What? That’s absolutely Posterous!

15 Jan

At some point, life got in the way of this blog. And then at some point, I started an Ashtanga yoga blog, which has taken a lot of care and nurturing. But the spirit — and archived posts — of Beyond 140 lives on, in the form of a Posterous blog. I’d love to see you there. (I’d also love to see you at YogaRose.net!)

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Y texts R so powerful

16 Feb

As a subscriber to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s text service, I received a Valentine’s Day text that read: “Put UR heart into it! Take our quiz about heart health.” By replying “heart,” I received another text testing my knowledge of how often American have heart attacks.

This started me thinking about the effectiveness of text messages, especially as new media darlings Google Buzz and Foursquare

Cat with cell phone

Even our feline friends are addicted to texting.

dominate discussions centered around how organizations can make effective use of social media to reach larger audiences. On some some levels, text messages can seem almost dated. No geolocation function? No sharing or posting?

But the power of a text message lies precisely in its simplicity — and I don’t think we have even begun to see texting’s full potential. Just consider the way text messages were used to rapidly raise millions for the recent Haiti humanitarian crisis. It’s unfortunate that there will always be humanitarian crises, but it’s heartening to think that the ways for people to globally support relief efforts is expanding in innovative ways.

And what about personal finances? Can text messages save me bill-paying time in the future? I’d rather send a text to pay rent than write out a check, find an envelope and drop the whole thing off.

Back to heart health. I think the text I received shows that the CDC is trying to maximally leverage its text messages—this time, incorporating a little user interactivity. For the record, I texted in the correct answer to the quiz question. Do you know whether Americans have heart attacks a) every 25 seconds b) 10 times an hour or c) 200 times a day? If you said a), nice work on matters of the heart.

(Photo credit: ClicknMiken)

Can social media help reduce stress during the holidays?

23 Nov
Stress

Stressed? Who are you calling stressed?

I attended a guided meditation workshop at Hilltop Yoga this evening. The timing of the workshop before Thanksgiving was no coincidence — it was geared toward helping everyone find ways to reduce their stress levels during the holidays. My teacher, Hilaire Lockwood, did a brilliant job, as she always does, of connecting us to the deepest parts of ourselves. With her talking the packed room through various meditation exercises, the process of moving toward stillness seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

On my own, however, I find meditation, and being still in general, very difficult. If I’m watching my daily dose of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, I’m probably also scanning TweetDeck or my Google Reader account. I do yoga (primarily, power yoga and Ashtanga) because it’s the best practice I’ve ever found to keep the world at bay and achieve true inner focus. I meditate best through movement.

With the guided meditation still fresh on my body, mind and spirit, I’m thinking about whether social media, which makes up an important part of my day-to-day life, can be employed as another daily tool to reduce stress. Whether it’s a steady stream of 140-character messages in the form of tweets, live news updates on Facebook or constantly updating RSS feeds, the social media world does not exactly promote focus. But as someone who finds a certain calm through movement, I don’t think the idea of social media and focus should be diametrically opposed.

Here a few ideas I have for using our favorite social networks and the like to keep the stress at bay this holiday season:

Use RSS feeds to help you do your holiday shopping more efficiently

For many of us, holiday shopping is a huge source of stress. Let’s face it, no matter what level of zen we can manage to achieve, it’s hard to be looking at the calendar on Dec. 19 and counting how many shopping days are left till Christmas, and it’s hard to maintain total calm when circling around the mall parking lot for the fifth time looking hoping for a spot to open up. Add gifts that need to be shipped and everything else, and high blood pressure seems inevitable.

I’m a huge fan of Etsy.com, the online store that features handmade goods from artists and craftmakers from all over the world. So when I find a store I like, such as this one, I subscribe to its RSS feeds so that I can see new products added throughout the year. Every now and then, something new catches my eye that I know would make the perfect gift. So I do a little shopping all year long, which takes some of the pressure off of the pressure-cooker months of November and December.

Identify yogic tweeters, and follow them

I get much of my news through Twitter, by having tweets sent to my phone. This is a blessing and a curse. I know I won’t miss any important news, but on a day when I’m running from one meeting to the next, or jammed with deadlines, it can be overwhelming to scroll through 35 tweets all about breaking local and national news, all about crime, the economy or military developments. So I follow Twitter accounts like @HilltopYoga and @shareyoga. I get updates from Hilltop Yoga about upcoming workshops, which gives me something to look forward to on especially stressful days, and offers the periodic yoga philosophy. @shareyoga tweets yoga breaks. These tweets help break up what can be a heavy Twitter stream.

Tell your Facebook friends how stressed you are

Inevitably, when I do a status update about how stressed I am, I get several comments from friends that either remind me to take a deep breath or make me laugh despite my bad mood. Status updates work every time. So if you’re pulling your hair out because you’ve got family coming in 48 hours, your place is a mess and you haven’t even started thinking about cooking, say so — you’ll have a lot of support.

Do you actively use social media to make your life less stressful? Given that Thanksgiving is just four days away, and I have so much to before then, I’ve love to hear any suggestions you have.

(Photo credit: Dave-F)

Keeping it simple — powerfully so

12 Apr
How did E.T. manage to home phone in 1982 with this set-up?

How did E.T. manage to phone home in 1982 with this set-up?

Ping.fm, which is what I use both on my laptop and on my mobile networks to update microblogging accounts, describes itself as a “simple service that makes updating your social networks a snap.”

It definitely delivers as promised. If only all services in life did that.

And even though I don’t have an iPhone (yet! — just a matter of biding out my current contract) and use a severely limited BlackBerry (my workplace has a policy of restricting access to a great many useful Web sites and disabling other features as well), I can post updates here too. There are times I still have to pinch myself when thinking about how many more communication options are open to us now compared with just a few years ago.

What are your favorite ways to take advantage of these advances?

(Photo credit: Mattingly23)

I don’t hate the Facebook redesign. Is something wrong with me?

22 Mar
Who are you looking at?

Is it me, or have you changed something about your look?

So here’s the thing — I don’t hate the new Facebook redesign. In fact, I kind of like it.

I must be joining all of about 9,773 people among the social network’s 175-million-strong ranks who aren’t up in arms over the redesign. The criticisms of the changes are numerous, detailed and widespread — so much so that there are reports even Facebook employees hate it.

The consensus out there is that the new look was inspired in part by the real-time stream of the current “it” network, Twitter — and I can’t deny that that probably has something to do with why I like it.

It seems to me that Facebook took a page from Twitter, FriendFeed and now-defunct Pownce in how it presents aggregated information about what people are doing and saying. The new Facebook stream gives more equal weight to the individuals and groups (in the form of fan pages) you want to be connected to — it’s no longer a friend’s status update here and a note from one of your groups way over here. When Mashable posts a new article, I see it in the same stream that tells me which of my friends just blew their March Madness brackets. This makes much more sense to me, because I use social networks to gather information, whether it’s about friends, trends or news events. If I’ve gone to the trouble of becoming a fan of a group, business or organization, I want to know what’s new there as much as I want to hear about what a former colleague is up to.

Believe me, I am no Facebook defender. When the social networking completed its last redesign six months ago, I was quite annoyed. Although the redesign aimed to keep pages from looking too cluttered (an especially admirable goal in light of how MySpace looked), I thought the changes ended up parceling out information over a greater number of pages, which was the last thing I wanted.

Despite the latest uproar over a rumored e-mail from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying, essentially, that he could care less about user complaints, I can’t picture Facebook doing what Tropicana did recently and bending to the will of its customers. So unless we all feel like doing a mass-migration to Bebo, we’re going to have to live with this. Good thing everyone has Facebook and Twitter to vent their complaints through.

How about you? Will you be part of the user revolt? Am I wrong to not join the cause?

(Photo credit: Jacob Bøtter)

What do you get the microblogging site that has everything?

22 Mar
Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh sends his birthday wishes

Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh sends his birthday wishes

Twitter’s growing up so fast. The microblogging site just celebrated its third birthday — and it’s 1300 percent bigger than it was just a year ago.

Mashable said this of the milestone: “Thank you Twitter for giving us real-time news, creating a community of Twitter application developers, and for giving us THE_REAL_SHAQ.”

@Zappos tweeted: “Happy birthday Twitter! Like most 3 yr olds, u make me feel happy, sad, surprised, overwhelmed. But in the end I still love u.”

So hey, happy birthday, Twitter. I’m sorry I thought you were incredibly stupid when I first heard about you. I was wrong, and all those people who were busy tweeting about coffee and weekends and politics and everything else under the sun were actually right. Without you, I wouldn’t have had the chance last Thanksgiving to talk about turducken with Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh. I wouldn’t have learned about the Detroit Pistons’ Allen Iverson trade before all my friends did. I wouldn’t have known about Creative Commons. Thanks for showing me how much can be accomplished with just 140 characters.

With the leaked Rihanna photo, social media allowed us all to play news editors. How did we do?

21 Feb

martha_feingold tweet via Gawker

There’s an interactive you-be-the-journalist game at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. in which you race against another team to pull together the front page of a newspaper by answering sticky questions about what’s ethical and what’s not.

I’m thinking about this game because I’m thinking about the controversial police photo of pop artist Rihanna that leaked two days ago. The searingly tight shot shows Rihanna’s face with welts and bruises that were made, it’s widely speculated, at the hands of R&B star Chris Brown the night before the Grammy Awards.

As with a lot of news these days, I first learned about Rihanna’s beating through Twitter, and when TMZ.com posted its prize photo, I learned about that through Twitter as well, when someone I follow tweeted the link to TMZ.com.

This case offers a striking reminder about how little we need an interactive game at the Newseum to play a journalist, because social media lets us do that in countless ways large and small every day. In the past, the public at large would scrutinize a decision by a media outlet on whether to show the photo. Now, we are faced with a similar dilemma ourselves as we decide whether to tweet, retweet, use a Facebook status update or write a blog post to link to or embed such a controversial photograph.

Gawker addressed the journalistic ethical gray area by outing the publications that ran the photo (outlets that included Gawker), calling the photo a “media ethics lightning rod.” What about the rest of us? Shouldn’t this also be a social media question? I didn’t tweet or retweet the photo, and I’m not linking to it anywhere here — which means I can’t link to TMZ.com at all, since the photo is still on its homepage. But does that matter? I looked at the photo the second I saw that tweet — and if I had read a news story that didn’t publish the photo or include a link, I would have Googled it.

I think it’s also interesting to note that this was not the only controversial image that made headlines this week. The New York Post ran an editorial cartoon that appeared to compare President Obama to a chimp shot dead by police. I was at home sick for three days this week so I watched a lot of cable news shows, and it seems that just about every show invited guests on to talk about the issue — and rightly so. The publication of the Rihanna photo, though obviously widely covered, received far less critical attention. I didn’t see guests brought on to weigh in on the controversy, and I think it was a missed opportunity to discuss domestic violence and how media outlets handle — or avoid — the issue. Were we more interested in seeing this red-hot celebrity exposed in such a vulnerable position than we were in what made a man think he had the right to do that to her?

Earlier this week, a friend of mine tweeted this of the Rihanna story:

I’m really getting tired of intelligent men I know saying, ‘I wonder what RiRi did to set him off like that.’

That’s the kind of honest discussion we need around domestic violence (and MTV News does a fine job getting into it here). It would be nice to see more of it on national media outlets, but if we don’t see enough there, the power of social media is that we can make sure it happens ourselves.

Photo credit: Gawker.com

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