Le Pain Quotidien on Facebook

Because I like to know what the soup of the day is without walking over to Le Pain Quotidien, I follow them (@lepainquotidien) on Twitter.  While I originally started following them for this very mundane and practical reason, I’ve been surprised at how well they use this channel to communicate with their customers.

One of the things I like is that they don’t send out a million tweets everyday. Some companies and individuals I follow, tweet so much that I’m tempted to stop following them altogether.  And if I continue to follow them, I hardly ever read their tweets anymore. I’m looking at you @mashable and @nytimes! A twitter feed is not an RSS feed! Sometimes less is more.  On Twitter, less is almost always more!
Another admirable characteristic is that they occasionally reply to people that have mentioned them, but only if they have something worthwhile to say, not systematically and definitely not through some automated process. This way they really show their customers that there are real people behind the brand. However much we all hate the term social media, there is a reason why these media are supposed to be social.

OK, so these are two examples of why Le Pain Quotidien has a healthy Twitter strategy. Surely, they are not the only company that does things right? Why single them out? I could say it’s because they are Belgian and so am I.  But if that was the reason, I could have also used @waffletruck as an example because they are Belgian too and they have a pretty good Twitter feed too. The real reason is this link that @lepainquotidien tweeted yesterday.  “Ever wondered why we serve our organic coffee in bowls?” Honestly? No, I haven’t.  But now that you mention it, I am curious to know.  If you are too, you’ll have to follow the link to read all about it.
You’ll find a cute, tongue-in-cheek explanation of something as trivial as the absence of handles on their cups.  They briefly touch upon a number of details that makes the company a little more unique and a lot more like-able.

I don’t know who was behind this, it might have been a marketing agency, or it might have been someone in their own marketing team.  It doesn’t matter.  I think it’s a great example of using the individual strengths of both Twitter and Facebook.  I love how they used Twitter to get my attention and, with a little teaser, pulled me over to their Facebook page. Furthermore, once they had my attention they didn’t ruin it by trying to sell me something.  Instead they gave me something that I’ll be able to remember and smile about the next time I have one of their hot drinks from a bowl.

December first resolutions

I never make New Year’s resolutions.  Mostly because I don’t think they are a good way to change a bad behavior, but also because I like to be a little different.  It’s not advisable to be too different though, and change is usually a good thing.  So this year, I am making December First Resolutions:

1.  Get up early. Early according to my standards that is.  More about this in a later entry. Continue reading December first resolutions

Manual to the world #3

Happy Buy Nothing Day!  That’s right, Black Friday is also Buy Nothing Day.  The one day each year that we (or at least some of us) actively revolt against the culture of consumption.  It’s the day after Thanksgiving and for me today is about hanging out with the family, relaxing and taking a little break from the rat race.  Going out shopping doesn’t really fit into this picture, so no Black Friday for me… Continue reading Manual to the world #3

Tim Burton’s Cadavre Exquis

Tim Burton is using Twitter to crowdsource a new Stainboy story! The writing technique is based on the Cadavre Esquis way of writing. Every contributer only adds one sentence to the story after which it is passed on to the next person.
Put together the best 140 characters you can come up with and add ‘co-wrote a short story with Tim Burton’ to your resume!

Dear America

“Dear America, when you tell gay Americans that they can’t serve their country openly or marry the person that they love, you’re telling that to kids too. So don’t be fucking shocked and wonder where all these bullies are coming from that are torturing young kids and driving them to kill themselves because they’re different. They learned it from watching you.”
– Sarah Silverman

Manual to the world #2

It’s already Friday again?  When I decided to make this a weekly feature, I forgot how short a week really is.  I might have to change the frequency and make it biweekly or monthly.  If every other entry in the journal is going to be a part of this series, things might get boring real fast!

For now there are plenty of cool tips to share, so here’s number two:

OasisNYC is a great online resource for community maps.  I love maps, so I had a lot of fun with this.  The OasisNYC map is an interactive map that shows you the location of community resources like public gardens, playgrounds, tennis-courts, parks, and much more.  You can even create your own map with just the information you are interested in and save it, print it or link to it from your own website.  While this is primarily aimed at New York city dwellers, it could be a great tool for visitors too.  And who knows, maybe something similar is available for where you live?

The OasisNYC website has a lot of other interesting information that you won’t on the map so definitely check that out too!  The menus might not be the most user-friendly and the copy on the website gets a little ‘governmental’ at times.  Here’s a little example from their mission statement:

The OASIS website is guided by a collaborative partnership of private and public sector representatives that seek to sustain an accessible information system that helps enhance the stewardship of open space so these areas are linked, diverse and sustainable for the benefit of all people, organisms, and ecosystems in and around New York City.

One of the best things about living all the way uptown is the amount of green space. That's what I always remind myself of when the A-train decides to go local!

Yes, that was one sentence…  All of the information given here is relevant, and most likely accurate too, but I would argue that there is a better way to communicate it.  However, this entry is not about copy-writing or web design, it’s about a great resource for information that is otherwise hard to get by.  And most of the information is presented in an awesome map! what more do you want?  It’s Friday today, go look for a nice park or playground to visit this weekend!

The Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World

A while ago, The 99 Percent by Behive published an article about the Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World.
As someone who has been frustrated many times with people picking the wrong medium for their message, I really appreciate this breakdown. We all know how annoying it is when people haphazardly post personal messages on our Facebook wall, or when someone tries to avoid a difficult or sensitive conversation by sending email instead of picking up the phone.  I guess my more than average interest in communication and interaction, makes me extra sensitive to this.  But I really believe we could all work a lot more efficiently if we mastered our every day communication better.

According to The 99 Percent, the Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World are (in order of least to most personal):

1)Message into the Ether:  Email and regular mail.

2)Back-and-Forth Messaging:  Instant Messaging and Text Messaging.

3)A Verbal Dialog:  A phone call.

4)The In-Person Spontaneous Discussion:  This is the typical water cooler conversation or when a coworker walks over to your desk to discuss something.  For obvious reasons this one is very popular in office situations.

5)The In-Person Scheduled Discussion:  The classic meeting, a lunch date or even when you and a coworker carpool to a client meeting together.

For a more in depth explanation I invite you to follow the link to the original article.  But maybe not just yet!  After reading the article and giving this some considerate attention, I have to admit that I also communicate at the wrong level every now and then.  And despite agreeing with the gist of the article, I also have a few thoughts and remarks regarding the various levels.

Level one and two seem to have more and more overlap as technology evolves. I remember when text messaging was clearly a level one medium.  Mostly because it used to be a lot more tedious to type on a phone.  But also, and this is my un-researched personal opinion, because people used to pick up the phone more easily.  Whether this is a good or bad evolution is debatable.
This overlap also causes the line between the two levels to blur.  A new technology like Twitter is a good example of this.  In essence Twitter is a broadcasting tool and as such it would fall in the first category.  However, a lot of people are using Twitter as a second level direct messaging tool.  More and more we also stop making the distinction between level one and two altogether.  At my office, email is often used for instant messaging.  Both email and instant messaging have their strengths and we should consider those before we pick our medium.  Some of the strengths of email is that it allows you to explain a point more elaborately and that the recipient can take more time to formulate an answer.  On the other hand emails are sensitive to causing miscommunication, the strengths I just mentioned can backfire easily.

In general you could say that the levels go from less personal to more personal.  This also means that the higher the level the more serious the subject of a conversation the more we feel like it deserves a higher level means of communication.  I’m sure a lot of web professionals like the people at 37 Signals and Automattic would disagree with this.  Sometimes lower level communication is perfectly acceptable for more heavy weight subjects.  I believe in the end the goal and the content of the conversation should determine which level of communication is appropriate.  Ask yourself questions like: Do I need instant feedback or can I wait for a more thoughtful reply?  Can I explain my point in a few words through instant messaging or should I opt for a more lengthy email?  Will the conversation benefit from face to face interaction that allows for much more nuance than a phone call?

A few simple questions before firing up your instant messenger or picking up the phone can save a lot of time and frustration in the long run.

Further reading:
Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World [via The 99 Percent]
Getting in too-much touch
[via 37signals]
The interruption tax [via 37signals]