What I Want for My Birthday

I’m pretty good at answering questions. It’s kind of my job.

But there’s one question I’m always always ALWAYS bad at answering: “what do you want for your birthday?” [editor's note: it's my birthday today, so this problem was especially apparent in the days & weeks leading up to today.]

I never NEVER know what to say. It always comes from the people with the best of intentions and who love me the most, like my wife and my mom. This year, I even sifted through online gift lists and ThinkGeek, in case there was something I really needed, but just didn’t know it.

Still: nothing.

Then, it clicked for me this morning as I was walking through my neighborhood of Graduate Hospital in South Philly.

What I want for my birthday is the Taney Dragons to have a good time at the Little League World Series this week. I want their families to be there to support them — if they can — win or lose. I want all of the kids on the team to know that their neighborhood supports them, win or lose. That their entire city is rooting for them, win or lose.

I’ve been amazed by the love and interest for this team, from local restaurants and bars hosting parties, to the twitter-storm created during the Sunday night game, to the local and national media coverage for the game. I want to add my little piece of local love and support for the Taney Dragons.

That. THAT’s what I want for my birthday.

And, so instead of a Google Play gift certificate or the promise of a beer in the near future, what you can do is donate here. Donate to the Taney Baseball program. As they say, “all donations go to assisting our teams and improving our programs.” They’re taking donations starting at five dollars, which — lucky for you, given my snobby beer tastes — is less than the beer you’d buy me.

Starting this week, this bunch of actual neighborhood kids will be staring down teams from all over the world — many of them better resourced from the get-go. I can’t make Mo’Ne Davis a better pitcher (let’s be serious, very few of us could). I can’t give them a high five before the game. I won’t make it to Williamsport at all.

But I can ask you to help them out. And I hope that donation makes their experience a little more fun and shows that we have their back on Friday afternoon. And that’s what good neighbors do.

That’ll be my favorite birthday present this year.

If you do donate, let me know — either in the replies below or hit me up at @bshank.

EDIT 2:48PM ET: NO MORE $10 CREDIT CARD FEE. Props to whoever and however they made it happen. And to the people who told me about it.

EDIT 2:40PM ET: the donation site is currently asking for a $10 credit card fee. the payment administrator has told one kind contributor that it’s not supposed to be there and they are “working out some kinks”. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon.

In Defense of the Media Middle — Or Why Good Content Is Like Water

My south Philadelphia neighborhood is experiencing a resurgence of sorts. Along with a new pet supply store and a gym, there are new coffee shops and restaurants. Some are more coffee shop than restaurant. Some are more restaurant than coffee shop.

But where there were once just two of the species within a three-block radius three years ago, there are easily five or six. Which makes all the coffee-drinking, food-eating neighbors wonder: can they all peacefully co-exist?

I believe they can. But only if they each follow a simple principle: do what the other guy can’t. Or at least doesn’t do.

Why is good content like water? Read on.

Why is good content like water? Read on.

Does your coffee shop make it easy to study and get lots of refills? Market that. Do you use better ingredients than the other guy? Market that. Are you trying to pick up commuters on the go? Market that. It’s only when you’re redundant do you have to worry.

Last week I talked about cutting out the media middle man. But only in instances where the media function has been rendered redundant with what the average guy can do with an iPhone and Twitter.

At the end of the day, the most successful media — like coffee shops in my ‘hood — do what I can’t do. Or, at least, what I don’t do.

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On Social Media, Stoplights and Cutting Out the Middle

Earlier today, I was just about to cross Broad St. in Philadelphia when I noticed that the stoplight had frozen, causing near gridlock at an intersection on Philly’s busiest avenue. Just then, a woman I had never met asked me to do something I have done professionally hundreds of times.

Exasperated, she pointed up to the stoplight and the backed-up traffic. “We’ve tried calling 911, but nothing’s happened. Can you call the news stations to let them know about this? Maybe they can get something done.”

In her plea, I heard the voices of dozens of clients and colleagues from the past saying, “we should reach out to the media about this…”

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