Entrepreneur Magazine – Powerful Women to Watch 2014

I read Entrepreneur magazine religiously and while I’m often  frustrated by the lack of female representation on their covers (one to two a year with the second almost always being shared by a male counterpart), their January issue featured  seven of “The Most Powerful Women to Watch of 2014″ (these are the articles I often find myself daydreaming about being a part of).

Two profiles in particular stood out to me. While it wasn’t necessarily the women that I connected with, it was the role they were fulfilling in their careers that piqued my interest.

The two qualities – the bridge builder and the fixer – are the ones I identify with when it comes to BoomerangBeat.entrepreneur magazine - most powerful women to watch

Michele Weslander-Quaid – The Bridge Builder

As a Google executive, Michele’s defining characteristic was that of a bridge builder. “A big part of my job,” she says “is to translate between Silicon Valley speak and government dialect. I act as a bridge between the two cultures.”

In terms of BoomerangBeat, this is how I feel about news-speak. I want to be the translator between in-depth news stories/correspondents/mainstream media and the general public.

If you want the general public to understand and have an opinion (their own opinion) then mainstream media, and even several niche sites, are writing to the wrong level of consumer.

“Good content is targeted content. If you’re writing a basic cake recipe for beginner home cooks, you’re on the right track. If you’re writing a basic cake recipe for master chefs, you’re not.” [source]

The media is backwards. They’re feeding master chef recipes to beginner home cooks hoping they stick with it, understand it, and care about it. In a world of a million recipes, no less.

Where are the news 101 options?

We’re grouping those that don’t understand and are frustrated with those that don’t care. This is a mistake.

Caryn Siedman-Becker – The Fixer

As chairman and CEO of CLEAR (airport security), Caryn’s defining characteristic is the fixer. Her main objective is to rebuild the trust and integrity of airport security with their customers.

This is what needs to happen between the Millennial generation and the news industry.

We are constantly tuning out of mainstream media and into niche alternatives (think PolicyMic, Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Mashable).

While traffic and consumption looks healthy for these outlets, they’re still niche websites and thus, missing a very large portion of available audience and topics.

Enter: BoomerangBeat.

My Curiosity – The Base for BoomerangBeat

Curiosity is the engine of intellectual achievement. – Annie Murphy Paul

George Loewenstein, author of The Psychology of Curiosity, wrote that curiosity arises “when attention becomes focused on a gap in one’s knowledge. Such information gaps produce the feeling of deprivation labeled curiosity. The curious individual is motivated to obtain the missing information to reduce or eliminate the feeling of deprivation.”

Curiosity then, is a powerful feeling that pushes us to find the information we need to fill the gap in our knowledge.

Cognitive scientist and author Daniel Willingham suggests that in order to fill those gaps, we start by asking questions. In his book Why Don’t Students Like School?, Willingham notes that oftentimes teachers are “so eager to get to the answer that they do not devote sufficient time to developing the question.”

Knowing the question before you get the answer allows your mind to open as you consider other possibilities. It’s too easy to accept an answer when you have no idea what in fact you’re getting an answer to.  While questions stimulate curiosity, answers stifle it.

Though Willingham’s book is obviously directed at the educational system, I think it relates perfectly to how the media acts today.

Our brains get pleasure from solving problems not just simply knowing the answer. Even if we’re not directly told the answer, too many “hints” will cause us to lose the sense that we have solved it ourselves.

The media gives us answers. I’m sure you’re thinking “that’s their job”, but I disagree; to some extent, anyway. They, in all their glory and corporate money, tell us how to feel about a certain situation or event by giving us one side of the story, theirs.

Very rarely (if it all) do they show us both hands and facilitate our decision making process, our brain’s ultimate desire.

On the other hand, while our brains do get pleasure from solving problems (i.e., making our own decisions), we get little to no pleasure if we find the problem too difficult to solve.

Yes, we all have the resources today to find out what the liberals are saying or see where the republicans stand, to find the details that matter to the story, and to answer any question we have but sometimes, that is the equivalent to finding a needle in a virtual haystack.

For events as in-depth and important as the Iran Nuclear Talks, the NSA controversy, Obamacare, etc. it is simply too hard for people who are trying to learn to sort through the constant barrage of noise in order to connect the dots.

In his book Willingham notes “curiosity prompts us to explore new ideas and problems. But when we do this exploration, we quickly evaluate how much mental work it will take to solve the problem. If it’s too much or too little work, we stop working on the problem if we can.”

If we want a more informed public (or generation re: Millennials) we need to inform them better – not just give them their viewpoint.

Sharing BoomerangBeat with my network for the first time

Every week, I document the journey and thought process that goes into building BoomerangBeat. That might sound boring to you, but it’s in my nature to document everything I do. You never know who may find it useful one day.

Think that’s ridiculous? I’m okay with that, you should see how many pictures I take.

Click on the link to see the complete list of BoomerangBeat articles or to learn more about my project.

I really started writing in April 2013 but until that point I hadn’t really told anyone, except my sister and husband, about my idea for BoomerangBeat.

It was a rough start but the more I wrote, the more I figured out. Posts started to take shape, I discovered a trick that helps me choose topics and post titles, and I began to hit my stride (with the Snowden article no less).

Since then, I’ve only shared my mission with a handful of people and have essentially kept it under the radar with the people that support me most, my personal network.

Why? A false sense of embarrassment.

I’ve gotten a positive response from those I’ve directly shared BoomerangBeat with – both friends and strangers. But there’s still a part of me that thinks it’s silly and that I’m silly for believing in it.

I’m at the point where I’m ready to get over that. I need to get over that. Not only is this my built in support group, but most of these people are my target market. How much safer can it get?

Accountability

Sharing will also keep me accountable. After the government shutdown I had a few friends and random readers ask me if I had either written, or was planning to write, an article about what was going on. It was no surprise that the media sensationalism mixed with inflated and complex details, scared and confused the shit out of a lot of people.

The thing was, when they asked, I was in the middle of a BB redesign which I was focusing 100% of my free time on and had zero bandwidth to write an article that exhaustive.

But eventually I wrote one, because they asked me to. I knew I needed to anyway, but I was going to ignore it in favor of the design. They kept me accountable.

I believe in my project

I believe in my project and I think it has the potential to help a lot of people. However, I’m still learning the ins and outs of international affairs, politics, the government, its history, and everything else in between.

While that may by my virtue in this particular case (i.e., the reason for BoomerangBeat’s being), it’s also my vice. I’m still learning so I can’t help but wonder where and what gaps exist in the information I present. That’s the kind of reporting that gets ripped all the time.

I guess the worse that can happen is either absolute embarrassment because I’m still figuring it out, or I’ll release it to the sound of crickets. The best is acceptance.

I guess there’s only one way to find out.

Has anyone else out there been afraid to share their passion project when they were just starting out?

Holy Snowden

Every week, I document the journey and thought process that goes into building BoomerangBeat. That might sound boring to you, but it’s in my nature to document everything I do. You never know who may find it useful one day.

Think that’s ridiculous? I’m okay with that, you should see how many pictures I take.

Click on the link to see the complete list of BoomerangBeat articles or to learn more about my project.

So I just Googled “what is the edward snowden controversy” and got this:

what is the edward snowden controversy

Result number-fucking-one.

I even signed out of Google so I wouldn’t get personal results. I assume this has to do with Google’s Hummingbird update (Google recognizes question searches instead of just sparsing together random keywords).

Asking questions – it’s how I use Google and the reason why I format BoomerangBeat the way I do (even before Hummingbird, mind you). If Google recognizes this need, others are more than likely searching this way in volumes as well.

This will be a very good thing for BoomerangBeat.

Google News Feed Submission and Citizen Journalism

Every week, I document the journey and thought process that goes into building BoomerangBeat. That might sound boring to you, but it’s in my nature to document everything I do. You never know who may find it useful one day.

Think that’s ridiculous? I’m okay with that, you should see how many pictures I take.

Click on the link to see the complete list of BoomerangBeat articles or to learn more about my project.

Last week I submitted BoomerangBeat to the Google News Feed. Although my fingers are crossed, I’m not entirely optimistic that something will come of it.

However, through the application process I did learn something – BoomerangBeat is considered citizen journalism.

I realize how that sounds but honestly I hadn’t thought about it in that context before which made me really not want to check that box for fear Google wouldn’t consider BB a legitimate source. By checking it, I felt I was going to lose the game before I even got the chance to play.

But I did check it … after some research.

The negative stereotype

Let me point out that I never thought I was a professional reporter. I’m neither trained nor educated in journalism. But on the other hand, I hadn’t considered myself a citizen journalist either.

I was wrong to not.

Until now, I had a half-baked idea of what citizen journalism was and what it meant to society. While there’s no way to be entirely sure how this misconception manifested in my head, I had the idea that citizen journalism was the opposite of professional journalism and therefore, “unprofessional” by nature.

That notion, mixed with the rise of inexpensive mediums becoming available to the masses (read: social media and blogging platforms) lead to an out pour of random acts of journalism by the average Jane, allowing anyone (I include myself in this) to say whatever they wanted to say.

Real people, lacking the training and skill of reporting, writing and editing, now have easy access to a public megaphone. This is bad because it creates even more noise on top of an already saturated marketplace.

But it can also be good. If you think about it, citizen journalism in the age of technology is a fairly immature trade and with any new “craft”, there are bound to be some growing pains.

Citizen journalism is a positive thing

The Oxymoronic Citizen Journalism by Frederic Filloux helped change my perspective by showing me the positive effect it can have on society and how it can support professional reporters, not necessarily compete with them.

In the article, he talks about different ways that citizens weigh in – through online comment systems, submitting news tips, via their own blogs or social media.

The difference, he notes, really boils down to an issue of quality and those that fall into the “best range” are “solid, precise, and sometimes edited; they take the time to write their pieces and it shows.”

In contrast, and as noted above, there are those that can be “utterly superficial, lacking precise facts, or are agenda-driven and written with a shovel.”

So, when done well there is a place for the citizen journalists who function as outliers and seek to enrich the public with a different perspective.

A powerful combination

To further the idea that citizen journalism is a good thing, Filloux expands on the idea that the acceptance of public input and contribution can raise the level of participation and relevancy – when participation is relevant it has a solid place in the news cycle.

My hope is that news media big wigs will see BoomerangBeat as a benefit of, and protection for, the viewer or reader; that they interpret it as a contribution to the collective intelligence rather than their competitor for public trust.  

We need our journalists, but we need real voices too and that is what BoomerangBeat is for – to provide an avenue that heightens the story journalists are already telling.

Not so obvious when you’re in the thick of it

There is a place for citizen journalism in this ecosystem and there is room for them to make a difference.

As I write this, it does seem obvious but I feel like I have something to prove and when I think that way, doubt starts to affect the work I produce (or lack thereof).

So perhaps this is more of a reminder for me than it is evidence for you.

Feeling like a badass

Every week, I document the journey and thought process that go into building out BoomerangBeat. Click on the link to see the complete list of BoomerangBeat articles or to learn more about my project.

Yesterday I had ten followers on BoomerangBeat’s Twitter.

Today, I have eleven. Eleven sounds small because it is.

But this one in particular follower is kind of a big deal.

boomerangbeat

If you’re thinking this is an auto follow, you’re wrong. They followed me on purpose.

How do I know this? Because I reached out to them and on top of that, they really don’t follow many compared to their own follower count (which is significantly more than 11).

Hopefully they don’t realize this was a mistake and un-follow me before you check if it’s legit.

Regardless, one step forward.

Today, I’m a badass.

Oh, and if you haven’t checked out this national media watch group, you should. They’re doing something awesome – protecting us.

Seeing the “Odd Duck” – Why I love John Ratzenberger

why i love john ratzenberger

John Ratzenberger is famous for his role as the mail carrier Cliff Clavin on Cheers. What you probably don’t know is that Ratzenberger had originally read for the part of Norm Peterson which, eventually, he was passed over for.

Sensing an opportunity, John asked the producers if they had written a role for a know-it-all bar fly. They hadn’t, but they loved the idea and made room for the character that Ratzenberger had created. Cliff eventually went on to become one of the most iconic television characters in history, known for his “outlandish stories of plausible half-truths, uninteresting trivia, and misinformation.”1

John is a master of creativity. He not only saw what was there but also, what was missing.

Finding the rare “odd duck” isn’t easy. What is easy though, is to tell yourself that if it were doable, it would have already been done. Don’t take the easy route.

These are the type of people I look up to. Those who see patterns where none existed before. The opportunity creators. They fill holes rather than accepting the status quo.

JR totally made serendipity work for him.

What I’m Learning: Run Your Own Race

During a race, thoroughbreds wear blinders to prevent the use of extensive peripheral vision thus, cutting them off from their opponents. This enables the horse to focus only on what’s ahead and hence, run faster.

run your own race and nobody elses

(image edited, source)

After her first gig bombed in the early 50s, Danny Thomas (a respected veteran actor to whom his daughter, Marlo, was constantly being compared to) consoled his daughter by telling her he had raised her as a thoroughbred. “Wear blinders,” he said,”ignore the crowd and run her own race, baby.”

Jake Lodwick, the creator of Vimeo, is a modern-day, digital thoroughbred. Vimeo’s first incarnation was born from spontaneity and a healthy dose of impatience as a way to solve his own problem of getting video clips onto the web (this was pre-YouTube days). Today, Vimeo gets 100 million visitors a day and has carved a nice niche for themselves in the video-sharing market.

“We’re not a company that goes out and tells the same story that everyone else does. So that’s what we did. We told a  different story.”-Jake Lodwick

Strap on the blinders, tune out the crowd, and run your race.

What I’m Learning: Grandpa’s Words

At my grandfather’s celebration of life last weekend my dad, who emceed the event, opened the mic and invited friends and family to share their stories.

One person I’d become particularly fascinated with in the last seven months (I first met him in October), was my grandpa’s brother Gerald, who took the mic first.

Just 15 months younger, Gerald shared several stories and “Norman nuances” he had experienced throughout their childhood. Stories I had never heard before.

kadeeirene-quote-koi-fish-determination

One particular anecdote revealed the inherent character strength in grandpa’s personality – his feistyness.

The bolder (and mouthier) of the two, he apparently decided to take a break from getting into “disagreements” just long enough one day to hand over a pearl of wisdom. He told Gerald, “don’t walk into the bar like you own the place. Walk into the bar like you don’t care who owns the place.”

Whether the words resonated with anyone else, I don’t know. But, I can see that his feistyness has trickled down into several of us – his children and his grandchildren. Some more than others. Me, a lot.

To walk into a new space and act like you own it completely disregards the rules set, and disrespects those who came before you. And frankly, it isn’t very smart. Or kind.

To walk into a new space and not care who owns it, is significantly different. Survey the landscape, take it in and give respect where warranted. Evaluate the precedence and then decide if you want to play by those rules, or not. Don’t let the actions of seniority dictate who you should be or what you should do.

I may never have been articulate enough to say it quite as elegantly, but I felt it. Something clicked and the timing for this “pearl” to be repeated could never have been better. I’m on the verge of coming into my own and I’ve started living what grandpa had advised decades ago. Hearing it on Sunday only made me bolder.

Thank you, grandpa for saying what I didn’t know how to make sense of.

What I’m Learning: Prioritizing Shut It + Shout It

we all have something to learn and we all have something to say. what makes us difference is how we prioritize the value in the action.

shut it or shout it

i have always left much to be desired when it came to speaking up. still do – in both my personal and professional lives. and if often feels like there’s something wrong with me.

then, i changed my perspective.

i was reminded that sometimes talking can get in the way of not only learning, but imagination as well.

listening doesn’t come easy for all but i was born with a natural ability to do so. to turn off the “say everything that goes through my head” signal that so many seem to praise in today’s noisy world. but, those 27 years i sat around being quiet certainly weren’t wasted (right, susan?). they were purposeful listening on several levels. i had created a safe place for my ideas to flow, a place to reflect, to really hear, and to ask questions.

while others may not have seen my full potential because i sat quiet when i was younger, i was still working on something behind the scenes. honestly, back then that was a rather selfish thing to do. talking in order to further someone else’s agenda didn’t interest me. staying quiet and learning from everyone around me, did. i was looking for personal development, even then, when i didn’t understand it.

as that foundation grew, i began to use it more as a strength than see it as a weakness. slowly but surely i started to offer a ready ear, an informed idea or an “i understand” to others – both personally and professionaly.

i’ve never been good at speaking but this is an uphill battle for me. not a flat runway like it can be for some are naturally skilled at speaking and voicing their opinions. i have faith the foundation i’ve been subconsciously building, combined with hard and uncomfortable work, will make me an even stronger speaker than i realized i could be back then.

when i’m ready. and i’m almost ready.

where the hell did that come from?