KazzaDrask Media Awarded Gold Medal for Communications Curation

Our topic Back Chat has achieved another gold medal in the Communications category on ScoopIt, a leading online content curation publishing tool.

We started BackChat all the way back in 2011, realizing a need to begin curating the content found about the way we communicate online. Finding ScoopIt to help us do that has been the perfect fit. You don’t need to be in the communications business to realize the value that a service like ScoopIt can add. If you want a little more breakdown of it in the we way help people pitch in Silicon Valley – “it’s like Pinterest, but with some substantial words and links and thrown in.” If for example, you love food (and, quite frankly, who doesn’t?), you can start a ScoopIt page for recipes, restaurants, healthy eating — you get the gist.


We love communications – and when we realized the many ways we now have to do that were changing faster than we could download the app, write a blog post or make a tweet that would actually mean something to us if we ever looked back, we turned to online curation as the best way to keep track. On Back Chat we follow what conversations are trending online and what the big communication players (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, etc.) and numerous smaller ones are up to. Since 2011 when we started Back Chat, unequivocally the biggest shift has been from what we called “online culture” to “mobile culture”. Our four years (and counting) of curated content in this area has been repeatedly recognized as one of the best!

It’s an honor to be singled out by a communications leader like ScoopIt for our work. So, thank you ScoopIt – and here’s to more people getting on board the curation train ASAP.

What Happens When an Emoji Is the Word of the Year?


Like everyone on the planet with a blog, I was feeling so past long overdue making that post that apologizes for the length of time between blog posts.

You know that post you see on just about every blog you land on – the one that tells you it’s been a while (like six months or four years or whatever), you’re a committed blogger/writer/communicator but you’ve just been busy with other projects (oh, like checking Facebook or aimlessly scrolling Twitter searching for the meaning of life) and/or you’ll be re-dedicating yourself to posting in the future (a promise you can toss off with that certain aplomb that not-so-secretly says you know no one is reading this blog post or any other, actually).

But then I came across an annual news item that I typically blog about – the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year, and it absolves all of us who’ve not been pounding out the words this year. Why? Because for the first time the word of the year is not a word – it is an image. The Face with Tears of Joy emoji image, to be exact.

The Face with Tears of Joy was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015. SwiftKey identified that ? made up 20% of all the emojis used in the UK in 2015, and 17% of those in the US: a sharp rise from 4% and 9% respectively in 2014.

What’s that mean? Well, you probably only need to look at your own communication habits over the first half of this decade to see that you’ve chosen reading a news post via a link on Facebook rather than slogging through an online version of a newspaper, you’ll send a text message now instead of an email and there’s no reason to listen to a tedious voicemail when just hitting “call back” will kill two birds with one stone (sorry, Mom).

In defense of words, there were some contenders for Word of the Year. They included lumbersexual, ad blocker, sharing economy and they (as an all-inclusive singular pronoun). Perhaps there’s a good reason why an emoji beat them all out?

I doubt there are many writers (myself once included, twice removed) out there who will be posting the Face with Tears of Joy emoji accompanying any tweet, link or text celebrating our lack of need for words. But for those of us who at the turn of the century saw our need and use for words changing, and who have stayed in the communications game over the past five years or so by using less words, enhanced with an image – be it a photo or an emoji – well, I suppose we knew this was inevitable.

What happens when an emoji is the word of the year? We get a pass on not blogging and maybe killing these apology posts that no one reads anyway. We who write these things know that the Internet is basically a wasteland of misinformation, click bait and crap. This gives us the reprieve we need to stop cluttering it and maybe do a little more curation in 2016.

Photo courtesy of Oxford Dictionaries.

“Vape” Is the 2014 Word of the Year


There’s a new habit in town, one that’s skyrocketed to the top of the English lexicon faster than last year’s “selfie” (which took an estimated 3 years to be crowned “Word of the Year”).

The 2014 word of the year, “vape” blew away its competition thanks to two simultaneous trends converging in well…a puff of vapor: e-cigarettes and legal cannabis. Both of which are consumed in what is believed to be a healthier way than evil tobacco or janky weed.

The esteemed Oxford Dictionary defines vape as both a verb and noun:

the verb means ‘to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device’, while both the device and the action can also be known as a vape.

According to Oxford, you are 30 times more likely to encounter the word vape today as you were two years ago. While most of the research crowning vape the word of 2014 hails from the e-cigarette community, which has brought back nicotine without the tar in a big way, there is no denying that the growing legal and medical cannabis industry in the U.S. contributed to the word’s high profile. Runner-up “budtender” as well as the growing popularity of the term “cannabusiness” support that angle.

Other 2014 runners-up included: bae, slactvism, contactless and normcore (all of which my spell-check is highlighting as I type).

Source: The Oxford Dictionaries.com

Photo credit: Katie Orlinsky for The New York Times.


We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live

joandidionI don’t think I’ve been this excited about a documentary in a long time! (And I get excited easily about documentaries.) Actor/director Griffin Dunne is producing a documentary about his aunt, the mighty literary legend of a generation – Joan Didion.

Not only is Joan Didion my favorite living writer – heck, she might be my favorite writer – period. The way she captured the ’60s and ’70s in her essays in books like Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The White Album showcased to me, at the time, a different type of journalism than the one I was studying. Perhaps, it was, way back before her groundbreaking memoir on life and loss – The Year of Magical Thinking – her mantra in action: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

Which, aptly, is the title of the documentary being produced. Its Kickstarter campaign reached its goal within 24 hours (no surprise there), but you can still get in on the action. There’s some great “freebies” you’ll receive for making a donation which is nice. But being a part of this film, even for a small donation, is probably what it’s going to be all about for you if you are a fan of Joan Didion’s work.

Watch the trailer here:

Then, give until it hurts – or you get your pdf copies of Joan’s 12 favorite books and recipes, signed postcards or a t-shirt. It’s up to you. Click here to contribute.

Photo courtesy of the Kickstarter campaign.

Just Say Know

leaflyWhodathunk former First Lady Nancy Reagan would live to see her famous anti-drug message turned on its head? Last Sunday, U.S. paper of record the New York Times ran an ad for Leafly, a website and mobile app that lets users research strains of cannabis and dispensaries in the U.S. and Canada.

Mrs. Reagan (now 93 years old) made curbing drug abuse her cause during the 1980s with the ballyhooed campaign tagline, “Just Say No.” Effective as it was to scare a generation of third graders away from the evils of crack, marijuana, too, fell under the veil of dangerous, addictive and life-ruining.


Fast forward 25 years and marijuana’s makeover is nearly complete. Having helped a legions of adults deal with the evils of chemotherapy and wasting illnesses, few believe it should be denied terminally ill patients. A majority of Americans (54%) now favor its legalization across the board, with two states – Colorado and Washington – one-upping medical use and leading the charge in making marijuana available for recreational purposes.

It was then only a matter of time until some advertising whiz got a hold of “Just Say No” and changed it to “Just Say Know.” That advertising whiz was hired by Leafly to create an ad demonstrating why it’s important and useful to know which strain of marijuana, in which form (flower? edible? oil?) and from which nearby dispensary will be best for you and your symptoms.

Symptoms now range well beyond nausea and pain, to anxiety, insomnia, stress and writer’s block. To remedy these conditions, strains need to be listed in ways that are more creative than a microbrewery and less pretentious than a winery. Alaskan Thunder Fuck, anybody?

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Why Cannabis Company Leafly Bought a Full-Page Ad in the New York Times” 

 Image Source: Leafly


yoThe downfall of civilization is upon us, or at the very least, a certain breed of San Franciscans converging to bring on the apocalypse (i.e., a tech bubble crash) may soon get their wish. It’s been reported in one of my favorite neo-progressive missives, 48 Hills that a new app is upon us. It’s called Yo!

Yo! is an app that allows you to send one word (yo – formerly known as the Spanish word for “I”) to a friend, a colleague, your wife, etc. to let him or her know that you’re thinking about them.

In the 48 Hills piece by Julia Carrie Wong, with the fabulous title “What We Yo About When We Yo About Yo” (I’m a sucker for plays on Raymond Carver short story titles), we learn that Silicon Valley investors have just pumped $1 million into Yo!. The app is the concept of a tech CEO who “wanted an easy way to tell his personal assistant he needed to talk to her. So ‘Yo’ in that case was the equivalent of a ‘hey you girl,’ a bell pull, a throat clear, or a grunt.”

Wong, step-by-step, dismantles the Yo! website for us (saving you the pain of having to visit it, let alone download the app). She continues to tell us that the tech CEO who inspired the developer to build the app in just 8 hours (um…let’s see, that’s $1 million for 8 hours of work) uses “Yo! with his wife, so that…she knows he’s thinking about her, so she doesn’t bother him any more [sic].”

Yes, you too can use Yo! to tell your spouse, per Wong, “Yes dear,” “I love you,” “Not now dear,” and “Why did we get married in the first place?”

I’m going to bring this back to the word – not the bubble many of my fellow San Franciscans want to explode all over our pretty little heads. (For the record, I don’t want the bubble to burst, but I would like some of the newbies in town to show a little more respect for this great city – that is all.)

Where I come from – Norwalk, Connecticut, to be exact – the word “Yo!” was adopted by rich white kids to prove that our hometown was so diverse, its several small ghettoes abutted some of its most exclusive preppy enclaves. They shouted “Yo!” out of the shiny new cars their parents gave them when they turned 16 at kids like me who lived in the middle ground between these two extremes and were still walking to school, even though we had a driver’s license.

Long past conjugating “Yo!” in 6th grade Spanish, it’s Americanization has always seemed to be a way to summon the lesser. The rich kids may have been “Yo’ing” us light years ahead of this app, but the message was the same. “Hey, you, come here – now.” Often, they gave me a ride, shared some weed, played some tunes on the 8-track. In which case, “Yo!” may not be the end of the world – just the beginning of that.

Source: 48 Hills

Image source: Justyo.co

Where Our Thoughts Go as Handwriting Fades

Handwriting-VectorI thought my dream of being a famous novelist (or, at least an amusing short story writer) ran adrift some 20 years ago when I quit smoking. It seemed once I gave up cigarettes for good I never quite got that “feel” back for the written word. Sure, I’ve churned out nearly millions since (as I claim on my website), but those were word-processed features and blog posts, newsletters and press releases, copy for websites and brochures cranked out under the usual deadline pressures on various PCs and laptops. Whenever I cleared my schedule, or imposed another “write first thing every morning” rule to focus on fiction, not much happened. A couple of good sentences here and there, easily edited into oblivion with built-in grammar and design tools. I simply felt I couldn’t “connect” myself to the words and the lack of nicotine hitting my brain was responsible. While mentally tortured at the keyboard, I felt extremely healthy everywhere else, and had no desire to take up cigarettes again. Literature’s loss was my lungs’ gain.

I don’t know when I first noticed that it became difficult, practically a chore, to write something by hand. A few years ago, I started voiding checks (on the rare occasion that I wrote one) because I would inevitably write the date or the name of the recipient in the wrong place. My printing is slightly better than my cursive, and years ago, once safely out of the third grade and away from the penmanship patrol I developed a sort of hybrid print-script that I still use today, mostly for lists for my eyes only. I know that I could easily make these shopping and to-do lists on my phone or iPad, but something about actually writing out the action seems to give it a real chance of getting done. It’s this connection that’s been highlighted in a recent article in the New York Times, “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.”

What’s lost? Creative thinking.

a psychologist at the University of Washington, demonstrated that printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns — and each results in a distinct end product. When … children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas.

Armed with this tidbit, I think back 20 years ago and realize that is about the exact time when I stopped filling yellow legal pads and spiral-bound notebooks with words and leaned more and more heavily on the computer (smoking near the computer either seemed dangerous, or by that point was forbidden in most offices). Ultimately word-processing was faster, you could edit while you wrote (the ultimate undoing of anything that requires a free form of thinking) and, with the ability to start sending in work via email – rather than print it, put it in a manilla envelope and take it to the post office – all phases of production were literally at my fingertips. It’s how I (and many other freelancers) have made a living generating millions of words. Yet, it’s why I (and I’m sure many millions more) struggle to turn out the words we really want to say.

There’s an argument this morning then to hop off the laptop and move over into the chair on the other side of the room with a notepad and some pens and write something great. And then there’s the fear that if so many of us can’t go deep anymore and write compelling words it is because there is no one out there to read them. As writers have become instruments of the latest technologies, so have readers. Is anyone out there really going to know the difference?

Merriam-Webster’s Latest Additions

turduckenMerriam-Webster has added a slew of new words to its latest dictionary – most of which you have been hearing for some time: fracking, spoiler alert, and that Thanksgiving poultry blow out treat turducken. Selfie and hashtag were also added, but for some reason, we thought they’d been added a while ago.

Other additions (there were 150 words added in total) include: steampunk (a literary genre with dress-up followers that mashes up 19th-century societies with steam-powered technology), poutine (a French-Canadian snack of french fries covered with brown gravy and cheese curds), and freegan (one who scavenges for free food in store and restaurant trash bins as a way to reduce consumption of resources).

The most controversial word to be added, however, is “Yoopers”, which is the moniker for native or longtime residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula/Lake Superior region known for a distinctive manner of speaking and its Scandinavian roots. Sample usage, “Da “Yoopers” up dere in da U.P.” While many wordsmiths, linguists and English professors could abide by “shelfie” joining our lexicon (a shelfie is a photo of your bookshelf), Yoopers required ten years of lobbying by a local prosecutor from Michigan’s Delta County to finally get its place in the dictionary. Can’t wait for that next game of Scrabble or Words with Friends!

Source: Associated Press.

How Twitter Is Killing Your Blog

Admit it. Ever since you started playing with that bright new shiny toy called Twitter – whether you were an early adopter or just joined last week – you’ve found it way more exciting to “tweet” your thoughts than write a blog post.

Sure, it took some time (a few hours or so) to learn to downsize your thoughts into 140 characters (less if you were going to include a link), but you already had experience in shortening things, right? Remember when you were going to write that novel, or really long thoughtful essays, but traded those dreams in for ideas that could be compartmentalized into 350 to 600 words? Seems like yesterday doesn’t it?

There’s a very good piece on how so many of us think we’re accomplishing more with less (Twitter vs. the blog post) on CoSchedule.com. At the very least it made me think twice, if not re-commit to doing more blogging. The way we read, how we get our news and, of course, our thought process has changed dramatically in the last five years. Twitter has been at the forefront of those changes. The bottom line is, while we may not ever go back to blogging as prolifically as we did before the advent of social media, we can at least consider the noise we’re making with our tweets and, make sure that when we make said noise, there is something back on the blog to substantiate it. Nothing says we’re tweeting too much as a potential reader or client who follows us back to a blog that hasn’t had fresh content added in the past few weeks.

Yelp Reviewer Chronicles Lost Love

chase-compton-1I admit, when I first started reading this story about a guy, New York and a social media app on Business Insider, I was about to gag. Call me briefly heterophobic, but its beginnings had all the pathetic drippings of the hipster-who-didn’t-get-the-girl (and for good reason, she could do better).

Call it editing a story for a primarily straight male readership. It takes five paragraphs to drop the pronoun-less mamby-pamby and identify the man who is pouring his heart out on Yelp over his ex as gay.  Which made me go back and re-read the first four paragraphs of this story and look at it with a different light. Instead of being a loser, the writer, Chase Compton, becomes a poet. Is there something much more compelling about a gay person losing a partner and taking to Yelp to document it than a straight one?

Perhaps it’s the underlying movie musical sense of happiness-is-just-around-the-corner  (Compton gives every establishment he visits 5 stars), mixed with reality bites (“It’s not the French Roast’s fault that I got dumped on Thanksgiving and ended up there”). Or, maybe it’s just a combination of my own gay pride meeting up with Compton calling himself a “literary Banksy”. For 22 reviews and counting, Compton has “hijacked” the Yelp platform to tell a story. It’s guerilla-making. And its irony is priceless. Compton’s latest review is of a place called “Happy Taco Burrito.” Imagine being heartbroken and ordering food from there!?

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/yelp-reviews-guerrilla-blogger-2014-3#ixzz2woCBfmMH and Chase C.’s reviews at Yelp.

Photo by Nick Vorderman via Business Insider.