Stir The Soul

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, November 04, 2016 at 08:08 AM with 0 comments

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Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for winning the 2016 World Series, ending a 108-year championship drought! As a fan of the Boston Red Sox, who ended their own 86-year drought in 2004 – ironically just after I moved from Boston to Chicago – there has always been a kindred spirit between the teams, and I am glad to see them win it all.

As I watched the final out of the game – at home, after leaving the pub where several families and their kids stayed far too late on a school night – I heard the jubilation in the neighborhood of literal screams and shouts. I was happy for the team and Chicago, especially for friends and colleagues – loyal fans who have been waiting for “next year” to finally come.

Though I was happy, I can’t say I was emotional about it. Granted, it was after midnight, but the strong feeling I have experienced when others of my teams – the Red Sox, New England Patriots and even my adopted Chicago Blackhawks – won their championship titles was just not there.

That is, until I saw this. Click on the embedded video below to play it, or click this link to watch the video on YouTube.

The video is from Budweiser and was released on the morning after the game. It is an extremely creative piece, combining modern video of Chicago and its fans watching the game and vintage video and audio of the late legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray, edited to match the final out of the game. It’s as if Caray was alive today, making the call himself.

This got to me. And I finally felt the emotion I would expect to feel, as I have felt in the past when not only a team of mine won, but for other exciting events in my life.

Why it got to me is not surprising. As someone who grew up in an age before ESPN (interestingly, ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen was a local sports reporter where I grew up before he started the cable network) and the ability to see games all the time, we may have gotten 1 or 2 games a week on TV, but radio was where all games were broadcast. In those days, play-by-play announcers had a much different style than they do today; they were much more conversational, and in the absence of today’s computer-generated bombardment of stats, filled gaps with anecdotes that gave you a broader sense of what it was like to be in the ballpark.

Where I knew about Harry Caray and his antics in Chicago, for me it was Ken Coleman who was the play-by-play announcer for the Red Sox. An older gentleman, his mellow voice was a contrast to today’s announcers, and it was like listening to old Uncle Ken telling the story of today’s game.

To say they don’t make them like that anymore is more than cliché. Where Coleman, as Caray, did not see a World Series for their teams in their lifetimes, it was nice that this tribute to Caray was crafted.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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About My Deconstructions

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 08:19 AM with 0 comments

”photo

When I started writing here at The Hot Iron, the name came from the expression, “strike while the iron is hot.” Though my entry into the world of blogging could be considered more functional than creative, taking burning topics – whether business, technology or personal – and boiling them down was far from anything new to me.

Much thought has gone into the direction of my blog lately, which is one aspect of the thought into my greater self. As I have considered the focus on what I write, I have also focused on how I write, namely in the approach I take with covering a topic. The product of this quest is what I am calling My Deconstructions.

What is a deconstruction? As I write here and elsewhere, I will strive to take my analysis and reporting on a topic and conclude it by breaking it down into essential points and conclusions. In some regards it will be similar to my book takeaways; rather than rating a book I share what I gained from the time spent reading it. In some cases it is a summary, and in others I look back on something I took from it and am surprised I came up with it! The deconstruction may be takeaways, action items, next steps, essential components, revelations or something else I haven't thought of a category for.

Like anything, I have already started writing these and will see how it evolves. As a reader, whether your first time or as a long-time one (and I know there's a few of you out there), I welcome your thoughts and feedback as this new approach appears in my future posts.

Deconstructing Deconstructions

Why shouldn't what I write about deconstructions have one itself? As time is always of the essence, taking the time to make or reiterate the main points from something is always useful to whoever is consuming it. It also helps the reader understand your main points, as you never want to assume someone has gleaned them from reading your work. In the end the reader – you – will say if these deconstructions are helpful, and please let me know in the comments to this post either way.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Nine Years Of Blogging At The Hot Iron

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 12:00 AM with 3 comments

”photoTypically the inspiration for something I write here at The Hot Iron comes from something that impacts me. It could be a conversation I have with someone. It could be a book I read or a product I try. It could be something I experience. Whatever it is, it will drive me to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – to share it with the people I am fortunate are reading here.

Annually something occurs that I have addressed in various ways, the anniversary of the launch of this blog. With my Hello World post on December 30, 2006, I met a goal of launch a blog by the end of that year, and also launched something that is now entering its tenth year, racking up over 800 posts and over 7 million page hits.

Writing this post is always different from the others. Rather than try to come up with something profound or prolific (or any other adjective beginning with “pro”), I will simply say thank you! Thank you to all who read this and all who have inspired me to write over the last year and years. I have gotten more excited about blogging in 2015, and I am looking forward to more sharing and conversations in 2016.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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”Giving

With the holiday season upon us, and the accompanying shopping season long under way, it's time to take a break, be thankful and support the spirit of the season and participate in Giving Tuesday.

On December 1, 2015, you are encouraged to close the tabs in your Web browser showing the latest deals and open up a Web page for a worthy charity, and allow me to suggest Barrel of Monkeys.

For over 17 years, Barrel of Monkeys has been teaching creative writing curriculum in Chicago public schools and in after-school programs. These programs are offered to elementary school kids and help them not only in their writing but to learn a little more about their creative side. The teachers in the program are also professional actors and improvisors, and they take what the kids write – from a single sentence to a short story – and adapt it into sketch comedy. This comedy is first debuted to the kids in their schools, and throughout the year Barrel of Monkeys puts on performances to the public showcasing some of the best of this inspired comedy.

As a member of the Board of Directors of Barrel of Monkeys, one may say I am biased as to how amazing this organization is, its people and the work it does. But don't believe me – see it for yourself; whether its in one of our performances or hear it from the kids and teachers themselves.

For Giving Tuesday 2015, our goal is to raise $3,000 towards our annual appeal. Can you help? Click the giant red button below and you can make a tax deductible donation online in any amount.

”Donate

If you're still not convinced, watch this trailer for our Giving Tuesday campaign – the actors are our artistic and education directors – showing some of the depth of talent and dedication to the organization.

If you have any questions on Barrel of Monkeys, check out our Web site or share them in the comments to this post, and thank you in advance for your support!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Why I Am Walking In the Chicago Liver Life Walk On June 13 2015

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, May 25, 2015 at 11:48 AM with 0 comments

photo of Mike and his MomThis year marks 15 years that I have laced up my sneakers, grabbed a bottle of water and a few family and friends and walked along a body of water for a great cause in memory of a great person.

In 2001 I participated in the first of what is now called the Liver Life Walk, a walkathon in support of the American Liver Foundation, or ALF. It was literally a few weeks after my Mom lost her battle with primary biliary cirrhosis, or PBC, an autoimmune liver disease that inflicts women. At the time I really knew little about liver diseases, heck about how the liver works in concert with all of your body. Since then I have learned much, including the work the ALF does in research, education and advocacy for the fight against the many forms of liver diseases.

As I have done in the past, I ask you to join me, whether literally in walking with me in Chicago on Saturday, June 13, or by supporting my team, The “A” Team, by making a donation.

It goes without saying what this means to myself and to the cause. Thank you in advance for your support.

Donate to the Liver Life Walk


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Revisiting My Web Site Redesign Checklist

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, May 01, 2015 at 12:22 PM with 0 comments

photo of The State of Your Web Site Web Redesign Checklist

There comes a time when we reevaluate something we are doing. This thing may be an ongoing activity or something is simply still “around” that requires little to no attention, but is something we are aware of. The thought process involved in determining to continue or suspend something can be interesting in itself, and can lead to a go or no-go or a change to what it is we are doing.

Among my seemingly too many projects and activities is something I am still proud of, but wondered if I should keep it out there. About 5 years ago I launched The State of Your Web Site within my former Web consulting firm. It is a checklist of 34 items which I felt are important to the vitality of a Web site. As I later wrote in a post about the process of creating it and naming it, a lot of work went into it. That being said, should I still keep it out there in the Internet eye?

The evaluation process boiled down to 2 points – 1 for and 1 against it. The con is the amount of time that Is needed to keep something like this current, as tools and technology and trends are always evolving and changing. As it is almost 5 years old now, there are some parts of it that are in need of updating. The pro, however, is that people still seek my advice on their Web site, despite that I no longer offer that as a service any longer (if they need someone, I simply refer them to Visible Logic). For that reason alone, I felt it was worthwhile to keep The State out there, and to spend some time to update it and keep it fresh.

Once I made this decision, another “pro” came to mind – this is a good way to keep my own Web skills sharp. As I am still in the profession of building great Web sites and Web applications, to have a “home” for my research and thoughts would be an ideal use for the checklist.

The first step of this process is to do just that – establish a new location to host and offer The State of Your Web Site. This will be the place where, when I review the checklist items and update it, I will post and announce the updates. What better place than right here, at The Hot Iron? Going forward, you will be able to find the latest post on The State at thestateofyourwebsite.com. Right now that link points to the very post you are reading. If a new post had more current information, the link will redirect to it. By clicking on the image at the top or this link you can view the original version of The State – as I said, it came out in 2010, and the list does need some updating, but as you review it you will find some “timeless” items to consider for your Web site.

As I work on updates to The State I of course welcome your thoughts and comments on it – on the list overall to specific elements within it. You can leave them as comments to this post or contact me directly. Your feedback will be vital to the validation of changes to The State of Your Web Site, and I thank you in advance for your time.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Guest Post On The Barrel Of Monkeys Blog On The Big Wedding Gala Fundraiser

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, April 01, 2015 at 08:47 PM with 0 comments

Barrel of Monkeys logoThis past Saturday night, Barrel of Monkeys, a non-profit education arts organization in Chicago, held its annual gala fundraiser. Barrel of Monkeys teaches creative writing to schoolchildren in Chicago, and what the kids write is adapted into sketch comedy and performed by the same actor-educators who are teaching them. It is an amazing program that gets even more amazing results, which is why I am proud to be on its Board of Directors.

The fundraiser was called “The Big Wedding” and was based on a story written by a student in a past creative writing course. A performance of the sketch was part of the event, and it was a not-to-miss event on the city’s social calendar.

You can read my thoughts on the event in my guest post on the Barrel of Monkeys blog. After you read it, I welcome you to peruse the entire Web site and learn more about the entire organization, especially its weekly showcase of sketches, That’s Weird Grandma, which is performed every Monday night year-round (and Sundays for the month of April).

If you have any questions on Barrel of Monkeys, or are thinking of taking in a show, I welcome your questions in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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New Mobile-Friendly Design For The Hot Iron

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 10:11 PM with 0 comments

screenshot of the old design of The Hot Iron

As a regular reader of The Hot Iron, you may have noticed something a little different here, or perhaps you did not. In either case, I’d like to tell the story about the new look to the blog’s Web site, only the 3rd one in its 8 years.

Over the history of this blog my emphasis has always been on the content – updating it as often as I possibly could. As a result I have purposely not put a lot of emphasis on the design of the site. Plus, as many people read the content by email and RSS feed, some may never even see the actual Web site itself at thehotiron.com that often.

Google Made Me Do It

The catalyst for this latest change was as the result of an email I got from Google’s Webmaster Tools, a bundle of services designed to help Web site and their ranking in the search engine. The message stated that the Web pages of The Hot Iron were not mobile-friendly. Google tags Web sites as mobile-friendly on the search results page of a search performed on a mobile device, and does not for those that are not. That was more than enough reason for me to undertake this effort.

More on the actual task of integrating the new mobile-friendly and responsive design is in this post I wrote on sourcegate, a tech tips blog I run that also serves as the test site for all of my blogging technical work.

You can see a screen shot above from my iPhone of what The Hot Iron used to look like. If you are reading this on a mobile device, you can tell it is a lot clearer and formatted towards the mobile browser. If you’re reading this on a PC or Mac, simply resize your browser window smaller to see what it would look like – go ahead, try it!

So what do you think? It is easier to read or does it make a difference to you or not? Your feedback is welcome in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Blogging Guest Lecture At University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh #uwonewmedia

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 04:54 PM with 0 comments

photo of Mike Maddaloni presenting at UW-Oshkosh

Photo credit: Wilke (‏@Wilke_411) via Twitter

Yesterday I had a distinct honor to guest lecture to college students on the topic of blogging.

I was invited to speak to 2 classes at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh by journalism professor Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen. As part of her classes where she is teaching the students all aspects of blogging, each student is building a real, public blog. What better way to learn blogging than with real-life experience?

As someone who has his own blogs and has built blogs for clients, I have learned on the job about blogging as well as keeping up with trends and changes to blogging over the years. One challenge was focusing on key elements to share with the students and keep it to a brief presentation with time for their questions. Another challenge was that I would not be able to be physically in the lecture hall on the Oshkosh campus, yet deliver my messaging in an interesting and engaging way.

As with my own writing style, I decided to tell the story of how I got into blogging myself and then focus on areas that I felt were important to the students, including the art and science of writing and writing on a regular basis, plus some key pointers about blogging such a sharing and social media integration.

For the presentation itself, I created PowerPoint slides and used technology from Personify to literally insert myself into the PowerPoint presentation so that when the students were looking at the screen they saw both the slide material as well as myself, as you can see from the picture above. As the Personify technology is extremely unique in itself, I'm already writing another post on using Personify and how I was successful in conveying myself, my style and my message to the students remotely – watch for it soon.

I have posted the slides from the presentation to SlideShare and you can link to it here or view embedded below. I kept the slides at a high-level and spoke to the details so that the students did not have to read slides, and by using the unique Personify technology I was able to make that happen very well. If you look at the slides and are wondering about the references to Ernest and Edgar, those are to 2 “other” famous Chicago-area writers, Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Rice Burroughs, as I used them as examples of different approaches to writing.

Thanks again to Dr. Hansen, the team at Personify and the students who asked great questions and shared the presentation on social media. It was great getting back into the classroom and I am looking forward to my next opportunity.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Remembering Covering The Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion On College Radio

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 12:23 PM with 2 comments

AP news alert on the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger

When we think of major national and international events that occur in our lifetime, we also remember the impact of it on ourselves – where we were, what we were doing and how we felt as it unfolded. As today is the anniversary of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, I would like to share my day after first hearing about it and how I remember it today.

Twenty-nine years ago I was in the production studio of my college radio station, WNEK-FM in Springfield, MA, preparing for my first newscast of the semester. Where our newscasts were far from anything that would win a local Emmy and could easily be called “rip-and-read” reports, we always did a professional (or as professional as we could) job at presenting world and local news on the air. I was sitting at the console board recording audio clips from a network audio feed we had to accompany the stories I had collected thus far from the Associated Press teletype printer, or commonly referred to as the AP machine.

I was well aware of the Space Shuttle Challenger launch, especially as the crew included Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher from the neighboring state of New Hampshire, around whom there was a lot of buzz for her being on board. I listened for the reports from the audio feed and there was to be one for the Challenger launch, so I was prepared to “cart it up,” or record it on a tape cartridge to play along with what I was to read from the AP machine story.

As I was listening and getting ready to record, the audio feed cut out. I recall calling out something like, “what the hell?” and then I heard the bells on the AP machine ringing as I had never heard them ring before. The AP machine, which was nothing more than a dot-matrix printer that printed on rolled paper, would sound bells when there was urgent news. In the few months on the college radio station I would hear bells ring, maybe once or twice, but not non-stop, or what it seemed. As I and others went to look at what was printing out, we saw initial stories about the launch of Challenger, then that “there appears to be a major problem after the launch of the shuttle ‘Challenger.’”, which was then followed with what is pictured above, “’NASA’ says the vehicle has exploded.’, which was then followed by messages about the successful launch of the shuttle, which apparently were written and sent before the explosion message.

My memory of this is amplified by the fact that for some reason I kept the initial news feeds that came off the AP machine on the explosion. Typically news stories are ripped, read and then discarded (thus, rip-and-read). I kept about 2 feet of the scrolled paper, which included the above alert, and the complete scanned images of the entire scroll are at the end of this post. Note the above alert went across 2 scanned images, thus I made this composite from both.

Following these alerts, there was a lot of activity in the radio station, which was located in our campus center. As there were no TVs in the campus center, we became the primary source for information on the explosion, and we even got the radio signal piped in over the campus center PA system. What was to become a 10-minute newscast at noontime engulfed more time from music programming and more people as well, as we were reporting on what was coming off the AP machine, as well as the network audio feed, which we had cut to directly, unedited, for a portion of time.

For most all of us, in our late teens to early 20’s, we had really never lived through a large national tragedy like this. Then add to it our role in broadcasting it. Where we tried to not be chaotic and somewhat organized about it, for most of us we were making up our approach as we went along. There was plenty of stepping on each other’s toes and voices and literally bumping into each other as we moved around our small studio space. The doors from the broadcast studio and lobby were all open – a major faux pas – as station members and students and faculty were coming and going to hear what was transpiring.

As the day went on, TVs were brought into the campus center, allowing all of us who had only heard about the explosion to actually see it. I remember being in awe as I saw the video played over and over and over and over. I also recall a mix of emotions, from tragedy and sadness, to thinking of all the school children who were watching this live, to why it happened after so many successful launches. The last loss of life for NASA happened before I was born, and after growing up seeing other launches, moon landings and successful returns to earth, this was something entirely new to think about.

Nearly three decades later, we know about O-rings, known engineering flaws, the loss of another shuttle vehicle and the remaining ones are now on their way to museums. Then President Ronald Reagan’s speech to the nation was perfect for the moment then and reflecting on it today, and you can view it here on YouTube. I share the images and memory of this as the these types of stories need to be told, not just the headlines but what happened behind and around them, as these show the complete fabric of our society.

AP news feed on Space Shuttle Challenger explosion

AP news feed on Space Shuttle Challenger explosion


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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