Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reuse Conex wrap-up

I wanted to give you a run-down of my experience at Reuse Conex. I met lots of great people and learned about some amazing programs and businesses out there. Here's just a smattering: 

I met the lovely (and breathy!*) Nicole McGee from Plenty Underfoot. Of course, I had no idea at the time what her art was like, so I was pleasantly surprised to find her Etsy shop this morning and instantly fall in love with her items!

*She made a joke about being breathy in her presentation. I had just assumed it was because she was excited about her topic, (it happens to me-don't judge...) but I think (and she said) that it had something to do with being pregnant and due soon!

I also met John Littler from and later found out we're actually neighbors! 

I learned about some great projects/businesses such as, (just what the name suggests) ReRack (a reuse store dedicated to car bike racks) and I also met one of the GLEAN artists, Jen LaMastra. I bought a pair of earrings from her that spoke to me. (They said, quite simply, "Buy us.") I saw quite a few ladies wearing her beautiful creations at the conference. The jewelry shown at left are not the pair I bought, but I'm hoping to post a video of my presentation at some point and I did wear them for that.

I heard about a wonderful design competition called Respace by listening to Joel's presentation. I met Diane Cohen of Finger Lakes Reuse and Jenny of SCRAP in San Francisco. I was a little blown away by some of the facts presented by Scott Hamlin of Looptworks. (The one that is sticking with me is this: there is 70 times as much pre-consumer excess (waste) than there is post-consumer.) My brain is still trying to digest that information. 

I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting. It was a great conference! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Where Reuse and Social Media Meet

Greetings, friends!

I've been asked to speak on social media at a conference at the end of this week. 
This post will probably be pretty short on pics, but long on good content, so read on!

In preparation for my presentation, I decided to try to find some examples of how other companies are using social media to promote reuse (my presentation topic.) Lucky for me, one of the first companies I looked at was iFixit. I found they were doing an excellent job and decided I wanted to ask some more in-depth questions of them. 

My presentation is pretty short, so I won't have an opportunity to cover nearly as much ground as I'd like. (The talk will pretty much be some good examples followed by some bad examples with time for questions from the audience, hopefully...) However, after Elizabeth from iFixit took the time and energy to answer my questions, I wanted to post* the exchange here to share it with anyone interested in a little more information. I added a few comments here and there. My commentary is in purple

Q: Is social media part of anyone's job description? Part of everyone's?

As an entirely online company, our social media presence is really important. Pretty much everyone at iFixit is involved in interacting with customers online. iFixit has approximately 50 employees, all of whom are expected to have active profiles on and interact with users on iFixit Answers. Our guide writers make all our guide content and interact with users in the comments. In addition, we have Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus pages, on which about 5 or 10 of us post. A couple employees manage our YouTube page, creating video teardowns and guides. Our CEO, Kyle, did an AMA (AMA means "ask me anything") on Reddit this summer after the Retina MacBook teardown took off. We also use an inter-office social media network, Yammer, to communicate.
That's a big part of why all iFixit employees are required to take a grammar test as part of the hiring process (Kyle talks about it here.) Employees make up the face of the company.

Q: How do you determine how much time to spend on social media? Do you try to quantify ROI?

We don't have any ROI quantification for social media as of yet. Personally, I try to keep it to well under 10% of my time spent working. But I don't know for sure about other employees; we don't have specific guidelines. It varies, of course, based on the buzz: right after the Retina MacBook teardown, for example, we were all spending far more time than usual on social media.

Q: Does your company have an internal social media policy?

Not really. Our handbook says this:
"Good writing is credibility. In blog posts, in tweets, in emails, on our web site, our words are all we have. They are a projection of our company. For better or worse, people judge us if we are sloppy writers."

Pretty much any time I give a talk on social media, I'm asked about company-wide social media policies. I do have one that I would feel comfortable sharing. However, this morning, it eludes me. If you're interested, contact me and I will get it to you. You can also do a search for social media policies online-from your favorite company or local jurisdiction. In addition, I would also whole-heartedly agree with the tenet that good writing = credibility!

Q: What is the largest benefit you believe your company gets from social media? Largest drawback?

Benefit: We are sustained financially by online word-of-mouth. Site traffic and personalized interactions with customers mean sales.
Drawback: On a few rare occasions, the site has been brought down when we were unprepared for so much traffic from social media.

Q: Regarding the "stories" section of your website: How do you collect/post these? Are they moderated before posting?

I assume you mean the stories section on (I did.) When users receive a purchase, we send them an email to make sure the package arrived safely, to provide them with a link to the relevant guide for the part they bought, and to encourage them to submit their repair story. These stories are not moderated. All stories that are submitted with a picture end up on that site, even if the picture is unrelated. Stories submitted without a picture are still live online, but they're not linked from anywhere (you can access them by iterating the story number in the URL, e.g. We may someday do something with the non-picture stories, but our programmers are busy with other projects for now.
We have a "repair stories" category on the blog too, but those are all employee-written blog posts.

Q: Anything else you want to say about the role of social media in promoting reuse?

Many of the terrible things we're doing to the environment as a society are out of consumers' immediate hands—I can't snap my fingers and make mining and manufacturing sustainable. But we can limit how much we're contributing to that mining and manufacturing, by keeping our stuff working for longer. Realizing what power we do have requires a shift in our cultural attitude, which means reaching a lot of people. Social media is really good at reaching a lot of people.

Online communities can change attitudes toward repair and reuse. Many of our users come to the site after posting pictures of a broken phone screen on Facebook—their friends say, "Hey, you don't need to get a new phone. You can fix that yourself for cheap. Check out" 

Hope that helps and that your presentation goes well!

Elizabeth Chamberlain

I want to thank Elizabeth profusely for her time and insights. I hope the presentation goes well, too, Elizabeth! Maybe I'll get to meet Kyle at the conference.

*I took a few liberties with the text of the original email-mostly adding in links and fixing any dead grammar I created in the process.
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