Living In The World We Live In

social media school threatShortly after I got both girls out to school this morning, as I sat down to plot out my day and finish a cup of coffee in came a call from the school district.  It was from the line they use for robo called – ConnectEd they call it.  At that time of day, this is usually an innocuous call – report cards are released, athletic events at the school, PTO fundraiser.  Today it was not the case.  Today was a lesson about living in the world we live in for my older daughter.

This morning’s call was about a “numerous reports” of threats to the school.  Here is the text of the message from the school principal:

Good morning this <the> Principal of the high school to inform parents of a threat to the school circulating on social media.   We have received numerous reports of a “threat to the high school” being posted to social media.  To this point there have been no specific information posted or brought to our attention as to where the threat originated or what the threat is.

At this point we have increased our security presence at the high school and have contacted our School Resource Officer from the 6th Precinct who will be reporting to the high school.

I like parents of all the kids in the high school had a HUGE decision to make on almost no information.  It was interesting to see how things unfolded in the parent groups on Facebook and Pinterest – and some ran for the school to get their kids, others pontificate about the state of our society and some offered prayers.

In a decision I made – which I am not overly concerned being reflective or not of the rest of the community we live in – I decided to leave 15.5 in school, monitor things (not via social media) and be ready in case something came up.  My thought simply is this is the world we live in, and we need to live in – not be afraid of it.

Similar to going to NYC amidst “heightened” terror threats or air travel during these times – this is the world we live in, and we need to be living in the world we live in.

While parents lined up (and complained on social media about the disorganization) to get their kids from the school – I checked in with our police precinct.  It was looking more and more like the threat was a hoax.  I don’t want my daughter to be afraid of the things she’ll face in life, I want her to be smart and confront them.

I am not a reactionary thinker:

A reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which they believe possessed characteristics (discipline, respect for authority, etc.) that are negatively absent from the contemporary status quo of a society

And I don’t want my children to be.  I’d like to think I am deliberate in my thinking and hope to share that trait with my girls:

To deliberate means to carefully think or talk something through — it also means slow and measured, the pace of this kind of careful decision-making. If you chose deliberately, you make a very conscious, well-thought-through choice.

Admittedly, I did hedge.  I changed a couple of morning meetings to calls so I could be closer to home.  As the morning wore on and it became clear things had calmed down at the school I jumped back into the day as planned.  As I was heading toward my new office came the next ConnectEd call offering some further explanation:

You may be aware of a rumor that circulated yesterday evening, March 9, 2016, via a social media group message. After a thorough investigation by the <edit> School District, it was determined there was no confirmed threat to the high school or any school building within the District. The circulated social media group message never stated a threat was scheduled to occur; instead, it consisted of multiple parties asking if other recipients had heard of any possible risk.
As a precaution, the District involved the <edit> County Police Department, who confirmed there was no credible threat. Nonetheless, as an additional precaution, the District has increased security presence at the high school today, March 10, 2016.

As parents we all have to make decision – sometimes snap and often with little information and few facts.  I try to be consistent in decision-making – deliberate and not reactionary.  I want to teach my kids about living in the world we live in – not in an idealized past or non-existent Mayberry.

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New Routes on the Roads Once Traveled

Dead and CompanyTwo events this weekend made me realize that you can re-travel old roads, but as time marches forward, there are new routes to take.  My Halloween weekend was spent at Madison Square Garden in New York City re-acclimating with the Grateful Dead experience.  13.0 without knowing it, headed down a road once traveled too – she too on a new route.

I’m pretty sure this is the first time since 1995 I saw more than one member of the original Grateful Dead at a show.  Dead and Company did two shows at MSG and my Facebook timeline is filled with images of the night.  Sunday night we went out for dinner before the show – back in the 80’s, even in NYC, that would mean some kind of hot dog or falafel.

In 2015 the new routes on the road once traveled to the Dead wound through a nice little tapas restaurant in Chelsea – where we encountered several other tables of folks dining before the show.  Much different from the last time I saw a show.

Before the show Sunday night started, I checked in via text with the girls and 13.0 told me she started watching a new show on Netflix – Lost.

Maybe it was the nostalgia of the weekend, but I thought back to that show, and not because I every watched it.  Instead, it’s the last show I can remember Risa watching regularly.  When the show premiered in 2004 I was communitng five days a week to the city, and my schedule was all over the place – so I could not commit to watching a weekly serialized show.  At the time, our DVR was filled with whatever shows the girls were watching then (Dora?), so I never picked up on the show.

Netflix though is the new route for the road once traveled for TV as well.  All that is old, is available for streaming and binge watching – much like the Grateful Dead experience, very different from it was so many years ago.

I’ll call these new experiences, even though they are very familiar.  Afterall, we’re on a new route too, one that started nearly five years ago – and sometimes the new routes are on the roads once traveled.

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Just E-Mail Dad

Generation Z EmailFor all of the ubiquity that email offers us in the workplace, at home, in commerce and purchasing – I’ve come to realize for my kids (and I would suspect others in Generation Z) email is a necessity simply to register for apps and other things – and not a means of communication.  When a message needs to be delivered, my girls just leave it with a simple, “just email dad” when it comes time for them to give out their email address.

I first realized this when 12.5’s softball coach asked for her email so she could get team updates directly.  She politely but directly told her coach, “Just email dad, I have the girls on the team on group chat.”  The use case was re-emphasized this week when 15.0’s soccer coach started sending out updates for summer workouts.  They come straight to me, her email is not even on the distribution.

For those of us in the semi-modern workplace, email management is almost part of the job.  For me and most of my co-workers, a day with 100 or more work emails is the norm.  Add to that personal emails account(s) and I can easily deal with more than 500 emails a day.

The reality is most of them are either deleted before looking at them, or deleted after a quick look at the subject line only – but that is the way email management works.  For Gen Z though, it’s just not the case.  The most relevant statistics I could find are from 2012 – and I would suspect the trend that showed three years ago continues:

  • Of 1000 people from eight to 17 only half said they use email on a daily basis as a means to communicate – trailing talking, texting and social networks.
  • When looking at a sub class of that 1000 asked in the age group of 13-17 email usage falls to under 25%.
  • 25% of that 1000 say they check messages (text, email and social media) within the first five minutes of waking up.  More than half (52%) say they have checked within the first hour of being away.
  • The 13-17 year old sub class of that group has already sent more than 50 text messages or social network updates in that time.  Total email messages sent is fewer than 10.

In a business sense, this means connecting with this generation – which the same study says has “desirable and disposable” income means changing up from the new traditional marketing (email) to a new paradigm of social marketing and leveraging channels like Snap Chat and other emerging platforms.

In a practical sense though, if you want to get hold of my kids and don’t know how to text them, “just email dad”  apparently I deliver messages more efficiently than the post office.

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Tech and Paper

Us passport iVery unintentionally I recently ran into that moment when the effort to go paperless and leverage technology hits the old school – when tech and paper come together.

It all started a few weeks ago when I had to get updated passports for the girls.  15.0 will be on a trip from camp this year to the Pacific Northwest which includes time in Vancouver – so she’ll need a passport to exit and re-enter the country (although there are times where I think leaving her in Canada would not be the worst outcome).

Anyway – it was off to the post office I would go.  I called first to schedule an appointment and asked about how to get a passport when one parent is deceased meaning there is only one signature on the dotted line.  The answer was to bring a copy of the death certificate with the official raised stamp and that would be inspected, photocopied and sent along.

Those steps are exactly what happened.

The “tech” part of this, is the US Department of State has the ability to sign up to get text alerts let you know about status of your application.  Great, text messaging is a preferred method of communication with me, so I signed up.  To be honest, I had heard nothing from the passport folks, and kind of forgot I signed up – until yesterday.

That’s when I got a text telling me they had sent me an email.

Not an overly effective use of communication – but it is the US government we’re talking about.  So, I log into my email only to find out they put a hold on the passport applications because they needed the original copy of the death certificate.

Follow:  I got a text, telling me to check my email, telling me I had to drop an envelope into the snail mail. I suppose that is where tech and paper collide – but this is the government, so they weren’t done.

It was now on me to print out the letter they scanned and attached to the email to me so I could return their own piece of paper to them with the document they asked for.  So this really is now a text telling me to check email telling me to print a document and mail it and another document back to them – using the same post office that managed to not understand the requirements in the first place.

So I feel really good (or not) about this implementation of technology by the US government – and I would tell my congressman Lee Zeldin about it, except for the fear of what that would mean to the paper and tech mill that is Washington.  I can only imagine getting a letter from my congressman or perhaps one of my senators Schumer or Gillibrand asking me to log into a website and fill out a form only to get more email from the government.

In the meantime, once I worked out the tech and paper – I realized I only had one copy of the official death certificate in the house – so I sent two freshly printed, government authored letters with one death certificate and can only hope for the best that this will get the passports handled.

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Perception and Time

I'm Late, I'm LateI have a confession to make – more often than not I am punctual, meaning early to on time.  For almost everything.  If I wanted to further this confessional moment (which I guess I will), being late bothers me.  When it comes to perceptions and time I’ve realized recently it’s not always a shared trait in my house.

This pertains more to 14.5 (unless it’s a weekend morning where I have to wake 12.5 up).  Apparently being 5-10 minutes late for my older one is socially acceptable.  And according to her I need to change my outlook on time to meet her needs, since my getting her going an hour before an event (or 40 minutes before leaving for school) is just too much time.

There are few things in life that are nearly totally manageable by the individual.  There are always dependencies on other people (friends and family), other things (mass transit, traffic) or events (weather) that can impact when you arrive.  But you can control when you leave, and manage the expectation of when you’ll arrive.

Professionally, I have a schedule at work and I try to respect not only my time commitments but the time commitments others have made to be in meetings (or on calls) with me.  I try not to go over, I try to start on time and I try to be on time.  Obviously it’s a less than perfect system since there are a lot of variables you can’t control.

A recent case study for this was yesterday when instead of a nice easy day of calls from the home office I was summoned out to New Jersey and the corporate HQ.  So, instead of going to the gym and getting into my day I had to fight traffic and do all I could be on time for 1030 meeting – leaving my house with two and a half hours to travel.  I was on time.  I have no idea if the people who summoned me out to Basking Ridge know what it takes for me to be there at 1030 without notice.  In this case perception and time are one in the same.

Yesterday my brother (who is still living in my basement for those keeping score), asked me about a trip he had to make for some on the job training.  I thought travel time would be about 40 minutes under normal conditions.  I had no idea what traffic would be like on a Saturday morning and no insight into the weather.  So I told him to leave an hour early and kill 10 minutes.  I have no idea if that is what he did, but in this case perception and time are one in the same.

So back to 14.5.  She had to be at an outing with her class at temple at 11 this morning.  It’s raining pretty steadily here and generally passing all the shopping locations on a Saturday morning can add 20 minutes to a drive.  The place without traffic is about 20 minutes from our house.  So, I left with an hour early – creating a 20 minute cushion.

You’d think  she was two days early for the carrying on I had endured.  Apparently, if I give her 10 minutes to leave the house she’ll move quicker than if I give her 40 minutes.  This is based solely (according to her) on the amount of time she’ll be texting friends.  I am not completely sure I see the correlation, but that is the argument.

I try to share with her my thoughts that people form opinions on you based on how you present yourself, and punctuality is the first item in that list – even before appearance.  A moment where perception and time are linked.  I’m not sure she agrees with the preface of the argument though.  As far as she is concerned, five minutes late is on time.

As for 12.5, I guess if it doesn’t involve waking her up it there is no argument to be made for perception and time.

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Family Time in the Post Modern World

The girls with Travis Hamonic (l) and Brock Nelson (r)

The girls with Travis Hamonic (l) and Brock Nelson (r)

Today was a family day for us – courtesy of the New York Islanders.  It was their annual meet the team day at Adventure Land (an amusement park not far from our house).  As the day played out, I realized our time is like family time in the post modern world.  And that is probably not so bad.

Among the things I try to do is I try to raise two girls who can be independent.  I realize one will be 12 next week and the other is 14.5 – so they are not completely ready to be out on their own.  But it’s not like they are five and seven and need me in the middle of their worlds all the time.

So we wandered through the park getting autographs.  14.5 took lead in plotting the course.  The goal was the new players on the team, and the few players (John Tavares) we didn’t get at the event last year.  And we were pretty successful.  We met the new goalies (Halak and Johnson), the Russian imports (Grabovski and Kulemin), the younger players (Strome, deHaan, Lee and Nelson) and some favorites (Hamonic and Carkner).

We also bumped into some friends, the Ice Girls and did a few spins on the roller coaster, Frisbee and other rides.  A little more than three hours later – we headed out for lunch.

Up the road from Adventure Land, we sat at a chain restaurant and the girls were busy catching up with their friends via Instagram, Snap Chat and group text.  They were engaged with each other and their friends – the devices did not take away from the family time, but gave it that post modern feel.

I’m feeling good about not being a fan of the post modernist movement – but for family time in the post modern world, we do OK.

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Remembering and Letting Go

CandlesOn this Yom Kippur morning (yeah, no comments about my posting on Yom Kippur OK?) it’s a chance to think about moments and people.  In this week that includes September 11, there has been a lot of that going on.  Remembering and letting go, two distinct concepts tied together.

On 9/11 as I was thinking about friends and colleagues taken that day in the terror attack I was flipping through my phone and realized their names and numbers were still in there.  In some cases email addresses were there too.  Obviously, I’m not calling or texting.



I can’t remember what phone I was carrying in 2001, but I am pretty sure I had to actively put their names and numbers into at least one if not two phones since that day.  A moment to remember friends without letting them go.  Their entries in my address book really are out of sight out of mind most of the year.

Then I realized on my Facebook are two friends who passed away over the years.  Their profiles still there, not deleted.  I’m not putting messages on their walls but they are there.  Another chance to remember without letting go.  Again, mostly out of sight and out mind, not in the way.

Even in my house, there are items tucked away-out of sight and out of mind, but still there and present from time-to-time.  Remembering and letting go.  Part of life sure, but also a part of us.

So the candles we lit last night for Risa, my father, my brother, Risa’s father and all those we have lost flicker on this Yom Kippur.  We remember, let go and do not forget.

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The No-Email Fail

Somewhere just before 8 on Wednesday morning last week, I unilaterally  declared it would be a  no email day for me.  I was going to go the rest of the day without looking at email.  Now mind you, I had already processed well more than 150 new emails across four accounts by that time in the morning-but in that moment I had enough and I was going to take a day off.

Some background to keep everyone up to speed.  First, just how (over) connected I am.  I carry three phones which all have the ability to send and receive text messages and generally access seven email accounts (five are mine of which one is work and two belong to the girls).  Along with this, generally people get hold of me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Four Square.

I don’t think that is hugely unique, but there is also no shortage of inbound data that needs to be processed and call it 65% of the time responded to.

The other factor that added to this monumental decision (and ultimate failure) was the middle of the school vacation week that my girls enjoyed.  I was home with them on the Friday before Passover and Easter and the Monday following.  The plan was for me to go into the office Tuesday through Thursday and then take a work from home (child care issue) on Friday. That part was pretty manageable.

The factor I did not add in was the split in the schedule for the girls.  Without school-they were up to 11 (we even had a sleepover one of the nights I had to work) which generally meant I was up anywhere from an hour to two hours later than usual.  That did not impact me on the time I woke up though-I was still at the gym at 4:15 so sleep was at a premium for the week.  The usual routine is that when I get home from the gym I make some coffee, take a shower and begin the daily caffination.

On Wednesday I forgot to make the coffee before hitting the shower.  Since the sitter was coming at 6:30 and I was racing for the 7:19 train (usually I am on the 7:57) I figured I would catch up with coffee in the city and skipped making the coffee.

With email across all the accounts tumbling in-some of it of the spam nature, some of it actionable, some it with me on the “CC” line so others can CYA and no coffee in the system I had enough.  Right there on the train with two of my friends I declared it would be a non-email day.

A bold prediction for someone carrying the three phones, two laptops and iPad in their work bag that day.

As the morning train hit the platform in Penn Station I put some Grateful Dead on for the subway and headed off to be email free.  I stopped to pick up a cup of coffee from the coffee cart lady and hit the office.  As I did, I ran into one of the senior managers in my division at Verizon.  He wanted to review a spreadsheet he had sent me earlier in the morning.

“Sounds great.  Can you pull it up though? It’s a non-email day for me,” I told him.

“A what?” he asked.

“Never mind,” I said.  “Just let me get into this coffee.”

And so no-email day ended before 9AM and less than 10 minutes after hitting the office.

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Sick Call: The New Twist

Another day-another sick call and another race home.  This time though it was a new twist on the old theme.

For the first time (and I want to reiterate the first time), my sitter who is here in the afternoon with the girls came up sick.  So instead of a call from the school nurse at 9:15, this time it was a text from her at 12:15.

The good news for me was the meeting part of my day was largely done with-but I had to do some prep for three key  meetings tomorrow.  Work that is easily transferable to the train.

Based on timing, I could make it.  11.5 would be home about 10 minutes before I got home and I would go right to the bus stop to meet 9.0.  That all fell into place quickly.

The wild card though is tomorrow-as noted, I have three key meetings tomorrow.  Not a lot of room to slide things around.  So along with the meeting prep, I spent some time coming up with a tomorrow strategy as well.

All of that in place, in time to do the Hebrew school car pool-get back home do a little more work and make dinner.

Just another day juggling on the single parent express.

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The Search Generation

The Connected Generation Doesn't Need Today's ToolsOne of the ways I hope to keep myself on the professional cutting edge is to offer a fresh perspective on the way content is consumed.  One of the best ways I know to gather this information is to watch my kids (11. 0 and 8.5) and their friends as they gather around an iPod or computer.

Today though, I had the chance to go into 8.5’s third grade class and talk her peers.  While under the guise of talking to them about journalism and news (which we did a little), I used it as an opportunity to find out how my daughter and her generation seek out and share information.

While it’s not a huge surprise (at least I hope its not), TV, radio, newspapers were not even in the discussion.  I was a little surprised-Facebook and Twitter was not either.  There are a lot of reasons for the latter-responsible parents is my hope, but the reality is 8-10 is well under the age requirements for those sights.

However, based on the discussion-text, text chat, video chat and especially search are far more important anyway.

On the discovery side-when I asked a class of 20 or so third graders how they find things out-and things I defined as news, information, websites, songs, videos, movies and entertainment-search was the number one way to find things.  And when I pressed the kids, they didn’t care what the search engine was (Google was as good as Yahoo was as good as iTunes search).  All they need is a search box and an execution point.

The quick take away on this is to over tag if necessary, but make sure tags capture all the keys to the content and all the imaginable entry points.  While I am among the people who believe SEO, as we know it today is a dying art, the reality is SEO will continue to be a discoverability driver in some form.  (An interesting note, one of the kids wanted to know about a way to search content shared via text chat, hmmmm).

On the consumption side, once again search was a huge driver to finding content.  One of the girls in the class even talked about setting up an RSS homepage-similar to Pageflakes or MyGoogle to capture key elements.  But a huge consumption driver for text and video is images.  It’s a concept I am late to embrace but important.  In the digital clutter, you still need to capture eyeballs.  See any of the e-book stores (Amazon, B&N, iBooks).  Which books are you likely to purchase if you are just scanning a topic?  Eye-catching cover art is the driver.

Finally, when it comes to sharing information text, text chat chat (including video chat) was the focus.  One boy in the class said (and his classmates agreed), “I can send an email, but no one reads email,” from the mouths of 8+s comes great truth.  Email has been a dying medium for more than five years now.

The take away here is to make sure your packaging includes interoperability to share via text-because that is a key driver to reach the generation that is not tethered by Blackberry Enterprise Server, Outlook Exchange or Gmail on the go.

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