Posted by: Shawn | October 2, 2008

Bloging with a touch

Just got a new iPod touch today and so I thought I would try out the ability to update a blog with it. So far it seems pretty slick, perhaps a bit slow to type but that’s to be expected.


A very salient article about a solution for ensuring that content is crafted with the same skill and purpose that goes into the rest of an organizations online efforts. As someone involved with web experiences for over a decade it is amazing how many projects I have been involved with where content was an after thought. Well ok, perhaps that is a bit harsh… rather content was not considered with anywhere near the importance it actually is. 

A List Apart: Articles: The Cure for Content-Delay Syndrome

I would argues that content is a lynch pin of your experience, well written and crafted copy makes for an engaging and compelling experience. It is the story that pulls at the heart strings, instills fear, or inspires hope. Without great content the best UI fails to achieve it’s objective, without great content we fail to engage our audience and change perceptions.

We all know this, every time we ready something well written we react to it in a positive way and even the most hopeless of us at writing can find a typo at ten paces and immediately diminish our opinions. So join the call in saying invest in editing, invest in writing, and most of all invest in content with the same fervor and immediacy you give to the other parts of your engagement activities.

Yesterday I attended the Sustainable connections Business Conference here is Bellingham to see what is happening in the sustainability space in my local community. Here are some take aways and things I learned.

· Bellingham is one of the most respected cities in the country for sustainability (yes! sweet reinforcement that Mathew and I are indeed the best once again J)and being looked to by many groups across the world because of the work of sustainable connection and the local businesses that birthed it.

· Whatcom County is one of only two counties in the country with a LEED certified courthouse, Bellingham is #1 in green power, Commitment to develop new waterfront from a toxic GP plant into first large scale all LEED platinum certified city center.

· Over 150 businesses leaders turned out for a very intensive all day event, many from outside of the area. I met people from most of the islands, Skagit, Snohomish, and King county.

· Many sustainable businesses struggle with the same perceptions of Marketing as a negative activity as do non-profits

· Every communication piece is an opportunity to communicate your values and mission, even bills.

· Green Jobs are gaining traction, but focus appears to be in energy and home efficiency. Conspicuously absent was farming. Also Green Jobs have divided opinions on whether they are well paid or simply employment for people in poverty.

·  I saw the power of people in action, after our mayor got up to speak and commented about Sharif Abdullah’s talk and the need for  action, he was asked whether he would personally commit to putting in bike lanes. His answer was that he would follow the process, the crowd started to challenge him to take a stand himself, I would not have wanted to have been is his shoes J

· We’ve screwed up so bad, that we are at a point where society needs to change if we are going to reverse the damage we have caused. EVEN more I know believe that people are the key, if we do not rapidly change out model and engage entire communities at a personal and individual level we will not succeed.

· Business is essential to change, the connections between non-profits and their causes and businesses needs more emphasis.

· The environment cannot be the main story, PERIOD. We cannot live in harmony with nature unless we change a lot of things. Such as our perception of what important (stuff), our sense of purpose (faith), and our way of providing (Money).

So what is my big take away: That if we care about the environment we need to connect it to everything else and engage people, really engage them holistically.  And I don’t mean the people who already get it, I mean the people who are the majority, the people who don’t think they cannot afford to spend time/energy on environmental issues because they have other issues more pressing that they don’t realize are all connected.

We have the opportunity to do this with technology, that everyone thinks they need , and in fact they do because of the change in society to expect online experience. But I think we might have a responsibility because of our position of seeing the whole of these efforts to think about the engagement paradigm and make sure that it’s being met across the board, that every person is eventually served. We can engage everyone on their terms… In ways that are relevant….We can scale that…. that’s the power technology has given us.

Posted by: Shawn | May 1, 2008

Viral Engagement

Viral engagement is about a value exchange where by a person tells someone else about something in order to gain something. There is always a value exchange happening, it’s just a matter of distilling down exactly what that exchange is. Viral Engagement is designed to spread the awareness and perception change through networks of people rather than through traditional advertising or PR vehicles. Its often referred to as a form of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM).

It is important to take a couple of things into account when planning a Viral Engagement experience.

  1. Insure your “thing” is compelling enough to your audience that they need to share it
  2. Make the ability to share as easy and seamless as possible
  3. Respect the trust between the people sharing, don’t abuse it
  4. Provide a value to both the sharer and the receiver for participating
  5. Provide increased value to people the more people they share with

Viral Model

Let’s take a look at how a viral online system works. First a user of a site encounters something that interests them. They usually spend some time interacting with it. During this time they are sub-consciously evaluating how this experience will benefit their position in their social network, and more specifically whether they want to connect people they know to this experience.

I tend to think of every interaction as a transactional exchange. Monetary, time, or social capital is exchanged during the interaction. Most viral engagements rely heavily on the concept of social capital, you are sharing something in hopes that the person you share it with will find it valuable and hence your social capital with them goes up.

The Power of Viral

Everyone knows the power of viral growth, the unlimited and exponential growth potential is what virtually every buzz marketing campaign is hoping to tap into. But let’s look at it a little more systematically and extract some variables we can use to predict outcomes and measure our success.

  1. The percentage of visitors who share
  2. Percentage of people who receive a shared item and take an action
  3. The average number of new people that someone shares with over a set period of time
  4. The frequency with which a person continues to share with new people
  5. Bound of the social network.

Viral engagements are based on the assumptions that the conversion rates will be higher because it is being shared via trusted relationships. So when someone receives something shared by someone they know, the initial response rate is higher and they are more likely to take an action.

Let’s see how this works, say you had 10 people who came to your site of those 5% decide to make a $25 donation all of whom as part of that process share with an average of 5 people, of the people who don’t donate 20% decide to forward on to 5 people. Say this continues for 30 cycles, at the end of this time you would have raised over $14,000, and touched over 11,000 people of whom almost 600 have moved further up in their engagement with your organization. Continue it for 10 more cycles and you will have raised over $90,000, touched 70,000 people, and have 3500 people further in their engagement. And so on and so on. Until you reach a point of saturation with your network. Think S-curve not J-curve, and its determined by the extent that the social network that connects the people is exhausted.

When to use Viral Strategies

Are viral engagements applicable in every situation, absolutely not! You must have the right mix of high value experience, coupled with a value system that encourages sharing, and a network of people that is large enough. In addition you must also have the right online tools and system in place that allows for that sharing to happen easily and continually fosters ongoing sharing.

How do you use Viral Engagement? Does the above match with what you have found?

Posted by: Shawn | April 19, 2008

Rockin out with Hannah

The last couple of days have been so much fun, filled with lots of bike riding, park playing, board games, and books. I think she is really enjoying being with us and just soaking up the attention and 1:1 interactions.

Oh yea bike riding!! We picked up a bike the other day and she was so excited that all she wants to to do is ride around the neighborhood after school. Seriously in 38 degree weather the other night, my hands were in danger of amputation from frost bite and she was flying ahead on her pink bike laughing the whole time, saying come on keep going. But talk about nerve racking there is nothing like an out of control 8 year old screaming down a hill who announces “oh oh I can’t stop” quick what do you do?

But last night was by far the most fun as we rocked out to some Hannah Montanna while playing an exciting game of Yahtzee. Yes that’s right Yahtzee, not candy land or chutes and ladders… but that’s what she wanted to learn how to play and she beat us! Then finished up with her reading us Flat Stanley and Fancy Nancy. All tucked in and so happy trying out the second bed in her room to figure out which one she likes the best.

Posted by: Shawn | April 19, 2008

Audience… a 2nd grade skill

I’m reading through a packet of materials outlining the requirements for our local 2nd grade and I come across these two things they must be able to do to pass.

1. Writes with a clear sense of audience

2. Writes for varied audience

And it made me sit back and think about this important skill. While we learn how to do it very early on we often forget about it in our professional interactions. Especially when we communicate in the voice of an organization to a group we don’t really know on an individual basis. We get caught up in the message and how it represents the organization and not enough about who is listening. 

But it’s such an essential skill, one that we are required to know to pass the 2nd grade. So next time your putting together external communications sit back for a minute to think a little bit about your audience, who are they, can you picture an individual that represents them… then make sure your speaking as you would if you were talking directly with that person.

Posted by: Shawn | April 18, 2008

Peer Pressure – Donating

Google has done it once again! They have launched a campaign for earth day to use the power of social networks to increase the impact of individuals donations. I like the way this uses the power of social capital with friends to provide a little extra boost to a contribution. Not only do you get the personal benefit of supporting a cause you believe in but you get to brag about it with your friends. And possibly compound the power of your donation by encouraging them to support that organization too.


My only complaint is that it appears you can only choose from 12 pre-chosen organizations. I wish they had the option to add your own and really see what  power this has for the smaller environmental non-profits.

I think this idea could be expanded to become a new way of fundraising that is ongoing and helps build relationships continually with supporters. Imagine if you could log in to your favorite non-profits web site and do this and continually see your contribution spread over time. Now that’s social. 

Posted by: Shawn | April 16, 2008

Becoming Parents

Today we welcomed into our house the most adorable little 8 year old girl. But perhaps I should back up a bit since this is the first time I am talking about a journey we began a couple of months ago when we decided to become foster parents.

After many hours of training and extensive background checks which lead us many places including to the police department to get finger printed, doctors office for TB tests, and a complete home inspection. Which I might add, I feel is considerably safer than some of the places I remember growing up in. We finally became licensed by the state to care for children who were in situations where their parents are unable to provide basic levels of care and nurture.

Of course not 3 hours goes by from when our license becomes official and we get a call about this little girl who needs a home. Now in our fantasy world we had decided that we would only do a sibling group aged three to six. But we couldn’t say no to a little girl who was full of life and desperately needed a place to call her own.

We were so nervous heading down to the DSHS office to pick her up today, not knowing what she would be like or whether she would even like us. And then bustling through the office she flew with her brothers and sisters, looking back over her shoulder probably realizing “oh those are the next strangers I get to live with”.

We got home, showed her around, had spaghetti and meatballs (which she couldn’t get enough of with extra helpings of Romano cheese). Hello budding foodie… I might add as she announces later “oh Kiwi’s! I love kiwis!” when she saw those green fruits on the counter. What 8 year old knows about Kiwi’s let alone loves them?

We then decided to stretch our legs and go for a walk to the park, she confiscated my camera and proceeded to take the most amazing pictures. Fascinated by the new flowers emerging along the way she took a dizzying array of shots of these multicolored gifts of nature.

All in all it was a really good first day. She was very well behaved and full of energy and spunk. While we know it’s just the honeymoon phase and there are bound to be a few bumps over the next couple of days, we are hoping that the little girl we had with us today remains as cute and delightful for as long as she is able to stay with us.

Posted by: Shawn | April 15, 2008


This article about the power of laziness got my thinking about the green movement and how people are engaging with it. There was a part of it that I couldn’t really put my finger on until I read this.

Green is Convenient!

It’s an easy way to appease guilt by purchasing and living a lifestyle that has been “approved” as good. You can be lazy and still be doing your part to protect the environment. Is that wrong? Is making it easy to do something beneficial actually a bad thing?

I for one like being lazy, not for everything, but for those things I am able to accomplish easier it frees up time for me to do other things. So maybe we should think more about the power of convenience when we engage people. Rather than making it hard to become part of the environmental movement why not make it easy.

And that’s where tools and systems come into play, we ultimately enjoy when we don’t have to do something repeatedly. So what can we do to make our engagement easier. Think about it the next time you plan something where you are asking someone to do something. Especially online!

Posted by: Shawn | April 8, 2008

We Moved In!!!

After a bit over a year we have finally finished the remodel of our 1912 craftsman bungalow and are now calling it home. This will most likely be the last post in the remodel series for a while. It has been a fun and challenging process and one I am thankful we had the opportunity to work on, though I won’t start another one soon 🙂 Here are some before and after pictures so you can see the transformation into our glorious new domicile.


BEFORE                                                  AFTER





Living Room

low ceiling attic roomIMG_1894

Kids Play Room


sun roomIMG_2809

Sun Room





stairs off kitchen to basementIMG_2802

Rear Entry



Dining room






Master Bathroom



Master Bedroom


Some more cool detail shots



Construction Pictures


Older Posts »