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Posts Tagged ‘College’

They Survived Madison, Wisconsin

July 10, 2011 1 comment

Last August, I wrote about leaving the city I had come of age in and how it felt to leave all of my friends behind. As it turned out, I would get a job within the next couple of months, move out of my place in Minnesota, say goodbye to my temporary roommates (Mom and Dad), zip down I-94 and start a new life in my old town.

Now it’s almost one year later. Time flies, and I find myself thinking about how much movement happens in August and how much change occurs before the leaves turn shades of orange and red in this beautiful college town. New blood revitalizes the city and the old guard is packing up, leaving and transitioning to a new stage in their lives.

For the first time, I’m not part of it. My life is comparatively stagnant, though not necessarily in a bad way. I’d be completely immune to the moving and shaking of the August rush (a new apartment with a good friend barely counts as change) but for the fact that some of my best friends are moving on. 

It’s a strange feeling watching friends you’ve known for some of the most formative years of your life leave. I’ve gone through it a few times, but this time it seems more potent, more permanent, because the last batch of my college friends without jobs in Madison are taking off. On one hand, I feel happy for them, because I know they’re headed out to chase their future and become the types of people they always dreamed of becoming.

On the other hand, it’s such a huge sadness to see cardboard boxes packed with memories you helped create fade away, down East Washington or Gorham headed towards their next big adventure. Pieces of a “me” that no longer exists are in those boxes, pieces that only remain in memories and pictures and deep pangs of nostalgia. As much as I dread watching my friends leave, I’m also mourning a past version of myself that they take with them.

It’s weird to be on the other side of moving out. I know that I have a life here, and I’m very happy with it, but I can’t help but wonder what life will be like without being in the same zip code as some of the people I’ve formed deep bonds with. I’m worried that after they leave, I’m going to be a less interesting person.

Then again, I know myself well enough to understand that I’ll never be happy with myself if I get complacent. I’ll always be chasing fun and running away from boredom. I’m not friendless in this town by any measurement. I still have a network of people I consider some of my best friends. I’m meeting people I barely knew in college, people who were only ancillary characters in my life’s story, and we’re becoming very close. We cling to each other because we all haven’t quite figured out how to make new friends, and I’ve started to figure out what amazing people they are.  I also work with some very cool people, many of which I consider friends.

Everyone will move on eventually, and so will I, and we’ll go through these motions all over again. And that’s ok, because this change is good. It’s movement.  There’s really nothing to worry about, because it’s all part of life. I can take solace in the fact that wherever my college friends are, and whatever they do, we’re inextricably linked to a particular time and place together. We’ll carry those memories with us, and they’ll help shape who we become.

So here’s to old friends dispersed across the country, starting new lives and starting over. For now it’s so long and goodbye, but I have a feeling our paths are bound to cross again. My couch is always open.

Fixing Foursquare

September 23, 2010 2 comments

Over the summer, my friends and I loved using Foursquare. When we started checking-in, it was so fun to unlock badges and claim mayorships. It was a game that we played against each other. On very rare occasions, we actually received special treatment for being mayors and using the location-based service. It was super fun. But it’s not so fun anymore.

There’s a plateau. If you’re in a city like Madison, Wisconsin, there are only so many rewards you can get and so many things to do. Once you unlock these 10 or so badges, you can’t go any further. Location-based social media needs to evolve past mayorships to fight off Foursquare fatigue.

Go Local

It’ time for Foursquare to become more localized. They’re heading in the right direction with Foursquare for Universities, which was just launched last week. Essentially, Foursquare is selecting ambassadors to create a more personal, local connection with the college towns. This could be used in so many cool ways. It’s already being used for university tours, which helps smartphone clutching freshmen navigate a new campus (kids these days….).

Schools are able to create specialized badges for different campus hot-spots. I bet that students will love this. Anyone from Madison would appreciate getting a “Badger Badge” for attending a certain amount of UW sporting events, for example. Increasing the relevancy of badges for each University would keep college kids (and the adults that hang out on campus) more interested.

Even in the suburbs, there are interesting, badge-worthy things to do. I currently live within biking distance of the Minnesota Zoo, for example….it’s easy enough to make an “In the Wild” badge. The point is this: the more personal and specialized Foursquare feels to the user, the more a person is likely to use it.

Beyond Mayorships

It’s time to look beyond specials for just the mayor. Foursquare 2.0 for the iPhone was released this week, and it emphasizes the “Tips” and “To-Do” sections of the app. On the old interface, the hope was that people would leave friendly tips and comments about the place. Foursquare 2.0 also allows you to find to-do’s on the internet and add them to your Foursquare account as a reminder to go to that place or accomplish that to-do. Here, the possibilities for use are endless.

Businesses can create Tips/To-Dos that entice a patron to do something in exchange for a deal. Think about how word-of-mouth would spread if someone had to do a dance in the middle of a restaurant for a free meal, or you received a free appetizer if you brought in a crowd of 10. It will be cool to read a positive restaurant review online and then be able to “tag” that place, so you know where to go. Or, a business could put the “Add this to Foursquare” button on their website and create quick, mobile coupons. The “Add to Foursquare” button could be a really great tool for businesses to increase new visits and return customers.

Quick ideas

There are a ton of other things Foursquare can do to make sure its service stays fun and relevant to users. Here’s a quick list of ideas I’m stealing from other LBS services that would heighten the Foursquare experience:

  • Like Facebook Places, integrate other information about the venue. Link directly to the place’s webpage, put reviews up, and tie in the venue’s social media, if applicable.
  • Like SCVNGR, integrate “games” and “tasks.” Create scavenger hunts and other fun things to do. Give the user an incentive (even if it is just “fun”) to continue to use the service.
  • Allow users to pin photographs to the places.
  • Continue to partner with businesses, and work with group-buying companies like Groupon.
  • Foursquare is beginning to recommend places to go to. This one is a little touchy because people don’t like being told what to do, but imagine how useful this could be to travelers or people moving to new cities.

So, what does the future look like?

Like I said in a previous post, the possibilities for Foursquare are really endless. What we’re continuing to see in today’s world is a shift to a cross-platform experience; something you do or look at on the internet can be transferred seamlessly to your mobile phone. This is what Foursquare 2.0 is doing with its “Add this to Foursquare” buttons. It will be really cool to see how technology like this continues to grow in the future to create a better experience for consumers.

As location-based social media continues to become more mainstream and the options for which service to use become more numerous, Foursquare is going to have to continue to evolve in order to cater to the users’ needs. Hopefully, Foursquare and other services like it keep listening to what the consumers want so that location-based social media is still fun and relevant. I’ll keep checking-in as long as it remains fun and I get something out of it.

Tired of Foursquare too? How else could they keep it fun?

I Survived Madison, Wisconsin 2006-2010

August 1, 2010 3 comments

Sunset over Lake Mendota

The first time I laid eyes upon what would be my college campus was Labor Day 2005. I was on a tour to see which colleges I liked so I could start applying. Before the tour, my dad, brother and I wandered around State Street and eventually ended up on Langdon Street (Langdon is “Frat Row”). You could just feel the hangovers of the people celebrating the end of summer and the start of a new year.

Empty beer cans were all over, furniture was out on the sidewalk waiting to be picked up; the area looked a little decrepit.

And I smiled.

Right there and then, I fell in love with the Babylon of the Midwest: Madison, Wisconsin.

It’s been five years since my first introduction to the city. I graduated and it’s time to move on, and that means leaving my home of four years behind. It’s time to pour a 40 of Keystone Light (naturally) on the curb for my brief but memorable stint as a Badger.

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Rebranding Isn’t Just For Brands

May 13, 2010 1 comment

Where you come from is gone, where you’re going to was never there, and where you are ain’t no good unless you can get away from it
-Flannery O’Connor

As I sit here on Graduation-Eve Eve, desperately trying to study but ultimately failing (I’m listening to music and my test is about music, so….win?), I find myself thinking about the future. Monday, May 16th is LITERALLY the first day of the rest of my life. Everything’s changing. The only world I know is going to be gone (though I’ve still got plenty of debt to remind myself of college). It’s a little terrifying, but it’s also new, which is incredibly exciting. So, instead of mourning four years of my life that will rank as the most enjoyable, wild, and exciting ever, I might as well see the positive sides of graduating.

Congrats, class of 2010! We each get a graduation present: the opportunity for reinvention. The best brands, products, and services adapt based on changes in culture, trends, and technology. Unless you’re Coca-Cola, you don’t stay relevant for so long by being the same. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to rebrand ourselves.

Rebranding. Don Draper did it (yes, he’s a TV character. I watch TV. Get over it). Dick Whitman didn’t like who he was and where he was from, so he changed into Don Draper. He took the hidden parts of his personality and projected them. Robert Zimmerman did it, too. Here’s a kid from northern Minnesota who decided there was something better out there, picked up his guitar and moved to New York to become Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan is the best example of personal rebranding I can think of. Musically, he went from folk and blues to protest music to surrealist electric rock to country. And that’s only the first decade of his career.Hell, if the Rolling Stones can make a disco album, you can change too. Become someone new. Reinvent. The world is dynamic. Not even your personality should stand still.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t whitewashing the past. It’s not even really about looking more appealing to recruiters and higher-ups at your job. It’s about the opportunity to let others see you in a different way. We’re in for a lifetime of first impressions, but in these next few months and years we’re going to be experiencing a TON of them. Make them count. Play around with different sides of your personality, see which one fits. Nobody said you had to figure out who you were yet, so use that to your advantage.

I’m not talking about some extreme, Britney-Spears-shaving-her-head change. This isn’t Urkel making a machine that turns him into a suave, debonair Stephan Urquell (not all the TV I watch is high quality). This is about is taking existing parts of your personality and messing around with the percentages a little bit to let other aspects of your personality shine. Become more outgoing by forcing yourself to speak up at group events, even if it’s a little stressful. Tell more jokes. Argue with people. You’re no longer bounded by everyone already knowing who you are, so there are very few preconceptions about you. Use that. It’s a wonderful gift.

Recruitment Rebellion

April 27, 2010 2 comments

Some people aren’t good at job interviews. I’m one of those people. I see job interviews as first dates: putting on a mask and looking for a long-term relationship by saying what the other person wants to hear for an hour. Playing the game.

Ever since high school, I’ve been told to play the game, to get involved. The end goal of this, they said, was to have something to put on your college application and your resume. I never liked the idea of doing something or joining anything for the sole purpose of padding my resume. I didn’t play the game, but I worked hard and did what I wanted, and I still got into UW-Madison. I’ll still get the job I want. Eventually.

Here’s what I propose. Call it “Free Freelancing.” Give me work to do, for free, and see what I’m capable of. If I’m going to be writing copy, give me a product and a target market and let me work something out. Give me a problem and I’ll solve it, or at least try. If you like my work, give me more work. If that work is what you’re looking for, we can talk long-term. It’s cost-effective, it’s risk-free, and I imagine it’s a better predictor of future success than an interview. No games, no embellishing, no masks. If formal interviews are first dates, this is having coffee with someone you kinda might be into.

If it sounds like I’m condemning people for playing the game, I’m not. I’m just looking for a job on terms that are more attractive for me.

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