Pop-up Chalk Festival is a highlight of the year and it it happens more than once. I organize the resources of the GA Chalk Artists Guild and partner with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition as an activity partner for every Atlanta Streets Alive event.

While at the event we host a space that allows volunteer artists to make their mark in the street using chalk. The event also draws people from the parade route and we generally create a large community mural to accompany the registered artists’ work.

Everyone has a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot about email marketing and finding the right tone for promoting an event online to ensure that people find out about your event and participate. We use tools provided by mailchimp and Facebook to track our ability to reach potential participants and I believe that event after event we get better at honing our message and providing a quality chalk art experience for both artists and bystanders alike.

Community mural created on Parking Day

We foster dogs with DREAM Dachshund Rescue and helping dogs we’ve recovered from shelters to be well socialized is a big part of getting them a adopted into their “forever home”. This year we’ve hosted several dogs whose histories ranged from stray to owner surrender. The dogs had various medical issues which DREAM was able resolve with the help of the Village Vets in Decatur.

Part of living by Piedmont Park is taking advantage of all the great things that go on in and around the park. We’ve got front row seats to Music Midtown, the Dogwood Festival, and the Pride Parade among other things and hile it absolutely ruins traffic when events are being held in the park the other amenities the park offers are beyond compare. The dog park in one such aspect of the park that we take advantage of regularly, even when there’s a festival and we have to take the long way to get there.

When we’ve got foster dogs living with us and our other Dachshunds, we make sure to get out to he park. It’s amazing to watch their transformation from scared or withdrawn to playful fur balls visit the people in the dog park or running around chasing other dogs. After a dog has been with us long enough to be part of the family, they’ve figured out where the best smells are, eating around other dogs, and saving their bladders for outside. While it’s possible that the dogs would otherwise have done well to be adopted directly, I believe that part of the success of organizations like DREAM rescue to have successful retentions is making sure the dogs are socialized in a home rather than waiting in a kennel.

My fiancée and I do a lot in town to keep busy and one of those things includes chalk art. Chalk art is one of those things that seems like a terrible idea at first. You’ll spend all day on the hard pavement drawing with chalk and blending the powder into the ground with your fingers and if you’re unlucky it might rain. Or the people walking by won’t notice and will walk or ride right through your work. If it’s in the road, later that day cars might be driving on it. It seems like a waste of time, but it’s not.

One thing about this kind of art that is really unique is that it exists for such a brief period of time and is because of its medium fragile to the elements. When you visit a chalk art festival and see how much talent is poured onto the streets, it’s hard for some people to understand why we would do it if we know it won’t last. I generally say that not lasting is part of the fun of the art form. Ephemeral art like chalking or zines are awesome because the people who are exposed to it are part of a tiny movement that exists only in that time and place. Pictures will share what was there, but they can’t convey everything that went into the production and presentation of the piece. “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”

I really love art and more so because Jessi has been able to introduce me to so many avenues in which it can be expressed. We recently teamed up with a friend of ours to create the Georgia Chalk Artists Guild. It’s an exciting time for chalk artists in GA because there are so many new events happening every year that help to showcase awesome works of art, even if it’s for a short time.

I’ve been commuting for a long time. During school my commute was sometimes hour and a half crawl to and from Atlanta. Since moving to Midtown it’s changed several times. I drove a mile and a half for a year before I changed jobs and began a new commute from midtown to Duluth. Resurrecting the grind had an unexpected effect on me, while in the past I was able to sacrifice in the interest of an education, I discovered that now I was willing to do just about anything to avoid it. I made another transition and found myself a mile and a half away from work again. This time however I was determined to walk. The problem with walking though is that it’s slow and the weather can defeat you easily. In December of 2013 I made another change – my wife bought a bike for me.

I was hesitant at first and tried to split my ride between sidewalks and the road. I was trying to be safe. One evening on the way home I watched another bike commuter wait in the traffic with the cars. At first I thought he was wasting his time, but after transitioning into and out of traffic a few times I found that he was farther ahead of me for less effort. It occurred to me that being on a bike didn’t necessarily mean I had gotten out of traffic, I had just become a different kind of vehicle in the same traffic. Once I embraced the idea of being part of traffic I noticed that I really did lose the stress and some of the fear associated with riding and also discovered that being in traffic as a bike is really fun. You’re part of the city rather than shielded from it, listening to the radio and completely cut off.

The best part about riding a bike a mile and a half is that once you find the right roads to travel on, it actually takes less time that driving would in the same traffic and it’s better for you. The improvement I experienced with respect to my overall fitness was unexpected. I knew the ride would get easier over time, but I didn’t realize that riding would start to take on its own ambitions. Rather than the bike ride replacing the car drive, it actually became an activity that I wanted to find excuses to do. “We need to go get groceries?” No problem I have a basket. “Let’s go to the movies!” You got it, let me top off the air in my tires. Riding a bike quickly becomes a part of your identity while you’re doing it.

Edit: Since publishing, my commute changed again. Where I worked moved their offices from midtown Atlanta to Windy Hill and Powers Ferry. I’ve cycled it a few times, it takes a little over an hour to do it.

Over the last six months I’ve been researching customer support tools that allow for support representatives to retain their personality while keeping the customer experience consistent. What this means is that when someone calls looking for support, they’ll experience the unique personality of the agent but they’ll get the same answer no matter who they speak to. It’s important that the support maintain a level of consistency with customers because otherwise they’ll lose confidence in the product and its support.

There are tools that integrate with various Customer Relationship Management solutions to allow for agents to immediately know who they’re speaking to and what support steps the customer may have already completed – like SalesForce. Other tools allow for both a customer and inward employee facing support experience; this makes it possible to include copy intended for a public audience and material which can be viewed on the same page with the right credentials – like RightNow. Without significant work and incentive, however, neither of these platforms are able to encourage organic use because the agents themselves feel disconnected from the material and administrators require subject matter experts to update the content.

The takeaway is that while there are a lot of tools to use, it’s typically the tools designed for the average user that seem to be the best at reaching their intended audience. I found a few, one such tool is called Yonyx. It’s great for creating conditional scripting that both customers and support techs can use. We never implemented Yonyx, but I did create a platform very similar for in-house use that some teams used. It never had widespread use, but it did find some favor in onboarding new agents since it gave insight into best practices in a very digestible format that users could navigate while on the phone with a customer. We’ve since moved on from the platform, but the lessons were well learned.


Power Up Piedmont Workout

Recently my fiancée Jessi and I made a decision to become more active in our day to day level of fitness. This started when she started wearing a Fitbit Force in December and I followed suit with a Fitbit Flex in February. Seeing your daily activity stacked against your peer group in terms of what everyone should be doing and what they actually are accomplishing and seeing the disparity in both is motivating. However, counting steps and calories can only take you so far before you realize you’ve plateaued and need to do something more to bridge the gap and continue to make progress on your overall health.

Jessi started Power Up Piedmont on Meetup.com. Meetup.com is an active directory of people all looking to improve themselves somehow. Some do it for specific interests, but I believe that most do it as a way of extending their social life in an unfamiliar setting. The results of running our own Meetup have been amazing. We generally have one or two participants outside ourselves per meetup we organize which we’ve found is an amazing motivator.

The best part of it all is that we’re meeting new people while becoming more fit; knowing that our next workout someone is depending on our leadership has helped us to shape our daily fitness from an out of reach desire to something tangible we’re able to track on a daily basis.