Awesomeness…new branding buzzword?

I came across this article today about “awesomeness” becoming the new “innovation.” The article (read if you’re interested) states that innovation is an outdated concept and awesomeness is what drives success for a company. Below the link is the response I posted on the site.

The Awesomeness Manifesto

It seems that most people who disagree with this have a problem with the word “awesomeness.” Call it what you will, the concept is exactly what’s needed in our economy. It’s what drives customer delight (not just customer satisfaction). Great customer service should be replaced with customer experience. This is at the heart of why Apple is successful at what they do from a consumer standpoint.

From the perspective of the company and its production, awesomeness (or clarity or innovation or whatever you want to call it) is the process of delivering products that delight, not just satisfy. People, I think, generally have a negative image of corporate America, and companies like Apple and Starbuck’s (the examples given here) are leading the drive to change that image.

As for those who have shared their frustration with or hatred for Apple, I’d wager the reason you can’t get satisfaction is due to the waiting time to get service. This gives testimony to the theory that they must be doing something right. I’ve never walked into an Apple store any time of day and found it anything but packed. It’s not a cult. It’s a community. Building communities and social circles is what creating and building a brand is all about. The companies that are enjoying the most success are the ones who realize this and are seizing these opportunities.

It all starts with awesomeness.

Portfolio

Breaking news: I just uploaded my print portfolio at coroflot this week. A good sampling of my print pieces are displayed there. I have a website also, specifically for my motion design, flash animation and interactive design. That website is here. Check them out. All the cool kids are doing it.

I’m working on posting widgets to link to these two websites in the sidebar of this blog. Or at the very least, text links. Ideally, I’d like widgets because, well . . . they’re cooler.

Stay tuned for new and exciting stuff.

Unemployment, the job market, and random acts of design

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Honestly, my life has been fairly uneventful in the wake of my amazing experience helping flood relief efforts in Fargo, ND in March.

I’m still unemployed. It’s a rough time to be looking for work in a field that you have no experience with. I graduated last spring with a degree in Visual Communication from Brown College and have been looking for work ever since then. Each passing month following my graduation, the job market has steadily declined and the unemployment rate has kept climbing. We’re now 4+ months into Obama’s presidency and last I heard, the unemployment rate was up another 2.x% since Bush left office. So much for economic stimulus improving the job market.

I have decided to use my unbelievable amounts of free time to improve my skills and stay active in online social media, blogging (I’m trying to be better, honest), and most importantly, to keep learning new technologies, stay abreast of emerging tech news, and practice web design and programming skills. I’ve been setting aside a bit of time each day to study and practice JavaScript & AJAX development, ActionScript 3.0 and user experience, as well as keeping up on basic HTML/CSS. I’ve also been digging into Photoshop and Illustrator a little more and keeping busy with projects so my skills don’t entropy.

On that note, there is some news. I am currently in the process of redesigning my website, http://www.donovantwaddledesign.com. If you’ll notice, it is currently not much to look at, but is just a functional iframe version of my multimedia portfolio. I hope to make it into a personal website which will include other aspects of my life, including my portfolio. And not just the multimedia stuff. I hope to incorporate my print work into the site as well. And while I’m at it, if I can make it into an engaging user experience, well, that’ll be all gravy.

I’m also designing some CD art for my brother, Tim. He’s recorded a CD of his poetry set to music in spoken word form. The CD is called “A Place in Dreams.” Check out the title track, “They Don’t Know,” and “Bollywood Diva” at his myspace page.

I’m going home on Wednesday, June 17th to visit and hang out with my parents for a while. I don’t have any idea how long I’ll stay. It’s kind of liberating to say that, but it also freaks me out a little, I’m not gonna lie. I figured as long as my job search is turning up exactly zero, I’ll just keep working on and adding to my portfolio. I can do that from anywhere, so why not at home? I’ll keep looking for work, of course, and if I land an interview, I’ll come back and prepare for it. If not, well, I guess I’ll just hang out for a while and enjoy being with my family. Those are the moments I’m more likely to remember on my deathbed anyway.

Dike Patrol, Days 3 and 4

Yesterday was a pretty quiet day. Now it’s Sunday and yesterday went by without further incident, seemingly. I spent the day hanging out with my gracious hosts and their family, as travel is still not advised in most of the city. We waited for any further call for help and none came, so we relaxed, had dinner together, played some cards and enjoyed each other’s company.

We got word late last night that more volunteers were needed back at FargoDome in the morning to help fill a round of backup sandbags, so we planned to go to an earlier church service so we could get there to help earlier in the day.

This morning we woke to find out that there had been a breach in the dike by Oak Grove High School and four of the five buildings on campus have already been affected. Volunteers were mobilized quickly and by the time we got home from church, they were TURNING AWAY volunteers. The Dome was full and the breach, we were told, has been contained for now.

There is a metal wall built near Oak Grove that was built to hold back flood waters. There is supposedly a breach beneath the wall where water came streaming in at a pretty alarming rate. Before it could be contained, water had seeped into and caused damage in at least two of the buildings on campus, and last I heard, maybe up to four of the five buildings, including The Scheel Center of Performing Arts, the newest of the buildings on campus.

For now, I’m waiting to see if there will be room for more volunteers. The media has said they don’t want people to go to Oak Grove, and that volunteers should stay away, and there doesn’t seem to be other problems anywhere else with makeshift dikes holding.

I have to head back home to St. Paul, MN later today, but for now, there are TOO MANY volunteers.

What a great problem to have.

The Sandbag Chronicles, Day 2

The people of Fargo are incredible. And not just Fargo.

A young couple who had some vacation time came here to help, giving up their vacation.

A nomadic drifter from Virginia showed up with a backpack full of gear and lent a hand. He thought he’d just pitch a tent and crash for a few days. Obviously, he’s never been here before. Silly, silly man.

Kids as young as elementary school have been helping us grown-ups by feverishly filling sandbags at the designated locales, away from dangerous flood zones.

High school kids have been busy, wildly texting classmates and friends: “mt me @ sbag cent,” or “help needed by mik field,” or otherwise calling on each other to get help where it’s needed.

And college students…wow! This would’ve been a seriously small-time operation if not for the countless hours of work put in by students, particularly from NDSU. It was heartwarming to see NDSU students make up about half of the total volunteers at every location, their smiles and enthusiasm a shining example to everyone.

sandbag central first
Spent a few hours at Sandbag Central again today filling bags. They shut down all volunteer operations at FargoDome and at Sandbag Central at 6:00 p.m. tonight, at which time the National Guard came in and took over. We were told there were enough sandbags, and they just needed to be distributed accordingly. All dikes were built, they said, and all the sandbags they needed to ship out were for emergency use and for contingency dikes. As of this writing, the water was at a record 40.78 feet, some 22.78 feet ABOVE flood stage. Dikes in most areas are built to around 44 or 45 feet. The river is expected to crest tomorrow (Saturday, March 28) at 43 feet.

FargoDome cleared out
FargoDome cleared out in the late afternoon after the National Guard took over all city-wide flood control efforts

What has me concerned, honestly, is twofold. First, sure the crest is expected tomorrow, but the waters aren’t expected to recede until as late as Wednesday. That keeps the pressure on the dikes for an extended period of time, meaning they may need further reinforcement to hold until then. Second, and most importantly, there’s still a half foot of snow on the ground and heavy rains predicted for Monday.

Ouch.

After I left Sandbag Central, I headed to my friend’s house to decide what to do next. I wasn’t sure the Guard had anything more for all of the volunteers to do or not. It seemed all there was to do had been done.

That lasted about a half hour.

A phone call later and I found out a “Code Red” had been called in the neighborhood where I was staying. A few blocks away, a few homes near the river were in need of volunteers to help with some contingency sandbagging.

Chain Gang
The chain gang loading up homeowners’ garages with a backup arsenal of sandbags

The City was encouraging volunteers to walk to neighborhood locations to keep traffic free and clear, so we started walking toward the Code Red area. A Fargo resident in a large pickup truck was driving by and told us to jump in the back and he’d take us there, as that’s where he was going as well.

We arrived to find a pile of sand in the middle of a cul de sac and people filling bags.

traffic pylons
Making good use of traffic pylons to fill sandbags. Brilliant.

We loaded sandbags onto tucks and hauled them to dike areas nearby, and loaded up nearby residents’ garages with extra sandbags. Here are some pics taken in Woodcrest.

backyard dikes
This dike is literally just a few feet away from the house.

Gazebo dike
This dike was touching the gazebo, which is attached to the house.

Deck view
The view over one resident’s deck, with flood waters just a few feet away.

money shot
The money shot. I was leaning up against the house when I shot this.

This has been a pretty emotional day, not to mention physically exhausting. And even though I’m potentially in harm’s way, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be right now than in Fargo.

FloodBlog, Day 1

March 26th, 2009

I woke up this morning stoked to be able to help my fellow people in Fargo. I booked a reservation for a rental car at noon. I always rent from Enterprise. But they have all new people at the branch I use, so I had to go through a lot of crap before I could get on the road. I took off about two and a half hours late.

En route to Fargo, I updated my Facebook status a couple of times via Facebook for mobile. Not sure why. Maybe I just wanted everyone to be sure I wasn’t gonna flake out. I got to Fargo and wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. I made a few calls to get a hold of friends in the area. I found out there were two major areas of production as far as sandbagging is concerned. One at First Assembly of God Church in south Fargo, and on the north end at FargoDome. I wasn’t quite ready for tossing around sandbags quite yet, particularly if I was gonna be right in the middle of the flood waters, building sandbag walls around homes. I still needed a pair of boots for the occasion. I went to Scheel’s Sporting Goods, and as it turns out, they were waiting for me. Not me specifically, but flood volunteers. We were the only reason they were open. In fact, the sign on the door read, “Open for flood volunteers only.” That was me. So I marched in.

A pleasant blonde girl with a headset greeted me the second I stepped through the door. I told her I just drove here from the Twin Cities to help sandbag and needed some gear. Without even another word, she told me to take the escalator up to the second level and take a right, then another right and go past the something-or-others to hunting and fishing footwear. She read my mind. That girl was incredible. I didn’t even tell her I needed boots. She said when I come back down, she can set me up with anything else I need too, gesturing sweepingly toward a line of bins along the floor filled with face masks, gloves, hats and wool socks.

After a quick stop at Target for some camera batteries, I was on my way to FargoDome to help fill sandbags. As an aside, Fargo is NOT a city that’s very wired. I couldn’t get cell phone service anywhere in the north part of the city. I got no service anywhere within 500 feet of the Dome. Frustrating to me since I made plans to meet a friend there. So I had to give up my sweet parking space and leave and go somewhere I could get cell phone service to give her a call. I told her where to find me when she got there, and went back, put on my work gloves, grabbed a shovel and started filling bags.

FargoDome
FargoDome – where all the magic happens

sandbagging at FargoDome
Sandbagging at FargoDome

I thought FargoDome was what was referred to as “Sandbag Central.” Turns out I was wrong. When my friend arrived at the Dome, she told me they needed more help at Sandbag Central, which I found out was a huge indoor warehouse space with a semi-automated assembly line with hi-tech machinery and gadgets built solely for this purpose. Who knew that sandbagging is an entire industry?

Hi-tech sandbagging
A conveyor belt dumps sand into this machine. The people around it fill sandbags, tie them with metal twist ties, throw them onto pallets and load them onto trucks to be brought to dike-building locations throughout the city.

I filled sandbags with some nice folks at Sandbag Central after being bussed from the Dome. Buses run every half hour. During the night (24/7, by the way) buses run between the Dome and Sandbag Central. During the day they had additional buses running from FargoDome to dike-building sites. My day ended around 12:30 a.m. I caught a bus back to the Dome where I was parked and headed to a friend’s house to get some sleep.

Fargo and the Flood

I’ve been driving myself crazy the last few days trying to think of a way I can help my dear friends in the Red River Valley. Some way I can offer some hope, to do my part. Well, today I was given that opportunity. I was liberated from my job.

Some might call it being fired, but that’s just splitting hairs.

The first thing I thought of (after, “holy crap, what am i gonna do?”) was that now I can go to Fargo and help sandbag. Sure I have no income and no car, but those are trivial details.

Solution #1: No car. I went to enterprise.com and booked a four-day rental at half price. Thursday to Monday for less than 100 bucks. Done.

Solution #2: No income. A little trickier. But I have enough money to get me there and survive for a few days in Fargo. What I don’t have is any cash coming in to replace what it will cost me.

So, how would you like a chance to help out with #2? I know that many of you are stuck in your 9 to 5 job and can’t get away to offer YOUR assistance, but would you like to help me, so that I can? If the tables were turned and you were unemployed and wanting to go, I’d donate to your cause without batting an eye. If you can afford to help me so that I can at least replace the money I spend on this trip, I’d be most grateful. Times are tight, I know, but I think most of you could at least afford a few bucks–$10, $15, $20, $30–whatever you can do will be much appreciated.

My goal is $500 for the trip, as I estimate that’s about what it will cost me. If I surpass that, anything extra will go to help volunteer efforts in Fargo.

You can make a donation via paypal to dtwaddle@gmail.com.

Yes, I’m serious.

This is your chance to help the efforts. I leave tomorrow (Thursday) around noon. I’ll be heading out with my laptop and a bag full of gadgets, ready to blog, photograph, write, record, etc. my experiences and talk to folks. And sandbag, of course.

I’ll be updating this blog as I go along.

Genesis

This marks my first post on my freshy new blog.  From time to time, I’ll be posting commentary on things I see around me, particularly regarding culture, entertainment, technology, design–even spirituality.  There’s so much to see around us.   I want to challenge my readers, as well as myself, to take notice of it.  Perhaps see it from a different angle.  Take a fresh, shiny new perspective.  Will you come along with me?