jodiontheweblog Fri, 31 May 2013 12:51:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 I am Boston Strong Sun, 21 Apr 2013 13:38:11 +0000

This past week was a crazy one for news. And news is the business I am in. And when things are as busy as they have been you tend to move into auto-pilot, but today I am slowing down and taking some time to reflect. To really focus on the events of this past week I need to take you to September 20th, 2001 (or thereabouts).

I was flying to Dallas, TX for a wedding. It was shortly after people were allowed to fly again after 9/11. I was flying from DC where I had had a front row seat to the chaos that was 9/11. I was leaving a city that was still in shock, still mourning and still fearing, and flying into a city that watched the day’s events unfold from afar.

When I landed in Texas I was picked up by the bride-to-be and her family. They were all excited for the impending nuptials. I was still raw from the attacks. I started to realize that, although 9/11 affected everyone, people who weren’t actually there (DC, NY, PA), had a very different experience then those of us in the affected cities.

I was surprised at first, but then realized they watched it all on TV and, although it wasn’t less real, their day to day life wasn’t all that changed at that point. They were able to continue with the business at hand, whereas those of us in cities impacted, felt the attacks around every corner. Whether it was flashbacks to the previous days, or increased security in our buildings, or god forbid (as in my case) anthrax scares in their workplace. It was difficult for me to be fully present at the wedding because my mind was still in DC, but I did my best and did enjoy my time in Dallas. My way of life though, was changed forever.

I wondered if a horrible attack occurred in a city I didn’t live in, would I acknowledge it, feel bad for the residents there, and then move on with my day to day life.

Flash forward a year or so and let me walk you through the time known by most people as ‘The DC Sniper’. I bring this up in our narrative because it is pertinent to the Boston attacks. For 3 weeks in October 2002 my region was somewhat paralyzed by a sniper that was seemingly randomly shooting people in the metropolitan DC area (which includes parts of Maryland and Virginia). If you are not familiar with the sniper, it was a very scary time in DC where a dozen or so people were shot from afar while doing everyday things like stopping for gas or getting coffee.  People in my region were paranoid to stop their cars and walk in public places. There was also misinformation about a white van possibly involved, which if you start to look around, you’ll realize how many white vans drive around cities every day…

One day during that crazy time in DC, I was on my way to work and was stopped in traffic. I was in the left lane and noticed a white van to my left in a turn lane. It wasn’t turning though. It was just stopped. No signal blinking. No brake lights. Just stopped in the middle of a turn lane. I think I had a panic attack. I debated calling the police. I wondered if I should scoot down in my seat. I was in stopped traffic… a sitting duck. As all this went through my mind, the van put it’s right signal on and got back into a traffic lane. Disaster averted. Fear lingering.

So when the Boston attacks happened this past week, I was able to test my initial hypothesis. Would I just acknowledge the attacks and feel bad for those affected? Would I empathize with the people at the marathon finish line? Would I understand the fear felt by those in Watertown (and Boston) locked in their homes, fearing a crazy person on the streets who meant them harm?

What I realized is that I will never be able to experience an attack from afar. It isn’t just a feeling of empathy and being able to put myself in their shoes, therefore understanding how they feel. It was a return to the exact feelings myself, of the events of over a decade ago;  I feel it all over again. And now those in Boston will join this club. They will now know, if god forbid something like this ever happens again, exactly what the feeling is. They will feel it again. You never forget it. You don’t feel it everyday, but it can come on so easily. As I told a friend yesterday, it isn’t exactly PTSD. It’s a heightened sense of surroundings and a somewhat irrational lingering fear you can’t shake.

I am not saying that people who didn’t experience these events first hand don’t feel them with the same angst we do.  I am certain there are people that do.  But most people are not part of this club.  And that is a good thing.

I have recovered from those crazy days in 2001/2002.  I no longer have an emergency kit in my trunk and a quick getaway bag in my closet.  I no longer get frantic and full of fear if my power goes out.  It takes a lot of self talk, convincing yourself you are safe and everything is ok.  It isn’t always easy, but you have to do it.  You have to be strong.  And this week, I am Boston Strong.

Hoping everyone affected by this past week’s events, including those in West, Texas, are doing ok.


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I Don’t ‘Like’ Facebook Contests Tue, 07 Aug 2012 13:34:33 +0000

Like this post if you want to win a new iPod Touch.”  Really.  Go ahead. You won’t win one, because I am not actually running a contest here, but you can still like the post.

I have wanted to write this post for a while and I just couldn’t wait any longer.  I don’t like Facebook contests. There.  I said it.  I don’t think Facebook contests are the golden ticket so many think they are.  Like many things, I think there is a time and a place for a contest on Facebook (and I have certainly entered my share).  For example, if a brand is launching a new product and trying to grow their mailing list or get new sign-ups, launching a Fan-gated/Like-gated contest (requires you to like the page to enter the contest) can make a lot of sense.

But for many brands and news organizations, which is what I have the most experience with, I think we need to take a step back and look at the long-held belief that getting more fans is the ultimate goal.

Early in the social media days, when everyone, and I mean everyone, was creating a Facebook fan page, we all tried a variety of things to get more fans.  Contests were one tool in our toolbox.  And contests do work.  You generally will increase your page’s fans if you run a contest. And in the early days, all everyone wanted was more fans.  And even as the social media ‘experts’ started to acknowledge that size isn’t everything, executives would still drop by the desk of their social media manager and say “get more fans.”

As this was going on, Facebook was also changing.  If you are not familiar with its EdgeRank and the algorithm that determines what posts are visible to your fans, you should get acquainted with it.  There is a good explainer here.  Many blog posts and articles have recently circulated claiming that only approximately 10-12% of your fans even see your posts.

There is a lot of secrecy about what is actually in the EdgeRank secret sauce, but there’s one thing I know: the more engaging your content is, the higher the rank.  The higher the rank, the more fans get to see it.  So, you spent all this time and energy trying to get more fans. Congratulations, you now have 3000, but only 289 of them actually see your posts.

If you were less focused on getting more fans and more focused on creating engaging posts, you’d reap the rewards of higher numbers all around.  That is why I believe a smaller number of very engaged fans are much more valuable than a large number of fans who are trying to win an iPad and have no interest in any kind of regular dialogue with you or your content.

So this brings me back to contests.  I think running a contest or promotion with the sole intent of gaining new fans actually hurts you.  What it does is give you a higher percentage of your fans that are not engaged with your content.  Again, I must present the caveat that I don’t know exactly how the EdgeRank algorithm works (not many people do, even within Facebook).

After running a contest and gaining all of these new fans, I believe Facebook would determine that even a smaller percentage of your fans are engaging with the content and therefore classify your content as less interesting to your fans and so they lower your EdgeRank (this is all automated — no one at Facebook is looking at your posts to decide whether they are interesting).  When your rank is dropped, even fewer of your overall fans will see your posts.  In this case, the contest actually hurt your page.

Facebook is about a social conversation.  Your goal in managing a page should be to make posts that will have the most discussion and dialogue.  You want to have a conversation with your fans.  That is why you are there.  I don’t think you need to bribe people to be your ‘friend.’  If you provide an amazing experience, they will want to be your friend, will want to tell their friends about you and will want to share your posts (which, believe it or not, lead to more real fans in the long run).

So as I said at the start of this post, Like this post if you, well, if you Like this post.  Thanks!


Like doormat cover image courtesy of

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How I ‘Do’ South by Southwest Interactive Sun, 26 Feb 2012 20:32:13 +0000

A few years ago I was sitting at the airport in Austin, laptop on lap, writing up some notes from a meeting I had earlier that day at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi), the annual technology conference in Austin, TX.   I looked up from my laptop to see Chris Brogan standing there looking at me. He said something like, “You don’t look exhausted. … How’d you do that?”  Chris was making reference to the fact that SXSWi is a bit of a marathon, and many people only prepare for a sprint.

I told him how I did that.  I averaged 6-7 hours of sleep each night (which did not mean sleeping in, but rather going to bed at a reasonable hour).  I drank water at every opportunity and kept extra bottles in my bag at all times.  I also took EmergenC twice a day, every day I was there. I began this process after coming down with a nasty case of bronchitis at BlogWorld 2008.  Some people call it the conference funk.  It happens to people who get little sleep, drink too much <alcohol>, run themselves completely down, and are in close contact with thousands of other people doing the exact same thing.  In 2008, I attended BlogWorld on my own (read: not on the company’s dime) and attended a lot of the evening events.  I learned very quickly how to survive a conference like that.

So back to the airport.  Upon hearing my process, Chris said: “You should write a blog post about that.  I think a lot of people can learn from it.” I started this blog post a few years ago … and today I am rewriting and finally publishing it.

I’ve heard people refer to SXSWi as Spring Break for tech nerds.  Well, it can absolutely be that, if that is what you want it to be.  I, however, do not attend that version of the conference.  I see SXSWi as an amazing opportunity to meet thought leaders, learn about new tech startups and share and collaborate with like minded people from across a multitude of industries. I consider myself extremely fortunate to experience and learn from it.

So how do I ‘do’ SXSWi?  Well, starting a few weeks prior to the event (which if you are keeping track would be right about now), I make a list of companies I would like to meet with.  If I already have a contact at the company, I reach out and set up a meeting.  If I don’t, I log on to LinkedIn and find someone from that company.  I literally send a ‘cold call’ type note asking if that person or someone else from that company will be at SXSWi and would they be interested in meeting up.  How do I choose the companies I want to talk to?  Sometimes it is obvious — it’s the ‘hot’ social media company of the month (last year Instagram was on my list).  Sometimes it’s a company doing something digitally that could potentially intersect with what we do with digital journalism, storytelling, community outreach, etc.  For example, a few years back I had a meeting with Ben Berkowitz from SeeClickFix and upon returning shared their offerings with Gannett staffers.  Subsequently many Gannett markets started adding SeeClickFix widgets and maps to their community pages.

In 2010, among other meetings, I met with Andy Ellwood from Gowalla.  Although Gowalla has since been acquired by Facebook, that first meeting led to a partnership between Gowalla and USA TODAY on in-app travel and airport guides.  The meeting also led to a Kentucky Derby promotion with the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Unfortunately in 2011 I over scheduled myself and wasn’t able to attend too many SXSWi sessions, which are also an important part of the conference and can be very educational and inspiring.  For a good portion of the conference, you could have found me sitting in a corner on the floor in the registrants lounge having meetings with a variety of people.  One such meeting was with Monica Guzman, who at the time was with Intersect.  Local Gannett sites have since tried out Intersect for reporting and crowd-sourcing.

Not every meeting leads to some type of collaboration or partnership.  I’ve met with companies that are no longer in business and I’ve met with companies that had no interest in partnering with us.  I’ve also had impromptu meetups that became highlights of the trip (for example a lunch in 2010 with some editors and digital folks from the NY Times and other publications that led to an amazing discussion about digital storytelling and  journalism).

In the past, I would coordinate with other Gannett colleagues to see which panels and events people planned to attend and we would break up (divide and conquer if you will) the event as best as possible. Upon returning to work, I’d gather everyone’s notes and present back at HQ on all we learned and things we hoped to implement or experiment with as soon as possible (here is a link to a version of 2011′s presentation).

This year will be different though.  SXSWi has gotten really big … possibly too big for what it is.  And more people will be attending and more panels and sessions will be offered than ever before.  I’ve been making my list and plan to schedule meetings with a very strong focus on journalism, digital content and publishing, and j-related start-ups since my new role with Gannett is in its  U.S. Community Publishing division.  I will also spend more time this year at the panels in the journalism track, but will also attend a few sessions on completely different topics as I often find ideas and inspiration when looking to unrelated subjects.

This is the one large conference I request to attend each year and I plan to make the most of my time there.  Will you be there?  Let me know in the comments and let’s meet up.

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Do I Sense Some (Facebook) Friction? Mon, 05 Dec 2011 14:00:51 +0000

There has been a lot of commentary over the past couple months about Facebook’s new Frictionless Sharing.  Announced at their annual F8 conference in late September, the basic idea behind Frictionless Sharing is that actions you perform on the Internet —  like reading an article or watching a video — will be shared with your Facebook network, without you initiating it. In other words, without you having to click a ‘share’ button or ‘like’ button or any button.  When you first connect with a website or application that has integrated with Facebook’s Open Graph, you are asked to authorize the app.  This turns on Frictionless Sharing and viola… the sharing begins!

The controversy, however, is not unlike other debates around Facebook and privacy.  People using these sites and applications don’t entirely understand what they are authorizing the apps to do.  The authorization dialog box may say something as vague as ‘This app shares articles you have read and more on Facebook’.

People often authorize, because they want to connect news sites to Facebook most likely so they can see what their friends are reading.  Those same people are then confused when their network of friends can see they just read “Lady Gaga is Really a Man”.  I am not putting the blame on those who authorize of these apps.  Most of us don’t really read through all the information in those dialog boxes (or Terms of Service for the apps and sites we use for that matter).  Facebook has been working to improve the wording and clarity of the messaging in the dialog box, but there is a greater need for education.

A bigger concern is that just because I read something does not mean I recommend or endorse it.  I read plenty of articles that, quite frankly, aren’t worth sharing with others.  Reading doesn’t equal an endorsement… yet we have all become accustomed to seeing links in our Facebook Newsfeed that our friends have recommended or liked.  I don’t think the problem is with the Frictionless Sharing.  The real issue is that a behavior we have understood to be one thing will now suddenly be something else. Is this an issue of Facebook not properly educating its users? Somewhat. Did they over estimate that people wouldn’t really differentiate between reading and recommending?  Probably.

I like Frictionless Sharing.  I admit, I have found more articles and posts that interested me than I had in the past, because Facebook is telling me what my friends are reading.

Do I understand that these articles may in fact not be very good?  Yes, I understand it. I wonder if Facebook could do a better job at separating what users are reading vs what they are recommending.  Maybe color coding- blue for Recommended and green for Read?  :)

Many people have said Frictionless Sharing is creepy. I definitely think twice before clicking on a headline within an app that has this feature enabled.  You don’t all need to know about my obsession with Gaga, right?

What do you think?  The comments area is for you.

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September 14th, 2011 – United Flight 586 Wed, 21 Sep 2011 00:38:33 +0000

In mid-September, I was on board a plane preparing to head to San Francisco for business, when suddenly we unexpectedly had to evacuate the plane. It was very scary and I will add more detail to this post later, but for now, here are my tweets, as I live tweeted the event.

]]> 0 Social Media Predictions 2010 vs 2011 Sat, 19 Feb 2011 02:11:13 +0000

Recently I was asked my predictions for social media in 2011. I thought for a moment and realized my answer wasn’t really different than my answer last year.  I decided to review the various blog posts I’d bookmarked a year ago and see how the expert’s predictions looked year over year.

In December of 2009, Mashable, one of the best resources for social media news, had many posts on social media predictions, including this one: ‘Social Media Experts Make Their Predictions for Trends in 2010′ which linked to Trendspotting’s Influencer Series.

I’ve embedded the presentation below, but I’ve pulled out a few snippets.

Pete Cashmore, Founder, CEO, Mashable, had this to say:

“Fueled by the ubiquity of GPS in modern smartphones, location-sharing services … may become the breakout services of the year.  Our whereabouts may optionally be appended to every Tweet, blog comment, photo or video we post.

“Augmented reality: The challenge for such services is to prove their utility: They have the cool, but can they be truly useful?

“Social gaming and virtual currencies: virtual buying and selling may be the route to riches for some social media sites.”

David Armano, Senior Partner, Dachis Group, had these predictions:

“Networked activity will be local, mobile, encourage competition and reward participants.

“Mobile becomes a social media lifeline.”

From Dan Zarrella, Social & Viral Marketing Scientist HubSpot:

“With augmented reality and mobile social media, the real world will be important again.

“Micro targeting and personalization – businesses will begin to leverage the wealth of data we share about ourselves to deliver individualized messages.”

Jason Falls, Social Media Strategist, Social Media Explorer, predicted:

“Making content highly portable is the key to engaging an ever-more-mobile audience. More will start to see the power of content distribution and customer engagement through that content.

“2009 was about learning SM.  2010 will be about figuring out how to use it well.”


There were many more tidbits, but I want to move on to 2011.  To be clear, all of the above predictions were on the money for 2010.  If 2010 was the year of LOCATION, 2011 is the year of, wait for it, LOCATION.  If 2010 was the year of MOBILE, 2011 is the year of, yep, you guessed it, MOBILE.  Notice a trend?

To understand this, I think it is important to step outside our social media vacuum.  I’ve noticed this a lot with me and my colleagues and friends.   We talk to each other about trends and emerging technologies and we ‘geek out’ over the latest apps.  We act as if everyone is doing what we are doing.  We assume all of our friends will ‘get it’ soon enough.  But the truth is, they don’t.   Not everyone is like US.  Not everyone has an iPhone.  Not everyone is on Twitter.   Not everyone shares their location.  Actually, most people do not.

It’s easy for us to say these things will be big, because as early adopters, they are BIG, to us.  So we assume the general public (aka non-early adopters) will realize why these things are important and get on board.  But you know what?  That actually takes a while.

In 2003 I was helping beta test a new social network called Multiply.  I had my own profile where I could post photos, reviews, music, blog posts, etc.  I had a news feed where I could view the posts and updates of all my friends on Multiply.  I could filter content by relationship status, for example, only view my family’s posts, or only view my friends and friends of friend’s posts.  I really loved it.   I GOT it.  So of course I invited all my friends to join too.

To give you perspective, MySpace launched in 2003; Facebook in 2004.  My invited friends all had the same response: “What the heck is this?”  A few joined, mostly to stop me from bugging them.  Quite a few said: “Why on earth would I post photos on the Internet?”

Multiply still exists, but it never took off the way Facebook eventually did.  And this isn’t specifically about Multiply (where, by the way, I still maintain an account).  My point is that I was an early adopter and I totally understand why people would like this.  I understood about the narcissistic draw of sharing facts about your life with those you are connected to.  But my friends?  They didn’t get it.  It took a few years before I started getting Facebook friend requests from these very same people.

So the predictions for 2010 were correct.  Last year did see a ton of movement on many, if not all, of the predictions from the Trendsetter presentation (and countless other blog posts predicting 2010 trends).  But as Jason Falls noted, if 2010 was the year to learn how to use many of 2009′s technologies, 2011 will be the year the 2010 predictions begin to reach mass adoption.

What do you think?

Crystal ball photo courtesy of Flickr user absolutelyabsurd.

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State of the Union Tweets #SOTU Sat, 12 Feb 2011 14:35:27 +0000

On the evening of January 25th, like many, I was watching President Barack Obama deliver his State of the Union address.  As with many events, I had my Tweetdeck in front of me the whole time.  I didn’t have a search set up for the hashtag #sotu, I just watched my regular Twitter feed flow through.  What I saw, which I have said time and time again, is that people are hysterical.  I am constantly blown away by the humor of regular folks out there providing social commentary.

I immediately started prepping a Storify post.  If you are unfamiliar with Storify, it lets you curate Tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Flickr photos and more, into an easily embeddable widget.  Below is my post.  Enjoy!

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My Take on the New Facebook Fan Pages Fri, 11 Feb 2011 14:13:13 +0000

Facebook has updated their Fan Page design and it appears that much of what was leaked late last year made it to the final design.   The new fan page design aligns their pages with the new profile design they launched a couple months back.  Facebook is trying to make the experience on have more uniformity across profiles and pages.   You can preview the new design before you actually upgrade.  Once you upgrade though, you cannot switch back.  As mentioned below, everyone will have four weeks to upgrade their pages.

Login as page

As I mentioned in the January social media newsletter:

The change that I most hope makes the final design, and I think you will all be pleased about, is the ability to login as a page.  For example, right now if you are a page admin, you are not able to make comments on your page as yourself, only as the page admin.  This leaked new feature lets you decide who you want to post as.  This will be especially useful for people that are administrators of multiple fan pages.

This change is now live (if you upgrade your page) and can be easily accessed via an ‘Account’ drop down menu on the top tool bar.  See image at right.

I know many of our editors and community managers have asked for a way to engage and comment on fan pages as an individual, not an admin.  Now they can!

No More Tabs and Boxes

Gone are the tabs at the top of the page.  Most of these can be found as menu links under the profile photo.  If you had custom landing tabs, you can still set custom landing pages (and your previous settings should still be in tact).

Any boxes you added to your fan page (left rail) are now gone.  On the left you will now see other pages that are ‘liked’ and you can display page owners and administrators.


Another addition is the Photostrip, which launched for profile pages late last year.  This area gives a quick thumbnail view of 5 photos.  Many people have come up with creative ways to use this photostrip on their profiles.  I think there is huge potential for this space.


Before you upgrade to the new profile, you should make sure you have at least 5 homepage ready photos in a photo album.  The photostrip displays the last 5 photos added, but at anytime you can click an ‘x’ on any photo you do not want in the strip.

I think this area could be used for displaying photos of staff (broadcast anchors for example), or community photos, promotions, weather updates.  You could possibly have user submitted photo contests to see which photos make it to the photostrip.  I think there are many different ways this could be used for additional engagement on our pages.   Get creative and please share with me what you’re doing.

Notification settings

You can change your settings to be notified when someone comments on your fan page.


As Facebook announced mid last year, FBML (Facebook Markup Language) will be eliminated soon.  iFrames are now enabled and you can add content within an iFrame to your fan page.

Wall Filters and moderation

There are now additional filters for the content you display on your wall.  In addition, you now have a block list.

From our Facebook rep:

Hi there, just a quick head’s up on some exciting news today.

We are excited to introduce upgrades to Facebook Pages that will enable admins to better manage communication, express their presence and increase engagement.

You will have four weeks to transition your Pages to the new format. There is a site-tour for all Admins that will walk you through the new changes. Once you make the decision to upgrade your Page to the new version, there is no way to revert back to the old design.

Below is a brief summary of the key changes to your Page.

Summary of Key Changes:

  • Left-nav formatting:  Tabs are moving to the left just like on the new profile. We are migrating the “blurb box” to the Page’s Info tab. Profile pictures will change dimensions from 200×600 to 180×540.
  • Most Recently published photos:  This new feature will live at the top of the Page and display the five most recently-published photos on top of the Wall.
  • Use Facebook As Your Page:  You’ll now have the ability to Like and comment on other Pages (as your Page) and receive Page notifications. In addition you can view a ‘Pages I Like’ News Feed for your Page.
  • Smart “Everyone” Wall filter:  Pages now have two Wall filters for users:  Posts by Page and a new Everyone filter, providing a new way for people to see the most interesting stories first.  As an admin, you’ll have additional filters for viewing posts on your page, including Most Recent and Hidden Posts.
  • Email notifications: You can now choose to receive notifications when users post or comment on your Page.
  • Featured Pages & Admins: Choose to feature the other Pages liked or specific admins of the Page in the left-navigation.
  • Mutual Friends and Interests:  People visiting your Page will see the friends and Pages they have in common with your Page.
  • iframe Tabs Now Enabled: We will now supportiframe based tabs in order to provide developers with more flexibility and the ability to use standard web technology including Social Plugins, Facebook Login, and the Graph API.

Chad Graham, Social Media Editor at AZCentral had this to say:

  • This is an upgrade — not just a tinkering with the design — but there’s no change in how to post to the wall/engage with “likers.”
  • The iframe tabs for pages offer new possibilities:
  • It seems to be a much cleaner experience for admins and “likers.”  Few of our Facebook users looked at the content on the tabs. I don’t think it’s a big deal tabs are now on the left side. Maybe more people will be inclined to look at the tabs now that they’re in a different place.
  • Photos at the top are interesting. It’ll encourage us to post more slideshows.
  • Being able to comment as azcentral versus an admin is interesting. When you switch over to that feature, it gives notifications on the latest people who’ve like the page and interacted with the wall.
  • I will be monitoring insights to see if they tweaked the algorithm and impacted the percentage of “likers” who see our posts.
  • They seem to have taken away the “hide” count from Insights and replaced it with “lifetime total unsubscribers.” (Maybe this a temporary glitch).

Additional Resources

In addition, here are some neat examples of ways people have used the photostrip:

UPDATE:  It looks as though you still cannot comment as yourself on a page you are an admin of.  You can comment as a different page though.

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How I Spent Christmas Day 2010 (or how I learned to love being hydrated) Sun, 26 Dec 2010 00:18:48 +0000

This winter I decided to have a stay-cation and not travel for the holidays.  I did want to travel, but didn’t want to spend the money.  So I decided to fill my break with projects I’d been putting off.  A few days into the break, I had already finished about half the things on my to-do list.  Then came Christmas day.  I saw the local Bikram Yoga studio post on Facebook that they’d have classes on Christmas day, so I decided I’d spend my Christmas morning being healthy… then in the afternoon I’d jump into another project.  That is not how the day went…

The class was 90 minutes.  The room was supposedly 104 degrees.  The instructor told me, since it was my first time doing Bikram (hot) yoga, my goal should just be to stay in the room.  He said not to worry if I couldn’t do the moves, to just sit or lay down and breathe.  He asked if I was hydrated, and I said yes because I just finished a 16 oz bottle of water.

I recognized the room was warm, but I liked it at first.  It felt kinda like being back in Vegas in August.  I was able to do some of the moves, but half way into it, I realized I’d need to just sit and breathe and watch and relax.

As the class continued, I felt my legs were tingly.  It was a little like pins and needles when your foot falls asleep.  It started to spread though and was becoming uncomfortable.  I was sweating a lot, but not as much as the people actually doing the yoga moves.  I didn’t have a headache or feel light headed, which is what usually happens when I get dehydrated when working out.  But the pins and needles were feeling more and more like numbness and it was now my whole body, not just my legs.  I motioned to the instructor that I was going to leave.  He came over and said it was almost done, and that what I was feeling was good for me and I should try to stay in the room, so I did.  But only for a few more minutes.  I felt myself overcome with emotion and realized I was fighting off tears.  I left the room.

I was having trouble walking and used the wall to assist me out of the room.  When I got into the reception area, I sat on a chair and realized my entire body was completely numb.  There was another instructor there and she asked if I was ok.  I attempted to speak, but even my lips were numb, and I spoke a few words, with an extreme lisp.  She got me some coconut water (think healthy alternative to Gatorade).  I drank a little.  I noticed all my fingers were pointing, straight out.  I could barely bend them.  Now I was getting very concerned.  This was nothing like any dehydration I’d experienced in my life.

The woman (instructor) asked me to lay on the floor.  It was hard for me to straighten my legs and I noticed my feet were fully flexed.  All my muscles felt like they were contracting.  I admit at this point I started to panic.  I tried asking her if this had ever happened to anyone, but it was hard to speak.  I wasn’t hyperventilating, but was starting to breathe heavy.  She asked if I wanted her to call 911 and I said yes because now I was thinking I was having a stroke. I am 38 and not very fit.  I have always had good checkups, no high blood pressure or anything like that, but I felt horrible at that moment.

When the ambulance arrived, I tried to explain to them how I felt.  It is best compared to when you fall asleep on your hand and you wake up and realize your hand is completely dead weight.  You usually use your other hand to start to ‘wake’ it up.  It goes from numb to pins and needles and sometimes some pain.  Then it wakes up, but still feels a little numb.  That is how my body was feeling.

The medic guy (very cute btw) asked me what I’d eaten today.  Oatmeal.  with walnuts.  and a bottle of water and a cup of coffee.  um, yeah, that was it.  Apparently you should eat and drink a lot more before taking a hot yoga class.  They put a sensor thing on my finger and pricked another finger for a blood sugar test.  They put little electrodes on me and I guess that must have been for my heart.  They took my blood pressure.  All this time I was apologizing and trying to get the feeling back in my fingers.

After getting the results, they told me it was possible it was a panic attack.  I told them I was ok with that being the diagnosis, but that I was sure I didn’t start panicking until my body was numb and I had trouble speaking.  We decided to go the hospital.  By the way, this was my first (and hopefully last) trip in an ambulance.  By the time we got to the hospital, my speech had improved.

Everyone was so nice.  The EMT guys, the hospital staff, the doctor.  I kept wishing everyone Merry Christmas.  I felt like it was my fault they were working on the holiday, even though that was total craziness.  They took blood, hooked me up to stuff, gave me fluids, all the things you see on TV medical programs.  I felt weak, but for the most part, I did feel much better.  They asked me to stay there while we waited for the various tests results.  As I expected at that point, everything was normal.  The doctor said in that kind of heat, blood vessels constrict (or something like that).  I’ve since looked this up on webmd and, although I can’t find anything that specifically explains the whole scale of symptoms I experienced, I did find this:

Prolonged or intense exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses. As your body works to cool itself under extreme or prolonged heat, blood rushes to the surface of your skin.  As a result, less blood reaches your brain, muscles, and other organs. This can interfere with both your physical strength and your mental capacity, leading, in some cases, to serious danger.

So anyway, after a couple hours (which I spent watching Return of the Jedi on the TV in my room), I was released and had to take a cab to get my car which was still at the yoga studio.  While awaiting the test results, the woman instructor that had tried to help me in the reception area called me to see if I was ok.  That was nice.  She told me next time I should eat more, drink more and… who am I kidding, there is not likely to be a next time anytime soon.  I’ll stick with my regular yoga classes and skip the heat for now.

To be honest, I am really not sure what exactly happened today, and as I continue to search the world wide web for anything about full body numbness after Bikram yoga, I’m trying to decide how I’ll top this for Christmas next year.

Merry Christmas!

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Recognizing 10 Years Thu, 25 Feb 2010 14:14:38 +0000

This Sunday (2/28/10) is my 10 year anniversary with Gannett Co.  I am amazed at how that time has flown by.   I have flashes of the jobs I held before Gannett (and there were a few), but I feel my career really began to take shape while at Gannett.

In the decade I’ve worked here, my positions have ranged from IT Manager to Project Manager to Content Manager (and a few others thrown in there), but I’ve always had the same common goal, making a difference.  I spent the largest span of my time with USA WEEKEND (~6 years)  and each year created new workflows, implemented new policies, rolled out new applications and systems (some custom-built by me) and changed the game there.   The multiple shiny glass trophies and awards on my shelf remind me every day that I did that.  But I remember the simple emails saying ‘thank you for your help today, you were a life saver’ meant more to me than anything else.

In my time at USA TODAY I worked as a telecommuter out of my new home office in Las Vegas.  I had a few projects to keep me busy, but my main goal was to help seamlessly move some of USA WEEKEND’s systems and processes over to USA TODAY’s for consolidation and more importantly an improved support  structure.  The thank you emails were fewer and farther between, but came occasionally.  This job was more about helping people without them realizing they were being helped.  That’s a bit trickier.  Promising that uprooting their day-to-day workflow would eventually lead to a more streamlined process and that, in the end, they’d be happier and more productive… well, not everyone believes you.  I think the folks at USA TODAY were glad for me being there, if for nothing else, they didn’t want to have to learn all of USA WEEKEND’s nuances to be able to figure out where synergies existed.  That job was not as personally rewarding, but incredibly necessary and I was glad to be able to make a difference.

Currently I am with Gannett’s new ContentOne initiative.  My main focus is in social media.  I have other content related projects, but my passion really lies in helping Gannett’s 80+ newspapers and 20+ TV stations navigate the social media waters.  I have talked about this before here on this blog and on my ‘Jodi is Social‘ blog, so I don’t need to go into the nitty-gritty.  Times are different, and the shiny glass trophies are a thing of the past, and that is ok.  I received an email yesterday that I have printed and placed on the shelf next to my 2001 President’s Award.  The email was from someone at one of our newspapers and simply said:

“I just wanted to say thanks for being so enthusiastic and encouraging all the time. You have a knack for bringing the right people together at the right time, and it doesn’t go unnoticed out here in the local markets. I hope people tell you that often.”

Receiving that, on the week of my 10 year anniversary- well- who needs an anniversary gold watch anyway!

Thank You image courtesy of flickr (creative commons) user Fenng.

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