Dear Readers, this is a momentus day for Jane. Our interview today will delight you with his insight and amuse you with his humor-- his name is Bren, he writes Slacker Manager, and for those who have not visited his blog-- you are missing out on some interesting posts! For instance, check out this one he wrote as a guest writer discussing Customer Service over at Business Thoughts-- a blog by Todd Storch, who will grace us with his presence one of these fine Thursdays.
In addition to this superbly fine interview (sometimes Jane does get dramatic...we can't help it, it's in our jeans...we mean, genes) Jane would like to make an announcement concerning... actually, Jane is going to wait until the weekend to make this enormously important announcement. You already know about it...of course you do...you all read the right bloggers and they're ALL talking about it. Therefore, Jane is not going to steal any thunder from Bren today. Move along...we think you are in for some fine reading.
Introducing our Smart Man Online, Bren...weneverdidlearnhislastname....???
Lip-sticking: We open this interview with two words: "satiable curtiosity." When reading your post of January 10th we couldn’t help but click on those two words – only to be taken on a joy ride across the net where we were treated to some neat literature. (We read several of the stories many years ago, when we were but in our teens, but some were brand new to us…what joy that was!) How did you find this site? (maybe you should explain a little about it…hmmm?)
Bren: Yeah, I love that story! Actually, I read bedtime stories to my son out of a ridiculously named book called “Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages.” I know, it’s an awfully pompous title. But the book has a whole mess of Kipling stories and Elephant’s Child was one of them, which my son just loves. “Satiable curtiosity” just kinda slipped out when I wrote that post and it occurred to me to Google it, and that’s where I landed.
Lip-sticking: Tell us what got you blogging. We have an insatiable curiosity these days to understand what makes people blog.
Bren: I started blogging a few years ago on a website I share with a bunch of friends at pintglass.org (I’m at http://bren.pintglass.org). Initially it was just a way to connect with family and friends scattered around the world—easier to post in one place than send a bunch of emails. Classic slacker jive. I started the Slacker Manager blog after writing the manifesto at ChangeThis.com. I figured that I still had more to say about management and working life.
In addition to all of that, my wife and I are adopting our second child this year (from South Korea, same as our son), so in order to help supplement our adoption fund, I’ve been experimenting with Google Adsense on Slacker Manager. So far, so good, actually. The ads have paid for the TypePad account, and we ought to have a few extra bucks in the adoption fund. So, a big shout-out to all the nice people that have been clicking on ads! (to those who criticize blog ads...here's a good example of why some of us have ads on our blogs--to fund something of vital importance! Way to go, Bren!)
Lip-sticking: So, where does blogging fit in with your long-term goals? BTW, what are your long-term goals, out five years or so? Short-term we hear you’re working on an important project. Tell us about that…
Bren: I’ve been blogging long enough that I figure I’ll probably always be doing it. With the Slacker Manager blog, I’ve made a bunch of connections with professionals all over the map, both geographically and vocationally. That’s good stuff, and an unexpected benefit to blogging. In five years, I’ll still be working in higher education, but I expect I’ll be evangelizing blogs as marketing and communication tools, both internally and externally.
Short term, I’ve got a few irons in the fire. I’m plowing my way through a book proposal, based pretty much on the same stuff I write about on Slacker Manager. I’m working on putting together a non-profit charitable organization that uses blogs to raise money for international charities. And I’m collaborating on two other book projects, one with Jon Strande (and you!), called “100Bloggers” and another potential one with Phillip Wilson ( about “procrascipline”).
Lip-sticking: We’re almost afraid to ask…but, what’s OASFAA? We read on your blog that you were going to be attending a conference on or at OASFAA later this month and…we were bad, we didn’t click the link…we thought we’d ask you upfront. Sounds really exciting. Are we right?
Bren: OASFAA stands for the Oregon Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. It’s very, very exclusive and as just as exciting as it sounds. I know you wish you were in my shoes right now. But you’re not, and I am. Neener, neener.
Lip-sticking: We were having a little fun with you just now. We did click into the link. That’s where we read this: "Plan now for an action-packed, education-filled three days at Salishan!" We’re very impressed. We thought you were a slacker. What gives?
Bren: Mmmm…slacking, my favorite topic! I really am a slacker, but only in the finest sense of the word. I figure everybody drops the ball sometimes, or just plain decides not to do something they ought to do, in favor of something they’d rather do. That, to me, is the essence of a slacker. Highly effective slackers are very good at doing what they want to do, and the best among us have aligned their work with their passions and so they get to do what they want, all day long!
Anyway, back to OASFAA…The best part of OASFAA is the annual conference at the Salishan Lodge on the northern Oregon coast. It’s a beautiful place, and there’s some really great surfing right across the street! And the conference has sessions all day long, so there’s plenty of opportunity to slack! What’s not to like about that? J
Lip-sticking: In a post not long ago, you wrote about networking…referring to some of the “social networks” that abound on the net, LinkedIn and Ryze being two. We’re connected to those “social networks” also…but we have little time for them. L Do you find them useful? How do you manage a blog, conferences, projects, and social networking? It makes our eyes cross!
Bren: I’ve dabbled in several of the social networking sites, but have only really invested any time in LinkedIn. Unfortunately, I haven’t actually found a practical use for it. But I kinda keep adding people. You know, just in case of emergency. So, I don’t really make much use of LinkedIn, but the Slacker Manager blog has kept me plenty connected.
Truth is, I’m a little freaked out by all the extracurricular stuff I’ve got going on right now, so I’ve slowed way down on the non-profit project and the book proposal. I’m only one man!
Lip-sticking: As a business writer, blogger, and advisor extraordinaire, can you tell businesses new to blogging, what a blog is-- in 15 words or less? (if you can, we know a LOT of other folks who want to know that concise definition, also.)
Bren: Sure. Does “sure” count as one word? Did I just waste six more? Dang it. Can I start over?
A blog is a conversation, conducted online and in public, with your friends/customers.
How’s that? Only fourteen words! I gotta unpack that a bit.
If you or your readers haven’t been exposed to Susan Scott’s excellent book, “Fierce Conversations,”get a copy. It’s great stuff and though it’s primarily aimed at verbal conversations, the concepts are right on target with respect to blogs. Also, Tim Sanders’ book, “Love is the Killer App,” is another one that isn’t specifically about blogs, but does address the same ideas of transparency and resource sharing.
Lip-sticking: What advice would you give to new businesses that are just getting into blogging? And, do you think a blog can replace a Web site?
Bren: I’ve got a friend who owns a successful machine shop and I’ve been evangelizing blogging to him for years, but he’s not quite ready to drink the KoolAid. I think part of the issue is the perception that blogging takes time away from tasks that have traditionally been considered core to the business. The required shift in thinking is that writing the blog needs to become part of that core.
Well-written, transparent and informative blogs on a focused topic are a fantastic way to connect with customers.
That being said, blogs don’t replace static web pages for many businesses and they shouldn’t. The big news lately is Bob Lutz’s new blog over at GM. It’s great, but it’s not replacing all the other content on their website—that content helps create context around the blog, and vice versa.
Lip-sticking: You may have thought you would get away without being asked, but…here goes: do you shop online? Do you buy your clothes online? Would you buy your wife her birthday gift online? Would you purchase anything exotic online? Have you purchased anything exotic online?
Bren: I think the only thing our household hasn’t purchased online is furniture! We buy electronics, clothing, food, music, toys, books and more online. What’s an exotic purchase? You mean like albino tigers? Never bought any albino tigers online, but I wouldn’t hesitate if they came in brown paper wrappers. You know, to protect our mailman, Ken. J
Bren: Oh geez. I can only speak to my own experience, and the men I’ve worked for have generally shown me how to work hard, but the women I’ve worked for have shown me how to work smart. It’s easier to be a slacker working for a guy!
Here’s a true story. My summertime college job was working as a roofer. That was seriously hard work…I had a nice tan, but I’d blow black snot out my nose for days after tearing off an old roof. (eeeewwwww!)
I remember one tear-off job I worked on…must’ve been August and it was just so stinkin’ hot. I started sneaking off and hiding under the house just so I could get a break. After a while I’d hear the other guys hollering for me and I’d go back up on the roof for a while, before finding another excuse to go back down the ladder and under the house. Roofing sucks. You know, I’ve never met a female roofer…I think women are just too smart to be roofers. J
There you have it, dear readers. A really smart man. Wait a minute! Jane just reviewed this interview and we got neenered! We're not sure how we feel about that. Well, we're smart enough not to be in roofing, so...a little neener now and then, what can it hurt?
Say, what's not to like about that Slacker Manager? Thanks, Bren