Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What, if any, value does social media provide for writing, business, and business writing? 

I believe social media provides different levels of value to business writing, business in general and writing in general.  As far as business writing is concerned, it increases availability and makes business writing more accessible to a wider range of people.  The same can be said for business.  Social media is another way for businesses to reach people and get feedback faster.  As for writing in general, I'm not sure if it helps.  Sure if makes pieces of writing more available to more people, but is it good writing?  From what I've seen of social media, it's either so simple that it doesn't advance the art/science of writing, or so abbreviated that it allows for misinterpretation of what was written because you can't expand on a point effectively.

Can you imagine yourself using social media for your job now or in the future? If so, how?

I do not believe I'll have much use for social media as an accountant, but if I were to be in sales or marketing, I can see the chance of using it in those fields to reach consumers.

What are the potential benefits and/or drawbacks of using social media, like blogging, Twitter, or Facebook, for work-related purposes?

The potential benefits I've expanded upon already.  It's another line of communication that wasn't there before.  If you want to be heard by the most people, stand on the tallest hill in the busiest city and shout.  The internet is currently the busiest city, and social media is the tallest hill.  In a competitive marketplace, that's important.  There are definitely drawbacks to social media.  As an individual, any lapse in judgement or a poorly placed post from an acquaintance can reflect negatively on you for career purposes.  I don't like mixing business and social life.  You should be able to let your guard down in social circles and not worry about how it reflects on you professionally.

How is the style of writing on social media different (other than the obvious, "You can only use 140 characters!") from other forms of writing?

The style of writing in social media is in my opinion, food for the masses.  It's simple and direct enough for everyone to understand.  Whether that means its short, or just simple enough in language, ultimately it caters to a wide, wide audience.  I'm not sure that's a good thing.  I like writing to be a more sophisticated and intellectual form of communication that can precisely communicate what you want because you actually have time to pick your words and weigh their impact.  Social media squeezes that aspect out of it.

Have we changed as a society as a result of the internet and social media?

Our society most certainly HAS changed due to the internet and social media.  Again, not sure if it's all good.  Information and opinions are a keystroke away.  It's very easy to get facts and opinions.  I'm afraid it might also socially stunt people however.  Internet trolls have caused suicides because the trolls don't really like their actions online are real or and actually reflect on them as human beings.

Will social media change business practices?

It already has.  As the habits of consumers change, so must those of a business.  When consumers find new ways to communicate, so must business.

 Has your own writing been affected by blogging or tweeting?

I hope not.  I speak plainly enough, but when I write, like I said, I like the art of writing.  I've never done tweeting or blogs before, probably won't after, mainly because I feel that at best, personal blogging is screaming for attention, and tweeting limits your ability to express yourself and allows other people to misinterpret you.

Have you encountered any influential ideas or information as a result?

I do like the brief to the point nature of some social media outlets, but I don't really put alot of stock into what I read on blogs and twitter.  I don't trust them.  I like reputable sources of information, and let's face it, blogs and twitter do not have that reputation yet.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Text Chapter 14

The design of a document strongly affects how effective it is.  Chapter 14 of Anderson's Technical Writing text covers effective document design and gives some useful examples of designing to achieve specific objectives.

What I took away from this chapter was the idea that a document should be designed to support a reader's purpose and make intuitive sense to them.   Using proximity, alignment, and text emphasis can greatly enhance a document's effectiveness.  Placing related elements near one another and in proximity to one another, you can help readers determine a level of connection between the elements.  Keeping a format consistent for sections of related content helps the reader more easily access information once they understand the precedent.

Using emphasis can also help a reader break down concepts and understand larger context versus smaller context.  Overall, this chapter basically shows us why some documents are easy to read and some are not.  Our goal is to use this information to make our own work more reader centered and more effective.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Twitter is Here to Stay

Recipes, fashion advice, super-colliders, and Greek history.  All just a "tweet" away.  Twitter has become far more than a novel platform for what you're doing right now.  It's a finger on a cultural and informational pulse in real time.

This article, sings the praises of Twitter in great detail.  Twitter has quickly become the fastest, easiest, most succinct source of information on the web.  Its usefulness, and to-the-point nature condense the fat out of information that might otherwise be out of reach for the time starved information consumer.  It's very nature also squashes internet "trolls" whose only purpose is to reduce conversations to base and trivial flame-fights.  It can become a forum for like minds, a platform for businesses, and even serve as a public service.  I read once that if you wanted to be kept around, find ways to be useful.  Twitter has done an excellent job of that, and it looks like it will be around for quite a while.

The Solution Cannot be Found Across the Pond

The Capital One commercials with "Peggy" giving customers fits always struck home with me.  Maybe because they're so honest.  For years businesses have been jumping off the Made in the U.S.A. cliff like so many lemmings, looking to test the choppy waters overseas.

Now the lemmings are turning into rock climbers.  They're coming back to the US.

Admittedly, they're trickling back in, but it's a start.  This article, documents a few companies that have made their way back.  The question is why?  The answer almost always gets traced back to the lowest common denominator of cost accounting.  Per unit cost.  For entirely too long we looked at consumers' values as equivalent to cost.  That was a mistake.  Turns out consumers value...well, value, and only in a cynic's world is value fully defined by cost.  Consumers want something that does what it's supposed to, lasts as long as they expect it to, and costs what they think it should cost.  Oh, and they want it NOW.  So the companies that went overseas managed to get about 1/4th of it right.  Even with the curve, that's not gonna get ya a pass.

Bringing business back home can give a business a leg up in EVERY factor customers value.  Lean isn't just a word to be ignored.  American factories are light years ahead in implementing lean, and those that understand lean isn't just an operations sided philosophy are finding it's an excellent cost cutter.  How about quality?  The aptitude and capability of American workers and facilities is far far ahead of their Chinese counterparts.  Oh, and what about getting me that set of steak knives now?  You don't wait 3 months for a product made in the USA to reach you on the slow boat.  You don't wait even longer so the factory can make enormous, gargantuan, truly astronomical batches to cut per unit cost to help compensate for issues in quality and expense of shipping.  The ability of American companies to slash lead times might be their biggest advantage of all, and it might just be enough to help those lemmings back up the cliff.

Business is Good for Businesses on Twitter

So you're a small business who wants to market to a tech savvy crowd with money to burn and no time for the mess of graphics, sheep and farm deliveries of Facebook?  Say "hello" to Twitter.  Small businesses are finding their leg up in Twitter.

Twitter's to-the-point format allows small businesses to use it as a staple of their customer service and marketing efforts.  It's interactive nature allows them to react to customer opinions, suggestions and complaints in an easy to access, honest format.  This article explains a small software company's use of Twitter to reach a very specific market segment:

Being able to announce promotions, new products, and updates on existing products helps businesses spark that most sought after form of advertising - word of mouth.  Being able to receive almost instant feedback allows companies to get ahead of potentially disastrous nightmares and firefight if need be.  The bottom line?  It's free.  Hard not to like that if you're a smart businessperson.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chapters 8 and 9

Make your sentences, paragraphs and subsections useful and if need be, persuasive for your readers.  That's the point of chapters 8 and 9 in Anderson's Technical Writing Text.

These chapters really get down to the blow by blow execution of writing.  The major theme is keeping things simple.  Readers typically like the point early and then to have the details later.  By getting the point early in a paragraph or section, they can use what follows to answer questions they had about the major point.  Sentences should also be kept simple and flow logically.  A simple sentence is direct, assertive, and concise. There are exceptions to the call for directness, but this is usually a persuasive tool used to address negatives.  Sentences should also flow from one to the next without major changes in subject without giving the reader a heads up.

For larger groupings, the emphasis is on headings.  Headings should accurately cover the subject matter in their section, and follow an hierarchy that lets the reader connect concepts to a larger theme.  The arrangement of headings is crucial.  They can follow an ordered format, a cause and effect format, a pros and cons, etc.  The format is determined by the objective of the writing.

The use organization in sections, and intelligent choices in sentence structure and words used can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your writing.

Fiver Dollars for the Privilege of Doing Business With Bank of America? Really?

Bank of America could learn something from a McDonald's.  The customer is always right, and expects quick and accurate service.  Unfortunately, the executive team at Bank of America regards it's customers as nothing more than suckers without options, and thus charges them as it sees fit.

So what's the latest offense?  Five dollar monthly fees for debit card holders.  This follows questionable overage charges practices, mediocre customer service complaints and a myriad list of poor business practices.  In a recent New York Times article found at, we're given a few examples of what people perceive as fair and unfair business practices toward customers.  The gist is that we understand supply and demand.  We might lament high gas prices, but we expect and understand it before Thanksgiving.  We don't like paying 20 dollars for a snow shovel when in the summer it was 15 dollars, but hey, there's snow on the drive, and you should have gotten it when it was cheap.  We get that.

What we don't get, is a business charging us for the simple privilege of holding and investing our money for a profit, spending it recklessly, taking our tax dollars to bail them out, and then charging us ridiculous fees to pay off OUR loan to them.  Bank of America has forgotten there are many fish in the sea, and in a competitive market, you'd better encourage customer loyalty.  The article states that, "LARGE businesses can face problems, however, when they forget about the long term."  That's the case with Bank of America.  People expect small offenses from time to time.  People expect you to try to make money.  What they loathe and close accounts for is a list of offenses they see over a period of time.  Long term stuff.  

Bank of America has gotten so big that it treats humans as mere assets resigned to the bank's authority.  It pays lip service to the idea of customer service but has failed in it's execution.  Perhaps it's time to show them how capitalism works by investing in the competition.