Be the protagonist of the story

There was a guy, driving a beat up mid-sized sedan, who, racing down Western Avenue at dusk, sped up when he saw my wife and child crossing the street ahead of me. It was clear that he was speeding up. It was so clear.

The mama bear in me roared, and the tiger snarled, and the leopard got ready to pounce. THe man stopped his vehicle a few feet away and my girls scooted across the crosswalk to safety.

But I did not.

I held my ground.

I stood in the crosswalk and glared at the little man. I narrowed my eyes and lowered my center of gravity as the man rolled his car up to me and then stopped less than a foot from my shins. I stared at him through the windshield. I hefted the plastic bag of dog shit in my hand.

“Do you really want to do this?” he asks me.

“Do you?” I ask him.

The bag of dog shit is begging to be thrown. It’s begging. It is saying, have your revenge, thrown me at this guy, smash it all over his window, goad him into running you down. And then retire on the lawsuit.

It’s a good, baseball sized loaf of shit. I could easily wing it, side-armed, into the car. I’m thinking about it. I could hit this guy right in the face with a bag of shit. And then he would not be able to say “nobody has ever thrown a bag of shit at me” ever again in his life. He would always remember the day he got hit in the face by a bag of shit.

It would be an epic story.

"So, what’s it going to be?" asks the bag of shit. "Fight or flight?"

I’m pretty sure both of those end up with the bag of shit thrown at the car. I’m on to you bag of shit. You can’t trick me. 

In order to make up my mind, I used the whiteboard in my head and drew up a quick a list of pros and cons for throwing the shit.

  • Pro: I don’t have to carry this bag of shit anymore.
  • Con: I don’t like to litter.
  • Pro: But I could throw a bag of shit at a guy and be totally justified.  (*Bucket list!*)
  • Con: Possible jail time
  • Pro: When the driver tells the story about the time he got hit in the face by a bag of shit, he would make himself the hero of the story. He would tell the tale of an insane fat man who lept of the bushes and assaulted him with a 12-inch knife and two attack dogs. He’d talk about how he’d probably be dead if he hadn’t been able to escape thanks to his amazing driving skills.
  • Con: That sleaze doesn’t deserve a story that good.

So it's decided. I know that I cannot throw this bag of shit. I can only stand my ground. Legally in the crosswalk; mere feet away from being run down.  

But I want you to know this:  I didn't throw the bag of shit, not because it’s morally reprehensible, not because it’s unclean, and not because I don’t want to be the kind of person who throws a bag a shit at a guy. I don’t throw that bag of shit at that guy because I don’t want to give this guy a cool story. I don’t want to make this guy the hero of his dumb existence. I don’t want him, ever, under any circumstances, to feel like somehow he was the bigger or better person. I want him to be the kind of a guy who speeds up when he sees a child and a stroller cross the street in front of him because that’s who he is. He’s not a victim of a morning-zoo style crime blotter story. He’s a slime of a human who had an impulse to kill a child and her little dog and acted on it. Because he was in a hurry.

I take a step forward. I can feel the heat coming off his car now. I issue a demand. “Slow down,” I say.

“We can’t see you!” his wife, or girlfriend, or ugly mistress or whatever, shouts from the passenger seat. “You’re wearing black, and have a black stroller, and are walking in the street.” Because somehow, it’s always the victim’s fault. Because somehow, darkness justifies running a child down.

I step out of the way. The man pulls forward. I am now face-to-face with the woman and her open window.

"This is it!" shouts the bag of shit. "This is your last chance. You could hit that woman right in the face with a spicy bag of dog shit, and it would be so good." It would be so good. And I would probably get on the tonight show. The bag of shit is so right.

But I am not the antagonist of this story. I am not the dangerous lunatic on the street. I am not the kind of person who throws dog shit on people. I used to be. I might still be. Sometimes I probably am.  But that night, I was not.

 I take a step back toward the car, and I reissue my demand: “Slow down.”

The man steps on his accelerator. His engine sputters and moans and propels him and the woman away. I am left standing in the street, adrenaline pumping and surging. And there is nothing that I can do.

Nothing.

I will have to become ok with that I did not get to punish or change those horrible people. I will have to become ok with the fact that somehow, they are going to go on with their life, and probably never give this incident another thought, and if they do at all it will be as a justification for why people shouldn’t wear black at night.

I will have to hope that they're better than that. 

I hope that, maybe, just maybe, the next time they’re driving too fast on a dark street, they will slow down.  I really, truly, genuinely believe that they might. And that is the gift I have given them. I have made a way for them to become better people. All they have to do is act on it.

I am the protagonist of this story.

OUT OF OFFICE.

I haven't been too busy to blog; I've been out of the office. 

This is a very small a sample of the 3000 or so photos from this trip. 

This is a very small a sample of the 3000 or so photos from this trip. 

Truth is, after I got done with my work at the orgnaization that I shall not discuss publically (hereafter refered to as the OTISHDP), I took a vacation with my family.

We did that thing. You did it with your familiy. I did it with mine when I was little. Now Gaia's done it with hers. We drove to Devil's Tower and back.

It was a crazy trip. And I'm busy writing about it. I love traveling with my family. I have stories and pictures and drawings. But in the itnerim, here's some great videos that Google Photos made automatically.

Becuase, as much as I rage against robots, sometimes they do cool things for you.

I'll post a few more to hold you over while I write my travelogue.

Conversations with Phil.

Hey, everybody. Gabe here. I just wanted to start this piece off with an important note. This post has nothing to do with "Conversations with Phil," the incredible podcast made by my old buddy Phil Gerbyshak.
Phil Gerbyshak is a human being that I know, and he is entertaining and thoughtful. This post is about my ongoing passive-aggressive battle with robots.

I am currently "on the market" for jobs, so to speak. And as a result, I get a lot of email from recruiters. But one particular recruiter is very special to me. And I want to tell you more about him. 

Meet Phil. 

On Feb. 24, Phil, who is a recruiter with a primary placement agency sent me a job so new that not many people had applied for it yet. I dutifully clicked on the link, and sadly, the job was so new that there was no job there at all, just an ugly 404 Page Not Found error.

So I shot Phil back a message. "Hey Phil, your Robot sent me a garbage link."

Phil replied almost immediately. "Thanks so much for reaching out. Here are a billion links, none of which respond to your message. But feel free to call or write support."

"Talk Soon!" Phil wrote. Seriously. The email message says "Talk Soon!" Phil, whose email signature implies he's located in Santa Monica, Californa, thinks that he and I are going to "talk." And "soon."

"Phil, your robot wasn't super helpful," I said.

Phill did not reply. It would not be the first time I would be disappointed in my conversations with Phil.

Feb. 27th.

Phil writes to let me know that "he wanted to reach out" and let me know that he's aware of a job I applied for and that there are other jobs that are kind-of vaguely like that one, and if I click the 1-click apply button he'll go ahead and submit my application. That's super thoughtful Phil. Thanks, buddy.

And the tone of this email is so different than his previous emails. He might actually be a person.

I decided I had better ask..

Phil does not respond.

March 11th.

Phill writes again. I get a lot of email from Phil. I've received 27 emails from Phil in the past 25 days. This email, though, This email is different. This email is to an obviously scammy multi-level marketing company that has little to nothing to do with the kind of jobs I would consider.

I've had it. I'm sorry, Phil. But I have to say something. "Stop sending me multi-level marketing jobs. We both know you're a better recruiter than that, Phil."

Now I feel bad; I don't mean to chastise Phil. He's probably a real person; he's got a quota to meet. "Send me your picture,"]I add. See! I'm not a jerk. I should add more. "Are you human? Let's be friends."

Phil responds almost immediately. I've seen it all before. Blah blah blah, "Talk Soon."

Yeah.

Talk soon, buddy.

Sure.

March 14

Phill found a job that he thinks lines up with my resume. "It's new, so they don't have many candidates yet..." I can't take it anymore. I know Phil is a human being, in my heart, I know this. But as I man of science, I must know for sure. I MUST DETERMINE FOR ONCE AND FOR ALL! ARE YOU A MAN OR A MACHINE, PHIL? WHICH IS IT?

That message was sent 38 minutes ago. And Phil has not yet responded.

Have I gone too far? Did my casual application of the Liars Paradox break the Phil robot? Have I killed him? Phil? Are you still out there buddy?

Oh god.

What have I done?

Lets all take a little break.

“You’ve been working really hard. You should take a break.”

If someone told you that, would you believe them? Would you allow yourself a few minutes of respite-- an actual break?

For so many people, break time means just stopping looking blankly at the section of their screen called “office” and instead looking at the section of their screen called Facebook. And that’s no good.

You should take a break. You deserve a break. A real break. Stand up from your desk—even if your watch hasn’t told you to yet—and walk around a little. Go outside. Go down to the atrium. Every company has an atrium; you just haven’t found the one at your company yet. Use that funny little bathroom that’s tucked in behind the stairs in the old part of the building. (True story. Can’t talk about it here.)

The point is, taking time off from working on your work doesn’t mean doing something else that is like work, but isn’t. Checking your personal email is a shitty way to take a break from checking your work email. Taking a break – a really good break— makes you a more productive worker.

  1. Fast Company, People Magazine for Entrepreneurs, says you should Stop pretending you’re too busy to take breaks.
  2. Taking a break at work makes you a better employee, according to Health.com, which (according to their fine print) is practically Time Magazine, and is not intended to constitute medical advice.
  3. The Huffington Post, creeping ever closer to becoming Buzz Feed for adults, has Five Very Good Reasons to Take A Break At Work Today.
  4. There is a great infographic about the importance of taking breaks at work published on Lifehack.org, who is hoping you’ll confuse them with Lifehacker.
  5. Want to know how taking time off is the secret to increased productivity? You’ll have to check out this Entrepreneur Magazine article, which is written from the unique perspective of a rich white businessman.

I'd like to make this list longer, but frankly, I'm ready for a break.

"The Game" finally got me. I have lost the game.

There is a particularly terrible episode of Star Trek the Next Generation titled: "The Game"

If you haven't seen it, it doesn't matter. You can watch this trailer and try not to cringe yourself to death.

Turns out, after years and years and years of searching, I have finally found my game.

You need to stop what you're doing and play Dino Polo Club's Mini Metro. It's described as "a minimalist subway route layout game. But I call it the greatest timesuck that man has ever invented.

It has that special thing, you know? Where you look down at your phone and trace a quick line between a circle and a triangle and the next thing you know nine hours have gone by and you've crashed your car into that house at the bottom of Water Tower Hill. (Not the one by the barrier, the one next to it. Great job!)

Seriouslly, though. I am in love with this little game. It's so soothing to watch the little trains running around, taking the little dots, squares, triangles and even stars to and from one location to the other. And I imagine all the cool stuff that is happening to those little dots, squares and triangles and even stars as they travel around real world cities. They cross bridges and move from imaginary downtowns to imaginary suburbs and take transfers betweent the blue and green line to get over to the tunnel that takes them to that one record store they like.

Look, I'm making it too complicated.

Look at these screenshots of my little railines instead. They are beautiful little works of urban art.

We liked it so much, we bought it on IOS, too. So now my whole family just sits around looking at little tiny metros thinking about all the cool ways to get the triangle people back to their little triangle stops.

Gotta go, there's congestion at one of the squares downtown. Seems the football people can't' figure it out.

It Puts the money in the money hole: Getting Started with Facebook Ads

If you’re reading this from LinkedIn, you have any appreciable frame of reference for how Facebook makes money from organizations, or you're some kind of fancypants social media guru, this post is not for you. Well, maybe you can use this post to show your parents or your dumb bosses or something. I dunno. This post is attempts to talk through at a very, very basic level why even small orgnaizations should be advertising on Facebook.


Let the advertising begin!

This post is a quick rundown of the first set of Facebook advertisements I ran for The Watertown Players, a local theater group on which I serve as a member of the Board of Directors. I had a $25 budget (that I was donating on my own) and that’s it. I also had a passing familiarity with the content of the show we were putting on, and I knew we sold tickets through BrownPaperTickets.com.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

I decided, kind of at the spur of the moment, to spring for a few “advertisements” for the Watertown Players. We've struggled to "get the word out." We don’t have a marketing strategy beyond sending press releases to the local daily paper, posters, and word of mouth. Our website’s kind of broken. (Long story-- I won't link to it until I get a chance to fix it.)

But we do have a pretty good Facebook account. It’s got a few followers, and they're dedicated, and we probably know all of them between those of us on the Board of Directors. We typically use Facebook to tell people about events and promote the heck out of the good work we’re doing at the theater.

The problem is, if you’re an organization, Facebook pretty much doesn’t care what kind of good work you’re doing. Facebook mostly just wants you to put money in the money hole.

So, if Facebook is only going to show your posts (and only some of them) to people who already like and follow you, how do you get new people to know what you’re doing?

The answer: You pay Facebook to show people what you’re doing. It’s like any other kind of advertising. It’s not complicated, and Facebook makes it incredibly easy for you to do it. (No surprise: It’s in their best interest to make it easy for you to put your money in their money hole.)

So, I figured, why not? I do this kind of thing all the time as part of my professional life, why not give it a shot with the Watertown Players? I built and ran some quick ads that invited people to go to the Brown Paper Tickets website where we sell our admissions online.

The ads ran for about four days in total, and in exchange for about $20, I know the following facts:

  • 1337 unique individuals saw my ad at least once. (Facebook calls that “Reach.”)
  • 560 people decided to do “something” as the result of my ads. (Facebook calls that “Engagement.)
  • 51 people clicked on my ad. Which took them to Brown Paper Tickets, where I hope they bought tickets, but I honestly don’t know because I didn’t track that. I didn't have access to Brown Paper Tickets at the time. (If I knew how many people went ahead and bought a ticket because of my ad, Facebook would call those “Conversions.)

Did it work?

In all, I call the experiment a success.

Mostly because the only thing I wanted to know was if I could get $20 worth of ads to serve to theater-goers within 25 miles of our theater. And the answer is yes. That’s great. Now I can refine who I want to target, make changes to how we’re tracking the conversions, and start thinking about Facebook ads sooner in the promotional phase of our shows.

I expect the theater group’s board of directors will talking about better ways to integrate our online ticket vendor into the mix so that I can track conversions automatically. Once I can automatically know when advertising spending is converting to income, I can make meaningful choices about how much money it's worth putting into Facebook ads for our upcoming shows.

At the end of the day, even infinite posters up in infinite windows across town won't be able to do that.

I am a person with chronic depression, and that's OK.

trigger warning.jpg

TRIGGER WARNING: I TALK OPENLY ABOUT DEPRESSION IN THIS POST. IF YOU FIND OTHER PEOPLE'S DESCRIPTIONS OF DEPRESSION TRIGGERING, YOU WILL WANT TO LOOK AT SOMETHING ELSE.


Depression, Amirite?

Everybody has a depression blog post, right? What makes mine special? Mine’s not special.

That’s my whole point; Depression’s not special. It’s just who I am. It’s a chronic illness that no more defines me than the shape of my face or the color of my skin. (Which is to say, it's a big part of who I am, but its not what defines me. Fuck you, semantics.)

Look, I’m not fishing for a pity party or your atta-boy clap on the back. I’m here to tell you the dread monster of depression is a real thing. And that’s ok. I am not ashamed.

I don’t have a clever nickname for my depression. I don’t have a “Welsh Troll” sitting on my shoulder telling me what a terrible person I am (ala John Roderick). I don’t have a dramatic story about how I hit rock bottom that I can vlog at you with dewy tears welling in my eyes, as much as a love and support those of you who do.

The thing is, for the most part, I get by. I have a very good therapist, and I have a very good support system and an incredibly understanding wife and family. And I get really, really sad sometimes. I want to make it ok. I’ve been pretty open about my depression to those of you who know me in person, but the fact is, I haven’t written much about it. Time to change that. I blame John Moe.

So what kind of depression do I have?

I have the insidious null that crawls across your belly just as you start to feel the tug of creative inspiration. I have the tamped down nothing that flattens your affect as your brain retreats into “one more episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation.” I have the tired eyes that can’t stand to look you in the face because you’ll see what a horribly broken person I’m hiding under all this bravado. I have a non-ending chatter of mean spirited, negative self-talk about my worth. My monsters are the sad little moments of heartbreak that are built on untrue perceptions. They haunt me, kick me when I’m up, punch me when I’m down, and generally make it really hard to work my mojo.

That’s the kind of depression I have.

The thing that will surprise almost none of you is that humor, it turns out, is the thing that helps me cope most of all. And it’s a wry, unhealthy sarcastic humor. I enjoy deep dark chuckles and things that are horrible. I made this short video in one of those unhealthy sarcastic moments.

Why did you make that video?

I have a whole series of dumb videos like this one. I’m sharing this one with you because:

  1. It turns out I’m not the only one who thinks Depression is Hilarious. A lot of great comedians agree with me.
  2. The last time I went in for a medication adjustment, my labs showed that I had NO vitamin D in my system. None. None vitamin D.
  3. Depression is worse when we don’t talk about it, laugh about it, ort look across the table and tell each other that it’s ok and that tomorrow will come and we’ll deal with that then.

At the end of the day, I don't want anyone who sees this video to worry about me. I’m working through it, and I’m feeling hopeful these days-- better than I have in weeks. And I don’t really know what the future holds. But I do know that it will come to pass, and that is enough.

Just sending happy little emails

Early on in my career, I was something of a Bob Ross of email marketers. Don't get me wrong, I love Bob Ross, but, just like how he would sometimes paint "Happy Little Clouds," sometimes, I was just sending "Happy Little Emails."

Like Ross' little clouds, my emails were fluffy and pretty and made me and my bosses feel good. At the end of the day we made little reports we could show off. We were so proud.

Don't get me wrong; I looked at the analytics-- in all cases, I had a pretty respectable readerships and click through rate-- but what I didn't have was any kind of inbound or follow-through marketing strategy.

And that's where the real power lies in email marketing, right? I mean, I know I'm preaching to the choir here. None of you would ever send out a huge smash of emails to everyone on your list just because.

Of course not. That would be crazy.

The problem is, people do just that all the time. If you've ever had your email address fed into the spam machine by a group of angry script kiddies (long story) you know just how large of a problem this is.

Five ways to be a better email marketer

So what are responsible inbound marketers to do? Here are five suggestions for how we can be better stewards of our email marketing efforts.

  1. Don't buy Lists. Ever. And refuse to work with those who do.
  2. Understand how email works. Not just server to server, but understand the peering and reputation systems at play behind the scenes.
  3. Segment, Segment, Segment. Don't send email to people who don't want it. People who already bought your product probably won't want to see that email that tells them you're having a sale on the thing they just paid full price for.
  4. Understand your audience Not just to the demographics of your audience, but understand all the ways your audience wants to interact with you, and what your unique value proposition is to them. If you don't have audience personas written down somewhere, you're probably not really marketing.
  5. Take a class or get a certification. You probably don't know as much about this as you think you do, and this stuff is changing all the time.