Facebook: A Tool Not Evil

Facebook is just a thing.  A tool.  Something on the internet that someone though up to try to serve a function.  You may or may not like that function, but that is just what it is.   Right now a lot of people use Facebook because it works to fill their needs.  In fact, social media is constantly changing and updating and the way that you use it may be completely different than the way someone else does.

One day there may be something else that we decide to use.  But the thing is Facebook itself is not evil.  It may be a time suck for some, allowing them to drift into a world entirely (dis) connected to the one apart from the screen, but the thing itself is not a time suck.

People get distracted because they don’t practice not getting distracted.  I mean yes, there are links to the way something works and patterns of behavior, I mean why do you think that grocery stores are all laid out similarly or the same musak is playing when you call the doctor or the IRS? But it is still an individuals responsibility to face their choices and make decisions as to how they behave if they wish to live the life they want to live.

We are not taught this in school though.  No one sat me down and explained that behavior was based on pattern and that I was responsible for making sure I developed that habits that I wanted.  Sometimes it is a struggle to remember this self-empowerment when faced with hours cycling through statuses, likes, and comments.  If I am owned by the social media itself it is my choice.  AND I have the ability to make a different choice.  For if truly we are out of control when it comes to decisions that persuasive advertising and things that make us behave certain ways should not allowed to exist, no?

As a tool, Facebook makes decisions that it wishes because people continue to use it and amazing things are happening because of this access.  Live stream meditation or injustice as it unfolds.  Use it to promote your event.  Share news with family and friends worldwide.  None of these actions are inherently wrong.  People who choose not to go on are making their choice.  People who choose to take breaks are making their choice.  Neither is wrong.

Addictive behaviors and why we seek them have nothing to do with the tools available to us.  They have to do with how we are hard wired in this world.  The internet is born of how we interact with it, not to manipulate it but because we understand ourselves so well.  

So use Facebook and perhaps instead of railing on, think of the ways in which you can cultivate a healthy relationship with this tool instead of blaming it for the choices that you make.  And in the end maybe take a look at yourself and what you are avoiding looking at in the first place that drive overuse?

Walking into the Silence

The more I slow down and listen the more I notice the racket around me.  The first big step was when I stopped smoking and drinking.  While at the time I didn’t know they were helping me distract myself from my higher purpose it became evident in their absence.  I didn’t have an alcohol problem.  Problematic drinking occasionally, sure.  I think that in our kingdom of Budweiser that it would be hard to find many who didn’t exhibit problematic behaviors in some area; sex, drugs, shopping, TV, alcohol, music to name but a few. Continue reading “Walking into the Silence”

To Gamify or Not to Gamify

To Gamify or Not to Gamify

That is the question.

Gamification is a hot topic nowadays.  In conversation I’m seeing people reaching blindly towards gamification the same way they stumbled towards social media five years ago.  To many, gamification is something that they’ve heard about people doing successfully and so they want it.

Pint the Tail on the DonkeyThe surge in interest in games reminds me of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.  A little silly to watch, but everyone genuinely wants to succeed.  The other interesting dynamic is that I’m not sure anyone can see the donkey yet.  While we are working closer and closer to understanding how to do this, it seems to be a field that includes elements connecting game designers, educators, and marketing professionals and thus one which our incongruous education system of silo-ed study has not created an environment conducive to cross disciplinary understanding and action.  Some might disagree on this point, but I’d point out that in order to design effective games you need to understand systems theory, game design, psychology, math, sociology, etc.

But back to the topic at hand.  In the past years candy, and other ‘junk food’ companies offered games to their consumers on their websites.  I expect that they were seeking to get traffic to their websites.  The games that I’ve seen often have little to do with the brand, but there in the background was the logo.  M&M’s does this with a shuffleboard game, for example.  The point is obviously engagement since you don’t need to play a game to open a bag of M&M’s.  Connecting your product to an enjoyable experience is a good idea and one that came naturally and early to that sector. Continue reading “To Gamify or Not to Gamify”

Gamifying Create Better Impact Games

Create Better Impact LogoSo as you may know Create Better Impact Games is my company.  I design games around making the world a better place which I know will one day be worthy of winning awards from Games for Change. Right now, this is a little tiny company with a little tiny budget.  Not that one day it won’t be able to hold its own with the big boys, but for now marketing is not the top priority.

As I got ready to bring Waste Not to market using an Indiegogo Campaign I had to think seriously about how to approach marketing. While I have a lot of people in my contacts I couldn’t be sure who would actually have natural interest and who might need some convincing.

Being a game designer I tried to think of ways to make liking or signing up on social media fun and engaging to the community.  This process is called gamification and everyone and their mother is currently trying to apply it to their web presence.  I am lucky that it is part of my natural reaction to communications.

Waste Not Logo
What are you going to do with it?

Back to the point.  There I was at the start of a campaign trying to raise money to print Waste Not.  My Facebook page for both CBI Games and Waste Not were relatively new with little to now following, I had just begun a Twitter presence for Waste Not, and I had nothing on Google+.  So in response I decided to give away a version of my game for free via social media.  You heard me, for free.

I figured that if people got a chance to play the game, even if slightly different interactions than with having a deck of cards, that they’d be more likely to ‘like’ and engage with the marketing of the brand.  In this case, I was seeking to let the game speak for itself.

Now I’ve been going forward with the understanding that this deck of cards will be able to be used in many ways.  That will always happen when you give someone a flexible tool, is that they will begin to bend it and play with it.  In fact many of the stories that we know from childhood have changed over the centuries.  The basic story is still there to communicate the archetypal hero/ine’s journey but the details change.

Well that’s exactly what I’m seeing happening with Waste Not on Social Media.  While the instructions were to share the status so that others could see what you were liking and playing people tended to comment on the Waste Not status.  While this did not garner the amazing viral experience I was hoping for, I did get the benefit of seeing how people began to play the game.  And let me tell you it was fun!  Yes, my games are fun for me too.  Especially when I get to watch others play.

While I’ve let go of the control over the rules and will continue to allow for this project to flow and grow, I’m glad that I undertook this experiment in the gamification of my own marketing.  I think overall those that played did have fun and many of them played several times.  What I’m seeing now is a small but committed group of people who are totally engaged.  I’d prefer this any day to a large, unengaged group.  My hypothesis is that as long as I follow the same theory of engagement that as the following grows it may be smaller initially but they will be more valuable relationships.

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

I went out to the mailbox yesterday and tucked in with the immediately to be recycled junk mail was a hand addressed letter.  I opened it wondering what I might find and it was a real letter.  This full page missive from my uncle in Florida was a wonderful treat and had me smiling the rest of the day.

I like to write letters, but don’t do so very often now.  I did more when I was younger; my grandparents and other family would send letters periodically and then there were also friends who lived far away with whom I could correspond.  Also, as I remember it, Pen Pals were all the rage in the 80’s.  I know I had at least one Pen Pal in school and I think one that I found on my own.  My connection with them was short lived, however, and I doubt if a single letter remains in my memory box as a reminder.   Continue reading “The Lost Art of Letter Writing”

Cultivating Gratitude

Have you ever noticed how when you are happy everything seems to go better?  Maintaining a mentality of love and gratitude can help keep you in this space.  To use a gardening metaphor: learning to cultivate a landscape of gratitude in your life will allow you to reap happiness far more often than focusing on what isn’t working.

So in honor of Thanksgiving here are some tips and ideas which will help plant the seeds for your garden of gratitude to grow strong. Continue reading “Cultivating Gratitude”


My Facebook status reads: Taxes
Steve responds: Spends

As I tried to think of a funny way to continue this conversation the words that came to mind were ‘Drains’ or ‘Exhausts.’  While debating, my internal semantics critic began to shout.  “Do you realize,” the critic asked “that all of those words are about draining and taking away?!” Continue reading “Taxes”

Leveraging Technology to Change the World

Randy Paynter of Care 2 brings up a good point when he says that businesses no longer controls their brand or marketing. This is because of the increasing interactions and communications in the digital world which are not controllable by an organization. He points out that today’s purchasing habits allow consumers to access reviews and alternative products with just a few clicks. In the past glossy advertising guided the public perception of a product, but today consumers are no longer limited to canned marketing campaigns medium to inform their opinions.

Leveraging Technology

Randy maintains that this massive shift in power from the seller to the buyer comes in part from the plethora of choices, thereby creating a commodity of any product. In order to achieve brand success he touts the importance of differentiating a product as well as influencing the conversations surrounding it. He suggests that we need to create and engage ‘fanatical evangelists’ to build and communicate brands online.
Listen to the full session here

Steve Newcomb has high aspirations. His company, “Virgance, is a startup incubator that finds great ideas and turns them into companies that change the world. Steve wondered if he could “break the rules and build companies that do good.” His commitment to 100% transparency puts him in front of the public so that they can ask any question about how business is conducted.

Steve has approached the idea of sustainability as he would any market sector and he sees the market opportunity as enormous. The change needed will require not a single Apollo-sized project by hundreds. Seeking to change the very nature of capitalism, Virgance companies adhere to five tenets:

  1. “Cause as much direct and measurable change as possible.”
  2. “Always use the carrot and never use the stick.”
  3. “Use technology and the powers of social networks to get the job done.”
  4. “Have business models that allow these businesses to be self-sustaining.”
  5. “Try to involve and empower people to make the change.”

But the plenary wouldn’t have been complete without Malika Chopra, who began the session by guiding the SVN community in a beautiful mediation of gratitude, showing her heritage as the daughter of internationally renowned, Deepak Chopra. While her childhood exposure to the self-help arena and her presence around people who were on a journey of self-exploration, Malika’s early interests steered her to work for MTV initially. But it was while in Bombay that she had a change of heart after seeing a group of barefoot children huddled around a TV watching MTV. “Oh my God, what am I doing?” was all she could think and she decided to quit MTV the next day.

Today, Malika spends her time building a community on Intent, a sanctuary on the web for users to share their intentions and dreams with each other. Malika, a self-proclaimed “social media maven,” has a unique perspective on things because she is coming at it from the perspective of a mother and a woman.

Both Malika and Steve remind us that powerful movements and changes have been created through the use of blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Activities like ‘flash mobs,’ ‘tweet storms,’ and ‘carrot mobs’ can or have been used to create positive social change. The energy generated by this group’s discussion seemed to electrify the air, and that crackling interest will likely lead many of the participants to delve further into their own use of social media in order to create change.

Postcard from Cuba

Old Havana View
Old Havana View


I have been sitting in my hotel room for the last hour trying to think of what to tell you about Havana and of Cuba.

The short of it is that it is exactly the same and completely different than I imagined. There are old buildings that haven’t been taken care of and those that have been restored so well that seeing them brings tears to my eyes, they are so beautiful. Of course, I also find the beauty in the ones that are falling down.

The food is worse than I expected – I was thinking it would be alright. There are no vegan options, and few vegetarian. I have felt hungry more often than not, even when full of rice and beans. I am craving vegetables! Lots and lots of fresh vegetables that aren’t deep fried. I have had a few good meals and one great.

The cars are fascinating. The older later 50’s era vehicles have definitely been patched and repainted quite a bit, but it is neat to see. Interspersed with these older cars (a status symbol) are new imports. There is little traffic, and roads are in good condition.

Hasta Luego!

PS Check my twitter feed on this site for more pics.