First Nashville Pulse Article Published

Digital Nashville Logo

I have agreed to write a monthly article called “Nashville Pulse” for Digital Nashville, the free-to-join networking group dedicated to all things digital in the Music City. The idea is to survey what’s going on in Nashville every month in the digital world, and this month’s installment takes a look at how digital companies are pulling through the recession.

The recession may be winding down, but Nashville firms remain cautious…

Halfway through September, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke claimed “the recession is very likely over at this point,” but cautioned that economic recovery would seem weak for a while.

A quick survey of area digital firms seems to confirm Bernanke’s caveat, as local companies don’t expect a boom in activity any time soon.

“People are looking for ways to save money. They’re really running at a high break-neck rate,” says Bruce McCully, owner and founder of Dynamic Edge, Inc., the IT and computer support firm with offices in both Nashville and Ann Arbor, Michigan. The firm’s products are selling well, but sales of its services and consultation have slowed down, McCully says.


Social Media: Business Versus Personal Use

Just stumbled across the following video report on social media in the workplace, via Nathan Moore over at Anthology Creative, a local Web Dev firm here in Nashville. I wrote on this before here, and I couldn’t agree more with Nathan’s assessment.

Whatever you do in your free time is a reflection on you, right? You are you. Your actions on the weekend reflect on your 9-to-5 life and vis versa.

Video Link

I’ll reiterate what I said earlier. Two things must happen (and, indeed, are happening).

1) Employees will be more mindful of their personal behavior and how it reflects on them professionally (or at least they will when they know there’s a digital camera in the room).

2) Employers will become a little laxer when reviewing social networking profiles of employees and potential hires.

Your take? Agree? Disagree?

October’s Digital Nashville Column

So I met yesterday with Elin Mulron and Clay Willingham, both members of the leadership team over at Digital Nashville, to discuss story ideas for an upcoming feature/column I am writing for Digital Nashville’s e-newsletter. I wanted to make the ideas public in case you fellow Nashville digital folks have ideas, contacts, etc.

Coworking in Nashville


For the uninitiated, Coworking involves freelance, start up and entrepreneurial-minded folks who rent office space on the cheap from a partnering organization. Where Coworking differs from, say, just simply renting office space from any old random company, however, is that coworkers value collaboration and the benefits of sharing space with like-minded individuals.

So what do you think? Interesting? Uninteresting? What questions come to mind?

Social Media Marketing


Marketing via social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) gets a lot of press these days, so I’m looking for innovative examples from the area that are helping company’s bottom line. (Think “boring” companies doing interesting things or small companies doing big things.)

Got any examples? Send them my way.

Entrepreneurship/StartUps/Product Launches in Nashville


I’ll be following area blogs (both niche and company) for news, but if you have any tips, send them along.

Web Development


This is for all you Web Dev shops out there. Up to anything interesting? Pitch me.



Nashville isn’t viewed by many as a gaming town, but more and more developers are getting into it based on the existence of great distributive platforms (think gpsAssassins for the iPhone, or Klouds on

Any other Nashville examples?

And for the rest of you Digital Nashville folks – anything else you’d like to see covered? Trending topics? Interesting stories?

Send them my way…

Guatemala article published on Matador Travel

I just wrote and published an article on studying Spanish in Guatemala over on, part of Matador Travel, an online community for travelers. An excerpt:

Studying Spanish in Guatemala: Quetzaltenango Vs. Antigua


Most foreign travelers looking to learn Spanish in Guatemala make Antigua their first and longest stop, charmed by its cobblestone streets and its lively bar and club scene. More serious travelers, however, take the 4-hour bus ride to Quetzaltenango (or Xela) for a different kind of experience.

While Antigua offers a lot, there are compelling reasons for giving Guatemala’s second city another look. Read more…

Stop on over, read it over and leave a comment if you’re so inclined. Thanks!

The word “safe” is a relative term (Lessons from Guatemala pt. 2)


Toddlers on the backs of motorcycles. Hunching over a river of lava for a photo op. A waterfall hike over a rickety bridge (not to mention the police escort lest robbers attacked us on the way).

After four weeks in Guatemala, I’ve concluded that “safe” is a relative term at best.

It’s the little things…

Roasting marshmallows over the lava of Pacaya - a typical gringo activity outside Antigua.
Roasting marshmallows over the lava of Pacaya - a typical gringo activity outside Antigua.

Not unlike other American travelers outside the States, I had my fair share of moments thinking, “There would so be a guardrail there if this were the U.S.” But even in the more mundane instances of life, I couldn’t help but feel that we Americans are a bit over protective.

Take the children for example. Our host family had four girls under the age of 12. Almost their entire house was floored with the same unforgiving surface, including the landing next to their staircase, which in turn lacked “proper” guard rails. The entire house certainly wasn’t what I’ve learned to consider “child proof.”

And it’s not as if the kids never fell down. They did. They just learned that it hurt like crazy and so learned not to do it again.

It reminded me of a professor I had at Xavier who claimed that, if he had had kids, he would not buy them bicycle helmets. “I want them to learn to not fall on their heads!” he would exclaim.

A happy medium…

That said, I think there’s a middle ground between coddling kids and neglect, when it comes to child rearing, and between overprotective and dangerous, when it comes to safe habits in general.

Besides, as an urban dweller with a bicycle, I’m actually for bicycle helmets.

Total immersion is the only way to learn a language (Lessons from Guatemala, pt. 1)

Recently my wife and I returned from Guatemala, after spending a month learning Spanish, living with host families and traveling. I’ve told countless stories to different friends since we’ve come stateside again, but I wanted to group some of my recollections into observations here.

When it comes to learning a language, immersion really is the only way…

We studied at ICA, a small Spanish school in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.
We studied at ICA, a small Spanish school in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

Learning languages is a tricky thing. At some point, you have to realize that you’re not learning how to translate that language into your mother tongue. Your learning how to think, act, talk, live in that language. The difference is distinct, and yet I run into so many folks who don’t catch it.

Take learning Spanish in Guatemala, for example. We stayed with a host family in Quetzaltenango, and after one week of fetching the dictionary from the other room to facilitate conversation with our host family at dinner, we finally realized it was more trouble than it was worth. We stopped attempting to translate every word and phrase into English, and started piecing together the meaning of conversations from context.

The remolachas effect

At first I may not have understood what remolachas were, sure. But I knew that when our mamá shredded them up, soaked them in vinegar and dumped them in a heaping mound on our plates, I’d be stuck eating two portions because Laura couldn’t stand them.

And just as we left the dictionary in the other room, we left phrases such as, “¿Como se dice … en ingles?” at the door, so to speak.

When I returned from Guatemala a friend of mine told me a story of an immersion program he’d heard of. Basically upon admission students pledge not to speak in their native language for a month, except for emergencies.

Have you ever tried learning a language? Which ones? Got any tips?

Early morning reading…


The Evolution of Blogging

Over at GigaOm, Om Malik argues for an evolution of blogging toward real-time, social publishing. Basically, context matters now more than ever after the rise of real-time mass messaging services such as Twitter, Facebook’s News Feed, Friendfeed, and the like. This explosion of short snippets of information and data points makes context paramount.

The Pushbutton Web: Realtime Becomes Real

Anil Dash describes a new set of technologies he dubs the “Pushbutton Web,” which he says will push online publishing ever further into realtime communication. He writes for a technical audience, but it’s certainly apropos in the wake of Facebook’s purchase of Friendfeed. I say that because I’ve had quite a few friends ask me in the last few days why Facebook buying friendfeed matters (many of whom had never heard of friendfeed before the news hit). My answer is that the Web values immediacy. Facebook, which has always been more ‘turn-based,’ can better compete with Twitter with friendfeed’s technology (not to mention their development team, which includes a bunch of ex-Googlers).


John Borthwick, CEO of a company called betaworks, describes the emerging Web as a stream, and offers some great analogies to the uninitiated for understanding what’s happening online.

Young Journalist on the Job Hunt

I recently got a question from a young writer type asking how to get into the publishing industry right now. Below was my advice. I had meant to post this months ago, but got sidetracked…

Bad News…

Layoff Sign

As for getting into the industry in general (in this economic climate), I’m not sure I have any good advice. Here’s my bad news first: Everywhere you turn it seems that more and more publications are laying folks off, cutting back circulation or stuck in a hiring freeze. It’s a bad job market, and from what I hear from friends, colleagues present and past, etc., it’s not a good time to be looking. You mentioned Southern Living, for example? While there, I was told the best thing about working there was the job security because they never let anyone go. Then this…

Silver lining…

But here’s my good news. You’re young, so you don’t need to be paid as much as someone who has been there forever and a day. You’re young, so you’re more tech-savvy (I used to cringe when people said that because I thought it reflected an ageist attitude, but now that I’ve worked for a while, I’ve basically accepted it as true). And you’re young, so you’re flexible and can take on long work hours, have more time learn a lot of different skills since you don’t have kids, etc.

My take…

So here’s my advice in general: I’d look at getting involved in writing as much as possible. I’d look into a company such as b5 media (a network of bloggers). They don’t pay much, but the experience you would gain by a) writing on a daily (if not hourly) basis would be invaluable and (b) learning the vaguely defined skill of “building an online audience” is extremely valued these days. If you can head into a job interview at a more traditional media company such as the ones you described and tell them how you launched a blog with b5 media and grew it from nothing to 10,000 visits a month – well, that’s going to mean a lot to them. Also check into mediabistro & Poynter – they have good job postings.

Finally, my last bit would be to look online (as in, look at new/online media companies) in general and avoid print. Print companies aren’t hiring right now and, to be honest, I don’t think they are all that exciting to work for (that’s my “new media” bias though). At Southern Living, I was given a lot of encouragement to try different things on their Web site, because I didn’t work on the print side of things, and it was awesome! I launched a podcast, a blog, picked up some (rudimentary) Flash experience and learned a bit about Omniture’s Web Analytics software. It was a true jack-of-all trades experience, but I couldn’t have gotten it fetching coffee for the food editors like some of the other interns who worked on the print side of things.

Anything you would add, subtract, disagree with?

Mine Magazine “Computer Error” the Least of its Problems

Time Inc. recently launched a new magazine/online initiative called “Mine,” allowing users to select up to five magazines from eight available titles from which the company would create a custom magazine tailored to the user’s interests – hence the title “Mine.” Combining the targeting of online with the tactile experience of print, the publication offers a more targeted audience, and thus a more attractive value proposition, to potential advertisers.

In a twist of irony, however, due to a computer error many trial testers of the service received copies of the magazine that combined stories from magazines which the recipients did not select, including yours truly. Check it (Right-click and select “View Image” for a larger version):

Mine Magazine E-mail

Mine Magazine – an assessment
Service to the reader: C+
Value to the advertiser: B-
Short term business move: A
Long term business move: B

Computer error not withstanding, I applaud Time, at the very least, for its efforts. Here’s my shot at a fair assessment of the publication.

Service to the Reader: C+

Glancing through the first issue, and ignoring the fact that I received articles from Golf, Sports Illustrated and InStyle, the articles from Travel+Leisure and Time were, on the whole, interesting to me. Score one for Mine.

On the other hand, a trend article on solar panels in America followed a profile of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, a second to the Dalai Lama. Both interested me, but they lacked any cohesiveness. Surely given the archive of content at all of these titles, it wouldn’t be impossible to pull together articles that felt less disjointed.

Finally, what really brings down the score, is the following spread:

10 Tips To Get Your Kids Moving

Keep my kids moving? I entered in my birthday when I signed up – do they really think a 25-year-old has a 12-year-old kid?

A spread like this undermines the idea that is “my” magazine, and merely proves how far targeting, even in print, has to go.

Value to the advertiser: B-

In the first edition of Mine, Lexus sponsored the publication exclusively. Ostensibly, this provided a great deal of brand exposure for the luxury line, as well as an understanding of the demographics and interests of the audience in question. For that, Mine achieves good marks.

Furthermore, if nothing else, Lexus delivered me an ad that I not only noticed, but passed around to my friends to look at:

Beyond that, however, I’m skeptical of the return on investment for Lexus. Bottom line: I’m not in the market for a car, and when I am, I’ll almost certainly never buy a Lexus. Period. In that sense, when you hold up the advertising model to a new media standard, it’s efficient. A wasted impression.

Admittedly, my background is on the editorial side of the wall, so I’ll concede I’m probably harsh on the advertising side. I mean, we are sitting here talking about Lexus, so that can’t hurt…

Short term business move: A

Take existing content, repackage it and then feed it back to the consumer with a new label. Kind of like Southern Living cookbooks, only this time around it carries a high-profile sponsor. Not a bad move at all.

Long term business move: B

This isn’t the next big thing. But if Time can learn something from this experiment, it’ll help it to move from repackaging old assets to creating new ones for a new medium. And again, we’re sitting here talking about it, so that doesn’t hurt.

One thing I’ve noticed is the temptation to compare Mine magazine to the customization offered online. That’s misguided. Mine magazine is a magazine printed on ink and paper. It can’t compare with online, and I didn’t think it was trying to.

Your thoughts?

Flickr the Platform

A few months ago I received a note from Flickr user Schmap, a publisher of online travel guides. Its managing editor, Emma J. Williams, wanted to know if she could publish a photograph I took at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany a few summers ago in Schmap’s online travel guide to Berlin.

I won’t get paid, she forewarned me, but it was free publicity for my photo. The choice, of course, was totally up to me.

How cool is that?