Thursday, January 28, 2010


So, Apple made the long-awaited announcement yesterday regarding its new tablet.

Most Apple fans (of which I am one) knew it was coming, so much of the talk was about what its features would be and what it would be called -- iTablet? (iTab for short?) iSlate?

***insert buzzer sound here***

Nope. "iPad is the name," one of my friends posted as his Facebook status shortly after the unveiling event began. My immediate comment in response? "HORRIBLE."

And the more I thought about it, the more I hated the name.

My first tweet about it was a knee-jerk reaction (and I really did intend for it to be my only tweet on the subject):

Dear Apple: This is what I think of when someone says "pad": Product naming FAIL.

Then I observed some of the conversations about the name -- finding that a lot of people actually agreed with me -- and something clicked in the "sassy writer" part of my brain. Might as well use my creativity to take things a step further and develop a tagline, no?

Here's what I came up with (and then tweeted, much to the amusement of a few people [Thanks for being amused, by the way!]):

"For when your iPhone is too small, but your MacBook is more than you need ..."

Yep, I said it.

And while this was all done in jest, it brought me back to a legitimate, professional point I've pondered before: Were there any marketing/communications folks at the table when that product was being named? My guess is no, but I don't know for sure. At the very least, I'm guessing there were no women at the table.

One of my friends went as far as to make this assessment. And while it's a bit extreme, it's also humorous: "This thing was probably named by uber-geeks who eat Skittles and Cheetos for dinner and have never even dreamed of having a date with a woman, therefore the lack of knowledge about what a 'pad' in this context refers to." (And yes, it was a man who said this.)

Anyway, back to the conversation about involving marketing/communications pros in the naming process ...

The first product that really made me ponder this was one that, when I first mentioned it on Twitter and in conversations, people hadn't really heard of yet, but I've noticed some others making observations about it as of late. I mean, really ... where were the professional communicators when this product was being named?

They must've been locked away somewhere with the communications folks at Apple, I think ...

(iPad image is a screen capture from

[NOTE: After reading this blog post by Jason Falls -- as well as some of the comments below -- I realized it would be beneficial to clarify: My dislike for and criticism of the iPad name are not "political correctness" issues and are not based on a perception of sexism/anti-feminism. (Really, folks?!) I'm also not "offended" by the name. I just don't like the name and think Apple could've used more foresight -- and, perhaps, a woman's touch -- in selecting it. Plain and simple.]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sometimes, SM + IRL = FAIL

Friday night, I had the opportunity to meet up with a host of folks from my Chicago-area Twitter circle.

Teresa Basich and I were both in town, and Sonny Gill and Jess Miller just moved to Chicago (and I was staying with Jess), so it was the perfect time for a not-so-little gathering at a Windy City bar and grill.

By all accounts, the night started out great. Came in, introduced ourselves to the people who were already there, ordered up a pint of the beer on special, since it was a craft brew rather than run-of-the-mill swill, which I mention primarily because this is exciting to an unemployed beer snob on a budget.

As the evening wore on, more and more people showed up; there probably were 50 people there at one point. Unfortunately, I didn't get to chat with a number of them -- partly my own fault, and partly a function of the size of the crowd and partly a function of my self-admitted claustrophobia -- but I did get to finally connect face-to-face with folks who've become friends and trusted colleagues through Twitter and Facebook, like Gini Dietrich and Dave Van de Walle. And that part of the night was fantastic!

So, you're probably wondering where the title of this blog post came from.

Flash forward to around 11 p.m., when Jess and I were ready to head back to her place. We asked the server for our check. What she brought us was shocking.

Instead of the reasonable bill for two gals on a budget -- we had two beers apiece -- the check included 10 beers. TEN! When we questioned the clearly incorrect bill, the server indicated that several people who'd been sitting at the large table earlier in the night hadn't paid for their drinks.

"But they're right over there..." I started to say before realizing that several folks had left without saying a word -- and, apparently, without paying their bill.

We were livid. And panicked. Neither of us had ever had anyone do this to us before, so we didn't really know the protocol -- nor did we have the cash or the desire to pay a bill that wasn't ours. So we argued with the server, who clearly knew that the bill was not ours.

"When I walked in here tonight, there was one person in this room who I'd met before," I said to her, gesturing at Jess. "You're not going to stick us with a bill for strangers because you didn't keep track of your customers."

And I don't know if she realized that we were right or what, but she took the cash for our real bill (which actually included a relatively generous tip) and walked away. Still fuming, we warned the nearest people about what was going on and then headed out before the server changed her mind.

Saturday morning, after I'd had a chance to sleep on the situation, I tweeted this, hoping for resolution:

And guess what? No replies. No "mea culpa." Nothing. So I can only assume that means no one stepped up and took care of the bill they left behind. And, unfortunately, I am left to assume -- based on what the server said, what was on the bill and how the situation played out -- just who it was who skipped out on the check ... and that it wasn't an accident.

While we didn't end up having to pay the tab that was abandoned by some Chicago social media types, we certainly learned a lesson. If you're going to a tweetup, quasi-tweetup or any other event organized via social media and you're not paying a set fee at the door (or in advance) to cover the evening's food and drinks, watch your back.

No matter how cool, bright and community-minded someone might come off via social media, it doesn't mean that translates to the 3D world.

And that's when SM + IRL = FAIL

(NOTE: No one named in this post is believed to have been among the check-skippers. Finger-pointing is not my style.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The best gift of all

A few weeks ago, a friend — I'll call him T — "scolded" me for getting him a Christmas present, particularly in light of the fact that I'd gotten him a gift for his birthday a month before.

And as odd as you probably think it was for him to say that, you're likely to find it just as odd that I'm actually not that much of a gift-giver — at least not in the way that most people are. Birthdays, holidays, weddings ... all of these things happen, and the typical response is to feel obligated to buy a gift — any gift.

But what happens if you remove the "obligation" part of the equation?

When it comes to gift-giving, that's how I roll. A number of the Christmas gifts I gave to my family this year were purchased or at least put on an idea list within the first few months of 2009. I'd be out shopping and see something that would be perfect for my parents. I'd have a conversation with my grandparents, and they'd mention, in passing, some book they'd seen on a talk show and found interesting. I'd find out that my sister and brother-in-law purchased a new gadget for which there are plenty of cool accessories available, which created great gift options. Basically, it all boiled down to paying attention, being thoughtful and being proactive. I never went Christmas shopping the way most people do; instead, I allowed gifts to "speak to me" throughout the year.

In the case of T's gifts, there was zero planning involved. I hadn't necessarily planned to buy him birthday and Christmas gifts. I didn't set out to find gifts, and I didn't feel obligated to do so. But that's when it happens: You come across something that is so incredibly perfect for someone that you wouldn't be able to forgive yourself if you didn't snatch it up for that person, and you make a purchase you'd never planned to make but end up being so glad that you did.

My general philosophy on gift-giving, which stirred up some conversation on Facebook over the holidays, is quite simple:

- Don't just buy a gift for the sake of buying a gift; buy it because it's something that makes you think of the recipient and/or is something they'll use and enjoy.

- Even on an occasion when gifts are customary, I'd rather get a thoughtful card and no gift than a thoughtless gift.

So when T gave me the "you shouldn't have done this" look at Christmastime, I reminded him about my philosophy. And then he opened the gift. And then the lightbulb clearly switched on as he saw what was, undeniably, a perfect gift for him.

Flash forward a couple of weeks to a few days ago, when the tables were turned on me. T flew in from D.C. for a weekend gathering of our friends, and he had a gift for me: A cookbook (pictured at left) from Rosa Mexicano, a restaurant we'd gone to — and that I'd absolutely loved — when I visited him this past fall.

"I was at the restaurant, and I was flipping through this book ... and I realized that you'd love it," he said.

And I do ... because the best gift of all is one that says, "I saw this and thought of you."

("Presents" photo courtesy of: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I love rock 'n' roll

Being born into a family of musicians (but, as it turned out, having ZERO musical talent myself), there's always been music in my blood and in my home in one way or another.

My dad (pictured at right) is a musician; in fact, my parents met when his band, The Mystic Cycle (can you get any more 1960s/1970s than that?!), played a dances at and near my mom's high school 90 miles away. My uncle is a musician; he won a Grammy in the 1980s. I even took a shot at music superstardom when I took up percussion in sixth grade; I lasted a whole semester before I realized I was terrible and gave it up to pursue choir (I was better at that, but still not great).

Anyway ...

When I was growing up, we always had whatever the current music-playing apparatus was — record players, cassette player sand eventually CD players (iPods didn't come along until much, much later). When I worked during high school, I spent entirely too much money buying CDs and concert tickets. In college, my prized possession was a 200-disc CD changer (which, of course, my roommates loved as well).

I've even dabbled in the music biz ... behind the scenes. In college I was a member of a campus programming board, helping to plan and execute concerts and other entertainment events of all sizes. As a professional, I've worked with musicians to promote concerts and album launches. I've even tinkered with a little bit of live music photography. No question, musicians are "my people," even though I have less rhythm than Elaine Benes.

And I'm still one of those people who can instantly be transported back in time when I hear a song that reminds me of a person, place or event in my life. Music has always been that big of a part of my life.

Yet somehow, at age 31, I had never been to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum ... until yesterday.

Thanks to a press pass arranged by my friend Tom Moore, a radio newsman in Cleveland, several friends and I, all from various parts of the media industry, were able to check out the "Rock Hall" firsthand.

And it was amazing.

From the opening video presentations showcasing the roots of rock 'n' roll and the philosophies of more contemporary rock and pop stars to the seemingly endless cases of costumes, guitars, handwritten drafts of lyrics to legendary songs, old copies of Rolling Stone and more, the museum is something to be seen (but not photographed, which is why you'll see no pictures here. Cameras are not allowed). While casual music fans will certainly be interested, music junkies will be enthralled.

I'd hate to spoil it for anyone by rattling off a list of what I saw yesterday, but suffice it to say that there are legendary things in that place. There also are many unexpected finds, like record-label rejection letters sent to U2. You know, the kinds of things that make you shake your head and think, "Oh, if only they'd known back then ..."

The funny thing to me is that some of what you'll find in the Rock Hall is so fascinating-yet-random that you kind of understand for a moment how people become packrats. Tons of news clippings, letters and other compelling artifacts on display wouldn't be there if someone hadn't thought to hang onto them "way back when." And I'm glad they did, because my music history education is more complete because of it.