Here are is my slide deck from my presentation at WordCamp Raleigh 2013 called, “Get Your Groove On – Powering Music Sites with WordPress.” This video presentation will soon be up on WordCamp.tv.
Here are is my slide deck from my presentation at WordCamp Raleigh 2013 called, “Get Your Groove On – Powering Music Sites with WordPress.” This video presentation will soon be up on WordCamp.tv.
I am very excited to report the beta launch of http://www.digitalstrategyworks.com, the digital strategy and web/mobile development agency that I’ve been working on independently since 2009 and recently with parter and CTO, Michael McNeil and our highly skilled Lead Developer, Jeff Marx.
I recently separated from a very challenging position working with a company in North Carolina, where I was resurrecting a failed music start-up. While I am still looking for another opportunity, my wife and I agreed that I should start putting the pedal to the medal on consulting work and put my 18+ years in digital to work for those who need our help.
Digital Strategy Works was born out of my experience in digital media working as a product manager, project manager and entrepreneur on a variety of digital media projects. The concept is simple – to be successful in building and maintaing digital products, one must have a well thought out digital strategy, which includes everything from application branding and revenue modeling to analytics and customer support. With over 100 projects under just my belt and the multitude of projects both Michael and Jeff have worked on, we have the depth of experience to transform a client’s vision into a sustainable product.
Working with many startups, non-profits and corporations, we’ve seen many founders or Business Owners struggle with getting their ideas off the ground. They may have excellent ideas, but poor execution, because they fail to plan around how to support their project from a holistic level.
In today’s challenging and competitive Internet environment, if you’re not thinking through what your users are going to expect from your platform, you can certainly cause an immense amount of frustration and lose customers. We’ve seen it happens to many times, so at Digital Strategy Works, we can sit down with the business owner and utilize the lean agile / scrum process to work together creating requirements and project plans to flush out what’s important in the primary build and potentially plan for future releases.
While I’m engaged in both a job search and building Digital Strategy Works (whichever becomes the priority, I’ll go with), my wife and I decided to head to Cuenca, Ecuador, where I am going to be working with a tutor to learn Spanish. I think knowing second and even third languages (or more) is so important in today’s globally connected world. I know that it will open doors for me. As the business of the web is computer-driven, I’m organizing and facilitating from here, which has been easy to do given all the technology we have at our disposal today.
Please take a look at the Digital Strategy Works website. We’re working on our portfolio now and filling in some details, but it will give you an idea of our capabilities. If you need something from us, we hope to hear from you. If not, please pass us along to your friends and colleagues who might need our professional services.
To fully appreciate and acknowledge the cultural significance and importance of the body of work contained within the home museum (casea museo) and adjacent Capilla de Hombre or Chapel Of Man of Ecuador’s favorite son – the incredible painter, sculptor and poet, Oswaldo Guayasamin (Born July 6, 1919, Quito, Ecuador. Died March 10, 1999), I was inspired to revisit everything I’ve learned thus far in my lifetime through my travels.
As my wife and I walked through Guayasamin’s home and adjacent museum, I felt the rich history and culture of Ecuadorian life. Through his works of art, I was captivated by his view of the pain and suffering of the indigenous Aztec, Mayan and Inca societies, African slaves and those in the Czech Republic during the time of Hitler who were murdered in cold blood.
I learned Guayasamin was not a religious man. He preferred to call his personal museum, which was built by his foundation with pledges from other countries, corporate donations and gifts from friends ranging from the now deceased Venezuelan Presidnet, Hugo Chavez and French President, Francois Mitterand, the Capilla de Hombre or Chapel of Man, because he wanted it to reflect the nature of man and not the mysticism of a deity. The works I viewed in the the collection of art on display were moving portrayals of the suffering of indigenous peoples he encountered through his travels around the world. His art tells the story of the both the beauty and cruel brutality of our society.
May of his works, like the one below, show the enduring pain and suffering of indigenous mothers who have lost children to war, famine, slavery and other cruelties. His focus on mothers reflected his love for his own mother and for the importance of family.
I am not an art critic or an art historian. I’m just a guy from Boston transplanted to New York City and now North Carolina, that has had the privilege of seeing important artifacts and places up close. My wife likes to describe me as a very linear person. That being said, my linear observations of this man’s life and work focus on the architecture of his home, which contains his impressive studio (double the size of the average two-bedroom condo in New York City) and the adjacent building constructed to display his most important works.
Spanning over 1,000 meters or 3,280 sq. ft., his magnificent home serves as a museum on its own, with works given to him by Picasso and other legendary artists on display. Guayasamin also collected religious symbols, including many wood sculptures by indigenous artists of Jesus on the cross. One statue of Jesus we saw includes a technique of creating glass eyes to give the subject a realistic look.
In my lifetime, I have visited many famous historic structures, buildings and homes built by those who took great risks or worked tirelessly to shape the United States of America, as well as the places of those who have experienced great poverty of were victims of grave injustice. I’ve walked the hallowed grounds of our nation’s famous battlefields and through the homes – from revolutionaries to Presidents – of influential figures in American history. My feet have taken me to see our nation’s greatest monuments and war vessels and I was fortunate enough to have stood on the outdoor observation deck at the World Trade Center. I also had the misfortune of watching them burn until they collapsed. I have, at times, strolled, walked or run through grand rail stations and airports in the United States, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, England and Ecuador.
Through these travels I have observed the differences in our cultures through architecture, art, music and commerce and its given me the opportunity to reflect both on our nation’s ingenuity and its inglorious past. Visits to the Tenement Museum in New York, the Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington, N.C. and Stagville Plantation in Durham, NC (which kept over 900 slaves on the property) have shaped a deeper understanding of the harsh realities of those who were enslaved or those who came the United States for a better life, only to exist in ghettos teaming with people on the same mission: to make it – at any cost – in America.
I have seen the greatness of our people who have worked to make our society better or sparked innovation in or advanced the fields of science, technology, education, art, fashion, music and more. I have also seen the injustice and violence that threatens what we as a nation proudly stand for. There are times when one consumes art and its hard to comprehend the message, especially if you’re not aware of the context or understand the message. That is why it’s important to understand and acknowledge what art tells us about ourselves. How it keeps us honest. How it makes us see what we may not want to see or teaches us what we might not know. And, how its messages show us where we’ve been and urge us to think critically about how what we do has a lasting impact on the world around us.
Great artists remind us of our achievements as well as our sordid past. They either quietly or loudly (and somewhere in between) demand justice for those who are left behind and those who are disenfranchised. Or, those who may never know another way, because they are held in captivity either against their will or prevented from getting information that will teach them how to overcome their circumstances.
My visit to the Casa Museo de Guayasamin brought me deep into the mind of a master storyteller through words, sculpture, painting and indigenous artifacts. It gave me a concept of history and the lives of people seen from the view of someone who deeply believed that he had a responsibility to show the world through his body of work where we have been, so that we can remember the horrors those who came before us endured. And through this work comes a strong cry for peace and justice where there is none and humanity where it needs to be.
While I had previously seen reproductions on small posters of Guyasamin’s work, it was not until I walked the streets of Quito, observed the various indigenous people’s in their native clothing and then visited and toured both the house and museum, that I could fully appreciate the work of a legendary figure in art history. Sometimes, you just have to go there to feel it. And, when you do – you’ll never be the same.
Every morning, we start off having breakfast at this wonderful local restaurant near the Hotel Sebastien on Calle de Luis Cordero. When you’re in the United States, it’s rare to see a restaurant with this charming character, almost like a movie set from another era. It’s very simple inside and is well kept by the owners. It’s almost like you are eating in their home, with the love they put into the food.
This is my favorite dish. Pollo con arroz y papas fritas! I love how the add slices of fresh avocado. I actually don’t eat avocado much, but since it’s on my plate, I mix it with bits of chicken and rice and it’s delicious. The sauce behind the plate and to the right is fresh mayonnaise made from scratch. There’s no processed food in this restaurant! And the sauce on the left es realmente picante or really spicy! Fresh tomatoes and green pepper adorn the top of the piece of chicken and the underlying sauce is delicious. I mix it with my rice.
The food in Ecuador is definitely different than back in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I can’t think of anywhere I’ve eaten in Winston that has the rich flavors and sauces of this region of the world.
My first day in Quito was muy interesante! I am definitely feeling the affects of and adjustment to the the altitude. I experienced an odd sensation of electricity running through my body from my head down through my chest and arms. And boy, am was I tired! While waiting for our food at a local restaurant, I started to fall asleep! I’m on day two and things seem to be subsiding. Everyone says drinking la Coca té, (the Coca tea) will give me a little buzz and help me to get over the symptoms of altitude sickness, after a few sips I didn’t feel anything. Maybe I need to set myself up a tea pot and sit with it for a while.
The picture above is in a park in the central plaza of the old city of Quito. It’s a beautiful little oasis surrounded by blocks of cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture. When you walk the streets of the old city, you realize there is little in the form of green space immediately under your feet, but you can see in the surrounding mountains and valley the lush green fields and trees that make this a city of both green, for its expanse of fields and forests in the valleys, and grey, for the city’s cobblestone streets and sidewalks.
Of course, I did see much more than this, but we are preparing for a day trip and I don’t have much time right now to post more photos of my experiences on my first day, but I will follow up with a post tonight!
This morning I woke up in Quito, Ecuador. No, it’s not a dream. I’m here, because my wife thought it was a good idea to take a trip now, before we are selected by a birthmother and father to adopt their child. We’ve been “on the books,” so to speak, since July when we completed the adoption paperwork. It’s now marketing yourselves both online and off and waiting until a birth family calls to match with you, but that has yet to happen, so we’re travelling.
After separating from my full time position on October 1st, my wife – an international educator, wanted to fulfill her dream of traveling together abroad before we are selected as an adoptive family. While I have my reservations about traveling abroad while in a job search and building my DigitalStrategyWorks.com agency, she and everyone else on Facebook (where else, of course!) urged me to consider traveling now. I don’t remember how many times in the last month I’ve heard people say, “not many people ever get the chance to do this.” Or, “you’d better do it now before the baby comes.” Then there’s the, “Wow, I’m so jealous!”
Not only are we on the adoption “books” and waiting, but since I separated from my position on October 1st, we’ve been to the New York City area to explore opportunities there. After investigating the costs of moving, resetting out adoption paperwork to comply with the rules once you move and looking at housing prices, we decided to stay in North Carolina for now and move to Asheville. Not only were we planning this trip, we also had to plan the move from Winston-Salem to Asheville, which was completed on Monday.
Call me crazy. Okay, okay…you can stop now. Yes, we travelled to the New York City area for 15 days, planned and moved to Asheville and now we are in Quito, Ecuador – all in a matter of 60 days. I wasn’t looking for this adventure. The adventure found me and now we’re on it together.
How do I feel on my first day in Quito? Well, the construction outside of hotel window woke me up and I’m suffering from a bit of altitude sickness. I’ve got a runny nose, a headache and I feel this strange pings – sort of like electricity, running through my body every few minutes. I’m definitely avoiding the tap water and drinking botella de agua or bottled water in my native language.
It is very interesting having to immerse yourself from day one in a new country with a language you have surface knowledge of through all Spanish speaking friends or watching Telemundo and Univision soccer. There are words that sound English that are easy to know. So much I’ve heard, but just never remembered, because I didn’t need to. For the next sixty days, I’m going to get an immersive lesson in speaking Spanish. In a few weeks, hopefully I’ll be able to say with some confidence, Si, hablo Español! Well, maybe more than a few weeks.
Last night, we took a taxi in from the airport and my wife, who has a strong grasp of Spanish, had a conversation with the driver. For me, it’s better to listen to her speak to someone else in Spanish, try to parse the words then ask questions, instead of her telling me words and what they mean. I think I’m better at experiential learning and now we’ll put that to the test.
One of the things I’d love to do here is go to a soccer game. I’ll be looking for an opportunity to do that. For now, we’ll be in Quito until Monday and then we’ll fly to Cuenca, which will be our base for the rest of the trip.
Well, it’s 8:52 AM and we’re off to have our first breakfast in Quito. I hear breakfast at the local restaurant is only $2.50!
There are times in life when people need your help. They might need a little nudge. They might need a few bucks to get them over the hump. They might need just some advice or support. You never know what small thing you can do for someone that will make a huge difference to them.
I remember, a few years ago, a friend called and he was losing his house. Things were really rough for him. I’d known him since the early 90’s and knew what kind of good soul he was. How he treated everyone around him with respect. How he was just a person who got caught in a situation. He needed some money to get to NYC so he could interview for a job. I sent it to him, because he’d given me so much advice about selling records online, which has since been somewhat successful for me to dump some of my collection. He could have charged me for that advice, but he didn’t. It was easy to send him some funds. He got a job and since then, it seems like things got better.
I had another friend who once was stuck and needed some bus fare to get himself back and forth to NYC. I sent him some money and he was able to get to where he needed to go at the time. There was another time he needed a few dollars to pay for a month more of storage, so he wouldn’t lose his entire record collection and dj gear. I gave it to him, because I know how important your record collection and dj gear are to the dj. Without them, what do you do? How do you rebuild on 20-years of collecting?
Recently, I had another friend who’s never really been in the Internet game. She had a personal situation that’s prevented her from focusing on digital media, because her child came first. She didn’t ask, but I offered to pay for a $35 two-day conference for her over this weekend and from what I heard tonight from her, it was truly transformational. She is now incredibly inspired to deep dive into WordPress and learn more about social media marketing.
Some time ago, I lent another friend money to help pay a phone bill so she wouldn’t lose touch with her business contacts. I also helped her with money to move to L.A. And, I let her stay at my place for a while in transition. I don’t know how successful she’s been out there, but it seems as if things have stabilized. I certainly hope so.
As for me, when I was between jobs, my friend sent me money to help me pay for a plane ticket to NYC to take meetings, make connections and see what I could rustle up. This was a few years ago. That friend said to me, “don’t worry about it…you don’t have to pay me back.” That is a true friend.
But, it’s his teaching me throughout our friendship for over 23-years, that if you can do it, you pay it forward to others who need help. So, for the money he gave me that one day to get to New York City, I’ve given ten times that to others to help them get to where they need to be.
I write this, because I never really talk about it. I write this, because I want to tell people that it’s not about the money. It’s about the hope, the joy, the inspiration and the necessity of seeing your friends through difficult times. It’s about what my friend taught me long ago – treat everyone as you want to be treated. After all, it is only money. I know it’s important in many ways, but if that little bit helps someone else out of a jam, then don’t think twice about it, because your friend will always know when you have their back. When you stepped up to the plate and make it just a little easier for them. That’s what life, for me, is about.
Over lunch at Cafe Amrita on the Upper West Side, neighborbee founder, Anthony Lobosco and I met to discuss the vision for supercharging what was a simple blog with content about New York City neighborhoods into a hyper-local social community. A place where neighbors could freely post what they love about their communities and well, what they don’t love so much. Lobosco, a Fordham alum and telecom industry sales executive has had his share of stress as a New York City co-op owner. He believed that if people could just have a place to publish information down to the building level in major cities, it could be a transformative in many ways. And, oddly enough, we share the same first names. We’re both of Italian-American descent. My wife’s business has a bee in the name: Melibee Global. And, our wives first names are Melissa!
I had recently launched Digital Strategy Works, my digital strategy and WordPress consulting company out of my Bronxville apartment after spending one year at a web development agency in Farmingdale, NY. My wife and I had discussed my driving from Bronxville to Farmingdale everyday. While I spent some nights at one of the founders houses on Long Island, the 3-hour round-trip drives were taking their toll on my health and our relationship, so we decided that I would leave my job and take a risk on my own business.
Since 2003, I’d been publishing my music blog, Netmix.com on WordPress. Over the next 6-years, I engaged with the WordPress community, helping others with their issues in the WordPress.org forums while building my knowledge of the platform. As WordPress grew, opportunities to build WordPress sites for others started to come in. In the summer of 2009, about 9-months after I’d left my job, I signed an agreement with Anthony to build Neighborbee.com. I would project manage the site and hire developers in Boston for the build.
Anthony and I began to spend many nights drawing up the information architecture and business requirements documentation for the site. We used an office at Fordam University’s alumni association in Columbus Circle. I can’t recall how many nights we spent working out the documentation for the project, but it’s safe to say it was a lengthy process. We found that we got along quite well. Anthony was a solid client who understood the task at hand. I don’t think either of us knew what we would be in for, but with his vision spelled out and my ability to partner and drive development, we set forth on a path for success. That path was a 3-year journey, which finally came to an end, or should I say, new beginning, over the last few weeks. After 3-years of development, we finally launched neighborbee.com. In those 3-years, Anthony moved to Stamford and I moved to Chapel Hill, Carrboro, back to Chapel Hill and then to Winston-Salem. Anthony and his wife also had not one, but two babies! Imagine working full-time, building your start-up and having two children at the same time. Makes me exhausted just thinking about it.
Of course, Anthony and I could not do it alone. WordPress developers Jeffrey Marx, formerly of the Journal News in Westchester and CBS Local and now at Gilt Groupe and Michael McNeil, a student at UNC Chapel Hill who both have contributed a great deal to the growth and success of Digital Strategy Works, spent countless hours perfecting, cajoling and moving neighborbee in the right direction. While we’d started off with the web shop in Boston who shall remain nameless, given the negative experience we had with them, Jeff and Michael brought the right mix of experience, passion and creativity to the project.
We’d also gone through a couple of designers, but couldn’t seem to get the visual experience down to a web 2.0 look and feel, but Anthony brought on Chris Antonelle, a web graphic designer in NYC, who added the right mix of colors and style and brought it all together. We would have been finished last year, but we all agreed to let Chris do his magic and we’d implement the solutions. What you see today is the result of that effort.
Lastly, we needed someone to deal with content. While the neighborbee Dev team are gifted in their own ways, it was important to find someone who could shape the editorial voice of neighborbee as well as enhance our social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter. Anthony turned to Elance and found Julia Crenshaw-Smith, a freelance marketing and editorial consultant who we brought on to give neighborbee it’s, well, honey – if you will. Julia turned the site’s prior content into usable material to seed the network. Now, it’s up to the users of neighborbee, who can join with their zip code or address in NYC-only, to explore their neighborhoods and seed their hives with honey.
Yes, all this was done while working nights and weekends over the past two-years. I’d taken a job at UNC Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication in July of 2010 to build out the digital presence of a $4M gift-funded newsroom to teach students digital journalism, social media and audience engagement. Through November 2011, I pitched in to manage the continued build out and revised graphical user interface. After a scandal at UNC, which saw my boss get canned for carrying on a relationship with a student resulting in a downsizing the program, I found a new opportunity at Market America in Greensboro, NC, where I am leading product development of an online music platform for artists, Getconquer.com. While the work that I am doing by day is very important, neighborbee has become – for me, a labor of love and dedication. The project is so important for many reasons, as it can really open up communication in neighborhoods and go into buildings, which local news organizations simply cannot cover.
Yes, it’s going to take a village. A village of bees, that is, to get neighborbee off to the start it so deserves. We’re looking forward to that user adoption and providing ways for users to really engage the site. The next step is obviously mobile and we have plans for that as well. And, we’re starting to build out funding strategy, putting together our pitch deck and submitting our application to pitch at New York Tech Meetup sometime soon!
So, without further adieu, I present the home page of neighborbee.com below. Let me know what you think by posting a comment here on my blog.
Okay, so I finally got around to fixing my portfolio page. It’s been a long time coming! With everything I’ve got going on – well, it’s just hard to keep up with it. While I’ve done most of the hard work, there are still some things left to do. So, if you seem something that doesn’t seem quite right, I probably already know about it and I’m going to be fixing it as soon as I can.
Wow, how time flies! It’s been well over a year since I gave this talk on WordPress & Social Media at the Brooklyn Technology Meetup. If you know me, you know I live and breathe WordPress through my digital strategy consultancy, Digital Strategy Works. While WordPress is not necessarily inherently social, there are a ton of tools for WordPress, like JetPack, which is a multi-feature plugin with a number of tools to help you site be social.
Here’s the video…