Friday, June 26, 2015

Meh, OED Adds 500 New Words

It really must be my birthday.

I mean, it is — I turned 48 last Saturday. Or as I'm now calling it "nearly f---ing fifty." In fact, that's going to be my response when people ask my age: nearly f---ing fifty.

I just hope no one asks me at church.

But for my birthday, the Oxford English Dictionary (official motto: "Making you smarter for one hundred f---ing fifty years!") has added 500 new words and definitions to their pages.

This kind of linguistic largesse usually only happens at the beginning of each year, when Lake Superior State University releases its List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

And since the list was released two days before my birthday, I'm counting this as the best present the OED could ever give me (unless they want to give me an online subscription).

To understand what this list means, it's important to know the difference between descriptive and proscriptive dictionaries.

A proscriptive dictionary tells you how a word should be used, a descriptive dictionary tells you how it is used. The OED is descriptive in nature, which means that it reflects society's language usage, not the proper way to do things.

That is, just because they included a word that makes you want to neck punch somebody doesn't mean it's now a "real word." It just means it's being used by hundreds of thousands of people, probably incorrectly.

Just please don't neck punch them.

They've added words like "barong tagalog" (the national shirt of the Philippines), "injera" (a white crepe-like bread from Ethiopia), and "utang na loob" (a Filipino term meaning debt of gratitude), which I assume you're owed if you give someone your barong tagalog.

But it's not like we use those words on a daily basis, so you may be kind of "meh" about the whole thing. At least now you can be, now that the OED added the term popularized on The Simpsons years ago. (They also added it seven years after the Collins English dictionary did, but you can't rush these things.)

However, they did add words like "lipstick" (the triple 20 on a dartboard), "stagette" (a Canadian bachelorette party), and "bush tucker" (uncooked food eaten by Australian aborigines).

My goal in life is to now use all three of these terms in a sentence correctly.

Of course, nobody ever accused the OED of being up on slang, as evidenced by the addition of "jeggings," the tight jean leggings hipsters wear when they want people to hate them.

The opposite of jeggings is the "skort," another OED addition. The skort is a combination of the words skirt and shorts. It's a pair of shorts with a flap of fabric over the front, so it looks like a skirt. It's fashion's version of the mullet — cocktail party in the front, volleyball game in the back.

Of course, I don't understand most fashion trends, and I'm not one to try to keep up with them. I don't suffer from "FOMO," the fear of missing out. When you're nearly f---ing fifty, you quit trying to keep up with fashion trends, and just spend your time saying nasty things about hipsters, secretly jealous that you couldn't fit your arm into a pair of jeggings.

"Fo' shizzle" finally made the OED, almost 13 years after added it. The term means "For sure," and was used by rappers like Snoop Dogg. Thirteen years later, someone at the OED finally got off their asizzle, and here we are.

The one problem with the OED being a descriptive dictionary is that it's free to include words that aren't words. That's why I'm not very happy about the OED's inclusion of the word "buko." Pronounced "BOO-ko," it's a slang term for "a lot" or "much," as in "I ate buko pizza."

Except it's derived from the French word, "beaucoup" (pronounced bo-KOO), which means it's pronounced completely wrong.

(Say it with me: "I will not punch people in the neck. I will not punch people in the neck.")

Buko is also a traditional Filipino custard pie made from young coconuts, but I don't think that's what the OED had in mind. Although now all I can think of is a bunch of Filipino kids saying they ate "buko buko," which actually sounds pretty good. I wonder if I can get some for my birthday.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's my bed time. I need to get to bed so I can get up early and make my "go-juice" (morning cup of coffee), so I won't "drumble" (be sluggish) the next morning.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)

You can find my books Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My third book The Owned Media Doctrine is available on

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Karl the Curmudgeon Is Sick Of Your Crap

"When did people become so self-centered, Kid?" Karl asked me.

Is this a trick question, Karl? Am I supposed to say 'The Garden of Eden' or something?

"No, I mean when did people start thinking their opinion mattered?" I stared at Karl. This was pretty brutal, even for him.

Don't you think people's opinions matter? I asked. We were at Eaux Canada, our favorite Canadian bar, watching the Women's World Cup on satellite TV.

"No, not really."

How can you say that? I asked. We live in a democracy, and you yourself believe the First Amendment is the most sacred right of everyone in this country.

"And I still stand by that, Kid. Everyone is free to say what they want. But that doesn't mean they have to weigh in on each and every controversial issue like they automatically get a say in what happens."

How are those things different?

"Look at Caitlyn Jenner," said Karl. "She's made the transition into the person she believed she needed to be. She used to be Bruce, but she never felt like a Bruce, so she became Caitlyn." Felix, our bartender, set down a couple beers for us, and Karl took a long drink. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.

"Here's someone who makes a deeply personal decision, a decision that only she's allowed to make. When she's done, people get on Facebook and Twitter and offer their opinion about her choice, as if it's their business."

I saw some of those comments. They were downright hateful, I said.

"Exactly! So why do those people think they get to say anything?" Karl asked. "Caitlyn Jenner doesn't answer to anyone. Yet here are all these finger pointers all over the world who not only think they're entitled to an opinion about this, but even God himself can't stop them from sharing it."

There was even a petition to have her stripped of the 1976 Olympic gold medals she won as Bruce Jenner.

"Yeah, and it was promptly smacked down by the IOC," Karl laughed. "Fastest action by a bureaucracy ever. I think they set a world record." He took another drink.

"A few days ago, South Bend's mayor, Pete Buttigeig, came out as gay, and people had opinions about that. People outside Indiana, let alone outside South Bend, thought it was their place to question his lifestyle. They didn't talk about whether it affected his work, only that they thought it was good or bad.

"LeBron James was disrespectful to his head coach, David Blatt, last week, and every NBA fan felt they should weigh in on that. And when Chobani yogurt had that married lesbian couple in their latest commercial, the computer keyboard called One Million Moms had a gripe fest about it."

Why do you even care what people do? I asked. These are people whose lives don't affect yours, and you're getting all worked up about what other people think.

"That's my point. These events shouldn't even matter. Caitlyn Jenner's choice doesn't affect me in the least. Pete Buttigieg's sexual orientation doesn't affect me. LeBron James' attitude doesn't change my life at all. And I couldn't care less who Chobani chooses to shill their product; I'm a Dannon man through and through."

So what? We should all strive for your level of apathy?

"No, I'm just sick of people sharing their hateful un-asked-for opinions about things that don't concern them. The people they're griping about will never see it, but I'm subjected to every grouse and grumble about things we can't control. No one should have an opinion about someone else's personal life, especially when they have zero connections to them."

Karl, like it or not, we live in a country where people can exercise their free expression. That's what makes this country great. We can share our opinions and weigh in on things that matter and don't matter at all.

"Yeah, but just because you're free to express yourself doesn't mean I have to listen," he growled.

So who's at fault here? People have been like this ever since the first nosey cavewoman told a neighbor her bearskin was too short. This is not new.

"I blame social media," said Karl, plonking his beer mug onto the bar. "People may have been nosey and self-righteous for centuries, but Facebook and newspaper online comments have made it too easy for the shameless and close-minded to publicly vomit their bigoted opinions. Mark Zuckerberg created a monster, and he ought to be ashamed. He should hang his hoodied head in shame."

Is that your opinion? I asked, taking a drink of my beer. Your honest opinion of his life and professional choices?

Karl pondered that for a few seconds. "I don't have to listen to this."

Yeah, but I get to say it all day long. Cheers, dude.

You can find my books Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My third book The Owned Media Doctrine is available on

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Friday, June 12, 2015

I'm Misunderstood In Several Languages

We have a weird accent in the Midwest. That is, we sound weird to other people in this country because of the way we talk.

"You don't sound like anything," my Southern friends tell me. "You sound like a TV newscaster." We Midwesterners have that non-accent accent that all the TV newscasters use so they'll sound the same throughout the country.

We don't sound Southern ("three people got killt, y'all!"), we don't have that Boston accent ("five cahs weh stolen from Hahvahd Pahk"), and despite it being in the Midwest, we're not from Chi-kaa-goh ("Tonight, Sal de Chef cooks up de perfect saa-sej-ess.")

The British do it too. If you've ever heard the BBC News on the radio, you've heard England's version of the Midwest accent. The rest of the world thinks all British people sound like that, but if you've ever heard someone from Manchester or Gloucestershire, you know British accents are as widely varied as American ones.

Even to Midwesterners, I sound a bit unusual. I don't sound like a Hoosier, despite living here nearly all my life. I don't say "warsh," I don't "go 't the store," although I do say my car "needs washed."

I get my accent from my family. My mother and father grew up in Oregon, although my dad emigrated from The Netherlands when he was nine, and apparently speaks with a slight Dutch accent. I've never actually heard it, having grown up with it my entire life, but I've been told I pronounce some of my words like he does. I say "The Nederlands" or "bett" instead of "bed."

My biggest problem — I don't know if it's a Hoosier thing or a Dutch thing (my dad does it) — is that I pronounce certain short E words with a long A sound.

The words "egg," "leg," and "Peggy" come out as "aig," "laig," and "Paigy." As in, "Oh no, Paigy spilled aig on my laig!"

It's so bad that my kids had a hard time learning to spell when they were young, because they all thought "egg" started with the letter A.

My ability to be understood gets worse when I travel to different countries.

Dutch French fries with fritessauce. Seriously, the best fries in the world!
Over the years, I've had the chance to travel to The Netherlands and Germany for work. I took German in high school, and picked up bits and pieces of Dutch during my travels. Long-time readers will even remember a trip to Frankfurt, Germany, where I paid homage to my first year German teacher by buying "ein blauer Kugelschreiber" (a blue pen) from the Faber-Castell store.

But despite my years of German study and my minutes of Dutch practice, I have a hard time communicating. Whenever I visited a restaurant or mobile French fry stand, I was never clearly understood, even though I spoke the language.

On my last trip to Germany, this very conversation happened to me four different times.

"Ich möchte ein paar Pomme frites, bitte. (I would like some French fries, please.)

"Was? (What?)

"Ein paar frites, bitte." (Some fries, please!)

"Huh?" (Huh?)

"Frites." (French fries, dammit!) Then I would point at the picture of fries to show what I wanted.

"Ah, Frites!" (Sorry, I couldn't understand you. You don't speak German very well.)

"Ja, Frites." (Yes, fries. Just like you said.)

"Huh?" (Huh?)

Then they asked, "Blah blah ketchup?" (Do you want some ketchup? You Americans always seem to love ketchup on fries, which we frankly think is disgusting, but you people will splatter it on anything.)

Then it really got bad. "Nein, Mayonnaise, bitte." (No, just mayonnaise, please.)

I even pronounced it the way they do: mai-oh-nise. Not the long I sound of "my," and not the long A sound of "may," like we say it, may-oh-naze. It was somewhere in between. I had practiced it several times, because I like the way the word sounds. Plus proper French fry mayonnaise ("Fritessaus") tastes excellent.

"Nein, mayonnaise, bitte."

"Was?" (What?)

"Mai. Oh. Nise."

"Huh?" (Huh?)

"Fritessaus." (What the hell is wrong with you?!)

"Was?" (Your pronunciation is terrible. I think I understand what you're saying, but I can't tell if you're ordering condiments or that little Timmy fell down the well.)

Defeated, I'd say it in English. "May. Oh. Naze."

"Oh, mai-oh-nise." (Ha, ha, you stupid American. I knew what you wanted the whole time. We've all been messing with you. We had a meeting about it before you arrived.)

"Danke." (I hate you all. I'm going to France.)

"Was?" (Y'all want an aig with that?)

Photo credit: Wikipedia, Creative Commons

You can find my books Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My third book The Owned Media Doctrine is available on

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Monday, June 08, 2015

The Fever Set a Guinness World Record, Fall Short Against Minnesota

My family and I are now part of a Guinness World Record.

Last Saturday, we were able to attend the Indiana Fever's home opener against the Minnesota Lynx, in a rematch of the 2013 WNBA finals where the Fever wanted to set a world record by having the most glow sticks lit in one building at one time.

They were talking this up on social media big time, and everywhere I turned someone was tweeting or updating about the record attempt. We got some tickets, thanks to Kevin Messenger, the Fever's PR director, and we were off!

We've been loyal fans of the Fever for years, and we were looking forward to a new season under coach Stephanie White. They had already lost the season opener to Chicago, and this was the home opener.

We waited for the appropriate time, right after player introductions, and right there up on the ginormous video display — seriously, that thing is huge! — Briann January told us to crack the glow sticks, and they cut the lights.

It was the first time I had ever cracked my own glow stick (it was everything I hoped for and more!), and I got to wave it around with an arena full of other world record participants.

At halftime, Guinness world record certifier, Michael Empric — that is, he certifies world records. He doesn't hold a world record in certifying — appeared on the giant video display (seriously, there has to be a world record for that) and informed us that we had smashed the previous record with 3,712 Fever fans all waving these little red glow sticks in a single building.

And I was there! My wife was there! And our kids were there! We got to participate in a world record! How many people get to say that? Well, 3,707 other people get to say it too, but that's pretty damn special. We're actually a little proud of that. I think my youngest daughter even kept all our glow sticks.

Oh, and the Fever lost to the Lynx.

Amid all the excitement of the world record, there was a basketball game to be played too.

The Fever just weren't on their game this night. There were a lot of struggles, and Erlana Larkins had limited playing time, while Tamika Catchings was out completely. Both women have right knee issues, which affected the game.

But worse was the shooting. The Fever missed too many shots. This wasn't just a matter of not taking shots, this was missing easy shots.

Looking at the Fever stats sheet, I can see that of all the players, only rookie Natalie Achonwa broke .500 shooting. She shot 7-of-11 field goals, for a .636 average. Meanwhile, Marissa Coleman, Shenise Johnson, and Erlana Larkins averaged .500, hitting 5-of-10, 6-of-12, and 1-of-2 respectively. The team total was .424 for field goals.

When it came to 3-pointers, only Layshia Clarendon and Johnson were .500, hitting 1-of-2 and 2-of-4. All told, the team was 4-for-15 on 3-pointers.

A few notable observations from the game:

  • Right at the beginning of the game, Natalie Achonwa had 6 of the Fever's 8 points. She's going to be a major factor in the Fever's run for the playoffs if she keeps this production up.
  • Speaking of Achonwa, I saw her hurl herself after the ball at least twice. The only other person we see go horizontal that much is Tamika Catchings.
  • Maggie Lucas played just three minutes in the second quarter. After that, she was on her feet, behind the bench and to the right, flexing, moving, and keeping loose. She was ready to go back in, although she didn't get a chance. I loved seeing her spirit and eagerness. I hope she always keeps that.

The Fever play the New York Liberty on June 10.

You can find my books Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My third book The Owned Media Doctrine is available on

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Friday, June 05, 2015

A Graduation Speech to 8th Graders

This time each year, I like to write a Graduation Speech I'll Never Give. This time, it's to all the 8th graders who are "graduating" and moving up to high school in the fall.

Thank you, Principal Harbinger, parents, and "graduates."

I say "graduates" with tongue firmly in cheek, because we all know you haven't actually graduated anything. You won't graduate from school for another four years, but our participation trophy society now calls leaving one school building for another "graduation," so here we are.

But a check is a check, and I told Principal Harbinger I would call you whatever she wanted as long as the check cleared.

First of all, I want to congratulate you. You have completed nine years of your 13 years of education, and you've met the requirements necessary to become a teacher during Laura Ingalls Wilder's time.

You are also entering the stage of life where you will be at your smartest. Now that you can read a newspaper, go to the potty by yourself, and solve-for-X 70% of the time, you will — or so you'll believe — know more, understand more, and comprehend more than your parents ever did.

You will be wrong, but none of you are paying attention to me anyway.

This stage of life will last roughly anywhere from eight to twelve years, until you get married, have families, and start asking your parents how to do certain things — changing diapers, calming colicky babies, and coping with teenagers who are too big for their britches.

Of course, if you aren't careful, some of you may start learning these things in three or four years. And, I can see by the look on Principal Harbinger's face that this is neither the time nor the place to mention that.

So let me just say that your parents have rules for you for a reason; Principal Harbinger's forbidden topic is that reason.

Over the next four years, your parents will understand less and less, until they're slack-jawed morons whose sole purpose in life is to drive you everywhere and/or embarrass you.

Once they're paying for you go to college, they may improve slightly. Otherwise, they'll be so out-of-touch and uptight, thanks to your newfound ideals, that family holidays will be week-long tirades about how old-fashioned they are.

Believe it or not, "graduates," your parents weren't always khaki-wearing, minivan-driving buzzkills. They used to be cool as hell.

They were passionate. They had dreams, and they just wanted to have a good time and love life. Your dad wanted to write the next Great American Novel, and hang out with his friends on weekends. He was going to drink expensive scotch and drive fast sports cars — not at the same time, of course. He was going to live in an old warehouse converted to loft apartments where he could park his vintage motorcycle inside.

Your mom was going to become a lawyer and fight social injustice on behalf of people who couldn't fight themselves. She was going to stay close to her college friends and go clubbing with them every weekend, after a long week of saving the world.

So how did they go from that to, well, this?

Here's what happened: Everyone point your index finger up at the sky. (No, kid, your index finger.) Now, bend your wrist so your finger points back at you.

That's what happened. You did. You and your siblings.

Your parents used to stay up late, discussing big ideas with their friends. They ate crazy foods at weird restaurants. They went to art galleries, and watched exciting new plays. They went on camping trips, and wandered the city at night for hours.

Then you came along, and they were responsible for another life. They had to take care of you. So your dad sold his motorcycle, and your mom sold her cute little sports car she named after her favorite actor, and they bought a minivan because it was safer. And they moved out to the suburbs, so you could play outside.

To afford this new life, he got an unfulfilling job that wouldn't let him wear jeans or concert t-shirts, so he bought khakis because they were the least uncomfortable. And she got a less glamorous job that gave her plenty of time to spend with you, or she gave up her career entirely.

He never got to write that novel; she never got to stand up to big corporations.

And they became lame, because they had a child, or children, they wanted to keep safe. They wanted you to stay alive for these last 13 years, and they wanted to prepare you for the next 60 years.

They became lame for you.

So, congratulations, "graduates." You're now ready to deride your parents over the next 12 years for being lame and stupid, and make them feel sad about the lives they once hoped to lead.

And just think, you're only 12 or so years away from starting down that path yourselves!

Now, now, quit crying. Go hug your parents and get your diploma. Congratulations, former 8th graders. You can be anything you want in the world, as long as you do it before 2028.

Make us proud.

Photo credit: Family MWR, US Army (Flickr, Creative Commons)

You can find my books Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My third book The Owned Media Doctrine is available on

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Thursday, June 04, 2015

Looking Beyond 2015 with the Indiana Fever

Stephanie White may be nervous, but it doesn't show. She's been preparing to take over as a WNBA head coach for the last several years. And she's been thinking about the mark she's going to leave on the game, especially with her former teammate and now star player, Tamika Catchings.

"One of the things I frequently speak to Catch about is where we want this franchise to be long after we're gone," she said in a recent Media Day interview. My daughter, Maddie, and I were able to attend, having been long-time Fever bloggers.

"We have seen the tremendous growth, and really she has been the heart and soul of laying the foundation of what the Fever has been about," White said. "And she wants to maintain the direction she has steered us. I'm always talking to her about continuing to show the other players what that is."

Those leadership lessons make sense, because Tamika is planning on retiring after the 2016 Summer Olympics, and she's already making plans about what she wants to do.

"Have you thought about coachin—"

"No!" she said. And she said it fast. I didn't even get the question mark out of my mouth, and she was all over that.


Catchings absolutely does not want to coach. At all.

White was asked the same thing about Catchings, and she just snorted.

Catchings says the problem is that no one works as hard as she does. She's at the practice facility every day at 6:00 am, and she works for at least 90 minutes a day. Including the off-season.

"No one else does that," she said. "If I could have even just one player who worked as hard as I do, I'd think about it."

"So basically you've created your own problem then," I said. She just smiled.

But Catchings' hard work is just what White is going to need with her new faster-paced offense-oriented game plan. She's looking to make the game go faster, not letting the other team rest, and it means Catchings is going to run more and rest more. So she's in the gym every day, making sure she's ready.

Even though that's White's big change, she's not going to change how they work or what they stand for.

"A lot of things are going to stay the same," said White. "This franchise has been built on core values of defending at a high level and being tougher than our opponents, of playing aggressive tough-minded defense, and then grind it out offensively. I want to change our offense to make it easier."

So White is not coming into this as a greenhorn rookie coach. She's been preparing for this for a few years, because that's how former head coach Lin Dunn thought — always ahead, three or four moves beyond the moment. In White's case, a couple of years beyond the moment: she named White her successor two years before she retired.

"Lin has helped me prepare by challenging me as an assistant coach, getting me to think three, four, even five possessions and five counters down the road, because that's how she prepared," said White.

Speaking of thinking ahead, 7-year veteran Briann January is already looking to her future, and it may end up being in the broadcast booth. She's the host of Bri-TV, the Fever's video interview show they host on their website. During our time at Media Day, we watched Briann interview teammate Jeanette Pohlen and White.

When we caught up with her, I asked her if Bri-TV was a little practice for her post-basketball career.

"It is something I would like to get into, maybe. Coaching is one of the things I've been setting up for post-career, but you never know," she said.

"If you get into broadcasting, would it be just basketball, or all sports?" I asked.

"I think I can hold my own in any arena, but I absolutely love talking about basketball. That would be easy," said January

"We're in Indianapolis, and there's only been one other female reporter for IndyCar," I said, referring to IndyCar pit reporter Jamie Little, who made the move to NASCAR in February.

"Oh, really? I could do some research and get into that," she laughed.

I asked January if she was the likely successor for team leader.

"I've tried not to think about that, because what Tamika has done for Indiana and the Fever is huge," January said. "And to carry that load is a little intimidating, but I do believe after six years of being behind her, watching her lead, and growing my game and leadership skills, I think I, and the other veterans on this team, could take her role and run with it, and be one of the better WNBA teams year in and year out."

When I asked White about who was going to fill Catchings' shoes as team leader, she said, "I don't know who's going to do that now. I think that's going to evolve naturally. But I see Briann January taking the right steps in that direction in terms of her leadership, in terms of being vocal. Bri is a lot like Catch was when she was a young player, leading by example, by how hard she plays, by how competitive she is, how tough she is. And she has started to progress in her vocal leadership as well. But we're also going to see other leaders emerge over the next couple of years."

So 2015 is going to be a year of transition. New players and a new coach coming in, older players making noises about leaving in two seasons. Things are already taking shape to give us a new look at Indiana's favorite women, and all eyes are on Stephanie White and Tamika Catchings to take the Fever back to the playoffs one more time.

You can find my books Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My third book The Owned Media Doctrine is available on

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Friday, May 29, 2015

TRIGGER WARNING: This Column Has Ideas In It

Kurt Vonnegut once said, "I hate it that Americans are taught to fear some books and some ideas as though they were diseases."

More and more people are becoming afraid of certain ideas, and want to put warning labels on them before anyone gets hurt.

The labels are called "trigger warnings," the belief that certain books, TV shows, or movies can trigger serious post-traumatic stress disorder in some people.

In others, these ideas can trigger feelings of sadness, crankiness, mild cognitive dissonance, or a general malaise. And since people don't like to feel slightly uncomfortable, they're getting apoplectic about trigger warnings as well.

Recently, some Columbia University students wanted to put a muzzle on their classrooms. In a recent op-ed piece in their college newspaper, four members of the Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board called on their Classics department to slap a "Trigger Warning" label on the Ancient Roman poem "Metamorphoses" by Ovid.

"It contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom," they wrote. "These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background."

Trigger warnings.

I wish the phrase had hard "P" sounds in it, so I could spit it out with contempt.

Trigger warnings.

It conjures images of whiny little snowflakes hiding behind their mothers' skirts.

It's often used by people who lack the experience and strength to deal with life's little hiccups. They can't make decisions for themselves, or handle the stress of life, so they want to be warned beforehand.

I recognize some people have had horrible experiences in life. Seeing them played out in movies, TV, or books can trigger memories that cause them to relive those experiences. A soldier with PTSD can be triggered by a book or even music. A rape victim can be triggered by a scene in a movie. People who have been through real traumatic events may actually need those warnings.

Instead, this faux outrage is making people ignore the real need for real warnings. They're being diluted by those who needlessly cry "wolf." As a result, people with real issues are being harmed by those who self-manufacture righteous indignation.

These precious snowflakes, the ones demanding that everyone else take care of them, are creating the problem. They don't want helicopter parents, they want snowplow parents. They want someone out in front, clearing a path through life.

I refuse. I won't put a trigger warning on my work just because it might be read by weak-minded snowflakes who can't deal with a little cognitive dissonance without snot-crying about it.

We should be challenged. We should be exposed to ideas that are difficult to read and discuss. We should all learn new things that make us worry and fret, and challenge our self-identity. Because that's what life is like.

In the real world, you will experience people who are mean. You will experience people who say things you don't like. They will have ideas you don't agree with, and if you go sniveling to a parental figure to save you from the bad people, you won't get very far in life.

Censoring those ideas will only make things worse.

Yes, censorship.

That's what you call slapping a warning on literature, art, and entertainment because it might make you slightly uncomfortable or challenge your identity.

It's what Tipper Gore's Parental Music Resource Center did in the 1980s. It's why the music you grew up listening to — or more likely, weren't allowed to listen to — had those black-and-white stickers: to warn parents that your music had naughty words in it.

Censorship is an ugly thing. No matter how well-intentioned, when you seek to censor someone's ideas, you tear at the very fabric of this country's ideals.

As Stephen King once wrote in a newspaper column, "(T)hose who would set themselves up in judgment on matters of what is 'right' and what is 'best' should be given no rest; they should have to defend their behavior most stringently. ... As a nation, we've been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn't approve of them."

Right or left, conservative or liberal, uptight prude or overly-sensitive PC thug, when you put warning labels on art and ideas, that's censorship. You're no better than book burners.

If you want trigger warnings to help you navigate through the big bad world, try this: write "TRIGGER WARNING" in six-inch letters on a piece of paper. Tape it to your front door, where you'll see it every morning before you leave.

And then step outside and grow up.

Photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Sponsor This Column

I've spent a lot of time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the last couple weeks. In fact, as I write this, it's three days before the 99th running of the Indy 500.

Excuse me, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, part of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Not that anyone actually says that, but that's the official hoity-toity designation: The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. And it's presented by the Verizon IndyCar Series. Not "IndyCar," the "Verizon IndyCar Series."

The Borg-Warner Trophy.
Do you think anyone would notice if I just ran off with it?
It's called that because Verizon is a major sponsor of IndyCar, the league that oversees the Indianapolis 500, the Honda Indy Toronto, the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250, the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Most IndyCar races carry a sponsor name, although the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race has escaped that fate so far.

Speaking of sponsors and events, there's the "Indy 500 Snake Pit presented by Miller Lite" on Sunday morning, while on Saturday afternoon, there will be a performance by Florida Georgia Line presented by That Little Tourist Rest Stop On The Highway Just South of Valdosta.

According to the rules of sports sponsorship, the official names of the race include the sponsor names, which means they're occasionally spoken by the announcers. So if you watch the race on television, you will occasionally hear the announcers refer to the "ABC Supply Wisconsin 250," and not the "Wisconsin 250."

The drivers even do it. They all say the names of their car's major sponsor during interviews, as well as their team names. One of my favorite drivers, Dario Franchitti, always talked about his #10 Target Chip Ganassi car in interviews. Not "the car," "the #10 Target Chip Ganassi car." The bright red car with the big white target on it.

If I ever sponsor a race car, I'll do through my new company, "Erik Deckers Is The Awesomest Dude In The World."

"I felt pretty good driving the #67 Erik Deckers Is The Awesomest Dude In The World car," my driver will say. "And the I Wish I Could Be More Like Him racing team did a great job keeping me out there."

I'm not complaining, mind you. This is the life of auto racing; it's what the sponsors have come to expect.

I just feel like I'm missing out by not having my own sponsors. I'd be more than happy to wear a jacket, t-shirt, or hat as part of a sponsorship package, provided I was well compensated.

I normally hate wearing a company's name on my clothing. Why should I pay Eddie Bauer $25 to wear their shirt and promote their name? If I'm going to be their walking billboard, it seems like they should pay me and give me the damn t-shirt.

But I'd be happy to promote anyone who's willing to come across with some cash. For $100 per day, I'll wear your company's t-shirt, and refer to it in normal conversations with friends.

"Man, it sure is cold today. But my Klipsch Speakers 100% long-sleeve cotton t-shirt is plenty warm. The crew at Xiao Gan Manufacturing did a great job keeping me nice and toasty in this cool weather."

Of course, these messages would be a little weird to say at first, but with a lot of practice — and a lot of sponsors — I'd get better. I could even use it in everyday conversation with my wife.

"Honey, have you seen my blue t-shirt presented by Buffalo Wild Wings? I can't find my blue t-shirt presented by Buffalo Wild Wings."

"No," she'll say. "The last time I saw it, it was in the Verizon Clothes Dryer by Whirlpool."

I'll sell naming rights sponsorships for my car. I'd be more than happy to drive the Scotty's Brewhouse Kia Rio5 to work, where I'll sit in my Office By Herman Miller, occasionally checking my Yamaha Factory Racing watch to see what time it was.

I'd even consider selling the naming rights to my house, which we would repaint to match the sponsor's corporate colors. I'd invite people over to the Deckers House presented by Target, for Dinner By Omaha Steaks out on the Weber Grill Patio.

Corporate sponsors, think about what I'm offering you. Excellent exposure, plenty of news coverage, and I'll casually drop your name in conversations with friends.

And think of how great your logo will look on my roof to passing planes.

Come to think of it, maybe Target isn't such a good sponsor for my house.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on


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Friday, May 15, 2015

Fear and Loathing in Louisville, KY

Erik is out of the office this week, so we're reprinting a column from 2005, with a few updates.

It was a sad day for me in 2005 when I learned that Hunter S. Thompson, famed psychotic and drug-addled journalist, took his own life at his Colorado ranch. I'd been a fan of the good doctor for years, and have often imitated his style of gonzo journalism, the art form he perfected over nearly 40 years.

Gonzo journalism is a style of writing that blurs the line between writer as a silent observer and story subject, between fact and fiction, between quietly chronicling events and being enough of a pain in the ass that you have to tell people about it, if only for legal protection.

Thompson's reputation as a writer was outweighed only by his reputation as a hard-core boozer and drug abuser. Although some say his creative genius shone through in spite of, or perhaps because of, the frightening amount of substances he crammed in his body.

I like to think that Thompson and I had a lot in common. . . except for the heavy drinking. Or the drugs. Or the penchant for guns. Or peacocks. Okay, we had nothing in common, except that we're both writers and we both wear glasses.

And I'm starting to rethink the glasses part.

So it was a fitting tribute that I found myself in Louisville, Kentucky, his hometown, on the week of his death. And with my column deadline looming, I thought I would make that week's column a salute to Thompson.

To do it, I needed to reacquaint myself with gonzo journalism. Problem was, all my Thompson books were at home, and I needed one to write this column.

I would have to go on a Hunter hunt, but I couldn't go to one of the big book warehouses. He would have hated those kinds of bookstores, and I wanted to stay true to his spirit.

I grabbed my map of Louisville, tore the bookstore pages out of the hotel's phone book, shot the TV, and ran out of my room.

I jumped into my rental car, slammed it into gear, and roared down the highway to find my book. It was 8:00 and my deadline was just two hours away.

I stopped at the first bookstore just a few miles away. The sign, "New Life Covenant Books" didn't tell me much about the place, but the hundreds of Bibles and "What Would Jesus Read?" t-shirts should have been a clue.

I stopped a middle-aged woman whose name tag said "Bless you, my name is Caroline."

"Excuse me, do you have any Hunter S. Thompson books?" I asked.

Caroline's eyes bugged out. "That man was a drug addict and a sex fiend!" She flung holy water at me and began speaking in tongues. I blasted her with a fire extinguisher and ran out. Shrieks of "Heathen! Heathen" followed me to the car.

That was two minutes of my time wasted, two minutes closer to my deadline. Also, the holy water turned out to be lukewarm coffee and it stained my favorite shirt.

I roared down the Gene Snyder Expressway, weaving in and out of traffic to the next bookstore on my list. My attorney cackled in the seat next to me.

"As your attorney, I advise you to put club soda on that coffee stain," he shouted. Then I remembered I was actually traveling alone, and my attorney vanished. I kept my eyes peeled for bats.

The rest ofthe evening was a 90 mile an hour blur, as I wrenched my rental car from bookstore to bookstore. Womyn Withyn was no help, and neither was Book 'Em, Dano Mysteries. Wish You Were Here Travel Books was a bust too.

Finally, I came to the last store on my list. It was nearly 10 o'clock, and time was running out. I flung open the door, ran inside, and hollered at the guy behind the counter: "Quick, I need a Hunter S. Thompson book! I've got a deadline!"

He tossed me a copy of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." It was the movie printing – the one with a melting Johnny Depp on it. I couldn't complain though. They'd had a run on all the Thompson books, and this was the last one.

So I threw some money on the counter, and raced out the door. I found a nearby coffee shop, and sat down with two minutes to spare. I had the book, and I was able to write the column.

I never did get to reacquaint myself with gonzo journalism though.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, May 08, 2015

No, Your Beard Doesn't Have Poop In It

In this week's Internet-induced hysteria, bearded men everywhere were told "your beard has poop in it" or that it's as dirty as a toilet.

Thanks to a "study" conducted by "news station" KOAT of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the "average" male beard was found to have enteric bacteria in it, which are part of the microbes found in a human's gastrointestinal system (i.e. your gut).

In other words, said the "news" station, enteric bacteria is found in poop. Enteric bacteria is found in beards. Therefore, there is poop in men's beards.

Except there's not.

A recent article by microbiologist David Coil in Slate magazine (official motto: "We're the Internet's smart news") debunked the entire story as the same kind of stuff found in bulls' beards.

There may be a squirrel in there,
but there's no poop.
First of all, there are germs on everything.

Ev. Ree. Thang.

Your toilet. Your sink. Your computer keyboard. Your mobile phone. The TV remote in the hotel. Your TV remote at home. Your kitchen counters. Your pets. And, of course, your skin.

All of it.

Including the face part of your skin.

Basically, unless you live a completely sterile environment, and undergo frequent full body anti-bacterial wipe downs, everything on the planet has bacteria on it. This is a non-story.

The microbiologist KOAT interviewed said he found members of the Enterobacteriaceae family in the samples, which are found in the gut. But there are so many members of that family that, as Slate says, "assuming that finding enteric bacteria equates to finding feces is like saying that finding cat hair on your couch means you’re at risk of being eaten by a lion."

So will a swab test of your beard reveal germs? Absolutely. Would a hairless chin have germs too? You bet. The proper question to ask is whether beards have more enteric bacteria germs than clean-shaven chins.

Except the "news" channel didn't do that, because while that may be good science, it's not good gross-out TV.

If you want a good gross-out story, consider the public drinking fountain.

People slobber on them as they drink, and their bacteria is left to fester until the next person comes and drinks and slobbers on it themselves. Why do you think so many kids get sick at school?

The fountains even get so plugged up with biofilm and bacteria, school janitors use a special cleaning acid product called Ram Rod — a "heavy-duty, ready-to-use liquid drain cleaner for clearing drains clogged by organic matter" — to clean them out.

Think about that the next time you want a drink from a drinking fountain. Or try to rinse your beard out in one.

The story also didn't mention how many beards they tested, other than to say "a handful." How many is a handful? Not many.

Plus, would you really want to grab a handful of beard if you're worried it's got poop in it?

In a valid study, there would be dozens, if not a few hundred, of beards tested and compared to a similar number of clean-shaven faces, including women. They would all be tested at the same time of day, or a specific number of hours after bathing.

But when you're a "news" station concerned about making good gross-out TV, you don't have time to test a few hundred faces. You just pick a vague number, like a "handful," "smattering," or "gaggle," and declare those filthy few to be representative of the world's bearded population.

But just because they didn't do it right doesn't mean it hasn't been studied before. According to Slate, "a recent article titled 'Bacterial ecology of hospital workers’ facial hair: a cross-sectional study' concluded that health care workers with and without beards harbored similar numbers of bacteria."

Except that's 163 characters long, which means it's not sexy enough for Twitter. It's not Twitter-sexy.

"Twexy," one might say, if one had been hit in the head.

(Also, the study was published by a hospital — you know, the big building where a lot of science-y things happen — and we can't let science-y facts get in the way of a good gross-out TV news story.)

That's the biggest problem with this so-called news story: the oversimplification of the entire story into one attention-grabbing Twitter friendly headline.

That's why last week we were all subjected to "Your beard is as dirty as a toilet" (34 characters) and "Beards contain poop particles" (29 characters). When a single tweet is 140 characters long, you have to write the shortest, punchiest you can muster. And "Beards contain enteric bacteria, as does everything else" just doesn't have the same pizzaz as headlines about poop.

Plus, it's just fun to say "poop" in a professional setting. You should try it some time. I said it eight times in this article alone.

Which is why I love my job.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, May 01, 2015

Why People Hate Humblebraggers

"I am so tired of constantly being asked for my autograph. Can't I just have some privacy?"

That's what we call a humblebrag. A boastful statement uttered by a complete jerkface in a feeble attempt at false modesty.

We usually see humblebrags on Facebook and Twitter, where people love to share their good news (or too-good-to-be-true news, which makes us secretly hate them), but they want to make it seem as if the good news is a burden.

"I hate to think what the potholes around town are doing to my brand new Jaguar."

"My new job has me flying to Paris. Again. That's the third time in three months. #jetlagged."

"The last time I ate this much fresh lobster, I was full the entire next day."

That's too bad. What a difficult burden you must carry. Let's take up a collection and see if we can make your life less terrible.

I know one guy who hates humblebragging so much, he tweets about particularly heinous humblebrags. He once even called out John "Fault In Our Stars" Green on Twitter for a humblebrag photo with Snoop Dogg.

This guy also hates the misuse of the word "humbled," as in "I'm humbled by all your kind wishes." Instead, we should say we're "honored" or "privileged." "Humbled" means to be lowered in dignity, or to be decisively defeated by an opponent.

And then he reminds us that he learned all this at a fancy private university.

But he's got a point: it turns out humblebragging may actually backfire on the humblebraggarts.

According to an article in New York Magazine (official motto: "Our mom says we're just as good as The New Yorker"), humblebraggers are actually liked less than complainers, and even less than full-on braggers.

In short, humblebragging doesn't work, and you should stop it immediately. This is why no one likes you.

In a study done by researchers at Harvard Business School (official motto: "I went here because my family would miss me if I went to Oxford"), they tested humblebragging in five different experiments to see what people thought of the falsely modest claims.

In one experiment, they asked 300 people to rate a person who said one of these statements: a complaint ("I'm am so bored"), a brag ("people mistake me for a model"), or a humblebrag ("I'm so bored of people mistaking me for a model").

In their paper, "Humblebragging: A Distinct – And Ineffective – Self-Presentation Strategy," the researchers found that complainers are rated as the most sincere, with braggers in second place, while humblebraggers were rated as the least sincere and least liked.

Why would this be? Mom always said nobody likes a complainer. (She also said no one likes a tattletale, but that didn't seem to stop my sister.) So why would a complainer be liked more than a bragger or a humblebragger?

It has to do with authenticity and honesty. Like it or not, at least the complainer is being honest. "I'm so tired." "It's too hot outside." "My feet hurt." We may get tired of their constant griping, but at least they're being honest about their feelings.

And the bragger is being honest too, in their own way. "I get hit on constantly." "Check out my new car." "I love my expensive new shoes." We definitely get tired of the bragger, who can't stop yammering about their good fortune. But again, they're not lying, they're just full of themselves.

It's the humblebragger who's doing themselves more harm than good. "I'm so tired of being hit on all the time." "It's too hot to drive my new convertible." "My Jimmy Choos hurt my feet."

In the end, the Harvard researchers conclude that if you want to make yourself look good, you're better off complaining than bragging. But if you have to brag, at least don't humblebrag.

"Faced with the choice to (honestly) brag or (deceptively) humblebrag, would-be self-promoters should choose the former — and at least reap the rewards of seeming sincere."

Translation: Seriously, no one likes you when you do that.

I grew up in the days when image and reputation ruled everything, when people cared what the neighbors thought, and families with "reputations to uphold" tried to make everyone believe they didn't have any problems.

That's all changed, thanks to social media.

While it has forced us all to live more transparent and honest lives, it's also made us more narcissistic and self-centered. But there's a smidgen of humility left in most of us, given that people try to disguise their overt bragging as just another burden to carry through life.

At least that's what I think. I get tired of being right all the time.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, April 24, 2015

The Glory of the Honorary Doctorate

I've always wanted an honorary doctorate. It's not a major item on my bucket list. In fact, I don't even have a bucket list. But if I did, this wouldn't be on there.

The desire for an honorary doctorate pops up this time each year, as famous and not-so-famous people in the arts, science, and humanities are asked to give thoughtful university commencement speeches around the country.

As an added enticement, the people often have an honorary doctorate conferred upon them.

That just sounds so cool: to have an honorary doctorate conferred upon you.

It sounds so regal.

"What, this old thing? It was conferred upon me a few years ago."

They don't just slip it to you like a street corner drug deal, or mail it to you in a large enveloped marked "Do Not Bend" which your letter carrier takes as a personal insult and irons a crease into it.

There are Doctors of Literature, Humane Letters (academic distinction), Laws, Science, Fine Arts, Humanities, and Divinity. Most writers receive a Doctor of Literature, although I've heard of them receiving a Doctor of Letters degree.

Ball State University Commencement, December 2014
Still, I'm not picky. I'd take whatever a university would care to confer upon me.

(I can't stop saying it!)

Most honorary doctorates are given to people for work in their field that makes a notable contribution to society., which puts me out of the running, since writing fart jokes on the Internet is neither notable nor contributes to society.

Meanwhile, Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot will receive an honorary doctorate of music from Lakehead University in Ontario this year. Other past honorary degree conferrees include Dolly Parton, Jane Pauley, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

If you have an honorary doctorate, you can even use the title professionally, and have people call you Doctor.

Which is quite pretentious; I won't even call real professors "doctor."

I grew up in an academic family. My father, mother, and stepfather were not only the first in their family to go to college, they all got advanced degrees, and all worked at a university. My father went so far as to get a real Ph.D. in Psychological Science.

So, I've never put Ph.D.s on a pedestal or held them in exaggerated esteem. They're regular people with weird quirks and annoying personalities. (In some cases, they go above and beyond normal people.)

Many of them were our family friends, and at some dinner parties, you couldn't swing a dead cat without whacking a Ph.D. in their giant noggin.

Because of our parents' commitment to higher education, all of us kids went to college. My brother and I even earned Master's degrees in the same field as our mother, and we both work at universities ourselves. (I'm an adjunct faculty member, he's a financial aid counselor.)

I've been around college professors for so long, I refuse to call them "doctor," and only call them by their first name.

"You're not a doctor," I said to one once. "You have a doctorate."

Years ago, another guy I knew insisted I call him "Dr. Steve" (not his real name).

"Why?" I said. I had recently finished graduate school, I was out of academia, and I refused to genuflect to anyone with letters after their name. "Why do I need to call you Dr. Steve?"

"Because I have a Ph.D."

I pulled myself up to my full height, puffed out my chest, and growled, "I have a Master's degree. What do you think you should call me?"

He thought about this for a moment. "Steve will be fine."

I had actually turned down attending my own Ph.D. program just months before. I applied to several schools, was accepted to a couple, and chose none.

My then-fiancee said she was so sick of college that she didn't even want to live in a university town, and that I was free to go by myself and come find her afterward.

I decided love was more important than four years of grad school debt and a job that paid only slightly more than a high school teacher, so I said "no," and became a businessman instead.

The days are longer, I work more hours in a week than professors do all month, and I don't get summers off. But I also don't have to go to interminable departmental meetings where we talk about issues no one actually cares about using words no one understands.

Which, when you get down to it, is the best reason of all to get an honorary doctorate: all the privileges, none of the responsibilities, and the joy of telling your honorary department chair where he or she can do with their departmental meeting agenda.

Photo credit: Ball State University, Office of the President (Marked for reuse)

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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