Category Archives: Media Shame

Identity crisis: Me and my blog

“Blogging is hard.”

I went to a presentation at the Statesman for work this past week.  It was all about multimedia and mobile and online — geared for businesses in health care.  Since I now work for a health clinic, I was invited and decided to check it out.

A sales guy for the Statesman threw a lot of numbers at us about how people use the internet and what they’re searching for.  It was interesting.

There was also a discussion about social media.  The social media editor for the Statesman got up to talk about how the newspaper takes advantage of Twitter and Facebook to cultivate readers and develop a community.  Someone asked about blogging and whether businesses should have blogs.  The response: Blogging is hard.

It’s true.  Blogging IS hard.  Especially when you don’t have a clear focus.  Just look at this blog.  It’s been 2 months since I’ve written in it.  I just don’t know what to say, what to share.

Do people really want to know about the nitty gritty details of my life?  Do they really care about my business?  Will I come off as a naive idiot?  Will they laugh at my ignorance?

I really do worry about these things.  I worry about my online persona.  How real do I want to be?

Tirades used to be a lot more personal.  Then it kind of became a pseudo work blog.  And I spent more time on my other blogs.  Tirades has been withering.

We’re in the middle of an identity crisis, me and my blog.

I guess it was inevitable, since I’m going through such a crazy transition right now.  Motherhood.  Career changes.

And I worry about how much I can talk about my life without turning off potential clients or current employers.

Here’s what I need to remember, though.  This blog can be whatever I need it to be.  You know what?.. I could give a flying crap whether anyone reads my blog.  I started it 7 or 8 years ago as my first online voice.  We’re still marching along.  I’m changing.  No… evolving.

And so dear reader, if you even exist, I’m going to stop worrying about trying to present myself in the most positive light.  This blog is no fun as a strictly business blog.  My career is a huge part of my life, no doubt, but Tirades is not going to give you advice on how to design web pages.  Tirades is not going to try to sell you on my skills.

No, Tirades is going to be about stories.  I’m going back to my roots.  I used to write stories.  I spent hours writing stories when I was a kid.  I love to write.  Sometimes my stories will be about my work.  But I bet most of the time they’ll be about those funny instances that stand out.  Like the time I was driving when Andy told a joke and I nearly ran off the road.  Or when I wandered around the Statesman parking lot searching for my car while talking loudly on my phone about the fact that I couldn’t find my car.

I will blog every other day.  I will share my stories, whether through words or pictures.

Yeah.  Life.  I just want to be real.

Your marketing and spelling

Spelling Errors poster: The stand out more when you're trying to be clever.If you need a good laugh and have some time to kill, you should google the words “photo spelling error.”  What you find is HILARIOUS.

I worked for years as a journalist in television and online, and I have a pretty quick eye for spelling and grammatical mistakes.  I’ve been know to mentally correct bathroom wall graffiti.  I’ve also been known to make my own very public spelling typos.  There are few things more embarrassing than posting a big story on the front page of a website that garners thousands of hits every day and then having a viewer call or email the newsroom to point out your mistake.

Yeah — it happens to the best of us.

But there are honest mistakes that are few and far between and then there is sloppiness.  Sloppiness is when it’s obvious you didn’t read what you wrote or that you have no idea the correct usage of “you’re” and “your” and “their,” “there” and “they’re.”

I’ve been on both sides of a business’ online presence.  I’ve been the producer and I’ve been the consumer, so I understand mistakes.  But many people don’t, and when businesses make mistakes in their online marketing materials, it just looks bad.

Your website and your emails to your customers are often the first impression you give a customer.  When I notice spelling errors, my feelings about the business instantly fall.  It just looks unprofessional and small-time.  Plus, if you don’t take the time to read and correct what you wrote, why would I think you would take the time to care about me, your customer?

Think about it — step away from your business — what would you think of a business that misspelled an email headline that’s meant to attract your attention?  What about poor grammar?  In this era of spellcheck — it just shouldn’t happen.

“Yeah, but, Cindy, I’m a terrible speller!”  Guess what — your customers or potential clients won’t give you a pass.  They want professional, and they’ll find a business that is.

Need more convincing or tips on how to overcome your spelling problems?  Check out the links below:

What’s a nursing mom to do?

Cindy holds Madeline right after her birthWould you eat dinner that was cooked in a public bathroom?

How about a fried egg after someone just flushed a toilet? Or maybe a sandwich?

Most people would give a resounding “NO” to that question. It’s gross, right? And yet that’s what people expect babies to put up with when it’s chow time and their mom doesn’t feel like hiking up her shirt in front of thousands of people.

In Texas, nursing moms are legally allowed to feed their babies in any public place.

Unfortunately for me when I attended SXSWi, I did not have my baby with me.  It probably would have been easier had she been with me.  Then I might not have dealt with what I did.

I took my breast pump with me to the conference each day (I live in Austin), and when I arrived on day 1, I asked at the info booth if there was a room where I could sit and pump — not a bathroom, because that’s gross.  Using a breast pump is not very discreet, and it sounds like a milking machine.  I did not want to be out in a hallway.

They were very nice, asked a lot of people, then sent me to another info booth when they couldn’t find the answer.  Same thing at the next info booth — very nice and understanding, and told me a room was available beginning on Saturday at noon.  They even told me where it would be — Mezzanine 2 in the Convention Center.

Cool.  I was jazzed.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t true.  On Saturday at noon, I trooped up to Mezzanine 2 to find a door that said it was under “lockdown,” and watched a staffer walk in.  I glanced inside for a moment to see several people staring at computer screens.  Dumbfounded, I searched out an info desk again to ask.

Again, the volunteers were very nice, but they couldn’t find the answer.  One even offered to walk with me back up to the room to ask what was going on.  Inside, we found a very busy SXSW production room with staffers who had no idea what I was asking about.  One staffer offered to find out.  He called and then ran down to find someone who could answer my question — was there a room where I could pump in private?

The answer: No.  Apparently there had been a room in 2010, but not this year.  And then the staffer told me he knew of a one-room handicapped bathroom where I could pump.

“Is that OK?” he asked.

“Do I have a choice?” I replied.

I was angry.  I was annoyed.  I had wasted so much time and missed a panel session in search of this phantom room.  I tweeted my frustration:

Dear #sxswi: really? No room for nursing moms? I have to use a bathroom? You suck. Really. Thanks.

Then, after fighting through a crowd to find the bathroom, I discovered it was locked:

So the “single” bathroom I was directed to is locked and no sound inside. Hmmm… Stall or car? #thissucks #sxswi

And that’s when I went to my car.

My friends tweeted about my experience, and I even talked to a SXSW staffer at the Digital Moms Meetup who seemed very sympathetic to my predicament.  The next day I got this response:

@cindybrummer Not sure who you talked to, but we very much support breastfeeding in public here at SXSW. (Many (cont) http://tl.gd/98qhie

I felt embarrassed when I saw it.  Had I really thought they were keeping me from doing my thing?  I just wanted to crawl in a hole.  But then, later that day, as I made the trek to my car — in the heat — to pump, I started to wonder whether SXSWi misunderstood what I was asking for.  So I sent a direct message — since that seemed to be the only way to get a response.

sxsw: So, is there going to be a room available for me to use my breast pump? I’d like to not use my car mon and tues…

Crickets.

I heard nothing.  I took it as a huge no, and I quietly went about my business.  I made it work in my car, trying not to feel entitled to a precious room, but still feeling the sting that some mother last year was allowed privacy to nurse or pump in air conditioning.

I tried to be positive — at least I was parked close by.  And at least I only had to miss two panels a day.  And at least I didn’t have to lug around my pump.  Still, I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had taken the MetroRail instead of driven.  I guess I would have used a bathroom stall.

Gross.

Should I have made a bigger fuss?  That’s not really me.  I didn’t want to go to bat over a breast pump.  And I don’t want people to think I felt like SXSWi should have set aside a giant room just for me.  But it steams me the amount of conflicting information I received and how much time I wasted trying to seek out that information.  If I had learned on Friday that there would be no room, I would have been disappointed and moved on, rather than spending so much time getting to the bottom of it.  And yes, it sucks that last year there was a room, but not this year.

It won’t be a problem for me for SXSWi 2012.  I don’t plan on breastfeeding that long, but if you’re a nursing mom who’s planning to go — be aware!  If you’re like me and you like being discreet, it might be easier for you to just bring your baby.

Reflections on 2010

2010.  Oh my… what a year!

Every year — in the week between Christmas and New Year’s — I find myself in that thoughtful place of transition between the current year and the one to come.   I find myself eagerly anticipating the new year, as if a slate is to be wiped clean and the possibilities of dreams I have not yet realized are closer.  All too often, I forget what amazing things I’ve already succeeding in accomplishing.

It’s easy to brush aside the past year as we set new goals, but I think it’s also important — if not necessary — to look back.  Sometimes I can be a bit hard on myself when I think of what I haven’t done, and assessing the past year is a good way to appreciate all that I HAVE accomplished.

Here’s what I did in 2010:

  1. Left KVUE to pursue web design business full time
    This was a major goal in 2010, and I’m proud that I finally had the courage to take this step.
  2. Secured 3 clients — 1 of them new
    It’s not as much as I aimed for, but it’s a start.
  3. Had a baby
    The birth of my daughter was so momentous.  It’s tremendously difficult maintaining that balance between work and family, but I’m so glad I’m able to work from home and be there for my kids.
  4. Learned to use Quickbooks
    OK — I’m still struggling with this, but I know enough to get by for the time being and aim for hiring a bookkeeper in 2011.
  5. Went to SXSWi
    South by Southwest Interactive was an amazing experience for me.  I learned so much about technology, trends, the industry and the business of the industry that I was able to venture out on my own with a bit more confidence than I otherwise might have had.
  6. Continued my education
    It’s imperative for people in my chosen profession to stay in the know, and I did my best to advance my knowledge.  I started learning as much as I could about PHP and how to design and develop with Joomla, Drupal and WordPress
  7. Connected with other small business owners
    Through the City of Austin Small Business Development Program, I started meeting other people who could potentially help me or hire me in the future.

Now that I’ve looked at my 2010 accomplishments, I can get down to business making goals for 2011, and those goals can be specific and build upon the foundation I’ve already laid.

Happy goal-making!

Saying goodbye

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” — Gail Sheehy

I left my workplace tonight for the last time as an employee.  And it was hard to say goodbye.

I resigned a month ago from my position so I could pursue my dream of running my own web design business, working from home and setting my own schedule.  It was a very hard decision to make, for as much as I had outgrown the position, I really enjoyed the people and the company itself.  I had also grown very comfortable — I’d been there nearly 5 years.

But the time has come to take a risk, shake things up, and get moving on my life.  My priorities have changed, my goals have changed, and it’s time to make adjustments.

I will always be a journalist.  Once a journalist, always a journalist.  And I will always be a producer.  I’ll just be producing for different kinds of websites.

The holidays — they're almost here

 This is the first year Luke has brought up the approaching holiday season without prompting — at least from my husband or myself.

Luke ROARS in his tiger costumeHe knows Halloween is on the way, and he requested a costume this year. A TIGER!  ROAR!

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find one that’s reasonably priced.  Have you SEEN the prices for costumes at those fancy kids stores?  Yikes!  I also wanted to avoid a cheapie.  I remember wearing a very cheap plastic one when I wanted to be Smurfette at age 6.  Remember those costumes?  They came in the box with a cheap plastic mask?  What were my parents thinking?  It was horrible!

I lucked out and found a tiger costume at Old Navy for only $15.  Yay!  It arrived in the mail today, and Luke just had to try it on.  I have a feeling he’ll want to try it on every day for the next several weeks.

He also knows Christmas isn’t far behind Halloween, and all he wants to talk about is Santa.  But what’s so cute is it isn’t about Santa coming to our house to bring presents.  Santa comes to KVUE, and we sing and dance, eat cookies and listen to a story.  This will be our fourth year to attend the Christmas special taping.  It’s always so fun.  We get a copy of the show after it airs, but I don’t think Andy and I have ever watched it.  It’s about the experience for us — not so much being on TV.

IMS website complete!

This has been the wackiest, most disappointing, scariest, most productive and most exhilarating week of my life!  It’s weird how one week can encompass so many vastly different states and feelings, but looking back, I really feel it can.

I won’t linger on the negatives.  I’m not much in a mood to whine or complain about crap.  Right now I’m in the exhilarating part.

www.innovativemetalsolutions.net website screenshotMy most recent client just called me to tell me how happy he is with his website which we just soft launched: http://www.innovativemetalsolutions.net/

I’ve been working on this site for more than a month, and it was a biggie.  It was the first site I’ve done for a client who did not start out as my friend.  he was referred to me through a friend, but before he needed a site, we didn’t know each other.  I worked mostly with his graphic designer, who I only know through phone conversations and dozens of emails, but who turned out to be a wonderful partner on this project.  Her attention to design detail paired well with my understanding of how a website should be put together.

So we have a few links to add, but I’ve tested and retested in different browsers.  I even went so far as to add code that will detect a user in IE6 and prompt them to upgrade their browser, because the site looks much better in Firefox and IE7.

Anyway, my client is “ecstatic.”  I’m thrilled that it looks as good as it does, and I can’t wait to add it to my online portfolio.  I’m also glad I have a couple of days to breather before we start talking about future site maintenance and I meet with a new client.

Ahhhhhhhhh………….

Community journalism, baby!

I just wanted to share this link I found on one of the blogs I regularly read: www.austinpost.org.  I love Lyssa’s blog, and I’ll let her describe the Austin Post:

The idea behind it is to fill the void left by the death of newspapers
(dun dun dun) by creating a place for Austinites to post and submit
news. Those pieces of news and stories are then voted up or down on the
homepage and category pages by the readers. So the end result is that the community is deciding what’s newsworthy or not, what’s important, and what’s worth reading. It’s bringing intellectual discourse back to newspapers. Online.

Awesome. Community journalism.  I’m all about that.  I wonder if my current employer will be OK with me submitting an article or two?  Guess I better check first.

Oprah advice? No thanks

My distaste for Oprah has been growing. 

I used to watch her show in the hour before the 5pm news, because there was nothing else on (while I’m at work).  That went on for about 6 months before I got fed up.  I found myself getting sucked into her show and telling Andy what Oprah said.  That was the last straw.  I now either turn off the TV or watch reruns of the Gilmore Girls.

But I’ve been keeping tabs on Oprah. I know she’s been bringing Jenny McCarthy on her show, and don’t even get me started on that woman.  It seemed like Oprah was unstoppable.  Nobody in the mainstream media ever seemed to criticize her.

So when my Newsweek arrived this week and I saw Oprah on the cover, I did a double take.  It is seriously one of the most interesting magazine stories I had read in Newsweek in a while.  A must-read, and very eye-opening.