Today, I spoke to Curtis Silver, who is a full time geek, writer & father who moonlights from 9-5 as a financial analyst. He is also a blogger for Wired. In this interview, we discuss how technology has blended personal and professional lives, Curtis’s career, how journalists use social networks to think of stories, and his vision for the future of media.
Do you believe in blending and promoting both your personal and professional life online?
Yes and no. When I first got into social media and promoting myself online I was very wary of how much personal data to reveal to the world. Then I discovered Linkedin and put my whole resume online. That was a huge step in realizing that personal and professional will always be a blurry line, to a point. You still won’t catch my putting pictures of my family online, and my own avatar is a cartoon version of myself. I only accept friend requests on Facebook from actual friends or people I know.
However, it’s important to understand that in the age we live in we must set aside certain fears about the online world in order to progress. Yes, it’s quite scary out there and there is a lot of fear and trepidation when it comes to self-promotion, but everything we do in life comes with certain risks. I recently wrote about (see, self promotion) the fears we face in social media, pointing out that most of the fear is fear of the unknown.
An online presence is integral to success in business, especially if your business is online. Self promotion will always carry a certain amount of your personal life over to your professional life. It can’t be helped.
How did you get started in your writing career and then end up at Wired? What have you learned?
Well, my writing “career” has been shaky. I’ve been writing my whole life, and have done freelance for several failed magazines and online blogs. I’ve carried my own blog (written under a pseudonym) for many years though have recently slacked on it since writing at Wired. My blog was mostly humor and Wired offered me more than just mindless ranting to a small audience. I’m a financial analyst by trade, so selling myself as a creative person has always been difficult, even though that’s what I love to do and who I am. So basically, my writing career is just now moving forward in a positive direction.
I read Wired on a regular basis, and especially the GeekDad blog. Back in March they had an open call for writers who fit the requirements of being a geek and a dad (or mom.) I answered and was one of many chosen to fill the ranks. Quickly I moved from additional contributor to core contributor and now call GeekDad my blogging home.
I have learned that self promotion and not being afraid to take leaps and make connections is key. I don’t think that I would have jumped and been able to capture this opportunity several years ago based on my inherent fears of rejection and getting past my stereotyped personality of an analyst. But here was a place that didn’t ask for my professional resume, just my personal one. Since starting at GeekDad, I have been interviewed on Canadian Radio (for my Tetris birthday post) and have been able to interact and write with some great, creative and like-minded writers.
Do you use Twitter and other social networks to get new story ideas and/or sources? Why?
Absolutely. To me, Twitter exists as more than just a “what I ate for breakfast” network, though that part of it can be amusing. It’s a place to share ideas, self promote and move articles and information around the word quicker than ever before. Would I be talking to you now if not for Twitter? No, not at all. Between being able to bounce ideas off strangers on Twitter, or share ideas and story themes with my friends on Facebook, I’ve gotten more help on writing and creating new stories than before when I just had a core group of people I would email.
Not to mention the depth of the internet and what’s out there really shines through when you have followers, or are following people in countries all over the world. It sure beats spending all day surfing the net looking for the next idea. The ideas, the stories flow across social networks like a raging torrent of information, all you have to do is sit with your net and collect them. It’s great.
How do you feel you’re branded online? Are you a geek-dad?
I feel I’m doing okay. I have a profile at Linkedin, with a couple thousand connections. I’m on Twitter of course, and Facebook. People who know me, know my sense of humor and sarcasm. Those who don’t, will. Someday I’d like to be a source for something, but I still have trouble getting a competent amount of Diggs on some of my posts. Branding takes work and takes time, the latter being something I don’t have much of. I work full-time (as mentioned, I am an analyst – pays the bills) so all of my writing and online presence has to be jammed in somewhere. In fact, I’m answering these questions during my lunch break. I don’t think I’m where I want to be online just yet, it’s going to take some more work and more of that ever precious time.
I am a geek dad. Seriously. I fit the stereotype for that as far as my likes/dislikes. I’m a huge comic book nerd, I listen to music that is classified as “nerdcore” and still play with LEGO. I’m also a dad, with three kids in the house. However, they haven’t embraced the geekiness as much as I would like, but it’s not something that can be forced. The most hope I have is for the youngest, my 4 year old daughter. The force is strong with that one. I do however fight against the physical stereotype of a geek. I don’t sit around and play World of Warcraft all night. I go to the gym, I play with the kids, I write. I do drink copious amounts of Mountain Dew though. Diet only.
What is your vision or thoughts on the future of media? Will it be online only?
It’s certainly moving in that direction. The down side is, did you see the reaction when Twitter went down for half a day? Imagine everything you rely on for news, information and personal interactions is online and bam! It goes down. What will you do? So there is this “doomsday” cloud that hangs over the future of media. Everything will be online eventually, but I hope not only. We still need newspapers in our hands from time to time to remind us that we are human, not an extension of a machine. I think the internet and social media devices are great tools for the advancement of society, but we still will need that personal interaction. What if every single speech you gave was over a Webinar and not in person? Wouldn’t it feel different not to see the reaction of the crowd, to get that personal feedback, to hear their applause? It’s like that.
That being said, the online world opens up many different opportunities for media and branding. This whole Social Media thing is a prime example and probably the apex of that school of thought. The transfer of information and news has become even more instant and far reaching than any 24 hour news channel could ever be. It’s a brand new world and I think Ken Kesey said it best, “You’re either on the bus…or off the bus.”
Curtis Silver is a full time geek, writer & father who moonlights from 9-5 as a financial analyst. He is attempting to crack into social media and the opportunities available on the internet via shameless self promotion and sharp writing. Freelancing as a citizen journalist & graphic designer, Curtis dreams of a day when a commute consists of walking to another room. Currently residing a mere six miles from the Gulf of Mexico in Sarasota, Florida he is married with three kids, an Xbox 360, Wii and a dog. Sorry ladies. Curtis currently can be found on the internet writing at GeekDad, self promoting on Linkedin and babbling constantly on Twitter @cebsilver. He has a Google Voice number but finds the suffix as spelled out in words quite silly, so he doesn’t include it in contact information. Which kind of defeats the purpose.