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Turning Hashtags into Plowshares

 

There were “Nine Black Categories” during the Cultural Revolution: Landlords, rich farmers, anti-revolutionaries, bad influences (the catch-all available in any culture), right-wingers, traitors, spies, capitalist roaders and lastly, intellectuals—scholars have been last, or next to last in Chinese caste hierarchies since the Yuan dynasty where they were only slightly better regarded: They were ninth in the caste order and beggars ranked tenth. But, I digress…

Chinese revolutionaries might have hated Twitter and other social media even more than the PRC central government does now because in the often quoted words of W.B.Yeats: “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

A card game, called Beat the Landlord, game grew out of this cultural conflict: Dou Di Zhu– (literally fight the landlord) and continues to be wildly popular on the Internet here with millions of players. The game allows two “bandits” to gang up on one “landlord” in an attempt to allow his partner player to divest himself cards and win. The landlord does not often fare well. I have grown weary of a few Internet landlords and short of beating on them I have just opted to delete them from view.

Social Media has been a digital gift from the heavens for me. I have been active on the web in one form or another since 1978. Social Media as I knew it then worked well because the conference moderators insisted we divest ourselves of titles and station and work on tasks that benefited the community as a whole.

I was playing Scrabble online with a social media “influencer” a year or so ago and we were both updating our experience as we battled. Suddenly he told me that he had to stop clogging his tweet stream with game details as he had lost followers during our contest. His reason for being on networks was clearly different than mine. I have used blogs and networks for years as a way to make and maintain friends. And as a result I have met In Real Life (IRL) dozens of people that were first introduced to me only as avatars, long lines of updates, shared pictures, music selections, videos or blog posts. It has been magical. And on my recent trip back to the States I revisited “old” Internet friends (some I had known for 7-10 years without ever meeting in the flesh) and I sought many I had not met, but for whom I had developed a special affinity. I found them to be even more gracious, kind and fun than their 140 character at a time persona allowed for online.

I use Twitter and Facebook in place of an RSS feed now and revel in new information about cultures, conflicts, charities and ways to improve my quality of life and that of others. I am pro revolution and pro profit as long as there is truth in the advertising…

But, of late I have noticed a disturbing trend. Sites like Quora, and Twitter have given credence to digital landlords, anti-revolutionary government and corporate eavesdroppers, rich corporations looking to speak to trends as opposed to consumers, link baiting spam laden roaders and those that inherited social wealth by association or early adoption who now look to dictate the set, setting and content of our conversations and want to make more money telling me how I can do it too. They act as landlords and exclude or attempt to evict those with differing views or too little to offer them as they extend their tweetreach or make their personal brands more recognizable.  And many of them display far from exemplary conduct as they write the leases that we aspiring digerati will tacitly sign in order to get along with them hoping to be included or for fear of being vilified, or worse, cast into the darkness of less social cyberspace.

I once asked the author of several books and hundreds of articles to “retweet” (broadcast again) a status update of mine wherein I listed the URL  of a U.S. sanctioned charity helping flood victims in China. I was told in seconds that under no circumstances would he jeopardize his social capital by assisting an unpopular cause. People were not happy with China. Lions 2, Chinese 0. “The best lack all conviction…”

Two gurus in Hong Kong refuse to add their name to any charitable cause not self organized because of its possible negative impact on their branding.  One of them actually refuses to pay admission to Internet supported charity affairs because his presence alone has value. His has a lot of social capital, earned by gossiping about others and devaluating their currency, though I wonder how many friends he’d have if he socially sobered up and put principles before his own personality.

Another Internet luminary recently assaulted a well-followed China Twitter user and lambasted him, among many things, for using a pseudonym and for not being in what the communication constable construed to be viable social media circles and for artificially growing his Twitter following. What he did not know is: the monicker is his court appointed name and the man he citizen arrested (with not a little police brutality and great fanfare involved), or rather the criminal in question, has secretly helped fund out of his own pocket important TEDx and intercultural social events that would otherwise not have happened.  I neither know, nor care, how he amassed a huge audience. Ironically, the cybercop in this episode of Social Media’s Most Wanted was concomitantly announcing to the world via his updates how proud he was that answers he offered on Quora were being voted to the top of listings. Now there is a real resume builder. This is the same man who incidentally told me, a former EOD trained Ordnance Officer in the Army, that I was wrong about what weapons were in use during my time in service when the closest he has ever come to the military is a Tom Clancy novel. This is a man who tirelessly works online to build his personal brand as an intellectual and contrary to most things. “…while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

And last, but not least in my not nearly exhaustive (maybe exhausting) rant is the visit by two writers for a brand name commercial financial rag. Their boss called with a day’s notice and asked if I would host them on their first trip into South China. I have done this for many journalists and business people. The heavy lifting is usually done by bright and self effacing volunteers from the local community who translate and accompany them to parts of Guangzhou, as a favor, that newcomers might never otherwise see. “In your life, you meet people. Some you never think about again. Some, you wonder what happened to them. There are some that you wonder if they ever think about you. And then there are some you wish you never had to think about again. But you do.” These two were hosted for meals in a restaurant that stayed open just to be kind to them,  given true visiting royalty status and then left only to write a blog post later that never mentioned the volunteers or kindness showed them, but instead only remarking about how filthy the air was in our city.The two poison ivy league graduates from well heeled families left several young students in Guangzhou wondering if our privileged company knew the difference between engagement and entitlement.

It is about conversation, not adulation. It is about earning relationships, not winning or displaying stinking badges. It is about dissolving boundaries, not drawing yourself into some inner circle. It is about traveling the hills and valleys of the bell curve, not cowering in the far end with only folks with similar statistics in some strange social equation. It is , for me, about trying (and sometimes succeeding in spite of myself) to do something good even if I have to panhandle…

There are no “Seven Keys to Internet Success.” There is one:

Be authentic

And while you are being authentic, if you can find the time to do a #randomactofkindness just do it.  Turn a couple of #hashtags into ploughshares.

And I try to remember that there is usually are real people and dear friends at the other end of my updates. And I believe that if had to belong to one of social media’s black categories I’d likely shoot for scholarship or refine being a beggar…

 

“God, grant me the Senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference”

 

 

Charity in China,China Business,China Business Consultant,China Editorials,China Expat,Cross Cultural Training,Human Rights,Intercultural Issues,Personal Notes,social media,The Internet,中国

3 responses so far

Why I am quitting Apple

A friend of mine asserted yesterday that Michael Arrington’s decision to end his courtship with Apple was in part due to a negative mindset created by recent attacks on his journalistic and personal integrity (Twittergate, LeWeb), the stalking and threats he says cost thousands of dollars to counter and the huge bulls-eye that every bombastic public figure, from Perez to Loic  pins on every time they post an opinion. I thought it a bit too much info and a bit too personal a view from someone who has never met Arrington. I haven’t met him either, but, I digress….I am writing this post to agree, free of psychoanalysis, with Arrington, albeit for a few more reasons.

Most of us who have used Apple products since the days of Pong feel a special, though almost unnatural, attachment to our sleek, fashion conscious companions. But, of the four loves, romantic is the most fragile even though it has taken me months to decide to pack Apple’s bags. They are now filled with hundreds of adapters I can no longer match to the devices they were meant to support–and I’ll leave them on the curb for one of my Chinese neighbors who needs to replace some long, lost proprietary AC plug….  Yes, I have long wanted to break it off with the brand that, had I not allowed myself to be seduced by, could have spared me the dough for a new car or a down-payment on an apartment while leaving me plenty of cash for several Dell desk and laptops. Damn, it is like a relationship with a shoe crazed character in some sitcom, isn’t it?

All kidding aside (for now), my distrust of Apple after meeting an Asian Apple executive from Singapore who euphemistically asserted that Apple was “not a very CSR minded company,” but if I ever contacted him that he would “see to it personally” that three charities, for whom I serve as a board member. could buy from Apple at a discount as long as they did not publicize the good deed. I understand: A company like apple might well be inundated with requests from Slumdogs looking to better their lots and after all, that it what Foundation money is for:  Allowing cash-strapped NGOs and NPOs to feel better that they supported the world economy by purchasing their MACs at full price. Apple’s Asian office has returned neither my phone calls nor emails.

Then, I met the guys at a local Guangzhou authorized repair center who fixed a cracked screen with a used one and charged me retail, at the same time they installed a bogus Parallels and Windows platform in my Macbook Pro–also at cost.

Then after buying my iPhone I found I was locked out of buying music on iTunes (and a podcast I wanted to hear by Stephen Fry) because I now reside in China– heaven knows we cannot get pirated music anywhere except iTunes here.I cannot even buy a ringtone, or add video capability to my dismal excuse for a camera, without “cracking” my phone or buying the new and financially improved model with features my friends have had for months on their bootleg versions…

Dropping the Google Voice development (Arrington’s chief beef) did not bother me, other than to signal that if Apple will bend  to AT&T to save it a few bucks in VOIP losses they will certainly kiss the PRC’s asks for blocking and censorship demands in the Chinese market. I don’t need any more difficult a time accessing the net, thanks.

Fake iPhone

And now they have entered into the dark side of brand gaffe creations generally reserved for companies like Sony and have remained silent (the old maxim of the law was “Silence gives consent”) about important issues regarding the reported suicide of a worker at Foxconn, Apple’s manufacturing partner in China, who has been under investigation before for worker abuse. The worker claimed  he was beaten by security personnel after he reported that a prototype of a new generation iPhone had disappeared. Apple showed incredible insensitivity and arrogance by letting Foxconn pay a paltry sum in compensation for his death, and worse yet, gave an Apple computer as part of their sad mea culpa deal.

I am done with Apple and headed to any company that looks to be more socially aware and less like a well- traveled mistress of conceit, repression and greed.

Beijing,Censorship,China Business,China Economics,China Editorials,Human Rights,Human Rights China,In the news,Taiwan,Twitter

7 responses so far

An Open Letter to the #140conf

Jeff,

I hope this finds you well and not too overwhelmed by the hundreds of nominations folks have sent in for the #140conf –especially after your carb-laden drive back from IHOP today and what was surely a stimulating  visit with one of my favorite online connections, @geogeller.

With Twitter censored/blocked/banned/muted here in the Middle Kingdom and my VPN suffering some neural disorder of late I apologize that I didn’t catch the call for attendees nor did I make the deadline for nominations. Here below the far side of the Great Firewall we have to make-do with state run papers, tunnel networks, and year old broadcasts from Hong Kong of American Idol’s Got Talent in Funny Home Videos to keep us acculturated until we return to the land of round doorknobs, boneless chicken and (insert envy here) IHOP.

I am writing in hopes that you were given leads for a few China-centric microbloggers. No, not the ones who live within arms reach of San Francisco and its technocentric, wash-my-back-and-I-will introduce-you-to-my-VC and his friend who lived once in Shanghai–the financial Haight-Ashbury of China where all the pretty people go to gamble on the Chinese version of the American Dream–who knows a lot of peeps. The real China Twitterati. And please don’t get me wrong: I cherish my association with many bright successful entrepreneurs and old China hands in Shanghai and SF, but, I digress….

Here is what I mean to ask of you:

A military medial supervisor of mine, years ago in Germany, was giving a lecture on psychopathology and said that the real definition of “crazy” was fighting someone twice your size. During my tenure in China, I have come to call such actions “bravery” and am glad that there are those crazy enough to wade in treacherous digital waters to lead others through China’s information Killing Fields…

Too often U.S. and world conferences ignore Asia and the folks who will make up–according to Forrester–almost 50% of the world’s Internet traffic. While @Loic lamented, at France’s LeWeb, America’s narcissism and self-centered deprecation of anything not engineered in Silicon Valley, there was little Asian representation at that event–and this after Loic had been an invited guest at Open Web Asia. And Blog World Expo has routinely ignored a demographic with more users now than America has citizens. Those wanting to Digg their way to China (sorry) simply don’t have the tools to do it nor a craftsman to show them how to use them if they did.

140 conference

Apart from the human rights imperative that the government here has created with censorship and dis-information, there are hundreds of millions of Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Vietnamese and other APAC Netzens that would love to be part of the global conversation and could teach us all a great deal about business and cultural opportunities beyond our borders.

And while I seriously feel that there are extraordinary China savvy expats both here and abroad, I advocate for native voices who are part and parcel of the social networks here: Dr.@ganglu the founder of Open Web Asia;  @Isaac the first blogger in China, Harvard Fellow and founder of CNBloggercon; @zola, China’s first guerella blogger and citizen reporter; and dozens of others…

Your last conference should be applauded if only for drawing Al Jazeera and the Israeli Consulate to the same event. Here’s hoping you continue setting global conference precedents at your next 140 character conference.

Wishing you much success,

OMBW

China Business,China Editorials,china internet,Chinese Internet,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Online Digital Marketing China,social media,Twitter

7 responses so far

A day in the life

“Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.”

-Bill Moyers

I am glad to be back writing again after a long hiatus….This is not a regular fare for those of you who have read me in the past…It is simply a laundry list, a sorry set of excuses explaining my absence, and one way to personally reflect on “mundane” events from the last couple of months. I track below one “normal” day’s activities:

–Read RSS, Twitter, NY Times, Facebook updates with coffee–1.0 hours

–Forget to eat breakfast–0 hrs

–Check in on Ms Yue and practice my Yueyinglish–30 min.

Prepare lecture materials for the week on Culture, Writing, Social Media…–1.0 hours

Tweet and Re-Tweet interesting articles about China, Charity, Humor, Inspiration, Good Music and post pics from my i-Phone and relate drivel about what I am up to for the day (zzzzzzzz)….. –1.0 hours

Order in late lunch that I eat cold later while I am working–2 min.

Read and answer all @ and DM Tweets, Email, and FB messages sent my way; try to delete most of the 120 spam mails received overnight–1.0 hours

Speculate on the actual number of Viagara users who buy online–10 sec.

Online meetings with amazing charities to whom I donate time, web work and support–1.5-2.0 hrs

Training and consultation with digital interns in SEO, SEM, PR 2.0, online digital marketing; prepare business proposal for an expat business that will either not pay for, or steal and then outsource to a “good friend who is an SEO expert” –2.0 hrs

Clean my world-view glasses and remember all the good folks; chant “the future is all you can hope to control”–10 min.

Buy some clever domain name (Straight-eye-for-the queer-guy.com) that I will park with the 185 others I own and never use–5 min.

Catch-up on Skype with close friends and collegues–1.0 hours

Lecture on nothing I was prepared to speak about–2.0 hrs

65325_600

Laugh and walk away when students or colleagues ask the meaning of “multitasking”–0 min

Business Planning, delegation of work with PA and team–1-hrs

Re-explain business planning to the interns who pretended they understood my colloquial English the first time thru–30 min.

Do a BBC Radio Interview on Censorship–45 min.

Wonder if that sound at the door is the Net Nanny–10 sec.

Write 3 letters of recommendation for students past and present–45 min.

Give pep talk to the students for whom I wrote recommendations and tell them it is not necessary to send applications to 65 U.S. colleges for safety–1 min.

Help brainstorm three separate creative projects (non-profit) with artist friends in Washington, SG and Shanghai on Skype and by telephone– 1 hr.

Do Guardian newspaper interview about China Internet/Social Media/Censorship–45 min.

Wonder if I have seen that car outside my house before–10 sec.

Hand code/write SEO/SEM work I am “donating” to a $1,000,000 online company that pays a friend instead of me (he is in danger of losing his house due to a layoff)–30 min.

Media Magazine Interview (sound bite) about Baidu/social media in China–20 min.

Drink 3-5 canned drinks (tea, fruit juice, diet Coke…)–Ongoing

Make organizational plans for free networking event I sponsor in Guangzhou –15 min.

Skim a poetry book while in the, um, library (do not visualize)–confidential 😉

Power nap/meditate–20 min.

Catch fast dinner at a local cafe; watch TED video on i-Phone enroute–45 min.

Openly stare at the 60 year old expat and his 25 year old Chinese mate without a rational thought in my head–seems like days

Watch a re-run and then the news (also a ongoing re-run) while surfing the web for new ideas–hard to do as I have had hearing loss since my twenties (THE MILITARY FRANK, THE MILITARY) and often need closed captions or subtitles (yep, really)–1.5 hrs

Try to reconstruct the plot line of the show I watched (’cause I was surfing at the time) and Google/Yahoo TV news stories that the Chinese censors tried to hide by cutting away to commercials–20 min.

Curse the Great Firewall, Twitter’s Fail whale and the sluggishness of my computer on VPN–Afraid to quantify

Make plans (hotel reservations or prep my spare room) for out of town first and second life  guests who graciously drop by and rescue me from myself at least one day a week–10 min.

Scan and answer tweets and retweet valuable or fun information; blow soda thru my nose at great tweets by @frankyu, @garysoup, @sioksiok and others; marvel at the kindness and wisdom of folks like @sashakane, @meryl333, @billglover, @bestsydrager, @davidfeng, @barbatsea, @dougwhite, @lindasmith247, @weirdchina, @sdweathers, leonacraig, chicagodiane,@rolandinchina, @neilspeen @inkophile, @deswalsh @joeleisen and scores of online buds–30-40 min.

Plan on how to politely turn down a chance to write chapters for 3 books on China SEO, Internet and Business; write three blog articles in my head and “vow” to put them online; “swear” to begin learning more Chinese; think of guests for radio show (soon to return) with Des Walsh and for Web Wednesday Guangzhou; lament that I have not read a whole book straight thru in 2 years; get back up to take medicine for autoimmune condition that keeps me awake and in pain most nights; create 20 new business ideas I will be able to say in 10 years I thought of first–45 min. (while trying to get to sleep)

Be thankful, really–24/7

I will be rotating the posts I swore I would write 😉 with poetry from my new book: Stone Pillow: New and Collected 1994-2009. The first poetry post will go up tomorrow!

American Poet in China,American Professor in China,China Business Consultant,China Editorials,China Expat,China Expats,China Humor,china internet,China SEO,China web 2.0,Chinese Internet,Humor,Intercultural Issues,Uncategorized

9 responses so far

Blue Feather Tweeters

flip the bird

Forget all the incestuous top Tweeter lists, the rankings of the most re-tweeted, the scores for the most influential, the “find a MLM spammer to add to your follower cool twitter application” lists and the “Twitterati” glamour gurus vying for rights to the title of most vapid… So, I thought “How about a list of the top 20-30 nicest people to meet and tweet on Twitter? ” Here are my first picks for Blue Feather Friends–who actually talk to you….

I follow a lot of folks because I am a student of anything and everything on the net. I have used hundreds of Facebook and Twitter Applications, joined  (and un-joined) groups with great names like “Ban the Racist Bicycle Bells,” My life is a musical” and I’ve been bought and sold hundreds of my friends in and out of slavery and then raced them in cars that don’t move. I have crashed my site dozens of times with new WordPress plug-ins and I have tried virtually  (and to the lament of my twitter stream) every mobile and fixed Twitter client around. And aside from the auto-generated DM’s that say “Thanks for the follow <<insert first name here>>”  via folks in a race to catch Obama in the followers count, and that big breasted bot with 450 different profiles, I have become grateful for the many people who have enriched my life and replaced my blogging, RSS reading and shower time (phew) with interesting stories that I will no doubt re-tweet one day to my grandchildren.

Following are a few of the nicest people you’ll ever tweet. I don’t know how many followers they have, whether they won shorties or longies or what their Hub score is… And this is not a list of my favorite charities, business folks, incredible journalists or people you need to suck up to to get them to add you (Brian Solis, Mashable, Winer…)…I will do those lists one day as well…

These are just  people who aren’t so impotent (sp?) they only follow and/or talk to themselves…

Maybe in a day or two I will post my top financially useless, but great smile-making Twitter applications and add a few more suggestions for people to chirp with…. Feel free to add your own BCTs in the comments section…..

  • http://twitter.com/shelisrael is from California. He is writing a book on Twitterville and is a bit of a celebrity, but his bio’ is right: he is a nice guy who actually talks TO, not at, you. And he is his own virtual assistant 😉
  • http://twitter.com/danharris He is a lawyer but don’t let that put you off. This is the most tireless guy on the net. He actually reads and comments on dozens of blogs, runs the best law blawg on the planet ( http://chinalawblog.com ) and still has time to go to his family’s sporting events in Washington, root for the Cubs and then Tweet about it! Caution: Do not try to sneak a knuckle ball by him–he will hit it out of the park.
  • http://twitter.com/gyspsydust A world-class Chinese medicine expert from Illinois and one of the nicest people on the net. We met on Facebook when she suggested pointed me toward W.H.O research on a medicine that cured a recurrence of malaria that had hit a visiting guest–and it cost us less than a buck.
  • http://twitter.com/sdweathers A growing celeb’ on the small screen here in China. He posts great culturally entertaining pics, fun and informative links and actually takes the time to answer his tweets.
  • http://twitter.com/deswalsh An Aussie coach and consultant who has forgotten more about social media, blogging than I will ever know. He and his “girlfriend” (sorry, inside joke) artist  http://twitter.com/suziecheel  are an endangered species: kindness, wisdom and humility abound…
  • http://twitter.com/taweili Did you ever get a growing gift on Facebook? This is one of the team that built that application. He is a cross-cultural commentator and shouts out some very sensible answers about life and tech from farther inside the matrix than I have ever traveled….
  • http://twitter.com/grahamdbrown from London he runs one of the coolest and most purposeful blogs around and remains as authentic and likable a personality as you can find in the Twittersphere….
  • http://twitter.com/davidfeng when you think David Feng you think War and Peace, Ulysses, Everything You Wanted to Know About Beijing Subways Even if You Didn’t Think to Ask…The only guy on Twitter who HAS to have a David Feng Lite stream…I met this Swiss master at the first Beijing Tweet-up–there were three people and 10 electronic devices present….
  • http://twitter.com/JeffreyJDavis from Charlotte. Personable, but not afraid to call out the thought leaders. His profile says it best: “Innovator, Leader, Strategist, Executor, Mentor, Smartass, Kiteboarder, Dad, Husband”
  • http://twitter.com/thomascrampton An American gone Hongkese whose blog features impromptu camera phone interviews with the likes of Oliver Stone….He is an old-school journalist (small stuff like the NYT and IHT) who, despite his celebrity, is engaging social media with the heart and curiosity of a child combined with the shrewd thoroughness of a trained  reporter–No small feat, that…
  • http://twitter.com/winserzhao A die-hard social media fan with his own travel company. The ONLY one of the 8,000 Tweeple I reached out to for help  that answered the call to rescue a newlywed–stranded in China– who had all his money and documents stolen just after his wedding.
  • http://twitter.com/johningz I think Foreigner did a song about him once….He lives in GZ where I do…The whole city keeps getting younger around us….He can Tweet and eat Pizza at the same time…and does….most days….every day….
  • http://twitter.com/casperodj A Dutchman studying in Britain now. He made history by beating the news wires with tweets from the earthquake zone in Sichuan China…A former Olympic caliber archer, he made watching the shooting events from Beijing a blast by live-tweeting the events…
  • http://twitter.com/Meryl333 Delightful, spiritual ex-lawyer and biz strategist from Chicago now in San Francisco….She sometimes beats me at online Scrabble….

This is by no means an exhaustive personal list and it augments posts where I have mentioned others…And I do mean to add more later…

I am http://twitter.com/lonniehodge I am a Twitterholic….

Uncategorized

12 responses so far

Hostage Situations: Culture, Charity, and Cures

A few years ago a Washington DC taxi driver, Timor Sekander, a survivor of the Afghan war  with Russia, saved my emotional life by sharing the pain of his losses–a father, and two brothers–with me,  a stranger, looking for answers en-route to the Vietnam Memorial. He turned off his meter and spent two mercurial days introducing me to dozens of grateful refugees who mediated their memories and healed their common wounds by helping each other survive everyday challenges through trade, fellowship and commerce in a country not yet sure how to appreciate their talents or accept their presence.

On Twitter yesterday I engaged in a conversation with a man in Mississippi who had publicly decried Obama’s recent executive order that will close Guantanamo Bay (Camp Delta) within a year while granting legal rights to those incarcerated like the Chinese Uyghur Muslims held there for years without formal charges or trial.  In 17 current cases, detainees were found innocent of any wrong doing and worse yet, some Uyghur prisoners arrived at Gitmo months after being kidnapped near Afghanistan by U.S. supported vigilantes who were paid bounties to round up suspected terrorists. I replied by applauding the executive order and let him know that I had read on, past the section granting constitutional rights, to the section with a clearly worded directive ordering trials and punishment for those the evidence suggests are truly terrorists.

This is not, and was not, a political argument for me.

gitmo-prisoners

My new “follower” on Twitter used the heavily charged word “terrorist” during out talk to describe the detainees still held at Guantanamo and said they did not deserve constitutional protection. He went on to say that the terrorists were being well cared for and nothing at Gitmo could be “construed as torture.” I contend (ed) that being separated from your family and locked in even in the cleanest of cages for four to eight years with recreational water-boarding occasionally on your schedule could hardly be construed as a tax payer funded vacation in Cuba….Terrorist is a word we have been conditioned to associate almost exclusively with the Arab world, so it is easy to imagine that where there is religious smoke  there is terrorist fire; conversely to entertain “torture” as a part of the American lexicon is to appear anti-patriotic,or treasonous at best….

Last week I was talking to Diaster Relief Shelters founder Roland Catellier about the trials inherent in fund-raising for homes and dormitories in Sichuan where millions are still without adequate protection. Those Chinese now living in temporary shelters may well be sharing cooking and toilet facilities with dozens of other families. It is a disaster-induced prison with many innocents serving indeterminate sentences for the crime of poverty.

Collecting funds to help survivors of disaster or trauma is the greatest challenge of any charity in China.  Many people view the Middle Kingdom and all its inhabitants as economic terrorists who are part of an industrial entity that has robbed them of jobs or shut the doors on their neighbor’s family business. And the huge and faceless numbers of those dead in China keep us and any Chinese who could help from looking too closely at the anguish partly made of indifference, or helplessness or fear of falling into some mournful abyss. It is hard for many to care amidst soaring unemployment that has now washed ashore in China and the beleaguered in Sichuan are hard to segregate from the 900 million others in poverty trying to live on less than $1.50 a day.

Sichuan Destruction

I feel ill today and spent the day, when not sleeping, in video and written excursions away from fever and body ache. There is no fun in dwelling in physical or societal misery and I spend more time in concocting solutions than I do recounting trials. So, today I read and  listened to teachers and practictioners of comfort and compassion. My favorite diversion today was a visit with the “happiest man in the world,” Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, author and photographer via his lecture on TED.Even the man whose extraordinary bliss has been scientifically documeted spoke about the fleet-footed nature of feelings. He acutely feels anguish and sorrow, but can skew his thoughts and actions toward solutions and reconciliation. His spiritual leader recently said that while he often diagreed with George Bush, but he loved him–and I believe him.

I know, as one who lives daily with the extreme and varying degrees of pain associated with an autoimmune disease, that it is through compassion or sharing that I can dissolve associated anger, irritations or suffering. Teaching and writing are my active meditations, my ways of showing compassion: In classes where I really give of myself I often vanquish colds, unlock painfully secured limbs or transform a mood from depression and despair into extreme contentment. And the receipt of good teaching and compassionate words that issue from sage friends like Des Walsh, Zach my monastic guide and Debra Xiangjun Hayes can have the same impact.

Ricard talked to the unseen dual nature of things like the depth of an ocean below a roiling, temperamental wave: There is more than meets the eye in all things. It brought me to thinking about how charity and compassion and even health are often hostages of  our narrow fields of vision–those accepted by us, even if foisted upon us, without compassionate investigation on our part.

The first thing a police negotiator does in a hostage crisis is to begin calling the victim in peril by their true name so that the perpetrator can hear and see that he is a life threat to a vital, breathing person, a sentient being and not just an object for ransom, or a means to an end. There is always hope that you can resonate with the good, the ocean below, in even the most violent of waters.

charity

Michael Berg at the Kaballah Center says in a recent article that we must make conscious decisions that bring us to a place where we are willing to experience the pain of taking on the burdens of others. I think before we can devote ourselves to the Sisyphus-like toil of charity in a place like Sichuan, as has Roland, we must acknowledge some emotional or human connection. we need to see the faces of those in distress, we need to hear their stories and politics will be forced to embrace new priorities. I will settle for even a few more of us taking time to divest ourselves of preconceptions so that we feel an imperative to engage, not war with, people making decisons, not to interfere with our well-being but to survive themselves just one more day. It s then we can follow Berg and feel, to paraphrase Camus, that to help someone you have been taught to revile or to offer money time or comfort to aid someone who may only have minutes to live is a struggle, but one toward the heights of selflessness and it is, by itself, enough to fill any man’s heart.

More in Part II

Addendum: Four good places to begin to appreciate China’s people: Blog of Dreams, Tom Carter, The Library Project, Derrick Chang’s Mask of China

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Social Media Leadership: It profits a man nothing….

They opened a pawnshop near my apartment building this week. I had an immediate visceral reaction to the sign that gives them what I think to be only the illusion of mercantile legitimacy. I have always found them to be sad repositories, museums of familial totems earned, won, or created by previous owners and then sacrificed. In this weakening world economy pawnshops are themselves heraldic emblems of societal failure and loss.

Having come from a poor military family (many of us lived far below the poverty line in the 60’s and 70’s) I know well what it is to watch your father sell a year’s worth of $25 dollar savings bonds, for pennies on the dollar, to pay off a gambling debt so there would be food to eat. I can still feel the anguish my mother’s face refused to show when we had to hawk what few heirlooms we had left—the few that survived an earlier tidal wave in Hawaii—to a cagey German national who had set up shop near our housing complex in Frankfurt to prey on enlisted men and their families. I witnessed many of my friends surrender personal property and pride for all manner of reasons.

Yesterday, on the micro-blogging site Twitter, Jeremiah Owyang wrote something to the effect that those who need to tout their importance on the Internet may not be nearly as powerful as they purport to be…. Now that there are new online measurement tools that can allegedly rank an individual’s influence within a particular social network and give credence to new status many proudly advertise their standing, The developers use varied formulas, but all give a great deal of weight to the number of followers a person has and how much “reach” their down-line possesses; hence, many members of communities spent countless hours collecting new ‘friends”, employing automated recruitment software, and verbally cuddling, poking, hugging or prodding others to include them in perceived circles of influence. Users pawn their time and, in some cases, their true persona, in an attempt to gain some measure of virtual worth in the form of a numerical representation or a percentile ranking. I am competitive and love nothing more than a good fight and, better yet, a win. But, I don’t consider social networks a sport. They are weapons of mass construction (sorry) in the hands of capable leaders and pawn shops for one’s humility and integrity in the worst of cases.

In the military, where I spent eight years of my early adulthood, we often said: Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way! Seth Godin in his well-written new book Tribes more politely calls on those in conversational communities to lead their followers toward their passion for connection, education, causes, business, politics, social good and other common interests. He sees the immense potential for change in networks like Facebook, Friendfeed, Xing, Twitter and the like and has penned a structurally sound and reasonably idealistic (they are not contradictory terms) blueprint for leadership.

I am a teacher; that makes me, not so much a leader as it does a conduit, through which leaders can speak, albeit with my voice. The real value for anyone choosing to follow me is that I try to pass on the best of what I read and learned from the many thought leaders I am privileged to know or have met during my 30 years of encounters with social media. Don’t get me wrong: It is also a place of instant feedback and communication and often great fun I think the Twitter commentary on the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, written by a number of quick-witted and well-seasoned China Hands were as enjoyable as the event itself.

Most of my personal tweets or comments, ones that add little to public dialogue, are sent back to recognizable digerati/Twitterati in private. Many vapid tweets I see are saccharine and paw at community leaders in an attempt to gain favor. And the stars are not immune to a glamor shot and a few well-placed compliments it seems. But, of what community value is there in narcissistic displays of public affection?

I have spent the better part of the last five months paying back debts, monetary and relational, accrued after losing my way because I chose to take directions from people who mimicked (and continue to mimic) leadership well enough on the net that even I actually thought they knew the way out of the virtual forest. They were folks are who must imagine they will gather a crowd at their virtual funerals and be buried beneath a score of “growing gifts” spread on the casket. It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world, but for Twitter?

Post Script:

I admit that Twitter has now practically replaced my RSS reader: I find more relevant, up to date news being sent by trusted sources there than anywhere else. I track multiple conversations on everything from education and the arts to Creative Commons and censorship. I pay close attention to the sage wisdom of the leaders of my tribes: @shelisrael the online professor of social media or his Aussie counterpart @deswalsh; the forward thinking enthusiasm of @pitchengine and Jason Kintzler’s new social media pr tool; the strong prolific online working man’s writing from @chrisbrogan;
the intelligent world meta-view of @rmack; the important grassroots realities of @globalvoices;
the enjoyable, raw energy and inexhaustible commitment to the web community of @loiclemeur; the heart-songs and charity of the Library Project’s @tomstader; the spiritual thoughtfulness of @Meryl333; the cutting edge insights of @jowyang, @oliverdombey, @techcrunch, @dannysullivan, @brainsolis, @scobleizer, @danharris, @sioksiok, @wolfgroupasia, @kaiserkuo, @pdenlinger, @ganglu, @nuibi, @chinaherald, @gswafford, @pacificit, @igorthetroll, @flypig, @the busybrain and
dozens of others to whom I apologize for not them listing here….

China Humor,China SEO,China web 2.0,Chinese Internet,Personal Notes,中国

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Twitteronandonandon: A Twelve Step Program for Compulsive Micro-Bloggers

I happened to see a note twish by me the other day by one of the new young guns in the China Blogosphere. He expressed concern that if he engaged in a ridiculously fun and multicultural exchange about ethnic differences in emoticons that it might affect his image. He had to be, as a budding new ad exec’, cognizant of his “personal branding.” Imagine that: using social media to actually socialize or have fun–the nerve!   ( ̄ー ̄)   I do apologize if they offended anyone

m(_ _)m

I have watched the micro-musings of the people our vigilant young executive follows and subsequently “twits up to”: they are primarily people known to others obsessed by new social media tools by as the “Twitterati” or the elite and best informed new media types on the net. Poo.

Guys like Owyang and Kawasaki are pushers!!! (check out Guy’s pic on Twitter for a look at his 70’s pimp/dealer boa if you don’t believe me!) and they both pay a million virtual monkeys using a million computers to pound out a million tweets in hopes of a single retweet in the NYT. As an aside: Owyang has become a pro at slipping in tweetle doses of infomercials that lull you right into thinking you should go back to that site he mentioned and pay money to criminally investigate that anorexic retired mailman next door whose name may very well have showed up on some perv’ list–while you are in your boxers (or worse), jazzed on coffee, listening to a podcast, twittering, skyping and stalking him through the kitchen window all at once…

Now, I have a lot of respect for guys like Chris Brogan who can tweet an Irishman under the keyboard. This guy can handle his social media! And I am a huge fan of the naked conversations of Shel Israel who has the chutzpah to actually talk about enjoying a date with, brace yourself, his wife. To Jim Turner: You gotta quit writing stuff people can actually use. Someone may think you take this seriously! And ya gotta love tweets in a French accent by Loic…and it is like waiting for fake fireworks at the opening ceremonies when Captains Scoble or Arrington go in search of the Great Fail Whale…

Once, long ago, I remember wishing I was a florid alcoholic (and don’t think I did not try!) so I’d have a group I could share my joys and sorrows with…And when I got sucked into a conference net in 1978 I thought I had found a virtual home. And then Twitter–and its sophisticated and server friendly interface–came along and all five of us using it got along great! Now, with 3 million people shooting 140 intercontinental ballistic characters across borders daily its a little noisy and not a little dangerous sometimes in there…Still, as an expat it is the closest I can get to an English speaking coffee clatch, but I digress…

We need a flesh and blood group!–a tweet-up without computers!–where we can actually press the flesh (I heard that Bloggess!) and  sǝʌlǝsɹno ʇɥƃıɹ. I propose this for my advertising “friend” and others:

TWITTERONANDONANDON!

BLOGONANDONANDON
If you answer yes to three of any of the questions below you just MIGHT be a compulsive blogger and a candidate for twitterononanonandon (IF you take this post seriously, I have another group for you…):

  • Do you lose time from work due to your tweeting?
  • Is tweeting making your home life unhappy?
  • Do you tweet because you are shy with other people?
  • Is tweeting affecting your reputation
  • Do you tweet and re-tweet for fear being left out?
  • Have you ever felt remorse after a tweet?
  • Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of your tweeting?
  • Do you turn to lower companions and an inferior environment when tweeting?
  • Does your tweeting make you careless of your family’s welfare?
  • Has your ambition decreased since tweeting?
  • Do you crave a tweet at a definite time daily?
  • Do you want to tweet the next morning?
  • Does tweeting cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
  • Has your efficiency decreased since tweeting?
  • Is tweeting jeopardizing your job or business?
  • Do you tweet to escape from worries or troubles?
  • Do you tweet alone?
  • Do you claim to be a “Social Media Evangelist” when you were just converted from selling adwords to dentists only a year ago?
  • Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of your tweeting?
  • Has your physician ever treated you for tweeting?
  • Do you tweet to build up your self-confidence?
  • Have you ever been in a hospital or institution on account of tweeting?
  • do you need just one more little tweet even when your friends say they have had enough?

I am headed to the States soon and wil be happy to meet with you about starting a group. Drop a note here or better yet:

tweet me @lonniehodge

E-DIOT

With apologies to my good friends at AA, NA, CA, ACA, ALANON…

ONE TOO MANY BATTLES OF THE BLOG

This was a slight re-hash of an old post on blogging–for those of you new to the net blogging was a phenomenon from the days of Dinosaurs and Celine Dion–those of you who recognize it, thanks for bearing with me….

Humor,Just Plain Strange,Personal Notes

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Chinese Twitter and the #080808 Twolympics

A 4th year Chinese student in IT dropped by today and laughed at me spending as much time delighted by news appearing on my i-Phone as on the television. It took a long time to explain to someone, who isn’t even allowed a TV in his dorm or access to much outside of the school intra-net, that I was (insert wry smile here) “riding a wave into the future of social media”  I was “tweeting” a story about an Olympic medalist friend of mine and realized that the student  was not even alive when my buddy won his cache of medals. But, I am lucky enough to stay young and trendy (2nd wry smile goes here) because I play in the social end of the web’s information pool.

I have virtually stopped using my RSS news readers since social media ‘s soup of the day, Twitter, saw its user base explode in recent months. I get sent (tweeted) dozens of links a day that I dutifully follow to viral fun and even breaking news that might not have reach me via email alert for several more hours.

Twitter Olympics

Twitter + Olympics

I have also have made a host of new “friends’ around the globe. The blogosphere, before I slowed down my postings, brought me almost daily into a cohesive network that connected me to dozens of like (and not-so-like) minds in China and elsewhere. Debate, helpful web information, coping strategies and places for fun and personal development appeared in ping-backs, linked posts and comment threads that I would discover via statistics programs, and aggregation tools like Technorati.

These days most of the news, reviews and acerbic boos I track are first broadcast in real time over Twitter, Friendfeed and Facebook. And yesterday’s hash mash (a way to view aggregated info on a single topic)  during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was just straight-up fun! David Feng, the hardest working tweeter in the business, did a better job at translations, and commentary than did any of the newscasters on CCTV or Pearl (HK). Kaiser Kuo, Paul Denlinger, Thomas Crampton, China Buzz (from the news center), Rebecca MacKinnon, Papa John. Siok Siok Tan, Marc (from inside the stadium), Frank, and a host of others joined the creators, like Flypig, of a phenomenon that was and is by turns funny, wonderfully irreverent, informative and better at fashion critiques and obscure celebrity sightings than (insert the dubious catch of Canadian language geek DaShan walking with the Canuck team) is Perez Hilton’s army of snitches. And they do this while character-cuffed to 140 (133 if you count the hash tag) keyboard ticks a tweet.I think having to compress  thoughts quickly and concisely forces you to write free of your normal subjective shorthand and makes for unusual candor and sometimes great comedy: Cyber-Haiku.

Twolympics

Twolympics

Intermittent breaking news about the Hurricane near the US and the deeply disturbing report of a Russian attack on the Georgian capital was woven into observations being made during the parade of nations. If you were following along, you did not want for flash bulletins on anything of importance inside or outside the venue.

You can follow, or join in, on the micro-madness (you are gonna need to draw on that course you took in speed reading) here at  #080808, view some of the icons, and click on them to follow folks, created for the ongoing funomenon here: Icons

And just so you know that the rumors of traditional media being dead are truly and greatly exaggerated: The organizers and participating Chinese-Tweetlandians were humbled and impressed by a mention in The Times where, if you want the skinny on the people and reasons for all of this you “can read all about it” here: Chinese Tweeters Celebrate Olympics With #080808 – NYTimes.com

As veteran film producer/director, and wholly addicted tweeter, Siok Siok Tan broadcasted last night: “Twitter is fun again!!” Yes, that and a lot more….

Sorry, I need to go now and tweet that I wrote this story….

Beijing,Beijing Olympics,China Cartoons,China Expats,China Humor,China Olympics,China Sports,China web 2.0,Chinese Education,Chinese Media,Faceboook,Hong Kong,Humor,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Personal Notes,SEO,social media,Twitter,中国

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