Author Archives: Angelo Fernando

About Angelo Fernando

Author, business journalist, elementary school teacher, podcaster. I have been blogging since 2004, and a business and technology columnist for magazines, since 1994. Passionate about education, and media literacy.

Win a free copy of Chat Republic. Send your question to @IABCPhoenix

Angelo Fernando - Chat Republic

It’s been just 3 months since my book Chat Republic launched in the U.S., and there are some interesting developments that obviously did not get discussed:

  • The raison d’être and privacy issues over dating games such as Tinder
  • The flurry over crypto-currency‘ (BitCoin)
  • The hashtag ‘noise’ emanating from every possible event (such as the Bieber-crazy #Beliebers)

What burning question do you have about where social media is taking us? I’m speaking at an IABC Phoenix event tomorrow

Post your question to @IABCPhoenix and @heyangelo

If your question is picked, you’ll receive a free copy of Chat Republic. 

(You don’t need to be atending the event to win!)


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How medium size ‘decoys’ mess with your head – ‘Absolute Value’ explained

As I mentioned, I am reading ‘Absolute Value, a book that will certainly rock the world of marketers who have sat on their bottoms with the idea of branding. The idea that the ‘brand’ equity they create, can determine people’s choices.

This explanation by Itamar Simonson on NBC, explains the concept of why manufacturers ‘frame’ the price to provide an imperfect set of choices.

Simonson is a really good interviewee –he firmly, and politely disagrees with the host of the show and others at the table) to make his point and clarify the thesis of the book.

Two things, he says, worth noting:

  • Marketing as we know it is no ‘trick’ - just an outdated way of providing consumer choices, so they make an irrational compromise.
  • Brands are not the same ‘filters’ as say Facebook is. They were proxies for value that do no work as well now. The best filters live outside of the control of brands.

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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Book, Marketing, Social Media


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Seven reasons email is anti-social

Ever lost an email, or had someone send you an email to ask you to resend an email from a few weeks ago?

It happens to the best of us! Even the ones who say ‘I need  three days to catch up with my email.”  My first response to people who send me an email asking me to resend that errant mail because they can’t find it, is: “Why bother? Why don’t I just tell you about it over the phone?”

But no, some folks will not have it because they want to scrutinize the digital paper trail to see who else was on the list, what precise time it was sent out (is there a deeper meaning why it went out at 5:32 pm on a Friday?) etc. I admit I’ve asked people the same dumb question. I’ve lost mail in my labyrinth of folders, however well I have organized them.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that email is one of the most not-so-social communication tools we have ever welcomed into our lives. The time is near when we will quietly shed our email, or at least only use it as a backup, rather than a main way of connecting. What will we use? More about that in a moment. For now, here is my list of why email is messing with our social lives.

1. Email forces us to ‘write’ not chat. Somewhere down the line we were brainwashed into thinking that email was like letter writing, and needed to be erudite and very, um, grammatical. (Inserting words like ‘erudite’ and deleting words like ‘um!)

2. Email apps tend to be always open. We can’t seem to shut the damn thing off. If we had someone in the office talking non-stop at us, we would shut the door, wouldn’t we? The constant stream of faux communication makes us neglect the real communication opportunities around us. Ever tried to talk to someone who’s temporarily ignoring you because he/she is ‘firing off an email’? Exactly!

3. Email does not encourage others to join in or drop off. The ‘thread’ we create forces others to be part of the ongoing chatter. The fact that it arrives in our ‘in-box’ makes us feel compelled to act on it. Result: more useless chatter.

4. Email is group-unfriendly. It does not easily lend itself to group discussions that get archived somewhere other than on our own email server. We can’t easily tell which person in the group is taking a lead, who is teaming up with whose idea, and what sub-groups are potentially forming.

5. Email lets you embed (and fools you into receiving) the useless data. Who needs logos (when you’re sharing flight information). Or fancy textured backgrounds. Or animated icons?

6. Email doesn’t easily lend itself to knowledge repositories. Email threads are horrible if you want to crowd-source an idea. (OK, Google Drive is fabulous in this aspect, but what about non-Gmail users?)

7.  Email has no ‘layout.’ I don’t know how best to put this but a social environment needs to have a certain architecture. A front door. A few ‘hang-outs.’ Some visual appeal. Online communities will never be as social as the offline groups we are part of, whether they are PTAs, book clubs, professional associations etc. But at least they have some design criteria with human interaction in mind.  No matter what you do to pimp up your email program, it still looks like a big boring list of to-dos.

Four years ago, Gartner predicted that some social network type application will replace email for 20 percent of us business users by this year! Not sure this has happened.

The Chat App phenomenon has proved to be the answer for now. It’s a hybrid of email and texting, and doesn’t become a time-suck like Facebook. What’s best –since it’s something we do on our phones, not PCs– it’s easy to jump into a phone call. Once again plain old telephony to the rescue!

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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Social Media


Why SoundCloud rocks

Whenever I get tired of reading the news, I switch to SoundCloud.

I’m currently doing a series of lessons with my students on audio, and having them experiment with the power of voice. (I know: It fits nicely into the theme I’ve been plugging in my book, Chat Republic.) Truth is, young people are enamored by video, and instinctively see audio as its poor-relation.

But ever so often, one of them says something in a microphone that makes them realize how simple and real an audio experience could be.

Here’s one that is part of an NPR experiment itself. An experiment to study why audio seldom goes viral.

It’s almost impossible to listen to this and not (a) feel close to the event (b) wonder how someone managed to record this near-death experience.


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Giving, the “best form of Communication”

No words are necessary for this.

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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Communications



Sochi’s ‘Teaching Moments’ through social filters

How to teach social media, without actually calling it social media?

That’s one of the challenges I run into, now and then. To many young students –and I am talking those elementary school to whom “hash tag” means something else entirely–, there is no big distinction between media variants. Newspapers, photo albums, television, encyclopedias etc all belong to one blurry category.

You will probably hear this often – schools are really anxious about (social) media behaviors and the flood of tools that enable them. I take what might seem a contrarian approach: It’s better to prepare students for responsible use of digital media, than ask them to check them at the door.

Yesterday Feb 5th was Digital Learning Day, so it was a good day, as any to address some of these topics. Since this week also happens to be the opening week of the Olympics, I tried to pull these two strands together. As always there was a lucky collusion of opportunities.

  • Padlet - OlympicsTo bring this all together in a classroom experience I began experimenting with a website another teacher referred me to: Padlet. It lets a student import content into a page in a variety of ways – from PDF to QR code, to an embed link – as you could see here. or via this QR Code it generates.

Some of these open the door to what we educators like to call Teaching Moments. To deal with topics such as:

Copyright. What does that mean in a link economy, where someone could embed a video or link to something without violating intellectual property rights? Even the International Olympic committee has had to spell out its SM Policy about blogging and tweeting. Even grown ups need to abide by an event or site’s rules – such as this, below that says one cannot ‘assume’ a reporter’s persona!


Collaboration: The connectivity students take for granted (the always-on wi-fi) makes it possible to have a close conversation with a total stranger, and learn from him/her, but at the same time, sharing personal information with someone on a public channel could be dangerous.

Old media that was decidedly one-way, locked down, or expensive didn’t allow some of these opportunities, but it also protected us from the torrent of meaningless discussions, and TMI. Maybe there’s a lesson in that too.

If you’re curious about Padlet, here’s what the page looks like:

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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Best Practices, Social Media


Conversations with an Olympian

Trying out another ambitious ‘chat’ –this time it is with a former Olympian,

Sean Smith - Olympics

Sean Smith was a member of the U.S. Olympic team at the winter games in 2002

The idea is to have my students talk to an Olympian, this week. A few of my fellow teachers have been adding Olympic-related content to our lessons, and this would be a great way for the students to feel connected to the events going on in Sochi, Russia.

To join this Live chat, click on the link below.

  • Date:        Tuesday, 11 February, 2014
  • Time:        8:45 am—sochi-2014

Sean was on U.S. Freestyle Skating team for 10 years, and has been on CSPN, and ABC. He is now an ‘outfitter’ with Promontory Club, involved in several outdoor sports. He is also helping the Salt Lake City NBC-affiliate, cover the Olympics in Sochi.

Live streaming video by Ustream

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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Education, Social Media


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Digital Learning Day, tomorrow: An opportunity to teach and learn

Tomorrow is Digital Learning Day across America. For me it’s an interesting way to focus on the ever-changing landscape of education and knowledge tools; With schools upping the ante on the sciences, and adopting what’s known here in the U.S. as the Common Core Standards, it’s time we experimented with digital learning.

And if you’ve read this blog you’ll know that by Digital Learning I don’t mean thrusting a small screen in front of students and expecting knowledge to automatically be transferred from hyperlinks to neurons.

There’s a lot more about how I’m approaching #DLDay on my school blog. Here’s are three things I will be trying out this week. I bet they could be easily applied to areas outside education.


This is an interesting way of allowing a group to collaborate on a topic, using voice or video. The spoken word could be a powerful way to get a team or a class to focus on the content, not the presentation. When I interviewed the CEO of Voicethread last week, Steve Muth used the phrase “No Bling” to describe why Voicethread is powerful.


For some reason the embed code is not working here. Padlet is essentially a way to create a multimedia story on a blank wall, and share that story in a variety of ways. So you could have a small group curate ideas from multiple sources and quickly assemble them in one place. A bit like a wiki, but with a visual look and feel.I like the fact that it also gives you a QR code for each project.


When I first heard that Voki was about creating avatars, I didn’t want to take it seriously. It reminded me of the avatar fetish we once had when Second Life was all the rage. But on second look, Voki is a neat way to get students to engage in digital storytelling, by getting them interested in creating content. The ‘voice’ of the avatar could be created in many ways: by uploading text, uploading a pre-recorded voice recording, or by recording it live. Once again, your avatar generates an embed code.

How will students take to these new ways of engaging? No predictions. But I could tell you that just this week I tested out voice recordings with first graders, and they were beginning to record mini stories in less than 30 minutes of showing them how to use Audacity.


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Chat Republic backgrounder – IABC/Phoenix

In three weeks I will be speaking at a meeting of IABC-Phoenix, and to that end, this interview by Peggy Bieniek has  just been published.

It’s a bit of a long read, so if you’ve gotten used to 140-character summaries (and that’s one of the points I raise in Chat Republic), this is certainly not for you.

It is one of the most thorough backgrounders to the book, and my take on social media.

Interview with IABC-Phoenix

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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Book, Book Reviews, Chat Republic



An “Eat More Kale” problem all over again!

Corporate entities trying to silence the voice of their users is a story you’ve heard again and again.

I featured the “Eat More Kale” story, the story about Bo Mueller-Moore in Chat Republic. So this story of two students being told by their college, Yale, that they had no right to come up with a better website for their school, rang a bell. Mueller-Moore was considered a trespasser; a pest. Harry Yu and Peter Xu (who designed what amounts to a replacement of Yale’s course selection website) were just end-users.

These are the kinds of people who end up receiving “cease-and-desist” letters. Just Google the phrase and you’ll see.

It took an online following and petitions to get the college dean to respond to the incident. But if you read her explanation, it is hardly apologetic. This triggered an online petition, which called it a “non-apology.” It explained:

We must let the Yale administration know that these tactics are not okay. The university has broken students’ trust by acting in a hostile way towards students who were providing a beneficial service to fellow students free of charge.

Three days later, Mary Miller, the dean, responded once more. This time with a bit more humanity. She (somewhat grudgingly) granted that “In the end, students can and will decide for themselves how much effort to invest in selecting their courses.”

An interesting modern fable that keeps being updated all the time.

If only the Yale folk had read up the Eat More Kale story!

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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in Disruptive


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