Bryan Lindenberger

Résumé, portfolio, published articles and more at BryanBerg.net

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hiking Gores Landing WMA

Gores Landing Unit Wildlife Management Area

Marion County
Fort McCoy, Florida
Entry Fee: None

You might confuse Gores Landing Unit WMA with the park just a quarter mile up the road from it, Gores Landing. Gores Landing, the park, offers fishing, picnic area, and amenities for only $5 per car with an additional $5 for overnight camping.

 

The Wildlife Management Area discussed here is purely for fishing, hunting, and of course hiking. Parking and entry are free, and the map below will get you there.

 

Gores Landing Unit WMA is part of the Cross Florida Greenway (Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway if you really want to get fancy, but that is a mouthful!) and you can find various parts of that here. I strongly recommend using that site to find parts of the greenway, as Google Maps can lead you all over and to useless locations. This portion, the Gores Landing Unit, seems a portion only I have stumbled across to map and is not even listed on the Greenway site.

 

But it's wonderful. These trails through Ocala National Forest consists partially of old roads such as Coyner Road seen on the sign below, but they are now closed to motor traffic. I'm not sure the trails/old roads are maintained, but they are clearer and easier to follow than most you can find and quite wide.

 

Starting at the main trail head, veer right at the first break you reach in a small clearing, and it will lead you to a very nice spot along the Ocklawaha River. I saw plenty of fish in summer and spring, and the view is beautiful with bird sightings year around. There and back will take you just under 3 miles, and there are other trails to follow.


More images, video, and Google Map at BryanBerg.net >> Live Florida Beauty >> Gores Landing WMA


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Two Time-Wasting Problems with Job Calls, How to Correct Them


I have the good fortune to work at a company where my role was clearly outlined before I started. The high brass read résumés and background material to find a likely fit based on capacity and experience, so the interview came down to getting to know each other through hammering out specific goals and outcomes. I say good fortune, because I’ve found these instances the rare exception rather than the rule in the vague field we umbrella under “Marketing and Communications.”

So why after weeks or months planning, gathering résumés and even preliminary interviews is the potential employee so often seemingly unprepared? Or clearly a bad fit? It wastes everyone’s time, including every individual in the hiring committee, but also the applicant.

I’m going to discuss two simple but frequent problems that lead to these situations, and offer simple solutions – solutions so basic, I am amazed they are not common practice.

Problem 1 – Few in the hiring committee actually understand the specifics of the position, but try to approach the interview as subject experts
This sounds unlikely, but it makes sense really – you hire someone not just for things you don’t have time to do, but often for things you don’t know how to do. Admitting that you are not the expert in the logistics of particular role is a first step.

A buddy of mine in Nebraska owns a digital development company. He gets some mighty strange requests from businesses and institutions that one day realize, “Hey, maybe we should be on this Tweets-Web-Thingy too!” His clients request such things as “How much will a hashtag cost me?” presumably meaning the hash-phrase, not the symbol itself. It’s a humorous request for most of us, but the problem is that they get upset if he won’t sell them these “hashtags.” In their minds, he just doesn’t know what he is doing.

This sort of situation arises in hiring staff as well, leading to uncomfortable situations. What happens often is that these kind people on the hiring committee – very smart people, just lacking experience – hide their lack of knowledge by focusing on the mundane or, conversely, the philosophical. “What is your philosophy of social media?” or “What is your approach to AdWords?”

No one asks a plumber what is his philosophy of PVC lubricant, or a drywall installer “What is your approach toward walls?” Uhm, facing forward?

The more you know – the more you simply do these more mundane aspects of overall communications or marketing strategy – the harder these vague, “Oprah-style” questions can be to answer. It can actually weed out the most skilled experts who arrive armed to talk about real success, real ROI and strategy, real outcomes of his or her work. My philosophy is to increase social media engagement by 1000% in 3 months by re-engaging existing audience even before I worry about growing new, and raising resultant web sessions by 25% while including stronger and easier-to-find and understand calls to action leading to increased contact with potential clients.

Seems a reasonable answer.
Eyes glaze over.
“Uhm, but…what is your philosophy?”

Solution
We hit on it with outcomes. It’s okay to not understand the technical aspect of the position, that’s why you are hiring an expert! Steve Jobs didn’t need to know the intricacies of coding even though critical to his business. But you should have an idea of the outcomes you desire. Greater enrollment, increased donations, stronger connections with stakeholders, even something as mundane as expanding social media reach (though I would argue that is a means, not an outcome), or better internal communications to reduce employee turnover. Whatever it is, you almost certainly have some outcome in mind, goals to achieve those outcomes, and your job is to find someone to achieve them.
In interview, identify for the interviewee the problems or challenges you face from your perspective. Look at past work of the interviewee and ask if he or she can achieve similar outcomes for you, in your particular circumstance. As with approaching any paid professional – a doctor for instance – you explain where the pain is, with the goal of relieving that pain. If you have no pain, no outcomes in mind, if everything is fine and you just want someone who fits into the status quo, then you have to ask, why are really you hiring?

Problem 2 – We keep getting unqualified people, how could this happen after our committee spent so much time on the job call?
The problem here lies in the question itself: one word: “committee.”

I’ve participated in these committees on the hiring side and the dynamics are always the same. You might have six people of vastly different backgrounds, each throwing in what he or she believes the job should entail. If one person has five ideas, then everyone feels obligated to offer as many, no one wants to be a wallflower, and soon you’re up to 20-30 skills from five or six entirely different professions. And that’s before HR gets involved and adds their own requirements based on a handbook last updated in 2009!

I applied once for marketing role with 30+ explicit duties that ranged from research and analytics to writing press releases and features, with graphic design, social media, and videography and editing thrown in like croutons on the salad. The call went on to 30 different skills and included at least 5 different fields. Understandably, people have to wear a variety of hats these days, and I pride myself with working and learning across traditional lines. But they wanted an expert in each, and the punchline is that they required only two years’ experience and an associates’ degree!
Turns out, they wanted a graphic designer for print.
The committee had to be so frustrated, all gathered and setting aside respective schedules, as did I, to find that graphic design was my weakest area on their expansive list. Maybe it should have been at the top of the list? Maybe even in the job title.

Solution
Hold that committee meeting to flesh out duties for the prospective hire. Get that input. It’s necessary, let’s be honest, for political reasons. Everyone wants their say, even if they pretend they don’t want to be there.

After that, consider that list as still in the “idea” phase and pass it onto - this part is critical – the person to whom the new hire will directly report. Have that director or manager sit on the list for a week or better yet, carry it, going through the usual work routine and noting gaps in what needs accomplished. “Hmm, seems I could really use a graphic artist for this project” or “Our graphic artist does beautiful work, but it gets no response – we need someone good at focus groups, surveys, and data analysis to find out why we aren’t reaching people!” Whatever. Maybe a consultant will be better in the latter case, and the consultant will say you need better web and social media management. Then, hire one of those! Just remember that the list isn’t a Christmas wish list or a wedding registry; it’s a list of critical elements that you need expert help with yesterday.

From that list of three to five critical elements, now organize them by importance in two categories. These are 1) Which is most critical and lacking in the current structure, and a second list of 2) what the person will spend the most time doing. For instance, you might most desperately need a videographer and video editor (already, two separate professions at expert level) but most of the time will be spent developing and writing copy. Two lists of the same items in two separate orders.
If the list cannot be narrowed down thusly, you have other problems, which may include 1) needing to hire more than one professional or 2) lack of utilization of existing resources, which may call for some serious meetings and “restructuring.” Candidly, half the time a large bureaucracy seeks to hire, what they first need to do is trim some of the fat. Pick up that phone and discuss with the president, director, or dean the hiring of a consultant, before they do it themselves.


Bryan Lindenberger is a freelance writer with an M.A. in Communications who has worked in business planning, grant development, managing education programs, and marketing, and who welcomes new connections at LinkedIn.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hunger of the Gods - Short Fantasy Fiction

New fiction added at BryanLindenberger.com

The ancient fetish of appeasing gods by placing worldly possessions upon an altar survives in modern religions to this day. In this dark fantasy short story, an apprentice priest providing this service becomes embroiled in the timeless consequences of serving two masters.

Hunger of the Gods


“To die for a religion is easier than to live it absolutely.”
—Jorge Luis Borges




http://www.bryanlindenberger.com/hunger-of-the-gods.html

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Andy Griffith and the Anatomy of a Riot - Dream Blog

As a kid I began a project of writing my dreams down each morning, and that lasted for a summer. That led to lucid (waking, cognitive) dreaming and I tried it again in my 20s, once more in my 40s.

It helped substantially with my writing, reaching a point where most of my published work began with dreams. It led to dark places and insomnia as well.

Going back to much of my fiction from the 90s and early 2000s - both published and unpublished - at BryanLindenberger.com, I've decided to publicly resurrect this sort of project.


Here, from the second night. Second nature.




Watching the Andy Griffith Show in black and white, Opie and Andy come upon a boarding school in Japan to find rioting and carnage. A news report says there are 30 dead. I realize how many 30 dead actually looks like with other casualties mixed in; hacked limbs and broken bodies, I would have guessed 50-100 by appearances. A small group of youths with rimfires shoots fellow students, two covering, the other firing, while the 4th reloads in succession. A larger group marauds with baseball bats.


Opie asks Pa, "How can civilized people behave this way?"
"It happened precisely because they are so civilized, Ope."

This makes no sense to me so I enter the show. I can rewind to where this started. I feel guilty for making anyone re-live this horror but I sense that the rewind, at least, is not real.

The situation began with a disagreement between two people in a dorm room amid a handful of friends. One of them is depressed, the other telling him essentially to "suck it up."

1) I see the truth in Andy's words. As civilized people, this school focuses on attending to those in physical need whether due to sickness or hunger, while emotional needs of those often more privileged are viewed as signs of weakness, whining. This approach has created a pattern of psychological repression and resultant anxiety, hostility ready to break to the surface.

2) As per chaos theory / butterfly effect, precisely the right circumstances for the violence to spread rapidly. Hostility went viral due to unstated but pre-existing alliances among a few close friends of the first two combatants, with a small number jumping in, but similar alliances and compassions existed among their 3-5 each friends as well, thus spreading exponentially. This served as the trigger, with the repressed emotions serving as the combustible substance.

Princess Place Preserve


New page added at BryanBerg.net: Princess Place Preserve, Palm Coast, Flagler County, Florida.

Happy Thanksgiving! Go hiking!


http://bryanberg.net/princess-place-preserve.html

Deer at Princess Place Preserve

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New Live Florida Beauty Page Added


Power Line Trailhead at Pellicer Creek Conservation Area

Flagler County
Palm Coast, Florida

 

 

The Power Line Trailhead into Pellicer Creek Conservation Area sends you into about 6 miles of trails that are mostly used for horseback riding, but serve some nice hiking opportunities as well. This trail head is only about one half of a mile fromPellicer Pond: one quarter mile east on Old Kings Road, a left, and one quarter mile down Princess Place Road (on your way to Princess Place Preserve) and hard to miss on your left.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Am I a Micromanager? Check for Symptoms.


I begin with a confession. I micromanaged. I started a new job managing a team of six plus four contractors, tasked with putting together an event in five weeks that had previously taken four months of planning. This was no ordinary, one-day event. It was a week-long, National Science Foundation camp for students with disabilities that included recruiting 30 students, creating a syllabus with teachers including anticipated outcomes, plus organizing vendors, multiple speakers, lunches, scheduling halls, science supplies and … you get the idea.

When the event took place, I raced around in an attempt to be three places at once, maintained mobile contact with staff and volunteers, ran through every presentation with the speakers a final time, and I was there to see a break in the food line at lunch and hand out portions of the meals. I did everything right, assuming I didn’t know anything about what I was doing. I micromanaged. By midway through, I faced a mutiny.
The irony of micromanagement (mm) is that the most organized, punctual, precise, want things to run smoothly types can create the most disruption, chaos, and bad feelings. Did I mention – when I jumped into the vacancy in the food line, I frustrated a volunteer who showed up a moment later and stood behind me for minutes, waiting to do her job? Yes, that happens when you micromanage.
No one considers him or herself an mm. We’re simply better organized, right?
The only way to see mm in yourself objectively is to watch for the symptoms.

Symptom One – The Moment I Turn My Back, Nothing Gets Done.
Here and throughout this short article, I assume that you are in a management position, so you have input in who gets hired, and that you are competent in that. As such, your staff is qualified and competent overall. Fellow staffers usually handle a slacker if you somehow made an error and one of those sneaked into the mix. If things aren’t getting done without your constant hovering, strong odds are that you have created an environment where no one feels in charge of his or own piece and is afraid to act without permission. At the least, human nature has kicked in and they see no point in acting until directly told – again, no sense of ownership. There’s nothing like an mm to sap your staff of pride and the motivation that comes with it.

Symptom Two – None of My Staff Has Fresh Ideas.
You read their résumés. You heard of their prior accomplishments. You were diligent in hiring and had confidence in the energy and intelligence you brought on board, so what happened? Well, maybe you happened. Think of a time you suggested a vacation to a significant other. They loved the idea! But the next thing you knew, they were hovering over you to make sure you booked the right hotel at the right rate on the right night, planned the dinners out at the right times in the right sequence and – oh no, we don’t have time to relax at the beach on Thursday, let’s bump that to Friday between 4:30 and 5:45 when the sun isn’t so hot and.... Can you feel the joy getting sucked away yet? Will you make another suggestion soon? Maybe, but with someone else!

Symptom Three – I’m Afraid to Take a Vacation.
And if you do, your check your work email and text constantly. Maybe you’re just a workaholic. But that’s different than checking for problems you believe only you can resolve. If you must work, remember your position (and the next) and plan great things! That’s different than checking in constantly because you believe only you can solve a problem. If only you can, then you created the underlying issue yourself through mm. I’m a strong believer in Market-Based Management where a major tenet is “The person closest to the problem should have the skill, training, and authority to resolve that problem.” That is common sense for any small business owner, soldier, or nurse. If you hired and trained well and still worry, then re-check Symptoms One and Two.

Symptom Four – I delegate tasks based on what I don’t want to do.
Every job has its tedious times, whether you are a receptionist or CEO. But when you frequently give assignments not based on the skills and abilities of those you hire, it’s not just not poor resource management (though it’s that too). It can be a symptom of mm. Think of the flipside to what you are doing. By pushing off the mundane, you may be keeping the high end work for yourself. Which can be fine – you are in that role – until it turns into giving your MBA with an ethics degree and 10 years of solid outcomes in business your email hit list and what to say – say it just like this – because you believe only you can manage the new project in partner and funding stream development. The great thing about hiring and trusting the best is that they make you look good!

Symptom Five – Mutiny.
It’s almost too late. People call in sick. Everyone is slacking on the job. You find a résumé on the hard drive and someone isn’t at the desk who should be so you question them and – stop! You’re doing it again. Beating up the symptoms won’t cure the disease, and the disease is mm. It’s time for discussions with your staff. It’s time for meetings and one, two, or even three won’t fix it. By now your staff feels too cornered and distrustful for honesty. This is going to take a while, and may include after work talk or even a staff retreat. It’s going to take a lot of listening and introspection on your part. The alternative is to fire all those in mutiny, keeping only those fearful enough to agree that yes, we’re better off with those troublemakers gone. The problem will persist in the long run if you treat these symptoms and not the disease of micromanagement.


Bryan Lindenberger worked 15 years as a freelance writer with plenty of retail in the mix before 10 years in communications, marketing and research, and grant management and writing for education, nonprofit, and business. Please feel free to connect at LinkedIn and visit BryanBerg.net

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Best Work Day Ever

Best day at work ever isn’t what you think, and it didn’t take a day. It took several months. Or as we called it, a season.

And I didn’t have a job yet either. I was 12 years old and working on the family farm.
We had a retail nursery and 90% of the plants we sold were purchased wholesale. But my parents had a few acres and grew stock on those. So not quite a proper “farm” either, but my dad would sometimes take some hours away from the shop while my mom minded the store and till the fields. That meant jumping onto the old cub tractor and lowering the plough to pull up the weeds, but mostly to loosen the soil so that rain wouldn’t spill off. I followed up with a hoe, by hand.

So 12-year-old-Bryan went out to the field with his hoe after the tilling and noticed that some of our stock, young arbor vitae just under 3-feet tall, had been pulled up. It wasn’t due to distraction and turning the tractor poorly on my dad’s part – they’d been pulled because the roots were near the surface and spread outward rather than down.

Just a few trees out of hundreds – they’d been left to die, days had passed and they were seemingly beyond salvation – so I went to my dad with an offer.

“Let me ball and bag them” – that’s the term for how they are dug with roots and earth contained in burlap for inventory, “Let me ball and bag them to save them, I’ll water and care for them, but please let me sell them at half the cost of the others on the sales lot, but I get to keep 80% of the money.”
Not sure he knew what I was up to, but he always liked when I took interest. Maybe he was distracted. Maybe my 12-year-old mind picked the just right time that he’d say yes. Point is, I knew he kept his promises and he went for it.

So I rescued those four or five trees. I dug them, packed the earth with sod in burlap, and put them out back behind our house. I watered them daily, and what seemed dead came back to life. I watered them daily. Over the course of the summer, what seemed dead came back to life. They grew, and I trimmed them back harder than I would the normal inventory.

After the summer, by September, they looked better than what remained of the normal inventory. Deeper green. More full. Not quite as big as the others, but I want to say even more healthy. I sold them with a little sign I made for them with a marker, twine, and cardboard.

They sold immediately.

I don’t know how I spent the money I made at age 12. Maybe a video game, and I loved the Commodore 64 at the time. I could program on it, but it was an early console too. I might have bought a gift, or shown up at school with flowers for a girl I liked. Not sure. But I did bring those trees back to life, and strong. I did profit from it. I did save something.

This is how I approach work. Whether I am working with a client, as staff at university, or more recently as a true “worker” in a company, I’m always trying to find ways to profit from things people either people have missed, forgotten, or simply left for dead.

It’s not always the best approach I admit. There is a definite vibe of “show up, do as, cash check, get by” out there. I’m terrible at that. I’m the 12-year-old who hates waste and sees opportunity.



Bryan Lindenberger is a lifelong writer who has worked in higher education, outreach for veterans, nonprofits, and programs benefiting persons with disabilities entering STEM fields. He currently works in digital communications for a small, industrial manufacturer in Florida.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Working with Persons with Disabilities – And Reasons to Hire Them!

Originally appearing at LinkedIn Pulse,
By Bryan Lindenberger


Why do I want persons with disabilities as associates? It’s not because I have a big, fuzzy, warm heart. I’m rarely accused of emotionalism. I’d hire persons with disabilities because, learning from experience, they can be an organization’s greatest, forward-thinking assets.

I took the job as Project Director and Program Coordinator for students with disabilities with the NSF because I needed a job. That’s it. I had no particular interest in students. Add a disability to the mix – it just sounded like another complication. It may be the job for which I was least qualified to take.

And it was the most life-changing professional experience of my life.

I worked with high school and college students with blindness, Down ’s syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, and, most commonly, those on some part of the spectrum of Autism. We learned science and engineering. We built robots together that I could not build on my own. I would hire any one of them in a heartbeat and here is why: all the platitudes of advice you find in these types of articles, you will find in persons with exceptional physical and cognitive challenges.

Including:


  • Step Outside Your Comfort Zone – that’s one you hear a lot. It usually applies to an associate trying something vaguely different in the workplace, hoping for reward but often running into roadblocks of status quo before giving up. But persons with disabilities step outside their comfort zone from the moment the morning alarm goes off. If deaf, that alarm may be vibrating. Either way, they step outside and they stick with it on the bus ride, at work, eating lunch, and throughout the day. They come to work with a bit different perspective than the guy complaining that it’s allergy season.
  • Think Outside the Box– now there’s one that’s been beat to death. If you really want someone who thinks outside the box with a unique perspective, ask your employee with Asperger’s what he or she thinks of your approach to a particular project. And be prepared for some honesty and some real outside the box thinking. What some of my students and volunteers had to say … it wasn’t always politically correct. They didn’t always take everyone’s feelings into account - that inability to read social cues and social awkwardness we sometimes hear about. Be ready for that!
  • Willingness to Meet New Challenges– everyone wants this in an associate or an employee, right? Well … hopefully. Now meet someone used to real challenges – from feeding themselves to tying their shoes; from enduring taunts for speaking their minds to the brain-injured who could barely speak at all. You think you’re gifted at team-building? At finding individual strengths that complement each other? Then boy … have I got a challenge for you, but the payoff is great!
  • EOE– equal opportunity employment isn’t about doing someone a favor, or shouldn’t be. It’s about how equally my teams treated each other and everyone else. Not one of them cared my age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Or each other’s for that matter. I was a “normal” and a guide. They were not “normal” and team members. No one noticed who was black, white, or had a life partner versus a wife or husband. Getting around while blind without tripping down the stairs or stepping in front of a bus tends to put such details such as gender or sexual orientation into perspective. Can you tell I thought these people were total badasses yet? Let’s move on…
  • Team Work– what everyone wants is a well-oiled machine of participatory teamwork. Now persons with disabilities are people who have had to learn to depend on others for certain things. But in doing so, they’ve focused on their own individual strengths. We all know the cliché of the blind developing extraordinary perceptions of smell and hearing. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Putting together a team of persons with disabilities truly creates a Gestalt environment, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We designed, programmed and assembled high tech machines in groups of four that – and I guarantee this – four of your “smart friends” would struggle with. Taking longer. And with less dedication and fun. (Did I mention … we all had fun? Talk about a happy work environment!)
That’s it. I’m not promoting the hiring of persons with disabilities because I’m nice. I’m suggesting it as a pragmatist and a utilitarian.

If you like to have team members who show up on time, refuse not to work late, and who you can barely keep from working during their lunch, you might consider re-evaluating your prejudices and hiring practices. I’m pretty sure someone bizarre enough to put a stick into a circle and create the first wheel and axle is someone we’d call “autistic” today. Guaranteed Asperger’s. You just might have to accept a few socially unacceptable comments along the way.

The genius is worth it.
Step outside your own comfort zone.
In popular parlance: Think Different.
These men and women will help you with that.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Morning Shift

If you write something from a place of warmth and sincerity, knowing it will never be taken as such, does that constitute irony? Is it an attempt at humor?

Or is it merely a simulacrum of emotion, an ersatz crack at inspiration and sentiment? Or am I just dropping 50-cent words from a graduate course in post-post-modern pop culture?

However you slice it, this little piece is inspired by Steve Martin in two ways which I'll explain briefly to anyone who asks ... but is more fun to guess at.

Morning Shift


Some say it was the brush she used – strangely beautiful with its nickel plated handle and horse hair bristles. Others credit the strength of her cleanser, oddly sweet-smelling from the unmarked bottle she carried strapped at her side like a pistol. Whatever the reason, man could that woman clean toilets.
I think it was her enthusiasm. I remember waking at 6am to the sound of her cart clunking noisily down the dormitory hall like some chromium beast in ill-fitting shoes. I ate a lot of fiber in those days – being a student – and so of course nature called. I’d scramble from bed and throw on my suit, not even concerned that my tie was askew in the mirror at the door. The pressure was that incredible. I’d arrive to find the cleaning lady’s cart in the open lavatory, every stall door ajar as she prepared for a good cleaning. I was too late. Chugging for breath, I’d resign to wait against one of the perpetually dripping sinks until her duty was complete. Her thoroughness was a pleasure to behold despite the measured force building in my bowels.
First came the yellow rubber gloves. She’d remove them from her cart and stretch them meticulously over the mood rings on her fingers – the clunky bracelets on her wrists – and nearly up to the loose and scabbed flesh at her speckled elbows. She wielded the cleanser, shooting blue gel into each and every commode in perfect, delicate rings. Our eyes did not meet after she’d finished. Her purpose was clear, and she went straight for that nickel plated, horsehair cleansing brush. Brandishing it in both hands, she attacked the toilet bowls one by one, sweat glistening from the back of her neck as her orthopedic stockings drooped to form ever-deepening, silky beige folds about her ankles. Lost in time and the scent of her cleanser, I forgot all about the gurgling in my gut. I saw only her hair, dancing like moon silver as she worked the brush up and down, around and around the submissive porcelain bowl.
Task completed, she’d loosen the gloves from her fingers one by one before unsheathing her delicate hands with the snap of rubber. I half expected to feel the cruel slap of her glove across my delicate cheek. But no – I felt her naked finger instead, soft and gentle beneath my chin. A smile fluttered delicately like a butterfly’s wings over her lips, and she raised her eyes to mine.
“They’re ready for you, Princess,” she’d coo. “May your dump be a pleasurable one.”
“It will!” I promised, slipping across the tile floor for the nearest stall. Before I closed and locked the door behind me, I’d catch one last glimpse of the cleaning lady as she finished loading her cart to wheel away, clunking back down the hall.
And man, could that woman clean toilets.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Work, Pleasure, and Change

I look forward to the weekend holiday weekend. Some outdoor exploration, some pondering, and some writing too.

Three years ago, I was in quite a different field. Working to bring students with disabilities into STEM fields for New Mexico State University and the National Science Foundation, I ran large events, collected data, mentored students, and had a sizable staff to work with. I conducted research, and I wrote award-winning grants. I did not see myself in marketing, but at the end of the day, it is all communications, outreach, and funding stream development.

I've been very fortunate the past couple of years to work with incredible staff and management who took what I first saw as a career fall, and helped me see the amazing opportunity to learn new skills and be creative in new ways. I've learned more the past couple of years thanks to great management at WNCC and E-ONE than all the classes (and student debt) in the world could see through.

I am very happy to end the week on such a great note. Increasing digital reach for a great line of life-saving products, meeting amazing people in interviews, and yes - getting back to the desk and learning video and image editing in a real world, "live" situation.

Here is a teaser video I finished today, and a link to the full interview at YouTube. I am glad to see how well it has played for a very strong company.




Bryan Lindenberger 
works in digital content development, including over eight years in higher education and nonprofit.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

SEO, Sales, and Snake Oil

There's lotsa acronyms and jargon among gurus in any field. At it's best, it's a means for specialists to abbreviate while talking shop. More often, it's a way for people who have no idea what they are talking about to sound really top shelf and charge accordingly.
These are the snake oil sales people. In website development, "SEO" coming up within 10 minutes of discussion is the surest sign of a snake oil salesman. It's been the go-to jargon to sound knowledgeable for a decade and running. But what is it?
Guy I know who knows his stuff kept telling me, "Make your website responsive, jackass!"
When I did (to the best of my hobbyish abilities) he said, "Optimize your visual assets!" Actually, he said, "Make your damn pictures smaller."
And there's the first two steps to your "SEO."
Proper use of header tags ... yep.
Enable browser caching, compress data, minimize script ... getting into stuff I don't know much about, but YEP. Good SEO there! Wish I could do more of that on my Yahoo/Aabaco server.
Original and useful content, keyword optimized ... sure, that's what I do. But we're already on the springboard the snake oil people use to launch into all sorts of jargony, gury nonsense.
By the time they start getting into selling you 2nd and 3rd domains, microsites, and a bunch of anything else that takes your audience FURTHER from where you want to go, farther and more expensively from the heart of what you intended to accomplish or your call to action ... you know you're being taken for a ride, right?
And guess who you're going to pay to manage that noise? That same salesperson whose card you have filed away somewhere will show up with a concerned smile and a solution. Probably some commission-worthy jargon too.


Bryan Lindenberger 
works in digital content development, including over eight years in higher education and nonprofit.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Compliance and Accessibility: A Communications Approach for Your Marketing Team

Web accessibility for persons with disabilities is a major issue for colleges and universities. There have been lawsuits where materials were not accessible to – for instance – visually-impaired students using audio readers. Many small colleges or university departments do not have a department or staff dedicated to working with students with disabilities and thus did not have an understanding of the problems faced or even the technologies used. They bring in web development staff, part of the marketing department, and the word that always comes up is “COMPLIANCE.”

But compliance is fraught with legal issues. Going to your marketing team to figure out ADA and Section 508 compliance is like hiring lawyers for your next banner or brochure.  A better approach for your marketing team is one of usability. That is, accessibility, across the board for all audiences.

One example alt text, used to tag images, which audio readers read back to the visually impaired. In an attempt to comply with ADA or Section 508 regulations, a higher up at the college buys some software, scans the site, and finds to his or her horror that nearly every image is flagged as “non-compliant.” Your web person then spends the next 3 days writing alt text for every photo.

No harm done, right? Good deed done, compliant, and it may even help SEO!
But this is what your next visually-impaired student prospect hears from his or her audio reader:

“We take a holistic approach to learning offering many degrees and certificates in education. Here is a picture of a professor in a red jacket assisting a student in glasses. Among our degree programs, we offer….”

Amusing, but also potentially baffling to the person you thought you just went out of your way to help. From a marketing perspective, you just announced that you care more about complying with regulations than actually understanding and assisting your students with disabilities.

If there is one takeaway for everyone on your marketing team – web development, writing, and graphic design – I hope it is this: everything in a website that you find somewhat confusing, cluttered, distracting, unclear, or annoying goes tenfold for someone with a disability to the point where he or she shuts down and clicks off-site.

So what do you watch for to make your media more accessible? For starters:

  • Broken links – jarring to most users, it can feel like being thrown into strange, dark room for someone lacking sight
  • Complex and confusing graphics or text – does it take you more than one glance to understand the material? For someone with a cognitive disability, it’s a scramble of words, letters, and colors, so keep it clear, concise, and simple
  • · Flashing, spinning, moving – how are carousels still a thing? If you find them slightly distracting, or that half of them rotate too slow and the others too fast – imagine someone easily distracted or who is simply a slow reader
  • Overuse of dropdowns– unless you have the hand of an eye surgeon, you have probably become frustrated many times trying to navigate dropdown menus with a mouse at your desktop or stylus on your mobile device. Imagine someone with Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, ADD/ADHD, or simply in a hurry!
  •  Scan to image file? Really?! – What if I told you after all this discussion, the vast majority of “web issues” related to lawsuits take place on White Board, Black Board, library resources, etc.? Every student has had a professor scan required reading material to an image file and post it. While annoying to most of us, you just supplied a blank document to the visually impaired, and that end of term paper depends on it.


By addressing these and similar issues first, you’ve not only become accessible for the few, you’ve become more accessible for everyone! Disability is not a binary. It’s a spectrum. For every blind person, there is an army of visually impaired; for every person with Down’s, there is a room full of persons with reading disabilities. Don’t think of it as compliance: think of reaching the most people in the simplest and effective means possible. Think of it as good marketing.

Originally published at LinkedIn where I am seeking fulfilling opportunities.

Bryan Lindenberger
works in digital content development, including over eight years in higher education and nonprofit.