SociallyWorking

Posts from SociallyWorking.com

The Mass Effect Effect – or, don’t piss off your fans… 0

I’m not a huge gamer. Though I am still a fan of a few, like EverQuest (the original one) and play from time to time, but it takes a hell of a lot to get me really into a game. Getting me into a series is nearly impossible. As a matter of fact, since the advent of the Xbox, it’s happened a grand total of three times. BioShock – for all its flaws – grabbed my attention, and I can’t wait for the next one to finally make it out the door. Fallout was another, but I admit that fascination went all the way back to the pre-Windows days when I played a game called Wasteland – the “spiritual grandfather” of the Fallout series.

The third is Mass Effect. Once I figured out how to turn off the stupid film grain so I didn’t get continually motion sick, I was hooked. For those who don’t follow gaming, or don’t follow the Mass Effect series, it had some problems. Most notably, the ending of the trilogy didn’t go so well. You can read some of the details (with minor SPOILERS!!) here.

I will not go into the details in this post, as I have no intention of spoiling the storyline. I will, however, outline what happened:

Mass Effect came out, bringing a true role-playing aspect to Space Opera Fantasy gaming. The concept has been tried before, but something in Mass Effect clicked and the game took off like a rocket (or a Mass Effect Starship).

Mass Effect 2 took that concept and rammed it into overdrive. The depth of characters, story lines, settings, and events was immense. The studio in charge (BioWare) not only created a successful sequel, they created one that far surpassed the first chapter. With a galaxy-spanning storyline that was directly (and sometimes radically) changed not only by the characters basic choices, but by the very way they interacted with he galaxy around them. Moral, ethical, and logical choices all changed the way you played through the entire game.

BioWare wasn’t done. After a bit of a wait, they launched Mass Effect 3 to a now rabid fan-base. As the series was always meant to be a trilogy (the future games have been hinted to have totally different storylines/characters), ME3 was going to be the end of the story. No one was unsure of this, and everyone from fan sites to the creators themselves had accepted that everything would be brought to a close.

Most of the game was spectacular. Yes, there were hiccups – there always are. Yes, some things might have been done better – they always can. However; the story itself, the characters and their trilogy-spanning development, and the epic nature of the game made it amazing to play.

Right up until the end.

Long story short, the publishers of the game – who will remain nameless in this article – forced the developers to rush the game out the door. So a major mechanic of the game, one that literally determined the fate of the galaxy, fell flat. Suddenly, gamers who didn’t really like multi-player found themselves forced to play that aspect of the game. Secondary methodologies for avoiding multi-player ran into massive technical difficulties – when they worked at all.

Secondly, the developers – no doubt feeling immense pressure to launch – basically phoned in the ending sequences. An epic story that spanned an entire galaxy and three in-game years ended with a whimper at best, and a kick to the genitals in many cases.

The fans – understandably – went to grab pitchforks and torches and raised a holy uproar the likes of which is seldom seen in the gaming community. Everyone complains about games, but getting that many gamers to all complain about the exact same thing is remarkable. To have them do it loudly enough to worry a media giant is unheard of!

Eventually, BioWare saw the error of their ways (and/or got tired of constantly deleting hate emails) and created a free DownLoadable Content (DLC) pack that corrected the majority of the issues. The requirement for using multi-player or half-assed mobile apps was removed, and the endings were given a proper treatment. While many gamers still found the ending to be missing something, I found it to be a fitting end to the trilogy, and exceptionally well done.

So, what can we learn from this that we can apply to using Social Media effectively? Quite a lot, actually.

First, don’t do things half-assed if there is any way (including delays) to avoid it. If you’re going to build a community, you have to see it through. Deciding you will just push things out because you’re pressed for time can be worse than making people wait a little longer. While the developers managed to dodge a lot of the backlash by fixing things, the media giant of a publisher left a horribly sour taste in the mouths of consumers. You know, the people who actually buy their stuff.

That brings us to the second lesson. If you make a mistake, own it. Apologize, make it right as soon as you can and make it good. BioWare took a publicity hit over this, but managed to win back most of their fans (and many of the most vocal ones) by creating the DLC that satisfied them. They didn’t plan to, but the public outcry was so severe they needed to do something, and they did. Responding to the needs of your followers, especially when you do something that gets them angry with you, is a sure way to turn a follower into a fan, and someone who likes your product into a true believer.

Of course, you try not to make mistakes. They do, however, happen. Avoid them whenever you can (especially if they can be avoided with slight delays) and apologize when you can’t. Your fan base may not be as big as BioWare’s, but that’s today. Tomorrow you write a new chapter, and who knows how far your influence will reach. Gain it carefully, own it well, and never leave the masses on your doorstep with pitchforks and torches.

Unless, of course, you actually have a Mass Effect drive and can safely get the hell out of the building.

The work/life balance 0

Social Media has invaded just about every aspect of our life. From keeping up with friends and family on Facebook to tracking potential job opportunities on LinkedIn, we’re constantly tapping into our Social Networks. How do you keep work and home independent? Should you do so?

The short answer is that for nearly all of us, you should indeed keep your work Social Networks and your home interactions independent of each other. Your business colleagues don’t want to see what you had for lunch today, and your friends and family probably don’t care that you’ve connected tot he VP of Whatever at some company. That being said, having two Social Profiles on each site can lead to some challenges, but help eliminate others.

First, how do you keep everything straight in your head? With a huge swath of Social Networks to choose from, you probably have accounts on five or six at any given time – Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, App.Net, etc. etc. etc. The problem isn’t that you’re on too many networks (though that may very well be true) but that you need to send different updates to different accounts on different services.

For me, I limited myself to only a few Social Networks. I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Anything else MUST connect to one of those three, or I don’t actively watch or update it. This isn’t as hard as it seems, as most Social apps do indeed connect to one of those three, and therefore I can post updates to a limited number of places, and have them distributed to a full spectrum of social tools.

Then, I created and maintain two accounts for each of those services. One for my own non-corporate streaming (those are the links above) and one for anything I do for the company I work for. This way, I can tweet or post whatever I want to on the personal sites, without worrying that it’ll show up on my company profile. Granted, you still need to not post anything that you’d be ashamed your grandmother saw, but this method gives you a bit more latitude.

By digitally segregating your personal and work accounts, you can keep your work/life balance in balance by simply shutting off the site/client for your work account when you’re not actually at work. I tend to keep mine on, just to allow me to keep tabs on replies and DM’s, but many folks do shut that part of their online life off at the end of their business day.

Secondly, how do you deal with ownership if you choose to have combined accounts? In many cases, any account that posts on behalf of a company can be considered to be “owned” by that company. This means if you use the same accounts to share info about both work and private life, then if you should leave the company, they can keep your accounts. While this is still being run through the court systems, and there hasn’t been enough case-law to set a precedent yet, the issue is going to come to a head soon. In all likelihood, the employment contract you signed says that if the company dedicated resources to something, they own it, so it’s unlikely that the end-user will win when these things finally do make their way through the court systems in the US and elsewhere.

Because of this, keeping your private life segregated from your work life on Social Networks is a very good idea. This way, even if you do leave your employer and have to give up your company-focused accounts, you still have your contact lists and timelines from your own accounts to take with you.

Splitting your Social Media life between work and “other” is never an easy thing, but it’s vital to do so if you intend to leverage Social Media for work purposes. Doing so will let you define a better balance between your work life and social life, and will help to ensure that your tweets, posts, and blogs remain truly your own, no matter what.

Basic Data Security and You 0

[Editor’s note: Sorry for the hiatus on my blogs recently. I’ve gotten swamped by work, and ran out of pre-written posts just before the holidays here in the US. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that I’m posting this particular column =) ]

When you go online and post, blog, tweet, DM, etc.; you place information about yourself out there in the Internet. Granted, that’s the whole point to Social Networking, but many of us have seemingly forgotten that the Internet is an open community, not a private telephone line.

So, here’s a few “rules of the road” to follow to help keep yourself safe;

1 – Know what you’re clicking on. These days, it is unbelievably common to see posts that contain links to websites. The vast majority of these are perfectly safe, but some are actually phishing or attack sites that can make your life miserable very quickly. The good news is that many Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Media tools will allow you to preview a link before you click on it. In fact, many now allow you to auto-expand the URL of a short-link (like a bit.ly or jmp link) so you can see the URL of the actual destination site. Just hover over the link to see where it leads to. If you don’t know what the destination site is, if it doesn’t apply to the tweet or post, or if you have no idea why you’d be getting that message to begin with – then don’t click.

2 – People can be impersonated. Feel like you want to share something personal in a DM to that person who’s been making conversation with you? Think twice. While the majority of people online are who they say they are (though some of us use pen names of course), there are folks who are scam artists who will try to get you to give up personal information, money, secrets, etc. Don’t be fooled, make sure you know who the person really is first.

3 – People can also be hacked. Twitter and Facebook and many other Social Networks are constantly trying to improve security and help folks not get hacked, but it still happens with alarming regularity. Not following some of theses rules is a sure way to make it happen, but sometimes it’s just a really good hacker finding a way to get into someone’s account that they shouldn’t have access to. When you get an odd DM (“Hey, what are you doing in this video”) or something seems amiss, it very well could be someone else pretending to be a friend you know. DM back and confirm that it’s really them BEFORE you give up any information or click on any links.

4 – Don’t post it if it isn’t public (no, not even in a DM). I’ve said this one before and I’ll keep saying it until everyone gets it. If you wouldn’t shout it out at the top of your lungs while standing in the middle of Times Square in New York; if you wouldn’t want your boss and your grandmother to both read it; then do not post it. Anything you put online – even if it seems to be in a private message or DM – can, and eventually will, become public. Save yourself a lot of embarrassment now and avoid posting anything you don’t want the world to see.

5 – Be careful what services you use. Many socially-integrated services can gain information from your profiles and timelines. The majority clearly spell out what they’re going to be seeing and using, but you still need to be careful. Every time you authorize an application, carefully read the authorization page to be sure you know EXACTLY what it will have access to, and what it will do with that access. If the app doesn’t have a web page explaining what rights it needs on your Twitter or Facebook accounts, and more importantly WHY it needs those rights; don’t use that app. Vote with your wallet and find a different app that is up-front about what it needs access to and why.

6 – De-authorize any apps you no longer use. Companies get bought out, are acquired, or merged, or otherwise change their ownership. Companies also change their policies and procedures over time. If you’re no longer using a particular socially-integrated app, then go to the settings pages of your various Social Networks and de-authorize or remove that app. This way, if the owner of that app changes companies or policies, you can be sure that they no longer have access to your data.

7 – Use all security features. Many people don’t know that Google and Facebook both offer forms of two-factor authentication. Once turned on, you cannot log into your Google account or load Facebook in a new browser or on a new device without putting in a pin that Google/Facebook sends as an SMS text to your phone. Using features like this (or similar features on other networks) can help secure your account even further, with a minimum of extra work for you day-to-day. Take advantage of them whenever they’re available!

Stay sane, stay safe, and remember that it’s a wild worldwide web out there.

A day for thanks 0

Today, here in the USA, we take a day to remember all the good things in our lives. We give thanks – each in our own ways – for whatever gifts we’ve been given in this world. We also eat alarming amounts of food and then collapse in the living room to watch TV; which is apparently the evolution of the original meal shared by some of the first European settlers to the North American shores.

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all my readers on SociallyWorking.com and Newbie2Mac.com. Thanks for being part of my blogging, and for sharing your feedback and help over the years. I’m still writing, and the blogs get better and better over time thanks to your input.

Never underestimate the power of communication. Digital, verbal, and all the other types that our out there change our lives – usually for the better. Communication can bring the world together, topple dictators, end wars. It can also discover new technology, cure diseases, and keep friends and family close no matter the distances between them.

Simply writing thoughts down on physical or digital paper transforms words into permanent things. Conversation – when shared between two or more people – alters our very lives.

So today, I’m thankful that we live in an age with nearly unlimited communication. We can share information, break down physical and language barriers, and trade ideas with anyone, any time, in any place on the planet and beyond.

Thanks again for inviting me into your browser each week. From everyone here at MikeTalon.com, may you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Metadata can be a pain 0

We deal with metadata every day of our lives – often without ever realizing that we’re doing it. Metadata is simply the file attributes, geo-location tags and other items that get stuck to other data; like files and emails. For example, whenever you send an email, there is a ton of metadata that is invisible to you unless you tell your email client you want to see it. In the background, your client and the email servers that handle the mail along its route tag bits of information to the email package. Things like where it originated, what servers it is relayed through, if it has been tagged as spam or suspect, etc. Normally, metadata is harmless and in many cases even necessary. Sometimes, it becomes a major problem.

The problem was illustrated earlier this week when Oprah Winfrey tweeted that she loved her new Microsoft Surface tablet. Granted, the tweet itself wasn’t all that shocking or special; but the metadata exposed that the tweet wasn’t all it appeared to be on the … well.. surface.

In essence, the metadata stuck onto the tweet by the Twitter software Oprah used to generate the message let everyone know she had actually sent the tweet from an iPad. So the further notation that she’d bought twelve more to give as gifts was undermined by the fact that she wasn’t using one herself, and the claim of it being one of her famous “#FavoriteThings” was somewhat hollow.

In this case, the metadata was embarrassing, but (with the exception of the marketing implications for Microsoft) not harmful. In some cases, however, metadata can be far more problematic. For example, in addition to tagging tweets with the client you are using, your twitter software most likely sends along your physical location co-ordinates as well. This feature can be turned off in the client and on the twitter website, though many people forget to do so or acknowledge and allow it without realizing they’re doing it. This means that you can say you “just arrived at work” and your tweet might betray that you’re actually across town. It also means that anyone who views your tweets can track where you are and where you’ve been. Certainly not good news for those who value their privacy.

Twitter isn’t alone in having metadata that can be more problematic than most realize. Nearly all Social Media tools have geo-location available, and will tag your posts with that data unless you tell them to do otherwise. Email encodes the route that the email took between sender and receiver, along with time and date at each hop across the Internet. This can become a legal issue if you’re claiming that an email was sent on a certain date, but the metadata (in this case the header information) shows that it wasn’t. Cameras will tag photos with anything from the settings used to take the photo (commonly called EXIF data), to the date and time of the snapshot, and even location if your camera has a GPS feature. Even mobile devices can be problematic, as the carrier can track where you’re logging in from at any time. Even when the phone or mobile device’s GPS is disabled, carriers can get an approximate fix on your location by figuring out which cell towers you are transmitting to and from.

Now, this is not to say that metadata is a bad thing in and of itself. EXIF data is extremely helpful in photo editing, and phone GPS/geo-location systems can help save your life if you are in an accident or have an emergency situation. Foursquare uses metadata to identify where you are in the world, and the whole purpose of that app is to let people know where you are. Knowing what tweets, posts, and emails are replies and forwards/RT’s is extremely useful, and it’s all held in tags. Metadata also helps track spam, organize files on your hard drive, and control the spread of malware. It really is a neutral technology that can be used for good or bad purposes, depending on the situation.

Be aware that metadata exists, and question what metadata is being attached to tweets, files and anything else you do in the digital world. Turn off geo-location anywhere and for any app you don’t want reporting on your whereabouts; and ensure that your cameras, mobile devices and other gear aren’t storing (or broadcasting) data you don’t want them to tag to your photos, posts and files.

Metadata isn’t a bad thing, but it can be used for unwanted purposes. Know about it, control it, and try not to tweet about a particular tablet from a competitor’s platform.

Be careful not to post Personal Info, no matter how much you want to. 0

It’s Election Day here in the USA, and lots of folks are upset about lots of issues. Many have decided they will spout off by posting photos of themselves voting, or protesting, or just generally upset about things. Sometimes, that’s good, other times, it is VERY bad.

Don’t post photos about your Voter ID opinions – especially if that opinion photo includes your ID.

It should go without saying, but posting photos of your ID is a truly bad idea. Never post photos of your passport, your driver’s license or any other identification documents. They can be used to glean information about you that you would probably rather not let people have.

Feel free to write about your experience. Blog about it, check in on Foursquare from your polling place, but don’t post photos of your ID. Ever.

Don’t post photos of your ballot.

Not only does it defeat the premise of a secret ballot if you go and post it online, but in several states (like New York) it’s actually illegal. Specifically, posting photos of a “ballot that has been prepared for voting” is a no-no in many places around the US.

Discuss the candidates, give your opinion, even tweet who you voted for if you really want to; but don’t photograph your ballot.

Do not take photos in your polling place.

While it may not be illegal to do so (though it may very well be in your city), it’s a very bad idea to take pictures while you are around or in your polling place. The reason is simple, there are about 100 other people in the room besides you, and many would not want their photo taken. Unless you get permission from everyone in the room (unlikely) and get it in writing (nearly impossible), you should not be taking photos.

Again, check in at your polling place (without a photo) and take pictures outside of the “No Electioneering” posted signs. That should be far enough away that it’s public space and outside the realm of personal voting space.

Play it smart today. Go and vote, exercise your rights and responsibilities every year and elect those who will represent you. Just don’t share photos of it on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Use your words instead, they are just as powerful and much less likely to get your identity stolen or get you in trouble with the law – at least until you vote someone in who will change them.

Automate Your Secure Social (and other) Surfing 0

As most readers are no-doubt aware, I’m amped up on security issues in general, and data transmission specifically. I always keep an eye out for tools that can let people become more secure online with as little effort as possible, as if it’s difficult, most folks will ignore it.

Most readers also already know that Facebook, Twitter, and many other Social Media Sites and Networks have the ability to allow you to perform all communications between your browser and those sites via secured HTTP connections (https). The problem has always been that you have to change your settings from the defaults (and make sure they stay changed) or else manually change URL’s to be https:// instead of http:// each and every time. Otherwise, you go to the non-encrypted, non-protected version of the site by default. Some sites even have different URL’s for secure surfing (like Google’s encrypted.google.com domains) – taking the problem a step beyond just remembering to type https:// first.

Added to the manual steps, some sites only encrypt certain components of their sites, with other elements like images and videos remaining unencrypted by default. This opens up holes in the overall security of communication, and is unfortunately difficult to avoid. Your browser might ignore the issue completely, or worse yet it may spit back a “mixed content” message that causes more confusion than it helps with security. With browsers changing what secure URL’s versus mixed-content and insecure URL’s look like in the address bar (a padlock today, a green background tomorrow, who knows what next week…), making sure you’re secure is harder than ever.

I have, however, stumbled across a tool that can make it easy – and most importantly automatic – to always use HTTPS whenever it’s known to be available. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released updated versions of HTTPS Everywhere – a browser plug-in (add-on, extension, etc.) that does just that.

Available only for Firefox and Chrome right now, but expanding to other browsers in future, this add-on has a list of sites known to support HTTPS (like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, most banks, shops and other platforms) – and automatically forces your browser to connect via HTTPS and *only* HTTPS when you surf those sites. This eliminates the potential to get unencrypted data on encrypted pages, and removes the need to remember to go to the secured site each and every time you browse. In addition, the tool automatically changes your URL’s to the more secure version of some very popular sites – such as directing you to encrypted.google.com instead of just the HTTPS version of the regular google.com site.

The EFF, in the documentation and FAQ’s, clearly states that the tool can see what domain you are going to. It does not, however, track this information or report it back to the EFF themselves. Since anyone could see the domains you’re headed to if they get on the same network as you and sniff traffic (like from a coffee-shop WiFi hotspot), the tool doesn’t pose any additional risk than most of us already deal with in Social Media, and does limit a great deal of risk that’s out there otherwise.

Nothing is foolproof, and the whitelist of sites that HTTPS Everywhere uses is not all-encompassing. You still need to check and make sure that you’re on secure versions of your Social Networks and Sites. However, the tool makes it much easier to find out which networks support the secure communications systems and makes finding the higher-security versions of those sites happen without guesswork. Also keep in mind that some sites may not be properly formatted to work entirely over HTTPS, resulting in pages that render incorrectly or not at all. Luckily, the add-in provides a button that you can use to turn it off when necessary – and it should be used only when you’re sure you don’t need to be using HTTPS.

The EFF has made the tool and corresponding tool-kits available under the GNU licensing platform, so that other coders can extend it as time goes by. It’s also free to use for Firefox and Chrome, though you do have to follow the instructions on the site to install it properly. This means that you can start protecting yourself now, and that developers can continue to work on the project even if the EFF should decide they no longer wish to support it.

While nothing replaces common sense and care when using Social Media and other sites on the web, this tool is a good step in your overall security process. Take it slow, know where you’re surfing to and surfing from, and always confirm that you have reached the secured site you thought you were headed for.

Also, as always, keep in mind that even secure communication doesn’t protect you from posting updates that become public knowledge. Once you post, tweet, or blog something, it’s out there for everyone to see – HTTPS or not.

When and how much to post 0

Though I’ve posted on this topic before, I get a lot of questions on this one. How often, and how much, to post is a hot topic for Information Workers trying to leverage Social Media in their work lives, so here are my usual recommendations:

Twitter: Tweet often. How much “often” is will vary from person to person and business to business, but there are some general guidelines. Try to post at least twice per day, and no more than three or four posts per day should be direct advertising (“Come see our new product website,” or “Call your local sales rep” etc.). Ask general questions about your industry and try to engage in discussions instead. This means that you should also be replying to DM’s and @Replies as often as is reasonable for you, but at least twice per day.

Facebook: Update your fan pages and your own profile page at least once per workday. As with Twitter, avoid direct and point-blank advertising posts for the majority of your updates. Reply to messages whenever convenient, at least twice each day if possible.

Other Social Networks: Typically, with networks like LinkedIn and others, the basic advice is the same as with Facebook.

NOTE: Always know your limits. If you can only actively work with three networks or risk fewer updates, then limit yourself to three networks. It’s better to offer great content on a few sites, then to not update at all on seven.

Blogs: Once per week is the minimum for most types of blogs. More often is not a bad idea, but unless your blog is a clearing house for industry news, try to update no more than three times per week.

As to when, that’s a much easier answer. Update, tweet and post when your users are most likely to see it. If you’re a local business, then you want to make your updates in the best times in your local time zone, but if you have a far-reaching business you may need to stagger your updates to hit multiple time zones. Tools like HootSuite and BufferApp can help a great deal with that task by letting you create updates, but post them on a schedule.

Also remember that your customers may be looking for information at times you might not think about. Most folks are swamped from 9am to 10am in their local time zones, and again from noon until about 3pm.

Another thing is to try to hit your customers when they’re most likely to be looking for that info. So if you sell food or entertainment, you want to get your updates out around 11am and 3pm to 7pm, the times that most customers are looking for a place to eat or meet up for lunch or after work.

Most times, you can rely on common sense for when to post and how often. Going with your gut is usually not a bad idea. Just remember that the goal is to get people talking to and about your business, not just create a new advertising venue.

Make your voice heard, register to vote now. 0

In 2008, about 63% of eligible voters in the United States went to the polls.

That number should shock, outrage, and infuriate every single one of us, even though it apparently doesn’t. *One THIRD* of people who are eligible voluntarily decided not to vote.

Around the world, people are fighting and dying for the right to cast a vote in the leadership of their countries. They are waging wars and fighting battles just to get the chance to do what one-third of us don’t do, even though we have the right and the ability.

Stop, right now. If you’re not sure if you have registered to vote, sign up again. If you know you’re not registered, get registered immediately. You have to file your registration by October 6th in most states (individual state laws vary) so time is of the essence.

Once you’re registered to vote, figure out when to show up at the polls, and where. Your State’s official website will have links to where you can find your polling place, hours of operation, and phone numbers you can call with questions. One Google or Bing search can open the doors to your polling place, so no excuses!

If you’ll be out of town or out of the country, sign up for an absentee ballot. This will let you vote even if you cannot physically be in your polling place when Election Day rolls around.

Yes, it’s true that some lawmakers are trying to impose Voter ID restrictions on their constituents. It’s true that robocalls and black-ops tactics are trying to keep people away from the polls. Take the time, learn the rules, know your rights, and cast your vote. By the way, want to help make sure these lawmakers never get the chance to make this kind of law again (or want to ensure that they do)? Then only your vote can make that change.

Let’s do this, America. If we expect our politicians to represent 100% of their constituents, then the least we can do is ensure that 100% of eligible voters cast their ballots. You have a voice, you have the power to change the face of the country. It’s your right, your duty, and your privilege to cast your ballot and take control of your government. We don’t have to fight for it, we don’t have to do anything but check the box or pull the lever. Do not allow this election (or ANY election, for that matter) to pass by without your voice being heard loud and clear.

Because, in this country, no one can take that away from you… except you yourself.

Head over to HeadCount.org to find out how to register to vote!

11 Years On. a Call to Action (Not Social Media Related) 0

Anger might’ve been the answer What if I’d hung my head And said that I couldn’t wait? But now I’m strong enough to know it’s not too late
‘Cause a thousand words Call out through the ages They’ll fly to you Even though I can’t see I know they’re reaching you Suspended on silver wings
Oh, a thousand words One thousand embraces Will cradle you Making all of your weary days seem far away They’ll hold you forever
- "1000 Words" From the video game Final Fantasy X-2

11 years ago, on September 11, 2001; thousands of lives were extinguished in an attack against the World Trade Center in New York City. While I will never forget that event – after all I watched in play out in real-time and was involved in the aftermath at Ground Zero – I don’t think I need to re-hash the events themselves here.

Instead, I want to turn my annual moment of remembrance to something that should have come from that set of events, but didn’t. It’s true, the terrorists did not win. The United States of America is still here, and despite our problems, we continue to be a strong country. However, we could be doing something more.

I’m not talking about what our elected officials should do. I don’t mean to reference what business should do.

What I want to talk about is you.

According to FactCheck.org; in the USA, in the 2008 elections – which recorded the highest voter turnout in decades – only about 62% of eligible voters actually turned out to cast ballots. This means that a huge number of citizens just decided not to vote. The founding virtue of our form of government – representative legislature – was not participated in by over one third of the citizens of that government.

We talk a lot in this country about how our lawmakers have lost touch with their constituents. We rail against the night in rallies to reform government, recall politicians who have lost their way, decry the corruption and wrongness of the system the way it is.

But, one third of us don’t even vote – and that was a Presidential election year, where a much higher percentage of people turn up at the polls than normal.

One third of eligible voters did not cast a ballot.

I think it’s time to remember that the 9-11 attacks were carried out by people who thought our freedoms, our policies, our government, and our nation are wrong. They were misguided, to say the least, and homicidal maniacs to say the truth.

And we need to prove them wrong. Right now. Today.

Go take half an hour and find out how to register to vote in your local, state and federal elections. Head over to RockTheVote.org or any other site that can show you how and where to sign up. Then go get registered. In November, exercise your Constitutional rights, and vote in the general election.

It really is as simple as that. People are fighting and dying around the world for the right to do what one third of our eligible citizens already could do, but don’t. We cannot let that continue to be the norm in this country.

Register. Vote. I cannot imagine a better way to send a message to the world that the terrorists who struck on 9-11-2001 did not win. More importantly, it will send the message that those who believe as they did cannot ever win, because we will not allow it.

This is our country, they are our leaders, and we – and only we – have the right to pick and choose them as we see fit. Send those who seek to destroy us the most powerful message imaginable, show the world that every vote counts.

But, first remember that no vote will count unless you actually cast it.