Day One

Gad, what a cool experience.  Silver, you’d LOVE it.  Tomorrow, Liz Henry, BlogHer geek extraordinaire,  is giving a walkthrough on building WordPress templates.  You can bet I’ll be there.   

Today I went and participated in the groups that talked about online identity and all things Twitter.  Very interesting, very enlightening.  I hope I can convey some of it to my peeps at work that need it.   And are afraid of it.

Everyone always started out with, “But I don’t CARE that so-and-so just had a burrito for lunch! ” which was sort of the rallying cry for the beginning twitterers.  It ended up being the common denominator, came up at least once and generally more than once at every session.  The twitternosti would start out, “After I learned how to sort past the burritos…” and go on with their tales of Twitter In Real Life.  

One interesting woman who is being deported tomorrow because she lost her job here  and is a Canadian citizen (sad but interesting) told us a story about the power of twitter.  She said her friend was stuck on a runway (AA) in Portland, not being served food or drink, couldn’t get off the plane, and they were told it would be 5 hours before they could get to the gate.  The friend couldn’t get to her luggage for medicines that she needed, and started twittering about it.  Cathy (soon to be deportee) read for an hour or so, and then decided she’d twitter the local news station.  The news station asked if they could have the friend’s cell number for a phone interview.  Cathy called and got permission, and meanwhile other news stations picked it up, and it hit the news.  Lo and behold they soon let the plane go with apologies.  The Power of Twitter!

The most interesting things that I heard today had to do with whether or not you can really be yourself online.  I heard a depressing (but instructional) story about a woman who took naked pictures, covered with a Quake (game) box for a promotion – to win a prize.  The woman who did it was telling the story.  That picture has haunted her for years now.   I’ll bet if you google naked quake box you’ll still find Stephanie somewhere, even though she has tried to get people to pull it down now that she’s a grown up with a real career and real people to answer to.   Oh yeah, I just googled it.  There it was. There she was. With her first and last name.  Gawd!  I’m glad I was never quite that unaware of the Real World.  When she went and interviewed at AOL the first thing the interviewer said was, “How about that naked Quake box picture?”  I’d be peeling up floor tile trying to disappear.  

Moral of this story is Don’t Use Your Real Name if you’re going to do dicey things.  If you can stand behind everything you do online and wouldn’t care too much if it was on the cover of the New York Times and your boss (and all your future bosses) read it, then you’re okay.  Good advice to the youngsters out there.  Made me glad I’m kind of old with hardened skin. 

When I was at the NTEN conference last year there were a lot of dewey-eyed idealistic (and naive) young women who thought it was blasphemy to use two identities, or to curb your postings.  I wondered about it then, and now I think they need a few years of experience under their belts to come to grips with reality.  Or … maybe they were just that tame. 

One last thing – I heard a great phrase about what twitter does with it’s unique viral way of spreading.  Someone said that what twitter does best is “accelerate serendipity.”  Isn’t that great?  Accelerate Serendipity.

Speaking of great, that reminds me.  I got to sit next to one of my heroes today, Lynn Langit, an evangelist from Microsoft.  I don’t love her because she’s MS, it’s because she’s so amazingly smart.  And interesting. She does a lot of different developer stuff, but a lot of what she does is centered around promoting geekiness in girls.   She gets Microsoft to fund educational programs for young women.  But she develops full time, too, and is raising a 10 year old daughter.  

Also (and completely off-topic) :  is it true that they are teaching one space after periods in school now??  I heard that twice yesterday and it freaked me out.

I’m sleepy, going to hit the hay.  I’m sure this will need editing in the morning, but thought I’d get it all down while it was fresh.

Geeking out with the girls

My sometimes sexist and alltimes horny friend had this to say about me coming to She’s Geeky:

“Oooh, will there be a pillow fight? ”

I chided him a little and had him expound on that idea just in case I was misreading it (and him), and he did, gladly and with obvious relish.  

“I can’t help it.  It just makes me happy all over thinking about a roomful of geeky-glasses-wearing women having a monster pillow fight.  It wouldn’t bother me if they’re really smart and scantily clad too… <digging deeper… oh, well.>  A man can dream…”

You know, really, this is more than I needed to know about his fantasies.  


Now:  I am excited to be here.  Most of the people I remember from last year are here again, and quite a few more.  They are all so different, and so interesting.  I’ll probably be the oldest one there, but I don’t think it matters too much.  I can still absorb new things.  Most of the women are from the Silicon Valley area, but some are from my stomping grounds.  There’s a great woman, about my age, who works in Sac for the state doing social network developing.  She has lots of good ideas and knows how move things through the channels to make them happen. Good project manager. I’m going to try and eat dinner with her one night.  

Lots of cool people, cool topics.  I’m not going to present because I don’t know anything (although, actually, I could do some of the planned presentations – just didn’t know that anybody was interested … !) but I will participate in other ways.

Inaugural tweeting

This is hilarious and also really cool, the gigapan part, I mean (click the link): @zappos thinks this is amazing & scary. i think it is funny, the photo shows us on bb/twittering at #inaug09.

Maxwell Smart goes to the Nursing Home

Shoe Phone Offers Medical Device Potential
Flinders University (01/23/09)

A computer scientist at Australia’s Flinders University has developed a shoe phone. Paul Gardner-Stephen built the shoe phone as a theater prop, but he believes the device could be used to deliver health-related information to home nursing caregivers or senior-care facilities.

The bioinformatics expert says the shoe is a good place to put the electronics needed to store and relay medical data such as pulse, blood pressure, and blood oxygenation. The shoe also can take advantage of the large forces that are conducted as a person stands and walks, and energy can be harvested for charging the device during regular activity.

“A shoe-based device would not only be easy to wear, it could run significantly longer between battery charges,” Gardner-Stephen says. “The shoe-based platform makes it possible to detect shocks and orientation changes resulting from, for example, a fall.”

Hah! I knew there was a good reason to switch to an iPhone.

RIM CEO: Buggy OSes “new reality” of smartphones.

Posted: 26 Jan 2009 11:27 AM CST [from

Boing Boing Gadgets

Blackberry9000.jpgA lot went wrong for Blackberry when they rushed their touchscreen Storm handset to market. Despite selling 500,000 units in its first month of release, it shipped with an operating system that held together less like a mature operating system and more like an unstable element created in an atom smasher, existing for a mere microsecond before detonating into an atomic explosion. RIM released patches, but the damage was done, and the Storm’s sales have plummeted… it is now very definitely known amongst most consumers as an iPhone also ran.

So has RIM learned their lesson? Not a lick of it. According to RIM’s co-CEO Jim Balsillie, buggy smartphone OSes are “the new reality” because companies will rush to release the phones “by the skin of their teeth” both while the handsets are still relevant and before big sales days like “Black Friday.”

Sorry, Jim, but that dog don’t hunt. This is only the “new reality” of capitalist incompetence and greed, which is the same as the old reality. There’s a perfectly viable secondary strategy available, which both Apple and Palm have followed with success: work in secret on a phone and an operating system that are excellent in and of themselves, without being compared to the competition. Design them both together; the limbic system to the body. Then work on them while they are done, and then release when you’re damn sure you got it right. The world needs less Blackberry Storms and more Pres.

Blackberry Storm is off to a bumpy start [WSJ]

More Fallout

@zeldman We stayed in this neighborhood so our daughter could attend the best public school in NYC. She may not get in, now. Laid-off Wall Streeters, no longer able to pay for private school, are flooding the public school spots.

@zappos:  About to speak at NPS conference.  Current speaker quipped re: stock market:  “Flat is the new up.”

Best post about Twitter, ever [LOOOONG]

This is from the Zappos CEO blog – I’ve been following this dude for a couple of months now.

I was in Washington, DC last week and spent several days participating in inauguration-related events with various people including Evan Williams, the CEO of Twitter. So I thought this would be an opportune time to write about a topic that I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past few months: how Twitter has contributed to my own personal growth and made me a better person, and how you can take the same principles and apply them to yourself if you’d like.

I’ve talked a lot in the past about how we’ve used Twitter at Zappos for building more personal connections with both our employees and our customers. In fact, we recently debuted on FORTUNE MAGAZINE’s annual “100 BEST COMPANIES TO WORK FOR” list, and they began and ended the article talking about our use of Twitter to build more personal connections with people. That in itself is its own reward that has both personal and business benefits, but for this blog post, I wanted to share my stories and thoughts on how Twitter has helped me grow personally.

For me, it comes down to these 4 things:

  1. Transparency & Values: Twitter constantly reminds me of who I want to be, and what I want Zappos to stand for
  2. Reframing Reality: Twitter encourages me to search for ways to view reality in a funnier and/or more positive way
  3. Helping Others: Twitter makes me think about how to make a positive impact on other people’s lives
  4. Gratitude: Twitter helps me notice and appreciate the little things in life

The great thing about all 4 of these things is that not only have they helped me grow as a person, but they’ve also led to me being generally happier in life. And the benefits aren’t just personal — they also spill over into what we want the Zappos brand and business to be about: Zappos is about delivering happiness, whether for customers (through customer service) or for employees (through company culture). It’s been interesting thinking about how all of my personal learnings about happiness can be applied to delivering happiness in the business world as well.

What would you do differently if you were always on camera? I’m not talking about being on a reality TV show, but what if there were a permanent public record of everything you do or say from now on that anyone in the world could view at anytime? How would you act differently in certain situations? Would you be friendlier to people? Would you be less negative and less judgmental?

If you were always on camera, then everything you did would go towards shaping your personal brand, whether positive or negative. What are your personal values, and what values do you aspire to?

At Zappos, we have 10 core values that act as a formalized definition of our company culture. Our core values weren’t formed by a few people from senior management that sat around in a room at a company offsite. Instead, we invited every employee at Zappos to participate in the process, and here’s the final list we collectively came up with:

1) Deliver WOW Through Service
2) Embrace and Drive Change
3) Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4) Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5) Pursue Growth and Learning
6) Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7) Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8) Do More With Less
9) Be Passionate and Determined
10) Be Humble

The cool thing about the Zappos core values is that I’ve used them as my own personal values as well. So it makes tweeting really easy for me… Whether I tweet about something personal or something related to Zappos, if I’m living my life through these 10 core values, it all goes towards building the Zappos brand while shaping me personally as well.

A lot of marketers are initially mystified by how Twitter, in which you’re limited to 140 characters or less per tweet, can actually help a company build a brand when you’re so restricted in the length of your tweet. Here’s the analogy I like to use:

Think of each tweet as a dot on a piece of paper. Any single tweet, just like any single dot, by itself can be insignificant and meaningless. But, if over time, you end up with a lot of tweets, it’s like having a lot of dots drawn on a piece of paper. Eventually there are enough dots for your followers to connect them together. And if you connect the dots, in the aggregate it paints a picture of you and/or your company, and it’s that total picture that is your brand.

I have to admit, like probably most other people, when I first joined Twitter I felt a bit uncomfortable publicly announcing what I was doing and what I was thinking. But because radical transparence was part of the culture of tweeting, I decided to give it a try and be as transparent as possible, both for myself personally and for Zappos. It was also consistent with Zappos Core Value #6: “Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication”.

What I found was that people really appreciated the openness and honesty, and that led people to feel more of a personal connection with Zappos and me compared to other corporations and business people that were on Twitter.

By embracing transparency and tweeting regularly, Twitter became my equivalent of being always on camera. Because I knew that I was going to be tweeting regularly about whatever I was doing or thinking, I was more conscious of and made more of an effort to live up to our 10 core values.

A lot of people use Twitter to complain or vent, but I generally try to avoid doing so because it’s not in line with our core values. What I’ve noticed is that it’s also caused me to complain a lot less in real life, and because of that, I’ve found that my own personal happiness level has gone up.


That’s not to say that I don’t get into situations that I’m not initially happy about. But now anytime something that used to get me upset or frustrated happens, I try to find the humor in the situation and think about how the situation can be reframed. I’ve found that almost every “bad” situation is actually an opportunity that can be entertaining to my followers on Twitter, which also forces myself to see things in a different light.

For example, last year I was staying at a hotel in Mexico and somehow managed to lock myself out on the balcony of my hotel room. I was stuck there for 45 minutes before I was finally rescued. This would haven normally been a very frustrating experience, but because I had my cell phone with me, I was able to tweet about it and it actually ended up being a very enjoyable 45 minutes as I tweeted about the progress of my situation and read all of my followers’ responses to it:

Went 2 my room after my speech, came out 2 balcony. Balcony door somehow locked behind me so now I am trapped outside. @ zappos_fred 2 rescue []

Hotel front desk is telling @zappos_fred it’s not possible for me to be locked out on balcony. I assure you it is, I am not pretending. []

Hotel security finally believed @zappos_fred, rescued me after 45 mins. Asked 4 ID so I could come in from balcony. No ID = stay on balcony []

in fact, I now almost looked forward to situations that would normally be frustrating, because I’ve learned that almost any situation can be reframed to be funny as a tweet, which then makes the situation in real life funny as well. For example:

Airport bathroom: guy tries washing hands – auto faucet motion sensor broken. He tries voice recognition instead by yelling “Wash!” at sink []

If it weren’t for Twitter, I would have instead probably been a bit annoyed waiting in line behind this man who was unfamiliar with motion-activated sink faucets. But instead, Twitter forced me to search for and find the humor in the situation by taking a step back and realizing that it actually was a pretty funny situation.


One of the great things about Twitter is the instant feedback loop. Within 5 minutes of sending out a tweet, you can find out whether people enjoyed or appreciated your tweet. When I first started using Twitter, I used to just tweet about what I was doing. Most of my tweets were very “me-focused”, because the guideline Twitter gives is to answer the question “What are you doing right now?”

Every once in awhile I might share an inspirational quote or funny story or link to an interesting article. What I found was that those types of tweets also garnered the most responses. So today, with most of my tweets I try to do at least one of the following:

  • Cause my followers to smile with something funny
  • Inspire my followers (for example, with an inspirational quote)
  • Enrich my followers’ perspectives (such as with a link to an interesting article)

In other words, I’ve become a lot less “me-focused” and instead do a lot more thinking and asking myself, “What can I tweet about that would brighten the day for my followers or enrich their lives somehow?”

And by regularly putting myself into the mindset of asking what I can do for others, it inevitably ends up spilling over to my regular life outside of Twitter. And somewhat ironically, becoming less “me-focused” has actually increased my overall level of happiness for myself personally.


In my research into the science of happiness, many studies have shown that gratitude activities (such as keeping a gratitude journal) helps people increase their overall happiness level in life. There are many ways to be thankful, and many things to be thankful for, but one technique is to make a more conscious effort to notice and appreciate the little things in life.

For me, because I try to tweet every day, I’ve found that I’m always looking for opportunities to have something to tweet about. So I end up noticing and appreciating things that I would normally not even give a second thought to. Here are examples of some tweets I’ve sent about things I’ve noticed that I would have normally ignored or forgotten about: – Guy in New York with a cat on his head. Apparently this is normal. [] – It’s so cold that the NY street food vendors’ tomatoes & lettuce are frozen []

At Vegas airport. While in bathroom, I had an AMAZING revelation: Toilet seat covers are shaped exactly the same as life vests! []

Enjoying just hanging out at home for my birthday. Looking at the full moon which is closest to earth today, happens once every 15 years. []

So now, anytime I notice something that would normally be inconsequential, the very act of tweeting forces me to spend some time appreciating what would have otherwise been ignored or forgotten. And because of that, I’ve learned that every day, there are many, many opportunities to notice and appreciate the little things in life.

So for all of the reasons I’ve outlined above — Transparency & Values, Reframing Reality, Helping Others, and Gratitude — I’d like to say thank you to Twitter for helping me grow as a person.

Tony Hsieh – CEO,


Some questions for you to consider thinking about: What are your personal values? What do you want your personal brand and values to be? How can you use Twitter as a tool to help you grow as a person and be happier? If you’ve ever vented on Twitter, do you think you would be happier if you thought of Twitter as a tool for you to reframe your perspective? I’d love to hear people’s thoughts and comments below!


January 26: default potential

A self-portrait or a picture with you in it that has the potential to be your default image on myspace/facebook etc.

This picture is so good, TOTAL default potential!


Made me laugh, I am always searching for pics with good default potential.  The worst of it is, after I come up with one, I’m happy for a month or two, and then want to change it. Never satisfied for long, that’s me.  Maybe I should come up with some sort of drawing or symbol that I can live with.

Right.  Been there, done that, same thing happens.