Oh, My, Do I Ever Have Fernweh

Well, hello! It’s been too long since I dedicated time to the practice of writing and sharing my thoughts. It’s not meant as an excuse, but you should know that I have recently been struggling with a near-debilitating case of fernweh. Let me explain.

It all started at work last spring, when Billie introduced me to Leoh. To be clear, Billie is a person, and Leoh is an app. Perhaps THE BEST Chrome extension ever. It’s free and easy to download and install from the Google Chrome store. Once it’s up and running in your Chrome browser, Leoh will open each new tab with an image pulled from its archived trove of crisp pictures – or from your own pictures if you tell it to.

And that’s where the fernweh comes in. According to an NPR piece this spring, fernweh is a German word that is roughly translated as “farsickness.” It’s a longing like homesickness – but for a place you’ve never been.

Maybe you feel that way about an island or a country or a countryside: you’ve thought about it or heard about it or seen it up close. Yet while you’ve never been there, you feel a rise of emotion just thinking about it. When I watch the Lord of the Rings movies, I grow heartsick just thinking how much I want to go to New Zealand right then and there. Never been, but I feel like I have thanks to the amazing cinematography.

Leoh does this to me: Every. Single. Day. When I open that new browser tab, I am immediately transfixed and transported to a white sand beach or a sun-drenched mountainside or a cozy cabin nestled on a winding trail on a rocky mountainside far above an inviting beach. The noisy, open workspace fades from my awareness, and for several seconds, I stare, distracted, without the foggiest notion as to why I opened the new tab.

Just look at the example above. I can almost touch the flowers and feel the late-day breeze as I gaze down at the placid river. Maybe I’ve been hiking with my family, and we made it to a rise where we can stop and rest and take in the magnificent view. But the light is beginning to fade, and we need to get back to the picturesque inn where we’re staying for the night. Images are stories in Leoh.

Leoh hits me visually and emotionally. It’s a farsickness I never knew I had – until the photo pops up in front of me. Then, ever so slowly, I pull up from the mental graveyard spiral and get back to work, either typing in the URL or using the handy Leoh pulldown list of bookmarked sites.

Sadly, the archived images never tell you where the place exists, though occasional you get a hint on a sign and can try to search for it via Google maps. And if you don’t like an image, just hit refresh, and Leoh pulls up a new one. Over the past half year, I’ve gladly recommended Leoh to everyone I know.

But I don’t tell them about the fernweh. That’s for them to discover on their own.

To Unsubscribe, or Not to Unsubscribe

Hardly the question. Daily I find myself unsubscribing from a newsletter or mailing list that I never registered for. The reason is that I am actually five people.

No, no, no. Don’t misunderstand. My friends, co-workers and family have never witnessed more than one quirky, rather mild personality answering to “Larry.” More to the point, I receive redirected email from the accounts of four former marketing employees.

As the head of the marketing team at a small company, I have to sort through these various email requests and inquiries to make sure we don’t miss anything critical. Not the best use of my early morning, but I do mine the occasional gem – an invitation to speak, an insightful blog column, an advertising option we didn’t know existed – that was shipped to the wrong person. Mistakes happen.

The time suck for me is all the rest of the dreck that arrives. Here are a few of my less-than-favorite themes:

  • Companies that want to sell us “targeted” lists of contacts, but send them to the email accounts of individuals who are clearly no longer at our company (catch the irony there?).
  • Advertising emails sent out in bulk, so that I get five of the exact same messages! None of these hold interest, but I am forced to unsubscribe five times to make sure we’re out of their database.
  • Vendors that offer third-party papers and other marketing tips, and to unsubscribe, require that I know the former employee’s password so that I can log onto the vendor website to manually de-select the multiple options that will send me multiple emails on multiple topics.
  • Solicitations from individuals who either list no unsubscribe link at the end of the email or request me to send them a personal email with REMOVE in the subject line. How very 1997.

All said and done, I do feel like I am making incremental progress in cutting down the flow. I fully appreciate everyone who uses ConstantContact (we don’t), with it’s “SafeUnsubscribe” option. It’s a moment of transcendent joy when I spot that tiny blue link at the bottom of the email, click once, and never hear from them again.

As for the rest, those list brokers who hawk these derelict email addresses to inattentive advertisers, those fiends I would relegate to the 8th Circle of Hell as described in Dante’s Inferno. That’s the one reserved for fraud: panderers, seducers, flatterers, sorcerers, false prophets, liars and thieves. May 2015 see an end to these “False Prophets of Email!”

Unless that’s a trendy new band. With a moniker like that, I might just go see them.

My End-of-the -Year Resolution: Gluten Free Me

Hello again! I’ve taken far too much time off from this blog, and I truly miss the mental stretch of writing. Since it’s resolution time, I’ll make one now: write once a week in this space. Let’s see if I can do it. You have permission to publicly razz me for any lapse.

It is worth mentioning that I have kept one resolution for about six weeks now. What with all my commuting (up to two hours a week day), I was getting a little…paunchy. Even with semi-regular exercise. So in mid-November, I decided it was time to take arms against my personal demon: The Snack.

When hungry, my first impulse is to eat something “bready” or fatty, and it’s not uncommon for me to eat a half box of Triscuits if it’s in the cabinet. Really. So I launched a nutritional experiment: denying myself gluten, sweets, and all of Jane’s leftovers (pizza, pasta, mac & cheese, cake, etc…). Ouch.

Recent psychological studies have shown that our willpower is actually a finite resource, and I fully expected to backslide. Yet against all odds, I seem to have tapped a supernaturally plentiful vein of internal strength. I’ve even managed to keep this deal  in the face of the holiday season’s gastronomic temptations.

I suspect several factors have abetted my determination:

  • Lori has fully supported me on this. Since she went gluten-free before me, she’s removed many of the worst offenders at home and loaded our larder with all sorts of unusual flours, good veggies and alternative snacks.
  • My co-worker Troy can’t digest gluten, so I’ve learned quite a few strategies on how he makes it work.
  • I work in Boulder, where every restaurant has a gluten-free menu. Surprised?
  • I’m not traveling for work, so I can surround myself with healthy choices like breakfast smoothies and veggies.

The upshot after six weeks: I’m feeling far better, less bloated and just lighter, even though I doubt I’ve lost that much weight. Lori’s noticed the change, and she’s not a needless flatterer, so there’s that. I do have the occasional nibble of cookie or draft beer, but those are small transgressions. I’m excited to see how far I can take this.

And with that, a happy new year to you all! May your 2015 be a year of good health, may your resolutions be easy to keep, and may we meet again soon. But please – not for pizza.

Even Marketing Automation Companies Make Mistakes

I sent this out a few weeks ago, and it’s worth adding here:

Even the best and brightest among us make mistakes. We apologize, fix the problem, and learn to do better.

I’m not a practitioner of Schadenfreude (laughing at the pain of others), but what a joy two receive TWO misfired emails this week from prominent vendors: one from Marketo and one from Pardot/SalesForce. I’ve captured these for your reading pleasure:

http://www.windward.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/marketo-gaffe.png  (test subject line with no content)

http://www.windward.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/pardot-gaffe.png   (test subject line with filler content – my favorite)

In the end, it’s still us humans who push the send button. Perhaps this is the type of experience that informs all those “best practice” emails we get from our marketing automation experts!

I hope our good friends at Marketo and SalesForce are able to laugh at themselves. We at Windward certainly had a hearty chuckle. Is Act-On next?

Waze and Means

I’ve entered a phase I think of as “App Fatigue.” I now use my smart phone mainly as, well, a phone. Sure, I take advantage the handy tools like messaging, maps, Internet, weather,  music, LinkedIn, etc…, but I can’t recall the last time I crawled around iTunes looking for some new time-saving or world-changing app for my iPhone. I’m just not interested. Fatigue has set in.

I love the Waze logos!
I love the Waze logos!

My one exception: a new traffic app recommended by a work colleague. After a particularly hard day of winter driving and barely contained road rage, I finally downloaded “Waze,” and my life was markedly changed for the better.

If you haven’t met Waze yet, I guarantee that you’re destined to become best friends. Waze bills itself as “the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app.” In my regular commute from Denver to Boulder and back, I can hardly do without it.

I heart Waze for several reasons:

  1. It’s never wrong on its routes and very close on time estimates. It draws from a sizable community of other drivers using the same tool, so it estimates traffic speed and flow along my routes by using all available sources of information. Aside from the rare glitch, I’ve come to trust its suggestions, and I use it even when I’m only making short hops around town.
  2. It’s a real-time, community-sourced app for more than just traffic. We “Wazers” all use the tool to report and share news about accidents, hidden police, inclement weather, or whatever else may be an impending impediment to our safe arrival at our final destination. No longer do we need to have to wait in standstill traffic wondering whether the cause of the jam is one mile, two miles, or ten miles ahead. It’s that good.
  3. Finally, I appreciate the marketing. The Waze tag line is “Outsmarting Traffic, Together.” I love that! Succinct and true. Waze is also a true example of gamification. The tool assigns you points for activities like reporting and getting others to join, and you can use your points to customize your icon (mine now has a sword and is a sunflower). It’s a thrill to earn points for helping other drivers. Game on!

So, are my friends weary of me talking up this app? Hardly. I’ve actually converted many  into fellow Wazers, and they profess to love it as much as I do.

Give it a try! It’s available free from iTunes, Google Play, and the Windows Phone Store (whatever that is), and it puts Google’s traffic app to shame. To paraphrase, “It’s a Waze world, and we just live in it.”