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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Evolutionary Psychology of Online Trolls

Ever wonder why some people are so mean online?  One might argue that people are inherently evil and that being anonymous online without having to physically face others gives them the ability to engage in rude behavior.  That's a classic social psychological phenomenon.  When people are anonymous, they engage in behavior that they normally wouldn't.  Common examples I use in class are the Ku Klux Klan.  This group masked their identities and committed horrible crimes.  Do you think that those Ku Klux Klan members would have committed those crimes if their faces were exposed?  I'm going to guess not.  This begs the question of transparency now.  Why are people who do reveal their identities still big jerks on the internet?   Why do some people make "hate" for the sake of hating something a sport? 

My hunch is that this is because we aren't evolved to life in large groups.  Our brains were evolved to live peacefully (relatively) in fairly small groups.  Most anthropologists and psychologists I know use ~200 as rough estimate by looking at historical data and examining tribal groups today.  We're not evolved to live in groups of 1,000,000,000,000 or whatever size city you happen to reside.  Our brains just don't work that way.  It is difficult to try to get with that many people.  Rarely will I say this, but thank goodness for a larger infrastructure (government) that keeps us relatively well-behaved and functional.

Pre-1995, social groups were still relatively small.  Enter the internet into that situation, and now we're talking about a different story.  Online groups started on listservs, irc chat, and even *gasp* Yahoo groups.  Now that we have Facebook, Twitter, and a plethora of other social networking sites, our social networks can be gigantic.  I'm making no distinction between online and offline social networks as both are equally real and valid to me. 

We now have a situation.  We have brains that are evolved to peacefully live with about 200 people, yet we are in contact with hundred and thousands of new people every day.  It doesn't take an anthropologist to see why our brains might have a meltdown and why some people misbehave.  This perspective certainly doesn't jive well with mainstream views in social media.  Social media takes on the perspective that we should have bigger and stronger social networks.  HUGE social networks of people are what is important to personal brands and product brands.  However, this perspective is not how our brains are designed to function.

I'm not debating on how we should change social media practices or how we could change brand management.  I don't believe that many people in social media or in brand management on behalf a commercial brand cares about the human psyche and mental health.  For most brands in social media, they are only interested in their bottom line.  On the other hand, this post offers a different perspective on online trolling and impression management.

1. The ability to post your opinion in the form of an update, tweet, blog post, or video is a great tool that I love.  I can put my opinion out there for everyone to see.  However, the ability to post anything and everything can lead to an over inflated sense of self-importance.  Some people think that just because they posted something on the Internet, that makes them right (correct) or worse, important.  Your opinion is like your rectum.  Everyone has one.  Even @MouseTheDog has one, that doesn't mean is opinion is correct or important.

2. Sometimes those people post mean things just to start a riot (online or offline).  I call them trolls.  These are the people to inject themselves into online exchanges (in which they are not invited) simply for the sake of causing a disturbance.  These trolls are the cancer of online communities.  I had a student who told me he frequently did this just to see how upset people get.  There are many of these types of people who say terrible rude things to others via Twitter, just for the sake of attention on themselves.  I used to have a friend who would tell me outrageous drama just to make me or others feel bad.  He reveled in starting drama, causing fights, and most of all, being in the center of it.  Some people troll offline too!  There are theories on what factors or mental disorders (narcissistic personality disorder) can lead to these behaviors, but I'm not going to talk about them in this post.

3. While it is difficult to ignore these trolls, you have to realize that in an ancestral environment, you might have never had contact with that jerk.  If that jerk was in your group of 200, he or she would not be welcome for very long.  The best thing to do from an evolutionary perspective is to block that jerk.

4. Conflict is inevitable in large groups.  While it is sometimes possible to get along with people in smaller groups, conflict is inevitable.  I'm in some very supportive and wonderful communities where dissatisfaction and conflict is very, very, very far and few between.  However, once you start adding more people in those groups, conflicts will arise, and they may be ugly.  This can be a great source of distress to some people as balance in attitude and sentiment is really important to some people.  You can read up more on balance theory or cognitive dissonance.  I admit that I used to find it distressing when people were fighting.  Now that I've served on at least 20 boards over 30 some odd organizations, I'm pretty okay with conflict in groups.  It will happen, and when it does, I'm not the one who is distressed.  I've been told that I have high tolerance for conflict and frustration.  Others say it seems like I don't care.  It is simply that I view it has part of psychology.  Conflict in larger groups will happen, and that doesn't mean that people are right or wrong for it.  It just happens.  Business should just move on.

5. Do you have to be friendly to everyone?  Absolutely not!  Apple is not necessarily a friendly brand.  RIP Steve Jobs.  They market to their followers, and they alienate all others.  Dr. Youngme Moon has a section on them in her book, Different.  I highly, highly recommend the book.  *I got a copy free from the Business of Software Conference.*  Mainstream marketers and even customers balk at Apple's attitudes and methods.  However, it makes complete sense to me from an evolutionary perspective.  Apple doesn't have to get along with everyone.  Apple doesn't have to like everyone.  However, Apple does a really darn good job of eliciting loyalty from their fans.  Apple gets along with their smaller (you might be thinking smaller than what!) network, and that has paid off for them.  They've decided that their fans are their *ancestral* social networks.  And they ignore anyone who isn't in that network, much like we ought to ignore people who aren't in our networks.

The take away message from this post is: We don't all have to get along.  We're not developed to get along with everyone, and that's okay.  If some random troll (online or offline) tries to start drama with you, it is okay to ignore him/her.  It isn't your problem that the troll has issues. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dining with The Lone Star Paralysis Foundation @CarillonAustin @ChefJoshWatkins

*I helped produce the Benefit for Daniel, and I was invited as a guest to The Lone Star Paralysis Foundation Vodka Dinner at the Carillon

With the giving season upon us, you might be looking for organizations that need some holiday funds or warm body volunteers.  The Lone Star Paralysis Foundation is an organization that I recently got to know through an unfortunate accident.  One thing that I noticed about the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation was the immense (and I mean IMMENSE) passion and unwavering focus on the organization's goals.  In meeting many of the board members, I was bombarded with warm greetings and huge smiles.  Dang, that is one happy, yet intensely focused board.  Since I hadn't mentioned it yet, the mission of the organization is "to cure spinal cord paralysis through funding research, advanced recovery, and community outreach."

Photo by John M. P. Knox. 

Daniel Curtis is looking fantastic.  If you haven't met Daniel (donations for his recovery accepted here) yet, you should soon!

Another thing that you might not know about the board is that they front all their expenses.  All donations go directly to their cause, and not to pay for incurred expenses.  As a member and current/past board members for a number of organizations, that is not an easy thing to do.  Expenses can range from air fare, hotel rooms, and car rentals.  To take on those expenses out of one's own pocket in addition to serving an organization with time is a testament to the board's dedication.  Though I'm not closely involved with the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation, I certainly appreciate and look up to their board members. Every time board members of the foundation speak, there's not a dry eye in the crowd.  These people are exceptionally moving. 

There are several ways that you can donate to this wonderful organization by hosting events, donating to their raffles, or by directly donating cash.  You can also donate by ordering the Carl Miller’s Layered Chunky Queso at Jack Allen's Kitchen.  The queso is green chile pork, queso and guacamole served with a basket of chips.  Also, don't you know that all food that supports non-profits is calorie free?  *statement not empirically tested.

Photo courtesy of Bread and Butter PR.

Throughout the year, the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation hosts a number of events including a vodka pairing dinner.  This year's dinner was sponsored by Tito's and held at the Carillon.  You probably know by now that I'm a HUGE fan of the Carillon and Chef Josh Watkins.  We've got a surprise for you in store on Dec. 9th, 2011.  Hang tight for more information.  Also, hang tight for a baby Watkins on the way.  Don't forget to congratulate Chef Josh and his lovely wife, Sarah on their upcoming family addition!

Photo by John M. P. Knox.

The Vodka Pairing Dinner dinner started off with some creative cocktails.

Photo by John M. P. Knox.

The first course was Heirloom Tomato Salad with Sweet Corn, Balsamic Cream, and Garlic Croutons.   Aren't the colors of this dish just fantastic?

Photo by John M. P. Knox. 

Here's a photo of best friends, Chef Josh Watkins and Daniel Curtis.  I'm excited to report that Daniel (donations for his recovery accepted here) is recovering well.  Last I saw him, he was kicking, literally!

Photo by John M. P. Knox.

Board member Doug English (YES! The football player!) and members present one of the raffle items, a painting of Doug in his Longhorn uniform.  If you want to give to an organization that will really make a difference, please keep the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation in mind.  I can attest that any donation you make will make an impact and that your help will be greatly appreciated.  Happy Giving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Roadblocks to Fans and Followers: Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behavior

You might have guessed from my business cards and blog posts that I'm an avid QR code user.  While the technology isn't brand new and the adoption rate is still up in the air, I still urge people to use them.  The idea for this blog post began when I noticed that many businesses have the Twitter or Facebook logo in their advertising.  It looks something like this.   You might not think anything about it, but the social psychologist in me says "Why?"  

You see the name of the business and two widely and easily recognizable logo.  You might think "the business wants people to know that they are on Twitter and Facebook."  Even though smart phones and internet access 24/7 is a reality for many of us, having to look up someone's Twitter handle or to search for them on Facebook (I still think the Facebook iphone app is wonky) is cumbersome and a roadblock to adoption.

You might also think that having the Twitter and the Facebook logo on advertising assets is branding you as a tech hip business, but it is really branding for Twitter and Facebook.  You pasting their logos for free on your ads.  That's great for them, I'm sure.   If you've taken a social psychology course, you might have been exposed the Theory of Planned Behavior by Icek Ajzen.  According to Ajzen, planned behaviors such as planning to follow a brand on social media services goes through a series of complicated steps.  In a tiny nutshell, a person must endorse the behavior, the normative belief (perception of other people's beliefs) must endorse the behavior, and the person much also believe that the behavior is within his/her control.  Those are factors that feed into intention that may actually feed into executing the behavior. 

*Used with permission. Read up on the Theory of Planned Behavior here.

So, if only your brand name with a Twitter or Facebook logo appear on advertising, this process of getting people to follow you is complicated. Here's some examples I found in a magazine.  I personally find the logos in print to be frustrating.   I can't click the print advertising.  I can't double tap a newspaper to go to a URL.

First, people have to notice it and intend on following you.  Then people have to go through the entire process of pulling out their phones, deciding whether or not use the appropriate app to search for your brand or to do a Google search for the link to your profile.  And then they have to actually find it.  Having a person go through the search process can be annoying, especially of the Twitter handle is nothing like the brand name or SEO for the brand name is pretty horrific.  If the person searching doesn't include the words "Twitter" or "Facebook" in the search, it can be an even more painful process.  After the search process, the people have to decide whether or not they like you.  If the search process was painful, they probably won't like you as much.  If the person has to remember to search for your profile on a desktop computer, the process becomes even longer. 

With a QR code (or even URL), many steps of the process that would have to go through Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behavior are cut out completely.   Here's some examples of better ways of integrating social media with print or non-digital advertising. 

The take away message from this post is that there are already enough road blocks to desired behavior.  You can remove some of those roadblocks by giving your audience an easy way to find you on social media, even in traditional advertising.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Farm to Table @LakeWayResort and Sustainable Food Center Autumn Harvest @LaCondesaAustin

A big thanks to Josey's and Chef Jeff Axline for having me over for dinner.  Eating local and sustainable is a pretty popular movement these days.  If you haven't heard of the reasons why you might want to start eating locally and sustainably, it is high time to get a move on it! Josey's is doing a weekly Farm to Table Dinner that changes every week.  The weekly dinner is at Wednesday Nights starting at 5:30 pm.  This meal is a steal at just $25 for locally sourced ingredients.  Take a look at the November 2nd menu. 

Chef Jeff Axline purchases the ingredients himself at the downtown Saturday morning market.  He goes incognito (sorta, not really) so don't expect recognize him quickly. 

The meal starts with fluffy biscuits with butter.  Nothing says Texas like warm biscuits. 

This salad was my sister's favorite part of the meal.  Grilled Texas Pears served with organic arugula, shaved Van Sormon cheese, French Breakfast Radish, Poached Farmer's Egg, and a Fig Vinaigrette.  The grilled pears was my absolute favorite part of the dish.  I love grilled fruit (pineapple, strawberries, and peaches), and these pears were no exception.  The pears were sweet and smoky which contrasted well with the bitter greens. 

The second dish was my favorite - Pan Roasted Copper Shoals Red Drum with baby squash, sweet peppers, green beans, tomato fumet, and sweet herbs.  Taiwanese cooking at home consisted of whole fish skin-on.  Living on the coast made having crispy skin on fish a regular dinner item when I was growing up.  It has somewhat of a comfort food quality for me.  I know, I have the most unusual comfort food preferences.  This fish skin was wonderfully executed and seasoned.  The red drum was from Copper Shoals Farm located in Palacios, TX.   

The dessert course was a rich version of a classic - Pumpkin Pie with House Made Buttery Crust served with Persimmon Mascarpone Cream and Persimmon puree.  Adding persimmon flavor to sinful mascarpone cream can only be good.  Did I mention that I love persimmons? 

If you're looking for another Farm to Table event, the Sustainable Food Center Chef Series Austin Harvest is right around the corner.  On Nov. 12th, you'll get to taste food from:
I attended the Spring Bounty Series, and it was pretty fantastic.  If you want to  be amazing by local chefs and local produce, get tickets for Sunday, Nov. 12th.  You'll love it!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

GABF 2011: Denver's Cow Parade and Botanical Garden

No Great American Beer Festival trip is complete without checking out some local fun.  As usual, a pit stop to Snooze was in order.
Snooze never disappoints.  While some might claim that Syrup is better, Snooze is my favorite.  I absolutely LOVE their pancakes. 

Austin is currently having a cow parade, and so was Denver!  Here's some cows on mall. 

This cow has stamps from other locations who were currently having cow parades

But why no stamp of Austin, TX?

And one from the rear. 

During our trip, we met with @PintsandPanels for a bite at Pat's.  Pat's turned out to be a Philly cheese steak place that was filled with Philly (the baseball team) fans.  The cheesesteaks were pretty delicious, and extremely inexpensive.  This was a Biggie which was four 6 inch long sandwiches and chips for just under $14.  This is another place that I'd love to visit again.   

I saw these unique plants while going on a walk.  These things were fuzzy.  No joke.

Texas might have BBQ, salsa, and queso,  but Denver has green chile.  Green chile is one of my favorite foods, and Denver sure does have a plethora of it. 

On Sunday afternoon, we took a stroll down to the Denver Botanical Gardens.  Enjoy!

Lily pads bigger than your face!

I wound up finding those fuzzy plants at the Denver Botanical Gardens.  They are called Lamb's Ears, and I'm infatuated with the idea of having them in the garden!

This is my view sometimes.

Friday, November 4, 2011

GABF 2011: Sam Adam's LongShot Contest Brunch

One of the best parts of the Great American Beer Festival is the Saturday morning brunch with Sam Adams.  Each year, the brunch is in conjunction with the LongShot Contest.  The LongShot Contest, in short, is a homebrew contest that rewards the winner with a chance to brew the recipe at a distribution level.  The beer is then packaged and sold in the 2012 LongShot six-pack. 

Here's the three finalists for the LongShot Competition. 

We started the morning with tasting each of the beers and submitting our votes.  Derf's Secret Alt brewed by Joe Formanek was the winner this year.  Congrats to Joe!

Round one of the brunch buffet.  Lobster hollandaise, little neck clams, stout ice cream, French toast, and some pumpkin stout.  Again, this is just round one.  Needless to say, I stuffed myself silly at this brunch. 

Not only was the food extremely tasty, I thought it was presented in a really creative fashion.  The ice cream container was frozen into a block of ice.  Within that block of ice, there were tiny frozen pumpkins and buds.  A woman sitting close to me said it was a very traditional Swedish way of presenting food, and I thought it was cute (come on, tiny pumpkins?) and creative. 

I couldn't help taking multiple photos of the ice. 

I'm going to use this the next time I serve something appropriate.  I just need to find tiny pumpkins!  A big thanks to Sam Adams for having us at the LongShot Contest.  It is just about the perfect way to start the final day of the Great American Beer Festival

Thursday, November 3, 2011

GABF 2011: Farm to Table Pavilion's Tasty Bites

The popularity of food and beer pairings is still growing.  It was evidence by the swarm of people in the Farm to Table Pavilion at the Great American Beer Festival.  The food this year looked fantastic, but I had to run around quickly to take photos of it before the sun went down.  Lighting inside the building can be a problem for photos.  This year's pavilion was so crowded that I was unable to get any photos of the food next to their proper descriptions or next to the appropriately paired beer.  Nonetheless, the food I tasted was pretty darn good.  Next year, I shall try to arrive earlier and bust my way through the crowds like a hungry honey badger. 

This came from a pig.  Enough said. 

This was one of my favorite offerings.  A lamb burger on an incredibly soft bun. 

Lamb belly.  Like pork belly, but with lamb.  This was also pretty fantastic. 

I don't think I actually got to eat one of these. 

Chorizo on a stick.  I remember it being tasty, and I remember it being served with some Dogfish beer. 

This was really fantastic.  I grabbed one as during my first round of photos.  I'm sure it had a fancy proper name that I didn't remember.  I remember it being like a sweet cream custard with chocolate and brittle. 

I didn't get to have one of these. 

Or any of these. 

I didn't get to try any of these either.

Or this.  I'm one sad blogger. All photos, very little tasting.  However, the ones I did try were pretty fantastic. 

This little guy gets the cutest boy at GABF award.  What a cutie pie!

And here's a picture for Rich from New Holland Brewing.  We met at Tales of the Cocktail a few months prior.  Did you know that New Holland also makes spirits?  They have one called Hopquila that is made with hops!