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It’s done. We bought the auto spa biz!
And one of the first challenges is choosing hours of operation that both make money and allows our employees to lead a full life outside work.

One of my principles is that I won’t ask any employee to do anything I wouldn’t want to do. The car wash needs to run 6 days a week to be profitable but I wouldn’t want to work 6 days a week – and I doubt the university students we’ll be hiring will want to either. So, since we need two washers on at a time, we’re considering shifts with one pair working Tuesday through Saturday and another pair just working Sunday. Considering it’s summer, some students might like working only one day a week if they have other jobs or are taking classs during the week. We’ll have to see what kind of response we get to our job offers. Which brings me to the next step: hiring people.

The biz is in its fourth year so we hope to hire back at least one of the employees from last year and hire one or three new ones. That means we have to figure out what hours we’ll operate and, most importantly, what we’ll pay. Standard capitalism would say pay minimum wage. However, we’re not standard capitalists. In addition to the physical part, the job requires a range of soft skills, like initiative, sociability, reliability and punctuality, that deserve compensation beyond the minimum. Since the business is seasonal, we also have to find out if we have to collect things like Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance contributions from employees.

However, the most important thing is for us to clearly identify the mission and values of the company – and ensure we hire people who share them. We’re doing this for far more than the money and our employees should be too.

Talk…or else…

Author: Robin Browne

The title of this post is meant to catch your attention.

My argument is that people should talk more with people different from them in real life and less with people like them on line. If they don’t, things like Trump happen – and that could get people killed.

As for talking in person, Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama seem to both agree. Trudeau just launched a cross country series of town halls where he is answering Canadians’ unvetted questions – including some tough and emotional ones. In his final speech as President, Obama talked about how divisive the election was, and said, “If you’re tired of arguing with people on the Internet, try talking to them in real life.” The problem is that it seems people aren’t even arguing enough – on or off the internet. Too many of us are just reading things that reinforce our current world view – without caring whether they’re true.

An example was the story about anti-Trump forces supposedly  bussing in protesters for a demonstration in Austin, Texas shortly after Trump’s election. Even Donald Trump tweeted it. The problem is that it was completely false. The New York Times reported that Eric Tucker, a 35-year-old owner of an Austin,  Texas based marketing company, took pictures of some some buses he saw in downtown Austin because he found the buses unusual. When he later heard about the protests, he assumed they were connected and twèeted: “Anti-Trump protestors in Austin today are not as organic as they seem. Here are the busses they came in. #fakeprotests” He later realized he was wrong and that the buses had nothing to do with the protest. However, his tweeted correction got lost in the flood of right-wing shares of the original falsehood. The story was now “post truth”.

Young Quebec activists also think getting people talking is key to helping Quebec realize its full potential. “Faut qu’on se parle” or “we need to talk” is an initiative to get Quebecers talking to each other about solutions to major challenges facing the province.

It was started by nine mostly young, mostly white Quebecers including student activist leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. In fall 2016, they held a series of public consultations and “kitchen assemblies” where they met with fellow Quebecers to hear their concerns about, and solutions for, their province. The demand for the kitchen assemblies, where members of the core group met people in a host’s house, quickly outstripped the availability. They were all booked within a week. (They’re all completed now and the group is working on a report on the results.)

One of the big questions for Canada right now is, could lots of people sharing fake facts and not talking to each other help someone like Trump get elected in Canada?

One of the main challenges to answering this question is knowing just how many people in Canada feel things similar to what made nearly 1 in 5 Americans vote for a guy who bragged about sexually assaulting women. Polls won’t tell us because very few Canadians would truthfully answer the required questions – and no one would pay pollsters to ask them. These would be questions like: “Do you feel like immigrants are taking jobs from Canadians?”, “Do you think terrorists pose a threat on Canadian soil?” or “If Donald Trump were able to run for Prime Minister today, would you vote for him?”

Without solid data – or the ability to get it – we must glean what we can from anecdotal evidence. Some indication can be seen in the comments on the Yahoo News story about Justin Trudeau appointing Somali Canadian, Ahmed Hussen, as Immigration Minister. Here are two examples:”Appointing a terrorist to bring in more terrorists.” “This douche bag will open the gates of ISIS and they will pour in here like maggots.” There was not one positive comment out of about 30 when I looked.

Before the results of the US election, it would have been easy to dismiss these commentors as fringe, especially in Canada. But now, the big question is: just how many Canadians feel this way? We may not know for sure until the next election unless Canadians start talking to one another now.

Well, after having lost my entire blog after performing a mandatory security upgrade, I’ve managed to restore some posts! Now on to the theme…

In another informative post by Rodd Lucier, I learned the Ontario College of Teachers issued a Professional Advisory on the Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media back in February.

This is great news because the message it sends to educators regarding social media is: use it but also use common sense and be careful.  It advises educators to make the same judgment calls with social media that they make with other forms of communications they use with students and colleagues. The advisory touches on:

  • Private vs. Professional
  • Professional Vulnerability
  • Criminal and Civil Law Implications
  • Disciplinary Implications
  • Minimizing the Risks: Advice to Members

It gives educators a powerful weapon in their efforts to introduce social media in a risk averse, often reluctant, bureaucratic system: validation from the top.

The first lines of the first two paragraphs of the advisory say it all:

“Electronic  communication  and  social  media   create  new  options  for  extending and  enhancing  education [and] can  be  effective  when  used  cautiously  and   professionally.”

Armed with this, educators can tell reluctant administrators: “Yes, there are some risks, but the College itself is telling us that they’re outweighed by the potential benefits to our students.”

A great next step would be to turn the advisory in to a full fledged policy covering some of the key issues not addressed by the advisory:

  • IT Security
  • Information management (is information posted to social media site considered “records” according to your records management policies?)
  • Intellectual property/copyright (just how much can you mashup?)
  • Accountability and ownership (who opens, owns and is ultimately accountable for school social media accounts?)
  • Bilingualism (in French immersion settings)

A policy like this would empower educators by giving them a tool that deals with all the major objections to social media in one document.

Do you know of any similar advisories, guidelines or polices from other Canadian school boards?

My 9-yr-old came home from school yesterday excited about something that says it can teach him all this:

His teacher had introduced the class to Bitstrips, on online comic creation site that has a special school section.

The site has activities that challenge students to create comics expresssing different things – including using captions which builds their reading and writing skills. They build them using the site’s user-friendly interface that works much like the personalized player avatar creation tools on popular games like Wii.

There are existing activities uploaded by teachers or you can create your own. All activities show the number of classrooms using them. They include:

My Life as a Comic – By far the most popular, students use their avatar to depict an event or personal experience they want to share (used in nearly 18,000 classrooms)

Express Your Feelings – students use expressions to assign appropriate emotions to characters presented in different situations and add text to explain the reasons behind the emotions (used in nearly 6000 classrooms)

Body Language – challenges students to match their avatar’s posture to the emotion written below it (i.e. sad., bored, angry etc..; used in 2800 classrooms).

Campaign Promises – students too young to vote? No problem. During the recent election students could show what they would do for Canada if they were running as their party’s leader using this activity (this one, like the Canadian electorate, has a relatively low turnout, being used by just 717 classrooms).

There are 110 activities created by others and available for use by all.

Teachers can assign work and track student submissons online. Students complete and submit work online so it’s a great way to introduce them to working in the cloud.

Bitstrips isn’t free. For teachers it cost $9.95/month for the first classroom and $4.95/month for additional classroom. Schools pay $1.50 per student per year and it offers a 30-day trial to check it out.

Why not take your students on a trip to the clouds?

Is anybody reading this blog?

Author: Robin Browne

Anyone who has ever written a blog knows it’s not easy to get comments. In fact, it’s really hard.

I haven’t read any studies on why people don’t comment but I have some anecdotal evidence that leads me to believe there are three main reasons people don’t comment:

  • they don’t feel they have anything to offer
  • they don’t want to look dumb
  • no one is reading the blog

The first two could not be farther from the truth. Everyone has something to offer and you won’t look dumb if you share it.

This post is about the last one.

Every now and then I do a post that simply asks is anybody reading this? Should I continue this blog?

If you think so, you know what to do. 😉

In a recent blog post about how much I love my new Flip camcorder, I said the one problem I have with it is that it doesn’t work with my MacBook.

After I wrote that I heard nothing. No comments from anyone – including Flip.

Well, yesterday, I figured out that my Flip does work with my MacBook (yeah!). The thing is, I figured it out on my own – with no help from Flip.

By not helping me, Flip missed an opportunity to turn me in to a loyal  – Flipper.

Now, there could be many reasons Flip didn’t respond:

1) They’re not monitoring the net.

Unlikely for a company that big since monitoring is easy and free.

2) They are monitoring but missed my post.

Very unlikely since tools like Google Alerts pick up pretty much everything.

3) They are monitoring, saw my post but didn’t think it important enough to respond to.

This is the most likely scenario and, if it’s true, Flip has it wrong. It would have cost them nothing to leave a comment on my blog clarifying that the Flip works just fine with the Mac.

I would have been happy. I would have told people. Instead, I wrote this post.

And Flip weren’t the only ones who missed the boat. Their competitors did too. They could have left a comment saying how their camcorders work great with the Mac (without saying that Flip’s doesn’t, which would be a lie) and I would probably have switched to their product.

Listening is easy.

Listening and responding is power.

Is your organization listening and responding?

Flipping over the Flip camcorder!

Author: Robin Browne

Well, I have to say that I’m blown away by the value packed in to my new $120 Flip camcorder ($120 tax-free because I found it online on my local Kijiji and bought it from a woman who had won a brand new one at a corporate event and didn’t want it. I love Kijiji!)

So far I have mostly great things to report about the Flip.

It is incredibly easy to start and keep using. My 9-yr-old picked it up and started shooting videos of his ham-inclined brother right away – to the great mirth of them both when they played them back. It has a built in USB plug that “flips” up (hence the name) for easy video transfer, although it’s a little disconcerting how they’ve made the USB plug flexible which makes it seem broken.

When you first plug in the Flip it automatically installs FlipShare software that lets you play, copy, delete or export videos. Exporting makes a copy of the video on your hard drive leaving the videos on the camera intact.

Using some footage I shot a recent dinner party and Windows Movie Maker I made a quick, funny video in about a half-hour – and that’s my first time. Once you get good you could create simple, entertaining stuff in minutes.

My only beef with the Flip – and it’s a big one – is it doesn’t work with my Macbook. I’m going to contact Flip about this because I thought that as the camcorder of choice for social media mavens this would be a given.

I’ll keep you, ahem, posted (a little blog humour there).

ps. Sorry, can’t share the video I made because I promised not to put it on YouTube but I can share this one:

Enjoy. I know I will keep on enjoying Flipping.

I took in a great conversation last week about mobile social networks like Foursquare between Mitch Joel of Six Pixels of Separation and Joseph Jaffe of Powered. But this post isn’t about the topic of the conversation. It’s about how I took part.

The conversation was live on Talkshoe, the live online talk show and discussion group service. When I signed in to the call I was given the option to do so as a Guest or to sign up for a free Talkshoe account – and use my real name. I looked at who was already on the call and saw a list that looked like this:

Guest55, Guest76, Guest14….

After I signed up the list looked like this:

Guest55, Guest76, Guest14, RobinBrowne.

I then took active part in the online chat available during most webinars. By doing so, people could see that my comments were coming from RobinBrowne and not Guest66.

Whether you work on your own or are the personal face of your organisation via its Twitter account, commenting on blogs or however else, signing up for webinars with your real name and taking part in, and adding value to, the conversation is a simple, great way to build your rep as a thought leader in your area.

And, if Talkshoe’s chat stream is public like the last webinar  I took, Google picks it up (as it has already done with this post). That means your smart chat comments will show up when people Google your name – as they always will before they do business with you or your organisation (or donate, or whatever you want them do to).

If you have any quick personal branding tips to share, please leave a comment!

All good communications plans identify a target audience, or audiences. Unfortunately, too many target “the general public”.

 There are two main problems with this: it’s rarely true and nearly impossible to measure.

 It’s rarely true because there are few communications efforts that truly aim to reach the entire population. Those that do should think about creating custom versions tailored to specific audience segments. It’s nearly impossible to measure because, to do so, you have to find out if you achieved your objective with “the general public” – and that is a nearly impossible to effectively measure.

 A key power of social media is the ability to target niche audiences – and measure how well you did. This is especially relevant to the federal government that has a communications policy mandating all communications reflect the diversity of Canadian society. This must be top of mind when developing communications plans and should lead to questions like:

 •are Canada’s diverse cultural communities talking about our department or agency’s issues?

•if so, where are those conversations happening?

•if they’re not sharing on the major social networks like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter are they doing it somewhere else?

•do we have a presence in the places where they are sharing and if not, should we?

Do you know how to find out where people of different cultures share online?