you’re widely connected, you will have a vastly different experience from that of someone who is just starting out. This is expected. So judge from your surroundings . Figure out what parts of this opportunity work for you. Picture it like a game, and figure out the easiest, most effective moves to make. Do those first, and see what the results are. If you fail, no big deal. Keep trying.”

Having started my career in central Louisiana, and continued it in Philadelphia and now Miami Beach, I can say there is no better advice for the social media practitioner. This book is a philosophical complement to Kawasaki’s “Art of Social Media,” and Michael Hyatt’s “Platform” for building online influence.

Here are my Kindle notes from reading this book. My keyword takeaways, if you will:

  • Add value
  • Be human
  • Distill your message
  • Create wonder
  • Be weird
  • Pass it on

A primer for expanding your heritage circles on Google Plus

When it first opened as an invite-only social space, Google Plus made a splash, to the tune of an estimated 10 million users. As an early invitee, I was a fan, seeing great potential in its particular abilities to serve the needs of the heritage crowd online. In the time since it’s launched, Google Plus has certainly suffered some missteps. However, if you’re looking to connect with the right folks in real time while enhancing your SEO profile (useful for place-based heritage orgs) with Google, this is still a platform to consider.

G+circles teaserOne of the things that’s been missing in social networking is an elegant and simple way to hit the right audiences with your content. That’s left lots of people creating multiple accounts, reining in their opinions, or feeling like they’re spamming others who don’t share their interests. Twitter lists get you halfway in that they can readily be monitored and shared publicly. Facebook groups allow collaboration, but are fairly closed. Google hits a middle mark with Circles, which allows you to categorize other Plus users into one or more areas, and then post content to the appropriate group(s) of folks. Like Twitter you can follow and categorize people without them being obligated to follow you back, unlike the Facebook button and friending scheme.

If you’re uncertain about who you might talk to when you get to Google Plus, I have a list below of the public profiles of a few folks in my “Heritage Friends” circle. These folks are cultural heritage enthusiasts or professionals. This is a “charter” list of profile links for the earliest adopters, but I’ll break it down further as more people in the discrete areas of interest sign up.

  1. Jim Wald, historic preservationist at Hamphire College
  2. Lynne Goldstein, Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State and an archaeologist
  3. Kate Theimer, of ArchivesNext
  4. Eric Kansa, of OpenContext
  5. Sabra Smith, of My Own Time Machine blog
  6. Nancie Ravenel, conservator at Shelburne Museum
  7. Daniel Cull, conservator at Musical Instrument Museum
  8. Vincent Brown, blogger & media producer at Talking Pyramids
  9. Jennifer Souers Chevraux, museum consultant at Illumine Creative Solutions
  10. Susan Hazan, The Israel Museum
  11. Richard Salmon, conservation engineer
  12. Graeme Daley, historic preservation advocate
  13. Simone Gianolio, archaeologist
  14. Mike Gushard, architectural historian
  15. Nelson Knight, Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program Coordinator
  16. Paul Allen, Ancestry.com founder
  17. Paige Roberts, public historian, archivist and urban planner
  18. Fran Ellsworth of the FamilySearch Community team
  19. Amanda French, Center for History and New Media
  20. Bernie Frischer, University of California
  21. Nicolas Laracuente, archaeologist
  22. Iain Davidson, archaeologist
  23. Ethan Watrall, Michigan State University
  24. MT Bale, archaeologist
  25. Thomas Palmer, historic preservationist
  26. Ian Hadden, genealogist
  27. Jennifer Palmer, field archaeologist
  28. Lisa Louise Cooke, podcaster and producer of Genealogy Gems

I have about 100 people in my heritage friends circle. While you’re checking these folks out you should check out their circles as well, which are sure to be expanding. You’re likely to run into someone who shares your interests. If you’re a heritage advocate, please feel free to share your profile link in the comments. And feel free to connect with me there as well. My profile url (with my shared heritage circle) is https://plus.google.com/+JeffGuin/posts.

I think there is great potential to use the Google Plus Hangouts feature for an informal feedback version of the podcast to talk about applying the principles explained by the folks we interview here. Google is now allowing folks to stream hangouts-on-air to their YouTube pages as well, which establishes the feature’s relevance beyond simple social networking capability. Let me know if you’re interested in taking part.

Other features for heritage content discovery is the hashtag exploration feature. For example, you can search for “archaeology” and end up with an aggregation of all the latest results in a link (and page) that looks like this: https://plus.google.com/explore/Archaeology. Just substitute with any word representing your area of interest! Between “Explore” and “Circles” you can build a pretty effective blogger dashboard for social media outreach. How do you think Google Plus stacks up against other social networking tools?

Related tool:

Teaser image from Flickr

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The Earth Pyramid: Giving the world a chance to become a part of history

By Steve Ward

The Earth Pyramid project was started nearly three years ago with the aim of creating a monument that will get the world looking at the future of our planet and create a platform for discussing the many global issues this generation will be facing. This new pyramid will hold contributions from every government, indigenous peoples and all the world’s children in designated chambers within the structure. Once gathered, these contributions will be sealed within the pyramid for 1,000 years to be opened by people in the next millennium.

Although ambitious, the venture has gained the support of Nobel peace laureates Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu and President José Manuel Ramos-Horta as well as having 25 governments interested in participating.

Creating a new pyramid (at 50m high) is obviously a lofty goal but French architect and pyramid expert Jean Pierre Houdin has lent his support and advice to the project and the whole venture is starting to gather support from leading experts within the construction industry. Building the pyramid using a mixture of ancient and new technology will make for a fascinating build and go some way to answering the many questions that still exist regarding how the great pyramids were built.

The location of the pyramid will be decided by a global vote with one school from every country participating. This will not only give children from around the world a chance to connect, it will offer a chance to learn about the world’s nations and the issues they are facing.  This approach to deciding its location will also mean that the finished pyramid will be constructed in a country where it can do some good with regards to raising awareness of its pressing issues and generating funds to tackle them.

With so many different aspects to the Earth Pyramid it was decided that social media would be the way to get projects goals across and Bradford University’s SCHIM department has been working on a series of videos about the pyramid project with some leading experts participating in them. These videos are now on the project’s YouTube channel and more will be added to as the venture progresses. Twitter and Facebook are currently being used to keep followers of the project informed of new developments and with plans to develop a “Virtual Pyramid “ where anyone can have their thoughts recorded in a digital format (for eventual storage within the pyramid) social media will pay a big part in the projects progression.

The Earth Pyramid now needs to gather support from a wider audience and to do this we need people to start discussing the venture and it’s potential. The website has all the social media details.

Alltop.com adds Voices of the Past to its Social Media Page. Sweet!

For a while now I’ve used Alltop to keep up with the thought leadership in the online world. I never imagined that Voices of the Past would be added to it.

But there we are! On the Social Media page with folks like Mashable, Chris Brogan, Liz Strauss and a host of other greats. That alone is incredibly awesome, but check out the neat badges they give you when you get picked 😉

Since this is a resource I routinely use, and believe you can benefit from as well, I’ve added a widget in the Voices of the Past sidebar where you can view the latest headlines from other social media blogs they feature.

If you aren’t familiar with Alltop, it’s an online directory that aggregates the latest headlines from top blogs and organizes them topically. You get all the news on each topic, at-a-glance, without having to browse individually to each website. It’s best described as a digital magazine rack of the Internet. You can then hover over the title of a post to read the first sentences and click to visit the blog. You can even create your own personal page with blogs that you pick.

It was founded by Guy Kawasaki who is best known as the original chief evangelist at Apple. Guy is a venture capitalist, and well-known author. In fact, I recently read (and am currently re-reading) his latest book “Enchantment” and highly recommend it for folks who want to create a presence people will remember, online and off.

THANK YOU to the folks at Alltop for giving major props to the heritage field by choosing Voices of the Past for their social media page. The heritage crowd is accomplishing incredibly creative things online these days. So proud to be an annalist for that legacy.


Results of our survey on how heritage professionals use the web

At the end of 2009, we opened up a survey about social media usage among professionals in the heritage fields. The purpose of this is to see where folks are in social media, learn how to reach them and see where they want to go.

Basic Demographics

326 people responded from all over the globe. Most participants came from the United States (50.1 percent) and Europe (40 percent). The ages averaged evenly between 20-65 years of age.


Location Demographics


38.6%            22-35

34.6%            36-50

20.8%           51-65

3%                  18-21

2.4%              over 60

<1%               No response

Heritage-related occupation:

39.2%          Archeologist

7%                 Conservator

5.2%             Heritage Communicator

5.2%             Enthusiast

4.6%             Educator

2.4%             Landscape Architect

2.4%             Architect

1.5%             Caretaker

<1%              Scientist

<1%              Engineer

30.3%          Other

<1%              No response

Breakdown by Profession


The majority of the archeologists who participated lived in Europe and were in the 22-35 year-old age bracket. They mainly used the Internet for email and research, with about half of them using the Internet for networking and casual browsing. Most of the participants considered themselves “joiners” in social media, with about 20 percent of them creating content. They saw social media helping increase awareness of important issues and topics and to help with networking. They were least interested in the project journaling aspect of social media. Among what they would like to learn in regard to social media, they were most interested in optimizing heritage content for the web and tracking multiple sources of online content.


79.6%         Europe

3.9%           US Southwest

3.9%           US Northwest

3.1%           North America (Not in the US)

2.3%           US Southeast

2.3%           US Northeast

2.3%           US Midwest

1.5%           Australia

<1%            Africa


53.9%         22-35

27.3%         36-50

12.5%         51-65

5.4%           18-21

<1%             over 65

Primary Internet Use:

89%             Email

72.6%          Research

54.6%          Networking

45.3%          Casual Browsing

38.2%          News

7%                Web Development

Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

40.6%          Joiner

26.5%          Spectator

19.5%          Creator

7%                Collector

2.3%            Critic

2.3%            Inactive

1.5%            No Response

Colleagues’ Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

32.8%         Joiners

28.1%         Spectators

7%               Critics

5.4%           Creators

5.4%           Collectors

3.1%           Inactive

16.4%         Unsure

1.5%           No Response

Access heritage-related news:

51.5%       Online News Feed

11.7%       Google

8.5%        Newspaper

4.6%        Television

4.6%        RSS Feed

16.4%      Other

2.3%        No Response

How Social Media Can Help Achieve Professional Goals:

3.3            Increasing Awareness of Important Issues/Topics

3.4            Networking

3.8            Advance Research

4.4            Career Opportunities

4.6            Promote Organization

4.9            Easy Web Publishing

5.6            Inexpensive or Free Tools

6.0            Project Journaling

Beneficial Social Media Training

The most prominent training was learning how to optimize heritage content for the web, followed by managing and tracking multiple sources for online content. Archeologists were least interested in learning how to use social media or manage their online reputation.
The most prominent training was learning how to optimize heritage content for the web, followed by managing and tracking multiple sources for online content. Archeologists were least interested in learning how to use social media or manage their online reputation.


The majority of architects who participated were from the northwest United States and were in the 51-65 age bracket. They mainly used the Internet for email and to read the news. Many of the architects participate with social media as spectators, but 25 percent create content and join the conversation. They see social media as a way to advance research and increase awareness of important issues/topics. They see the most beneficial social media training to be optimizing heritage content for the web.


37.5%       US Northwest

25%           US Midwest

12.5%        US Southeast

12.5%        US Northeast

12.5%        North America (Not in the US)


50%             51-65

25%             36-50

12.5%          18-21

12.5%          22-35

Primary Internet Use:

87.5%       Email

75%           News

62.5%       Casual Browsing

62.5%       Networking

62.5%       Research

Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

37.5%      Spectator

25%          Creator

25%          Joiner

12.5%       Inactive

Colleagues’ Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

37.5%       Joiners

25%           Critics

12.5%        Spectators

25%           Unsure

Access Heritage-Related News:

37.5%           Online News

12.5%           Television

375%            Other

12.5%           No Response

How Social Media Can Help Achieve Professional Goals:

2.6            Advance Research

3.0            Increasing Awareness of Important Issues/Topics

3.4            Networking

3.7            Promote Organization

5.0            Career Opportunities

5.6            Easy Publishing to the Web

6.0            Project Journaling

6.7            Inexpensive or Free Tools

Beneficial Social Media Training

75%                How to Optimize Heritage Content for the Web

37.5%            Producing Heritage Videos for Online Sharing

37.5%            Introduction to Social Media

37.5%            How to Create a Community Around Your Content

37.5%            Best Practices in Online Photo Sharing

12.5%            Managing and Tracking Multiple Sources of Online Content


The majority of the conservators came from the northeast United States and were in the 36-50 age bracket. They primarily use the Internet for email, but more than half of the participants research on the Internet. More than half of the conservators consider themselves to be a creator of social media content. The conservators think social media is best used to help them increase the awareness of important issues/topics and to aid with networking. They are most interested in training that helps them optimize heritage content for the web, and use open access and Creative Commons to advance research.


21.7%            US Northeast

17.3%            US Southwest

13%                Australia

8.6%              US Northwest

8.6%              US Midwest

8.6%              North America (Not in the US)

8.6%              Europe

8.6%              Asia

4.3%              US Southeast


39.1%            36-50

34.7%           22.35

26%               51-65

Primary Internet Use:

78.2%           Email

56.5%           Research

39.1%           News

39.1%           Networking

30.4%          Casual Browsing

8.6%            Web Development

Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

52.1%           Creator

13%               Joiner

8.6%             Spectator

4.3%             Collector

13%               Inactive

8.6%             No Response

Colleagues’ Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

39.1%          Spectators

17.3%          Creators

13%              Joiners

4.3%            Collectors

8.6%            Inactive

8.6%            Unsure

8.6%            No Response

Access Heritage-Related News:

30.4%          RSS Feed

26%              Online News Site

13%              Google

4.3%            Television

17.3%          Other

8.6%            No Response

How Social Media Can Help Achieve Professional Goals:

2.8            Increasing Awareness of Important Issues/Topics

3.2            Networking

3.5            Advance Research

4.1            Promote Organization

4.3            Easy Publishing to the Web

5.7            Career Opportunities

5.9            Inexpensive or Free Tools

6.5            Project Journaling

Beneficial Social Media Training:

39.1%          How to Use Open Access and Creative Commons to Advance Research

39.1%          How to Optimize Heritage Content for the Web

34.7%          Best Practices in Online Photo Sharing

30.4%         Producing Heritage Videos for Online Sharing

30.4%         How to Create a Community Around Your Content

26%             Managing and Tracking Multiple Sources of Online Content

13%             Introduction to Social Media

13%             Blogging Research Projects


The majority of enthusiasts who participated live in the northwest United States and are in the 36-50 age bracket. They primarily use the Internet for email, and more than half of them use it to access the news. They consider themselves to  be joiners in social media, but about 30 percent of the enthusiasts are content creators. They find social media to be best adventitious for networking, increasing awareness and advancing research. The enthusiasts are most interested in learning how to optimize heritage content for the web.


23.5%         US Northwest

17.6%         US Southeast

11.7%          US Southwest

11.7%          US Northeast

11.7%          North America (Not in the US)

11.7%          Europe

5.8%           South America

5.8%           Australia


29.4%          36-50

23.5%          over 65

23.5%          22-35

17.6%          51-65

5.8%            18-21

Primary Internet Use:

82.3%          Email

58.8%          News

47%              Research

47%              Networking

47%              Casual Browsing

11.7%           Web Development

Approximate Social Media Level Participation:

35.2%          Joiner

29.4%          Creator

17.6%          Spectator

11.7%          Collector

5.8%           Inactive

Colleagues’ Approximate Social Media Level Participation:

35.2%          Joiners

23.5%          Spectators

5.8%            Creators

5.8%            Critics

5.8%            Inactive

17.6%          Unsure

5.8%            No Response

Access Heritage-Related News:

35.2%           Online News Site

11.7%            Newspaper

23.5%           RSS Feed

29.4%           Other

How Social Media Can Achieve Professional Goals:

3.2            Networking

3.5            Increasing Awareness of Important Issues/Topics

3.6            Advance Research

4.0            Promote Organization

4.7            Easy Publishing to the Web

5.1            Inexpensive or Free Tools

5.7            Project Journaling

6.2            Career Opportunities

Beneficial Social Media Training:

The majority of enthusiasts were interested in learning how to optimize heritage content for the web. They were the least interested in learning about reputation management and producing heritage videos for online sharing.
The majority of enthusiasts were interested in learning how to optimize heritage content for the web. They were the least interested in learning about reputation management and producing heritage videos for online sharing.


The majority of caretakers are from Europe r the northeast United States and are in th 36-50 age bracket. They primarily use the Internet for email, research and networking. They consider themselves to be joiners or spectators of social media. They consider the most beneficial training to be in learning to manage and track multiple sources of online content.


40%            Europe

40%            US Northeast

20%            US Southwest


80%            36-50

20%            22-35

Primary Internet Use:

100%            Email

80%              Research

80%              Networking

60%              News

60%              Casual Browsing

40%              Web Development

Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

40%            Joiner

40%            Spectator

20%            Creator

Colleagues’ Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

40%            Joiner

40%            Spectator

20%            Creator

Access Heritage-Related News:

40%            Online News Site

40%            RSS Feed

20%            Google

How Social Media Can Help Achieve Professional Goals:

2.0            Increase Awareness of Important Issues

3.5            Networking

4.0            Advance Research

4.2            Promote Organization

5.0            Career Opportunities

5.0            Easy Publishing to the Web

5.2            Inexpensive or Free Tools

7.0            Project Journaling

Beneficial Training

40%            Managing and Tracking Multiple Sources of Online Content

20%            How to Create a Community Around Your Content

20%            How to Optimize Heritage Content for the Web

20%            Producing Heritage Videos for Online Sharing

20%            Blogging Research Projects

20%            Best Practices in Online Photo Sharing

Heritage Communicators

The majority of heritage communicators that participated are from the northwest United States and Europe, and about half of them are in the 22-35 year-old age bracket. They primarily use the Internet to access their email, but they also use it for research and networking. More than 30 percent of the heritage communicators consider themselves to be social media creators, and many see themselves as joiners and spectators. They see social media as a way to increase awareness of important issues/topics and a means to promote their organizations. They are most interested in learning how to create a community around their content and learning to optimize heritage content for the web.


35.2%          US Northwestern State University

35.2%          Europe

11.7%           North America (not in the US)

5.8%            US Southwest

5.8%            US Southeast

5.8%            US Midwest


41.1%            22-35

35.2%            51-65

23.5%            35-50

Primary Internet Use:

94.1%       Email

64.7%       Research

47%           Networking

35%           News

29.4%        Casual Browsing

17.6%        Web Development

Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

35.2%            Creator

29.4%            Joiner

23.5%            Spectator

5.8%              Critic

5.8%              Collector

Colleagues’ Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

41.1%            Spectators

35.2%           Joiners

11.7%            Inactive

5.8%             Creators

5.8%             Critics

Access Heritage-Related News:

29.4%            Online News Site

23.5%            RSS Feed

17.6%            Google

5.8%              Newspaper

23.5%            Other

How Social Media Can Help Achieve Professional Goals:

2.8            Increasing Awareness of Important Issues/Topics

3.1            Promote Organization

3.9            Networking

4.2            Advance Research

4.8            Easy Publishing to the Web

4.9            Inexpensive or free tools

6.1            Career Opportunities

6.3            Project Journaling

Most Beneficial Social Media Training:

Heritage Communicators are most interested in learning to create a community around their content, and they are least interested in learning to blog research projects, introduction to social media and reputation management.
Heritage Communicators are most interested in learning to create a community around their content, and they are least interested in learning to blog research projects, introduction to social media and reputation management.

Landscape Architect

Most of the participating landscape architects came from parts of North America not in the United States and were in the 51-65 year-old age bracket. They primarily use the Internet for research and email, and they consider themselves to be social media joiners. They see social media as a way to network and increase awareness of important issues or topics. They are most interested in learning how to manage and track multiple sources of online content, how to use open access and Creative Commons, and how to create a community around their content.


50%            North America (Not in the US)

25%            US Northeast

12.5%         US Southwest

12.5%         US Northwest


75%            51-65

12.5%         22-35

12.5%         36-50

Primary Internet Use:

100%         Research

100%         Email

50%           Networking

37%           Casual Browsing

25%           News

Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

50%            Joiner

25%            Collector

12.5%         Spectator

12.5%         Critic

Colleagues’ Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

50%            Joiners

25%            Spectators

25%            Unsure

Access Heritage-Related News:

50%               Google

25%               Television

12.5%            Online News Site

12.5%            RSS Feed

How Social Media Can Help Achieve Professional Goals:

2.0            Networking

2.9            Increasing Awareness of Important Issues/Topics

3.4            Promote Organization

4.2            Advance Research

5.5            Inexpensive or Free Tools

5.6            Easy Publishing to the Web

5.8            Career Opportunities

6.6            Project Journaling

Beneficial Social Media Training

The majority of architects are interested in training to help them optimize their heritage content for the web.
The majority of landscape architects are interested in learning to manage and track multiple sources of online content, how to use open access and Creative Commons, and how to create a community around their content. They are least interested in learning to blog research projects, introduction to social media and reputation management.


The engineers who participated were from the northeast and midwest United States and were in the 22-50 age brackets. They use the Internet for email, gather news and research. They primarily consider themselves joiners to social media. They think social media can help advance research and aide with networking. They are interested in learning about optimizing heritage content for the web, reputation management and blogging research projects.


50%            US Northeast

50%            US Midwest


50%            22-35

50%            36-50

Primary Internet Use:

50%            Email

50%            News

50%            Research

Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

50%            Joiner

50%            No Response

Colleagues’ Social Media Participation Level:

50%            Spectators

50%            No Response

Access Heritage-Related News:

50%            Other

50%            No Response

How Social Media Can Help Achieve Professional Goals:

1.0            Advance Research

2.0            Networking

3.0            Increasing Awareness of Important Issues/Topics

4.0            Promote Organization

5.0            Career Opportunities

6.0            Inexpensive or Free Tools

7.0            Project Journaling

8.0            Easy Publishing to the Web

Beneficial Social Media Training:

50%            How to Optimize Heritage Content for the Web

50%            Reputation Management

50%            Blogging Research Projects


The scientists that participated are from the southeast and northwest United states and are in the 18-21 and the 51-65 age bracket. They primarily use the Internet for email and research. They consider themselves to be joiners to social media. They think social media can help them network and advance research. They are most interested in learning a basic introduction to social media.


50%            US Southeast

50%            US Northwest


50%            18-21

50%            51-65

Primary Internet Use:

100%            Email

100%            Research

50%              Casual Browsing

50%              News

Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

50%            Joiner

50%            Inactive

Colleagues’ Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

50%            Joiners

50%            Spectators

Access Heritage-Related News:

100%            Online News Site

How Social Media Can Help Achieve Professional Goals:

1.0            Networking

2.0            Advance Research

3.0            Increasing Awareness of Important Issues

4.0            Inexpensive or Free Tools

5.0            Project Journaling

6.0            Easy Publishing to the Web

7.0            Promote Organization

8.0            Career Opportunities

Beneficial Social Media Training:

100%            Introduction to Social Media

50%            How to Optimize Heritage Content for the Web

50%            Managing and Tracking Multiple Sources of Online Content


The educators primarily are from the southeast United States and Europe, and are in the 36-50 age bracket. They primarily use the Internet for email and research. The majority of educators are social media spectators, but about 20 percent join the conversations and 20 percent create the content. They think social media can hep increase awareness of important issues and aide in networking. They are most interested in learning how to optimize heritage content for the web and learn to blog research projects.


20%            US Southeast

20%            Europe

13.3%         US Southwest

13.3%         US Northwest

13.3%         US Northeast

6.6%           US Midwest

6.6%           North America (Not in the US)

6.6%           Australia

Age Range:

53.3%            36-50

26.6%            51-65

13.3%            22-35

6.6%              over 65

Primary Internet Use:

93.3%            Email

86.6%            Research

40%               Networking

40%               News

26.6%            Casual Browsing

6.6%              Web development

Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

40%           Spectator

20%           Joiner

20%           Creator

13.3%        Collector

6.6%          Inactive

Colleagues’ Approximate Social Media Participation Level:

40%             Spectators

33.3%          Joiners

13.3%          Inactive

6.6%            Creators

6.6%            Unsure

Access Heritage-Related News:

40%            Online News Site

20%            Google

6.6%           Newspaper

6.6%           RSS Feed

26.6%         Other

How Social Media Can Help Achieve Professional Goals:

2.3            Increase awareness of important issues/topics

2.6            Networking

3.5            Promote Organization

4.5            Advance Research

5.1            Easy publishing to the web

5.2            Career Opportunities

5.5            Inexpensive or free tools

7.3            Project Journaling

Beneficial Social Media Training:

Educators are mostly interested in learning how to optimize heritage content for the web and how to blog research projects. They are least interested in learning reputation management and a basic introduction to social media.
Educators are mostly interested in learning how to optimize heritage content for the web and how to blog research projects. They are least interested in learning reputation management and a basic introduction to social media.

Use online photosharing to visually tell the story of heritage resources

It has been said by many that photos say a thousand words. But now, thanks to photo sharing sites, photography has the power to unite people across cultures and throughout time.

There are many different photo sharing sites out there, such as Photobucket, SmugMug, dotPhoto and Webshots. All of which have individual aspects to them that aid in your organization’s ability to share and express ideas. But for the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on the popular site, Flickr.


Flickr is an image-hosting and video-hosting website, web services suite, and online community created by Ludicorp and later acquired by Yahoo!. Hosting more than four billion images, Flickr is ideal for you to begin your photo-based heritage-related conversation.

Flickr enables you to share your photo’s story in many ways such as:

  • Title: Your photo’s title is important. It tells readers immediately what your photo is about. Did you host an event or do you want to address an important heritage topic?
  • Captions: Titles are wonderful, but this is where you get to begin the conversation. Captions can be as simple as identify who or what is in your photo to asking those difficult questions.
  • Add people to your photos: Just like you would “tag” your friends in your Facebook pictures, here you can “add” them. (In Flickr, tag means a little something different that we will address in a minute). Adding your friends to photos lets them know they are in them and helps you organize your photos.
  • Tags: This is how people FIND your photos. You can add a title and caption, but the conversation can’t happen if folks can’t find you. Tags can be as specific or as general as you would like, but don’t over tag! You want to make sure everything you tag is relevant.
  • Favorites: This helps you remember photos you like throughout Flickr. While you are searching and participating in photo-based conversations, you can “favorite” a photo to save for later. You can access your favorite photos from your photo stream (and other’s can access YOUR photos that they “favorited” from theirs too!!)
  • Sets or Collections: This works much like categories in a blog. This is your table of contents and helps you organize your photos in a way you and others can find them. The way it works is sets fit into collections. So let’s say you take photos at three events. Each event would have its own set holding the select photos from that specific event. Then you can put all three sets into a collection. Perhaps the collection is titled “events” and so all of your event sets would go there. This just helps viewers find photos they want to see instead of digging through all of your pictures.

Picture 1

Now adding and sharing your photos can be as simple or complex as you would like. You can upload photos using your phone, through email, from your web browser or from Flickr’s desktop app. You just need to decide what is best for you and your organization.

Picture 2

Now once you have done all this, you can participate with everyone on Flickr through groups and galleries and MORE! It is about finding where you want your heritage organization’s voice to be heard. Perhaps you want to participate in The Commons and explore snapshots through time with organizations like the Smithsonian and Cornell University.

Picture 3

Or perhaps you want to be more place-based. You want to work with individuals around you and share your photos. With Flickr Places, you can look at your photos on Flickr maps and view your area.

Or you want to take it a step farther and take your place-based photos and compare the old with the new like the Flickr group Looking into the Past. Here, folks take old pictures and “merge” them with photos of what the places look like now to show the contrast and growth and history.

Picture 4

Or maybe you want to take it one step farther and add animation to your pictures. Like Flickr user The Surveyor, you want to take the comparison one step farther.

When you are on Flickr, there is a WORLD for you to explore. But before you do it, you need to get your camera out, dig through old photos and get them up there. Because the conversation begins with you!

Have fun and stay tuned to hear how other organizations are using Flickr!

Meet the Blogger: Lynne Thomas of “Confessions of a Curator”

Lynne Thomas is the Head of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University, a teaching and research collection with a special emphasis on American popular culture materials from the 19th and 20th centuries. At Confessions of a Curator, she blogs about collections and the social web. She is the co-author with Beth M. Whittaker of Special Collections 2.0, which examines Web 2.0 tech for cultural heritage collections, from Libraries Unlimited.

How was Confessions of a Curator “born”?

I launched the blog in August 2007 as an attempt to do departmental outreach and promotion. I wanted an easily updatable place to post announcements that didn’t require re-coding our website by hand. I had seen some other examples of library blogging, and thought I’d give it a go.

In one post, you ask your readers about your blog’s role in the online world. What do you feel that is and how do you feel you communicate with your audience?

kidlitconfsmallMy blog’s role in the online world has shifted over time as I’ve gotten more comfortable with the format. It originally began as a way to promote the department and occasionally share links of interest with our patrons. After a year or so, I realized that I was more interested in sharing my thoughts about the profession than focusing solely on our collections (I’m a bit of a process geek).  My readership reflected that interest: the bulk of my readers turned out to be other special collections professionals, rather than patrons who might use our department. I renamed the blog “Confessions of A Curator” and made it more about me as a library professional than about the department that I’m in charge of.

That post asking about my role in the online world comes up about annually, as I tend to wonder periodically if it’s worth continuing the blog, given that the bulk of my readers tend to be passive consumers of the blog through aggregators and feeds rather than active commenters on the blog itself. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; the blog still fulfills an important function by sifting through the information wave and picking and choosing things worth reading for folks in my field. My most popular posts tend to be my linkdumps and my write-ups of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section Preconference.

I’ve come to think of the blog as a clearinghouse of links related to my job and the profession, along with some commentary and the occasional departmental announcement, all of which add up to a snapshot of being a special collections curator in a non-ARL library.

It’s easy to think of rare books and special collections work as some kind of mystical calling if you don’t know much about it. I’m trying to de-mystify our profession both as a recruiting tool for new professionals and as a way to explain to the public what we do, while using the blog as a way to encourage myself to stay active and connected to other professionals in the field.

Collections professionals sometimes have the reputation of being more focused on protecting objects than communicating their significance. Yet they seem to be among social media’s most passionate adherents among the  heritage professions. Do you think that’s true, and what makes social media  so appealing for this group?

That reputation of special collections professionals being the “dragons guarding their hordes” is something that I truly wish would die a horrible death. The bulk of professionals in our field are service-oriented librarians and archivists who firmly believe in connecting people to our materials as a way to keep them relevant and useful (and funded!). Social media tends to be appealing for us as a group because it’s an easily maintained, inexpensive tool to promote our collections, our libraries and our work, and to reach our patrons where they are, rather than expecting them to know where we are and come to us. Plus all of our friends are doing it.

Your blog includes stories about how you and your family experience books. They’re very powerful, but also very personal (Your blog even has the  word “confessions” in the title!). Was it natural for you to communicate  these concepts so personally, or was it an intentional choice to connect to  your readers?

It’s a little of both, I think. I’m an extrovert, which means that I’m often a little more forthcoming about family experiences and such than other folks may be. My job and my life are very much intertwined, and I can’t really separate them very well even if I wanted to. It’s just not who I am.

My basic message is that just because something is “special” doesn’t mean that it needs to be permanently locked away. This is partially a political stance, because I’m the parent of a special needs child with severe disabilities. Children like my daughter (much like the books that I care for) would have been locked away in institutions and rendered invisible up until very recently. Given the right tools and adaptations, however, children with disabilities can and ought to be part of everyday life out in the world. Visibility promotes understanding, and reduces fear.

Special collections materials work the same way; providing handling adaptations and tools for their preservation helps them to survive for longer, but it doesn’t mean that we have to keep people away from them!

Helping people to understand what I do for a living, using a easily-relatable context like a family, encourages people to support cultural heritage institutions in general (and hopefully mine in particular as well).

As far as the title, it sounded appropriate; we have a lot of pulp magazines with similar titles in our collections.

You posted an interesting video regarding the end of publishing. As a curator and someone who works directly with books and preserving their importance, what do you see in the future of publishing and the traditional  printed word?

Hand-written manuscripts didn’t go away just because Gutenberg invented the printing press.  Books have not gone away in the nearly 20 years that we’ve had some version of the Internet, or in the more than 20 years that we’ve had relatively ubiquitous personal computing. I don’t expect the printed word to go away anytime soon; it is too useful, portable and accessible. I fully expect that the technologies will continue to coexist for quite some time, unless there is good reason for them not to do so. I do think that some major changes in the economic structure of how the printed word is sold and distributed will happen, because the current model is looking rather unsustainable right now. What that new model will be remains to be seen.

You have a post detailing requirements for archiving. Why is it important authors begin archiving things such as blogs and scratch notes?  And why have you decided to do this all digitally?

The way that authors work has fundamentally changed in the age of personal computing. While there are still authors that work exclusively in longhand on paper, most writers either compose exclusively on their computers or bounce back and forth between paper and electronic documents. Blogs, in particular, have replaced paper-based diaries, journals and writing notebooks for many working writers. To document only paper-based materials means that we’d be literally missing half of the collection—specifically, the half with all of the “juicy bits” about the writing process that interest scholars!

Writers are creating born-digital artifacts. Since so much of special collections work focuses on preserving the artifact as close to its original form as possible, so as to not lose the context of the content it contains, we need to work in the digital realm as well as that of paper. Otherwise, we will end up in a situation where we will have destroyed the papers of authors by not saving the formats that we’re less comfortable with, just as if we were the family of a 19th century writer, throwing manuscripts into the fire to prevent embarrassment after that writer’s death.

Tell us about your book, Special Collections 2.0.

The book came out of the blog, actually. One of my colleagues, Beth Whittaker (now head of the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas), saw me muse about the preservation of electronic manuscripts and social networking, and called me. She noted that the can of worms that I had opened was a rather large one, about an issue that had not really been addressed in a pragmatic way within the profession, but ought to be.  We used a private wiki to collaboratively write a proposal, submitted it to Libraries Unlimited, were approved and co-wrote the book.

Special Collections 2.0 is basically two things: an acknowledgment of the fact that the special collections community now has to deal with a hybrid of paper and electronic archives, and an examination of how the advent of social networking might affect our work. We look at social media both from the perspective of “how can I use these tools to my library’s/collection’s advantage?” and “how on earth am I going to preserve these things?”

We surveyed our profession to see what everyone else has been doing: what works, what doesn’t, and where librarians and archivists can best direct their invariably limited time and resources. What we discovered is that there are some really powerful tools for promoting, building and documenting our collections out there, but that preserving those digital objects we are ultimately responsible for is still a challenge for many libraries and archives.

In addition to your blog, what other social networks do you use and how do you use them? (eg: delicious, twitter, facebook, etc)

I’m consistently on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Delicious under my real name. I use them for outreach to our donors (it’s how I keep in touch with living SF writers who archive with me), as well as for link-sharing with other cultural heritage professionals and people in shared fandoms. Most of these accounts are linked in some way: my Delicious account posts automatically to my blog; the blog posts automatically to our departmental Facebook page. My Goodreads account, which picks up my blog automatically, is visible on the blog and on Facebook. I use Twitter to post links to Facebook, and that is often how I publicize new blog posts. I also have FriendFeed and LinkedIn profiles that are basically dormant, created as part of the research for Special Collections 2.0.

I’m on LiveJournal, where I maintain a personal blog under a different username focused on my family and the media fandoms that I follow, rather than on my library work. That blog is also linked from my Facebook account. It’s mostly an easy way for far-flung friends and family to keep in touch, and for me to be part of a community of fans.  I’m also on Ravelry (a knitting/crochet community) under the same username.

What advice do you offer other collections specialists who are exploring social media as a way to communicate?

The biggest lesson that I have learned from social media is that you really need to please, inform, interest and entertain yourself first. The grease for the social media engine is interesting, consistent content. Empty profiles are boring: if you aren’t going to use your account consistently, don’t bother building the profile in the first place. The best way to ensure consistency is to contribute what interests you. If you’re bored, so are your readers.

You can set expectations for your account that fit with your comfort level. For example, I subscribe to quite a few professional blogs that only post a few times a month, but the posts are worth waiting for: really engaging, well-thought out and interesting. I know when I subscribe that they are not high-traffic, based upon the information given in the blog’s profile; their quality rather than their quantity keep me subscribed.

The other part of working with social media is figuring out how much of yourself as a person or a professional that you would like to post. Many folks maintain dual profiles, one professional (say, on LinkedIn) and one personal (Facebook), and that works well for them. The key is to manage expectations; state your policies about “friending” or “following” outright on your profile, so that folks know where best to connect with you for their situation.

That’s not to say that everything has to be personal: there are plenty of special collections blogs out there that are about the collections, not the people that work with them. If the collections are interesting enough, that can work really well. There are some great correspondence blogs, for instance, that post a letter every few days from their collections, and archival blogs that post pictures and transcripts of recently processed materials.

Because I work extensively in the science fiction writing and fandom community as part of my job, and am a fan myself, I don’t bother to separate my at-work and not-at-work identities: my fandom is, in my case, a professional asset, and a large group of the SF authors that I work with follow my LiveJournal rather than Confessions of a Curator. Your mileage may vary.

That being said, despite the fact that I’m fairly public about much of my personal and professional life, there are certain things that I choose not to blog about or share on social media. I firmly believe that nothing on the web is truly anonymous or hidden, even if you can make it rather difficult to tie the person to the pseudonym. My rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t want to see it published on the front page of your local newspaper, don’t post it on social media sites. What constitutes “willing to share publicly” is an individual choice: it’s all about figuring out what you’re comfortable with.

Video Netcast: Kaitlin O’Shea blogs the preservation world in pink

In this edition of the Voices of the Past Netcast, we meet Kaitlin O’Shea. Kaitlin is the creator of the Preservation in Pink blog and newsletter. She will explain how the iconic pink flamingo, and a group of bloggy friends, have helped her find her voice to take the conversation about historic preservation to a wider audience. Also features posts: Exploring Archaeology on the Social Web and Shawn Graham of the Electric Archaeology blog.

Podcast: Lisa Louise Cooke on podcasting genealogy and the importance of audience

When Lisa Louise Cooke’s daughters bought her an iPod a few years ago, she was barely even aware of podcasting as a business. But that gift would go on to inspire one of the world’s most popular genealogy podcasts. In this edition of the Voices of the Past podcast, Lisa talks about how she turned her passion for genealogy into a dream career. Plus, she talks about the unreality of starring in the reality television showTexas Ranch House.”

Welcome to the Voices of the Past Podcast. I’m Jeff Guin. Today I’m talking to Lisa Louise Cooke of the podcast and blog Genealogy Gems. Lisa is going to tell us how she first became involved in social media–in particular, podcasting–and how she uses the web to promote genealogy and help others become more passionate about family history. Lisa, welcome to the podcast. How did your passion for genealogy develop?

Cooke: The classic story of being passionate about genealogy is from the time I was a little girl and sitting with my grandmother and talking to her about her parents who came through Ellis Island and she was willing to entertain me and jotted down some notes, which I still have.  I researched off and on throughout my entire life, and around 2000, I got really to where I was doing it practically every day. And really knee-deep into doing it. Before that I was raising kids and that kind of thing, and a friend of mine had said at the family history center, “Gosh, you’ve got some ideas here, you’ve been finding things that I’m not finding. You gotta find a way to teach people this.” And I thought, I don’t know how am I going to do that, and then 2007, my daughters all got together and they bought me an iPod for my birthday, and I discovered podcasts. And I always kid people because the young people go to see what they can spend money on, which is music and videos and that type of thing. Me, I’m cheap. I go and look for the free stuff. And so I found podcasts. And within a month I had my own podcast online. And I think it just captured my imagination. It just hit me, “This is my medium, this is a way to get the word out.” Because if you’re going to teach, it is wonderful to get to teach in a class of ten, but how about reaching 10,000? And then everybody benefits and you get this community going and it’s terrific.

Guin: But there seems like there would be quite a learning curve between actually having that passion and then translating that into reaching that audience of millions. What did you have to do to put a podcast together and actually start your own blog. Was that difficult?

Cooke: I think it wasn’t difficult because I was so passionate about it. It’s like when it hits you this is the right way to go, this is the right medium, I know what my message is, then it was like there aren’t enough hours in the day. And so for 30 days I think I was doing it around the clock–just eating up everything I could find in terms of how to get podcasts, how do you hook up the computer, where do you get a mic, how do you set up a blog, and I was constantly–if I wasn’t podcasting or setting things up myself, I was out running around and listening to other people on podcasts explain how to do it. And that’s why I think that within the month I was able to get it up and running. But the ideas had been formulating for a long time. And it is kind of the classic story of you can look back at your life and say, “Wow. Everything I’ve been doing up to this point has been about getting ready to do this.” Because everything from my theatrical background to producing videos to being on a television show and learning about interviewing, my passion for family histories, some of the teaching opportunities I had had in small class settings, all came together and it was like, “This is the time, this is the moment where it all gels.”

Guin: Well actually I was going to ask you about that because you really do have a vibrant personality and obviously you know what you are doing around media. Did you have a media background?

Cooke: Well, I’ve always been interested. I’ve always, when video first came out to the computer, I was always dabbling with that. I was creating home videos and compiling photographs and setting them to music. Around 2000-2001, I was actually the drama director at my church, and I convinced them that we need to do something beyond just talking in front of folks. We need to get visual and get multimedia about it. And so I started not only producing plays, which were live, but then saying, “Wouldn’t it be fun to do a little three-minute video?” Well, that just captures them all off guard and catches their attention and gets them involved in the activities going on. So I did that for a couple of years and I was amazed at the response. The way people responded and they were willing to hear messages and maybe get involved when just getting up in front of the group and talking with a microphone wasn’t cutting it. So that really showed me the power of it.

Guin: Did it take a while for you to actually develop your voice for your blog?

Cooke: Well it had probably come a little bit easier to me because I had done some script writing. Many of the productions I was doing as the drama director, I was actually writing and producing some of those shows. So, I had a sense about dialog and having worked in community theater and that type of thing, but you are absolutely right. You have to figure out what your voice is. And I think, I was probably watching some documentary on Martha Stewart, and she was talking about sitting down and writing her first cookbook and that she had to find her voice. And I don’t know why but it always stuck with me. While I don’t have to write this academically, people may actually respond to me if I write it more like as I write a script, which is this conversation, this emotional connection with the people that are interacting on stage. Couldn’t I have that with my readers? And in the end, it’s just a lot easier to write as yourself. And I think that if you are very honest and true about what you’re saying and you really care about it, then you just have to let that come naturally. And it really does, and I find that the more I am myself, the more response I get.

Guin: Well, and also your audience develops around that. Who are those people that are your audience?

Cooke: You know that it’s funny. I was thinking about that question before we started, and I thought: I have two. I have my present-day audience and I have the audience of 2020. Do you know what I mean? Because the Internet is so different. What I’m doing, I’m thinking about how am I reaching those needs today and what people want to hear about, but this is going to be likely online for years and years to come. And everyday I see people streaming in and signing up and subscribing to the podcast, and I realized, “Wow, they are going back to episode 1.” And they are starting, and people will write me and go, “Oh, I’m on a binge, I just listened to 30 episodes in a row trying to get caught up.” And so that’s kind of the nature of media, and the idea that I’m not only speaking to the folks who are researching now in their genealogy, which typically are 50 plus, right? They tend to be older in age, they have a little more time, a little more income. But I do have, because of the multimedia presence that I have, I have a lot of younger folks as well, surprisingly. They may not be going to a genealogy society or they may not be attending conferences, but they are totally with me on Twitter and they are totally with me on Facebook and they found the podcast without me having to explain how to do it. I figure, the 20-somethings of today are the 50-somethings of tomorrow who will have some more time and who will have raised their kids and start to be thinking about, “Wow, I would like to leave something to this family and to these children, and I want it to be more than just me.” You know, we are all just ourselves and can only accomplish so much, but to give them an entire heritage of ancestors and family culture is a phenomenal gift and when that strikes you, that’s where that passion comes from. I hear it all the time from my listeners. You know, you can’t do it fast enough because wow, this is really meaning I can give back and in really significant way. So yeah, my audience is so warm and they are so wonderful, and I was recently out on a medical condition and people were emailing me and just, it’s a wonderful community. I love it.

cooke screenshot

Guin: Well, you mentioned your audiences are with you in different forms of media that you are engaged in. Kind of give me a timeline, an overview, of what you did. I mean, you started with your blog and your podcast. How has Lisa Louise Cook’s involvement in social media developed over time?

Cooke: It started with the Genealogy Gems podcast, and did that for about a year. I guess I started the blog later. I started in like February, later in the summer I realized I needed a blog. I needed another channel to get people, and I had actually produced a couple of videos that made the rounds. One of them was called, “Socks to America,” which is a funny little video I did about sock puppets and their heritage and how they immigrated. And it was funny how it took off and ran around the Internet and people were sharing it. So I very quickly realized I’d like to have a YouTube channel and have a place to put those videos. And of course the wonderful thing is, while my website is not as integrated as I would like it to be, I wish I had one website that had everything on it, but cost is a contributor and time. So I have a lot of different channels that are interconnected. So for the user it is hopefully a very streamlined usage of the website, but in reality they are going to different places: when they visit my blog, when they visit my video channel, that type of thing. And I got into Facebook probably shortly there after. And then I got approached by personalized media to do another genealogy show, and I had one in mind that I was thinking about and Genealogy Gems was taking off. So I started Family History Genealogy Made Easy, which is kind of more of a course in genealogy. Not a hardcore academic course, but each episode’s devoted to one topic and I try to do it in a way that you could start in episode one knowing nothing about genealogy and actually follow along and get going right away. And then let me think. I started doing speaking engagements. Family History Expos contacted me and said, “Hey, you ought to be out here talking to our folks,” and so I went and got hooked. I love going to the conferences.

Guin: You were talking about your speaking engagements and how much you enjoy those and how much it helps you to connect to your audience. How did that develop and what do you get out of going to those speaking engagements?

Cooke: I’m one of those odd folks who enjoys talking in front of a group. I am probably more nervous one-on-one than I am in front of a large crowd. And many years ago when i had just first started in the business world, I went to seminar, and it was how to make presentations. And I thought to myself, “I want to do that. I want to do what she’s doing.” But I had no idea what the topic was going to be. And I was raising children so I know I couldn’t travel from town to town or do that kind of thing. But again, I learned some of the techniques and it planted the idea. And so, I started doing some speaking engagements after we did “Texas Ranch House,” and people wanted to know about the experience of being on a reality TV show. And then I also started doing a couple little groups who asked me to come and talk about genealogy because I’d been working on the history of a local historical house in our community. And so I did some of those and I just found that I really enjoyed it. And I loved the instant response. Just like with the theater: there are two people on stage. There is you and then there is the whole crowd and their energy and what they’re doing. And so like I said, Family History Expo contacted me and gosh, just a couple months after the podcast started of in 2007 and said, “You got to come out to Utah, we’re having a conference. Do you have a couple of classes you’d like to teach?” And I said, “OK!” And so i ran and put them together and put together a little booth, and it just took off. My big emphasis is I love technology and I love using technology for genealogical purposes. And Google is one I started with shortly after my podcast started. My very first Gem in fact was Google site search, and those classes have been sold out, packed out and standing room only ever since I started teaching them. And I realized people are past how do I get online, but they really want to know, “How do I make the most out of what I’m finding” because there’s so much. And so I love to be able to fill that niche and then if they decide they want to become a premium member later and I’ve got the whole thing on video series. So I try to have resources I can point them to so when you get home from one of my classes, you’re not sitting there scratching your head saying, “What did she say? Where do I start?” So I love too that the podcast, the videos, pretty much all of that can all work together with the live presentations. I don’t have to give up working with people in person to be able to do multimedia online.

Guin: Well you brought up the premium memberships and that is a rarity among heritage blogs and just people working in the heritage field, they haven’t quite gotten to that level. What made you decide to go with a premium membership model?

Cooke: Well I knew I had to pay for what I was buying. My husband said, “Where’s the money going to come from?” And I said, “I don’t know.” I mean, I did not get into it to make any money. But you do find yourself yearning for the next software program or the Macintosh, which I just got into, and things that can help me do a better job of what I’m trying to share because that is a number one thing for me is quality. I would rather not put something out than to have it be kind of subpar and not really hit the mark. So premium membership was also something that people were asking for. They were saying, “Where can I get more? You are only doing this once a week or I want to see what you’re talking about and not just hear about it.” And so I thought, I found a place that had a reasonably priced membership software and I just hacked and hacked on it until I figured it out, and then I realized that this was a  way to go in depth into some of these topics that we hit on. And I always try to give people these nuggets they can work with. But I love having the ability to go more in depth and then having the video version so that they can follow along live on the screen with me, right as I go. And the response has been tremendous. I wasn’t sure. Genealogists like to get things for free; I appreciate that. But I think if they like what I am doing and they want more and they feel like they are connecting with me, then they’re excited about getting it and I’m totally excited about delivering it. So I have just gotten to know my premium members even more, and hopefully it will keep growing because it has made it possible for me not to “podfade.” That’s one of the things that happens to people. You get an idea and you are passionate, you find a way to get past the roadblocks and the technology, and it is just really easy to get overwhelmed, run out of money, whatever, and all of a sudden we’ve seen it before, those podcasts and those videos just fade away and you don’t hear from that person anymore. I felt like generating some income was important for me to sustain what I am doing, and I think that that’s another reason people are happy to pay for that additional content. They are getting something out of it and they also know that I am going to be around.

Guin: Did you use anyone else as a model when you created your premium memberships?

Cooke: Actually, the models that were out there, I didn’t like that much. Some of them were really expensive, some of them were “We are going to auto renew you for the rest of your life unless you can figure out how to cancel us.” There were elements to them that I didn’t like very much. So I’d have to say Jason VanOrden, he did the Podcasting Underground, I think it is called Masterminds minds now or something. But it was a podcast. He was dabbling with that model around the same time, and I started to get anxious and wanted to get going on it, so I just listened to what he was talking about and what he was thinking about for his business and then I ran out and tried to find and luckily there were some resources out there. But like I say, I tweaked the model to the way I felt it would best meet the way of my audience, which is preservationists and archivists and genealogists, they are an unique group with certain expectations, and it was important to respect that.

Guin: Absolutely. Well you mentioned earlier, and you brought it up, Texas Ranch House. Tell us about your experience there.

Cooke: One, I couldn’t believe that they’d picked us. That was a whole experience. It took as long to get selected as it did to go out and live in 1867. And just in case your listeners haven’t heard of it, Texas Ranch House was on PBS. It was part of their kind of “house” series, and our objective was to go out and live as if it were 1867 on a 400,000 acre ranch in the middle of nowhere in Texas. Actually, a gorgeous area near Big Bend, but the idea was, and it was really interesting, because the premise was you’re 20th century people or 21st century people, how would you handle the 1867 experience and how would you adapt. It was not supposed to be an reenactment, but it’s amazing with every house miniseries that came on line, everybody went raving mad. “Oh my gosh, they’re not reenacting, what’s wrong with these people.” That wasn’t the premise. But obviously being a genealogist, I think they picked me because I said, “Look, I had a great, great grandmother from west Texas in 1867, this is my one and only chance to walk in her shoes or her boots and her corset.” And they wanted that.

Guin: You didn’t have to wear a corset, did you?

Cooke: Oh my goodness! A corset and seven layers. Which, in a 114-degree weather were peeled off very quickly. And it was funny because I got together with some ladies who live out there and fairly minimal conditions. I mean, some of them kind of enjoy living more of that rustic pioneer life. And we talked about, “OK let’s get down and dirty. How much are you wearing and are you shortening your skirts at all and do you always wear your corset,” and they were like, “Oh no honey. Unless there is somebody coming down the road that I can see, that corset is off and it’s about getting the work done.” So anyway, my whole family went, which was my husband and I and three teenage daughters at that time. And can you imagine what kind of salesman I am to get three teenage daughters to agree to go Texas?

Guin: No I can’t imagine.

Cooke: Oh my gosh. But there were two experiences. There was filming a reality TV Show and there was living in 1867. And the two shall meet and clash heads, which they do, but you really are kept in the dark. That is the main thing that I don’t think people realize is how in the dark you are as a participant. We didn’t find out until we got there that our executive producer was straight out of MTV. And so you’ve gone through all this and then it hits you, they are trying to get the 20-something audience and this is a reality TV without the million-dollar prize at the end. And so it was a constant struggle between their vision and our vision. And then they had a struggle between their vision and the vision of the company in Great Britain that actually financed it. So I learned a lot about the makings of a television show; the politics of it. I learned a lot about interviewing because one of the things they did was they took us out about every 7-10 days and they interviewed us individually for an hour. And of course much of that never showed on the show. But one thing I can tell your audience is when you’re watching reality TV, be aware of what you’re not seeing because the final product is in the hands of the editor and also the person who adds the music. You can be saying something and they can be playing violins behind you and you sound really amazingly intelligent or they could be going doke-de-doke-de-doke, just some funky music behind you and you’re like, “Oh, I look like such a dweeb, you know?” So it was interesting. It was interesting to see the end product, and we all looked at each other and said, “What summer were they at? Which ranch were they at?” Because it was so different and it was this tiny sliver of, we calculated, 1800 hours we were out there, three months. And 95 percent of that was the day-to-day living and as a woman, as a wife and a mother, when I watched the house shows, I want to see how did they cook, how were they sowing, what was it like, how tired were they. And they almost never came in our house, I don’t know if you ever noticed that in the show, but they couldn’t come inside and film because you would see how much we were getting done. And their objective was to show us as lazy. So, you run the risk of a little bit of a character attack, but I still look back and say it was my seven million dollar free vacation. It was the genealogy Disney Land that you get once in a lifetime and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Guin: But would you do it again?

Cooke: Would I do it again? We would go out in a heartbeat and live in 1867 on a ranch without TV cameras, no problem. Rattlesnakes, centipedes, 114 degree weather, it was an amazingly fantastic experience. I know exactly what my great grandmother felt like. Would I go on reality TV again and let them paint my character and create a character for me? No. Because that was really painful, and that was something I probably never really had a chance to really talk about, which is, it was really really painful for our family. And I don’t know how they do that and go to sleep at night.

Guin: Right. And especially with teenage daughters because that’s a sensitive time and there are issues where they want their privacy and everything is a drama and I feel that way with my 5-year-old daughter, so I can image how it is going to be when she’s a teenager. So that would be something. You are kind of exposing yourself there a little bit. Although the premise for the show, it seems like there would be more purity to the concept than some of the other shows like Real Life.

Cooke: Well I think when the shows were done in Great Britain, they had more of that purity and I love those. When the British come to America and film Americans, they bring their own stereotype of what Americans are like. And also the American producers don’t trust the audience to be able to stay with the academic side of it or to stay with the historical side of it. And they think they need to spoon feed a bunch of chaos and they did a lot of things to try to stir that up. So it is an unfortunate statement about what they think about the intelligence of the American public. But one thing I can tell you about my daughters, they came out of Texas so confident, so capable. They had an experience that almost no American child gets these days. And that is, they knew that if I don’t bring the wood in, we all go hungry, period. So when you tell your 5 year old when she’s 10, you need to go back, you need to bring your laundry down. If they don’t, what happens? The world ends? But for three months, my daughters had a sense of “I matter to the lives and the well-being of my entire family.” And the bonding that we got out of that and the sense of trust and togetherness, was phenomenal. And for no other reason, that would be the reason I would ever do it again.

Guin: Do you have some kind of checks in your own life where even though you are so connected and you are dealing with an audience that always wants another piece of you. How do you center yourself as a human being away from these tools?

Cooke: In terms of technology, my approach is a little different, and this is one of the things I talk about in my classes–particularly my Google class. You are not the slave of the Internet or of technology. It is there to serve you. And so everything I do, I approach it that way. It is so easy to go online and become very very overwhelmed because you feel, we are taught to be polite and you respond to things. And you start to just have it take you away with it, versus, for example when I teach a Google class, you can go to Google and you can put in your key word and you can have it give you 10 thousand different results and spend the rest of your life trying to comb through them, trying to find your genealogy. But what I do is to show them how to use the tool to actually set it up to use it as a genealogy dashboard where it is kind of like their home center and get these tools to work for you. To go out and find things and bring them back, to help you select and stay on top of your priorities. It is kind of what I do all the time in terms of my media. I want to say a message. I want to know what my message is, and if you know what your purpose is and your research and your preservation work and your genealogy, then you have to approach the technology that says, “What will you do for me.” And you pick and select, and you just let the rest of it go because you cannot possibly do it all and there is just more to come. So I don’t think you should be a slave of it.

Guin: Has your sense of mission always been very clear in your mind or was there a point in your life where there was a transition or an event that kind of helped you form your sense of mission that you have today?

Cooke: Well I think having my children. It gave me a sense of going beyond myself and being committed to their well-being and the well-being of my family. Whenever I interact with my kids, even today as grown adults, in the back of my mind is: does this help me get closer to them in 20 years, does it help me get full access to my grandchildren, I’m going to be a grandmother this year. And is everything I am doing helping me to bring me closer and to communicate better how dear they are to me, and the same thing with my audience. Am I communicating how dear they are to me because they really are. And if it’s not going to communicate that, toss it aside. It’s like when you talk about blog writing: editing is the number one thing. It’s what you leave out, get rid of it. Ah! It is just like reality TV, it’s what you leave out. That’s how you craft your message and I have a little note that is on my bulletin board and I look at it everyday and it says, “Are you working on your dream?” And my dream is kind of my mission, it’s, “Ah, a tombstone, what do I want on the tombstone?” What do I want people to think about and it’s interesting when I go to a conference, people will say, “Oh, when I think of Lisa Louise Cooke, I think this or that,” and that’s awesome because that means that I have stayed on message and I have gotten rid of the periphery stuff that just doesn’t add value. And I don’t know, I just think that overall what I want to do is I want to be able to leave something of value for generations to come. Not only within my family but also within the world. And isn’t that a wonderful trait of the Internet and of technology? Those podcasts will be out there well beyond me. That maybe this is going to help somebody else’s grandchild. Ah, I don’t know, maybe it will all be irrelevant, it might be. But I like the idea that it isn’t just lost the second that it’s done. And that’s a good thing.

Guin: Well, I guess that leads us to our next question. Where do you see Genealogy Gems going in the future? And not just Genealogy Gems, but Lisa Louise Cooke as well?

Cooke: OK. I will tell you the truth. I don’t even go by Lisa Louise. Do you know why I started using Louise? No, I am just telling you. Because after Texas Ranch House came out, I wasn’t sure if I wanted everyone to think of Mrs. Cooke or Lisa Cooke. And actually I am one of seven generations of Louises in my family. So that is just a little tidbit for your listeners on where the Louise comes from, and where do I want her to be? Where do I want Genealogy Gems to be? I want it to be continuing to foster that relationship with the listeners and just on the technology side of things. Some of the things I am looking at is–I am hoping I can pull this off–I’d love to do a live show once a month. So that people can actually call in. Maybe it would be chat, I’m not sure how that would work yet. I am looking at some different platforms to help me do it, but I would love to be able to do more of the in addition to what I’m doing is once a month they can just call in and we can just talk about how are the things that you are learning on the show, that you are picking up on your genealogy society. How are those things working for you? What do you think about them? What are your roadblocks? Whatever people have been talking a lot about libraries that have been closing lately because of budget cuts. Those are things that are important to people, and I think that would be another step in the community would be to be able to actually live talk. Right now I give them a voicemail line. There are lots of different ways they can connect with me. But it would be wonderful to do a live show. I’m also doing a lot of things with Family Tree Magazine. I am doing some online webinars and I just finished writing three courses. They are putting together a family tree university that is going to be online, so I am actually going to be able to teach classes using this coursework that I have written, and my students can email me and it will be interactive. And they can take these courses and learn more in depth on different subjects. So there is always an educational component I guess to it. And the fun thing is, whenever I write a class like that or do the research for it, I get to get a breakthrough on my research. I mean, I always learn something new. So it is selfish in that way as well.

Guin: So here’s a scenario: Someone’s watching this and they’re inspired, and they are developing their own sense of mission, and they want to involve new media in it. What advice would you have for that person?

Cooke: Education. Educating yourself and know that there are a lot of free options out there to educate yourself. I mean there are some great books and things, but life keeps going on and you want to try to get as up to speed as possible as quickly as you can. I tapped into a lot of podcasts. I just went in there and I did key word searches on how do you do this, how do you do that, video, podcasts, whatever. And I would typically find somebody who had great information. So constantly educating yourself. Thinking about what your message is. You really can’t be everything to everybody. In fact, I was just interviewing a blogger on my family history podcast, and she was saying, “You know, you can’t be so and so, they are already there, you know? Don’t try to mimic somebody else, but take what your strengths are and use that. And then decide what the focus of your message is. And also one thing I have just been using lately when I wrote my courses for the university was YouTube. People, particularly older folks, tend to get nervous about going onto YouTube because there is a lot of stuff out there that they don’t want to see. I’m with them on that, but if you use that search box you will be able to hone right into what you are looking for and you bypass all that stuff. And so when I was looking for these different topics I was writing about, I would go out and throw a key word out into YouTube and I would find somebody who produced a video about it and I got a little snippet here and there, and I was able to reference that and give that to my students. My gosh, I just took up knitting. Couldn’t figure out how to do a yarn over and I went and put up “knitting yarn over,” and there was somebody showing me how to do it on the video. So that can be applied to anything. And there is a lot of great people producing content, and every single day there is something new. So it’s always worth going back and checking. I dunno, does that answer your question?
Guin: It absolutely does. And I think it’s important for people to realize as well for people doing that knitting video probably had a $300 camera from Walmart. It doesn’t take a lot of money or fancy equipment to produce this stuff. So I guess what would be valuable if you could just share about some of the equipment you use in putting together your content.

Cooke: It’s evolved over time. I have started out with one of those little $10 RadioShack microphones, you know, the little plastic ones. Very quickly realized I didn’t like the sound of it, and I went and bought a podcasting kit, which had the microphone and that type of thing on Amazon and have upgraded from there. And that brings me back to when you are trying to learn how to do some of this stuff, you think “I do want to do a blog or I do want to do video,” go out and find somebody that you think is doing a terrific job. And watch it. And look for the details. Don’t worry about all the big picture stuff that they are talking about. I really believe it’s in the details: that’s where the real connection happens, and the quality happens. And then right now I have my new Macintosh, which is kind of the video, auto center. I have my old PC that I finally got a new flatscreen for. I had my laptop because I do go and do presentations. Last year I invested in my own projector so now I can say, “Yep. I can go to a seminar,” and I can be set up to go. And my latest is my boom, I guess you can call it a boom for my mic. Before it was always on my desk, and you know, I would go crashing and it would hit the floor, and I would bump it and that kind of thing. Now it’s on a boom. It looks like like it does in a radio station. And I think it was a $100, but it seemed like an extravagance to me. I waited a long time to spend the money on it, and it is a godsend. That and the popscreen for the microphone. So, like you are asking me, if you hear somebody you think is doing a great job or you like their video. You’d be amazed. People are so helpful. I email people all the time, “By the way, can you give me an idea or an clue or whatever…” and people are always willing to share. That’s one of my mottos: ask, ask, ask. Don’t be afraid to ask, all they can do is say, “No, I’m too busy.”
Guin: And that’s the great thing about the web, you can ask people all over the world. You’re not limited to just your local area.

Cooke: I had a podcaster in Australia contact me and say, “Oh, I heard your podcast. Loved this, loved that, but you might tweak this to get the sound better.” And he had been doing podcasts for two years, so it was amazing.
Guin: Well, Lisa thanks so much for being on Voices of the Past.

Cooke: You bet. Thanks so much.



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Social Media: New playing field for PR, where everyone wins

Do you believe social media is a fad? Be honest with yourself.

What if you knew that in the time it takes to read to this sentence, seven new blogs will be created?

Yes, some will be “spam” blogs, conceived of evil intent to steal your time or money. And some will be the stillborn attempt of a person who had a great idea but found a blank composition screen too intimidating or the prospect of criticism unbearable. For the one or two that eventually sport worthwhile content, their chances for surviving more than a month are slim, never mind their chances for making a difference in the world. But still, there is a chance. It’s happening more and more.

In that same small span of time, hundreds of posts went up on other blogs. Tens of thousands of blog posts were commented on and hundreds of thousands of connections were made through some form of social media. The printing press, radio, television and even the web’s first iteration fundamentally changed the world we live in. But each had the weakness of needing gatekeepers … People with specialized training or a lot of money determined what came out of those devices. And nobody likes being fenced in.

As a result, you’ve now read long enough to allow the creation of 203 more blogs. They’re right there, waiting in your web browser. More than 200 soapboxes, each containing the promise of infinite combinations of things to say—for all of humanity, forever. Chances are getting better that one may be a keeper. In far less time than it takes you to finish this chapter, one could even be yours.
What are you still doing here?

Yes, the potential is huge but social media doesn’t begin as some theoretical “Big Bang” event that creates a universe that eventually leads to a sun and an earth and an atmosphere all the way down to you reading this post. It begins with a simple question, or a need. Often the answer is short and sweet and a conversation begins. Two people connecting—maybe from opposite sides of the planet—and drawing inspiration from one another to accomplish their dreams. That’s how it begins. Get to talking with enough of those folks; that’s where your Big Bang happens.

In “The Future of Communications – A Manifesto for Integrating Social Media into Marketing,” Brian Solis, blogger at PR 2.0 and principal of FutureWorks PR, puts it this way: “Social media has created a new layer of influencers. It is the understanding of the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they in turn, share and also create content for others to participate. This, and only this, allows us to truly grasp the future of communications.”

The democratization of information transcends national boundaries, giving new meaning to the term “global citizen.” Social media provides a voice. No longer are people powerless when faced with a bad customer service experience. Rate it. Blog about it. Post to a forum. Review it. Only the world will know. Someone, somewhere is sure to relate to your experience and together you will likely be able to rectify the situation.

Social media came a long way in 2007, but it’s still a toddler in terms of potential. Scores of new tools and “mashups” of others arrive each week. So many blog posts and news stories are written about it that it’s virtually impossible for one person to keep up with. You may as well try to come up with a pithy one-liner about how the world works. No field has undergone more fundamental change by social media than Public Relations.

Social media are a group of tools to help people interact online. Social media is about people interacting on a deep level, supported by online tools. Got that?

The distinction is subtle enough that most folks have to ruminate on it for a moment. The first sentence is how you would have stated it a couple of years ago when the I.T. people started with the term Web 2.0. The second sentence is what happened when the communicators moved in and took over.

Social media has a way of bringing big jobs down to size. With a lot of focused effort—evangelization, even—it won’t take much time for social media to ignite within each and every stakeholder group you are trying to reach. Who will they thank for this time-saving, life-changing knowledge? The bringers of the fire, of course.

It starts as a PR game but everyone wins.

So grab your racket, or gloves or bat. You can’t lose with the tools at your disposal: blogs, social networks, wikis, lifestreams, Twitter, video, livecasts, news aggregators, social media releases, videos, and podcasts. Or move your game to Second Life or other virtual worlds.

Social media is about people interacting on a deep level, supported by online tools.


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