Alison Garwood Jones

Don’t act above social

July 22, 2014

Social media is offensive to a lot of intelligent people. Or rather, it’s offensive to people who need you to know they’re intelligent.

I think that’s part of the reason The New York Times wasn’t using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn like they could have or should have to distribute their content. Still, they’re aware of their missteps and are working with shrinks to turn things around (see: New York Times Innovation Report, 2014).

As all newspapers retire their news trucks, street boxes and home delivery teams, their greatest reach will be across social avenues. When done properly, social doesn’t lead with substantive reporting, it leads with dessert. For good writers covering important subjects, that’s a hard pill to swallow. They don’t want to dumb down their work or trivialize their subjects. But writers are learning that they don’t have to; they only have to sex up their calls to action on social to lead people back to their websites. It’s a small price to pay in service of much more important end goal.

A deep understanding of the mechanics of social teaches us that if you want to be read, if you want to educate people, and if you want to change the world, you need to respond to the quirky demands of the medium.

Sometimes that means using sugar and empty carbs to lure people into eating meat.


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More on loving your job

June 17, 2014

He was all shiny and aquiline when he walked up to the lectern.* His face was pulled tighter than a drum. Jeff Koons, Julian Assange and Andy Warhol stood backstage and watched. Meanwhile, a team of caterers behind some swinging doors at the back were preparing to serve us His Menu of grilled salmon and blueberries. But we couldn’t eat until he had spoken. Our bosses told us to take detailed notes. The PR team putting him up was treating him like a Nobel Laureate. Everything about this felt wrong. Like, 911-wrong. Smart people I liked were pointing to him and nodding. My eyes bore into them as if to say, ‘Are you kidding me?’ They kept silent while the down payments on their mortgages accumulated. He laughed and snarked from the lectern, making us feel bad about ourselves while purporting to make us feel good. This man and his wares belonged in a museum of discarded scams, next to the butt-shaking exercise belts (but not the Victorian vibrators because they may have sorta worked). He kept us there for way longer than 15 minutes. And during question period, this Warlock of Syringes told us: “I’ll tell you what women want: only a beautiful woman is a satisfied woman.” He was bringing his promises to the Provinces. But we weren’t the land of Trophy Wives and Supermodels. Celebrities were as rare here as alligators in bathtubs. Still, he was determined to capitalize on time’s passage and expand his reach to librarians, streetcar drivers and tired moms for he too had a mortgage. Actually three: New York, Miami and Gstaad. He finished with a campy joke, and the PR team led the room in a thank you clap. He left the stage to lacklustre applause and promptly had a hissy fit behind the curtain. Jeff and Julian went “there, there,” and gave him a punch in the arm and a playful knee to the groin. Andy just stood there with his arms crossed, shaking his silver wig. Just then, the caterers came bounding through the swinging doors carrying trays loaded up with our identical lunches. The tension subsided a bit as the clank of the dishes took over. “Tighty whitey” — that’s what I was calling him — had returned to the room wearing a tiara and was now ignoring everyone at the head table, including the PR people doing figure eights around him. For the next twenty minutes, he stabbed the blueberries on his plate and checked his phone. After that he left. So did I.

*Parts of this are true. The rest was a dream.

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Upcoming Workshop: 2 weeks today!

June 4, 2014

My next Digital Strategy Workshop is exactly two weeks today: Wednesday, June 18, from 1-4 pm. If you are an independent business owner, like me, I think you’ll find the tips and discussions very helpful. Email me at for the location details.

*I plan to be at the beach and other people’s cottages over the next three months, so this is the only workshop I’m holding all summer.

Now What Final Final poster

The workshop is 3 hours for the low price of $100 (Plus 13% HST), and includes a helpful handout and coffee and tea service.

The workshop is designed for independent entrepreneurs who want tips on how to market their products/services/specialities on the Social Web.

I profile five business, including my own, and show how each business owner has had to figure out which platforms best help them reach their goals. For some, it’s WordPress. For others it’s Twitter. Many female entrepreneurs swear by Pinterest, calling it “solid gold.” Recent algorithm changes, however, have thrown a curve ball on many people’s marketing strategies. I’ll address this too.

If you want the latest on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterst, Instagram, WordPress, and LinkedIn, I hope you’ll join me.

See you in class!

Alison 2

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I Woman, you Man — what’s it all mean?

June 3, 2014

The #YesAllWomen hashtag has inspired a ton of stories by women describing what they experience on a daily basis just because they are women. For this, I go back to John Berger and an earlier post I wrote called, “Out of sight.”  Here is the podcast. Have a listen:



Left: Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968. Photo Credit: [ United Artists / The Kobal Collection ]. Right: Marilyn Monroe Reading, Long Island. Photo: Eve Arnold. Left: Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968. Photo Credit: United Artists / The Kobal Collection. Right: Marilyn Monroe Reading, Long Island. Photo Credit: Eve Arnold.

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Language classes

May 30, 2014

At first we were told to study French.
And so we did,
Memorizing hundreds of verbs:
To resemble, to be like, to look like.
To loosen, to unleash, to let go.
To daze, to stun, to bewilder …
And when school was done with us, we found jobs in government.
Or moved to Montréal to become servers.
Most of us never bothered with it again, except …


Knowing even a little French was a source of smug satisfaction.
Especially in places like The Louvre Gift Shop:
“C’est un cadeau pour ma mère.”
Or the BNP line:
Pardonez-moi, je suis venu ici en premier.”
Or on boulevards at insistent businessmen:
“Va te faire foutre, Ass Hole.”
That told them.


Some of us added German and Italian to the mix.
But then we were told, “Nope, now it’s Chinese.”
现在 我需要知道中国
Tutors held us hostage for hours learning this language.
Our Twizzler consumption tripled.
We started to wonder whatever happened to Esperanto?
All those plans to foster world peace and international understanding?
This was right at the time we were saving the Whooping Crane.


Naturally, that moment passed and was replaced by another,
With brand new rules.
The Whooping Crane survived.
And from the head of Zeus sprung Code,
The new global language.
Our stress over the past perfect seemed so silly now.
So neoclassical.
HTML tables drowned out verb charts, periodic tables,
Powdered wigs and harpsichord scales.
Border collapses, vertical alignments, global attributes.
Amo, Amas, Amat.


Be bold.
That’s easy today: <strong>Take that</strong>
Colourful. Are you kidding me: <span style=“color: #ff0000;“>I’ve got plenty</span>
Ignore said punctuation at your peril.
Practice it for 14 hours a day — at least.
And don’t expect to get the girl.
Wait! Invent an algorithm to see if she’s single.
Come up with the best combinatorics, graph theory and string analysis.
Watch out for the Russians and Chinese.
Don’t sleep.
Don’t change your underwear.
Just win.
Then collapse with some beer, pizza and porn.


But wait …
If your idea of language is something other.
If bold to you is Angelou and Mandela,
And search is Odysseus, not Google,
Be prepared to justify yourself to the Arbiters of Now.
Steel yourself for a life of economic poverty.
Or learn to speak their language in exchange for food,
And come home at sunset
To shelves stuffed with gold and folded roadmaps to Byzantium.
Embrace compromise, but bookend each day with riches.
</span><span style=”line-height: 1.5em;”>Not the end.</span>

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And still I rise

May 29, 2014

Thank you, Dr. Angelou. For everything.

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Pilot Coffee Roasters

May 28, 2014

Pilot Coffee Roasters gets a makeover from Williamson Chong

Thanks for the ‪#‎Woot‬Williamson Chong.

In my humble opinion, architect Don Chong is the next Jane Jacobs.

None of that made it in to my profile of Don’s work for Pilot Coffee Roasters, but the evidence is sprinkled throughout the transcript of my interview with him. Some of you may remember Don for his “Small Fridges Make Good Cities” talk at IDS.

I haven’t posted the full article because I want to drive newsstand sales for Azure‘s June issue. That’s my retro act for the day, my shrug to Meta-data and SEO.

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Tonight’s reading

May 22, 2014

My good pal, Jonathan Menon, sent me this: The New York Times Innovation Report, 2014. It outlines how the paper might reorganize itself into a truly “digital-first” organization. The report is 100 pages and will probably take me two baths to get through.

The Times admits its biggest weakness, still, has been its reluctance to shift the paper’s centre of gravity away from Page One. Their big gulp moment came when recent data showed that FlipBoard and The Huffington Post got more traffic from Times stories than the paper did.

The upheaval may be endless, but the message is clear: custom build your newsrooms for digital.


 © The New York Times

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Need LinkedIn help?

May 21, 2014

LinkedIn Manifesto

If you need LinkedIn therapy, I can help. I will:

• Interview you to reveal your unique story, then write your SUMMARY on the spot (with your approval, of course). Hint: this is not your old Word Doc résumé. Being entertaining matters.

• Show you where and when to insert KEYWORDS, then explain how the algorithm actually works in relation to recruiters and job suggestions. Hint: Don’t trip over keywords in your Summary. Save them for your SKILLS & ENDORSEMENTS section.

• Edit and improve your PROFILE PICTURE. We are hardwired to respond to faces, so don’t skip the pic.

• Help you craft your job EXPERIENCE so it shows your achievements, not your responsibilities. Hint: No shopping lists.

And much more …

I work by phone, Skype and Google Hangouts.

I also do house calls, coffeeshop tête-à-têtes and group LinkedIn sessions.

For more info, contact me at:




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CanCon in the digital age

May 12, 2014

Task Canadians with making a documentary and the world tunes in. Task us with creating a primetime TV show and the majority tune out. Threaten to take away our favourite American TV shows and it’s pitchforks.

Now groups like the Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA) are arguing that the Canadian Radio & Television Commission (CRTC) should move to regulate online video in the hopes of saving Canadian content (CanCon). Some of you may think our crappy selection on Netflix is precisely because that has already happened. Actually, the CRTC hasn’t touched Netflix.  Our poor selection is mostly the result of bandwidth restrictions. Still, our anger over feeling shortchanged shows just how entitled we feel as citizens of the internet to get the content we want regardless of borders.

All of this begs the question, in a digital age should the Canadian government be force-feeding us content stamped with its seal of approval? Beyond that, how do these content rules and restrictions mess with our creative spirit?

Well, to answer the last question, Canadian content rules have produced a lot of TV shows like these:

Canadian TelevisionClockwise: The Littlest Hobo, ©CTV; The René Simard Show, ©CBC; The Trouble With Tracy, ©CTV; Vintage TV set from dreams Stock Images.

Compare that to what the three big U.S. networks were producing at the same time: All In The Family, Maude, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H. I could go on.

CanCon Seal of ApprovalI couldn’t resist.

CanCon, ironically, is the biggest reason talented Canadians do their best work outside Canada. “Canadians  are operating within a system that doesn’t care about making hit shows,” said Jesse Brown in a recent podcast for Canadaland. (BTW, Brown’s show is funny, provocative and well researched. As good as it gets anywhere). But my favourite quote from the Canadaland episode, “Canadian Television is Doomed,” came when Brown asked,

“If tomorrow there was no regulated, government mandate in TV production [in Canada] would nobody start up their own web video company that could compete with everyone else, and could compete on quality as opposed to I’m the one who got the government commission? Wouldn’t it be good for artists and creators in the long run to have to sink or swim with everybody else?”

800px-Terrasses_de_la_ChaudiereCanCan Headquarters (the CRTC) in downtown Ottawa. Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons

I’m guessing they already are, and we’ll hear about it soon. Furthermore, Brown is doing precisely that in audio. That independence is why he is asking the kind of pointed questions that CBC Radio would never touch.

Deregulating content would be a very scary move for Canadians of a certain age still working in TV and radio. I haven’t polled Millennials on their receptiveness to our content rules — if someone has, let me know — but I’m sure they’d say, “Go f*ck yourself,” and get back to creating, editing, hacking, beta testing and unleashing their projects on the world.

For the pro and con arguments on giving up our cultural policies, and what will happen when the CRTC moves to unbundle cable channels in favour of the “pick and pay” model, listen here to Brown in conversation with VMedia advisor, George Burger.

And let me know what you think, especially if you’re in the industry. Has CanCon helped or hindered your creativity?



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