Category Archives: Business & Technology

Blissdom Conference 2012

Blissdom Conference 2012 Calls Bloggers to ‘Hang Up and Arrive’

Attending a blogging conference, Kara Gause hardly expected a call to unplug and reconnect with her family. But it turned out to be a much-appreciated wake up call. 

“Pay attention, Daddy?”

This misspelled message was sweetly scrawled by the daughter of writer, blogger and social media expert Jon Acuff across a napkin in a moment of desperation. Now, it flashed above us on three enormous screens. In one fell swoop, Acuff had thrown all his cards out on the table. In an act of transparent leadership, he showed hundreds a concrete snapshot of a day-to-day struggle: the never-ending battle for balance in a world inundated with social media.

I was taking in Acuff’s opening keynote address at the Blissdom Conference 2012, a conference for bloggers that takes place in Nashville. In truth, I’d gone on behalf of, hoping to network and meet some great writers, which I undoubtedly did. But what I really walked away with was my own need to unplug.

From Twitter, from (gasp!) Facebook, from Pinterest. Gulp. And even from blogging. Maybe it was time to just walk away. After all, Acuff himself just asked an audience of hundreds to consider what we’re doing to our children by always being online, always having a smart phone in hand, checking our status, looking for comments, retweets, mentions … It all seems so futile, especially when you consider that, as Acuff puts it, you’ll never “finish Twitter.”

Unfortunately, our kiddos get to be the first generation raised by people with an overwhelming desire to check in with our handheld devices before checking in with our families. We regularly give our offspring the shaft so we can look after our “friends.” I have to admit, I long for simpler times without the electronic devices. Is there really a substitute for turning the pages of a good book or a magazine? I haven’t found one.

But what’s today’s world without an online profile? How do you network or even maintain relationships with people who are also logged in all the time? Acuff says it starts by drawing a line in the sand. “Hang up and arrive” for your flesh and blood relationships, he advises. Create, and–more importantly–maintain boundaries.

Ironic that I would find this preached so heavily in the sessions and conversations at a blogging conference. Blissdom’s challenge to take a hard look at my own online habits only made me respect the conference that much more. These questions are far more important than examining platform growth.

I suppose that we, the social media guinea pigs, are arriving at a place of plugged-in overload faster than the average bear. I know I’ve arrived at a pace that needs to be slowed down. It means I’ll be drawing some lines in the sand for my personal accounts. On the other hand, I won’t be a Twitter quitter or a Facebook frenemy. Today’s world warrants a social media presence, and I want to be engaged in the discussion.

Still, I’m grateful for the wake up call, so thank you Blissdom.

Do you find yourself overly “connected?”



236 Years and Counting? U.S. Postal Service Faced With Pondering Place in Digital Age

usps071306.jpg“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” has been popularly associated with the U.S. Postal Service to describe its commitment to delivering the mail. (One route in Magnolia Springs, Ala., near my hometown, boasts the only remaining postal delivery river route in the country.)

In truth, the unofficial motto is an inscription on New York City’s James Farley Post Office, but has expanded to refer to the job the currently more than 40,000 post offices and 700,000 civilian workers and their predecessors have done since what would become the U.S. Postal Service was founded on this date in 1775 by the Second Continental Congress.

Much of the fundamental organization of the system was designed by the nation’s first postmaster, Benjamin Franklin. It’s thought that the postal service was established as a means of communicating with folks back home in Britain, since it’s unlikely colonists were sending mail amongst themselves. And in those early times, since there were no post offices in Colonial America, letters were often delivered to popular local gathering spots like inns and taverns.

We’ve come a long way from those days. But not only have our methods of communication become more sophisticated and innovative, we’ve also become so reliant upon them that it’s hard to imagine our world without the likes of email, Facebook, Twitter and the portable gadgets that make them (and much more) so accessible on the go.

Most of us are probably still receiving our magazines by mail, save for the relatively few who are downloading the digital versions on their iPads, Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers. And more and more publications have released apps of themselves or have them in the works.

It’s hard to imagine a totally “paperless” magazine world or the absence of a system like the U.S. Postal Service that would deliver your publications–not to mention the billions of pieces of letters, cards and packages they sort and bring to your door. Then again, email and near-instant methods of communication (no stamp needed) were absurdly far-fetched 236 years ago.

Even as the U.S. Postal Service contemplates major changes like rate increases or cutting out Saturday delivery, the more underlying general question about its modern significance could be how much more may technology alter our world and how far-reaching might those changes be.

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Forbes Magazine Focuses on Retirement–and “Un-Retirement”–Issues This Month

forbes_magazine_subscription_20110411.jpgIn yesterday’s post, we looked at SmartMoney magazine’s coverage of retirement issues in its April issue. That magazine isn’t the only place to find a package of retirement-focused stories in personal finance magazine subscriptions this month. The bi-weekly Forbes magazine also covers
retirement in one of its April issues.

The package starts off with a
story dubbed the “Un-Retirement Guide” because it deals with
transitioning into a new career in retirement–from museum curator to art appraiser, for example. Other stories include investment strategies, and how to check up on your pension benefits–especially if your company changes hands. And here’s something to note: The magazine advises saving paperwork, as in actual paper.

One particularly pertinent story in Forbes advises readers to take measures to protect financial passwords, including determining a way to provide access to electronic accounts and files in case you’re out of commission, incapacitated or worse.

A four-page fold-out section (wrapped in an ad) compares the best and worst places in the country to retire based on taxes, volunteer opportunities, etc. Pros and cons of each city are also mentioned, including factors like crime, humid summers and frigid weather.


April Magazine Subscriptions Bring Retirement Issues to the Fore

smartmoney_magazine_subscription_april2011.jpgFor April, two personal finance magazines devote significant chunks of their issues to retirement matters. We’ll preview one today and wrap up tomorrow.

So, let’s start with SmartMoney magazine. Its April cover dominated by a gold watch, this issue discusses what the editors consider to be the five biggest myths about retirement. These aren’t what you think they are, the cover blurbs proclaim. The areas discussed include the necessity of planning to cover what Medicare doesn’t pay immediately or ever; why calculations of your “number”–to borrow language from a popular investment commercial–may be inaccurate; and why you should consider adding bonds to your retirement plan.

Another story in this issue looks at the trend of becoming an expat retiree, a hot topic for a number of personal finance magazines over the last 15 months. This time Panama is the center of the story, and along with stories about learning Spanish, hanging out by the pool and hosting wine tastings, there are points about emergency response, the isolation of the gated communities, and the dangers of buying into unfinished developments.

A final story in SmartMoney’s retirement package talks about nest eggs, specifically how you might need to change how you think about nest eggs to ensure a more economy-proof mix. Appropriately for an April story, this one is illustrated with all sorts of eggs–some cooked in various ways, others covered in gold paint.

Next up: What April’s Forbes magazine has to say about retirement.


Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine Covers Another Side of Senior Financial Matters

kiplingers_personal_finance_subscription_march2011.jpgThere have been tons of stories about financial matters concerning senior citizens, usually focusing on retirement savings and budgets. This month Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine talks about a difficult situation facing many seniors–and their adult children: managing money when Alzheimer’s is involved.

In the Kiplinger’s story, Cameron Huddleston leads readers through the often emotionally charged steps of taking over management of a parent’s finances. Huddleston discusses warning signs, ways to bring up the subject when it’s time to make changes, and the importance of preserving dignity.

Things to keep in mind, Cameron says, include remembering that it is the disease, not you, that is taking away your parent’s independence and that if you don’t take action now, your loved one may end up sans funds later in life.

A sidebar to the informative piece explains different types of power of attorney as well as health-care proxies and living wills.


Six Things to Read in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine This November

kiplingerspersonalfinance_november2010.jpgThere’s something refreshingly compelling about Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine‘s bright, sunny November cover. The cover photo shows a glass pitcher of what might be lemonade with slices of lemons floating about and a large lemon-yellow dollar sign in the center of the concoction.

This month’s cover story is about how to profit in today’s economy. That’s just one of the interesting and potentially useful stories in this issue. Here’s a rundown.

  1. Fashionable stocks. As in, stocks associated with clothing and accessories stores. Among the recommendations: Fossil, Aéropostale and Coach. Have you ever braved a Coach outlet store, especially when there’s a sale on? I can believe that stock’s on the move. (I, by the way, am the epitome of calm–and speed–at Coach outlets.) 
  2. Mad Money” madness. An analysis of TV financial adviser Jim Cramer’s tactics, including likening his set to a casino with its bright lights and loud noises.
  3. Rent party. Getting back to the cover story, one of those ways to turn a profit is to concentrate on the surging rental market as people rethink home ownership.
  4. Backup plan. Remember last year’s harsh winter? Get ready for possible power outages with this selection that includes a TV, radio, power pack, etc.
  5. Loan paperwork. This article offers the inside scoop on what you’ll need to qualify for different sorts of loans–home, car, credit cards–and to get the best rates in the current financial climate.
  6. Reality weddings. Had enough of bridezillas and over-the-top nuptials? You’ll love the “Money & Ethics” column wherein parents ask advice on countering their daughter’s wishes for a blow-out wedding and encouraging the young couple to do something wiser with the money instead. Good luck with that.