exploring web stuff, organizations, leadership, and general miscellany.
who the fuck is jay?

February 28, 2019

Revisiting Writing on My Own Site

February 28, 2019

It's been a little over three years since my last post.

That's a long time. It is not that I haven't been writing. I write for work daily.

Lately, I've been reimagining what this site should be. I think it could be a useful tool for my career as well as to share some of the other things that interest me.

Of course, this is exactly what a blog is — a repository for ideas to be shared with the world.

This morning I came across a post in my Twitter feed from Brad Frost (@brad_frost), who shared this post: "Write on your own website." I can't help but think I should have been doing this all along.

I first heard about blogging in 2003, in Toronto, while doing location sound recording for a young, independent filmmaker (daytrader by day) on a short he had written. He was talking to me about blogging as if everyone has heard about it. I had no clue what he was talking about.

It wasn't until several years later when I grasped what a blog was.

Blogs became a significant part of my self-learning tools. I have probably tried or used every feed aggregator to find and read up on topics I was interested in. I bought many books based on posts I read or authors who blogged—especially in Marketing and Web Design and Development.

Over the years, more and more of my work is writing. Writing microcopy on interfaces, blog posts and emails for our company, documentation for customers, documentation for my colleagues, responses to support requests, project scopes, proposals, website copy, social media posts, and much more.

In fact, since our team is 100% distributed, most of our internal communications are writing in Slack (these days), and other tools we use to collaborate.

Writing is my job.

"Writing on your own website associates your thoughts and ideas with you as a person. Having a distinct website design helps strengthen that association." – Brad Frost.

I think Brad is correct: writing can be an outlet and showcase for me—or anyone—to share their ideas, their work and demonstrate how they solve problems.

Perhaps a blog can be a portfolio of ideas.

December 18, 2015

Organizations and Design

December 18, 2015

I've been thinking a lot about organizations, organizational culture, design, and how to do great work in organizations. I recently met and had a fascinating conversation with Christina Bowen of Sageland Consulting about building responsive organizations. I've been introduced to a variety of subjects on organizational structure and development and some cool books I really need to read.

Since my work has been in the web design and content management realms for over 11 years, I am very interested in design. My interests recently are gravitated toward user experience design and organizations who use UX design on a daily basis. But design is bigger than just web interface experiences. This could be organizational design, artchitecture, customer service design, city parks, public transportation—anything that people interact with and has the potential for problems or improvement.

This week I heard a couple really great podcast episodes from the UIE Podcast series that touch on (or hammer on) making organizations more design oriented.

First, a really good talk by Jared Spool from his talk at the UX Advantage Conference. In it he talks about the Disney Magic Band and how it is one of the most expensive investments of an organization into innovation in user experience, how that got sold internally, the dialogue and tools used to get approval and buy-in on the over 1 Billion dollar budget.

In addition, he talks about how organizations can get aligned by using a simple exercise of writing out, in point form, the story of Hansel and Gretel and nearly everyone has the same story, and then asking them to write down what their organization is working toward for the next 5 years. In the latter case, few of those look at all the same. His position is that it takes storytelling and repetition to get and maintain alignment—just as everyone knows the story of Hansel and Gretel, through hearing it often enough, it becomes part of them.

Jared Spool on where design lives in most organizations:

Before you get to a design infused culture, design always plays this secondary role. It plays this thing that you do, in addition to all the things you’ve always done. You’re going to put out the product, it’s going to have features, but now we’re also going to make it well-designed.

The podcast episode is well worth a listen. Find here: UX Advantage: Infusing Design Into Our Organizations.

The second, short episode from the UIE Podcast series is this rather short but slick episode where Jared explores time traveling through enterprise software and how to bring it into the 21st century, with guests, Hagan Rivers and Dana Chisnell. This episode clocks in at under 13 minutes but it is truly satisifying if you're trying to understand how enterprise software sucks so frequently. It feels as though this applies also to software built by technologists without a full understanding of users.

Hagan Rivers on how enterprise interface design starts:

It is true. There’s this classic case of like, “Build a database, and then whatever’s in the database you just throw that up on the screen with the switches and levers that manage it”. But no real sense of, “How does the user do a task? How do they accomplish something?” “How many steps does it take to add a patient, and to hook them up to the information, or to create a purchase order and send it to the next person who has to deal with it?” It sometimes is a lot of steps to get that work done.

Listen to Time Traveling with Enterprise Applications – UX Immersion Podcast.

June 27, 2015

I Had Personal Branding Completely Wrong!

June 27, 2015

Image by: Brian Snelson

I had personal branding completely wrong.

I had this notion that it was about designing a public facade so that others will like you. Just think about that for a moment… Designing a public facade so that others will like you.

How stupid is that?

I had it in my mind that we should become—or pretend to be someone we're not, and that somehow people would love that. Wow!

Again, how stupid is that?

Last weekend, I was listening to podcasts while doing some housework. Specifically, I was listening to the Xero Hour podcast, hosted by Bob Knorpp, of The Beancast, and Saul Colt, Chief Evangelist at Xero.

Saul's guest in Episode 13 of the Xero Hour is Dixie Laite a trailblazer in digital marketing, who, like many of us has done a wide variety of things in her career and is most recently at Nickolodeon.

Dixie shared stories of how her quirky and unconventional style and delivery ultimately made her a success and despite some people wishing to suppress it. She seemed unphased and clearly came to understand that it was that style and delivery that got her the gig in the first place and not by trying to change herself to fit into someone else's mould.

It was Dixie's certainty and confidence about her true authentic self that people were seeking, not some alternate, fake or watered down version of Dixie. People were drawn to the the real Dixie. People are drawn to the real us.

The real Dixie is her personal brand. Her style, her kindness, her background and everything she brought was her personal brand. Letting people know about it, see it, and experience it, was what personal branding was really all about. It's not some image to build out of papier mache and other people's expectations. Personal branding needs to be the expression of our authentic selves and our true personalities. It must be the showcasing of our identity and individuality.

Saul, himself, has a strong—giant meteor-like—personal brand. He's colorful, smart as hell, confident, vulnerable, shocking at times, yet sincere and soft spoken; someone who genuinely loves to teach others and help people.

As an aside, Saul is someone I've had the pleasure of speaking with a number of times—a true helper/mentor.

It's clear to me now. A strong personal brand is about being our most vibrant and indelible selves and sharing that with the world.

What's your take on personal brand? Do you think it is egotistical flag waving for attention seeking narcissists or do you think it can be about drawing attention to your authentic self and being known for being you?

March 18, 2015

Conversations Are Magical; Let's Make Some Magic Together

March 18, 2015

Image by: Michael Coghlan

Social media is wonderful. It allows people to connect with new and interesting people, bitch at brands for fails, and share with friends, acquaintances, and random followers. Social Media has allowed me to find and interact with hundreds of interesting people without setting foot outside my tiny, little town, here in Nova Scotia.

Text is Still Just Text

We connect and chat with people on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and dozens of other networks—new and old. These are often very real connections but still, mostly asynchronous and 100% text.

There's Magic in the Sounds

"Conversations are Magical." is a phrase included in most of my social media bios. I know is the truth. The energy of talking with someone, the new ideas, the new perspectives, the sound of another person's voice, the emotions carried in those sounds and words that are filled with capacity to change. Not to mention, a LOL in person, or on a voice call, is something entirely different. It's truly special when you can laugh with someone at the same time about the same thing. Conversations make us more who we are while opening us up to be more than we are. Conversations can make us richer, smarter and better at our work and in our lives.

Let's Make Some Magic Together

Here is my call to you: if we're connected on social media—or even if we're not—let's talk about something interesting. Let's have a real conversation. Let's take 30 minutes voice to voice and, let's get to know just a little about each other. Maybe it will be the start of something. I know for sure, it will be magic.

Let's Make Magic

Of course you can also just tweet me at @JayGilmore on Twitter or send a contact request to me on Skype at smashingred and include the word magic, and let's something up.

Topics? The Field is Wide Open

These conversations are intended to start, rekindle or grow our relationship. I welcome conversation on fine beverages, content strategy, user experience, front end web development, community development, social media, content management, marketing, movies, music pretty much anything. Though, I know next to nothing about sports, cars (though I like them), or US politics.

Let's Have a Conversation

September 4, 2014

Running Headlong After Each New Thing that Lights Me Up

September 4, 2014

I just finished Ryan Holiday's book, Growth Hacker Marketing. While I was reading it I found myself excited by the notion of tossing out old ways of Marketing. I was thinking, "I could do this. This sounds awesome! I'll start tomorrow." Then I realized I've been here before.

Since 2012, I've been on a quest for new and interesting aspects of the work I do—new ways of doing things I already do, or perhaps, new things to do altogether. I am not talking about finding a new job, but rather, finding new ways I can bring new ideas and new value what I am already doing.

I get into a new topic after reading some amazing book or watching a talk that lights me up and I want to run headlong into the subject. I want to be that subject. I've gone so far as to change my title at work a couple of times or, at the very least, get on a kick for doing exactly what I just read. Tthis applied learning has it's benefits. It clearly highlights that I am driven by learning new things.

I've dived head first into a number of fascinating topics including Content Strategy, Digital Strategy (which I think I am most aligned with), Content Marketing, User Experience, Customer Experience (something related to UX but more a holistic Marketing thing). Of course these are all related to Marketing, communications and creating great experiences.

The realization that I grab hold of the latest thing to blow my mind, doesn't make me upset (though it is a little embarrassing). The key lesson here is to take what I learn from it, combine it with all the other stuff that's come before and apply it.

So, today I am really into Growth Hacking1. I am not going to change my title on any of my social bios but I am going to change some of the things I was doing yesterday—and all future yesterdays—until I jump onto another topic that lights me anew.

Image license: Ryan M

1Before I heard Ryan on a podcast talking about the book and reading the book, I was very turned off by what I thought was Growth Hacking. This was based on the many Marketing-morons who didn't really get it but were spouting about it on Twitter.

September 2, 2014

Feeling Great by Completing Unfinished Projects

September 2, 2014

Over the Labour Day weekend, I completed some home repair projects that have lingered unfinished—some for years. I installed two ceiling fixtures and two wall sconces. I installed the crown moulding in the downstairs powder room. I hung a wall mount for one of the TVs and removed an unused TV from the family room.

Having any of these projects completed was a small accomplishment. Each completed project compounded the feeling of accomplishment and made me want to find other projects to get done. I've got a taste and now I am craving more 'completes'.

When you let things slip or go unfinished, the first step is to face restarting. Don't imbue the tasks with bad feelings of not finishing in the first place. Start unfinished projects as new and untarnished. Complete them and feel great. Repeat. Repeat.

September 2, 2014

Tearing off the Bandage

September 2, 2014

For nearly a year I've looked at the last blog post I wrote. I'd come to the front page and see the image I chose for it and think, "I need to post something here." Still, I never did.

I felt bad I let so much time pass. I felt I had nothing to say. I felt my ideas were stupid. I felt guilty because it was really procrastination keeping me from sharing my thoughts and ideas.

Today, I am tearing off the bandage.

September 13, 2013

Growth and Development for Personal and Professional: An Exploration

September 13, 2013

Recently, I have been mulling on the idea of personal and professional growth and how it relates to career and business.

First, here are a couple things that have contributed to this line of thought:

Dharmesh Shah from Hubspot on Hubspot's culture:

One of the core tenets of HubSpot culture is that we want to increase individual market value. In other words, we want someone’s currency to have risen higher at HubSpot than any other place they could have gone.

And, a tweet from Amber Naslund:

Here are four notions I am working through for upcoming posts/explorations:

  • We are a risk if we are the same person, with the same views and same skills we had when we started. Businesses that do not make room for their people to grow are at risk. Do you see this as true?
  • We must prioritize our own projects to give it the attention it deserves and remove the distraction of it's pull. If we can move it forward, we can focus more fully on our other obligations. What are your views on this?
  • Do we have a responsibility to grow professionally and as people? For ourselves and for the people who we work with or for? What do you think?
  • I had unknowingly become an appliance. I am looking to find ways to grow and change in order to do better work and create more value for myself, my family and for the people I work with. Is this something you actively work on or is it part of who you are?

I've started working on posts to explore each but am very interested in hearing the experiences of others on these ideas/notions.

Image credit: Kevin Dooley

August 25, 2013

How a Chance Encounter with a Jogger Changed My Path Forever

August 25, 2013

Each morning I walk three laps around the pond near our house. It is a perfect place to walk while listening to Podcasts. The path is gravel and dirt—in places carpeted by a layer of pine needles—and closely follows the contour of the water, rising and falling natural elevation. On three sides of the pond, the hills are packed with red pines like a silent audience at an amphitheatre. It is quiet and rarely do I see another person. It is like a walk in the deep woods.

When I first started my walks around the pond, I instinctively traveled clockwise. I'd head up the steep slope of the path into the woods, toward and then past the museum and town pool. Then, I'd make my way down an even steeper slope that takes me back to the the main path and follow around the water, back to my start position. I do one or two more laps depending on the time I had.

To change things up one morning, I decided to go counter-clockwise. It felt strange. It seems silly that it would feel any different. It's just walking a path, but I found myself feeling something wasn't right. A couple more laps in this direction and it felt normal—or rather, it didn't feel strange any longer.

One day not to long after my directional change-up, I was walking counter-clockwise around the pond. A jogger approached from behind. As is the custom, anyone passing will say, "Good morning." The jogger slowed to a walk along side me and said, "I'm visiting the area. I just happened on this path and it's a nice place to run. Do you know if there are any other areas like this?" I responded, "Sadly, I've lived here for 9 years and I have no idea." I then pointed to the path and gestured to the left and up and added, "I like to go up the steep hill to work out my legs." By the time I finished speaking, he was back into his jog, gestured to a path at the right, that was not part of the main path. I told him it would just take him back up to the street. He turned and resumed his full-speed jog and he was almost instantly out of my sight.

As I walked my second lap around the pond, I couldn't get my mind off the out-of-town jogger's gesture toward the other path—the one that that led away from the main path. I thought to myself, "I had never actually taken that path. I've only ever stayed on the main path." To me, the idea of leaving the main path felt far more foreign an idea than switching my route from clockwise to counter-clockwise.

On my third and final lap, I approached the my path-not-taken. In that moment I decided I was going to change that. With resolve, I veered onto the new-to-me path. Each footstep changed me. I could feel my mind adjusting. It wasn't scary. It wasn't going to hurt me. It was something new. It sure felt odd to be off my path, and I did confirm that it brought me out to the street exactly as I assumed.

The visiting jogger showed me something important. I—we are not bound by patterns of behavior and habits. We can experience new things. If we purposefully step out of our patterns, we'll dramatically increase the odds, frequency and quantity of new experiences.

Do you step out of your patterns? Do you make an effort to change things up? Or, do you always make the right on your way home and never the left? I want to be your out-of-town jogger and ask, "What's down that path?"

July 18, 2013

Taking Stock and Picking Up the Paddle

July 18, 2013

I've spent a long time in the current of life, and even though I have a paddle and the personal strength to direct my course, I just continue to float without considering where I've been and where I'd like to go.

I've been reflecting on things that I've done recently and what I might wish to explore or change, however, I've not really done the work of taking complete stock of things in my work and home life with regard to activities, behaviours, shortcomings and strengths. In writing this, I realize I am considering doing a SWOT analysis (for those of you familiar with them).

So, I'll make a list of what I am doing and evaluate each item. Do I like it, am I good at it, what do I need to change about it or do I need to do it at all? There may be more criteria I will use to evaluate but those are certainly a start.

I've received advice about goals and purpose: do not stay still until struck by some ultimate goal, rather, to start moving and see what goals and purposes emerge from my actions. I feel that in order to best start moving I need to take this inventory and do the analysis then grab that paddle and start heaving in a direction of my choosing.

Have you ever done a personal inventory? Have you ever taken stock of what you are good at, what you are not, what gets you jazzed, what annoys the hell out of you and at the less extreme just bores you to tears? If you have, share your story in the comments, or send me an email if it's too personal.