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

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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.

‘What People Are Talking About Online’ Goes Gold

KazzaDrask Media’s online culture Scoop.It! curation site ‘What People Are Talking About Online’ has just earned the site’s gold medal. We are now “incredibly highly recommended” for our Communications content roundup.

Since 2011, KazzaDrask Media has been selecting online news and stories that pertain to the changing way we communicate via our “online culture”. This extends beyond using Facebook and Twitter (although they are highly responsible for the changes we have seen over the past half decade). Video, streaming and binge viewing, email and voicemail, memes, pinning, pinging and of course, images (Instagram, Snapchat and our fascination with the “selfie”) are all a part of this latest digital and mobile revolution.

Curating the overwhelming oceans of information at our fingertips in any one category is no longer a hobby (i.e., Pinterest), it is a necessity. We are thrilled to be recognized for our early endeavors in the next wave – be it Web 3.0, or whatever it will eventually be called.

Start making sense of the Internet. Visit “What People Are Talking About Online” now.

The Rebirth of Italics…Maybe

italicsIf you’re like me, and have spent the better part of your work life looking up stylistic rights and wrongs in the Chicago Manual of Style, then the diminished use of italics over the years has been hard to take. To stay relevant in the world of words, you, like me, have had to accept a lot more diminished “rules” than just the near extinction of italicization. And that’s been a bummer, particularly after we’ve mastered basic HTML and could italicize from the back end anything and everything the Chicago Manual dictated.

A minor news item this week in Fast Company Design, notes that the New York Times, the English major’s favorite paper of record, has tweaked its design to import italicized headlines (a mainstay in its print version) to its online version. While the Times has never dropped the proper use of italics in its story copy (unlike many online pubs), it avoided their use in headlines because of “readability.” Early-day online reader surveys led graphic designers away from italics in main and sub-headings because readers found them distracting. And, if you’re familiar with some of the older desktop publishing tools – or even some more modern content marketing systems, you probably agree. The font quality (and available choice) typically makes you re-think the use of italics in favor of bold, a color, or just a bigger roman-style type.

In addition to using italics to set off names of newspapers, magazines and books (distinguishing them from websites, article titles and short stories), their primary function has been emphasis. In print, italics work in this capacity much better than bold or color – which is where online publishing has taken us. The New York Times has chosen to restore italicizing headlines on its homepage because of a switch from the Georgia font to Cheltenham in overall design.

“We didn’t have a weight of Chelt that felt like it could carry that lead story spot, so we tried the italics,” said Ian Adelman, the Times Director of Design. “The italics, they get a little heavier in terms of the density, and there’s a bit of urgency to them as a result.”

While the old argument that italics are distracting, a newer one supports Adelman’s argument of a “bit of urgency”. With so much information consumed on a daily basis online, how much of it can we possibly retain? Speaking personally, not much. But early studies on this “rebirth” of italics (or sites that never let them go in the first place) indicate that while the old argument that italics interfere with site usability still holds true, they also might boost reading performance. They force us to stop and take that extra nanosecond to think.

In the (near) future, should the web become more about keeping us on sites once we get there, rather than just the clicks that simply get us there in the first place, and as more sophisticated desktop publishing tools and high-res screens on all our devices support more readable italicized fonts – italics could be back. In a big way.

Source: Fast Company Design.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

I met Joyce Carol Oates at a book signing about 15 years ago. The prolific writer had just finished her tenth-hundredth book and was making the rounds. Everyone in line had her new book tucked under their arm or pressed against their chest. For some reason I think it was Blonde – the one that imagined the inner self of Marilyn Monroe. Whichever book it was I hadn’t bought it yet, much less read it. I carried in my hand a beat up paperback copy of stories of young America – the tagline for Oates’ mid-sixties collection of short stories Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

When I finally got front and center of Ms. Oates and handed her the paperback, she laughed. “Where did you get this from?” she asked.

Probably a used bookstore, or maybe a flea market. I didn’t know. I just had it in my possession since college, when I first discovered the short stories of Joyce Carol Oates. When I wrote short stories, too. When I was going to be just like her – only less prolific. She could keep the novels and biographies and dissertations on boxing. I just wanted to write short stories. And for a while, I did.

“What do you do?” was the next question Ms. Oates asked me. Because I’m not sure I ever answered the first.

“I’m a writer,” I replied – because I was (am) a writer, an editor, a marketer, a publicist. I work with words. I don’t write short stories (right now) but I’ve always done what we refer to now as producing “content”. Tons of it.

“Isn’t it fun?” Ms. Oates said to me. “Writing. It’s great.”

I nodded, smiled. I don’t remember what I did to tell you the truth. But I got my beat up copy of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been signed to “K.T.” – my initials – the ones I used when I wrote (might still write) short stories. Because in addition to wanting to be just like Ms. Oates, when I was a teenager I also wanted to be just like J.D. Salinger (until I learned more about him). But Salinger is no more (I once saw Joyce Maynard in the Whole Foods parking lot in Marin, but that’s an entirely different story!). Joyce Carol Oates is on Twitter.

Which brings me semi-circle at least to some next steps for Kathy (K.T.) Drasky and KazzaDrask Media, because where you are going always depends on where you have been. There are a couple of posts on this site that elaborate on a few iterations of my 30-(yes, count ‘em!)-year career in the word and image business.  (Links are posted at the end of this entry.) But it’s safe to say that probably no career choices have been more changed since the mid-1980s than those that are related to the way we communicate.

I’ve spent the past 6 months taking a look back at the smaller picture – the past five years of blog posts I wrote that explored some of the work I was doing, but more precisely, the manner in which how I was doing that work was changing. I’ve also looked back at the bigger picture – the 30 years of work, first in the publishing industry, and then as a freelancer – a journalist, a copyeditor, a fact checker, a publicist and ultimately the all-encompassing “digital media specialist” and “content provider” – which means, generate, upload and get people to click.

The result of all-of-the-above, led to the selection of three words to sum up what I’ve come to find I am most passionate about, not just now – but for the past 30 years – which undoubtedly means I will hold them dear for at least 30 more.

Creative. Content. Curation.

That’s where I’m going. It’s where I’ve been.

Other posts:

What Is an English Major Good For?

Short answer. Lots of things!

It’s been at least 6 weeks since my last blog post, and I realize that breaks nearly all the rules of blogging. But I didn’t learn that back when I was an English major.

Obviously.

Blogs didn’t exist then. To save you the unbearable laundry list of things that would come about and change the world that didn’t exist yet – especially, the reading and writing world – let’s just say it was 30 years ago when I was an English major.

Now I’ve just come across a column in the New York Times by Verlyn Klinkenborg called “The Decline and Fall of the English Major”, thanks to Peter Kim’s Being Peter Kim blog (such is the way the Web is weaved). Overall, college students majoring in the humanities are down, and the English major is one of the casualties. Sad to hear, because if I had to do things over again, I can’t think of anything else I’d major in.

Studying English (and American) literature from Beowulf to “The Babysitter” taught me not only critical thinking, but how to think on my feet. My career began, just weeks after getting my B.A., as a lowly editorial assistant for a top-tier publishing company, manually copying corrections with a red pencil from one set of galleys to another. Within two years I’d moved to another publishing house that was just beginning to explore the cost-effectiveness of desktop publishing. I did freelance copy editing and proofreading, picked up occasional jobs as a graphic artist and designer, wrote freelance, learned to use a digital camera and followed that skill into the last days of traditional public relations as it morphed into social media. What a ride it’s been.

And will continue to be.

A large part of my work over the past several years has been being the Media Coordinator for Out4Immigration. When I wrote the words “Supreme Court’s DOMA Decision Grants Same-Sex Binational Couples Federal Immigration Rights” last month, I had successfully come to the end of  a 7-year personal and professional battle. Along with some 40,000 other same-sex binational couples, my Australian wife and I would now be eligible for a marriage-based green card. We would no longer be faced with the threat that if Viki lost her job, we would be forced to leave San Francisco for Sydney.

As an English major there is no shortage of metaphors for this moment. I am turning the page. Starting a new chapter at KazzaDrask Media.

I’m not sure exactly what that will be, but I have been here before. Part of thinking on my feet has always meant that when I land, I am still on my feet – I’m an English major and we are good for lots of things.

It’s Not You, It’s Me: Facebook Under Fire Because of Changes in the Way We Communicate

Last week I started seeing posts in my Facebook news feed by both overly cautious and semi-hysterical friends alike believing that Facebook was once again compromising their privacy. The latest hoo-ha: private messages written back in 2009 were now supposedly showing up on public timelines.

Facebook, of course, denied the accusations and offered an explanation later verified by TechCrunch’s Facebook expert. Turns out these so-called “private messages” were never private at all. In fact, they have always been public wall posts. As social business expert Peter Kim explains to the overly cautious, semi-hysterical and just curious, it’s not that Facebook has changed – it’s us. What we might never even think of posting today – either on our own wall or a friend’s – was quite acceptable in 2009.

Kim provided a link: http://facebook.com/[your_page]/allactivity?log_filter=cluster_11 that you can use to go back in time and see what type of things you used to freely post on Facebook back in the day. (Be sure to type your name or Facebook ID into the URL to call up your page.)

My own “secret” timeline confessions include that was “inhaling paint fumes”; “going to the dentist” and “still buzzin’ from being in the front row at the Waifs concert”. (Apparently I was a big fan of the “is” status function that used to start out with “[Your name] is ________________” and had you fill in the blank. None of this is particularly damaging, in my opinion, since I believe the paint fumes were due to my office being painted, being a fan of the Australian folk group the Waifs isn’t a crime, and we’re all entitled to at least one boring post in our social media lifetimes, and I chose to use mine on a trip to the dentist.

I like to credit the fact that I have pretty much always maintained my dignity on Facebook because I was in my forties when it became popular and I’d been online since the early ’90s, two stats that when combined not only make me 107 in Internet years, but also indicate I’ve learned a thing or two about putting things in writing. And now, some three or more years since many of us first posted on Facebook, it seems others are learning this lesson, the somewhat hard way by seeing past public posts that we wished we’d have kept private.

If you think it’s time to purge parts of your past Facebook life, visit How to Remove All Your Facebook Old Wall Posts, Public or Private, from Your Timeline (courtesy of The Next Web). And going forward, counting to 10 before you hit the “Post” key is probably a good idea. But you do that now, don’t you?

Source: Facebook: That Was Then, This Is Now by Peter Kim.

Remembering Gore Vidal and the TV Talk Show

Click here to watch video now.

American writer Gore Vidal passed away this week at the age of 86. In many ways, Vidal epitomizes the old school phrase “man of letters”. Over seven decades, he penned numerous novels, essays, plays and screenplays. But another contribution Vidal made to mass communication was his frequent appearances on television talk shows.

The above clip from the Dick Cavett Show is a classic piece of Vidal lore. Prior to the sit down, Vidal and writer Norman Mailer had been feuding backstage. Mailer, allegedly drunk, had headbutted Vidal over having compared him in print to Charles Manson. The feud boiled over on-air, but unlike the set of a Jerry Springer show, no fists or chairs flew. Rather it was insults, and host Cavett and fellow guest, journalist Janet Flanner, get caught in the cross-fire.

Talking Point Tips from Rep. Anthony Weiner

It’s the type of scandal that will become more and more common as online culture pervades. Important person uses everyday social and digital media tools – Twitter, Facebook, smartphone camera and email hookup – to send inappropriate words and images that recipient (who he or she has probably never met in person) then shows to the world.

Give the world’s latest high profile “sexter” – the unfortunately named Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9) – credit for leading us to believe for at least a week that his social media accounts were hacked. Hey, it happens.

As this story breaks, he should also get bonus points for offering up these talking points to one of the women he sent crotch shots to from his Blackberry:

“The key is to have a short, thought out statement that tackles the top line questions and then refer people back to it,” Weiner allegedly wrote. “Have a couple of iterations of: ‘This is silly . . . . And then maybe insert some y’alls in there.”

It’s the y’alls that’ll getcha…every time.

Source: Yahoo! News, “Anthony Weiner Faces Ethics Probe as More Accusers Emerge.”

Australian English Cracks onto OED

While everybody (well, English majors at least) is talking about the latest additions to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – LOL, OMG and the heart symbol, ♥ – few have noticed a couple of Australianisms have sneaked in.

In addition to the universal shortcuts made popular through tweeting, texting and IM’ing – “flat white,” “tragic,” and “yidaki” all received the approval of the English language tome of record.

Spending a lot of time Down Under, I’ve learned the fastest way to get a drinkable coffee is to order a flat white, which according to the OED is “a style of espresso drink with finely textured foamed milk”.

You would indeed be “tragic” if you insisted on having your coffee the Starbucks way, and tried to get a cup of American-style black coffee and hunt around the cafe for a full bar stocked with multiple milk and soy choices, not too mention the powdered chocolate. For those unfamiliar with this sarcastic phrase, someone is referred to as tragic per the OED if they are a “boring or socially inept person, esp. one with an obsessive interest or hobby”.

And for the record, a “yidaki” is “an Australian Aboriginal term for the musical instrument better known in English as a didgeridoo.”

Source: OED Latest Update, March 2011.

Tasmanian Devil Needs a PR Makeover

Tasmanian devil II

Paging Warner Brothers. Bugs Bunny’s old nemesis the Tasmanian Devil has more problems than you think. In real life, the seldom-seen animal is “the size of a cocker spaniel, beady-eyed, standoffish and fond of displaying a mouthful of pointy teeth. Picture a skunk, with the jaws of an alligator and the charm of a weasel,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

About a year ago, it was reported that these animals were facing extinction due to a rare and ugly genetic disease (albeit one that held possible links to cancer treatment). The Los Angeles Times follows up saying that things could improve for the world’s largest carnivorous marsupials if only the folks Down Under would embrace the devils in a more warm and fuzzy way. Perhaps then they’d get behind publicizing the need for help and support the eradication of devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), which causes tumors “to sprout around the devil’s mouth, quickly morphing into bulbous red pustules that eventually take over the animal’s entire face, leaving it unable to eat or drink.” Afflicted animals ultimately starve to death.

Help is out there, but it is a matter of getting Aussies – and those who want to help save an endangered species – to take up the cause. One organization is called Devil Ark, which is dedicated to establishing and maintaining a population of healthy, genetically diverse Tasmanian devils.(Read more)

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Devil Ark and KazzaDrask Media.