Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Mustache Muse

Thanks Kathleen and Daniel for guest blogging for me. I just got back from a week long trip to New York City.


I was there for half business and half fun.


The fun part was seeing my brother who lives in Brooklyn. This is us being touristy on one of those red double-decker buses. But my brother, Donny, is never inconspicuous. It's the handlebar mustache.

photo by Laure Leber

Donny is actually the master of ceremonies at the Coney Island Sideshow By The Seashore. He does straightjacket escapes, breaths fire, juggles chainsaws, but he's best known for being "The Human Blockhead" which is hammering a six inch nail into his nose. There's even a Coney Island Lager beer label named after him.


He was featured in Rebel Ink this month, a popular tattoo magazine. I get it in the mail with my Good Housekeeping. Not really, he showed it to me in the hotel when we got into the city. Then I showed him how I used his story for a credit union presentation we gave earlier that day.


That was the business part of my trip. We gave a presentation to a group of credit union marketers. One of their questions to us, was "how do we break through?" So I drew inspiration from Donny's money-maker (that's what he calls it.) Basically making the point that his mustache gives him his confidence, his unique mark... his swagger. I called upon the group of executives at the table to stake their claim, shout out their difference from the banks, and embrace their own credit union swagger vs. insecurity.


We even made them these really cool framed plaques...



...with removable mustaches that they could try on if they needed reminding of their swagger.


Of course, per our usual goofiness, we had fun with them around the office before I packed them up for my trip.


What's kind of funny, is when we were investigating what style of mustache we wanted to create for the presentation, we found this site


It encourages people to download mustache templates, or order stickers...


...and adhere them to advertisements. This is their wall where people submit the ads they've defaced. I know, as an advertiser I think I should be offended, but hey, at least people are interacting with the brand. And of all the Disney Princesses, only Ariel could pull off that 'stache.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Living a Creatively Curious (and fabulous) Life

Hi everyone! Tara is still out of town so this is part 2 of her guest blog posts.

Let me introduce myself. I'm Kathleen, an art director at Third Degree. I'm kind of the fabulous one in the creative department, so this is going to be a little more flippant and self-indulgent than Tara's usual posts.

I want to talk about Living a Creatively Curious Life. When Liz (you've met her), and I went to the HOW Design Conference this summer I saw a fantastic break-out session, by Von Glitschka, that focused on Living a Creatively Curious Life. He went into what that means and the tools to get there.

But more about me. I'm a blogger. My blog started as a project, with my husband, to document the remodel of our historical home. I wanted to have a common place for all of our friends and families to visit to see our progress. Eventually it morphed into a place where I share everything - from what is inspiring me, what I'm designing, what I'm cooking and what I wear. My blog has turned into a place where I can capture and document moments of inspiration. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes I feel narcissistic and irrelevant but then when I saw Von speak at HOW I realized I was onto something. I felt validated.

The key takeaways I went home with are:

1. Recognize, capture and archive moments of inspiration
The city I call home never fails to inspire me.





2. Anyone can be creative
Here I was inspired by driftwood I found on the beach of Lake Superior.

My husband, an electrical engineer with NO art degree created a face out of it.

3. Share and show your creative work
Don't mind if I do!
Wedding invitations (I find designing for myself to be just about impossible).

Illustration of what we wore

4. Elevate the mundane
I love finding beautiful, yet "undesigned" typography in unexpected places.
Airport luggage claim check tag

Parking meter typography

5. Personal creativity doesn't need to be appropriate or ever have to be applicable
For example, this photo of the vitamins I take has nothing to do with anything. But I thought it looked cool.

6. And finally, apply these methods to professional creativity, find the overlap
I would like to wrap up this (picture heavy and self-indulgent) guest blog by saying that tapping into my personal creativity, capturing and archiving moments of inspiration, have supplemented my professional growth as an art director and designer.

How does your personal creativity affect your professional work? And more importantly, do you like my outfit?

Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in the guest blog and/or commentaries are solely of the individuals and are not the views of Tara Street, Third Degree Advertising, affiliate, or subsidiary companies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trolling your Social Media Campaign

Hey everybody! Tara's out of town this week so she's getting her minions to do guest blog posts. I'm Daniel, art director at Third Degree. I'm kind of the nerdy one in the creative department, so this is going to be a bit longer than Tara's usual posts. It's good stuff though!

Trolling your Social Media Campaign
You’re playing in your sandbox, building up this awesome castle with your friends. You spent lots of time and energy making a community for your toy cowboys and dinosaurs and robots to hang out together peacefully and productively.

Then some bully stomps all over the Pleasantville you worked so hard to cultivate.

You just got trolled.

When you open your social media campaign to public commentary and contribution by your community, you also run the risk of people abusing that generosity. These are “trolls,” and you gotta know how to deal with them.

Who are trolls?
There is always a risk on open-mic night that someone will use their stage time to shout profanities at the audience. You now have to make a decision:

Do you kick them off stage?
Do you respond at all?
Do you cut the mic for everyone?

It’s a tough call, but the first step is knowing who you’re dealing with. A troll is anyone who baits a community with disruptive and offensive content thereby causing people to become upset or to be insulted. In The Subtle Art of Trolling, the activity is explained with a bit of anarchist glee:
“The well-constructed troll is a post that induces lots of newbies and flamers to make themselves look even more clueless than they already do, while subtly conveying to the more savvy and experienced that it is in fact a deliberate troll.
“If you don't fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.”
It’s easy to dismiss a troll as a bully run amok in the world’s biggest playground, but it’s not so clear-cut when you have to be the judge. What you might consider a troll may be an honest critique or disappointment with your service, for example. You have to get at the heart of what drives someone to troll.

Is everyone a potential troll?
If you ask some trolls why they do it, they’ll say “For the lulz.” In other words, “because it’s funny,” or “because we can.”

But it’s never so clear-cut as all that. Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus at Stanford, constructed a psychological experiment in 1971. He created a prison simulation in the basement of the Stanford psych building and randomly assigned college students to be prisoners and guards. The students soon fell into their roles far more sincerely then had been predicted, with emotional trauma and sadistic tendencies soon developing in all the participants.

Zimbardo would go on to write about the experiment in his book “The Lucifer Effect.” As it turns out when most people are given anonymity and are not held accountable for their actions, they’ll pretty much turn into jerks.

These findings are further supported in 1991 research by Professor Mauri Collins’ “Flaming: The Relationship Between Social Context Cues and Uninhibited Verbal Behavior in Computer-mediated Communication.” In that paper, she proposes
“In the absence of social context cues, the level of uninhibited verbal behavior in computer-mediated communication rises…”

This is a couple years before the world wide web even gets mentioned in mainstream media, but trolls are still a problem. She goes on to site a paper by N.S. Baron:
“Baron postulates three explanations for this phenomenon: the lack of non-linguistic and visual cues puts added pressure upon the users to use any means possible (such as haranguing) to ensure they are being understood; the fact that [Computer-Mediated Communication] is a relatively new form of communication and lacks the established norms of face-to-face conversation; and the lack social context cues masks status differences.”
That citation is from a paper in 1984. Eighty-four! So, with the internet offering even more anonymity and less accountability than any other media, it’s no surprise that the occasional bad egg might stink up your community.

How to deal with a troll?
The nice thing about trolls being around since the days of breakdancing is that we have a lot more experience to draw from when dealing with this kind of behavior. Wikipedia probably has to deal with this problem more than any other online community, so let’s see what they use as best practices for their editors.

Don’t feed the troll. It’s what your mom always taught you to do when you had to deal with bullies. Just let whatever the troll says slide right on by, letting the natural flow of communication chart a course around the troll.
“While many seasoned veterans of online communities consider this advice useless, because in a community of any size, someone will react to the troll's posts, others still consider it to be the only effective method for dealing with trolls. Not fanning the fire will, at the very least, not make the situation worse. If the behavior escalates to abuse or vandalism, it is easy to deal with those things.”

Establish clear, public policies for how you deal with inappropriate content. Stick to those policies! Don’t make any special exceptions or act capriciously in your judgements. Anyone who joins a community should know there are level-headed, even-handed moderators standing by to quell abuse. This will also dissuade any potential trollish behavior on the part of community members.
“…[O]ne should keep every debate strictly factual. A heated deletion discussion, possibly fueled by inflammatory comments by the troll or his sockpuppets and allies, may increase the troll's motivation.”

Assume good faith. While you’re standing vigilant against trolls, you may end up squelching honest, genuine discussion of your services. If a comment or posting does not obviously break your terms of service in regards to profanity, vandalism or objectionable material, take a moment to consider your action. If you choose to engage with the suspected troll, ask him or her to rephrase their statements.
“Sometimes trolls live under bridges. But not everyone living under a bridge is a troll. […] Often one is accused of being a troll because one is phrasing one's views in a particularly hostile way. Consider: are you openly advocating trolling on your userpage? Are you cursing at people or engaging in personal attacks? Are you accusing those who oppose you of being in a cabal? If you stopped that, people would probably respond better to you.”

There is one additional suggestion not advocated by Wikipedia, but I’ll just toss it in:

Make everyone accountable by removing anonymity. As noted in the research by Philip Zimbardo, giving people anonymity and removing any accountability is just paving the way for flagrant, abusive behavior. Even superficial security measures like requesting full names, email addresses and recording IP addresses can help mitigate the potential to troll. Using login tools like OpenID or Facebook Connect can make your campaign easier to join and removes the temptation to troll.

Water (and trolls) under the bridge.
When you have open contribution from the general public, you open yourself up to the honest opinions of your audience. This can open up a fruitful, mutually beneficial line of communication between a service-provider and those who use that service.

Even if those comments and contributions don’t fall strictly in line with your brand message, don’t assume that those people are all trolls to be deleted and banned. Listen with an open mind and genuine interest.

When more malicious behaviors arise, deal with them fairly and consistently. Doing so will establish a common trust with your community and ensure your brand’s good standing in general opinion.

TED Talks: “Philip Zimbardo show show people become monsters… or heroes”

Wikimedia: “What is a Troll?: Dealing with Trolls”

ReadWriteWeb: “Are Trolls Ruining Social Media?”

Mauri Collins: “The Relationship Between Social Context Cues and Uninhibited Verbal Behavior in Computer-mediated Communication”

Michael Marshall: “New Scientist Technology Blog: “Don’t flame me, bro”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Key Lime Throwdown

Pardon my delay in covering the contest of the century. I'm still reeling from the sheer calorie intake.


The first annual Third Degree Key Lime Pie Throwdown caused quite a lot of office-place trash talk and facebook chatter last Friday as we kicked off our United Way agency pace setting donations for the year with some friendly (tranlsate: cut throat) competition.


Ever since Kriste first interviewed for our media buyer position three years ago, Roy hasn't been able to shake her claim to making a kick ass key lime pie, and has been baiting her ever since to test it against his southern-boy-at-heart pie making skills.

The Contenders

No southern gentility here. This was a no holds barred, bare-knuckled culinary brawl.

(I don't know what that means, I've just been watching a lot of Top Chef on TV lately.)

The Moderator

Jentry needs to work on her Don King hair, but she put a stop to the sparring and got down to the formalities.

The Ring

Looks like an even match at first glance. Everyone chose both a slice A and a slice B for an anonymous taste test.

The Choices

At closer inspection there are definite differences. Tequila sauce? Intriguing. Nuts in the crust? Interesting.

The Chowdown

This is where the conversation dipped and the calorie intake spiked tenfold, but it was for a good cause, right?

The Live Tally

Then the voting began. Jentry started tallying the score before our very eyes.

The Lead?

Could the lead be the southern style Nutty Crust (B) choice?

Nope. The Clear Winner.

Ah... the Tequila Sauced (A) choice won hands down.

The Outrage.

"How could this happen!? Kriste won!? Recount!?"

(Actually I voted for Kriste... her pie is freaking unbelievable, hence the calorie whiplash)

The Excuses.

And so Roy's backpedaling began. He put the Redi-Whip on too early. (Ahem... Kriste had home made fresh whip cream). He couldn't compete with the alcoholic ingredient! (Whatever.. this is Third Degree buster.)

But in the end he stood by his pie, and had the quote of the day:
"I like nuts in my crust!"

Followed by the second best quote of the day, exclaimed as he opened the fridge and realized his canned whip cream substitute had "melted" on his pie:
"Oh, my pie is F'd!"