Friday, February 28, 2014

Why I want to be one of the #WomenAtFITC

It's hard to believe that in 2014, we still see all-male panels at digital conferences (and the irritated "where are the women" tweets that inevitably follow). So props to FITC Toronto (which stands for "future, innovation, technology, creativity," FYI) for wanting women in the digital/tech space well-represented at their April conference and offering bursaries to those who want to attend. The process is simple: write a blog post, shoot a video, code a web page, or otherwise express why you want to attend FITC in a creative way, submit your work, and if FITC approves, they'll comp your ticket.

Here are 5 reasons why I want to go this year:

1. It's not just another social media/marketing conference

While I've attended some amazing digital conferences, some of them feature the same old topics and speakers, leading to a sort of Groundhog Day-esque feeling. Browsing the FITC website, I see sessions devoted to everything from design and illustration to coding and gaming — something to satisfy the nerd in all of us.

2. There's an emphasis on creativity

Sometimes when you're bogged down by engagement metrics and KPI reports, you fear losing your creative edge. Being in a room full of creative people awakens a different part of my brain. And people who actually make a living off their wildly creative ideas are just exciting to be around, like unicorns.

3. It just sounds awesome

Almost every digital marketer I've ever met has asked me "Have you ever gone to FITC?" in hushed tones. It has this epic, legendary quality to it. And looking at the lineup of featured speakers, it's not hard to see why. I'd love to see the guy who won two Grammys for designing packages for Talking Heads and Brian Eno & David Byrne and the Director of Digital Initiatives for the Tribeca Film Institute.

4. I believe in continuous learning

My degree is in journalism, but I wasn't satisfied with just being a writer/editor. Over the past five years I've developed my skills in digital communications and marketing, and that's strictly through courses in my spare time, reading countless blog posts, following key people on Twitter, and listening to countless talks and panels. I never want to stop learning.

Also, I'm finding that increasingly it's not enough to just be one thing. You can't just be good at social media — you need to know about design, web programming, mobile, et cetera. Taking part in FITC would bring me up to speed on where I should focus my learning efforts.

5. I want to be inspired by others

I work with an awesome team of creative people at APEX Public Relations. An APEX brainstorm is one of my favourite things; I'm always blown away by the ideas my coworkers generate. But it always helps to step outside of your core team and be inspired by others. People from other companies and agencies bring other case studies and points of view, and by sharing our experiences, we're only helping each other be better at our jobs.

Amanda Factor partly threw in the Groundhog Day reference as a tribute to Harold Ramis.  Follow her on Twitter.

Friday, August 3, 2012

8 ways organizations can suck less at Twitter

Yesterday I was looking at the Twitter feed of a Toronto non-profit organization, and it sucked. It sucked so bad that I wanted to shake their social media person, or give them a hug. I won't publicly shame them here. The worst part is that they have the potential to be awesome at Twitter, and all it would take is a few simple changes. Such as:

1. Don't send your Facebook updates to Twitter.

I'm guessing there is some app that allows you to update your Twitter from Facebook. I've never used such an app, because the idea makes no sense.

Tweets must be 140 characters or under, whereas Facebook updates can be more characters than that. Unless you're making sure your Facebook updates are under 140 characters, your tweets are going to be a bunch of cut-off sentences. No one wants to read that, dude.

2. Get a real live human being to tweet for you.

Here's where it gets terrible. All of this organization's tweets are sent from Facebook. Every single one. It makes it feel like their Twitter is run by a robot. They need a dedicated human tweeter, one who posts real-time updates, asks questions and engages with their followers.

3. Have conversations with your followers.

This is another big one. Scrolling through this organization's feed, I noticed that they never RT anyone who mentions them, they never ask questions to drive back-and-forth dialogue, they never reply to people. Are we really to believe that no one ever tweets them a question or comment?

If someone @ mentions you on Twitter, the least you could do is acknowledge them with a response or RT. It takes fives seconds. (Or you could favourite their tweet, which takes less than one second.)

4. Follow back.

Unless a follower is a pornbot, you should always follow back. It's not like you're going to be reading every single one of your followers' tweets. Like the conversation thing, it's just a small gesture to show you appreciate their support.

Fun fact: This organization is currently following 0 people. Not cool.

5. Fill in your bio.

The "bio" field of your Twitter profile is an opportunity to share some basic info about your organization, like what it is you actually do, where your office is located, your hours, whatever. This org's bio is blank.

6. Tweet several times a day.

And they just keep comin', folks. This org tweets an average of 1-3 times a day. I'm sure there's differing opinions about how many tweets a day is "enough," but one a day is for sure not enough. With a bit of creativity, they could think of enough stuff to say. Which brings me to my next point...

7. It's okay to tweet about stuff besides what your org does.

Let's take Salad King's Twitter account as a shining example of what to do. They're a Toronto thai restaurant, but they don't just tweet promotional stuff. They use their feed to talk about stuff that matters to their followers, such as local news and culture.

Make a list of things your followers are probably interested in, and tweet about that every once in a while. It's okay.

8. Make sure your avatar doesn't look all pixelated and crappy.

This one's easily fixable. Just use this Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet by LunaMetrics. Now your Twitter pic doesn't look like an afterthought! Hooray!

So there you go. Eight simple things this organization could do to suck less on Twitter. I wish I could think of something they're doing right to balance things out. All I can think of is...their background image is pretty all right? And...their hearts are in the right place?? Wow, this is sad.

Image via Localism.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This time-lapse video of Toronto will inspire frightening levels of civic pride

I don't understand why more people aren't freaking out over how epic this is. It needs to become a tourism ad for Toronto, forever and ever.

Shivers at 1:21.

Video by Ryan Emond.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

We Bought a Zoo rips off Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

I can't get over how much this drawing from We Bought a Zoo...

...looks like this drawing from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Junction Flea!

Over the weekend I went to check out the Junction Flea with my friends Jenna and Natasha, and it's one of my new favourite things in Toronto! It was like a cuteness explosion.

For anyone who's ever been to the Brooklyn Flea, the concept is identical: a bunch of awesome local vendors take over a parking lot and sell everything from vintage goods to snacks. In fact, as soon as I walked through the gate I felt like I was back in Brooklyn.

Just some of the things for sale: vintage maps, dumplings, handmade jewelry, marquee letters, roasted corn, books, gourmet frozen pops, records, antique Pyrex, furniture, coffee, tintype portraits and iced tea in pretty mason jars.

Oh, and watermelon and lemonade!

The Junction Flea will be set up at Keele and Dundas West on the second Sunday of each month until September, and a few vendors told me they're hoping to set up in October as well if the weather cooperates. I really hope it does, because I feel like walking around this market on a crisp fall day would be a dream (and the perfect time to pick up one of those vintage maps).

p.s. I wish I had snapped more photos. Next time!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Something horrible that happened

Last night Bubs thought it would be fun to give me a heart attack.

It was a nice night, so I sat on my balcony and watched some May 2-4 fireworks. As I often do, I let my cats wander around the balcony and enjoy being outdoors. It's usually really relaxing to just hang out there with them.

There's been a few times when Bubs has wandered a bit too close to the edge of the balcony, even poking his head through the metal railing. Usually I just say "Bubsy!" in a sharp voice and he gets away from there.

I guess last night night I was too busy reading the Internet and not paying attention, because Bubs actually hopped from my balcony onto the roof of the house next door. I had always feared he might try to do this, but I guess I never thought he actually would, or that I would stop him before he actually did, or something.

I don't know if you've ever been in a situation where you might lose your pet, but it isn't fun. I wouldn't say I panicked, because I didn't scream or cry or anything. I think I just went into action mode. I said "Oh, shit" and then it was all about getting him back.

I did immediately start calling out to Bubs nonstop, so anyone listening would have heard all the embarrassing nicknames I call him around the house. I knelt down and reached out my hand as far as it would go, and kept calling "Come here, baby! Come here, darling!" He was just wandering around the roof in circles, probably having the time of his life. Meanwhile I was shitting my pants.

I got my other cat inside, then ran into the house to grab a tin of Fancy Feast, his fave, and I ripped off the metal lid and held it out to him through the bars of the railing. He came close to the food, almost close enough for me to grab him, but I realized even if I could grab him it might be too risky to try to pull him back onto the balcony.

Now starting to freak out only slightly, I started trying to climb over the railing onto the roof. I was not very good at this. I finally pulled a deck chair close to the railing and stood on that to climb over the railing onto the roof. I wasn't sure what I would do when I got there, I just knew that I wanted to grab Bubs, before he fell off the roof or jumped onto someone else's roof. Worst case scenario I figured I'd just sit there holding him until the firemen came.

Gathering him up in my arms was a huge relief. He wriggled a bit as I tried to figure out what to do. Finally I decided to just carefully push him through the railing so that he was safely on the balcony, then I climbed back over behind him. Needless to say as soon as I was back on my balcony I shooed him inside and locked the sliding doors behind us. That night I put my face really close to his and said "Why did you do that?" He purred, totally oblivious.

I didn't like that thing that happened at all. I hated having Bubs out of reach. It really sucked. If he had gotten away from me, or fallen off the balcony and gotten hurt, I'm not sure how well I'd deal with it. It all ended well and now I have a cool story to tell people I guess, but that was the closest I've ever come to losing one of my cats, and I don't want it to happen again. I know you don't get to have your cats forever, but I think I get to have them both for at least another ten years.

So that's my horrible story. Bubs got to have a fun adventure and I got to have a terrifying nightmare experience. I love the little asshole, but he really gave me a scare.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Summer bucket list

This is May 2-4 weekend, or the unofficial start of summer as it's known in Canada. Now, summer is not my favourite season (that title goes to what is clearly the best season: fall). Just now I sat outside on my balcony and came back in after 30 minutes because I couldn't even deal. But there are a few things I really like that are very summer-specific.

My mother sold her cottage last year, so this will be the first summer in over 10 years that I haven't had a cottage to go to whenever I want. I know it's still gonna be fun though.

Here's my bucket list for summer 2012 (you can also follow my Summer Bucket List board on Pinterest):

  • Make gourmet frozen pops using fancy ingredients like real fruit and fresh herbs
  • Swim in a lake
  • Roast s'mores over a campfire (with dark chocolate and Sweet and Sara vegan marshmallows)
  • Screen outdoor movies on my balcony (I bought a projector last August!)
  • Drink lots of homemade iced tea and lavender lemonade out of mason jars
  • Go camping (half-assed car camping totally counts)
  • Grow herbs, plants and flowers on my balcony
  • Go to Harbourfront for their Free Flicks series and watch a movie on a warm night with the CN Tower looming in the background
  • Drink a lot of ice-cold beer on a lot of sunny patios
  • Lazy reading in the sun
  • Hit up a large outdoor flea market
  • Road trip to smalltown Ontario


Image via Design*Sponge