TX State Students Attend UT Symposium

TX State students in the house

I am so happy to participate in the UT International Online Journalism Symposium each year. It’s great to bring along TX State students so they can interact with UT people, professionals and academics from other schools. Every symposium, Rosental Alves and his Knight Center team raise the bar of a quality conference, assembling the most fascinating program of thinkers and doers. I was encouraged this year by the conversations, both on the panels and off. I think we are beginning to talk about the right things – moving away from the print model and discussing new economics and skills – without worrying about treading on the legacy of old media. It was a stroke of brilliance to have Steven Kydd of Demand Media as the keynote, to address the realm of paid content to a room full of skeptical journalists. And, Earl Wilkinson, executive director and CEO, International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA), had what I thought were some of the most provocative comments, by saying we need to dismantle print, rethink it’s value proposition and retrain an entire industry – strong words that needed to come from someone of his experience. He asked the question: How do we evolve from audiences of geography to audiences of passionate niches? I think these niches are so important to embrace. Passionate users will do lots of work for you and be very loyal – I mean it’s what YouTube and Wikipedia are based on. It lends toward my interest in user experience, giving users something to do on websites, letting them control the experience and, increasingly, the content.

TX State’s Scott Thomas asks a question to the panel on mobile news

Other great talks were given by Alfred Hermida/Amanda Ash of University of British Columbia, on a use of the CBC Wiki by a passionate community of music lovers, Nuno Vargas, of the University of Barelona, on the grid layout of news websites and Seth Lewis, of UT, on the ways that the Knight News Challenge defines and rewards innovation. Also, Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online and a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, discussed a topic that I talk about a lot, the importance of failing, failing quickly and failing cheaply. There is actually an article in today’s NY Times “The Rise of the Fleet-footed Startup” that broaches this notion – that you don’t need a lot of venture capital to start a business.

And Geoffrey Graybel and Jameson Hayes of University of Georgia had some interesting research proposing a micro-payment model for news sites. I have my doubts about the viability and future of such a model, but I definitely appreciate that they considered the social and sharing nature of news in their proposal. For me, the majority of the value of any form of online media is my ability to share it via Twitter, Facebook, email or linking it on a Web site.

Evan Smith discussing the non-profit business model of Texas Tribune

I enjoyed the comments of many of the pros, particularly Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune. He has really put in the work that needs to be done to transition from the print model of Texas Monthly to the new media environment that he now heads. He really gets the importance of data and is banking on a non-profit model. That was encouraging to me, as it dovetailed nicely with my interest in data and programming and my case study of the NY Times Interactive News Technology team that I presented at the conference. And David Cohn of Spot.us talked about letting the public control freelance budgets on their site. It’s a very Digg-like model, except now it is being applied to assignments of work. He recently wrote a nice piece for PBS MediaShift on applying the same idea to Advertising.

As I reflect on the last two days, I realize that there were so many great ideas generated at this conference, more than I can effectively convey here. Please visit the symposium website to enjoy their extensive coverage and watch the archived videos once the become available. This event is getting to be very SXSW in it’s approach to innovation, which I am happy to see. It’s a great event to bring students to after SXSW so they can make comparisons across audiences and see some of the new ideas they were exposed to during SX as they are being applied specifically to the field of journalism.

TX State grads Maira Garcia and Jon Zmikly working the TweetDeck at the symposium

TXST grad and now adjunct Jon Zmikly did some fast work at the end of the conference, finding the wthashtag.com site and pulling together some impressive stats for the conference hashtag #isoj. More than 4500 tweets, and people are still commenting on the event. He also generated a fun Wordle visualization that used the text from the tweets to identify key topics.

Wordle: UT International Online Journalism Symposium

Click on the image to see a larger version. It’s fun to use these free and widely available tools!

TX State students enjoy some lunch with Jan Schaffer of J-Lab

As always, it is great to connect with friends, meet Twitter followers and followees and share ideas. Congrats to Rosental, Amy Schmitz-Weiss and the Knight Center team for a wonderful event! I look forward to next year’s symposium when I have no doubt that Rosental will once again exceed all expectations and put on another fantastic program!

#isoj attendees spending a little quality time outside the symposium at Dog and Duck Pub

Here are a couple of pictures from my panel that were taken by Andrew Waldrup. Thanks Andrew!


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The Programmer as Journalist

I’ll be doing this presentation at the UT International Symposium in Online Journalism on April 23.

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SXSW – The Big Picture

Some of the student who worked on the sxtxstate.com project this semester

Every year, when I go to SXSW, I return with a head full of knowledge and some big takeaways that involve immediate action or some form of continued research and learning. I honestly could not be anywhere near as effective at my position (Assistant Professor of online media at Texas State) if it were not for SXSW and the wonderful people and ideas that I am exposed to every festival.

This year, there are a couple of big ideas that I will be considering. The first overriding theme was obvious both in the Douglas Rushkoff presentation on the first day and in danah boyd’s keynote. Both were discussing privacy and control, and the false sense we get when we use social networks. Rushkoff’s presentation was titled “Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age” and that is a fascinating observation. We must be aware of how we are being controlled and limited in these spaces, while at the same time, taking advantage of their great potential for connectivity.

Another fantastic panel was delivered by Glenn Platt and Peg Faimon from Miami University entitled Universities in the Free Era and it dealt with applying open source ideas to the mission of the university. I loved their description of the new professor, who is an experience designer, a life coach who conveys the “you-can-do-it” attitude and someone who provides students with access to a network. It was a great tie-in with the Core Conversation I hosted (with Tyson Evans of The New York Times and Matt Waite of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact) entitled Influence and Innovate: Transforming Media Education. You can see that panel in its entirety at sxtxstate.com.

There was a lot of talk and usage around the location-based services, like Foursquare and Gowalla. At an event the size and scale of SXSW, you can clearly see the benefit of these services and how they augment and enhance the use of Twitter, focusing more directly on people you know and want to know their whereabouts. I think there is also a good deal of potential for locations, brands and events to develop promotions that engage customers and fans by using one of these services as a platform. These ideas are really in a pre-infancy period.  Congrats to Josh Williams of Gowalla for winning the Texas Social Media Awards, btw.

Finally, there were lots of good things about music that I enjoyed. The panel on How the Internet is Disrupting the Concert Industry, hosted by Ian Hogarth gave some good data about live music sales and potential. And, one on Crowdfunding Music: Raising Money from your Fans was equally fascinating in regard to the really creative things that artists are doing to introduce and engage people with their music. Check out Allison Weiss, because she is doing some very  cool things for her fans. I am more convinced than ever that the future of music is in engaging your fan base and creating and maintaining a community around your music.

So, I have a lot to process and lots to learn. I had a blast meeting so many people, and as always, I loved seeing many of my students interacting in the community and engaging the things they are learning. It’s great for them to see that there is a huge community of people that care about these topics, and that the future of media lies in creativity and innovation.

Thanks to the great staff at SXSWi for putting on another amazing festival. I am ready to be blown away again by the programming in 2011!

After the Interactive, I moved on to Music. You can read my posts from the shows I attended at onthatnote.com.

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Creating a new market for the iPad

Since Steve Jobs presentation a couple weeks ago, anyone with a pulse has chimed in on the iPad. As always, the factions are split, with some touting it as the next big thing, while the haters have derided it with much vitriol, the most juvenile of which have focused on the name itself. I am saving my final thoughts until I actually see one in person, but I do have a few initial observations. Yes, I am an Apple fangirl and a card carrying member of the cult of Mac, so keep that in mind as you read my comments. I want this to be a success for the company because I admire Apple’s place in the industry and basically worship Steve Jobs. Below is an episode of Charlie Rose, featuring Walt Mossberg of All Things Digital and Wall Street Journal, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch and David Carr of The New York Times, speaking about the iPad. These are all people I respect and admire, and each has a favorable impression of the future of this device. Granted, there are criticisms. Arrington is disappointed about the lack of Flash. That doesn’t bother me so much. I’m in the camp that thinks plug-ins will soon be a thing of the past. Most feel that a camera will be included in the near future. Some think the price will go down. But they all seem to be of the belief that this has the potential to be a game-changer. I agree. The key, as identified in the video, is creating this new market, between phones and laptops. As an e-book reader, I think it will be, hands down, a much better experience than anything else on the market, including the Kindle, which has already sold “millions” according to CEO Jeff Bezos. But I have been hesitant to purchase a dedicated reader, because it seems like a waste to have only one function for a product. I have the Kindle app on my phone, but have rarely used it to read a book. I think the iPad will come closest to simulating a traditional book reading experience, but will offer additional features that will be attractive to the average user, like the productivity suite (at $9.99 per app), the ability to listen to music, watch movies, and all the iPhone apps and the new ones to be developed to maximize the iPad interface.

There were some interesting observations about the lack of multi-tasking on the unit. Carr felt that it would allow a more focused reading experience, without the need to have your Twitter feed and email open at the same time as you are reading a book. Is Steve Jobs forcing us to focus, or is this just something to optimize performance?

My biggest concern is in owning another device. I love that so many things have converged on my iPhone. I really hate to travel with a laptop. They are so heavy and difficult to deal with during airport screening. The whole experience is stressful. But the phone is too small for a great reading/viewing experience and most productivity applications that I often need while traveling. So will the iPad fill this space for me?

I’m also  concerned about portability. I don’t want to pay $500+ for something that is going to get nicked and damaged from basic usage when I transport it. Will there be lovely, elegant cases developed for it (the one in the pres looked pretty basic)? Will the screen get dirty easily? Will I need to put some plastic film over it, like I do on my phone? Will it break if I drop it in a soft landing situation (like falling a foot onto carpet or clunking into something in my bag)?

One of the things I noticed in looking at the screenshots of Jobs’ presentation was that it looked like the Pages app allowed you to work in a book interface. Will this be like GarageBand, allowing amateur authors to make their own books and upload to the bookstore, completely eliminating the publisher from the distribution channel?

It certainly looks like it will be a beautiful device with a pleasing interface. I don’t really have a problem with the touch-screen keyboard, because I think we’ll all get used to it, and the tech will just get better.

We’ll have to wait and see. In a perfect world, I’d like to be able to press a button and have my iPhone expand to a larger format. But it would have to be in a way that was beautiful and elegant, consistent with Apple’s design aesthetic. And, short of hocus-pocus, I don’t see that happening (although if anyone can do it…). So, the decision will be, does this device do enough to warrant yet another electronic in my toolkit?

What do you think?

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Texas Social Media Awards

I was honored, humbled and overwhelmed this week when my nomination for a Texas Social Media Award met with so many sweet and thoughtful comments. I know that one of my students nominated me, and for that I am very grateful. The fact that I could post a tweet and a Facebook status and send a couple emails and get that kind of huge and sincere response really demonstrates the immediate power of social media. And, I am lucky to have so many amazing students, colleagues, friends and consumers of the media I create. Blessed and touched, truly.

The  Texas Social Media Award site was opened for nominations  late last year. Anyone could make a nomination, and you could even nominate yourself. Then, the Statesman posted the list of nominees and requested comments from the community. This is really a great project that the Statesman is sponsoring, and Rob Quigley who launched the competition, is a perfect example of someone who uses social media to great effect. He’ll be judging the competition, so he can’t compete in it, along with Addie Broyles, Statesman food writer and blogger, and Michelle Greer, last year’s winner.

I spent a few hours today browsing around the TX Social Media site. I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn about some of the cool things that others are doing with social media around Texas. I was blown away by the talent we have here in our fair state. First of all, I was delighted to see Texas State University represented so well. Dara Quackenbush, also on the faculty in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Josh Shepherd, a current graduate student and blogger at www.thebacklineshow.com and Scott Thomas and Maira Garcia (Scott’s a student, Maira just graduated and is working for NOWCastSA), who started the citizen journalism Web talk show www.thepeoplesmedia.tv, all received nominations. And, Yvonne Taylor was nominated for starting the Texas State Facebook fan page. Please check out their work.

The next thing I noticed was that some people came out of the gate very quickly in terms of quality and quantity of comments, some of which I had not been previously familiar. I think this shows a nominee’s ability to quickly engage their social network and also indicates how avid or loyal their followers are.  Ashley Cass, who also just happens to be a TX State grad, was nominated for her work with Birds Barbershop, a really hip new salon, and you can see from the comments about her that she has taken the social media presence for that organization to a new level, mixing personal, fun, important and professional in her communications with constituents.

Brian Cuban, who spoke at our Mass Comm Week, hosts a blog called The Cuban Revolution. Sure, he’s the brother of Mark, but he covers lots of interesting issues across a wide range of topics.

And, someone who I had not been familiar with before, but now follow, is Indiana Adams. She hosts the AdoredAustin blog. She blogs about fashion, decor and life in Austin, which I think is great, because there are so many cool things to say about our great city. Other Austin blogger nominees include Lyssa Myska Allen, hosting ThisisLifeinAustin.com and Ryan Loyd for his AustinCitySphere.com news/blog/podcast site.

There are, of course, multiple business/PR nominees. One that stands out is Jenna Oltersdorf of Snackbox PR. And, it was also great to see so many companies focused on non-profits in the mix. Social media is a fantastic way to engage those who share passions for causes. Check out David Neff, who works tirelessly, engaging a variety of social media tools to support non-profits. I have several former students who work for Convio, a company does Web consulting for non-profits, and they have demonstrated to me how important these techniques are to the success of the organizations they support.

Some other great personal blogs are Lydia Fielder‘s Understand Blue and Korey Coleman‘s film community at Spill.com. There are more than 150 nominees, and I’m sure I have missed some amazing ones, but these are just a few that I think are special.

If you care to comment about any of my social media activities, of course, I’d love it and you can find my nomination page here.  I try to mix practice and teaching by doing my onthatnote.com music blog and interview show, as well as this tech blog and my Twitter and Facebook updates, and any of my other projects.

Here’s part of my interview with the delightful Rhett Miller of Old 97’s, as a sample of what I do at onthatnote.com. Click the Sessions tab there to watch more.

But, whether you comment on me or not, you should really use this opportunity to familiarize yourself with the broad range of social media activities going on in our state. It’s a great mix of personal, professional, fun, serious and interesting! Maybe it will inspire you.

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Social Media at Work

One of the things I love about academia is the breaks we get between semesters. After a busy semester, that builds to a frenzied finish, it’s great to take a few weeks to refresh and recharge. It’s time you can dedicate to learning new things, doing research or working on new courses. Or sleeping. I always have bigger plans for my breaks than I actually accomplish. I had high hopes for this winter break, did about half of them. There’s always the weekends, right?

I did go through the Lynda.com Ruby on Rails training, and I will attend a RoR class next week. I definitely needed to do the pre-work, because I don’t want to be the one non-programmer in the room holding everyone up with important questions like “I’m lost.” Which is not a question at all. I didn’t get to work on making iPhone apps nor did I get much done with research. But, hey… there are still a few days left. Right?

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been working on is this new course Social Media at Work. Take a look at cindyroyal.com/social. Looks like I’m going to have a lot of non-Mass Comm majors. It’s a reasonably large lecture class, will have about 50 students. I’m used to my tiny lab classes. But, I’m excited about the topic. And the fact that the classroom has windows. I don’t think I’ve EVER taught in a classroom with windows.

My plan is to expose the students to some of the readings that have been influential to me: Chris Anderson, Jeff Jarvis, Lessig, Shirky, Jenkins. We’ll watch several videos, because I really feel that some of this is best coming directly from the source, those that did the work. Download: The True Story of the Internet has some great sections, and I plan to show Rip!: A Remix Manifesto, the documentary about the artist Girl Talk. I also saw Welcome to Macintosh on CNBC last week, and thought that might be a good intro to the Mac v. PC discussion. And, even though it is 10 years old now, I’ll show that History Channel video The Internet: Behind the Web, unless someone has a more current history video to recommend. I still think it is great, the history doesn’t necessarily change and I love that it shows the old computers. It’s always funny when students say things like “I thought the people who invented the Internet were dead.”

Another video I saw last week on CNBC was Planet of the Apps. If I can get my hands on it (or drag out my VCR to copy it – I retired it last year), I’ll show that too. While I was watching it, I probably downloaded 10 apps for my iPhone, as they talked about each one. Nice promo for the few they featured. What about the 80,000 others?

I really want to approach this class in a spirit of innovation. Give them some general things to think about in terms of the role of technology in communication and seek feedback as to how they would implement these tools in their professions. I don’t see a lot of recipes these days, but I do see people using social media tools in unique and innovative ways that work for them. I also just want students to gain a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm about the future of media.

Course development is always interesting. You start with nothing, a blank canvas. It can be pretty overwhelming. But then you start filling in the blanks, one topic leads to another, and so do the readings… and the projects… I know I spent more time procrastinating and stressing about the course, than actually working on it. I usually start with making the Web site. I fill in the blanks on the course outline page, and then eventually things start taking shape. Then I make a paper syllabus that will be outdated the minute I hand it out. But, we have to provide a paper syllabus…

So, I would love your feedback. Take a look at the site and let me know if you have any recommendations for topics or resources. I’m using the book Journalism Next, but just as a road map and supplement to other readings. We’ll blog, tweet, make videos… and take exams. Not exactly sure how I’ll handle those yet.

Here we go. Have a great spring semester!

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on loving what you do

The other day in my graduate class, I was quite surprised to detect a sentiment that I had not heard before. It seems that students may be growing tired of hearing people talking about “loving what you do” or being “passionate about your work.” They expressed that they felt it was becoming cliche. I’m surprised, because to me it’s been the most important, world-changing thing that has ever happened to me. And, because I wasn’t actively seeking it out, it took me a while to get here. But, it has made all the difference.

First let me start with a little on my background, then I’ll talk about some of the elements of the work-life situation that you should be seeking, no less, demanding, in my opinion. For the past 10 years, I have been blissfully happy with the career decision I made to return to academia, get a Ph.D. and become a professor. Huge sacrifice, major payoff. Prior, I was toiling away in corporate America. I worked for many years at NCR Corporation, mostly in Dayton, OH. I was in a variety of fields including sales, marketing, finance, management, project management… you name it, I tried it. I was seeking satisfaction and challenge, and while those elements were present from time to time in certain positions, my roles lacked autonomy and the ability to learn and innovate. I moved to Compaq Computer in Houston in 1995, hoping that a change of venue would provide the boost I needed. It didn’t. It was just more of the same, and I was beginning to feel that I was just one of those people who’d never like their work. I was unfocused and directionless.

My educational background at that point: business. Undergrad at North Carolina and an MBA from Univ. of Richmond. It’s what we did in the ’80s. 😉

So, in 1999, I chucked it all, security (?), salary (I had just reached the 6 figure range), sold my house and moved to Austin to go to UT for a Ph.D. in Journalism and Mass Communication. Some called it a mid-life crisis, others less tactful just called me crazy. But, it was the result of a year or more of soul searching, trying to figure out exactly what my next step needed to be. I knew I had to do something drastic, different, and I had no idea how it’d all turn out. I was inspired by a few things. First, while still at NCR, a colleague showed me a few lines of HTML code and that led to the creation of my own Web site. It eventually morphed into the concert-review site I still maintain, onthatnote.com. Second, I attended my sister’s graduation at the University of North Carolina. She was a journalism major. I noticed the people walking across the stage in special doctoral regalia, the hoods and tassels. “A Ph.D. in journalism,” I thought. “Wonder if this Internet stuff is going to have any effect?”

So, I ended up at UT, a wonderful learning opportunity that allowed me to craft a program from the world-class departments and schools across the university with my hub in Mass Communication. I learned from legends in the field, the most notable being my mentor and friend, Dr. James Tankard, who sadly passed in 2005. Dr. Tankard taught me more about myself, gave me confidence in my ideas and showed me the power of persistence. I think about him every day and I hope that I can carry on his legacy in some small way with my own students.

During my experiences at UT, I was given the opportunity to teach a course, very similar to one I teach now in Web Design. It expanded my skills and fueled an intellectual and creative curiosity that I didn’t know I had. I remember heading out to school one day and thinking, I really love what I’m doing. It was an odd feeling, one that I’d never known before. And, honestly, I’ve felt that way consistently ever since.

Finally, the move to Austin, while coupled with the selection of UT as my grad program of choice, was quite possibly the most important thing of all. I didn’t come to Austin for the rock ‘n’ roll dream, like lots of people, but it ended up finding me. I’m not a musician, wish I was, but I have the most avid fascination with people who create music. It’s like going to a magic show. I don’t understand at all how they do what they do, and am blown away when spontaneous collaborations happen, which are commonplace in our fair city. As luck would have it, I saw an email during my 1st semester at UT, requesting interns for a new music magazine. I responded, and started my tenure at Texas Music, and got to meet many of the local musicians who I now consider my friends. It was another important, yet random, occurrence. And, in the past few years, I have grown my onthatnote.com site to include an online talk show. It’s the perfect meshing of my love of music and technology, keeps my skills current and allows me to serve more as a role model for students by doing in conjunction with teaching.

So, when I look back at all the things that secured my delirious happiness, I can identify some critical elements that have made all the difference for me.

  1. Professional and personal life become one. I don’t have any real boundaries between personal and professional. I am thinking about professional things like online media and gaining new skills all the time because I love to do that. If it weren’t my job, I’d be thinking about and doing these things anyway. What are the productive things you think about? Can you integrate them with your career? Can you practice them on the side and improve them?
  2. Surround yourself with supportive, interesting and different people and exorcise the toxic ones from your life. One of my problems back in my corporate days was that I was surrounded by people who were all the same. They worked their 55-hour/ week jobs, paid their mortgages and car payments and complained about their bosses, coworkers, responsibilities… In another post, I’ll detail how I busted that wall, and found inspiration by finding new friends, in more creative circles. It was just a launching pad for my own personal changes. If you find you are surrounded by people who are negative or constraining, get rid of them. Don’t let them squelch the voice in your head that is encouraging you to be fierce. 😉
  3. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations. This is probably the hardest to achieve. No one really wants to be uncomfortable. We work hard to develop a level of comfort and structure in our lives. But I have found that the most interesting things happen when you’re out of your comfort zone. Seek out networking opportunities with interesting people, and don’t be afraid to say something stupid (you will) or feel out of place (you will). But, so what? Just do it. You’ll learn, you’ll find your place and if it’s right, you’ll ultimately fit in. If it is a situation you desire, you’ll eventually learn the lingo, the key players and someday, before you know it, you might find yourself in that key-player role; the one that people turn to for advice or consider to be a veteran or (eek!) an expert.
  4. Share. You learned it in kindergarten. But, honestly, you do get back what you put out there. In spades. Share your ideas, share your time, share your skills. If we’ve learned one thing from social media, it’s that sharing is better than being proprietary any day. Secrets are boring. More interesting things come out of efforts in which people are collaborating than not.
  5. Do it. There’s no reason not to. You like food, blog about it. You like music, go to shows and talk about it, interview musicians, read music blogs. You like wine, become the next Gary Vaynerchuk. You like sports… toys… cars… travel… There is nothing stopping you from exploring your favorite things and communicating that to the world. You are thinking interesting things all day long, and you have something to contribute. Who cares if only 2 people are listening and both of them are related to you. You never know where that kind of thing can take you, and it may take you places you could never imagine.
  6. Filter out the negativity. Those people are lame. I know I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating. There’s as much opportunity for them to be snarky as for you to be positive. Just stay true to yourself and surround yourself with happy, positive people. People gravitate to positive energy. Think about the people you most admire. Are they really the negative, mean-sprited, do-nothing types? I doubt it.
  7. Learn. Put yourself in a position in which learning is natural and expected, keeping up with trends, gaining new skills. Decide that you want to learn something and go do it. Use Google, take a class, watch a video about it on YouTube. Figure it out. The ability to adapt and troubleshoot is a most valuable skill.
  8. Change. Prepare yourself for it. I always say to students that the Web didn’t exist when I was their age. I couldn’t have predicted I’d be doing what I’m doing. Bet that even more dramatic changes are in store for us in the next few generations.

I am extremely lucky that the right career found me. It took a long time, and I don’t think I ever imagined being this happy. The 1999 Cindy would probably hate the positive, happy 2009 Cindy, because she would think she was full of it. But the 2009 Cindy wouldn’t have time for the 1999 Cindy, and it’d be 1999’s loss. For me, being a college professor of online media is the perfect career. I’m in a learning environment, surrounded by intelligent colleagues and enthusiastic students. I get a lot of support of my ideas, and I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of graduates of my classes. Keeping in touch with former students may be the most gratifying thing of all, the fact that any of them care to contact their old teacher, get together for coffee or stop and chat when they see me around town. I am blessed and touched.

So, this is getting long, and I’ll have more to say on this topic. But, I guess what I am trying to convey is that I hope that when you read this, you don’t think “how cliche.” I hope it inspires someone… anyone… to seek out their perfect scenario. Don’t give up, keep challenging yourself and keep surrounding yourself with interesting, positive people. Seek out beauty and creativity and inspiration. It does makes all the difference.

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