Visualizing Good Writing

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I once knew an architecture student who was assigned a project where she was to visually represent a movie with an architectural model. The resulting sculptures were fascinating to say the least. I began to wonder if movies that I liked would look similar in this static form of 3D rendering. Would movies I didn’t like look different?

example of architectural model of film structure

architectural model of “Twin Peaks” by Beth Warner, circa 1996

For example, two movies I love that (on outward glance) don’t appear to have that much in common are Star Wars (Ep 4: A New Hope) and The Princess Bride. However, I don’t like Star Wars (Ep 1: The Phantom Menace). Would an this kind of analysis and construction of a three dimensional, static, architectural model actually show that, despite the similarities in name, Star Wars/A New Hope actually has more in common with the Princess Bride than it does with Star Wars/Phantom Menace?

Indeed! If you look at the structure of Phantom Menace, strictly from a time/scene standpoint, for example, clearly the pod-racer scene takes up more than one third of the total time of the movie. In our architectural model, this might look like one gigantic room, overwhelmingly unbalancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the structure.

Would the models of The Princess Bride and A New Hope appear more balanced? What other similarities would exist in there visualized structures? What other ways are there to visually represent the abstract concept of a story through a three dimensional architectural model? Is it possible to identify well-constructed movies by looking only at the models produced, without actually seeing the movie? Does this hold true for good writing as well as film making?

As writers, how can we apply this concept to our work?

Conceptually visualize your work as a three dimensional space. Sketch it out on the back of a napkin, if that helps you. By looking at it in another way, it can help keep you focused on always creating balanced, engaging writing that is a pleasure for your audience.

Hello 2013, Hello New Website

Thanks for reading! After many happy years of hosting my at blogspot, I am refreshing things a bit for 2013. I’ve got a new url here at, and a new wordpress-based blog site to enjoy.

Please let me know what you think of the new experience and remember to update any RSS or email subscriptions you have.

Merry Xmas: 2013 Calendar download

In addition to spending some well-deserved quality time with my family at home this holiday season, I have finally had enough free time create a new 2013 calendar to share with my friends and family. A tradition of mine since 2005, I have been too busy in recent years to compile my favorite photographs and design the custom calendar layout. I’m so pleased to resurrect this one of my favorite holiday traditions this year!

My 2013 edition shamelessly features my daughter, Helena Rose throughout, so it is sure to bring a smile to your (or at least mine) face everyday.

Lena Rose 2013 Calendar (pdf – 44 MB)

(All images are the sole property of me. Do not sell or reproduce without permission. Printing for personal use is permitted.)

Goodbye Sage, Looking for Opportunities

Due to organizational restructuring at Sage Software, my position as Product Marketing Manager has been eliminated. I’m looking for new opportunities for full-time employment, or project-based contract work. If you know anyone looking for a product manager/evangelist, positioning expert, and data scientist with a focus on technology solutions for nonprofit, small business, or government organizations, please visit my LinkedIn profile.

Party Mode = Crowd-source Event Pics

Recently, I waxed philosophical about certain demographics’ adoption of Google+ and how it drives participation and content there. Another great example of how Google is implementing content driving services to their new G+ adopters is the crowd-sourcing photography feature, Party Mode. Basically, Party Mode enables smartphones to automatically upload any photos or videos taken during an event to the Google Event, sharing them with other attendees in real time.

What a great feature! Live, real-time photo sharing?! There are vendors charging an arm and leg to provide this kind of service, including hardware and complicated infrastructure set ups. However, by capitalizing on the phenomenal growth of the BYOD (bring your own device) craze and the ubiquity of high-speed data network access (4G, LTE, etc) for smartphones, groups of any size can crowd-source party pics!

There are unlimited possibilities for nonprofit organizations and special event managers to use this free functionality:

  • Stream photos from the Event page on a big screen
  • Devise photo “scavenger hunts” to drive participation (eg, a couple dancing, group shot of your table, self-portrait)
  • Provide props to boost creativity. (eg, silly hats, mustaches on sticks) Make it fun.
  • Schedule a photo “flash mob” time, when everyone takes a photo at the same time. Got an MC? Have them call it out. “Everyone smile!”
  • Silent Auction: Post photos of items with recent bids. Consider assigning a volunteer to do this rather than the bidders themselves.
  • Too busy at the event itself? Encourage participants to upload their photos “after the fact” when they get home.
  • Honor your best photographers with acknowledgements, praise, and prizes 
  • Share photos in event follow-up communications. Don’t forget to include a call to action!

If you want to try this at your event, start by setting up your event in Google+ and inviting attendees. Provide instructions to attendees when they get there: Log into G+, Join Event, Enable Party Mode. If attendees have already joined the event on Google+ and have a Droid smartphone, the event will already be on their calendar and (depending on settings) they will receive automatic notification to start Party Mode at the start time of the Event. (Bonus! = You don’t have to do a thing!) For other attendees, consider providing a 2D bar code (QR code, MS tag) that links to the Event page itself, so they can join too without having to search for it.

Screenshot of Google Event example with 4 contributing photographers in Party Mode

G+ finds its audience! And it’s not who you think.

My husband never joined the infamous Book of Face… and now he never will.

At first, he was just being contrary; he actively avoided doing what everybody else was doing. But after a while, I think he was just intimidated. The thought of managing the flood of all those friend requests was too daunting and so he avoided the unpleasantness altogether.

Now, he has finally initiated himself into the ranks of social networking–without the Facebook baggage. And he’s not the only one of my friends to do so. I now have several friends in G+ who are not anywhere else. They are all male, thirty-something and have families.

I’m sure Google wanted entrepreneurial, tech savvy Millennials to flock to their new social network, and we did at first, but then we never really engaged there. Who Google is actually attracting and getting engagement from are thirty-somethings: fathers, busy with kids, who have never joined a social network before. This means that techies like me now have to update multiple social networks if I want all of my friends and connections to see my pictures, posts, and event invites.

My husband on G+

What a great opportunity for Google! They have at their fingertips a brand new audience as yet untapped by social media marketers. This demographic is ripe for opportunities for marketers of all types–sports, food & beverage, entertainment, news & weather.

G+ has won in 2 ways: Not only to they get a brand new, untapped audience of thirty-something men with little exposure to existing social networks, but they also get the tech savvy mom who just wants to see the cute pictures of daughter that dad is sharing from his ‘Droid…

Stacy Dyer on G+

What ever happened to full service gas stations?

Octane options in west TX

First, let me say that as an open-road loving, completely car-dependent American, I have been pumping my own gas since I was 16. I’m not the squeamish type or afraid to get my hands dirty.

But whatever happened to full service gas stations? While popping my own hood and adding a quart of 10W-30 is a great learning experience for my daughter to watch me do, it’s not quite how I’d like to spend my morning when I’m already dressed for work. What I wouldn’t have given for just one full-service gas station anywhere on my commute!

Mornings like these make me think of the “old” ways when service wasn’t a four-letter at the gas station. But is it really an “old” idea to crave a deeper interaction with the company with which you do business?

In an age where exceptional customer service, rather than the product itself, is the key differentiator for so many companies, why are sellers expecting consumers to be more and more self-service?

While it may have started in the highly price-sensitive, highly commoditized market of filling stations, my missing gas jockey isn’t the only disappearing dinosaur. Consumers are being completely self-provisioned even in traditional, brick-and-mortar stores. I have often used the expeditious self-checkout at the grocery store and innovative retailers, such as Apple, are working hard to ensure I don’t even need to wait in that line. With a smartphone and the right app, customers can scan and pay and walk out without speaking to an employee or touching a single piece of store equipment.

Somehow, in the race to “cloud-ify” the purchase/transaction experience, companies have lost sight of how to authentically connect with customers. The benefits of this strategy, particularly during busy, holiday shopping times, are obvious. But how does it affect customers?

I rely on the expertise of knowledgeable staff to help me choose the right product and help me use it the right way. At the gas station, that’s someone to check my oil and tire pressure as well as pump my gas, if I want it. At the grocery store, a balloon for my toddler and a few free samples would do the trick. Savvy consumers are willing to pay premium prices for premium experiences.

Rather than an anonymous, self-serve self-checkout where consumers are completely disconnected from the brand, companies who want to succeed should focus on creating added value around their services, connecting with their customers, and providing an experience that exceeds their customers’ expectations. Seriously, if there’s a pretty girl in a skirt and heels on her way to work – show some southern hospitality and have staff to pump her gas for her!

Increase Your Donations through Audience Segmentation

This article originally appears on the blog.

Increase Your Donations through Audience Segmentation

By Stacy Dyer

Audience segmentation is something businesses figured out a long time ago. To get an idea of why segmenting your audience data is so important, watch this video about Star Trek Red Shirt Death Rates with Matt Bailey:

OK, so you’re not trying to survive the next away mission (maybe you are, but that’s a different article), still there’s a few key points to learn from this example.

  1. Different people are motivated by different things
  2. People are more likely to do what you want when your message resonates with their individual perspective
  3. Tailor your message to connect with that perspective

Let me give you an example of what this means for nonprofit fundraisers.

Pretend you run an animal welfare organization. You have both myself and my husband in your database because we both animals. But there is a key difference in our perspectives. (You happen to track this key detail in your CRM because you are a rock-star fundraiser!) What is it?

I am a cat person.

My husband is a dog person.

Now you want to send us each an email asking to give to your annual fund.

To me, your appeal features a picture of a sweet, fuzzy kitten. I am more likely to connect emotionally with your message and click to go to your donation form.  There, I see a picture of another cute kitten. Now I know I am in the right place! You are bunch of kitten-loving fools and of course I am going to support you!

To my husband, you send the same appeal, but feature an image of a dog instead. He sees your adorable puppy face and raises you another donation!

What happened here? It was the same campaign, the same message, and you doubled your responses (and donations) just by segmenting your audience.  By targeting each segment with an email and landing page specifically designed to create an emotional connection with them, you were able to tap into sources of support which you would not have otherwise.

That is the power of segmentation.

One message doesn’t work for everyone. Identify what key attributes differentiate your audience and target campaigns to emotionally connect with each segment of your donor base.

Summer Acts at the City Theatre

I am technical director (and stage manager, and marketing director, and photographer, and lighting designer…) for the Polish Thespian Project production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure as part of the Summer Acts! festival at City Theatre in Austin, Texas.

Robert Stevens and Martinique Duchene-Phillips star in Measure for MeasureJustice meets mercy and virtue encounters vice in Shakespeare’s probing dark comedy. The Duke leaves his puritanical Deputy Angelo in charge, hoping he will rid the city of corruption. Though Angelo enforces the law, he becomes entangled in a web of lies when he is attracted to a young novice pleading for the life of her condemned brother. The bard masterfully restores order and even creates a happy ending.

Please come out and see our show! The festival runs July 5 -15th.
Show times for Measure for Measure are:
FR6@7, SA7@6, SU8@6, WE11@7, TH12@7, SU15@4

For ticket information, please visit the Polish Thespian Project on Facebook.


4 Results from Crowdsource Experiment at #12NTC: Nerd, Geek and Gear Herding

This article originally appeared on the blog.

4 Results from Crowdsource Experiment at #12NTC: Nerd, Geek and Gear Herding

By Grant Howe and Stacy Dyer

At the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference (#12NTC) in San Francisco, California, we led a session called Nerd, Geek, and Gear Herding 2.0. Building on last year’s session, we were pleased that this year we had the opportunity to introduce the “crowdsourcing” experiment to collectively solve our nonprofit technology problems.

#1: Bridge Communication Gaps
Our first “crowdsourced” dilemma asked how to deal with a strong technologist who is working towards the right goals, but struggles with communication style. The importance of resolving the communications issues vs. insulating the technologist from communications was discussed. Solutions included bridging communication style gaps with coaching and buffering systems. Appropriately timed conversations can provide focus–sometimes geeks don’t like to be interrupted!

#2: Managing Without Authority
Second, we talked tips for managing without authority, such as project managing a cross functional team and getting buy-in from executives or board leadership. Here the crowd agreed you need to offer solutions, not just bring problems. Also, face-to-face communication is better than email to build trust.

#3: When It Ain’t Broke
Third, we talked about some of the implication to being “too good” at your job. When the server hardly ever crashes (because you’ve moved your IT infrastructure to the cloud), how do you get buy-in for incremental improvements? The key is to leverage technology and technical personnel as trainers and thought leaders within your organization. Raise the visibility of high-tech projects and people.

#4: Newbies Welcome
Finally, the “crowd” offered tips for making valuable, newly hired technical staff feel welcome. Tips included having all the resources they need (eg, desk, email, paperwork) ready to go. A welcome sign, snacks and a drinking cup as a gift was discussed as a high impact / low cost way to make them comfortable.  Invite the new employee to a welcome lunch with staff they will need to work with on a regular basis. Have them pass out treats as way to introduce them to other staff around the office.

Overall, our first “crowdsource” was a great success! If you have other tips or suggestions, please add them to the comments here! Thanks again for another great conference and we look forward to continuing our “experiment” again next year!

Grant Howe and Stacy Dyer presenting at 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Fransisco