Have the courage to use your own understanding

If you feel that marketing seems sort of superficial, trendy or ineffective, it may be because of the quirky nature of social media. Then there is the weighing of social media against SEO. Searching still seems to be the number one indicator of how people find things or at least attempt to find things whereas often diversion and multiple choices lead us astray. So for business sake we have to do both, do everything, all the time, just to keep up with the other guy and maybe we will by some small grace, some gift of intellect or creative genius, out smart the big guy. Some of us will think that sounds idealistic or pollyana-ish while at the same time think it has been known to happen, right, or more of the same? The big guys have all the money and can afford to do anything and make us think that maybe we can, too, while we struggle in the wake with our small change. It’s the American Dream. Courageous ambition, hard work, adventure, discovery, they may not be all myths.

Perhaps there is a little myth in the way I never know how things are going to go from a prompt to download a new version of compression software that I need to prep files for, say, amazon.com Search Inside The Book program. This program is supposed to help people not only find a book due to the ‘tag’ effect of words in the book but allows them to see it and read it, want to buy it, but not download it. The recommended way of delivering files to amazon is in a zip file, a compressed pack of files with cover jpegs and content PDF. I don’t know how much time I spent downloading and setting up a bit of software to accomplish this task but when it came to creating the archive, there was an error. Restarting didn’t help.

All this in order to perhaps sell a few more books and eventually offer them as ebooks, too, on amazon. Amazon used to scan books for this. Maybe they still do but my sense is they would rather not pay somebody to do this when it should be simple to upload a PDF. And it is. The snag is how to get the required covers to go along. I’m going to stop trying to figure a way to put them together and send them separately. I don’t have time for searching for the program or technical troubleshooting.

Such is the life of the little guy who has to hesitate to spend 30 or 80 dollars to get the full version of software that supposedly does this task of compression. Now I wonder if it makes sense to purchase the software or if even then it will fail and another hour or day will be spent in tech support trying to solve whatever the issue is. Haven’t we all had that experience? We think we need some internet security software that costs a mere 89.00 but for some reason we weren’t told that it is not compatible with our current system so we don’t find out until we install it.

It may be because half the time I am still using an older computer and operating system. There is a dilemma to the ever-changing and improving computer and its operating system, utilities, browsers, applications, all will become no longer able to function or use the new plug-ins, for example, especially with browsers, and, most importantly, they become less secure. So, as delimitating as this is, as frustrating and demoralizing, there is no getting around the eventual upgrade. It has to be planned. Just as parents try to instill the need for income, the work ethic and sense of business our young people must understand in order to continue to make more income, so should the sense that we must keep up with the improvements in technology. No matter how much we think Ford had the right idea, or that obsolescence is planned, corporations are just out to get our money and keep us down, we have to suck it up and keep that job. Keep our computers equipped with the latest software and extensions, utilities and all the rest because your business, personal identity and valuable data will become at risk.

I may sound a bit sarcastic, but I believe there actually is some truth to this. Being young and idealistic without being enterprising or realistic can lead to dilemmas, even poverty. But money is not everything. Wealth does not equal happiness.

In a recent article in The Economist (June 16th, page 52) “Money can’t by me love” discussing the Chinese people, the Confucian phrase leads, “admirable indeed” is a man who has only a begging bowl yet “did not allow his joy to be affected.” Even the thought that rulers are concerned with the people’s happiness seems out dated but studies show that in China surveys show that the people who expect their living standards to improve in five years went up “from 62% in 2004 to 73% in 2009.” With a Chinese growing economy there is also growing discontent thought to be due to “procedural injustices, abuses of power and the lack of resources.”

Do I come away from this with a notion that rulers and corporations try to use human behavior and habits to keep them engaged with money and merchandise as to keep them happy so they, the rulers and corporations can do what they want, or that it’s the same wherever we go? In this country, the USA, many are concerned with the enormous wealth being held by large companies and how the courts have given them almost carte blanche to influence political campaigns appearing to take away the democratic process while little is said about how people can organize to use power of their own.

There almost seems to be a trend in politics to divide and conquer, and it doesn’t stop there, if we think, we can go on to misrepresentations, blaming, deceptions, and more until it becomes bigger than life and our sense of futility grows driving us into some comfort zone. As if that is just where they want us to be. It all looks rather morose and incomprehensible.

Somehow we need to do our best at what we do and even better to find a way to compromise, to understand each other, to resist the urge to be unforgiving or assuming the worst and projecting onto one another things that are false beliefs. Somehow we must find the courage to use our own understanding and say and do things that unify us. We can always complain but it takes real leadership and real love to reach out and try to make a situation better.

Now, if I sound overly optimistic, look at this.

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Don’t become fatalistic about technology

Life is a lump of habits, according to William James and the lead into the review by The Economist of Charles Duhigg‘s book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Scientists, and marketers, look at how habits shape our behavior, and hopefully, not just manipulate the habits we want to have changed or replaced. One great marketer, Claude Hopkins, brought the number of toothbrushes in American homes from 7% to 65% in ten years. There is evidence we even have the ability to adjust our habits all on our own, through life experiences and by the simple reflective pause in knowing what we don’t want; or as some health book once told me, becoming sick of being sick. But that would be speaking of the bad habits. I think it is better to remain positive while at the same time understanding that our emotions are part of and helpful to moving through the contradictions in our lives. Dan Blank has a blog and newsletter that reminded me of positive thinking. Dan is doing good things to help writers and publishers think about things in new ways. So often we try to solve new problems with old solutions, the sign of an habitual approach. If we have strong feelings about something, our feeling can lead us to discovery and then developing change for our selves and perhaps for others. Good advice from Dan Blank for me means: don’t just listen to and accept old viewpoints, don’t fall into old habitual responses, and try applying your own questions and ideas in order to make progress.

Success in business can come with developing a new strategy, and with determination, transform an organization, the way a pledge can create a chain reaction. It might be whispered that this is the way belief systems can work, by gaining momentum and effecting the surroundings as they move. Success can be measured in different ways and many good successes are not measured monetarily.

One has to marvel at, say, how Claude Hopkins could sell a breakfast cereal by claiming it was fired from canons. That it worked is more of a curiosity perhaps than the idea and imagery. What is it that the audience responds to, really? Or is it a combination of things? Can we compare the marketing of one product with another? Books have been written about topics going viral on the internet and these books have done well. But try to get the strategy to work once everyone else is trying to do the same thing, reactions begin to resemble those we have for SPAM—the unfortunate occurrence of those less sincere comments / ads stuck to blogs make it more challenging for the rest of us.

Maybe puffed wheat was not only marketed well but a new product (the age of breakfast cereal; the beginning of fast food) that got people’s attention and made their mind think of eating little wheat pops in milk. Is there any way to actually find out (the conditioned response) and apply the information or is it more useful to come up with an original  idea that makes sense to you, has some innovation and maybe some humor, then put your energy into that idea? Have the courage to use your understanding.

Fatalism; a fatalist believes events are predetermined and therefore inevitable; I may be becoming  one regarding my experience with editing this blog.

We all have contradictions that send us on searches for an end to them, perhaps in search of truth, maybe for comfort, or to reach goals. I have contradictions. My background is in visual art and making things by hand. I have spent time in the city and in nature. When I was studying library science and book art, a very exciting time of my life, swore I’d never use computers I was so taken by the fine limited editions put out by fine presses throughout history that I saw and handled at a few special collections in Alabama, Georgia and Texas. That was 30 years ago. In 1991 I began learning to use a Mac to design books and do typography. When I was in graduate school in Alabama the computer was, probably, the Commodore, and one had to learn basic 80 to do anything on those computers. I understand the benefits of computers and how they have improved aspects of learning and business, though sometimes I think they cause problems in the financial sectors that let them take over too completely. When do we know what works best? Digital technology has transformed the printing industry, but I can spend all day sitting in front of my computer and not feel like I accomplished everything. Other days the computer enables me to do a number of things multitasking for a project as a publisher. Dan Blank has a good formula in one of his posts for those of us who are creative writers or small business operators. Some times distractions come in and lead me off pat. If you work at home any number of things can come up and the need to deal is strong. It can be hard to say no to spouse or friend when what we really need is to focus and concentrate on the work, whatever it is.

pulling the bar of the iron handpressThere is an irony to the technological advancement theory. The personal computer industry has always been plagued by constant changes, albeit improvements, but many tasks have limitations and complications, things get lost, have compatibility issues, technical issues. It just adds to the pressure, that sense of being overwhelmed sometimes makes me wonder. My questions come mostly out of wonderment. Just plain old simple thinking on the edge of confusion, looking down the road for a little bit of happiness and wanting some comfort knowing that I am doing the right thing, that we can have trust in the stewards of our  special collections, as one example, and that they use every possible precaution to keep them safe.

Please note: The Economist allows limited access to online articles without registration.

The digitizing of industry has been happening for probably twenty years. The development of 3D printing made the news a couple of years ago. Manufacturing is changing remarkably so much so that it might seem that the worker is becoming obsolete. But read the latest article in The Economist about what they call the industrial revolution and you will find that there are plenty of jobs in the new manufacturing world, it’s just that the factory no longer looks the same and many of the jobs are more like support jobs. Jobs may be coming home and the general state of things may enable us “little guys” to make it in spite of the “giants”. What seems clear is that for us to keep our jobs coming home there needs to be education and on a scale beyond the bickering in Congress. Congress in fact seems out of touch; or is manipulating the discussion for political reasons, not unheard of, right; when it speaks of constituencies and the American People and what they want, by not letting us know what is really happening and by speaking in old language  about why their attitudes are the best. Why aren’t they educating us, why are so many Americans still thinking inside the old box?

Over the past ten days there has been news about e-books and publishing, which frankly surprised me to frustration when I think of all the Federal agencies could be doing about invisible practices in the financial industry, the FCC going after Google for a $120k or so seems hardly worth it. The smell of monopolistic tendencies has been in the air for a while so why be so concerned about publishers and giants like amazon having price wars in seeming favor of one when the e-book scene is not what its projected reporting leads us to believe. The simple fact is that there are different types of file formats that reading devices can use and some are truly limited. What will come  can only be speculated on, whether the book will go by way of photographic film, and who is to say what is best to do with all the information that we need for research and development in the face of the world energy crisis. Maybe many of us will just stay at home and order everything we need on line and save energy that way.

files used by ebook readers

There are a lot of e-books  reported as being read, details about what corner of the world shows most volumes consumed is hardly ever mentioned. Relationships point to the market being driven by competitive, though elaborately produced, trendy commercials weak promises of interaction and connectivity that approach demoralization of the very technological advancements that are supposed to be the foundation of the so-called information age. Are we being flashed into a techno-inebriation while who knows what is happening to our information, our extant archives of rare books, and while no help seems to come from a congress more concerned with some form of thirteenth century state? I am not turning gloomy with inevitable doom. My only concern is that we don’t forget attending to the important. The Economist article covers an aspect of industry in labor and cost of one Apple device, and several other companies using countries like India and China for inexpensive workforces is all very interesting in suggesting how that may change. Then, what will happen to those towns that have built up around their manufacturing complexes should those companies suddenly shift their mode and location of operations?

Interestingly enough many university libraries have or are digitizing areas of their collections which compliments the preservation of rare originals using what appears to be reliable database companies like EBSCO.

The University of Alabama Gorgas Library has digitized certain collections and one can browse limited size collections on the Web, some require membership and login.  http://acumen.lib.ua.edu/ There is no longer a card catalog, there were once several, each taking up entire rooms. They are now on an online network.

http://www.mcmillanlibrary.org/programs/digitize.html