Category Archives: Decision Theater

Podcasting kicks in at GreenNurture

I’m a big fan of podcasting, as most of you readers probably know.

I’ve talked about it, written about it, been on BlogTalk Radio, and experimented with other similar formats such as iPadio. Along the way I produced some as well, starting with podcasts for ASU’s Decision Theaterfound here, or at iTunes

Trouble is, I have not taken time to put them all in one place –something I will get to shortly. (Yeah right, that’s if the cobbler’s children syndrome doesn’t kick in!)

So I am excited to be able to do it at this venue, for GreenNurture. We call them Nurturecasts, and we just launched the series, starting today.

Armed with a much-recommended ZoomH4N (that tends to look a friendly as a Taser, and upset a few TSA folk in airports), I’ve started on a series of podcasts for Public Radius as well.

Here is where to find them.


My last project at Decision Theater

It’s going to be one of the strangest parting shots. My one last project as I transit out of Decision Theater is the redesign of the present web site.


The typical questions I get asked go like this:

  • Why do you care?
  • Why would they want you to manage this?
  • Isn’t it odd, for the outgoing Communications Manager to have anything to say about an organization that’s changing direction?

My short answer is: I’ve been asked to do equally bizarre things. The Decision Theater web site, for all its visual appeal has been something I’ve wanted to update for a while. It sends a message of  ‘old media’ when we actually employ some really advanced tools and processes –from GIS data and visualization, to brainstorming tools, to interactive exercises. I began the blog, Light Bulb Moments ( and a podcast and a microblog, and white papers and…) partly as a solution to fill this gap, and partly to communicate quicker, link better, embed more and aspects of Decision Theater that tended to get buried in a static web site. If things go well, the new site will be extremely dynamic.

In case you’re wondering what  ‘transit out of the Decision Theater’ meant, it’s an euphemism I use very cautiously for:  ‘my job was eliminated due to budget cuts.’

Regretful? Yes. But I have started on a path of new media and communications that does not leave time for looking in the rear-view mirror. Ergo, spending my last days at ASU looking at what’s emerging, even in a place I say goodbye to.

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Posted by on September 8, 2009 in Communications, Decision Theater



Word Cloud, an interesting lens + tracking tool

Two months after I posted my word cloud, I revisited it via Tweetstats, and can see how by looking at a word cloud over time, I can track how my focus has shifted.


I use a lot of short URLs, via Hootsuite –hence the looming OW factor!

But also News and Flu has come into play. The latter has loomed large ‘cos I’ve talked about the communications implications of  my social media engagement around swine flu, and pandemic planning exercises at Decision Theater, my workplace.

My marketing and media side tells me that this would be a great way to keep track of a long term event.

Speaking of which, here’s a word cloud (left) about news in Iran –with an interesting visual twist. It was made from 84,000 tweets.

Word and Tag clouds could be used from variety of crowd-sourced sites. Take this: I looked up a word tag cloud on Michael Jackson –from people who tagged stories via Delicious. You can be sure the cloud’s focus would move from ‘legacy’ and ‘Barbara Walters’ to messier topics such as estate, drugs etc.


Teaching in a 2.0 world

I meet a lot of lecturers and researchers in my job, because they are all using advanced modeling and scientific tools to engage students and look at knowledge in new dimensions.

I also meet a lot of high school teachers who are family friends and professional colleagues. It’s impossible to miss the big shift happening in the classroom, no different from the big changes going on in PR agencies or marketing departments. At the risk of over-simplifying things,what’s going on is the decentralization of knowledge, and the loss of control. In a good way, that is, when it refers to the classroom.

This presentation best illustrates what I am talking about. Via Devon Adams, who’s Teacher 2.0 approach best illustrates this shift.

If you can’t see the video above, click here



Video of Wiki-Wire event with P.J. Haarsma

Follow up to my post a few weeks back on live blogging an event that involved a Wiki, a science fiction writer, an online game at my work place, the Decision Theater.

The Department of English has a video of the presentation and unveiling of the student-created wiki.

Wiki-Wire: YA Lit Meets the Future from ASU English –on Vimeo.



My foray into podcasting – Light Bulb Moments

Happy to note that I now have six podcasts published on iTunes.
They are also here at the Decision Theater blog.

More to follow!

I began the podcasts, Light Bulb Moments as a complement to the Decision Theater blog that bears the same name.

But none of this happenned overnight. Podcasting is an interesting a curious exercise. As those who do it will tell you, there are many components to it, from the interview prep, to the editing (if you’re not going live to the drive, as some pros like Mitch Joel and CC Chapman do), and the publishing.

My deep appreciation to two people –fellow IABC members– who have been my inspiration to get started: Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson. For the past –what was it?– three or more years I’ve listened to several communications and PR podcasts, and still do. But For Immediate Release has been one show I never fail to get back to. I learned the nuts and bolts of the trade from their book, How to do everything with podcasting, then took a class at ASU, and jumped in. Suddenly the deep-end doesn’t feel so intimidating.

A note about Light Bulb Moments. It’s a sort of a peek behind the curtain, if you will, at what goes on here at the Decision Theater.

The core area (left), a room with floor-to-ceiling screens is a high-tech interactive environment. It’s used for planning –scenario planning– systems thinking and policy making.

We work with cities, businesses, govt agencies, school districts / schools and non-profits; more recently in pandemic influenza planning exercises. It looks very complex from the outside. So since part of my job is to communicate and distill that complexity, podcasts are perfect for this. It lets me capture the light bulb moments, plus the nuances –right down to the ambient sound.


Lessons from live blogging a social media event

Last evening, I live blogged an event at work, trying out a service called CoverItLive.

Check it here

What was interesting to me was that the event itself was steeped in social media. Basically it was the unveiling of a student-created wiki for sci-fi author, PJ Haarsma, who writes books that are connected online  games, using feedback loops and wiki-interaction to promote better reading habits across America.

To get back to CoverItLive, it’s a great tool, because it lets you update your posts  created on the CoveritLive interface, to any blog. Of course being the first time I used it, I think I messed with the time-zones and as a result, it was not updating. Plan B rolled out! I copied and pasted the posts into the blog. Which defeats the purpose, I know!

But the experience was valuable; it’s only by experimenting with social media tools like this can you get past that learning curve. The very frustration and the mistakes make a lot of other similar social media apps coming after this, easier to master.

Features: What’s neat about CoverItLive is that the audience does not need to refresh the screen — the text keeps streaming onto your blog. Also very valuable, is the ability to conduct a poll while posting.

Recently we looked at using Polldaddy as a sidebar to a live video being streamed via BitGravity, and toyed with the idea of live-blogging and tweeting the event. I love Polldaddy, but application clutter can be distracting. One interface that pulls a lot of other apps together in one box is what I am always looking for.

So the 3 things I learned about live blogging:

  • Always conduct a dry run. It seemed to work in a test, but I never went live. If no time for a dry-run, always have a Plan B.
  • Work as a team. It’s tough to take photos, record audio and live blog! We did this at the Obama visit a few weeks back.
  • Gather media in advance -videos, photos, links etc. Fortunately I had some some homework on this event, so I knew what YouTube video to link to etc

There are two other boxes to check:

  • Make sure of the wi-fi connection
  • Charge your batteries, and/or sit close to a power outlet


Can Google juice contaminate bottled water?

Metro_water_hpEver since I read an article about branding sand — I think it was this one– I have been fascinated with what differentiates a commodity from a brand.

Sand or silica is such an abundant mineral  that it’s amazing how much value it holds. Other commodities such as coffee or wheat seem to pale in comparison with what we do with silica.

But the water business comes close. Branding H20 seems commonplace today, but it is a highly competitive business.

Which is why I found this package for Metromint –a cross between a bottle of shampoo and an energy drink– irresistible when I was in the grocery store the other day.

The company has an interesting tone of voice. It is part of the Soma company, that calls itself  ‘an innovative group of beveragistas.’

The Metromint blog is full of consumer-driven stories, contributed by folks like Chocolate Snob and The Karin.

The packaging is simple on its front end (busy at the back) with something called the Chill Factor. There’s a number for every variant. The bottle I picked up, Spearmint, had a factor or -6. On a day like today that’s inching up to 104 degrees, I long to try it.


Just as I was about to chill and try it out, I stumbled on a piece of news. Damn Google! This particular variant had been subject of a health alert and was recalled late last year. Bummer!

Suddenly all the packaging, online presence, promos and social media-enhanced branding didn’t matter. Here was the prospect of ingesting bacillus cereus staring in my face. It’s one of those food-borne bacteria that probably won’t kill me, but it contradicts everything about bottled water — being safer than the stuff off the tap.

I don’t bring this up to denigrate the Soma brand. It is probably as susceptible as any restaurant or packaged food. But it highlights how branding in today’s world is a completely different task than what it was less than a decade ago. The mere presence of negative ‘Google juice’ –the ability for any and every mention of a brand to be preserved for eternity– is something every brand custodian has to keep in mind.

Outside of bottled water, any service (any ‘branded’ business for that matter) is vulnerable. That’s the reality that I have to face up to as well in my job, using a slew of communication tools to get people to interact with the Decision Theater. I am sure you do too, whether you are nurturing your personal brand or one of your clients.

And it’s not just Google’s memory we have to think about.


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Live streaming meets interactive

Today’s economic summit, for the Greater Phoenix Economic Summit, GPEC hosted here at Decision Theater proved to be truly interactive, in more ways than one.

GPEC_1On the expected level, there was interactivity between business leaders and the media.

But while all this was happening, the camera that you see here was live streaming video made available to a web audience. We used BitGravity for this. The BitgGavity feed was embedded in a dedicated web page. At one time we tracked more than 600 people on that site. This extended audience got to interact with the speakers through an embedded chat program, and via a polling tool.

In an adjacent  conference room –call it the social media hub– I was part of the team watching the live web stream. Someone from the GPEC comms team would forward the questions to the Drum via Blackberry. All this, as we tweeted and blogged the event.

Photos taken during the event were immediately uploaded to Flickr -you can see them on the right of this page- and TwitPic.


Using blogging, tweeting, GIS maps to monitor health emergency

What a week for social media!

I’ve been doing a lot of data-gathering on the swine flu since we were alerted to the outbreak last Friday. We are a visualization center and decision-lab that happened to hold pandemic flu exercises, so while we are not public health experts, we know a thing or two about emergency planning.

Apart from talking to the media, managing new media efforts and outreach, my work involves being the eyes and ears of the Decision Theater.

A few years ago this would have taken an enormous amount or work. Today, time-crunch notwithstanding, being plugged into social media has made it easier to stay on top of things. It’s all about being connected to the sources and monitoring the monitors.

Is it live, or is it ‘public?’ Sometimes when I brief the media on a story, what I assume to be public knowledge, is not. When the WHO raises a threat level, when a state epidemiologist confirms a new case, when the governor releases a new document or the state health officials hold a web conference … all these go public as they hit the wires. But unless we have an effective monitoring mechanism, or have hired a media monitoring agency, critical data can get buried in the clutter –and chatter. I subscribe to some news services via SMS, and of course follow a few organizations, on my phone via Twitter. I can now ping a reporter using the Twitter with direct message to confirm something.

Direct from the source. I know, all this tweeting, re-tweeting, Facebooking and blog angst (some of which I have referred to) is precisely what adds to that chatter. But rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, I think that we are better off with more information, if we know how to use it well. Many who have good data are now not limited to squeezing it through the old pipes (cable) and intermediaries (wire services). They do issue press releases, but they also give us a direct feed.  And we are better off for that.

Here are a handful that do a good job of it. An expanded list is on our Decision Theater Blog, Lightbulb Moments.

The latter is worth elaborating on. HealthMap is an interesting project. The two people behind it  (John S. Brownstein, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and Clark Freifeld, a software engineer) grab several feeds and lay them out to help us make sense of all that data.

TMI? We can deselect categories in HealthMap if we so wish. In an emergency, few seem to complain about too much information. If at all, there would be an uproar had any organization  inadvertently held back some information.


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