BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Only moderately of approval ...

A month or so back I attended an event hosted by Brickfish (they're a “social media platform” company) down at the House of Blues. They'd brought in Erik Qualman (who's best known for his Socialnomics book from a couple of years ago) to speak (he's one of their consultants, I take it), and provided attendees with copies of his new book, Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence, which he was also signing. So, if the FTC is peeking in, yes, this was a free copy.

As regular readers of my reviews probably have a pretty good sense of, I'm not fond of “cutesy” in books, and if you're going to come up with some mnemonic acronym, it had better be a useful one (such as the “trouble”, TRBL, mnemonic for in-line CSS style calls) or I'm going to find it irritating at best. If I'm constantly having to check back to the introductory chapters to remind myself what your cute word “means”, it's a #FAIL. Unfortunately, Qualman's book is based on one of these: S.T.A.M.P. … and, as is frequently the case, I feel that it's somewhat “forced”, but it's the organizing matrix for the book, with the various sections corresponding to the concepts hooked onto those letters:
S – Simple: “success is the result of simplification and focus”
T – True: “be true to your passion”
A – Act: “nothing happens without action – take the first step”
M – Map: “goals and visions are needed to get where you want to be”
P – People: “success doesn't happen alone”
It is telling that I could not remember any past “simple” when typing this, and had to refer back to the index for the other four! Another bad sign was that I ended up with no little slips of paper bookmarking particular pages that I wanted to either come back to (for resources, etc.), or thought would make a good quote in my review … which also indicates that a lot of this was being convolutedly pushed towards “stamp” imagery to the detriment of the material.

This is not to say the book is bad, but that it could have been better with a more straight-forward presentation. It starts out reasonably well, defining its concept:
“At one time, if you reached a certain level of celebrity or significance, you may have been immortalized on a postage stamp. … Few people, however, attained this level of notoriety. The digital age has changed this concept: now every single one of us has a digital stamp. …
Digital footprints and shadows constitute our permanent imprint on the world: a detailed summary of our life for our contemporaries and for people of the future to view and consider. Digital footprints are the information we post about ourselves online, while digital shadows are what others upload about us. Collectively, these two items have changed the world forever, and as current or aspiring leaders it is necessary to adapt to this new reality. While others will help or hinder along the way, you will ultimately determine how effective a leader you become and your overall stamp on life.”
Each of the “STAMP” sections has 3-4 chapters, addressing some topic more-or-less connected with the acronym elements. Within the chapters are some very useful bits, “Digital Deeds” which are sections featuring tips and suggestions for using various platforms and programs, “Life Stamps” which are little biographical sketches about people that illustrate the topic at hand, plus brief quotes from famous “leaders” every few pages (although the editing slipped up on this, with a Ray Kroc quote repeating on 205 and 206). What I found most engaging here were the many “case studies” that Qualman dips into in the various chapters, from the evolution of Apple's web page (how it was simplified), to Magic Johnson's post-basketball business success (in the “connections” part of the “People” section), which were interesting windows into what the author saw as stories exemplifying his points.

Again, there's a lot of good stuff in here, but I really feel it would have been a lot more effective without the artificial structure of the “STAMP” concept. I also got the sense that there were some “editing issues” here (aside from the one noted above), on both a “why wasn't that fixed?” level, and in the feeling that certain elements (what the heck was that poem about in the introductory chapter?) had been fought over and not “smoothly” settled as far as the over-all tone was concerned (I realize I'm being both picky and vague here).

Digital Leader has only been out for a couple of months now, so you should no doubt be able to find it at your local brick-and-mortar book vendor, but, as usual, the on-line guys have it at about 1/3rd off of cover, making it cheaper that what's available used (once you add the shipping). This is a “different kind” of book in its genre, being wider based across business and cultural trends than just the hard-core digital/social zone, and has its appeal primarily in that reach. I liked it well enough, and you certainly might find it more engaging than I did … not a ringing endorsement, but not a “pan” either.

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Tags: book review
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