Before The Blogosphere, Was The Biosphere

Alan Watts was the Seth Godin of spirutality. It’s true.

What I mean is that Seth Godin’s genius is simply his ability to apply common sense and a reverse-engineering perspective of things we take for granted through our prejudices to provide marketers with brilliant insights into the truth buried right under their collective noses.

Alan Watts did a similar thing for spirituality, Zen and religion in general. When you listen to his lectures, or read his writings, you get the sense that he was a man who saw life with a clarity few of us have. His was a philosophical view that can help ease whatever existential anxiety all of us experience from time to time. And in business, there is a surplus of existential anxiety. In fact, it’s a paralytic these days.

Why do I bring Seth Godin and Alan Wats into the same post? Because our marketing efforts run the risk of influencing the natural environment that supplies our life. Remarkable businesses are those businesses that achieve capitalist creativity with the grains of nature, not against them.

If I had to summarize Seth Godin in a few words it would be this:

Seth Godin in Four Words:

Don’t be a stunad!

And if I had to summarize Alan Watts in a few words it would be this:

Alan Wats in Two Sentences:

This is it. So become what you are.

I am not an environmental specialist, activist or alarmist. But I do love nature’s difficult beauty, it’s labors, productions, curiosities and wholeness. Nature can wreck you, but it makes you too. Nature is pure marketing genius. The peacock feather is brilliant copy for the species.

It’s a distribution channel. It’s an information matrix. It’s a connected webbing of subtle interconnections. It’s social, even if we don’t see the socializing going on among the tiniest cellular organisms. We have a lot to learn from nature. After all, our sciences and art are inspired from intently observing nature. Nature is not expired from us. But we do trample on the roots that supply our lifestyle.

So, how do we solve the problem of surviving the fruits of nature’s tenuous bounty (which is what the buisness of marekting serves) while preserving the very environment which endows us with the very abilities to survive nature’s harshness?

We can’t transform ourselves. We already are what we ever will become. And yet it seems that we have to transform ourselves if we are to get through The Dip of enviornmental self-abuse. How do we overcome this dilemma?

To help marketers get a better understanding of how to relate back to nature as model for their marketing efforts I recommend brewing a cup of Japanese tea (or a freshly ground cup of Joe) and watching Alan Watts discuss our one of the most pressing dilemmas of our time:

We all have nature to look after, both as model and as child (which is parent to the adult). You can laugh about Alan Watts being useful to marketers. But, after all WOM and viral marketing are phenomena which are derivatives of processes that have occurred through genetic mechanisms for Billions of years without a break in the chain. It’s valuable, and priceless.

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The Red Cross is Social

I wish that organizations like the Red Cross didn’t have to exist, I really do.

But we live in a fragile world. Given that tsunamis, hurricanes, local fires, explosions, tornados, terrorist attacks, pandemics, and other disasters can strike small or large groups of people spontaneously, perhaps it’s not such a bad idea to link into the many offerings of the Red Cross (I’m still in the process myself).

As of today, here are the official places that the Red Cross has set up:

I checked to see if the Red Cross is on FriendFeed and it looks like Joe has claimed it. Hey Joe, where you going with that…FriendFeed account in your name? I don’t know who Joe is but I hope he has good intentions for staking out RedCross on FriendFeed.

If you are Joe, and you’re not affiliated with the Red Cross, would you be a hero and offer it up to its namesake organization? There are literally millions of lives who you could affect. (If you do give it to the Red Cross, you could just say you held it with purely altruistic intentions and maybe you’ll get a ton of gratitude (and traffic). Just a thought.)

Which raises a point: what do you think about the rights of charitable organizations to stake claims on current and future social media sites?

To read more about how the Red Cross is using Web 2.0 check out their page on Social Media.

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A Remarkable Speech on Father’s Day

Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy that we put aside one day of the year to celebrate fatherhood. But one day of supporting fatherhood (or motherhood) is less than 0.3% of the year. It’s a no-brainer that children need supportive, mindful and remarkable parents to encourage their growth, focus their attention on the things that matter in life and learn that trust is the substance that grows love. A culture that keenly understands that the child is father (and mother) of the man and woman, is a culture destined for greatness. I’m not too sure how much value our culture places on parenthood. Our culture emits mixed messages.

So when one person stands up to offer his country a speech on fatherhood in our time, we aught to listen. This post is neither a promotion or demotion of Barak Obama’s presidential campaign. But he gave a speech Sunday (which I am sure hundreds of thousands of bloggers have already pasted into their blogs) that was so moving and so spot-on about the importance of fathers in our world that I’m proud to embed it on my blog. I am proud because regardless of our political affiliation, it’s remarkable to hear inspiration whatever its source.

Father of My Father

My GrandfatherMy father’s father, like Barak Obama’s, left him him when he was two years old. I never met my grandfather but I know that he fought in several of the battles in the Isonzo Valley during World War I; and from how my father would talk about him, I suspect that my grandfather suffered from a lot of PTSD. I cannot tell you how much suffering that loss affected my father and how that loss was passed on to my life but I can tell you that without fatherhood in the world, things get dark, dark fast.

For all of my father’s faults, he managed to understand the pain of being fatherless. My father had no father to model after. So for him, fatherhood was a creation from scratch. Why some people who have been abandoned are able to overcome their hardships while others replicate them is a question to which we aught to have an answer. The world needs that answer.

The legacy of my father’s father was war. My father too was traumatized, traumatized by these hardships:

  • Poverty after the wrath of World War I (million percent inflation)
  • The terrorism of National Socialism
  • The ravages of war: carpet bombing, communicable disease, more poverty
  • Witnessing the wholesale murder of human beings for their beliefs
  • Survivor’s guilt (he was the only person in his family to be alive by 1945)
  • The terrorism of Soviet occupation and oppression
  • Six years in a Displaced Persons camp (unheated barracks, more poverty)

I don’t know how many people could survive these traumas without going insane. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy wasn’t around in 1945. All my life I couldn’t understand how my parents survived or why they had two children in a DP camp in Austria. But now that I’m father to my own little man, I understand why they had children among that depressive wreckage of salvation. It’s one word: hope. Children are hope and hope bears beauty in a terrible world.

“We keep faith that our father will be there to guide us and watch over us and protect us and lead his children through the darkest storms to a light of a better day.”

Barak Obama, June 15, 2008

Fatherhood, Feminism and Flatland

You don’t have to be Christian, Gnostic, Agnostic, Buddhist, Atheist, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian to understand the wisdom in that sentence. It’s common sense. But it’s a view that I think our culture does not emphasize sufficiently. Something went wrong last century and that wrong bleeds into this one. Perhaps it was the (right) war on the psychopathology of paternal dominance that inadvertently demoted fatherhood, associated fatherhood with paternal terrorism.

But a society without fathers is one that will inevitably abuse women, consume addictive substances, encourage sibling rivalry and stunt a boy’s journey into maturity. Feminist liberation is impossible without fathers and mothers who are given permission from culture to daily celebrate their passion for raising up the future.

Sadly, I think, children aren’t growing up as much as they used to. In fact, I think we are generating a horizontal culture, where everybody copies everybody else but never looks upward. It’s becoming a flatland and my fear is that our technological social media may spur even more of our flattening of culture.

But there is hope that a few individuals will bring forth the courage and wisdom to enkindle the idea that we need fathers who persist in the most important task any human being can embark on: nurture the young so they look up and around instead of down and in.

So when a man like Barak Obama stands up to give a remarkable speech on Father’s Day, I listen. And so should you.

Not bad for a politician is it? You see, when you’re a father you appreciate the talent, gratitude and love that goes into a speech like that.

Dad: I Wish That…

Dad, I wish you could see the things that are happening today. I know you were born between two terrifying wars, that you grew up among devastation, that you survived hatred and genocide and poverty of love. And that you spent six long years learning a new language and fell in love with America long before you stepped foot in the first state of the last Republic to stand for liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our Republic is faltering now, but not all of us have given up. No, the endurance of the suffering of men like you is an echo onto eternity.

I will show my son through the dark storms and to the light of a better day, regardless of the uncharted battering seas ahead of us. Thank you for imparting a love for an America that needs love more than ever before in its history.

Dad: How I wish you could meet your grandson. You helped make him (no, not like that, you perverts). Here he is:

Your Grandson

I miss you, Dad.

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Social Media Marketing Isn’t A Science, Is It?

Sorry, I don’t have an answer. But if I have to choose someone’s opinion on the matter, I’ll trust a top physicist, one who “know[s] what it means to know something”:

 

It’s very easy to convince people that the work you do is backed by science. We hear those claims from advertisers, infomercials, activists, social media consultants and politicians. Sometimes there are grains of truth in the claims, maybe even entire clumps. You can scare people too, in the hopes that they’ll buy your product or service or political agenda. Many patients undergo unnecessary diagnostic tests because doctors are afraid of lawyers. After all those tests are scientific machines and (smart) lawyers use the scientific method. But who foots the bill?

If you think but don’t know that you have science on your side, you’re probably fooling yourself and your audience. It’s OK to have hunches, visions, experience and feelings. If you feel passionate about your visionary hunches and have the experience to lead the way, just say so and use the market as your profitable laboratory.

But don’t say that your belief system is a science just because science works and people trust science. You’ll set yourself up for distrust, disappointment and anger. And then people won’t trust science. In fact, they will hate it. That’s when superstitious fanatics takeover the boardroom at night, nationalize your business and convert your betrayed customers into interrogators.

Fear breeds itself like a virus, one tiny cell after another. What’s viral isn’t always in your interest or mine. And some viruses even the best scientists can’t contain.

You can laugh off what I’m claiming. After all, it’s just hypothetical.

Why a Registered Nurse is Interested in Social Media

Healthcare and technology are in a rocky relationship. Technology has been prowling about town and growing exponentially while the provision of healthcare remains cooped up inside, unrequieted and left behind. Moore’s Law, which is bleeding out of microprocessors into our lives, seems to be the other lover fueling this breakdown. If this relationship completely breaks down, you and I won’t have the health needed to enjoy the fruits of the cultural upheaval that technology is stirring and which Moore’s Law is infusing. What can be done to resuscitate this relationship? An RN shares his perspective on social media.

The ultimate promise (and perhaps lie) of social media is a transformation of society from a swarm of mindless consumers into a democracy of awakened citizens.

Enter the Registered Nurse

Before I answer the question above: a little backgound about myself and why I’m interested in social media. I have no formal training in IT or social media marketing or web design or blogging. I am an ICU nurse with a background in accounting and finance. A combo like that means that when I look at things I critically assess what I see and probe beneath the surface of appearance (and I see things which you probably don’t want to read about after your breakfast). I know how skeptical questioning leads to better ways of seeing and doing things and I believe that outsiders often provide a fresh and needed insight into traditional fields because they don’t have to uncover the blindspots that often accompany the status quo.

Business, like nursing, is 20% science and 80% common sense. And that rough metaphorical proportion probably holds true in social media.  I cannot point to specific statistics or Harvard-researched studies with complex equations supported by rigorous methodologies to prove to you that social media can revolutionize healthcare. Do I wish I had evidence-based knowledge to back my claim? Of course. But I assert: if we don’t even consider bringing social media to the healthcare industry and thereby yank the industry into the 21st century then we would be incurring a potentially lethal opportunity cost.

Before I became a nurse I was a regular guy living the bubbly posh dream of upper middle class life. My knowledge of the suffering which human beings can endure was academic. But I was interested in learning a lot more; in fact, I wanted to break-out of my bubble to see what the proverbial Rabbit Hole was all about. So when I plunged into the gulf of nursing, my intimate acquaintance with the truth of our world was almost as traumatic as drowning. But I learned to swim.

Health is Social, Social is Health

If there was one common theme I found in caring for my patients I would say it was the importance of support systems. Patients with families who supported them tended to have better outcomes: either they recovered faster or, if their condition was terminal, their deaths were dignified and in the company of love.

But often patients don’t have the support systems in place that they need. And patients sometimes need more than just family support. They need more, even if it’s just a simple link to another patient with the same or similar set of problems. Healthcare facilities don’t always provide optimal support systems. There are various reasons for this–some justifiable, others unconscionable, and the other reasons somewhere in between. Whatever the reasons, we don’t necessarily have to wait for facilities to revolutionize themselves; support systems can be developed in spite of the limitations of the healthcare industry itself. This is where social media becomes interesting.

I have been lurking and commenting on blogs about social media. I have seen amazing ideas, novel approaches to solving problems, and reviews on the latest tools for improving business. But I have also seen a lot of disconnected evangalizing about social media. There seems to be two camps with respect to social media: it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread or it’s largely a total waste of time. To that dichotomy I offer an intuition pump:

A poorly made hammer is no reason to abandon hardware in favor of pounding nails into the wall with your fist.

Twitter has Risen…with Wounded Wings

Countless social media interfaces abound the internet. There are the popular interfaces such as FaceeBook and MySpace. And there are different kinds of social media tools such which you can learn about. But for the sake of this post, I’d like to single-out Twitter.

Twitter is the sound of the Long Tail wagging.

Twitter is a-glitter in the Web 2.0 memesphere. Twitter is not something you can theoretically reject or embrace. It’s an experience. Go sign up now and download Twhirl (or any other client) if you haven’t already. Twitter, pehaps more than any other current social medium, demonstrates the strange but unstoppable power of social media.

Twitter is utter nonsense if that’s how you use it. It’s brilliant if you recognize its (unintended) brilliance. Twitter is a remarkable permission-based human linking system. I have followed incredibly successful, bright and diverse groups of people. I have been gifted with haikus of pearly wisdom, hyperlinks to places I never would have found on Google alone and those links sparked my creativity, intellect and hope. And I have even enjoyed the nit-Twits from Twitterers who probably don’t yet get it; I enjoyed them because somehow it’s all so wonderful to see the voices of people I’ll never meet but who make the experience palpable, real, and more alive than the typical web interface. Even the best blogs can’t deliver that peculiar kind of gig.

Never before in the history of our species have we had a means to instantly communicate with anybody in the world in quite the way we are able to do with Twitter. Think about that. As an interface it has a long way to go. But its ability to link human beings the way that it does is worth adopting, regardless of its future. Twitter is the sound of the Long Tail wagging.

But Twitter also provides a demonstration of the kinds of places social media is heading. As a nurse I am curious to know how it can be used from a healthcare perspective. Here are some hypothetical Tweets to consider:

  • “I was told today that I have a metastasised cancer.”
  • “I’m so depressed that I want to commit suicide. Last night I bought a gun.”
  • “My daughter was killed by a drunk driver last week.”

How would the Twittershpere handle such Tweets? I’m sure that there would be plenty of caring, supporting and concerned followers. But they might not really be equipped to handle such a circumstance. What mechanism could we implant to deal with such situations? This is a real test for social media’s power. And its danger.

Twitter raises fundamental questions that extend beyond healthcare in particular, but which have implications for our general health. What obligations, if any do we have? If I choose to follow you on Twitter (or any other social medium), what kind of permission have I given you and what kind of responsibilities do I have in return? (If you follow me, maybe we can work on the problem.)

We need to discuss these things. We need to get social media right. And right from the start.

An Interactive Connection Among People

Social media has all sorts of definitions on the web. (Google “social media” and find out what I mean.) But here’s my definition:

Social media is an ever-evolving interactive connection among people.

Interactive connection among people. Isn’t that what we are about after all? Isn’t that the very thing our ancestors struggled against the brutal elements to preserve and hand down to us? Of course it is. Religion, art, primitive science, politics…all were social projects achieved through social media. And now is our chance to produce a future to be proud of or to be cursed upon. Love it or hate it, our relationship with technology is becoming increasingly lop-sided in its direction, a direction which could increasingly favor technology more than us. Infusing the technology we are evolving with our social needs is no bad idea at all. It may be what saves us from the final scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey in which the cold and calculating computer manifests human fear while the methodical human being terminates a new kind of life.

I hope by now, I’ve convinced you about the relevance of social media in your life.

A Quick Diversion Down the Social Media Market on Main

Let’s pull-back for a moment and look at the big picture of the economic implications of social media.

The healhcare industry has been slow to properly adopt capitalism successfully. Perhaps that’s because traditional doctors and nurses and administrators didn’t used to have to concern themselves with financial matters when local philanthropy was more common than today. Whatever the reasons, the economics of healthcare is central to the problem of its provision. Any tool which can help patients receive quality care aught to receive an investment of attention.

I hear a lot of talk about universal healthcare by people who have neither first-hand experience delivering healthcare nor a working understanding of macro or micoeconomics. If we are to develop intelligent healthcare strategies, we are going to need to connect the right people together. Fighting the right war with the wrong people is worse than surrender. (The last century took a backslide because so often the wrong people fought the right wars.) The right kind of social media can bring the right people together to collaborate more effectively than political hucksters who exploit every popular pretext for election into office.

If you are intending to use social media to bake your bread, you can use it to improve your market position by delivering remarkable interaction with your customers..or it can accomplish nothing but hastle. Blogging can generate a healthy ROI or waste all of your time. It’s all in your understanding of a blog’s relevance, its place, its limits, its strengths, its science, its art. It depends upon your strategy. A well-crafted up-to-date blog on a hospital’s domain could be a practical way to offer better services, listen to what the community wants and provide a network of patients and family members who otherwise might struggle through their difficulties alone.

Aagain: a poorly made hammer is no reason to abandon hardware in favor of pounding nails into the wall with your fist.

The tools of social media are cheap, ever-evolving, ever-refining, and ever-elusive. Which is to say that social media is laddled with opportunity. It forces us to keep learning, to acquire new skills which we might not ever develop without them. That’s a quality that goes far beyond monetization, consulting fees and commerce. To simply ignore them prima facie based on their misuse is to risk being washed away by the inevitable tsunamis of Moore’s merciless Law. And social media just might be a tsunami to most of Corporate America: people who don’t understand what those tiny little waves accross the ocean really mean can end up like this (link if video missing in your browser):

If the leaders of the healthcare industry can get up to speed with the opportunities provided by social media, then they have an opportunity to converge the right kind of capitalism with the most comprehensive, preventative and effective kind of healthcare system they (and we) are responsible to produce. Not all disasters are inevitable.

An Example of How to Use Social Media in Healthcare

I would like to see social media explored more in the realm of healthcare. For instance, I would like to see a Googlesque Twitter that could link the experience of millions of doctors and nurses and other healtcare providers around the world.

Imagine a doctor treating a patient with symptoms that she just can’t put together into a cohesive diagnosis. If she could Tweet her community and get instant feedback from others who encountered similar cases then she might get that one little idea that could help her more effectively diagnose or treat her stumbling case. Could that kind of use improve treatment or even save a life? Or consider this: How many residents could benefit from following the Tweets of a world-renowned specialist attending fascinating cases? This is the kind of power I’m interesting in seeing evolve intelligently. This is why a registered nurse is interested in social media.

Conclusion: We Need to Get Social Media Right

To arguments that social media is an empty meme and a big waste of time, I say: yup, you’re right…almost. What those arguments are missing is this: the ultimate promise (and perhaps lie) of social media is a transformation of society from a swarm of mindless consumers into a democracy of awakened citizens. There is a big difference between the two. Patients aren’t consumers. They are citizens. That’s a difference worth fighting to make and keep for our descendants.

If we play it right, if we intelligently follow the tenuous thread that the leaders and adopters of this movement are consciously and unconsciously weaving, then social media just might bring us back from that healing place which our modern reasoning has been tugging us away from: home.


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