I’ve Moved!

I’m happy to say that I’ve finally migrated over to a hosted domain. I love the simplicity of WordPress.com, but there are some limitations as to what can be done on the platform. With that said, I proudly present… 7son75.com. All future updates will be posted over there. My first review was posted there overnight, PubliciTweet Reviewed. Check it out and leave me some feedback. Any comments on the application itself or how my writing could improved are appreciated. See you on the flipside!

Getting Focused

(cc) Jonathan Dingman - @dingman - http://jonathandingman.com

(cc) Jonathan Dingman - @dingman - http://jonathandingman.com

When I first started this blog, it had no real direction. In fact, I’m not even sure why I started it. Posts were few and far between and pretty random in subject matter. Over time, I started to write with a purpose. I highlighted the triumphs of my life. I drudged through some of my darkest moments in recent history. And I captured it all in a format that has the potential to be available for the rest of my life. And then social media stuck its claws in me and refused to let go.

When I say social media stuck its claws in me, I mean it really stuck it’s claws in me. I’ve been in retail management for fifteen years now. I’ve been wanting to make a career change for about ten years. Throughout that time, I’ve considered multiple options, but never really had the courage to take the first step. I briefly went back to college to pursue a degree in marketing and advertising, but my work schedule and short attention span brought an end to that rather quickly. I did pretty extensive research on different design schools a couple years ago. I was pretty sure I could enjoy the life of a graphic designer. But something held me back. It just wasn’t the right move… for me.

Then along comes Twitter. At one point, I described Twitter as “text messages to nobody with 20 less characters.” At first, that’s all it was. This was one of my first tweets.

Standing in line at Subway, waiting for a $5 footlong steak and cheese sammich.

At the time, I knew very little about Twitter and even less about social media as a whole. The more people I started following, the more I started seeing terms that were completely foreign to me. I started following links to a whole new world that had been transparent to me up to that point. I soaked in as much as I could. If I didn’t know what something meant, I Googled it. Invariably, I’d find an article that described the term in question which linked to another article on a related subject. It became routine for me to have a dozen tabs open as I tried to wrap my head around it all.

The turning point for me was when I started watching videos that Jolie O’Dell had posted to her blog. Now that I consider Jolie to be a good friend, I know that it would be easy to apply a halo effect to the experience and just give her credit for the transformation. But I assure you that this is not revisionist history. I remember being fascinated by the topics she addressed, the subjects she interviewed, and the world in which it all existed. It was then that I knew that social media had evolved from an interest to a passion.

I didn’t start writing about social media right away. I knew that I needed to use the monitor more than the keyboard if I was going to get anywhere. Along with the fact that I had a lot more to learn, I also knew myself. As my wife puts it, I have “little obsessions.” If I convince myself that I want something, it becomes all-consuming. I know that about myself. So I decided to sit tight and be a student for a while longer before I put my opinions out there. But when I did, it was such an amazing release. As an added bonus, I got a good response from people that I respect immensely. Then the RoadTwip gang came through town and I got to see the magic firsthand. That was it for me. I knew that this was what I wanted to do for a living. But I didn’t know where to start.

A little over a week ago, Marshall Kirkpatrick put out the word that ReadWriteWeb was looking for new reporters. I thought about it all afternoon, then finally decided to throw my hat into the ring. For those of you reading who aren’t social media geeks, let me explain something to you. Going from occasionally updating a personal blog with ambiguous direction to writing for ReadWriteWeb is like going from a beer league softball team to Major League Baseball. I believed in my developing writing skills, but the realist in me knew that I was probably the least experienced applicant. A week later, I received an email from Richard MacManus requesting two recent samples of my work, much to my surprise. For the first time, I was nervous and believed that it might… actually… happen.

After a little while, I started getting nervous about an entirely different possibility: was I really ready to write for RWW? A handful of friends made for a wonderful support group. They taught me that it’s possible to be confident and believe in yourself without being arrogant. Last evening, I got word from Richard that they went with a more experienced applicant. I was honestly more relieved than disappointed. I just don’t think the time was right.

Along the way, I discovered that Richard MacManus is a class act. Although brief, he put a very personal touch on that email. I felt inclined to respond to it. I wanted Richard to know that I appreciated his time, was honored to be considered for the position, and that the next time an opportunity presented itself at RWW, I’d be better prepared. Thirteen minutes later, Richard responded again. The founder and editor of a blog with 275,000 subscribers took the time out of his day to give me feedback on a possible future in blogging. But what sealed the deal for me was the fact that he did all of this before he announced the name of the writer who was hired. I don’t know why, but that really stood out as a classy move to me.

After receiving word that I was not selected, I was motivated to do my best to be ready the next time opportunity came knocking. One of Richard’s suggestions was to dive into product reviews and the like. I’d already been thinking about breaking my personal posts away from this blog for a little while anyhow. So, from this point forward, this blog will have a clear focus. Topics that you can expect to find here will be in line with those covered on ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, and other social media and tech-related blogs. All of my prior posts that were personal in nature have been removed and migrated over to my new personal blog, which can be found here. The exception to that statement is the post “Date Night And Beyond” because I don’t want to break a couple of links to it. This blog will also be moving to 7son75.com soon. I said soon, not now. Pay attention

I’m currently working on my review of PubliciTweet, as mentioned in my last post. With any luck, Twitter will have worked out the issues with their rate limit and I’ll be able to reach all of my followers this time. I’d like to post the review later today or tomorrow. When I do, I guess it will be like smashing a bottle of champagne against the hull. On with my voyage. I know this post was ridiculously long, but I don’t care. This is a milestone. And I felt that it should be documented as such. If I’ve managed to secure a position in social media a year or two from now, I’d like to look back on this moment and remember exactly what I was thinking. And for those of you who have stuck with me this far, thanks for reading. The only thing that I ask is that you leave a comment to let me know what you think. And in the future, if you like my articles and reviews, throw me a little retweet love. And with that, I’ll wrap this thing up.

And away we go…

Twitter Campaign Analytics Refined

I’m in the process of testing a new tool to help businesses track Twitter campaign analytics called PubliciTweet. The service, currently in beta, was launched earlier today at 140 | The Twitter Conference. Headed by Yahoo! Software Engineer Jaisen Mathai, this new IP aims to “leverage your followers with unique campaigns and tools to track your success.” These tools include graphs and maps to help you determine the precise effectiveness of the campaign. I’ll be using the traffic to this post referred by the PubliciTweet link to explore the depth of these tools.

publicitweetJaisen’s prior projects include Textbook Revolt, a free college textbook exchange. The service utilizes Amazon’s Search API to search by ISBN, title, or author. The site was completed in a mere four weeks. Jason was also a principle on the photo-sharing IP Photagious, a two time winner of Adobe’s Site of the Day award. While Twitter analytics services are popping up like Ashton Kutcher followers, PubliciTweet has the potential to offer a deeper, more accurate look at a campaign’s success.

I’ll be tracking the data that PubliciTweet feeds me from the clicks to this post alone. While it’s certainly not as effective of a measurement as a legitimate business campaign, it will provide me with a deeper understanding of the IP’s mechanics. I’ve spoken to Jaisen about arranging a time to talk a little bit more about PubliciTweet, so my full review will also feature his comments. If you have any specific questions about the service that you’d like me to ask, please feel free to email them to me.

Coyote Blues Band

I’d like to thank Jolie O’Dell for capturing this moment. I almost forgot it happened. I don’t think I’d ever told that story before that night. It might not seem like much, but the story means a lot to me. By the way, that’s Josh Kulpa and Dingman who occasionally poke their heads into the video. Had a great time with those two that night. Jazz clubs that close by midnight, liquor stores that accept WIC, and a beautiful woman with the power to seduce you to Central America. Good times.

RoadTwip in Toledo: A Preface

Photo by Bob Bell

Jolie O'Dell and Me (Photo by Bob Bell)

“We’re here!”

“You’re here? Here where?”

“We’re here here. We’re out in front of The Blarney”

“Oh snap! I’ll be right out”

Seconds later, I embraced my friend Jolie O’Dell on Monroe St. in downtown Toledo. After directing Kurty D. and Dingman to my parking garage, Jolie and I entered The Blarney. There were only seven tweeps in attendance, but they gave Jolie a rock star welcome. And rightfully so. She is a rock star.

A few minutes later, the other two RoadTwippers entered the building and the party was finally started just after 9:00 pm. Channel 13 News arrived about an hour later. Fast forward another hour and the Official RoadTwip Toleetup was little more than a memory fresh in all of our minds.

When the gang pulled out of my driveway yesterday afternoon, it was hard to believe that they were leaving already. It felt like they just got there. When I look back on it, I can’t believe that all of the preparation for their arrival occurred on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. Phone calls, text messages, emails, and tweets to friends, acquaintances, and news stations… they all seem like a blur to me now. And for that matter, so does their visit.

I have a lot that I want to say about the RoadTwippers’ visit to Toledo. I mean a lot to say. But at this point, it’s just a random collection of thoughts zipping around in my mind… a confused mess… an imbroglio, if you will (that one’s for you, Apprentice Dingman). Over the next few days, I’d like to gather my thoughts and split them up into two or three posts. I told Bob Bell that I would compile a list of the local attendees, so I wanted to get something up here relatively quickly. I also wanted to at least put up a placeholder for posts to come.

So I guess this post is just a preface to future posts about the shenanigans, friendship, and inspiration that three road-weary travelers provided for a handful of lucky Toledoans in just 19 hours. Stay tuned, gang. If you don’t follow any of the attendees listed below, correct that today. It’s what made all of this possible.

Breaking Out Of The Monitor

Social networking: it’s a subject that fascinates me. For those who don’t get it, it’s just pointless drivel amongst “internet friends.” They lump it in with the mindless banter that dominated the AOL chat rooms of the early- to mid-nineties. For some, maybe that’s an accurate assessment. But for many, it’s so much more than a BBS for BS. The fundamental misconception that skeptics have is that social networking resides strictly within the confines of their computer monitors. But the people who get the most out of it know that it transcends the World Wide Web and becomes a part of our physical lives.

To a certain extent, various social networks can be utilized to conduct business without ever meeting in person. A good example of that happened for me yesterday. On the official RoadTwip trailer (more on them in a minute), the music of Chris Merritt was featured. His Twitter name was displayed at the bottom of the screen as his song “North” played. Intrigued, I went to his profile, then followed the link to his website. From his online store, I ordered the album Pixie and the Bear. Just like that, Chris Merritt had a new fan and customer. The emotion of music can change your whole mood. And I discovered new music that I never would have found if it weren’t for social networking.

Some users are perfectly content to allow their online relationships to remain there. By that measure, maybe some of the critics are somewhat accurate in their claims. But the real beauty of social networking occurs when we break out of the monitor and have face-to-face interaction. Tweetups have become more and more popular. Strangers are coming out of the woodwork to make their online acquaintances real world friends. Toledo’s social media rock star Damian Rintelmann has taken “Toleetups” to new heights by attracting the attention of our local ABC affiliate WTVG. Watching perfect strangers build relationships on the eleven o’clock news hardly seems pointless to me.

But for some, Tweetups are just the beginning. I mentioned the RoadTwip gang a couple paragraphs back. The gang in question is Jolie O’Dell, Kurt Daradics, and Jonathan Dingman. The trio are currently knee-deep in a tour of the Midwest, stopping at cities in a loop around the heartland to meet with social media gurus and everyday people. Stops in Blacksburg, Virginia, Nashville, St. Louis, Omaha, and Chicago all precede tomorrow’s stopover in Toledo. The gang will meet up with Damian Rintelmann before attending an impromptu Toleetup at The Blarney at 8:00 pm. I’ll be playing unofficial host to the weary travelers as they work their way east to Cleveland, Boston, and the Big Apple. I say “unofficial” because nobody ever asked me to do it. I just want to make sure the gang has the best experience possible in my hometown. Why? New paragraph. Hold, please.

Your enjoyment of this blog post is very important to us. Someone will be with you shortly to continue relevant content. Aaaaand… we’re back. My rationale for jumping into the mix is two-fold. One, I want the magic of social networking to work. That whole “breaking out of the monitor” thing. The more people I can gather, the more we can disprove the naysayers. And two, I want Toledo to be a memorable stop on their adventure. We’re probably the smallest city on the trip… ahem… Twip. I want to make sure that when the gang write the recaps of their adventure, our little corner of the country leaves an impression on them. We reach out to the world to feel like we’re part of something bigger. But at the end of the day, we want the world to be a part of us. If you’re not proud of your hometown, move.

So for all of the doubters, critics, and skeptics who have already written social networking off as useless, I would like to invite you out to The Blarney tomorrow night. Videos of the shenanigans will undoubtedly find a home on YouTube and Qik. Pictures of our goofy mugs will grace the pages of multiple Flickr Photostreams. The Twitter hashtags #RoadTwip and #Toleetup will be rolling off of keyboards on Tuesday morning. And when Toledo disappears from the rearview mirror and Jolie checks in on BrightKite heading east, a handful of Toledoans will be happy to defend the merits of social networking. They might even tell you about #myflavorObacon.

Date Night And Beyond

Yesterday was a day that I had been looking forward to for about a week. If you haven’t figured it out by reading posts to my other various social networking entities, Katy and I have been spending a lot of time together lately. There’s still a mess of epic proportions between us, but we’re taking one day at a time. Having a four-year-old child complicates the ability to spend any kind of “quality time” alone. So last week, I asked my mom if she could watch our little man overnight on Saturday to give us some time alone.

The plan was simple: dinner, some gambling in Detroit, some cocktails afterward, and a good night’s sleep. Katy dropped Noah off at my parents’ house at around 3:30 as I was scheduled off of work at 4:00. Serendipity found us approaching our driveway from opposite directions at the exact same time. That gave me a pretty good vibe for that night that brought a smile to my face. After a brief stopover at the house to let the dog out, we were quickly en route to downtown Toledo.

Our first order of business was to get our tummies good and full for the night. Spaghetti Warehouse filled that need pretty efficiently. We decided to bypass beverages of the alcoholic variety for the moment, opting for coffee and the caffeine to make the night last as long as possible. We scarfed down our tasty Italian dishes, then headed up to my apartment so I could change out of my work clothes. Following a quick detour to the bank for some bettin’ money, we were on the road for The D. Parched and already starting to get tired, we stopped off at the McD’s in Monroe, MI for a couple more coffees.

Let me say one thing before I continue. We knew that there was going to be construction on 75 in Detroit before we left. In fact, I had already plotted my route before we left. Getting there was cake. With the exception of the M-39 portion of the trip, which took us through the pseudo-ghetto of SW Detroit, the route was pretty quick and painless. OK… back to the story. Just remember that I mentioned that the detour to get to the casino was pretty simple.

Anyhow, we brought $100 to throw at the slot machines and hope for the best. We decided to focus on the nickel and quarter slots to make the most of our limited budget. We sat down at neighboring quarter slots and went to town. I inadvertently chose a nine line machine, thinking it was just a single line, three reel machine. After a handful of Max Bets, I quickly realized that my $20 deposit was now somewhere in the neighborhood of eight bucks. A couple more spins and my first Jackson was a memory. Katy didn’t fare much better. Within an hour, we were dead broke. When you budget a set amount of money to gamble with and you run out, there’s only one thing to do as a disciplined gambler: withdraw more money. Katy snagged forty bucks and we were back at it.

We moved back to the nickel slots and had minimal success. To extend our brief stay at the beautiful MGM Grand, we decided to move to the two cent slots. I did pretty well betting two credits on three lines. I at least stayed afloat. Katy seemed to be in a race to zero. I quickly caught her descent when I accidentally opted for Max Bet three times in a row, pissing away 90 credits with each pull. When it was all said and done, we shot another $40 in less than twenty minutes. Katy quickly declared, “Well, let’s go do some drinkin’ somewhere.” This is where things got messy.

As we exited the MGM Grand parking garage, I decided to take the same detour home in the reverse order. Getting back onto M-10N was a breeze. We passed the new Motor City Casino on our left as we made the trek to 94W. As we approached the exit, we saw the orange signs of doom indicating that our desired route was no longer within the realm of possibilities. For God knows what reason, the 94W detour was… ahem… 94E. WTF? For the moment, I was willing to give the state of Michigan the benefit of the doubt. I followed the detour signs blindly until we passed the Motor City Casino for the second time. Not happy.

I decided to follow the Lodge all the way up to 96W, hoping that I could pick up a southbound road to get me to 94 and back on track. Michigan had other ideas. Detour signs for 75S got us pretty far west of town, then stopped altogether. On my own accord, I got us back to 94W by way of a botched detour that took us right through the heart of the ‘hood that earned The D the top spot on the national violent crimes list. We passed a couple dudes hanging out on their front porch. One was sitting down having a drink. The other was standing, talking on his cell with a piece tucked into the waistband of his shorts. Awesome. Once I was back in familiar surroundings, I got us back to M-39S en route to 75S.

This is where the real fun began. As we closed in on the on ramp for 75S, I put on my right turn signal to get the hell out of there. Michigan let me down again by cleverly putting the sign for the on ramp after the ramp itself. Pissed off, I noticed the three lanes of traffic between me and the upcoming Michigan U to come back to said on ramp. Katy’s heart was put to the test as I floored it, slicing across the three lanes of traffic, into the U-turn, and quickly making a 180 degree turn. I’m pretty sure the car was up on only the passenger side wheels for a second or two. The U-turn landed us in the far left lane. Rather than making a left onto the same ramp that we had just missed, as it appeared from the intersection, the on ramp was now all the way to our right. That’s right… another three lanes of traffic to cut across. When the light turned green, we shot across and onto a 25 mph on ramp. Might as well put the driver’s side tires to the test while we’re at it.

All in all, it took us over forty minutes to travel the two miles south from the MGM Grand to where 75 was closed. The remaining 42 miles to Ohio took just over half an hour. Sweet. Thirsty and needing to pee, an ironic combination, we headed back to the house for a restroom/water break. After sending Joey out to do his business, we were back on the road for Fat Jack’s in downtown Perrysburg. We walked into a sausage party of about thirty guys and maybe three girls. Katy’s ridiculously weaksauce Malibu and Coke put an end to our time at Fat Jack’s. We ran across town to Quarter’s and had a couple more drinks with Dan, a gentleman I work with,  and his significant other Vicki. I grabbed my phone and logged into Twitter for a minute. I noticed an @ reply from Becki Thompson saying, “We’re headed out to Fat Jack’s now actually. You guys still there?” We paid our tab and made the reverse trip back to Fat Jack’s.

Our second time at Fat Jack’s was much more enjoyable as we wound up consuming more alcohol than we had originally intended. We had a good time chatting it up with Ken and Becki (they’re @kongslide and @bek1826 on Twitter). It’s rare that we find a couple that we both really enjoy hanging out with. Katy had never met them before and made the comment that she really hoped that they liked her because she really liked them. It was kind of cute. It reminded me of when Katy and I first met and we were both nervous about meeting each others friends. There was a lot of laughter and before we knew it, it was 1:00 am. We were ready to call it a night.

When we got back to the house, exhaustion set in for Katy. I had to put her pajamas on her like I had done for Noah so many times in the past. After a little bit of lovins, we closed our eyes and called it a night. All in all, I’ve gotta say it was a pretty good night. Sure we lost $140 in less than ninety minutes. And yeah, the detour around Detroit was an epic fail. But we spent time together. Once we finally hit 75S, we sang and bobbed around to happy music the rest of the way home. We haven’t done that kind of shit since we were first together. Either way, the night was time very, very well spent.

So what’s next? Inspired by Jolie O’Dell’s RoadTwip, we decided to plan a Great American Roadtrip of our own. Next spring, fueled by our assumed tax return Benjamins, we’re going to take a few days to travel the Midwest. The longest portion of our trip will be seven hours with the rest of the journey averaging four hours at a time. We’re thinking about taking this route. The exact locations could change, but it seems like a pretty fun and efficient little getaway. And honestly, the journey will be as much of a vacation as the destinations themselves. If anybody has been to any of our destination cities, leave me some feedback as to what we should check out while we’re there. Until then, we’ll be scouring the worldwide interwebs for ideas. I’m sure I’ll need to go Pro on Flickr before we depart. Talk to you soon, ya’ll!