Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tweeple in Action

Lots of chirping on Twitter in recent days about good deeds inspired me to create a survey on volunteering.

I'll compile the results and comments and here, so check back!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Express yourself

I've been focusing lately on microexpressions, fleeting facial movements that underscore or undo someone's spoken message. Microexpressions help us tune into the emotional truth behind the words. (A prime example from a few years ago: The pleas from Sarah Smith for the return of her allegedly kidnapped little boys. Investigators observed that not only did her carjacking story not add up, her serene face did not match her anguished words. She eventually confessed to their murder.)

A lot of folks have been talking in recent days about facial expressions made by the presidential candidates during last week's debate: John McCain seems "too excitable"; Barack Obama seems "smug"; both can seem genuinely in touch or arrogant. So I found it interesting to watch Colin Powell talking on "Meet the Press" about how he evaluated these men over the past two years, then decided to endorse Obama.

As you watch it, focus on Powell's eyes and mouth. Does he smile or frown inappropriately? Scowl when he is saying something positive? Or do his face, words and emotions seem to be in sync? I'll let you be the judge.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Standup candidates

It is wonderful to see smart politicians let voters in on their sense of humor. I wish they did it more often, because you can tell a lot about a person by what they find funny and how they tell a joke. (Kansas Sen. Bob Dole is much more likable and people-savvy than his stiff presidential campaign persona led people to believe.)

Thursday night's white-tie dinner bearing the name of Alfred E. Smith (a witty presidential candidate of the 1920s, not to be confused with Mad magazine's Alfred E. Newman!) was a great reminder that behind all the rhetoric, Barack Obama and John McCain are real men - with great writers! Check out these videos (and watch for Hillary Clinton in the audience, too!)

Contagious politics

With less than three weeks to Election Day, political signs are everywhere, with more popping up daily. Ever wonder why signs tend to be clumped in yards on one end of a block, or why next-door neighbors will publicize their disagreements to strangers driving by? If it seems that there's something more than politics going on, you're right.

Putting out a sign can be a powerful provocation to others — to rally to your candidate, or to declare their opposition. The phenomenon is called "goal contagion," explains Art Markman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas and Psychology Today blogger.

When someone puts out a political yard sign, the people who see it immediately understand the goal. This action leads others to be more likely to want to announce their own preference. This desire is likely to be particularly strong for one's neighbors, says Markman, because they see the sign every day.

You can also see the contagion at work in this story: When business leaders became vocal in their opposition to County Commission candidate Karl Peterjohn, "It inspired a backlash for Karl," Darrell Leffew told The Wichita Eagle. He recently put six pro-Peterjohn signs in his yard.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I've spent many a workday working through lunch, but my preference by far is to spend the lunch hour with a friend or two, talking about events of the day, laughing away a little stress and making plans to get
together again soon. That's why I enjoy Wichita lunch TweetUps, like the one Thursday that drew about 15 people. Some recent gatherings have drawn twice that many.

TweetUps inevitably are a dynamic mix of old and new friends and complete strangers who quickly become friends thanks to their online interaction via At our long table were police detectives, graduate students, community group facilitators, a medical transcriptionist, a reporter, a couple of Web page designers, a couple of PR folks... A virtual community has become a very real one.

With a large group anchored to the table by food, it's only natural that the free-for-all conversation that is Twitter breaks down into a lot of 1-on-1s. Sometime soon, we're going to try a "SpeedTweetUp" that gets us moving around the table to talk to someone new every few minutes. Should be a hoot.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"WSTW:2" focuses on giving

Episode 2 of the new show "Wichita State & The World" hosted by provost Gary Miller debuts on Sunday evening, and reviewing the online excerpts today reminded me of how much I enjoyed sorting through video interviews with WSU engineering students to select material for it. (I'm the producer.)

Wow, what an impressive bunch.

Hearing college kids describe their experiences - the personal impact of scholarships, of mentoring from professors and professionals, of opportunities to work on real-world projects such as NASA in Kansas - made me proud(er) to be a WSU alum.

The episode, which focuses on how gifts to the WSU Foundation change lives, debuts at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5, on WSU TV, Channel 13 on Cox cable, with repeats Oct. 16, 19 and 30.