"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.

Scene from a dressing room

Smell of inexpensive whiskey: You're naughty. You were supposed to say in this small box near all these strangers."

Through tears: "I don't like being alone."

"Daddy says you've been naughty all day. "

Cry whine: "I'm sorry. "

"Sorry doesn't make it ok."

Defiant cry whine: "Yeah it do."

Unintelligible whispering

Fearful cry whine: "I'm so sorry."

Smell of inexpensive whiskey: Walks out and hangs cowboy jeans on rack, disgusted because they don't fit.

Here's a great photoset of the VW Mircobus that was part of my childhood backyard.

The bus belonged to the photographer, Mark Duerr, but as a constant companion in my backyard adventures, the bus was as much a part of my transition to adulthood as it was his.

I spent one confusing highschool summer sleeping in the bus instead of my bed. One thing Mark and I share, I'm certain, is great memories of sleeping to the calming sound of rain pattering on the van's steel rooftop.

my old micro bus. . .

If you get a chance, be sure to read his fairwell, posted in the header of this photoset.

Now, covered with vines and rust it resembled a Mayan ruin. Fair well my friend, it was an honor to call you mine.

What is remembered lives, Mark. Thank you for sharing her.

I find having the Microsoft Reading Robot read to me a super effective way of making sure my stuff is as good as it can be before I send it out to anybody else to review.

I made a little video on how you can set up your copy of Microsoft Word to use the Microsoft Reading Robot:

When you have your work read to you, your listening brain will catch things your reading brain can’t.

You should totally go see UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR: A TALE OF JACK FROST

I got a weird email the other day. So, I don't get a ton of requests from people asking me to put something on this here blog. And I'm not sure that I really qualify as a Milwaukee blogger anymore, what with me holed up the 'tucky of Jefferson County. But here's the thing: **You should totally take your family to see UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR: A TALE OF JACK FROST.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that this should replace your "Nutcracker or Not" weekend of slumming it with the Milwaukee Ballet or going on a Christmas Carol bender at the Rep. But like, tickets to UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR are only $21 bucks. Nosebleeds at the rep are like, $25, and you'll have to give them your phone number which they will aggressively use to call you for the rest of your life. (Editor's note: Seriously, Milwaukee Rep, you can do better. Have some dignity.)

UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR promises to be a family friendly story, it's for-real theater, and probably doesn't require you planned ahead and bought your tickets last June. And you can buy your tickets online, like a boss.

Milwaukee is, among other things, ripe with theater alternatives. I saw a production of "The Wall" at Thai Joes in the late 1990's that was as good as any show I've ever seen in a Thai restaurant. True story.

So, if you like theater, and want to support local artists, and also are not afraid of the world, you guys should try UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR out. The producers were kind enough to let me preview the script, and as alternatives to the mainstream Christmas stories, it's pretty good.

But here's the thing: the script is only part of the magic of theater, right? It's the collaborative performance of all the artists involved that make a night at the theater so great. And when those collaborators are motivated by a project they really believe in, that's when the magic happens.

I haven't seen this show. But I haven't seen The Rep's Christmas Carol either. But I'm willing to believe that both sets of creators really believe in what they're creating. So you really can't go wrong with either.

Except one you haven't seen before.

And that's probably worth something.

The show runs December 4 - 5, 10 - 13, and 17 - 19, 2015 at the Soulstice Theater, 3770 S. Pennsylvania Ave, Suite 2, St. Francis, WI 53235. (414) 481-2800

This is the blurb from the website: After a year of living as a human, Jack Frost must decide by midnight on Christmas Eve if he wants to remain human with the woman he loves. Pulling Jack away from mortal bliss are the immortal superheroes of the season – the whimsical Father Christmas, The Sandman, Wodan, and the dreaded Krampus.

Puffball Gift

"Do you guys know what a puffball mushroom is?" Teri asked as she went to sit down at her computer after lunch. 

And the next thing I know, she and I are headed out to the location where she spotted one on her way back to work.  

"Don't you have a 1 o'clock meeting?" she asked. 

I didn't. 

"Who cares?" I said. "This is a puffball!"

She directed me to the location. I did my best not to speed.

Photo Courtesy of TerriB

Sitting in the right of way between the road and private property was an odd little spheroid.. A lump of white about the size of a pair of venn soccer balls, overlapping at about 73 percent. 

It was the biggest, most perfect, magical puffball I have ever seen. I plucked it from the grass and it seperated from its stalk with a reluctant tug. It was firm' the skin was tight and not pocked or broken.  I pulled  a few tiny millipedes out from the mushroom's stump and tried not to think about them.  Terri and I hopped back in my van and we drove back to work.

We walked it into the office and I grabbed a knife from the office kitchenette. Terri and I had agreed to share it, so we had to split it up, but I knew that this was the moment of truth. When I sliced through this mushroom, I would either see tender, delicate white fungus flesh, or I would see the yellow streaks of a miracle just passed. 

Photo Courtesy of TerriB.  Pumpkin Grease Doughnut shown for scale. 

It was the purest white inside that I have ever seen. I believe I heard children giggle as I split the mushroom in two. 

After work I told my daughter what we were going to eat for dinner and she whooped and danced with her arms over her head for three full minutes. 

I took it to my father's house because I knew he had a well seasoned cast iron frying pan and two sticks of butter. I gently sliced and peeled the fungus into fillets the size of a deck of cards. Fried with some chopped onions, butter and a little salt and pepper, they were ambrosia. Crisp around the edges and creamy in the middle. Amazing. 

 

It is an amazing gift to find a mushroom this beautify. And it is an amazing gift to share it with three generations of my family. 

Thank you, Incomparable

Leonard Nimoy's passing has crossed nearly every cultural circle that I roll in. My actor friends, my musician friends, my nerdy friends, and my church friends. Every one of them has something to say about Nimoy-- and while I'll typically scroll quickly over the discussion threads on the social medias, I've caught enough of them to get a sense of the scope of the significance of Nimoy's death.

So, I decided, against my better judgment, really, to go ahead and listen to The Incomparable No. 236: Lived Long and Prospered..

And because it's The Incomparable, it was entertaining, tasteful, respectful and a delight to listen to.

And after Jason Snell signs off, the program ends with a recording of Nimoy's voiceover from the end of Star Trek II. This is when the lump caught in my throat. This is when I mourned.

The episode was a fitting tribute to Nimoy's legacy in every way.

Thank you, Incomparable.

Texts for my daughter.

We took Gaia to see Harvey at the Milwaukee Rep this weekend. We'd been teasing her by trying to get her to figure out where we were going. Before we went I sent her this text.

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She was unfamiliar so this was not a good clue. But it set the stage for my favorite moment: the reveal of the painting during the play.

I watched her face light up with uncomfortable delight.

It was funny, she said. "But it was also scary"

The Prop folks at the Rep's production carried the show as far as I'm concerned. The painting was exactly right and the set was incredible.

The gallery doesn't do the craft service on this show justice.

Fake Internet Judge Judge

So yesterday, Gaia asks: Dehdeh, is Judge John Hodgman a real judge?

Me: No. He is a fake internet judge.

Gaia: What is the difference?

Me: Judge John Hodgman gets to use common sense and his sense of right and wrong as his guide. Real judges use giant rule books written by corporations and old white men.

Fake Internet Judge Judge

So yesterday, Gaia asks: Dehdeh, is Judge John Hodgman a real judge?

Me: No. He is a fake internet judge.

Gaia: What is the difference?

Me: Judge John Hodgman gets to use common sense and his sense of right and wrong as his guide. Real judges use giant rule books written by corporations and old white men.

Bad Marketing is still bad marketing.

Bad Marketing Ideas from History

The idea that there is a magical, silver bullet "audience" out there for your product is complete and utter horseshit and anyone trying to sell it to you is the modern day snake oil peddler. Google, MSN, Yahoo! I'm looking at you.

I just finished reading a white paper which "reveals" that internet advertising numbers are padded and that you may be only reaching 20-percent of the amount of people that Google, Yahoo, or whoever, is selling.

If only 50% of your target audience is identifiable by a cookie because the rest are being blocked or the cookie expires - and only one out of every three of those cookies you serve to is actually a unique user – then less than 20% of your audience is actually being reached.

Of course, the white paper from which I cut and pasted this quote does the typical assward thinking that all internet marketers fall for: It assumes that such an audience ever existed.

Of course, that's because the both the authors and the audience of this white paper are both desperate for the same thing: A magic formula that makes it easy for them to sell their shitty products to fat and stupid people.

There is no "market segment" that you can magically buy that will make your shitty product a good one. Please stop trying. You are wrecking it for everyone.