The Joys of X-Files

Long before there were reality show blow-by-blows, Television Without Pity and even Mighty Big TV, I was recapping “The X-Files” for friends and co-conspirators. I called this little email “X-Files News in Brief” after a newsletter I wrote for Levi’s. With “The X-Files” returning for a six-episode run Jan. 24, I thought I’d dust off this ditty I wrote in 2002, when the show departed the airwaves. At the very least, it will catch you up in time for Sunday’s reboot. (Material not suitable for work.)

THE VERY LAST X-FILES NEWS IN BRIEF*
*At least until the next movie comes out. . .

Yes, gentle readers, “The X-Files” has arrived at the end of its network run. . .As Marita Covarrubias once told Mulder, “Not everything dies.” And so, “The X-Files” will live on in the hearts of fans, in nightly reruns, and soon as a major motion picture franchise, despite Gillian’s insistence that she can’t imagine playing Dana Scully as a senior citizen. Wheelchairs and flashlights? We’ll be there in the first row!. . .To borrow Ten Thirteen’s motto, “I made this” – with a little inspiration from Longfellow’s “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”. . .Hope it recalls your favorite episodes and highlights the joys of X. . .

A FAREWELL ODE TO “THE X-FILES”

Listen, dear ‘Filers, and you shall grock

This farewell ode to Dana and Fox.

On the tenth of September in Ninety-three,

“The X-Files” debuted on network TV.

Aliens, monsters, paranormal shocks,

Not the usual fare of the idiot box.

 

No one would call you a Girly Girl,

Inhabiting this nightmarish world.

For nine long years you’ve endured such a fright

From freaks ‘n’ geeks that go bump in the night,

Red-eyed mothmen lurking under the bed;

Burger-flippers devouring brains from a head!

Flying saucers that can scorch you into a French fry,

And Flukey and Faster and Tooms, oh my!

 

Fans loved Fox Mulder’s punning reflex,

And watching Wonderbra’d Scully snap on the latex.

But the real truth is, the show made a spark,

From Episode One to Season Number Nine,

With the paranoid thrills the mythology arc

Sent up and down your tingling spine.

Delving into paranoid conspiracy

‘Twas like swimming in porridge;

Each time they solved a mystery,

The government denied knowledge.

 

Down in the basement, Scully met Spooky.

From the first, we knew, she found him quite kooky.

His fringe theories she’d been asked to debunk,

To separate pure science from Fox’s space junk.

But the skeptical redhead began to waver

The night foxy Mulder dashed in to save her

From a yellow-eyed mutant intent on her liver,

Eugene’s cuisine made everyone shiver.

 

Flashlights in hand, off the partners went

To uncover the Litchfield Experiment.

And reveal the secrets of a fallen UFO,

After Deep Throat put them in the know.

Soon doubting Dana no longer had to ask,

Why the paranormal was part of their task.

Her handsome partner was quickly besot,

Like Frohike, he found Scully white hot!

Scully wasn’t Melvin’s only obsession,

Sneezy had dibs on Mulder’s porno collection.

 

With one peek into the Erlenmeyer Flask,

The enemy slowly lifted its mask.

A cunning conspiracy soon laid bare,

The agents knew The Truth is Out There.

 

Season Two saw the X-Files down for the count,

Till Krycek led Fox up to Skyland Mount.

There Duane Barry arranged Dana’s abduction,

Staged to look like an EBE production.

Upon Scully’s return,

The agents would learn

Aliens were here, we had plenty to fear.

The date set for colonization,

Humanity due for extermination.

 

The shows were on fire, the tension got hotter,

Chris Carter certainly was a master plotter.

Though, our favorite outings this sophomore year,

Were the ones about monsters, not alien fear.

Chaco Chicken and Flukeman and “Humbug” were great

And left us wondering, Was it something we ate?

Darin Morgan’s first script turned X into Felini

And then there was Mulder’s itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny red hot Speedo bikini.

 

Season Two ended with a fiery jar,

Mulder stranded in burning boxcar.

Cancer Man lit the fuse, that devilish bomber,

And left us pondering for the rest of the summer,

Whether Mulder’s life he’d managed to erase,

But then, nothing on X-Files disappears without a trace.

 

The black-lunged bastard was in for a surprise,

Killing Agent Mulder doesn’t mean he dies.

Back on the case, Scully in tow,

The most venal man you will ever know

Tipped the special agents where to go.

A dank, dark place with lots and lots of files,

A mine shaft that went on for miles and miles.

It seemed the government had its own plan:

How to survive when shit hit the fan.

 

A new threat arose from the bottomless sea,

Hidden in oil the color of tea.

Mulder escaped the Syndicate’s snare,

Avoiding the fate that was Alex’s share.

The alien plot, Krycek sought to expose,

But spoiler was foiled, oil poured from his nose.

 

Season Three really began to hum,

When Dana and Fox met Jose Chung,

And learned the score from one Clyde Bruckman

That Mulder would die from autoerotic asphyxiation.

How ‘bout those cases of troubled teens?

One rained down lightning on those who were mean.

Two girls who knew how to Carpe P.M.,

A Ronin who sought victims to condemn.

Pusher used his thoughts to control the brain

Scully didn’t believe—her constant refrain—

Cerulean Blue may be like a gentle breeze,

But it ain’t no fun, when your partner has a gun

And he tells you to freeze.

 

The new season shed nary a light

Upon our agents’ perilous fight.

Their latest cases, frankly, were macabre,

Tracking goat-sucking fiends called Chupacabra,

Rattling incestuous rednecks out of their beds,

Searching for Leonard, or one of his heads.

 

In Year Four, we learned little more

About the oily fiend

Slithering onto the scene,

While Russians used Mulder to test their vaccine.

We watched Max’s demise on a wayward flight,

But Max wasn’t alone in deadly plight,

The scariest moment, we must suppose,

Was the cancer found up Scully’s nose.

 

When the curtain rose on Season Five,

Dana Scully was barely alive.

And what of Mulder’s ongoing quest?

A hoax, he was sure, now laid to rest.

No more would he believe in secret UFOs.

His mission: A cure for Scully’s repose.

 

The answer came from a place unexpected,

Cancer had grown when the chip disconnected.

With Dana returned to the fullness of health,

The partners resumed their ventures of stealth.

Trouble found them in a town full of vamps,

Who pulled up stakes on their trailer park camps.

 

Just when Mulder felt no more surprise,

There appeared new aliens without any eyes,

Immolating abductees, a fiery demise,

They seemed to be on a homicidal bender,

Until they encountered Cassandra Spender.

Scully escaped the funeral pyre,

To hear Mulder call her tale the words of a liar,

But soon Fox’s faith would begin to restore,

Once Krycek clued him to the alien war.

The final conundrum: To Resist or Serve?

Fox’s belief never again would swerve.

 

Even more queries the X-Files did raise,

When the agents looked into the case of Gibson Praise.

Was this kid a psychic chess prodigy,

Or Melvin Frohike’s “Mini-Me”?

Turns out the boy had alien DNA,

And so the Syndicate spirited him away.

But which double-dealer had the vaccine?

Would alien invaders discover the scheme?

Is the Syndicate on the side of humanity,

Or evil traitors on the verge of insanity?

Will Fox and Dana learn of the threat?

What do you think? Are we confused yet?

 

When the first reel of the movie unspooled,

The office was closed, the X-Files shut tight,

For our intrepid agents, things didn’t look bright.

But true believers know not to be fooled,

Soon Mulder and Scully would set things aright.

Scully went missing, locked in deep freeze,

While the Syndicate hatched a plot for its bees.

One sting from a hybridized pricker,

Implants a little alien kicker,

Turns an unsuspecting host into jelly,

While baby E.T. grows in its belly.

So Mulder flew to the fortress of ice,

To save dear Dana from evil device.

His reward for being so intrepid?

He finally got to see Dana nekkid.

Scully saw nothing, or so she swore,

Only Fox knew the truth of the alien spore.

 

When X-Files returned from its big-screen premiere,

Things in Hoover building grew even more weird.

Agents Fowley and Spender took over the cases,

Leaving Scully and Mulder in mighty strange places.

For the forces of truth, what could be worse?

Mulder and Scully now reported to Kersh.

With Kersh’s orders would Mulder comply?

Of course not! He spit in the A.D.’s eye.

He snuck under the radar and got into trouble,

When a Man in Black used a time-warp bubble

To become Fox Mulder’s body double.

Morris was sleazy, he macked on Scully,

Her reputation he seemed certain to sully.

Until the time-space warp wefted itself,

And Morris’s life went back on the shelf.

 

In a haunted house, on Christmas Eve,

Scully told Mulder she wanted to leave.

The halls were decked, the night a tradition

Instead the duo were sent to perdition

By suicidal ghosts with a ghastly pact.

But who shot whom? Will we ever know fact?

Was it simply Fox’s paramasturbatory fantasy?

Or murderous spirits in the mood for mystery?

 

Hot on the trail of two missing hikers,

Mulder went looking for little green strikers,

Only to be foiled by psychedelic fungus,

Not, as he thought, aliens among us.

 

Next, an artifact set Fox’s head a-dinging,

Now he was sure, aliens were ringing.

The cause was a chunk of E.T. debris,

Lost on the coast of an African sea,

A spaceship humming on unearthly frequency.

But what were the symbols carved on its skin?

Would Scully find a cure for Mulder within?

If Dana could solve the spacelings’ equation,

Perhaps they could stop the alien invasion!

 

After seven long years, finally an answer;

Fox discovers who really took Samantha.

His sister at peace, her soul among starlight,

Mulder decides to take up a new fight.

 

The latest clue sprang from the very first Files,

Involving the case of abductee Billy Miles.

The alien war has a new footsoldier,

Borne from the chip in young Bill’s shoulder.

The FBI is in on the deception,

But what has this to do with Scully’s conception?

 

Season Eight made us question, Who was the father?

By now, you may wonder, why did fans bother?

Mulder was gone, from this earth he’d been stolen

Only to return, in a condition quite swollen.

Could it be that the death knell had tolled?

Or, simply the way Duchovny acted his role?

 

John Doggett to the X-Files soon was appointed,

How would this play to the X-anointed?

Would fans accept Scully’s new man,

Or treat him as Fox’s also-ran?

Would he be true, or try to deceive her?

Did fans want Scully in the role of believer?

As the season wore down to its inevitable conclusion,

Doggett guarded Dana from creep and contusion.

He found a safe haven to deliver the child,

And kept a straight face in a plot run wild.

 

One thing about shows in the Eighth Season:

Not enough fun, far too much reason.

It left us yearning for Mulder’s puns,

And Darin Morgan’s earlier, funnier ones.

Doggbert kept up a season-long whine

That extended into Year Number Nine.

 

Here’s the story of the final season:

Alien invaders had Fox on the run.

A cover, in fact, for David’s departure

From cult-status show that made him a star.

Leaving John and Monica, our googly-eyed pair,

To investigate the Brady Bunch affair.

And bid adieu to the three Lone Gunmen

Whose heroic deaths stopped bio-Armageddon.

Oh, and there’s the matter of Scully’s son,

Sweet little psychokinetic baby William.

Were the sprite’s powers heaven-sent?

Or birthday gift from the secret government,

To save the world from alien invasion?

Most likely it’s another Carter evasion.

After a decade of clues, tricky to follow,

I hate to admit it, this plot’s too hard to swallow.

 

How will it end? What clues will they leave,

When “Endgame” airs this next Sunday eve?

Will the exit strategy spoil what we know,

For the faithful fans who’ve taped every show?

Fox and Dana deserve a heroes’ farewell,

Not a new rung on the circles of hell.

Will aliens lead us on another goose chase,

Followed by a movie sequel post-haste?

Little to go on, no spoiler to review,

Except for hints in last week’s preview.

One sign is good, should raise all our hopes,

That smiling assassin of night-time soaps,

Greg Sumner, it seems, has Fox on the ropes,

And takes him to task for his Grand Obsession.

X endangered again? Not out of the question.

We’ve watched in awe these last nine years,

Let’s hope the finale allays all our fears.

Whatever Chris Carter may have up his sleeve:

If the Truth is Out There, then I Want to Believe. . .

The Night Before X-Files

X-Files‘Twas the night before X-Files,

And all through the land

Not a creature was stirring,

not even Cancer Man.

 

The cases were filed in their file drawers with care,

In hopes the special agents soon would be there.

But Mulder and Scully were nestled all alone in their beds,

While visions of conspiracies danced in their heads.

 

The agents dreams swarmed with hybridized bees,

and an embrace that was really nothing more than a tease.

And the heroes we’d waited so long to see kiss?

Stung by a bee – postponing our bliss.

 

Barely a year before those same damn bees

Had Skinner scrubbing bathroom floors, down on his knees.

 

The greatest evil doing the duo sought to expose,

Involved Scully’s cancer, the one in her nose.

Then, there was the chip found lodged in her neck,

Which led Mulder to a boxcar and a fiery train wreck.

 

But, trains aren’t the only things that can crash.

A mysterious UFO turned an aircraft to ash.

Amongst the rubble was an old friend named Max,

but little to go on and even fewer facts.

 

It was like Mulder’s trip to the Bermuda triangle,

a foray to find some kind of angle.

But, all Mulder found was a Nazi’s fist,

and a Scully clone who socked him for giving her a kiss.

 

Southward the agents flew, to a factory for chicken,

A gory affair, certain to sicken.

The townspeople wore hideous masks, they wielded sabers,

and dined on a bilious stew made from their neighbors.

 

The next case involved vegetarians.

What a relief!

Til they found suspicious thugs poisoning local beef.

 

Next on our menu of hideous cuisines:

A motley crew of toad-licking teens.

And a monster living high on the hog,

making a meal of Scully’s accessory dog.

 

Then there were villains like Morris and Eddie,

a couple of losers who got to feel heady

When they took Agent Mulder’s body for a spin

and had far more fun than the body Fox was left in.

 

Now you might think these couplets simply a spoof,

But I tell you, I heard him, up on the roof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney Cancer Man came with a bound.

 

He was dressed all in grey from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.

The butt of a Morley he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.

 

His eyes, how they glared! his mouth, how scary!

The end of his cigarette lit up like a cherry!

A simmering menace! A life devoid of mirth,

This man who goes by the name of Raul Bloodworth.

 

He was sallow and smoky – a right bleeper, I said to myself,

And I shivered when I saw him, the evil old elf.

The menace in his eye, and the nod of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had something to dread.

 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And destroyed all the evidence, then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

 

He sprang to his fleet car, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle,

But I heard him exclaim, e’re he drove out of sight,

“Happy X-Files to all, and to all a good night!”

It’s Not Always Who You Know

Who You Know_NBLDiscussing subject-matter experts today – employees we’ll rely on to bring the knowledge to new business process design for a change project – and a familiar set of names pings around the office.

This is a good thing because subject-matter experts, or SMEs, who are already actively involved can jump right in and share their wisdom.

But, it can also be a not-so-great thing when we go with who we know and forget to consider a broader and more fully representative swath of experts. Why do we default to our familiars?

We think it will take too much time to get newcomers up to speed. Harder to admit: We don’t know stakeholders well enough.

Here’s the thing: Taking the time, during this early project stage, is always worth the effort:

  • It ensures we’re not missing key details.
  • It provides greater credibility for the project when more areas of the business are represented.
  • It saves us endless amounts of time in later stages, trying to create awareness and gain traction and support.
  • It builds a sense of ownership, which breeds natural ambassadors for the project.
  • It’s the right thing to do.

Bottom line: Get to know as wide a group of stakeholders as possible, and you’ll have a built-in group of supporters who’ll do more than cheerlead – they’ll make sure you succeed.

A Little Serendipity with Your Reading

Night FilmMy hometown library posted this serendipitous game for readers:

  • Grab the book you’re currently reading
  • Turn to page 52
  • Share the 5th sentence in the comments

I’m currently reading Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Here’s the sentence, which I kinda love:

“Tea doesn’t make a dent in the man.”

What are you reading these days? And what’s happening on page 52?

Where It’s At with Location-based Apps

FourSquareWe’re at the point in the digital age where we make choices almost every day about how much personal stuff to share online.

Some struggle with this. We’re told by news media that Gen X doesn’t sweat it at all. I have several Baby Boomer pals and slightly younger friends who’re engaged in an internal wrestling match with themselves right now. They know the world has changed, and they’ve adapted to being online for work, but they can’t quite make the leap to placing life details out there – whether it’s joining Facebook or posting career history on LinkedIn.

I’ve been there myself. When I joined Twitter in 2011, I did so under a pseudonym. I considered it my “training wheel” Twitter account. And I resisted Facebook – long and hard. But I get it now. Being on Facebook, reading and interacting with messages and photos that friends have posted, and having folks respond to my posts…well, it takes using Facebook to feel comfortable with it.

Same thing all over again for location-based platforms, like Foursquare. Geolocation tools are typically apps you download to your phone and permission to <gulp!> access your exact current location.

Freaky, right? I mean, who needs a phone stalking you? Your own phone. One that you’ve allowed to stalk you.

A lot of women have said a big “No, thanks” to this kind of online interaction. When the makers of location-based apps survey potential users, the No. 1 obstacle to adoption is privacy.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Foursquare

Most of my close friends would be appalled to know I use Foursquare given my stance on privacy. Nevertheless, I’ve somehow become a Foursquare addict. How did this happen?

While I would never push anyone to use an online app or service that made them uncomfortable, here are a few thoughts from a relatively new user:

Just a Small Circle of Friends – The thing I didn’t understand about an app like Foursquare is that it’s a lot like Facebook. In other words, I have some choice about who I’m connected with and thus who sees when I check in at an event, restaurant or work. So far, I’m only sharing this information with 10 friends, far fewer than on Facebook or in my Google+ circles.

The Wider World – That said, when I check in somewhere – or score a mayorship – Foursquare does share that information more widely than my chosen friends. When I tap the Check-in tag, the app shows me how many other Foursquare users have checked in at the same location today, and I may even see their avatars (their photos and names). So, if a stranger wanted to find me, it’s not impossible. This makes it incumbent on me to be careful about the types of places I check in – always public, never at home – and to do so only when I’m comfortable sharing. It’d be highly unlikely you’d be singled out at an airport or concert check-in, where there are crowds of people. On the other hand, I get my mail at a retail mailbox service, and I never check in there.

The same is true when the app makes me “mayor” at a favorite restaurant – Foursquare shows me who I’ve ousted as mayor. Likewise, when I lose a mayorship, the app tells me who’s nabbed the office from me (and informs that person that I’m the one he or she has ousted).

On the other hand, I have control over whether I share my Foursquare check-in further afield, with social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

Coupons, Discounts and Freebies, Oh My – This is what really got me hooked. I checked in at the Getty Museum one sunny Saturday – my very first use of Foursquare at the Getty – and was rewarded with a first-timer’s discount at the museum store, good just for that day. The discount was tasty enough that I bought a photography book I wouldn’t have otherwise purchased. Now I wonder why more stores and restaurants aren’t offering discounts, incentives and engagement opportunities for their Foursquare fans.

Same As It Ever Was – When I access Foursquare, it zeroes in on my location and shows me a list of possibilities in the immediate area. For a creature of habit like me, this at first seemed silly, but even I tire of my habitude – hard to believe, I know – and the chance to experience an undiscovered gem of a restaurant or art gallery is more and more appealing.

It’s Got Game – Leveling up – earning points (and scoring higher than your friends) and badges and mayorships – is, yup, totally dorky. But, it’s designed to entice you to interact more often with the app, and it works. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be plotting how to win back my mayorship of Hollywood landmark Pink’s Hot Dogs now that I’m working 9-to-5 for a client and can’t pop in for lunch whenever I want.

Know Your Privacy Settings – If privacy is your utmost concern with digital assets, I highly recommend that you learn how the location-targeting function on your phone works and check to ensure your settings are where you want them each time your provider pushes a network update to your handset.

The Dating Game – Don’t use location-based apps for online dating. Unless you’re looking for a Mr. Goodbar-type encounter, there’s enough risk of people disguising their identities and their true intentions online. Many dating geolocation apps are designed to pinpoint when matches are in your immediate area. You need to vet strangers you meet online carefully and never agree to an in-person meeting without a friend or group accompanying you for safety’s sake.

For those in Los Angeles, who want to learn more about location-based apps and their use in marketing and social media, join the Social Media Club of Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 23, for an enlightening panel discussion, starting at 6:30 p.m. More information and RSVP here.

Mom Bloggers Are Transforming Everything from Marketing to Families

Mom blogs are as diverse as the mothers who write them and the parents who read them. With 3.9 million moms blogging in the United States alone, women have been some of the savviest early adopters of the platform. And they’ve taken to social media channels, like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, to further engage audiences and promote their blogs.

A sure sign of success, mom blogs have been courted by Madison Avenue (even though, “moms don’t put themselves into little demographic boxes the way that marketers do,” notes Elisa Camahort Page, COO at BlogHer. “They come from all walks of life.”) and they’ve even endured a short-lived backlash.

I wanted to explore the diversity of mom blogging and the experience of mom bloggers, so I talked with Camahort Page and two bloggers with very different approaches:

Ana Flores Spanglish Baby

Ana L. Flores, co-founder of the Spanglish Baby blog.

Ana L. Flores co-founded Spanglish Baby with her friend Roxana A. Soto after recognizing there were few online resources for parents who were passionate about raising bilingual and bicultural children. Since its launch in early 2009, Spanglish Baby, with its contributing experts, teachers and bloggers, has become a go-to online community for bilingual families (and not just the English- and Spanish-speaking ones). The blog has given birth to Flores’ and Soto’s first book, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America, which came out last fall.

Robin Kramer, owner of the Pink Dryer Lint blog.

Robin Kramer, owner of the Pink Dryer Lint blog.

Robin Kramer created her blog, the thoughtful, funny, touching Pink Dryer Lint, in 2010. With three daughters (and loads of laundry), she accumulates plenty of the stuff that gives her blog its title. By day, she teaches college public speaking and writing classes at Penn State University. She’s a first-time author, too. Then I Became a Mother was published in October by Byrne Publishing.

Elisa Camahort Page was especially helpful in framing the discussion of mom blogs. Camahort Page co-founded BlogHer in 2005, and it has grown into the largest community of women who blog, with 50 million unique visitors per month. BlogHer puts on the world’s largest conference for women in social media and hosts the BlogHer Publishing Network – 3,000+ blogs authored by women on every topic from politics to parenting.

Vickie: How would you describe the “State of the Mom-Blogosphere”?

Elisa Camahort Page, COO of BlogHer.

Elisa Camahort Page, COO of BlogHer.

Elisa: I think there is not one blogosphere, there are many. That’s the beauty of the blogosphere. For example, many of the moms who blog do so in relative obscurity, sharing their daily trials and joys, forming a tight-knit community with moms at similar stages, and more efficiently communicating with far-flung families.

However, it is also the beauty of the blogosphere that if you’re interested in professionalizing and leveraging the time you spend on your blog to contribute to your household income, there is an avenue to do that too. We’ve certainly seen that explode over the last five years. Whether monetizing their blogs or not, though, self-expression and forming community are still huge drivers for moms online, along with seeking and sharing advice and recommendations that will make their lives easier.

Flores’ blog is one of several part-time jobs. Kramer’s provided her with “an opportunity to establish a loyal readership and a platform from which I could launch my first book.” Kramer has decided for now “to not participate in product reviews or advertising. I don’t feel as if it aligns with my blog’s mission. It might be rare among mom bloggers.” Flores says she’s “slowly but surely started opening my eyes to the fact that blogging is actually a career path and has become what I do with my life.”

Vickie: Did the two of you always want to be writers?

Ana: Roxana, my partner on the site, is a writer; she trained as a journalist. I never considered myself to be a writer. I worked for 15 years in TV production, always focused on the Hispanic market. But I think, the more you blog, the more you hone your craft and gain confidence. I hear that a lot from bloggers – they didn’t consider themselves writers before they started their blogs.

Robin: I’ve written for as long as I can remember, and I have a shelf that holds all of the journals that I’ve filled over the years. Blogging has been an extension of this love for writing.

Vickie: What did you want to do with your blog when you started out?

Robin: I launched Pink Dryer Lint when my youngest of three daughters was only a month old. Essentially, my goal was to reach out to other women who also were in the trenches of the early years of motherhood. It’s easy for moms to feel isolated. That isolation can breed an unspoken shame that we’re the only one who struggles with the day-to-day demands of parenthood.

Even though my initial readership was small, women started writing to me and thanking me for the humor, transparency and encouragement that my posts offered. My goal always has been to write for my readers. By that, I mean that although I write about the particulars of my life with my kids, I do so in a way that invites my readers to see their own lives. Good writing is relatable.

Ana: I took a leave of absence from work after I had my daughter, and that’s when I discovered blogging. I was searching the Internet and wasn’t finding any information that spoke to me as a Latina mom: Where can I find bilingual books? What are the lyrics to nursery rhymes and songs – we call them nanas – my mom sang to me in El Salvador? Should I be speaking to my daughter in Spanish? What came up were blogs. There was a whole community of women out there, and I got inspired by them and realized I could actually do this.

We decided that Spanglish Baby needed to be in English because we wanted to reach the widest audience. Our readers are mostly second- and third-generation – they weren’t taught Spanish, but they understand it, and now that they’re raising children, they feel the culture is part of their identity. Plus, raising a bilingual (or trilingual) child applies to any language combination. We always say: We write in culture.

Vickie: There’s an astounding amount of diversity among mom bloggers – from attachment parenting moms to moms of color, moms raising children with illnesses, older moms, etc. Do you think this diversity is reflected across the entire blogosphere or is it specific to mom blogging?

Elisa: The blogosphere in general displays more diversity than the entire online universe, at least according to Pew. So it’s not specific to moms. If you remember that “self-expression” is a number one motivation to blog, it’s not hard to understand why groups that may not see themselves accurately represented in mainstream media or pop culture would gravitate to a medium where they can speak for themselves.

Vickie: When you began, did you develop plans for editorial, advertising and how your readers would interact with the blog? 

Robin: Originally, I didn’t know whether I’d have many readers, much less any plans for how I would handle requests for advertising or product reviews. As my readership grew, however, I had to assess the purpose of my blog. I wrote the mission statement, and I use it as my litmus test to guide the content that I post.

My contact page expressly states that I don’t currently participate in reviews or advertising, yet I still receive requests daily asking me to promote products.

Ana: We spent six months planning Spanglish Baby in the middle of the recession. I decided not to go back to work; it was really bad timing. I had no money. All I had was time. I read Problogger. We set a date, which was Feb. 9, 2009, and we launched with all of the categories – The Culture of Food, Books & Libros, Cultural Travel, etc. – populated with two posts each, so people could see we were serious. And we had two experts on board already. We wanted people to see we were professional content creators even though it was a new medium for us.

I created our first media kit five months in, with a lot of research and statistics, like how many kids under the age of 5 are Hispanic.

Vickie: What have been the biggest areas of interest for your readers? 

Robin: Regardless of the specific content of a post, readers respond to transparency and humor. Motherhood is challenging, but it’s also ripe with humor. When I write, I can be honest about the struggles while also drawing out the hilarity. There’s a lot of universal comedy in parenting. I want readers to laugh with understanding, realize they’re not alone, and leave Pink Dryer Lint feeling better than when they came.

Ana: We work with a panel of experts, which enables readers to send in questions. They get answered once a week, and they’re archived on the site. There’s so much information there. There are so many variables to families raising bilingual kids. Our readers appreciate finding an expert who’s gone through the same thing they’re going through.

Vickie: In light of the fact that “everything is out there forever” on the Internet, do you think privacy will become a big issue for mom bloggers and their families?

Elisa: Privacy and security are already issues for moms online, and it comes in several flavors. For example, many moms who blog begin evolving their blog content away from straight stories about parenting as their kids get older, because the kids become more aware of the blog, and the moms begin to feel these are their kids’ stories to tell, not just their own.

We see location-based apps being far less adopted by women because the creepy factor outweighs the benefits (thus far) offered by these apps. And let’s not ignore the fact that a lot of folks, not just moms, don’t really understand how they can control privacy settings on Facebook…and that’s not entirely by accident on Facebook’s part!

Ana: Our kids really enjoy being part of Spanglish Baby. We both use our kids’ names and pictures, but we also use common sense. Everything we share is in context to the topics we’re covering. We’ve never shared a story that would embarrass them. The moment that they tell us, Don’t blog about that, mom, we won’t.

Robin: My children are still young, but I’m highly aware that their stories will not always be mine to tell. I don’t think of my children as “content,” and I’m sensitive to not post anything that would be embarrassing or revealing.

Vickie: Which social media tools did you find the most helpful in promoting your blog when you started out? And how do you approach new platforms, like Pinterest?

Robin: Facebook was – and continues to be – the most helpful social media tool to promote Pink Dryer Lint. I also use Twitter (@PinkDryerLint) and Pinterest (robinkramer), especially in terms of pinning applicable posts to collaborative Pinterest Boards.

Admittedly, blogging is not a job for me, so I wasn’t focused on mastering new platforms when I began blogging. Still, I certainly have seen the benefits of creating a presence for my blog on sites such as Pinterest as a way to reach a broader audience.

Ana: Facebook and Twitter, all the way. Twitter (@spanglishbaby) helped us engage with other Latinos and other bloggers. So did commenting on other blogs.

I think it’s important to know your readers. For example, our readers are not flocking to Google+. I was one of the early adopters of Pinterest with a personal account, and I use Instagram for myself. My nature is to get an account as soon as I hear about it. But, I don’t have time to invest in social media tools the way I did when we started. It’s a huge investment of time, so I keep going back to Facebook and Twitter.

Vickie: Mom blogging has gone from “start-up” to professional in a half-decade. How do you see mom blogs evolving in the next five years?

Elisa: Yes, some mom bloggers have indeed professionalized. Some have not. And many get the best of both worlds. One of the reasons a lot of the moms in our BlogHer network enjoy working with us is that they get to focus on the writing and let us focus on the monetization. As long as they follow our pretty simple and aboveboard editorial guidelines, they’re free to tell the stories that matter most to them and their community.

The future is probably about expanding their ability to do so beyond their blog and its browser-based audience, but fortify how they can equally monetize their influence across social tools and when accessed on mobile devices. Right now, your blog is the one place you can control the content and control the monetization. But why does it have to be that way?

Vickie: What are the implications of the blogging platform enabling such a wide diversity of mom bloggers to engage with a much larger audience than they ever have been able to before?

Elisa: One of the hugest implications of blogging platforms, for all women, is that they give women a voice and a presence that had previously been a struggle to attain, and they give the rest of us a window into the daily lives of all people, not just big macro-events.

I wish my grandmother had blogged, escaping the Nazis in the 1940s. I wish my mom had blogged as part of the second-wave feminist movement in the ‘70s. Don’t you wish you had that window into the world of the women in your life?

But the implications aren’t just for politics or history or society, there are huge implications for companies, too. Women no longer can only be marketed to. We have a voice, and we can use it to speak to brands. We can use it to share the real skinny on how products work or don’t work. We always had the power of the purse, but that power is so much more direct, impactful and scalable.

Finally, there are huge implications for the economy. I once heard Steve Westly (early eBay executive) speak about how proud he was that eBay had created a new livelihood for so many people. I feel the same way about being at the forefront of helping writers get paid for their work. BlogHer has paid out $17MM over the last three years to the women in our community. This has helped women get through the roughest economic era in most of our lifetimes. There is power in finding a new, flexible way to contribute to your household income.

Flores echoed Camahort Page’s comments when we discussed how Spanglish Baby works with brands, particularly around products that cater to bilingual families.

Ana: We were at the epicenter of this perfect storm of need for bilingual resources and the blogging explosion. So, I began consulting for companies, helping them work with Latina bloggers and helping bloggers understand relationships with brands. It motivated me to create Latina Bloggers Connect.

It’s great to see. We have a content partnership with Discovery, which has programs for children, and they’re translating some of our posts into Spanish on Discovery Familia. Disney enables a Spanish option on everything, including DVDs. Initially, PBS sent us books in English. We gently and politely reminded them that our audience is bilingual, and they went out and found the books in Spanish.

I’ve seen how empowering blogging is for any woman who starts a blog on her own and how empowering the medium is to inspire. I think that’s why mom blogging has become so powerful right now because, for moms at home, they feel productive, stay connected and bring income into their households.

Vickie: What has been the most rewarding aspect of launching a mom blog?

Robin: Pink Dryer Lint allows me to merge my greatest passions. I love to write. I love to encourage other women. I love being a mother. Blogging lets me blend these interests, and it supplied the impetus for me to publish my first book. That’s rewarding.

Plus, one day, if my daughters ever are interested in their childhoods, they’ll have plenty of material to sift through.

Ana: Crafting my own life. I’m starting to realize we are advocates, creating a movement. It’s empowering in a spiritual sense, reaffirming in me what I’m capable of doing, enabling me to set aside a lot of my fears.

5 Things to Consider before Handing Over the Keys to Your Social Media Accounts

Keys photo by Vickie BatesIn the few short years since brands took up social media, I’ve been handed the keys to any number of social accounts, and though the organizations were very different, the thing they had in common was that there was absolutely no introduction to the goals driving engagement in these channels.

Never mind that turning over accounts to people without a discussion of goals, audiences, strategy, tactics, voice and metrics (at the very least) is like handing your car keys to a teenager without asking whether they have a driver’s license.

As Michael Brito noted in the Mashable post “10 Twitter Best Practices for Brands,” it’s important to be flexible without being too restrictive when turning over keys to anyone – employees, contractors, interns. “Planning, training, coordination and integration with social tools is imperative,” Brito emphasizes.

One of the hallmarks of social media is its speed of delivery, but that should never be confused with a speedy hand-over of your accounts.

Here are 5 tips to consider when asking someone to manage your social media accounts:

1) Why are you doing social in the first place? Do you have time? If not, is that why you’re handing over the keys? Maybe what’s needed is an examination of your channels, timing and audiences. Which are you having the most success with? Where are the crickets chirping? Perhaps you need to narrow or refocus your social media presence more than you need someone new in the driver’s seat.

2) What experience does the person have and what do their social accounts look like? Are you bringing them on board for their voice and their followers? Or do you have a strategy in mind for how they will engage with your followers?

3) Discuss the following and ask for a mini-comms plan that includes:

  • goals and how they’ll be measured
  • strategy and tactics and a timetable for implementing
  • tone of voice
  • what’s worked and what hasn’t
  • expectations around engagement
  • how you want to grow followers
  • how to manage difficult situations and crises
  • back-up, off-hours support, vacation coverage
  • anything that’s unique to your accounts and audiences

4) Cover the tools you’re using – such as Hootsuite or Buffer – and don’t assume that using one makes someone an expert on another.

5) Finally, listen to what they have to say about their own social media practices and see if adding some of these new ideas to your own accounts results in positive engagement with your audiences.

It’s National Library Week, April 14 – 20

PrintIt’s National Library Week, April 14 – 20, and this year’s theme is “Communities matter @ your library.”

The American Library Association (ALA) is celebrating the 55th National Library Week, which highlights the value of libraries, librarians and library workers.”

“Libraries today are more than repositories for books and other resources,” notes the ALA. “Often the heart of their communities, campuses or schools, libraries are deeply committed to the places where their patrons live, work and study. Libraries are trusted places where everyone in the community can gather to reconnect and reengage with each other to enrich and shape the community and address local issues.”

Here’s this year’s schedule of events for National Library Week:

National D.E.A.R. Day – National Drop Everything and Read Day – April 12 

Every year, D.E.A.R. takes place on April 12, to commemorate Beverly Cleary’s birthday. Cleary is the author of Ramona Quimby, Age 8, which gives a shoutout to Drop Everything and Read. I love the idea that there’s a day dedicated to putting aside everything else and encouraging individuals to read and families to read together. D.E.A.R. Day is sponsored by the National Education Association, the PTA and the Association for Library Service to Children, among many others. Looking for an excuse to read? This is it!

National Library Workers Day – April 16

Today is all about recognizing those often-unsung heroes: your local library staff. Don’t forget to honor your friendly neighborhood librarian by visiting the NLWD website and using the Submit a Star feature!

National Bookmobile Day – April 17

Bookmobiles have made a difference in the lives of generations of people in far-flung communities, as well as the young and elderly. Honor the efforts of these dedicated library volunteers who work so hard to enrich lives through reading.

Celebrate Teen Literature Day – April 18

There’s a vibrant and burgeoning Young Adult books genre, and Teen Literature Day is just the opportunity to support libraries as the help connect teens with books, DVDs and digital resources to share the love of reading. Learn more at the Young Adult Library Services Association wiki.

A Motel By Any Other Name

You spend decades living down the movie. You endure the bad sequels. You shudder when a remake premieres at local cinemas (and breathe a sigh of relief when it bombs).

You never know when someone will throw out a joking reference to it that makes you cringe. Sometimes you preempt the jokes by making them yourself. Especially when inviting guests to stay at your home.

Then, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the shower, this happens…

Oh, no. Not again! (Video may be considered NSFW.)

Oh, no. Not again! (Video may be considered NSFW.)

Apparently, this prequel debuts March 18 on the A&E network. And, with that, there’s only one thing left to say: Hope it dies as swiftly as Janet Leigh’s character, Marion Crane, in the original Hitchcock movie.

Audience Engagement, School Spirit Style

Purple versus Gold. Image by Vickie Bates.It’s such a small thing. Yet, when it comes to engaging your audience, it’s huge.

Did your alma mater have school colors? Did it divide the student body into Blues and Yellows or Reds and Greens? Were there points awarded all year for various activities – academic, athletic, volunteer work? Was there cause for celebration among fellow Greenies when your team won the end-of-year tally?

This type of thing was a big deal at my high school, culminating in Field Day – a full day of sporting competitions with the largest pool of points on the line.

So it baffles me why I should receive a request to donate to the annual fund accompanied by a photo of present-day students, grinning from ear to ear, like they’ve just emerged victorious from the traditional Field Day tug-of-war, adorned in Gold.

I was a Purple, you see.

It’s not like this should still matter some unmentionable number of decades later. And it doesn’t really. I’m long past reliving any high school athletic glory or Purple-Gold rivalry.

But engagement is all about speaking to your audience about what matters most to the audience. Not what matters to you or what’s convenient for you. How hard would it have been to line up four Purple kids and snap the exact same photo, then sort alums by school color, and send a customized appeal – Gold kids to Gold alums, Purple ones to Purples? With spreadsheets and mass email systems?

Easier than beating Golds at tug-of-war…