Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Excuse Me, But That's my Privacy You're Stepping On.

UPDATE: In just a few hours after I posted this, I found the photographer on Twitter and asked him to remove the photo. He did and apologized and promised never to take a photo of me again. My faith in people has resumed. Thank you all for your support - even you "Anonymous" commenter.

Dear Readers,

One of the things I do in order to let Savvy Aunties know about all the coolest new toys they can consider giving their nieces and nephews is attend various toy showcase events. This morning I attended the Time to Play event in New York City. It was a fantastic event and I will be spending a good part of the week sharing my favorite toys from the show with Savvy Aunties on SavvyAuntie.com/Gifts.

The only disturbing part of the event was the gentleman who took a photo of me while I was looking at some toys. I told him that I didn't want to be in his photo. He shrugged me off. I said: "Excuse me, but you don't have my permission to use my image in your print publication or post it on your site." He shrugged me off again as if to say "Oh well, tough luck" and continued to walk away.

I pressed on.

"Excuse me sir, but you do not have my permission to use my image." He told me it was for internal purposes and I left it at that. I shouldn't have. I should have gotten his credentials and notified his company. But he was walking away and I didn't want to create a scene. I think I made a mistake.

I was steaming mad.

I am fresh off of being notified by a friend late last night that there is a photo of me on Flickr that I had never seen before. It was taken last summer while I sat at an outdoor cafe working on my laptop and on my cell. I remember what I was working on that day and how happy I was to be getting so much work done at my neighborhood cafe on a lovely summer day.

The photographer boasted on Flickr that the photo has been used in numerous blogs and poked fun at me stating how he had taken a number of photos of me from just a few feet away but I was too busy on my phone to notice him (like I'm in the wrong for not being aware some creepy guy is taking pictures of me while I worked.)

Here's what he wrote on Flickr:

"I took several pictures of her, from different angles, and from only a few feet away. Amazingly, she never seemed to notice me at all; I guess she was concentrating too hard on her cellphone conversation and whatever was on her laptop (which, I'm guessing from its physical appearance, was probably an IBM Thinkpad, running Windows - so she was probably forced to pay close attention to it). "

I wont tell you his name or post the photo page link because he doesn't know who I am and I'd like to keep it that way.

But I'm creeped out.

Just like I was when I noticed that the Huffington Post shared what articles I was reading "with my friends."

Just like I was when I found out that anyone can see what I "liked" on Facebook.

And don't get my started on FourSquare, Gowalla and other "Here I am! Come take photos of me without my persmission" geolocation technologies.

By the way, this Flickr guy didn't need to use geolocation technology to tell everyone where I was. He just posted the address of a cafe I frequent often to the world. Oh well, looks like I won't be going there anymore.

Here's the thing. I'm a public person. I am on TV and have photos of me all over the Web.

But these appearances are my choice. They are me in my professional status as Savvy Auntie. And it's not like this guy took photos of my because I'm Savvy Auntie. He took them because I was a vulnerable to his camera, sitting minding my own business. It was a violation of my privacy.

Do we really have to shrug it off like the photographer at Time to Play and say: "But this is the world now, get used to it?" Was George Orwell just 26 years too early?

Privacy should not be owned by those who violate it.

Is becoming free subjects of stock photography just the coolest new toy of the season? Because man, I feel played.

Auntie Melanie

Monday, April 5, 2010

What If & Why Not?

Dear Readers,

When the idea for Savvy Auntie came to me in the summer of 2007, I gathered a number aunt friends of mine in my living room for cake to share the idea and get their feedback. I wasn't looking to hear whether or not it was a good idea (that much I believed and was committed to). I wanted to get different perspectives to help inspire my next steps in creating this brand.

Now, almost three years later, I'm still friendly with these women and they all one by one have told me they can't believe... "You actually did it! And look where you are now! I'm so happy for you!" Of course, that night, they weren't all that supportive. Some who had started businesses of their own were busy telling me what I hadn't done yet (the idea was days old). Others said that identifying as an aunt wasn't important to them (and hey you can't please everyone). But most drank their tea, ate a homemade cupcake, wished me luck and went home.

What if that was it? What if that night was a lovely night of women getting together to debate an idea and leave it at that?

What if I hadn't kept up the momentum but gotten lost in organizing more informal focus groups or gotten mired in a writing a 100 page business plan?

What if I got lazy? What if I decided the summer weather was much too nice to sit indoors and work on this business? What if I got scared about investing my life savings in this business?

What if I listened to 95% of the men I shared the idea with that early in the game who came back with ego-laden questions meant to stop me, not encourage or help me? (The women didn't do this by the way. The men were focused on the exit strategy. Exit strategy? I hadn't even started yet!)

What if I let the naysayers get to me?

What if I didn't actually do it?

What if?

Well I wouldn't be the woman I am today. I wouldn't be connecting with hundreds of thousands of women and connecting them with their inner-Savvy Auntie. And I wouldn't have met some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life.

One of the amazing people I met during the course of this journey is Jen Groover. Jen is the creator of the Butler Bag and a branding and innovation expert. She recently published a book entitled: What if & Why Not?

Jen changes the lexicon in her book from "What if you fail?" to "What if I succeed." And "Why not do it when the time is right?" to "Why not do it now; there's no time like the present."

Jen says that with all the tough things it takes to get started on a business, it basically comes down to four vital assets:

A Great Idea
Absolute belief in yourself

She's built a number of successful business around this and I couldn't support her thinking more. Her book goes on to help you get over all your fears that make you hold off on your dream including: job security, money, knowledge, branding and marketing, sales, profits and of course, failure.

The other night I went to a party and one of the women who had been at my gathering that summer in my living room said to me: "I see all the amazing things you are doing! I can't believe all this came out of that simple idea you shared with us that summer night. What if you hadn't done it? Could you imagine?!"

What if indeed.

Over the last couple of years I have helped a few friends get their business ideas going. Each one unfortunately stopped. What if they had kept going? I am buying each one of them a copy of Jen's book.

You can buy Jen's book at Amazon.com. Get one for yourself and one for anyone who ever told you their big idea...

What if this is the book that helps you get your business off the ground?

What if...

Auntie Melanie