Author Archives: Gwynne Monahan

Community Manager Appreciation Day #CMAD

I’d be remiss if I didn’t pause for a moment and wish all community managers a Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day!

Community management may be the latest “hot” job, but it is not a new one. It’s been around pretty much since the advent of online gaming forums and support sites. What is new is the various avenues that community managers are not expected to monitor. Social networking sites, forums, blogs, practically anything on the Internet. No easy task.

ReadWriteWeb has a good write up about community management today, in honor of #CMAD.

And while it may look like the community manager spends the day Facebooking, tweeting and blogging, the community manager is actually keeping tabs on the community. The community manager is keeping tabs on your user base and feeding information to support staff, sales, marketing and perhaps the CEO. Community managers can be the first line of defense in a sticky situation, and the first to cheer or give props to users and staffers alike.

The title is up for debate, as are numerous aspects of “job function,” but today, it’s all about gratitude. Show some to a community manager near you!

“Drop In” not “Open Gym”

Another to add to Words for Things.

I’ve joined a recreational league basketball team that starts the end of February. Yesterday, at the Bonsor Community Center, there was an opportunity to meetup, shoot around and play pickup games. What is normally referred to as “open gym.” The gym is open for people to use, no reserved space for league or otherwise organized play.

Except in Canada.

The lady at the front desk explained the difference to me. Another “stupid American” moment but she was really nice about it. She explained the difference between the two.

  • Drop-In: there is a fee to participate, about $2 CAD.
  • Open Gym: free for all.

That makes sense. In the States, “open gym” can be free or it can have a fee. It depends on the place. Health club, community center, local high school gym. The fee may be money, or a donation, like canned goods or clothes. Again, it varies. I never really noticed how much easier it is to assign a different name to something that has an admission fee. Clarifies things a bit right off the bat, no?

I don’t know what happens at an “open gym.” Will have to check one of those out at some point.

So goes my “words for things” Canadian education.


Public Transit Observations

When I lived in Chicago, in the city, I took public transportation everywhere I could. It was awesome when I lived and worked in the city. Catch the Brown, Red or Purple Line to the Loop. In about 20 minutes, I was at the office. Same with the trip home. Loved it. And Chicago Transit is pretty decent, in terms of reach. Granted it doesn’t go far into the suburbs, places like Oak Brook, but there’s Metra, if you have a car, drive.

Now, the “L” as it is called in Chicago, is old. Some might say outdated. It still runs on rails, and has drivers or conductors. All lines are “manually operated.” There’s just something about the sound, though, that is Chicago. And who hasn’t been jostled while riding the “L”? Short, abrupt stop, or the cars lean just a little too much going around a curve. Such is Chicago public transit.

Access to public transit is a key thing for me so I was pleased that Vancouver has a public transit system. While its system is more updated than Chicago, it has automated trains, the Skytrain, as its called, it is rather deficient in reach. Getting downtown is easy, but getting to most of the outlying areas is a little challenging. And they name their lines, like the Millennium Line, Expo Line, Canada Line. In Chicago, we go by color, which makes it easy to decipher the transit maps.

Vancouver transit maps, TransLink, are a little confusing.

The Millennium Line, for example, is signified by a yellow line that runs parallel to the Expo Line, which is blue. They share a set of stops, and then the Millennium Line circles back to the start while the Expo line continues out to Surrey (I think). I didn’t realize the Millennium Line circled back until today. The Millennium Line has two entry points at a main hub, Commercial (not Commerce) and Broadway. I go down a set of stairs to catch it out to the office. Apparently, going up to the Expo Line also goes up to the Millennium Line, which, in theory, would also take me to the office but in a long, circular manner.

I might have to ride each line to the end points and see what’s what. I did that in Chicago one summer. Kind of neat. Get to see a whole part of the city you wouldn’t otherwise see.

The ride on the Skytrain is incredibly smooth. It’s all automated and reminds me a lot of the Disney World trains. There’s a total lack of a noise, almost. It’s more like a gentle hum. You can still hear yourself think.

Vancouver’s bus system is pretty decent though. The people are generally friendly, and you know what else? Passengers say “thank you” to the bus driver as they leave the bus.

Walking and public transit. My two preferences for getting around. Though you know, I’m rather curious about bicycling around here. Vancouver seems to be a rather bike friendly city. Cars actually watch out for cyclists, and there are actual bike lanes, some protected by concrete barriers. Don’t see that in Chicago.

Mother Nature Does What She Wants in #Vancouver

Guess I have a bit of a fascination with weather. My mother loves to study weather, and she’s been keeping a close eye on systems on this western side of the continent. Mother Nature, however, does what she wants. At least in #Vancouver. What hits Seattle, a short 3 hours to the south, Mother Nature can say “Sure why not” or “Nope.” Like today.

Last night the Seattle news had a story on the weather because, well, it snowed. In Seattle. A rarity. And it being a rarity, they aren’t equipped to handle the snow. Kind of like the Southern United States last year. There are no snow plows in the South. There’s generally no need, which made me think the northern states could rent their snow equipment to the South.

Oh, and when you live in a mountainous region, ice tends to cause large, heavy objects like trucks and cars, to slide down hill.


Mother Nature does what she wants in #Vancouver. Like today.

Morning started off cold. Not quite as cold as yesterday but cold. I’m used to dressing in layers, and have had to figure out how many, or how few, layers. Apparently dropping 20lbs is enough for there to be less insulation than the previous winter. Go figure.

So it started off cold. There was snow on the ground from overnight. It has been cold the past couple days, with snow, so it hasn’t melted. Rather like home. But, unlike home, the day warmed up. By the time I was waiting for the bus home, it was raining. Raining! Real rain too. Actual rain drops. Not that sneezing mist, like Mother Nature can’t decide if she wants it to rain.

Nope. She made a decision. Rain. And warmer temperatures.

Yesterday, waiting for the bus home, I was freezing! I tend to pace waiting for the bus anyway, but no amount of pacing warmed me up. It was just cold. And it wasn’t even windy. That would’ve been worse. So, being used to dressing for weather that doesn’t change much from day to day this time of year, I put on an extra layer and wore my running gloves underneath with my regular gloves. Nice and toasty.

It was comfortable waiting for the bus in the morning. I thought: yeah, I can get used to this. Not so bad.

Went out to lunch, again, not so bad. It started to rain when we left. And it was raining while I waited for the bus home. But it was warm! Err…warmer. I didn’t need my running gloves. Hoodie and hat were nice, but the extra layer from earlier was a little too much.

Oh, and all that snow? Yeah, gone. Ice? Also gone. Apparently it’s not cold enough for all the rain to freeze, either, as the streets were wet and little rivers of water were running in to the gutters. In January!

The best thing to do seems to be to overdress. Mother Nature does what she wants so the only thing to do is be prepared. Layers are easy to take off, though kind of a pain to carry around, but it beats shivering while waiting for the bus.

It’s Snowing in Chicago

Saw this in my Twitter stream:

UP-N Advisory – Inbound Train #328 Scheduled to Arrive Chicago at 9:05 a.m. – 170 to 180 Minute Delay

170 to 180 minute delay. Whoa. That’s a “work from home” message. If it delays are that bad for the morning rush, it’ll be worse for the evening rush. And if that’s now bad, the Chicago Tribune reports 370 flights canceled at O’Hare and Midway.

It’s snowing in Chicago. Like, really snowing. The kind of snow we try to prepare for and hope never materializes.

Predictions say “more than six inches” which undoubtly has people thinking of last year. Remember last year? Cars stranded on Lake Shore Drive, and one huge mess. #snowpocolyse seems to be returning.

Stay safe all and stay warm!

Having a Bad Day

So, I’m having kind of a bad day.

It started waking up, again at 3:30am. I don’t know why, it just keeps happening. I thought my trek out to SMCYVR would have helped but apparently not. Guess I need to brave the ice and go running. Tried a short jog on the way home last night, in my hiking boots, and it wasn’t too bad. A lot better than walking to the bus stop this morning in regular shoes!

Anyway, I managed to fall back asleep and wake up again at 6:30. Not so bad, except it was really hard to get out of bed. I had no motivation. I just wanted to stay curled up under the covers and go back to sleep. And if I were still working from home back in the States, I would’ve done just that. Alas, must go to work. See it as an obligation now, really, to show up in the office every day. That’s been a harder adjustment than I expected. Feels quite constraining, actually. Like being boxed in. I don’t know if that’s really the case, or just part of the adjustment process to being a “regular worker” again.

My laptop decided to freeze this morning. Actually, a few programs decided to freeze, causing my laptop to freeze. A restart was necessary. So while it was doing that I got ready for the day. Dressed in a few layers and went to the office. Plug in and am all set to start the day when FireFox decides it doesn’t want to work. It freezes and crashes. I clear caches, in FireFox and Chrome, as Chrome was having a fit as well. Chrome agrees that’s good and works. FireFox, not so much. So I have to trash and re-install. Again. This is the eighth time FireFox has required an uninstall and re-install. Super annoying, and yes, it is the latest version.

Needless to say, that didn’t help my mood at all.

I don’t know what it is today. Just a bit down. Thinking of home. Not completely unexpected. I knew there would be days like this, “days like this my Mama said.” Probably a combination of it being Thursday, the day before Family Pizza Night, going to SMCYVR last night and remembering SMCCHICAGO, the animal hats. Dah.

I just keep trying to move forward, plug away. Hope it passes soon. But, alas, nothing ever passes as quickly as I want it to, which is frustrating and doesn’t help matters.

At least I got out though. At least I went out last night and met knew people. That’s big for me. Sounds strange, I’m sure. But that’s a big step for me. So maybe I’m a bit down today as kind of a balance or something to yesterday. Hard to say really. But I am proud of myself for going out. Totally new area, new bar, new people, new group. Whole lot of newness for me in a short time frame.

But I did it.

That’s kind of scary. I don’t know how to explain it, but it kind of makes me nervous when I accomplish something I set out to do. Getting here, for example. I tend to think it’s just not the kind of thing that happens to me. And given the past three…four years now, well, that’s just how it’s been.

Enough whining. Apparently a necessary evil for now, but as Tim Baran says: “Blogging is good, cheap therapy.”

My @evernote Notes from @SMCYVR #BunkerProject Event

Literally. These are the notes I tapped into Evernote, which has become my default to record things I’d normally tweet. #dataroamingsux even on #verizon.

So, here they are:

1348 Robson St

Canadian tourist store saw stuffed animal black bear holding a baby black bear. Said “Bear Hugs From Canada” on the feet. Eyes welled up. *sniff*

Animal hats reminded of Little Man’s dragon hat. *sniff*

#bunkerproject podcast

#smcyvr Pres works at HootSuite

Smaller group than #smcchicago but just as techie. Friendly group.

“Live to hard drive.”

“Every digression we take a drink.”

Dynamic v. Condensor mic

HubSpot doing Social media right. Putting tons of stuff out there, educating, get it hey buy the product.

iPhones, #android and Blackberry users in the room. One iPad.

Content curation is critical. Also needs personality behind it.

“If a funny person, be funny.”

“Hard to be conscious enough if yourself to be yourself.”

“Becomes a job to be yourself.”

Still don’t like “social media maven.”

#4sq discussion. Privacy of course. Tips. Check ins. Foodie bloggers. Lawsuits? Nope. Interesting.

@foodieat for take out in Van.

Pls RT gets 4x more RT. If say “RT” get less than spelling out.

Dude gets count! Leave space for others so less than 140.

Better to market when less goi
ng on. Ppl have time to browse in evening and on weekend. Know your audience.

RT in 8hr increments.

@invoker hoot CEO

“Canadians are so polite compared to Americans.”

Feeling so disconnected with no data or wifi.

More email you send, more top of mind you. Consistency over a long period of time.

Lead with value.

Suddenly really tired. Been kind of a big day. Another big day. More to come, no doubt.

Brand equity = community.

Community misleading.

Brandilist, brand evangelists.

OK. So, some notes on the walk to The Den at Barclay, too.

Emotions are messy, and more so when they’re still raw. I saw the stuffed animal black bear with “Bear Hugs” on one foot and “From Canada” on the other and nearly lost it. The animal hats didn’t help. The only reason I didn’t walk out with a bear is because I could only find two. Just didn’t sit well if I couldn’t send one to my two nephews and one niece, but I did make a mental note to wander back that way at some point to see if there are three.

The meetup was centered around what I gather to be a regular podcast, #bunkerproject. A bunch of us crammed into the “bunker” in the back of The Den, which had quite a few nice chairs and microphones. The conversation, at least for the first podcast, was dominated by a couple regulars, but it was interesting to hear them talk and discuss a HubSpot study on social media myths.

The discussion on being yourself was really interesting. We talk about it, a lot, in the States. But no one steps much beyond the line and states how it can be a challenge. That would be too much like therapy, and that’s simply not openly discussed in the States.

So I was surprised to hear an acknowledgment of how difficult it can be to be self aware, to be “conscious enough of yourself to be yourself.” That requires a fair amount of reflection and introspection that people in America marvel at but don’t necessarily do. Or if so, how exactly that self awareness came about is dressed up, packaged nicely to be sold. Now that may be cynical, but ask yourself when you last had a conversation that helped make you conscious of yourself with someone other than a close friend.

Another point was the “it becomes a job to yourself” which was also interesting. Basically, having a dual personality is bad. Being funny and entertaining online yet quiet and reserved in public creates an unsustainable…totally lost the word for it. But, in essence, being you becomes a “job” because you have to work at being the funny and entertaining person offline, too. And the point about personality fit is key. Brought back some unpleasant memories of a situation I found myself in where, less than a month in, it was clear there was a personality clash. The fit just wasn’t right. We all seemed to know it but no one said anything. I did. And I manned up and resigned. Turned out to be quite a burden lifted. I still remember feeling so free the next day. Went out and bought a fantastic office chair from Office Max that made the long hours working away quite comfortable.

I miss that chair, too. It’s back at home in the States. *sniff*

The discussion on #4sq and privacy was interesting. The whole concept of #privacy and social media up here is different. They actually point out the obvious: fear mongering in order to sell more ads.

Did a quiet fist raise on that one. Again, it’s something not discussed in the States. We all know it, on some level, but don’t say anything. Which runs completely counter to the discussion on “tooting your own horn.” Americans excel at that. Canadians, not so much. No wonder I fit in so well up here.

I liked the “lead with value” comment.

My one irritating point was that people do get robbed after checking in on #4sq or posting where they are on #fb. At least in the States. There’s the story of the guy who was out of town and discovered all his belongings posted on CraigsList. Not saying checkins and what not don’t serve a purpose, and I think they’ll start serving as alibis in some cases, but it’s still good to be conscious of what you post, and to whom.

And Klout. Ugh. Don’t get me started. Basically, until Klout replaces my credit score, it’s useless.

So I guess my big take away tonight is that I’ve found a group of like minded, friendly people. That’s key for me, on this journey. A step in the direction of defining myself through activities instead of work. That might very well be a fine line, now that I think about it, but at least there is a line.

Decphering Canadian Weather

I’m from Chicago, so I have pre-programmed skepticism about weather.

Today, Environment Canada, under which the Weather Office falls, issued an Arctic Overflow Warning for Metro Vancouver. I’m still trying to figure out “Lower Mainland,” but suffice to say, “Metro Vancouver” is, well, Vancouver. The warning, states, in part:

An Arctic ridge of high pressure building across the British Columbia interior is producing strong outflow winds through coastal valleys and inlets. The strong outflow winds in combination with very cold air are producing wind chill values exceeding minus 20 degrees for much of the BC coast with values down to minus 35 reported on the north coast.

The Fraser Valley will experience strong outflow winds and blowing snow leading to treacherous conditions. These conditions are forecast to intensify this morning as the Arctic front pushes towards the coast and snowfall gets thrown into the mix.

I don’t care what system you use, -20 (see how it says minus) is cold! I don’t know what “outflow winds” means, but it doesn’t sound good. And I specially like the phrase “snowfall gets thrown into the mix.” How’s that for folksly straight talk?

And then, a little further down, there’s this paragraph:

Arctic outflows combined with the frontal system approaching Washington state today will lead to enhanced snowfall amounts over Southern Vancouver Island as well as the Southern Gulf Islands. 10 to 20 cm of snow is expected through this morning.

Outflows. Frontal systems. What the heck does that even mean?! Frontal systems conjure images of a big H or L swooping down on Chicago, bringing with it nice or crappy weather, depending on the season and what air mass it meets when it gets to Chicago.

The thing that really threw me, though, was “enhanced snowfall amounts.” Even just “enhanced snowfall.” Does that mean sleet? Slush? Hail?

Vancouver Island I know. I got schooled on that one by a Canadian Customs Border Agent. I had been up since 3am Chicago time, and it was 2pm Pacific. I was here visiting, and when asked what I was going to see, I ticked off a couple items and said “maybe Victoria Island or Vancouver Island.” The agent gave me a hard look and then promptly told me that Victoria Island is near the Arctic Circle, so it would be Vancouver Island I would be visiting, which is where Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is located.

Playing “dumb American” can bring out the best in Canadian Customs Border Agents, no? I thanked him for correcting my misinformation and he promptly sent me on my way.

The encounter did nothing to educate me on Canadian weather, though, so I’m going to have to rely on the Internet…oh wait. #SOPAblackout Day. Will have to rely on my co-workers to help decipher Canadian weather.


Yes, I’m Terrified

I’m staring at the infamous boxes that finally finished the FexEx #fail gauntlet, and how my temporary dwellings look more like permanent dwellings. Stuff is everywhere, as if I’ve moved in for the long haul already. And I just got back from opening a Canadian bank account, bringing me one step closer to “being Canadian.”

A thought pervades: I’m terrified.

So, basically, I have no history in Canada. I have no identity in Canada. All the credit history I’ve built up in the US? Meaningless in Canada.

Let me repeat that.

I. Have. No. Identity. In. Canada.

That, is terrifying. Exhilarating, yet terrifying. I have no fall back position in Canada. I have no reference point. No support network. Nothing that says “hey, snap out of it. This is you, remember?”

My natural instinct is to become absorbed in work, let work define me, be my reference point. But, as I learned the hard way, work is not a given. Work is not a healthy, steady, concrete fall back position, definition or reference point. Work does not care. Work has no problem dropping and dismissing you. And that causes a huge blow to the ego, to one’s self.

Been there. Done that. I’ll take a pass on the repeat.

So without work as definition or reference point, I’m left with fear.

Fear is complicated emotion, I’m finding, and it has lots of variations. I’m terrified of losing my hard-fought American identity, and equally terrified of embracing and shaping my current non-existent Canadian identity. I’m terrified of going all in and equally terrified of being half in/half out. I’m terrified of not making friends and terrified I’ll make good friends. I’m terrified I’ll like #vancouver too much and terrified I won’t like it enough.

I’m terrified this whole gamble will be a success and terrified it’ll result in failure. I’m terrified I don’t know what I’m doing and terrified I do know what I’m doing.

A lot of this, I’m sure, has to do with “transitions.” That seemingly perpetual state of affairs. And there’s probably a fair amount of high expectations on my part. There are so many emotions to process, so many logistical things to figure out it seems like I’m flailing around, which only fans the flames of fear, if you will.

And, to be honest, I hate emotions. They’re messy. Alas, they are a component of being human, and ignoring them is of no help. So, right now, the best I can do is identify and acknowledge them. I’ve gone from “elation” to “relief” and now to “fear.” This move, this job, is no longer something off in the distance that may or may not happen.

It is now my reality.

So I’ll go to SMCYVR tonight, play some pickup basketball on Saturday and follow the course some part of me charted already: activities, not work, define me.

Red Bull Crashed Ice

If you’re like me, your brain might have thought that is a typo. It should really say “Red Bull Crushed Ice” which would make a little more sense. Red Bull after all, is an energy drink, so calling a drink “Red Bull Crushed Ice” isn’t too far fetched.

Um. No.

Turns out Red Bull Crashed Ice is correct, and it’s a sport.

Yes. A sport. It’s a “combination of speedskating, boardercross and downhill skiing has only been around for 10 years.” Who knew? I certainly didn’t, and stumbled upon it during a commercial while watching Jeopardy! I channel surf during commercials. I hate commercials, which is one of the reasons I love Netflix.

Anyway, so I change the station and see four guys, decked out in hockey gear, flying down an ice track that has all kinds of turns, jumps and whatnot. Very much like the X-Games boardercross. I was always amazed at snowboarders who can navigate such a course. I had a hard enough time trying to stand upright and make my way down a hill, let alone turn or jump!

But these guys, these Crashed Ice guys, were on ice skates!

Now, it’s one thing to race in a rink, or speed across to an open net. It’s something else to speed down a hill on skates, navigate turns and jumps without stopping. The whole point is to be the first to cross the finish line and, judging from what I saw, slam into the padding at the end. And it sounds kind of, I don’t know, simple. Stay on your feet, don’t run other people over and try not to get too much air. But man! After watching a heat, I was mesmerized. It’s not so simple, and there is some strategy involved. You certainly have to expect the unexpected, and be quick on your feet.

If this counts as sport in Canada, I’m sold.

Post Navigation