Welcome Back Kathy, We Left The Internet On For You

By Dharmesh Shah on July 30, 2013

draumurDanceKathy Sierra was once among the world’s most popular tech bloggers. On her smart, funny, and vivid blog Creating Passionate Users, she tackled neuroscience, presentations, and how to build software that makes users kick ass. She helped develop the reader-centric Head First series of books for O'Reilly Publishing, and traveled the world giving speeches at tech events. 

But in 2007, just as I took my first tentative steps into the world of social media, that all came to a screeching halt. Sierra became the target of a campaign of online harassment so severe that both Sierra and blogger Chris Locke ended up on CNN discussing the case.

Since then, she's lingered in almost total obscurity online. She threw her considerable passion and drive into learning to ride Icelandic horses as an experiment in better understanding how people learn and what it takes to achieve mastery.

But she stayed off the internet. For a while she was on Twitter -- then she left even that behind.

Over the course of my startup and social media adventures for the last few years, I took heart knowing she was still out there. She would pop up anonymously to comment on blog posts I had linked to via Twitter. I would email to see how things were going.

I went to see her in California in January 2012. We rode her horses and talked about the impact of gamification on learning and productivity. It was invigorating to see her mind in full swing, albeit privately.

But she didn't blog again; not for more than 6 years.

But Now, Kathy's Back!

As of this week, one of my all time favorite bloggers has returned to the world of blogging and the internet at a new site she playfully calls Serious Pony, in a salute to some of her favorites: The Oatmeal, Commander Taco, and Lonely Sandwich.

“I missed blogging,” she says. “For the past couple of years I kept telling myself that I was going to start up again.”

On her new blog, Sierra will write about a few topics that have become important to her during her hiatus. One is exploring new research on how to develop skills and knowledge, which Sierra calls “how to be bad-ass.”

Another topic is what Sierra calls “the API of you,” which is about the ways companies use gamification and other techniques to manipulate consumers, and how to spot those techniques and resist them.

“There are a huge pile of books that have been published in just the past few years about how to manipulate, seduce, and make things addictive -- how to work on people’s brains,” she says. “But the number of books designed to help you fight back, as a human, as a consumer? It’s like one book,” she says.

Her first post -- "Your app makes me fat" -- playfully digs into the topic of products that drain cognitive resources.

We're looking forward to hearing much more. We’re especially excited about her return to blogging because Sierra, who inspired our founders so much we have a conference room named after her in our newest expansion, has agreed to speak at HubSpot’s INBOUND conference in August. This will be her first public appearance since her return. We can't wait to hear her talk on Word of Obvious: competing in a post-word of mouth world.

Want to hear firsthand what makes us such big fans of Kathy? Attend her talk and many others at INBOUND 2013. Fans can save 30% off the ticket price with offer code KATHYSIERRA. 

This was a guest post by Laura Fitton (@pistachio), inbound marketing evangelist at HubSpot. Dan Lyons contributed to the reporting for this post.

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The Most Important Word When Building Your Personal Brand

By Dharmesh Shah on July 24, 2013

Do your colleagues have a choice word for you? If not, here's why you want them to…

Sometimes one word can make all the difference.describe the image

I was at a conference and a friend who runs a startup introduced me to one of his friends, who was looking for a new opportunity. “I’d like you to meet Joe,” he said. “He’s great.”

I’m sure Joe is talented. I’m sure Joe is skilled. I’m sure Joe is, in fact, great.

But I only remember Joe because of something that happened a few minutes later. Another friend introduced me to one of his product managers. “This is Michelle,” he said. “She’s relentless.”

In the dictionary, “great” means remarkable in degree or effectiveness. “Great” is a wonderful word, especially when used to describe someone… but like “awesome” and “outstanding,” “great” is used so often to describe people that it has lost much of its meaning. When just about everyone is great… no one is great. Great is no longer impactful or memorable.

When described as “great, however remarkable in degree or effectiveness he may be, Joe seems like – however unfairly – just one of many. He doesn't standout.

But “relentless” – who can forget relentless? Hear the word and you instantly think of someone so determined, so persevering, so persistent and tenacious that nothing, absolutely nothing, can stand in her way.

A “great” product manager you might forget. A “relentless product manager you remember for a long, long time.

Authentic Positioning Matters – Especially for Individuals

Many companies, as Al Ries describes in his classic marketing book Positioning, try to own a single word or phrase in the minds of customers. For Mercedes it’s “luxury.” For Volvo it's “safety”. At my company HubSpot it’s “inbound”.

The goal of positioning is to create an immediate and direct connection in the minds of consumers; that’s what branding is all about.

Individuals need to think about positioning, too. Where Tony Hsieh is concerned, that word is “culture.” Where Eric Ries is concerned it’s “lean.”

So imagine you ask a colleague or a boss or a customer for to pick one word that describes you and they aren’t allowed to use words like awesome, fantastic, great, terrific, etc. They have to pick a specific, non-generic word. What word would they choose?

The word they choose – for better or worse and, where you’re concerned, intentional or unintentional – is your positioning in the minds of the people you work with. That’s how they see you. That’s how they think of you.

That is how they remember you.

What is Your Most Important Word?

The cool thing is, you get to choose how people view you. As long as your actions constantly and consistently match your positioning, as long as you are intentional in thought and action, you can determine the immediate and direct connection people make when they see, hear, or think about you.

What one word best describes you? Better yet, what one word do you want to describe you?

Here are a few possibilities – in the right circumstances these are all wonderful qualities:

· Insightful

· Shrewd

· Ferocious (hopefully in a good way)

· Unflinching

· Indomitable

· Irreverent

· Scrupulous

· Relatable

· Determined

So, back to the original question: What is the one word that can transform your career? As you've probably guessed — it's different for everyone. But, if you can find yours, it can have a profound impact on your person brand, and hence your career.

A short, powerful exercise…

Make a list of the adjectives you want people to repeat after they meet you, talk to you, see or read about you... what do you want other people to think of when they think of you?

Make your list. Then boil it down to the one word you want to encapsulate you – and, in effect, your personal brand. (If you don’t, other people will definitely decide it for you.)

Decide how you want to be defined.

Now, share your one word in the comments below. If you can't quite get it down to just one word, that's OK (I'm an easy going guy) — pick 2 or 3 words. But, leave them in the comments. We're not going to hold you to it, but the simple act of writing them down and sharing them is super-helpful. And, it will help others come up with their words.

I'll kick things off with the words I'd like people to associate with me: creative.

Read, think, GO!

Leave your one (or two) words in the comments.

Topics: marketing
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