The Overall Effect Is Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts

Somehow I have gotten on an “Internet marketing guru’s” email distribution list. I typically just archive the notes without reading them, but for some reason (I think because it came in on my Blackberry) I read the latest one.

It was touting a free “telesummit” which is a fancy word for a conference call. It was arranged like a conference agenda, with a series of speakers. Each speaker had clearly thought deeply about how he wanted to portray himself and what take-aways the audience could expect. Even though the subject is not my thing, I could see how someone might get something out of each specific session.

But add them up and the effect was dramatic. After this conference call, I will have learned:

  • 9 “step-by-step” methods for something
  • 12 “keys” to other things
  • 13 methods, processes, or strategies
  • Two “ways”
  • Two “myths”
  • Two “secrets”

This is an interesting and important thing to remember: When building agendas, the overall effect is often less than the sum of the parts.

Just something to keep in mind when making plans. There needs to be a coordinating force.

I have recreated the agenda below:

Agenda by Flickr user Dinocom
"Agenda" by Flickr user Dinocom

How to Exploit the Power of Free Giveaway Events to Generate Hundreds and Even Thousands of Hungry Leads

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Powerful Methods of Using the Internet to Automatically Generate a Flood of Qualified Leads With Little to No Experience

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See what I mean?

A Day In The Life Of A Real Reporter

My friend Adam Pagnucco, who writes the indispensable Maryland Politics Watch, scored a coup last week as Kathleen Miller, a real-live “msm” reporter, agreed to describe a day in the life of a reporter in five installments.

People often hold a number of assumptions about journalists, including:

  • They only like to cover negative news
  • They are not thoughtful about the consequences of how they report
  • They only care about getting the story
  • They are in collusion
  • They purposefully kill stories that would expose high-level corporate wrongdoing

This excellent series, which had me riveted, puts the lie to all of that.

One passage in particular moved me. Kathleen discusses the controversy that ensued when an editor proposed that reporters start inserting their own voice into stories when they know that something that a source says is untrue. This is a deeper question than you might think — there are strong journalistic norms of staying out of stories. This discussion is quite thoughtful:

It’s an interesting concept. I think it’s both smart and dangerous. If you’ve covered an administration or an issue for years like [the editor] or many of his team, you are probably an expert in your own right and deserve the power to call it like you see it.

You can’t use that style every day, in every story or on every topic, however, or you risk editorializing. There are some topics – for me, environmental policy – where at this stage of the game, I have no business calling BS or cutting through the clutter. I’m too green, (yikes – pun unintended) to take on that role. In others, like local immigration policy or WSSC drama, I feel like I’ve been in the weeds enough to cut through the crap on occasion.

I urge you to read the entire series here.

Are They Joking? Does It Matter?

I can’t tell if they are mocking me, poking good-natured fun, or are serious.

Back in April, I recorded a video that outlined my note-taking strategy. Over the years, lots of people have commented on it in meetings and have been curious about how it works. I’ve got the video embedded down at the end of this article.

The basic idea is to draw a box in the upper right of your notes pages, in which you put key ideas. The important thing is to think ahead of time about your purpose for taking the notes so you know — during the meeting — what to record.

But now, three months later, Last night I noticed this odd flurry of comments on the video. They are a strange mix of praise, jest, and sarcasm:

Thank you very much! This system has really expanded my post-meeting analysis. I’ve also expanded on your technique by adding an extra box in the lower left hand corner to record random thoughts unrelated to the subject of my meetings (such as what others are wearing or the types of pens they use, etc). Though somewhat recently I’ve been considering using a rhombus because my style of note analysis may be described as oblong or semi-circular. What are your thoughts on other shapes?


I think we would get along well because I use graph paper too! Do you ever doodle when you take notes? I confine myself to the lines of the paper, so my doodling comes out looking like something made on an etch a sketch.


thanks! now i can tell if somebody is a virgin or not just by looking at his notes!!!

Yes, I get that they are making fun of me. It’s just the all-over-the-map tone is sort of interesting to me. I kind of like it. Lately I have been getting a bunch of quite nasty comments on Rockville Central, the local blog I run, and these comments are pretty fun and refreshing.

The thing is, if I squint a bit, I can see how that “rhombus” comment might be meant in earnest.. And if that is true, then what about the others?

Anyway, I am just glad some folks found the video again! (It’s one of my more-viewed videos; people seem to come back to it every few weeks.)

Organizing Your Institution To Engage Through Social Media

I’ve got a conversation in a bit with some folks to talk about using social media in an institutional setting. The organization sees itself as a neophyte when it comes to social media, and is a little timid about going whole-hog.

I think that pretty much describes most larger institutions (and some small ones).

In preaparation for the conversation, I cut this video to get a point across to my colleagues and jump start our conversation. I thought it might be interesting to you, too:

The focus of the video is not on actually using social media. I believe that the key thing many institutions need to think about is how to organize their work to best engage with social media. Many institutions are poorly structured to do that.

The good news is that structuring your content creation and communications properly really just involves streamlining what you do and collecting all content into one stream that you can then pull from.

There’s lots more detail in the video (and I apologize that at some points the audio and video get slightly out of sync, grr) but that’s the basic idea.

Please add your own thoughts in the comments!

So Dreadfull A Judgment

Last weekend my band, The West End, played a show and in the midst of it I had just the best feeling. I looked out at the audience and saw that everyone was paying attention, listening to the music. They weren’t distracted by the ball game behind the bar, weren’t playing Liar’s Poker, weren’t embroiled in some animated conversation. They were just listening.

As a performer of original music, I can tell you there is no better feeling.

What’s more, the song we were playing is one of our more . . . unconventional . . . songs. It’s got this beat that’s sort of a cross between a shuffle and a carnival calliope.

The topic is even more unconventional. It’s based on the account of Mary Rowlandson, who was taken captive by Indians during the bloodiest war in North America — King Phillip’s War in the late 17th century. Her tract, titled  “The Narrative of the Captivity and the Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” and collected in the scholarly work So Dreadfull A Judgment, became the archetype of a new form of American writing called the captivity narrative.

At the Rockville Wine and Music Festival
At the Rockville Wine and Music Festival

Ever since I discovered them, I have been fascinated by captivity narratives. Puritans saw events in the world as signs of God’s pleasure or displeasure with their amount of piety, and the captivity narratives always have a heavy philosophical underpinning of judgment and retribution. (The scholarly book’s title is taken from a sermon at the time that referred to the War itself as a “dreadfull” judgment.)

So one day I thought I would write a song about this one, taking events, words and phrases from Rowlandson’s own work. And this is the song where I noticed that people seemed to be paying attention. Were they really? I don’t know for sure, but it felt like they were!

I thought, therefore, you might be interested in seeing the lyrics to my captivity narrative song (if you want to hear it, you can listen on my band’s Facebook page).

So Dreadfull A Judgment, by Brad Rourke
Was the tenth of February 1675
King Philip's men they came and they left few of us alive
At length they fell descending on us like a devil's claw
It was the dolefullest day my eyes ever saw

Captured, I was taken left for dead
So dreadful a judgment on our heads
Go or stay they finally made me choose
Now I've returned to spread the news

Eight days come and gone and my baby passed away
That little lamb left me but she didn’t go away
I laid all night beside my darling precious little one
The next day saw my Mary who’d been traded for a gun

Captured, I was taken left for dead
So dreadful a judgment on our heads
They herded me from camp to camp for days
Sold and sold again and sold away

Providence reversed and at last they sent me home
After full a year among the savages alone
But to this day, I recall a woman with some meat
A piece of bear, a boiling pot, good enough to eat

Captured, I was taken left for dead
So dreadful a judgment on our heads
Our punishment is waiting in the hills
He’ll hurl them at our arrogance and will

Note: The photo is from an outdoor festival we played some time ago. I don’t have any photos from this weekend yet. If you are reading this and happened to be there, and happened to snap a photo or two, let me know!