My Prospect Park Smorgasburg Plan

Prospect Park

I have really been thinking about this a lot. Someone in the household might say that I never do any proper planning, especially when it comes to weekend outings, and the truth is, she may be right, but not in this particular case. No sir. I have this one covered from all angles, in advance, sign, sealed, and delivered.

Now that the Smorgasburg is in Prospect Park, I can incorporate it into my Sunday run, which makes my favorite run of the week even better.

Donut in the park
Important Sunday appointment: eating too many donuts while kicking back in the park.
The Sunday Smorgasburg at Breeze Hill in Prospect Park starts at 11 am. Breeze Hill is easy enough to get to from my place. Takes just about 1o minutes at a good running clip, so I will head out just before 11. Once there, I’ll grab a donut and an iced coffee and just kick it on the grass and get into a waning-days-of-summer-frame-of-mind.

But not for too long, because now, it gets real, in terms of the running. I will do my usual Sunday route — never the same, too long, too far, all good. But instead of heading into the hood to run errands after finishing up, I will end the run at Breeze Hill, and engage the delectably difficult process of figuring out what I am going to feast on for my post-run lunch.

Likely, as I peruse the food stands, I will partake in some Lumpia from the always excellent Lumpia Shack.

Lumpia
I recommend the lumpia from Lumpia Shack as your (first) starter.

Once I get (all) my food, I shall kick it on the grass, eat my food, and get back to that waning-days-of-summer-frame-of-mind.

Now that is a plan!

I can’t wait. Running is great. Running in Prospect Park — even better. Finishing up a long run on a Summer Sunday in Prospect Park with food options galore — food dream come true.

The Book Publishing Digital Skillset

For those who make, edit, and market books in the emerging digital era.

For the past year, I’ve been teaching a course entitled “Digital Strategies in the Book Industry.” This class provides an overview of the massive changes going on in book publishing right now, where everything is a challenge, but also, an opportunity. To truly provide some real world insights, I focus in on new digital products — case studies on how they are made and how they are marketed. Words like “ecosystem,” “enhanced ebook,” “leveraged,” “platform,” and “digital skillset” are used frequently — to the point where I even warn the students that they will get sick of hearing them. In a recent class, one of the students spoke up and asked something along the lines of: “I get the components of the digital skillset, but how exactly are they leveraged.”

Such a good question. Such a great use of the word “leveraged,” even though it was probably the fifteenth time the word had been spoken during that particular class. It got to the heart of what the class was all about. So I wrote up a response, to delve into the concept of the “Digital Skillset,” how it allows one to meet the new challenges of delivering new products and get the word out about new projects in the emerging digital era of book publishing.

First, the skills in the “digital skillset”:

— Basic HTML

— Working within a CMS (content management system, like WordPress)

— Posting/sharing on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. — they’re all very different). Not just how to post, but how to post the right content in the right platform at the right time so that it will be not only seen, but read, commented upon, and shared.

— A comprehensive and forward-thinking understanding of what different devices, formats, and platforms can and cannot do.

— Building and leveraging digital assets (headlines to essays to slideshows to animated gifs to videos to audio files) to utilize/publish through various platforms.

— Creating wireframes — this is an early step in building out a website or advanced digital product. Reveals the scope, and sets the path for structure, functionality and usability.

— Video editing (iMovie, FinalCut)

— Audio editing (Audacity, just one example — lots of audio editing programs available)

— Photo editing (Photoshop)

— Presenting / Sharing your in-progress and completed work effectively, so your team/co-workers/boss know what you are doing, how it was done, what you have accomplished, and how it succeeded (or failed).

Creativity

The functional skills can only take you so far — you need to write, cut, build and deliver meaningful content and content platforms that understand different mediums, audiences, and the fast pace of the digital space. Tumblr is very different than Twitter. Facebook is not a website. How best to use limited resources, finite digital assets, for editorial, marketing, publicity, product pages, etc. — you’ve got to get very creative.

Marketing

You have to know how to not only pull levers, but build and grow the levers. How do you not only tell people about things, but get them to share it? You need to actually engage people. Great, they clicked on a link. Now what? You have to think through and deliver the narrative of the experience.

Essentially: Build, run, and grow websites, social media channels, and newsletters.

Project Management

Knowing how to take an idea to finished project/product in the digital space. This can be a website, an enhanced ebook, a digital campaign, an app.

This is about how you effectively leverage your functional and creative digital skills, and those of your team/co-workers/agency, to plan out, execute, and — on deadline—deliver a result that can serve your current and long-term needs.

Communication Skills

You have to have the hands on knowledge so you can explain, and the salesmanship/political skills to navigate the somewhat behind the times upper management levels of an organization that has not truly embraced digital. And once you get the greenlight, you have to use those same skills to make sure your project gets the organization’s full-court support.

You will have to both explain and sell your project to all levels of the organization. It’s a challenge, and also an opportunity. On the one hand, you may not have a position in which you can even make your case to the decision-makers. And yet, if you are savvy and push the sell, you can become more visible and be seen as a go-to person on future/forward-thinking/innovative projects and products. All while not-stepping on any toes. A challenge, to say the least.

Working Fast

The digital space moves very fast. A better digital skillset allows you to keep up, get things done faster. One issue here is sometimes people who have no digital skillset at all have no comprehension of how long something actually takes — they may think you are taking too long! That’s where your communication skills come in.

Seeing the Big Picture and Understanding the Evolving Landscape

The digital skillset, especially right now, allows you to have an insight into how things might play out — no one knows for sure, but by actually being on the ground floor, so to speak, understanding the nuance of the different ways in which products, sites, and social media channels work (and work together), you will have a foundation from which to not only make judgements, but develop new and innovative programs and products — you’ll have a keener sense of what might work around the corner, places that others aren’t even thinking to look.

Yes, the digital era has beset the book industry with countless challenges, but with every challenge, there is opportunity. They go hand in hand. The short of it is, we need new ideas. The good ones will come from people who have a strong digital skillset.

The Real Reason To Self-Publish: Because of the Things You Will Learn By Doing It Yourself

The ascendancy of the ebook has truly reinvigorated the discussion about the viability of going the self-publishing route.

— So many screeds about “legacy” publishers.

— Publishers having to create videos or powerpoint presentations* explaining what they do and why they’re still relevant.

— Countless articles about the $$$ various successful self-publishing authors have made, first by self-publishing ebooks through Amazon, then by getting a monster book deal from a major publisher.

— Ever more manuals and articles which aim to show how you, too, can be a successful self-publisher — usually written by someone who has no self-publishing success under his or her belt (other than maybe the how-to works).

I’m all for this. It’s a great conversation to be having, but it’s not all that novel. I self-published a printed book about 10 years ago. The conversations and debates going on right now were going on back then. It was the dawn of the web, and since anyone could easily put up a website on the “world wide web,” the argument was that this new platform would allow us to reach the millions of readers out there and sell our books to them directly. There was no need for a “middleman.”

Technically, I suppose this was true. What’s also true is that millions of people did NOT buy my self-published book. That certainly would have been nice, but you know what? I still consider the whole venture a total success, and I will tell you why: because I learned a hell of a lot by doing everything myself.

In fact, the lessons I learned during that self-publishing experience have helped me throughout my career in publishing, which has included having a couple of books published by a major publisher, as well as working for major publishers.

That is the point that I want to make: you learn an immense amount of “on the ground” knowledge across the entire spectrum of the book business** when you self-publish, regardless of whether your project is a success or a failure. By doing it yourself, you touch all aspects of the process, down the the core levels. And all the things you weren’t aware of, don’t pay attention to, or forget about, those mishaps have a way of really sticking with you, once they come back to bite you somewhere down the line, that is. I would argue that these collective lessons — the good and the bad — will be invaluable as you make your way along your own, long-term, unique publishing path.***

*I can’t think of a way to make yourself seem more irrelevant than to make this argument with a powerpoint presentation.

**A business which is currently in a state of massive flux.

***Given all the options these days, in an ideal scenario, you’ll be able to mix it up — self-publish some works, publish experimental pieces with upstarts and new ventures, AND get books published by a major publisher. I am slating an exploration of this concept for a future essay.

Three Resources for Finding New Podcasts

I’ve been devouring podcasts as of late. So much so, that I run out of shows to listen to. I have to go searching, looking for new and interesting programming. Don’t get me wrong — this is a good thing. And there certainly isn’t a shortage of good shows! It’s the opposite — there’s so many options, it’s truly an embarrassment of aural riches.

It’s best when you find a Twitter conversation like this, where a bunch of random people have responded with show recommendations. That’s how I find out about Limetown — thanks Radiotonic!

But it is nice to have a few go-to resources to find out about new podcast shows, as well as get recommendations for specific podcast episodes to check out.

So here are THREE RESOURCES to get a regular podcast drill down:

1.
The Audio Signal, a weekly digest, delivered via a TinyLetter, from audio archivist Dana Gerber-Margie.

2.
The Timbre — A website that features reviews, interviews, essays, and more about all things podcasting. The weekly Postmortems — round-ups of the week’s best podcasts — are especially helpful.

3.
The Audit, a weekly round-up of recommendations from The Auditors, delivered via a TinyLetter.

That’s it! Three resources for finding excellent new podcast programming.

Share additional resources with me @jeffyamaguchi.

More Three Resources.

The idea behind Three Resources.

Three Resources: Pancakes from Scratch

pancakes3

First off, if you’ve got some kind of pre-mixed baking mix in your cupboard for pancakes, throw it out! Pancakes from scratch are easy, and it’s a whole world of deliciousness that you’re opening yourself up to once you start making your own versions of the many pancake recipe variations that have been written up in cookbooks and on food websites.

pancakes1

I make pancakes mostly on Sundays. It’s usually the most relaxing day of the week, and starting it off with pancakes fresh off the griddle helps me settle into that state of mind and get the day started just right. Here are three resources to help along that pancakes-from-scratch-Sunday-relaxation philosophy:

1.
This one is kind of obvious, but I still think it’s worth sharing: For a long time, I made the same pancakes from the same cookbook. Just a habit, and not a bad one, but why always make the same recipe? One Sunday I decided to try something new, and started flipping through all the cookbooks on my shelf. I realized that every single cookbook, no matter what its focus was, had a pancake recipe. And they were always very different. Mostly the same ingredients, of course, but they always had a unique spin on the pancake. Now, I always make sure to try out new pancake recipes, and it’s as easy as randomly grabbing a cookbook off my own shelf. Don’t get me wrong, old standbys are great. But it’s also good to mix things up.

pancakes2

2.
That recipe that I always made, before I started mixing things up — it called for regular milk. Well, through the new recipe research, I discovered buttermilk pancakes (via Bubby’s Brunch Cookbook by Ron Silver with Rosemary Black), which really blew my mind. Of course I had had buttermilk pancakes before, it just never occurred to me to make them myself at home. Unlike regular milk, you don’t necessarily have buttermilk in the fridge at the ready, so you need to add it to the grocery store list and make a point of bringing some home in preparation for your pancake-making effort. Buttermilk really changes things up and adds a salty sweet zing and fluff to the pancakes. Here’s a buttermilk pancakes recipe I found online that I have kitchen-tested and tasted myself, and can wholeheartedly recommend: Bon Appetit’s Best Buttermilk Pancakes.

pancakes4

3.
Forgo the syrup, and slice up some fresh fruit instead. It’s an embarrassment of flavor-packed riches, especially in the summertime when the peaches are fresh, juicy, and plentiful. But any fruit(s) will do — apples, blueberries, oranges, bananas, raspberries, strawberries, nectarines. The juicier the fruit, the better on the pancake. And unlike syrup, you don’t have to feel guilty about over-pouring and drowning your food. Lay it on thick, add some more after that, and then dig in.

And extra note on this one: nothing’s stopping you from adding some of that cut-up fruit right into the batter, so that it cooks up nice and sweet right into the pancake itself.

That’s it! Three resources for pancakes from scratch.

Share additional resources with me @jeffyamaguchi.

More Three Resources.

The idea behind Three Resources.

Three Resources: How to Get Started with Podcasting

Over the past few months I’ve been playing around with podcasts. I’m still at the beginner stage, but I do have a decent mic (but not one that cost more than a $100), I know how to do the basics in GarageBand (for audio editing), and I know how to easily record a Skype call (using Ecamm Call Recorder). It’s not much, but it is a start!

I learned all these basics from reading how-to articles on the web, watching YouTube videos, and listening to some podcast-making focused podcasts.

Lots of useful information out there online, but here are THREE RESOURCES that are very helpful if you’re in the “I think I want to start a podcast” phase.

1.
How I Podcast: Recording, a resource rich article by Jason Snell, who runs Six Colors and has been doing podcasts for years, probably before most people even knew what podcasts were.

2.
The Podcast Method, a podcast all about how-to podcast by Dan Benjamin, based on his experiences since 2006 as a podcaster and the founder of 5by5. That’s right — 2006! 5by5 is truly a pioneer in terms of the “podcast network” concept. Expect some really great insights about podcasting from this show. Equipment is obviously one of the first things you need to figure out — here’s Benjamin’s “Equipment Guide.”

3.
Justin Jackson’s Build and Launch podcast is all about building and launching products, often on an accelerated schedule — one a week. The earliest episodes focused on building and launching a podcast. Lots of great information is shared, and it’s got a kick-in-the-pants, inspirational vibe to the whole thing — definitely worth a listen. And checking out these podcast-focused episodes (which are short and fast-paced — between 10 and 15 minutes each) puts you right at the very start of the Build and Launch show, which I definitely recommend overall. Justin also recently posted this very helpful article: How to Make a Podcast (and Submit it to iTunes).

That’s it! Three resources to help you get started with your podcasting efforts.

Note: keep it simple in the beginning, and don’t overspend. Stick with the entry-level advice, and move on up from there when it actually makes sense.

Share additional resources with me @jeffyamaguchi.

More Three Resources.

The idea behind Three Resources.

And my (early-stage) podcasts:

Learning to Make — A podcast that delves into the creativity of the learning experience.

The Digital Publishing Q&A Experiment — Questions and answers about various matters of digital in the publishing space.

Three Resources: The Idea

I have this idea that’s not fully formed but I’m going to move forward anyway. A few years back (many years back?) I ran a website called 52 Projects, and the initial concept was very simple — just a very basic site that featured a list of creative projects. I turned this into a book, and to flesh it out, I had to add an intro, and a bunch of essays about project-making, and a resources section. None of those add-ons ever sat well with me — deep down, I really just wanted the book to be what the site was — a simple collection of projects. All those essays — I don’t know, I thought they made the whole project too self-aware and tore away at what made the original concept interesting in the first place. Except the Resources section. I loved putting that together, and thought it was completely in the spirit of the original 52 projects.

I’m a sucker for follow-up notes, show notes, dvd commentary, those little historical tidbits you can find on Wikipedia entries. I love the summary of tips and tricks, spirited along with an inspirational or engaging anecdote, or not. Sometimes just a straightaway link will do just fine.

Some examples that come to mind:

Robert Altman’s director’s commentary on the dvd of McCabe and Mrs. Miller. (By the way, how do you even get this commentary anymore, now that we’re just streaming movies from iTunes or Netflix or whatever?) This is from years ago, but I can still remember hearing Altman’s inspiring commentary on the (renegade) making of that film.

I’ve been listening to endless podcasts, ever since Serial. Naturally, one of the podcasts I listened to was The Podcast Method by Dan Benjamin, where he provides tips and techniques on how to create a podcast. The advice was coming fast and furious, so I was glad to be able to just go to the show notes for a recap on all the equipment and other types of info he was providing.

And then there’s the “Production” section of the Wikipedia entry on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Did you know there was a battle over the song’s long intro? Michael said, “But that’s the jelly.” I’ll leave it at that. I know you’ll google it and check it out.

The short of it: INSPIRING.

That’s three examples. And therefore three resources.

More sets of three to come.