Rex Hammock's Sat, 24 Jun 2017 23:20:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Update: My Decade Old ‘9 Steps of Political Scandals Sat, 24 Jun 2017 23:20:46 +0000

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Ten years ago I posted on this blog a chronological list of fill-in-the-blank steps called “The 9 Steps of Political Scandals.” I wrote then, “It doesn’t matter what the politician does — accept bribes, shoplifts or, well, just fill in the blank.” Since then, my list has been cited in subsequent scandals. Here is the list:

1. Politician _______s.
2. Rumors circulate that politician ________s.
3. Politician denies rumors.
4. Politician caught _____ing.
5. Politician says, “I did not _____, it was a misunderstanding.”
6. Politician blames media and bloggers.
7. Past partners, victims or witnesses show up to prove politician _______s all the time.
8. Politician admits he’s __________ed.
9. Politician apologizes to his family and to those who trusted him, blames it on alcohol and enters rehab.

I have two update observations.

(1) The list is not limited to politicians. It works for licentious VCs.

(2) I’ve discovered that at least one politician is impervious to scandals, and thus, this list.

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A Surprising Role Model for Turning Content Into Knowledge Fri, 09 Jun 2017 16:52:41 +0000

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I wrote this for Hammock Inc.’s Idea Email.

Click the photo to find the Library Journal cover story about the Nashville Public Library being named U.S. Library of the Year. (Note: This photo is a thumbnail of a wonderful photo shot by my friend and photographer hero, Bob Shatz.)

Because an Idea Email is sent every other week to subscribers across the United States and globally, we try to keep our references universal, not local. But when something big happens a few blocks from the Nashville office we call Hammock HQ, we can’t help wanting to share.

And no, I’m not talking about the unprecedented way in which locals (including us) have gone nuts over the success of the Nashville Predators and their first appearance in the finals of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoff (#GoPreds).

I’m talking about the Nashville Public Library being named Library of the Year by the trade publication Library Journal. You can read all the reasons why here in the magazine’s cover story.

Because the word library is associated with the physical book (or codex), many have mistakenly placed libraries on the endangered species list. But in addition to the resources and programs great public and academic libraries have embraced in the digital age, these libraries also serve as role models for making content—the core value a company provides its customers—organized and accessible.

The professionals who run libraries are experts in gathering and organizing information critical to workers and customers (or any audience served). They are trained in creating ever-changing taxonomies of knowledge. They’re on the frontlines of finding new ways information can be there when you need it—not just when a writer clicks submit.

As we move into an era of more complex digital media, the skills of trained librarians (and the many other titles they go by) will increasingly become a model for capturing, organizing and making accessible the knowledge that gives your organization a unique and unbeatable competitive advantage.

Wait. Did I just write the word “unbeatable”? #GoPreds

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The Funniest New Yorker Video Ever (That Refers to the National Magazine Award) Thu, 08 Jun 2017 22:26:51 +0000

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Wow. This video produced by the New Yorker was posted on YouTube (below) a week ago and has already been viewed 850 whole times. This may not sound like it’s a lot, but it’s hipster-viral.

It’s one of those Freudian things about humor not being funny unless it’s not, or something like that.


For some reason, about 1/2 of the comments on the YouTube video are about how dumb it is.

Those commenters obviously don’t get the joke. They are probably the same people who don’t read poems in the New Yorker because the poems don’t rhyme or make sense.

Or perhaps they don’t understand the way that humor about Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, isn’t funny because of, well, Freudian things.


Me. I like this video because of its nuanced commentary on the value of winning a National Magazine Award. (Spoiler: $2).

Enjoy! (Or not.)

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Pinboard Acquires Delicious (Yes, it Still Exists) Fri, 02 Jun 2017 16:35:08 +0000

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I saw a link to this via Andy Baio ( Way, way, long ago, I wrote several posts about the bookmarking service called Delicious. Just proves, if you hang around long enough, things you live through become ancient history.

Yes, way, way, long ago (as in 16 or so years ago), I blogged a lot about Delicious (or, at first, (Like when Yahoo shuttered it.) For several years, I used the RSS feed of Delicious to post links like this. I have thousands of links bookmarked on two accounts at Delicious. I haven’t looked at it for years.

Delicious used to be a big deal. The Washington Post website even had a “bookmark this with delicious) attached to every article (17 years ago).

Here’s a post on the Blog.

Pinboard Acquires Delicious


Pinboard has acquired Delicious. Here’s what you need to know

If you’re a Pinboard user, nothing will change. Sad!

If you’re a Delicious user, you will have to find another place to save your bookmarks. The site will stay online. but on June 15, I will put Delicious into read-only mode. You won’t be able to save new bookmarks after that date, or use the API.

Users will have an opportunity to migrate their bookmarks to a Pinboard account, which costs $11/year. Those who prefer to bookmark elsewhere will be able to export their data once I fix the export link, which was disabled some months ago for peformance reasons.

Please note that there is no time pressure for moving off Delicious. You won’t be able to save new bookmarks after June 15, but everything else will continue to work, or break in familiar ways.

As for the ultimate fate of the site, I’ll have more to say about that soon. Delicious has over a billion bookmarks and is a fascinating piece of web history. Even Yahoo, for whom mismanagement is usually effortless, had to work hard to keep Delicious down. I bought it in part so it wouldn’t disappear from the web.

This is the fifth time Delicious has been sold. Founded in 2003, the site received funding from Union Square Ventures in 2005, and sold to Yahoo later that year for somewhere between $15-$30M.

In December of 2010, Yahoo announced it was ‘sunsetting’ Delicious, an adventure I wrote about at length. The site was sold to the YouTube founders in 2011. They subsequently sold it to Science, Inc. in 2014. Science sold it to Delicious Media in 2016, and last month Delicious Media sold it to me.

Do not attempt to compete with Pinboard.

—maciej on June 01, 2017

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Non-Spoiler @R eview | The Circle (film) Sun, 30 Apr 2017 00:03:35 +0000

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When it was first published, I weighed in on Dave Eggers’ book, The Circle, as I found a lot of the reaction to the book seemed defensive by those who mainline social media Kool-Aid. (You can read the review of the book for the TL;DR version of what I’m about to say about the film.)

I’m not a fan of those who judge a film by how closely it follows the book on which it is based. But I will note there are some backstories that would have been helpful to include, like how did a company emerge that would crush and replace Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google? (Non-spoiler answer: The founder of the company developed a non-hackable, secure way for everyone to have a digital identity (called TruYou). TruYou is mentioned a lot, but the disappearance of the current incumbent players is treated merely as a suspension of disbelief — that or the fictional device used when fictional companies, say Stark Industries, or cities, say Gotham City, are used to suggest a real version.

One of the criticisms of the book was Eggers’ boasting in interviews that he didn’t spend a lot of time researching the technology. The film feels the same way (unlike, say, something written by William Gibson). However, the film is more of a satire (not the funny SNL kind, but the literary device) than a techno-thriller, sci-fi drama. Eggers gets the technology “close enough” to make the points he’s trying to make.

Moreover, the past three years of the real-life march of technology has helped prove that Eggers didn’t need to know the workings of technology to predict the outcome that occurs when we start believing that any new announcement by Google or Facebook will lead to a greater good for mankind.

Downside: Unfortunately, the movie is boring at times.

But despite that, the movie is worth seeing for two reasons: Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. They are allowed to develop as characters and they both have the acting skills to make us believe they are those characters and not the cardboard cutouts seen in most internet-tech films.

Only one other actor rises to his task in the film: the late Bill Paxton as the father of Emma Watson’s character.

Bottomline: The movie, like the book, does point out the unintended consequences of new technology. (Would we be better off today if Twitter was never created?) But it’s not a great movie — it’s not compelling and convincing beyond the two principals.

Recommendation: For people who think Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have taken over the world in evil ways, go see it.

Another Recommendation: Last fall (2016), I wrote a brief review of one episode of in the second season of Black Mirror called Nosedive. It, too, is a satire (the Jonathon Swift kind) of social-reputation gone amoke. While it differs in direction, it displays a lot more intensity by using sci-fi techniques that place it in the “near future” rather than the now future.

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In-House Content vs. Out-House Content Tue, 18 Apr 2017 20:20:53 +0000

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Whenever you start reading analysis by an expert consultant who thinks a company like Pepsi is smart to create an in-house content (or other creative execution) agency for whatever reason, get ready for a trainwreck.

Pepsi’s in-house content people blew it. However, an agency could have, as easily, blown it. But here’s how it should work. In-house, there should be an expertise in the goals and missions of the company; the reasons a product exist.

The “out-source resource” should be the expert in how to develop a content strategy that will reach those goals and missions. They should be experts in the nunace of various types of media, like publishing or digital media.

From the first day of Hammock’s existence, we have told clients and potential ones: “You are the expert in your product, we are the experts in the message and media strategy that will help you sell more products and develop a deeper relationship with customers.”

The real problem is not whether content is better or cheaper if it comes from within an organization. The problem is that content that is developed to make the senior management of a company feel good about themselves (the Pepsi problem), will likely fail.

For more about why companies that focus on messages that please themselves are almost always wrong, read this post from 2014: RIP: Osmo Wiio

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How to Know its Time to Update Your Slide Deck Wed, 12 Apr 2017 17:32:35 +0000

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Earlier this week, I heard a presentation by a well-known analyst and author who is an expert on topics related to customer service and the technology used in that field.

One of her examples of customer service related to an experience in which a friend of her’s was amazed by a service provider’s customer service phone support. He was blown away by the simple integration of two data points that enabled him to not have to repeat his issue multiple times. “Oh, I see you were just on our website,” the customer support person said.

I would be impressed by that technological breakthrough, myself.

Unfortunately for the presenter, the company was United Airlines and the audience reacted to the example with laughter.

They were not impressed.

You’ve got to admit it: using an example about customer service in the context of massive coverage about how a customer of their’s had been beaten up and dragged off a plane because they were oversold is being far too loyal to one’s presentation deck than necessary.

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No Famous Person Ever Said What You Quoted Them Saying Thu, 06 Apr 2017 00:43:07 +0000

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On Mondays, we almost always post a quotation on using the hashtag #MondayMotivation. It’s difficult for me to come up with a quotation because I insist that the quotation have a primary source, not a second-party attribution. In other words, the quote must be in the writings or public statements of a person or be from someone who was recounting the quotation they heard directly from the source, not from a friend-of-a-friend of the source.

One of the places I look to verify quotes is the Quote Investigator, a website of someone whose pen name is Garson O’Toole.

NPR’s All Things Considered recently ran an interview with O’Toole, who has a new book out called, Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations.

Here’s a quote by O’Toole that can be verified by listening to the interview below:”It’s a lot of fun to uncover these hidden histories, and I’m also very glad when I get to give credit to the person who actually said it.”


Another place I look is Wikiquote, a project of the organization that runs Wikipedia. It is maintained by hundreds of people who are like O’Tolle. If you go there to look for a specific quote reference to a quote by Einstein or Hemingway, you’ll often be disappointed not to see it. Click on the “Discussion” tab at the top, left side of the box that contains the quote. There you will see a list of quotes that are often attributed to the person, under the heading, “Unsourced.” You’ll also see any debates over the source.

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of lame sourcing, but it’s still a pet-peeve.

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Folio: Followup Wed, 05 Apr 2017 18:02:22 +0000

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I’ve now done something I never thought I’d have the chance to do: Follow up on a 20-year-old magazine cover story. And since I’ve only been on one magazine cover, this was my only shot.

A shout-out thanks to Tony Silber who conceived the original story “way back when” (about custom publishers going digital in 1996) and who thought it would be fun to compare the Q&A then, to what they might be today.

One thing I didn’t do 20 years ago was Tweet, but Hammock already managed a couple of web forums and a very active Compuserve group (I was the sysop). We were creating CD Rom projects and publishing branded magazines and books. It was those foundations that enabled me to “get” everything that has been built on such foundations.

There is so much that great content can do for marketers. Unfotunately, when marketers think that content is limited to SEO and lead generation, it’s hard to explain all the other benefits of great customer media and marketing with content.

Oh well, no doubt I’ll still be trying to explain that 20 years from now.

Blast from the past: Revisiting Rex Hammock’s 1996 Folio: cover story

— FOLIO: (@foliomag) April 5, 2017

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@R eview | STown Tue, 04 Apr 2017 03:50:37 +0000

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If you visit the website of the podcast STown, you’ll notice that the seven-part series is divided into “chapters.” After binge-listening seven hours during the past weekend (kept doing yard work so I could listen guilt-free), I agree that “chapters” is more appropriate than “episodes” as STown flows like a well-crafted story, masterfully told.

First a word of caution. If cussing (and I mean cussing, not cursing) offends you, please stop here and forget the podcast. Okay. You’ve been warned. STown stands for Shit Town, the name given to his hometown by John B. McLemore. The town he’s grown to hate is in Bibb County, Ala., about midway between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. John (or John B) is one of those people who has grown angry with the world, an iconoclast who can’t believe what idiots human beings have become. Unfortunately, he’s smart enough to know it’s true. He’s brilliant on a wide range of topics and is one of the world’s most talented restorers of antique mechanical clocks. But he’s also crazy as a loon and a world class cusser.

Oh, here’s another thing I should disclose (if you’re not one of the 12 regular readers of this blog who already knows), I’m a native of Alabama and have lived in the South all my life. I’ll admit, however, my experience in the South has been more suburban new South “Gardens & Guns” than rural town new South tattoos and Trump. But still, I’ve known a few John B’s in my life. They are unique and engaging while, simultaneously, scarey as hell.

Before sharing more about STown, here’s a flashback to my review of Serial, the podcast that shut down the tech-media “experts” who were writing podcasting’s obituary at the time:

Serial is like a brand new way to experience someone telling me a story that stretches 500 pages and a dozen hours. Except with Serial, “the audiobook” is presented in a way that no audio book I’ve ever experienced has (except, perhaps, the audiobook version of Katharine Graham’s autobiography). Rather than being a murder mystery, Serial is becoming a story about a journalist trying to determine the mystery of whether or not there is a story in the murder. It’s like an author of an audio book is writing the book in real time, sharing with us the pieces that have to come together and the frustrations when they don’t.

Like (I’m guessing) most people, I expected STown to be another Serial, a murder mystery documentary. Developed, written and narrated by a producer of This American Life, Brian Reed (a New Yorker, bless his heart), STown is, according to its digital equivalent of dust jacket notes, “about a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. John asks Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, and the search for the truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.”

The mysteries of STown do involve violence and crimes that are solved as dramatically as in any TV procedural. But STown is more southern gothic than journalist whodunit. It’s Faulkner* meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with a little Rick Bragg and Truman Capote thrown in.

It took three years to produce STown. And while it is “by” Reed, it’s obvious that countless talented people worked on this project.

Every moment spent during those three years is evident.

A hint: Listen through to the very end. It has one of the best-written final paragraphs of any book (er, podcast) I know.

*The song that ends each chapter is titled A Rose for Emily by The Zombies, a reference to the Faulkner short story by the same name. (Full text of the short story.)

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