COM0014 Blog 2: Good (social media) Gardens Need Time

“What’s good for us, being fed the truth through mass media or the masses of opinions from all over the place or a hybrid of both?” – Mitch Joel, September 2010

The weather this week has been glorious. My garden pulled me outside to dig up the dead stuff, plant the new, annihilate some dandelions and set out the bird bath. I start every growing season with great ambitions for all of my green ‘children.’ Those who didn’t survive winter are mourned, but new additions quickly fill in.

garden view enemy

weeding out the bad

garden view new friend

nurturing the new

What’s good for a garden – the proper growing conditions, a careful gardener and time – are also what make it possible to navigate social media.

The biggest challenge to me – no matter how Joel defines “us,” “good” or “truth” – is how to focus my time and stay on top of the issues that matter the most.

All while not losing sight of the bigger picture.

garden view long

keeping the end in mind

Plants know which nutrients they need to thrive. In my social media ‘garden,’ I too make choices about which channels I use, which groups I join, which people I want to follow.

A good tip from Sevaun Palvetzian, taken from her May 16, 2017 webinar, Five Good Ideas about impactful communication on a shoestring budget, is to make sure you source diversity. Get out of your personal vacuum of comfortable ideas and maintain your curiosity. If you like CBC, source FOX.

But time, more than ever, is the essence of social media. When time moved slowly, we could consider our responses:

1992 headline: “More than 350 years after the Roman Catholic Church condemned Galileo, Pope John Paul II is poised to rectify one of the Church’s most infamous wrongs – the persecution of the Italian astronomer and physicist for proving the Earth moves around the Sun.” – Alan Cowell, New York Times.

Today, not so much:

2017, May Facebook statistic: Every 60 seconds on Facebook: 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded. – The Social Skinny.

So far, my answer has been to limit the amount of time I’m willing to give my social media channels. The downside – with the number and rate of posts – is my sense that I can never know enough, soon enough.

How about you? Would you describe your social media consumption pattern as drought, flood or fine and dandy? How much time do you give each day to your social media channels?

COM0014 Blog 1: My Maritime Vacation

Photographs and Memories

Where some people shun family vacations, I adore them. My grandparents lived in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley and my family lived in Montreal. As a child, I remember long car rides and a warm welcome at “The Bield.” Gaelic for “shelter,” it was the home of Gruzzie and Hum, my dad’s parents. Gruzzie’s name was a mashup of granny and muzzie (mother?) and Hum was Gaelic for “him,” my Scottish grandfather.

Their spirit infuses every trip I take to the Maritimes, and none more than last summer. My husband and I went east for 10 days, but it was our second day, spent in Alma, New Brunswick, that will stand in my memory forever.

We sea kayaked that afternoon with a young crew of adventure tourguides. They shepherded 12 boats of middle-aged and teen-aged thrill-seekers past rocks and rip tides. We battled the wind and waves as we headed west for about 4 kilometers, then pulled into a bay for a rest and a beach picnic.

The ride home was magical. I kept trying to find a comparison that fit the sensation of rolling along with the waves. “It’s like riding on the back of a sea serpent,” “it’s like being on a rollercoaster.”  Up and over each swell, with a slight thrill of danger that we would come crashing down on the kayak in front of us. “No,” said my husband, “it’s like riding on the sea.”

If the wind had been even a little stronger, the waves would have been beastlike and our ride would have been canceled. But that day the elements aligned and we enjoyed the gift of a perfect afternoon. I felt protected by our guides and connected to everything and everyone. As I always felt at the Bield.

JAH,Gruz and Marco PoloHum, Gruzzie, Marco Polo and the Bield, 1966

Lest We Be Forgotten: Ideas that aren’t shared aren’t heard

My first blog post was short on detail, as it was posted 24 hours before the Caledon Institute’s principal funder, the Maytree Foundation, released an email blast (and associated Tweets) that described the “next phase” of its relationship with Caledon.

In the weeks that have passed since January 17, it is clear that many of Caledon’s followers interpreted “next phase” as “dead and gone.”  One of my responsibilities is to tweet for the organization (@CaledonINST), so I continue to answer the “sorry to see you go” messages with one that says “stay tuned – more to come.”  In our minds, reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.


Instead of agreeing that we’re wrappings things up, I’m considering how we could use social media to further disseminate Caledon’s key lessons in social policy.

Caledon has succeeded for 25 years without a formal business or marketing plan, but with a very clear idea of its purpose and audiences.  Social media has been more of an after-thought.

What I have learned through my listening exercises over the last few weeks is that the social media space is buzzing with social policy ideas and meeting spaces.  It’s high time to remind people of the valuable lessons learned by Caledon.

Albert Einstein said that, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”  His ideas are still circulating.  Caledon’s should be too.


Lest we forget: Advancing social policy ideas and ideals through social media

Since 2000, I’ve worked for the Caledon Institute of Social Policy.  I’m guessing that very few of you have heard of the organization, but any one of you might have benefited from the contributions it has made to building a more robust social safety net in Canada.

In the early 1990s when Paul Martin was Minister of Finance, he came to my boss, Ken Battle, to see whether Caledon had any ideas for tackling child poverty – a blight the Government of Canada had pledged to eradicate.

Ken and his colleague Sherri Torjman got busy helping government policy experts design the National Child Benefit (NCB).  A more progressive way to redistribute income, it offered higher proportional benefits to families with low incomes and lower benefit levels to those with higher incomes.  Justin Trudeau’s government recently refreshed and re-announced the NCB as the Canada Child Benefit (though it has so far failed to index the benefit to the rate of inflation).

Since its founding 25 years ago, Caledon has continued to influence all levels of government about many social issues.  Income security, disabilities, Aboriginal education, poverty reduction, community development and home care top the list.  To date, Caledon has taken the “bolt-on” approach to social media – the toe-in-the-water, stopgap, non-strategy described by Tac Anderson in “The 3 types of social media strategies.”

In 2017, our Ottawa-based, five-person organization will be reconfigured to be more closely aligned with the work of our principal funder, located in Toronto.  As we begin this year of change, Ken and Sherri are working to summarize the social policy legacy they have built up in order that it effectively informs the next generation of Canadian social policy makers.  This blog series will offer me a space for exploring how I can use social media to re-enliven and re-popularize the ideals espoused by Caledon:

“Social programs have helped define this country.  It is social programs that embody the values of a civil society – one in which people care for and about each other.  It is social programs that civilize capitalism.”
Lest We Forget: Why Canada Needs Strong Social Programs, Ken Battle and Sherri Torjman, November 1995.

My expanding vocabulary

Thpartridgeis week, I tripped over several social media concepts that were new to me, starting with “dark social.”  The term was coined in 2012 by Alexis C. Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic.   It refers to the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by Web analytics programs.   (See more on The Simply Measured Blog.)


turtle-dovesFortunately, I found a little more of an explanation about dark social, in that it shows up on Google Analytics as “Direct traffic” and, as such, it “originated from the share of a URL, but is marked as direct traffic in analytics tool… Direct is actually just a label for traffic that arrives at a site without a referrer.”

[I must admit that at this point I started getting the feeling I get at the Toronto airport when I step off the linoleum onto the moving sidewalk – too much, too fast!]

french-henMessaging apps – “With the rise of messaging apps and bots, the way many of us use social media to share and interact is fundamentally changing.”

[Is it just me or are “fundamental change” and “social media” not synonymous?]


calling-birdMulti-networking behaviours.  Says Jason Mander in a blog on globalwebindex, “Internet users have an average of seven social accounts.”  Further, “GlobalWebIndex’s survey tracks membership of around 50 named social networks/platforms/apps, ranging from global names like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and WhatsApp to country- or region-specific services such as Tuenti in Spain and VK in Russia.”

golden-ringsAn easier one: “reciprocity.”  As in, the percentage of users of each social media site who use another social media site.



I started off this blog thinking I had 12 new terms to write about (as in, The 12 Days of Christmas).  Plus, I wanted to have at least one blog that I could turn into a list!  I was pleasantly surprised that I found I had to stop at five new ideas, but was still a little disappointed about the list.

Can you help me get to 12?  What was the weirdest/coolest/most interesting social media idea or concept you came across this week?

He’s loud, but is he kind?

It’s been tough to listen to the news this fall.  I’ve been trying to decide between ignoring Trump’s tweets and retreating into a warm cocoon of denial.  It makes me think of when we lived in caves and settled around a fire after sunset.  The beasts could roam outside but, for now at least, we were safe.

I recently heard a story about a local park where child-beasts roamed in packs, bullying and harassing other children who didn’t belong to their social groups.  Some would ‘rule’ the basketball courts, others would make it dangerous to visit the area after dark.  It got to a point where the police decided to call a public meeting.  A lot of mothers came and heard details of the goings-on.  They had often seen police cars and uniformed officers in the area but, that night, they also heard that plainclothes officers were moving among the crowd.  If things didn’t straighten out, they were told, children would be facing charges, court and possible jail time.  The mothers went home and things began to change.  Two years later, staff at the nearby community centre report that all is peaceful at the park.

Our little group of COM0011 students is shaping into a lovely little community, and I have to think that that has a lot to do with the ground rules Alexandra made clear at the start of the term.  There would be no negative or dismissive comments in our responses to one another’s posts.  Implicit in the request was the expectation that we knew how to govern ourselves.  The children in the park needed limits.  They knew that someone with authority would enforce good behavior if necessary.

I don’t want to live in a cave fearing the beasts.  Social media is allowing us inside the brain of the President elect.  We need to crawl around in there and get to know this guy.  He is decidedly a loose cannon, but his message of protecting American jobs and re-building the economy is simple and attractive.  I’ve copied a selection of his tweets from early December.  Outside of the fact that he has no sense of humour (where his own person is concerned), and that the state is on a course to align with industry (one part of the definition of fascism), there is something compelling about a powerful man who appears to be fighting for the ‘little guy’ (what he’s doing with the little girls is something else entirely).

[Tweets are copied directly – no spelling, CAPS or punctuation were altered.]

December 7: Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!

If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues [author’s note: fascists don’t like trade unions]

December 6: Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!

December 5: If the press would cover me accurately & honorably, I would have far less reason to “tweet.” Sadly, I don’t know if that will ever happen!  [versus: Those who put out the people’s eyes, reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton, poet (9 Dec 1608-1674)]

December 4: Combined set of tweets:

The U.S. is going to substantialy reduce taxes and regulations on businesses, but any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. without retribution or consequence, is WRONG! There will be a tax on our soon to be strong border of 35% for these companies wanting to sell their product, cars, A.C. units etc., back across the border. This tax will make leaving financially difficult, but these companies are able to move between all 50 states, with no tax or tariff being charged. Please be forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake! THE UNITED STATES IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS

December 4: Just tried watching Saturday Night Live – unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad

December 2: Rexnord of Indiana is moving to Mexico and rather viciously firing all of its 300 workers. This is happening all over our country. No more!

[Combined tweets] The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you! Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.

…. So, will Donald Trump be, as Brian Mulroney predicted on December 7, a President with a “significant record of achievement?”  Undoubtedly.  The questions I’m still pondering are: Where is his mother?  Where are the cops?

The real index of civilization is when people are kinder than they need to be. – Louis de Bernieres, novelist (b. 8 Dec 1954)



Moving at the speed of light (rail)?

From 2006-08, I was involved in documenting the last two years of a 10-year resident-initiated process to get the City of Calgary to establish a low-income transit pass.  It had been an epic battle.  Members of the disabilities community and poverty activists had made appeal after appeal to transit committee members asking for help in moving forward a plan for affordable transportation.  It seemed to take forever to get the right partners and funding aligned.


I was fascinated to learn about a similar effort in Ottawa launched in 2014 by the Healthy Transportation Coalition.  In one small part of a larger awareness campaign, members of Volunteer Ottawa – one of 49 nonprofit coalition members – taught low-income residents about citizen engagement.  Part of that effort involved developing fact sheets about affordable transit options used in other Canadian cities (including Calgary).  Volunteer Ottawa used these and other resources to help residents prepare for transit pass information sessions with local media and city counsellors.

At a key meeting in late September 2016, residents and their Volunteer Ottawa mentors sat directly behind media representatives and were able to respond immediately to reporters’ tweets, correcting inaccuracies and offering their time for further interviews, as needed.  Two weeks later, the city voted in favour of a low-income pass; details have yet to be announced (and devils often lurk there).

The Ottawa experience undoubtedly was enriched and accelerated by the work of the efforts made in other cities, but social media’s role in shrinking a years-long public awareness process to a matter of months is undeniable and a clear reminder of the medium’s power.

Though some parts of changing city hall have sped up, the fight for an affordable transit pass is a long way from over.  You can help by signing the Healthy Transportation Coalition’s petition – sitting currently at about 1600/5000 signatures.




Ivory Tower or Sea Sponge?

When I first learned about social media in 2010 at a CanadaHelps conference, the keynote speaker said that, to survive in this new communications era, corporations would need to “un-fortress” themselves and transform into sea sponges – creatures that are flexible and allow ideas to flow freely.

Week 3’s readings on how social media’s big user lessons can inform our personal brand exercise has me in a bit of a quandary.  I work for a nationally-recognized, academic-style organization that has built a reputation for social policy research excellence over the last 24 years.  In 1992, staff hand-delivered printed copies of the organization’s papers directly into the hands of MPs and Senators.  By 2002, email blasts had replaced paper copies.

At that conference six years ago, one of my bosses suggested I start using social media to promote the organization’s ideas to a wider audience.  Trouble was, the principals’ schedules of work and appearances were so heavy that they couldn’t entertain the notion of the post-and-response cycle of social media.  I was on my own.

So I have worked to build a Twitter following of a few thousand and we continue to email regular announcements of new papers.  We’re still an ivory tower, but we have spongey tendencies.

 Brand “ME” needs a careful makeover

I take exception to Kavan Lee’s notion that people trust people more than corporations.  I’ve been on the other side of that statement:  People engage with me as a writer and researcher thanks to the name brand recognition built by my ivory tower-type employer.

Since my organization web publishes everything, my ‘brand’ is already out there.  Because my organization is so careful of its messaging, public appearances and political connections, I won’t be able to create a ‘new’ brand under my name.  Whatever I do release will need to align with my employers’ values.  This won’t be a problem.  I deeply admire and respect the efforts my organization has made to shape social policy in Canada.

One further wrinkle in my branding exercise is that my employer will undergo a significant shift in management at the end of 2017.  The good news is that I have a year to distinguish myself from my employer by defining my brand clearly and creating the links and networks I will need to continue to build my career.

Like the Avaya telecom example outlined by Jake Elliot (“5 Outstanding Media Campaigns”), I’ll listen and learn for a while.  Perhaps you as my classmates have some suggestions for how I can pick my way through this situation.  I’m all ears/sponge-parts!


Dancing in the eye of a hurricane

Our week 2 readings included a list of seven risks we shouldn’t take with social media:

  1. anything you do can leak out
  2. do not overpromote
  3. do not overpost
  4. keep the negativity at bay
  5. do not post sexual, religious, political and graphic material
  6. never fight with anyone on social networks
  7. take legal action in private, if necessary

These are really great rules, and I do my best to abide by them. (Warning: from time to time I may bend #5.  Like now: Donald Trump broke all of these rules and won the American election.)

So I’m adding Risk 8: don’t forget to breathe.  (We are learning about social media in a time of exponential growth and change.)

I’m glad I read that

This week, I send my thanks to fellow Social Media student Adam M. Johnston who is nearing the end of this five-course program.  His post, “Blog Post 1: Tools and Sources” helped me glimpse the wider social media forest.  If you haven’t seen the gorgeous Conversation Prism graphic he mentions, take a look.  A daisy-like spectrum, its 28 petals are dotted with dozens of social media platform logos.  The colour bands are organized around themes (e.g., collaboration, social commerce, blog platforms), which are further grouped around seven macro-themes.  These include community, crisis, support, product, sales, marketing and public relations.

As its developer, Brian Solis says: “The Conversation Prism is in of itself, one of the industry’s most comprehensive visual studies of how we use networks and how that changes over time.”

When I first started to study the graphic, I thought it was a neat way to mapyou the social media landscape.  But on reading more about Brian Solis’ explanation of its ‘conversational’ purpose, I realized that it will be an invaluable resource when we begin putting together our personal branding assignment (Due: December 5).  Using the tool properly means beginning at its centre, which is “You.”

The wisdom of a columnist

Adam also introduced me to Thomas Friedman, a globalization tech trend writer and New York Times op ed columnist.  This man makes sense of the expanding cyber-universe in which we live.  I realize that the biggest challenge I’m facing in this course (and in my life, really) is how to come to terms with the size and rapidity of change with which we’re all living.  I’ll be lining up at Chapters on November 22 to get a copy of his new book, Thank you for being late.

Thomas’ 58-minute, 46-second Chicago talk was worth every second, and it finishes with an invitation to “apply hope.”  In this time of tumult, he argues that values matter.  The key one is the Golden Rule, which has taken rather a beating lately.  Its comeback will depend on us building close families and connected communities.  These are what will keep us connected, protected and respected – a calm centre in the eye of history’s hurricane.