Stewart Mader has helped organizations around the world use the Web to connect people with engaging, valuable, and timely information. He is the author of Wikipatterns (Wiley, 2008), a practical guide to improving productivity and collaboration in organizations.

He is currently Senior Director, Global Head of Digital Media at Fitch Ratings. Previously, he served as Director of Social Media & Online Tools at CFA Institute, where he oversaw efforts to reach journalists, legislators, policymakers, and investment professionals who play essential roles in shaping the direction of the financial services industry. He helped launch the Enterprising Investor, an online publication featuring daily commentary and analysis from a team of subject-matter experts. He established, and led the organization’s growing use of paid social media campaigns for audience development and lead generation, and led a global team with staff in New York, London, and Hong Kong.

Stewart has created online strategy and digital engagement programs for clients including MARS, SAP, and World Bank-International Finance Corporation (IFC). For IFC, he guided development of an online collaboration platform for donors, investors, consultancies, and NGOs to document and evaluate business models best suited for developing countries. For Atlassian, he helped establish the voice of the brand by writing about social media, collaboration, and software development for the Atlassian Blogs, speaking at numerous conferences, and providing technology adoption guidance to customers around the world as the company expanded from its roots in Australia to a global organization with offices in Europe and the US. He also led digital media and instructional technology for Brown University, where his team was selected by Apple to lead one of the first large-scale pilots of iTunes U.

Side Projects

  • Gotham & Hudson – Urbanism on the Hudson Waterfront. Featured in Atlantic Cities, Brick Underground, Curbed, and Gizmodo.
  • Subway NY NJ – A proposal to return New Jersey to the New York City Subway Map and prominently display PATH lines, for a more complete map of rapid transit in the urban core of New York
  • Wikipatterns (Wiley, 2008) – A practical guide to improving productivity and collaboration in organizations.


  • MS, Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology, University at Albany
  • BS, Chemistry magna cum laude, University of Hartford

A Visual Refresh for @FitchRatings

Today, we gave the official Twitter presence for Fitch Ratings a visual refresh that set the stage for upcoming promoted account and promoted tweet campaigns:

new @FitchRatings profile

Here’s what it looked like before the change:

old @FitchRatings profile

The new graphics give @FitchRatings a crisp, visually compelling social media presence with a header that features our London office in Canary Wharf, and a new profile picture that reduces well when it appears alongside tweets in your timeline:

@FitchRatings promoted account

Interns, agencies should not manage social media

If you’re a director of social media and you’re not directly involved in managing editorial flow and campaigns on your company’s social media presence, you’re doing something wrong. Your presence on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn (and other industry-specific platforms like Houzz) is a counterpart to your website. For many people, it may be the first place they get information about you or interact with you, so why would you leave this to someone who is either unfamiliar with your organization, or not even part of it?

Interns should be involved with social media, but they deserve to learn what differentiates a company’s use of social media from someone’s personal use: editorial development, staff training, campaign planning, budgeting, and analytics. Likewise, agencies should be involved, but as sounding boards and suppliers of external perspective to help guide strategy.

Organizations need to develop the internal competence, and confidence to handle social media directly. Social media directors have a professional responsibility to guide an organization’s overall embrace of social media, and they con only do it well if they have the necessary firsthand experience. Making time to directly manage a key piece of the company’s social media presence gives directors credibility when they advocate for the integration of paid social into advertising campaigns and marketing automation, request the necessary budget to grow audiences and engagement, and work with staff throughout the organization to embed the mindset and skills necessary to serve in public-facing social media roles.

When organizations outsource day-to-day management, this is what happens: We Got A Look Inside The 45-Day Planning Process That Goes Into Creating A Single Corporate Tweet. Bad press for Huge, bad press for Président Cheese, and a reminder that when given an inch, Business Insider will take a mile.

Why is Huge not advising Président Cheese to start with a promoted account campaign to build a more reasonable starting audience on Twitter? At CFA Institute, we started a new account in April focused on the private wealth segment of the professional investment management industry, managed by a staff member who covers private wealth, and is a former Financial Times journalist. Thanks to a promoted account campaign targeted at people likely to have an interest in private wealth (based on who the follow and what they tweet about), @CFAwealth now has 17K followers, which gives the account a reasonable starting audience with whom to build a relationship based on useful information and interaction.

On Great Websites, Information is Craft, not Commodity

Jonathan Harris thinks the Internet is in the midst of a crisis:

The Internet is causing mass homogenization of human identity, making us all look the same. We use the same tools and social networks, fitting into the same templates, designed by companies to maximize page views and profits.

Most online experiences are made, like fast food, to be cheap, easy, and addictive: appealing to our hunger for connection but rarely serving up nourishment. Shrink-wrapped junk food experiences are handed to us for free by social media companies, and we swallow them up eagerly, like kids given buckets of candy with ads on all the wrappers.

Although Harris argues his point well, I don’t think there’s a crisis. There are parts of the Internet that feel overly commercialized – the equivalent of walking through Times Square. But if you go to a different neighborhood in New York, you’re more likely to find yourself among a collection of small, independent bars, restaurants, stores, and cafés that pay close attention to the quality of their experiences.

Likewise, the best experiences on the Internet come from websites built by people who, day after day, publish the best pieces of knowledge they can either gather or create. Those sites are worth visiting every day, because they push the limits of the web with original designs, truly interesting content, and an atmosphere that reflects their editors’ rigorous attention to detail. Here are a few such sites: A List Apart, Bobulate, Brand New, Daring Fireball, Frank Chimero, Hypercritical, Jessica Hische,, swissmiss, The Great Discontent, Transit Maps, and Windows of New York.

John Gruber, author of Daring Fireball, recently linked to an article in which Andrew Orlowski explains why the commoditized, cast-a-wide-net approach that has produced a dizzying array of Android-based mobile devices can’t compete with the product culture of focused devices like the iPhone and Blackberry:

The lucrative end of the mobile device market is a product culture, and it pays to put more of your wood behind one arrow, or just a few arrows; the more you make, the less distinctive each one is.

The same principle applies to the websites that are distinctive because their authors combine content and packaging into a beautiful product that others aspire to recreate. Mega-sites like Facebook, Yahoo!, CNN, and many others designed to keep you moving through content like merchandise racks in a department store will never define the web, because they don’t push it forward. They have the biggest, brightest signs, but can’t match the experience and quality of sites that are the product of craftsmanship and dedication.

“Good Read. Great Read! Must Read!” No Thanks.

Lately, it seems there’s been a meteoric rise in use of the terms good read, great read and must-read. Tweets everywhere are proclaiming that I just must stop what I’m doing and read all these “good reads” and “must-reads”, lest I miss out!

Here’s the problem.

You wouldn’t tell me that a picture is a must-look, a song is a “good listen” or a video is a “great watch”. You’d tell me the song is beautiful, the video is funny, and the picture is scary, or gross. You’d tell me something meaningful about the contents of a picture, song or video, not about the process of consuming the piece of media.

Am I being pedantic? Perhaps, but I’m saying this because articles took time to make, and—if they’re really so worthy of attention—deserve to be promoted for what they tell us. Calling an article a good read commoditizes it as just another thing competing for my time and attention, and makes me think more about the time I’ll spend on it (and not on other important things) instead of piquing my interest in what it contains and what I might learn from it.

Craft and Character

Steven Soderbergh on character:

On the few occasions where I’ve talked to film students, one of the things I stress, in addition to learning your craft, is how you behave as a person. For the most part, our lives are about telling stories. So I ask them, “What are the stories you want people to tell about you?” Because at a certain point, your ability to get a job could turn on the stories people tell about you. The reason [then-Universal Pictures chief] Casey Silver put me up for [1998’s] Out of Sight after I’d had five flops in a row was because he liked me personally. He also knew I was a responsible filmmaker, and if I got that job, the next time he’d see me was when we screened the movie. If I’m an asshole, then I don’t get that job. Character counts. That’s a long way of saying, “If you can be known as someone who can attract talent, that’s a big plus.”

Own your online presence

Ryan Block quits Facebook, Instagram, but not for the reasons you might think:

We’d all be much better off simplifying our technological footprints and consolidating our trust in the few services that provide us the greatest value with the fewest unintended side effects. In the end, I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m a quitter.

On the Web, no one has complete control over what happens once something is posted online. But by housing a project like Stories Above NY on a website I own–instead of renting space on a service like Instagram or Flickr–I can trust that the packaging and experience look and function the way I want. Moreover, if I don’t like something about the experience, it’s up to me to figure out how to improve it, which helps keep my technical skills sharp.

Thoughts on Steve

When Steve spoke, people really listened, because he told stories that resonated in a deeply human way. He was a singular figure, at—as he liked to call it—the intersection of technology and liberal arts. From Apple, to Pixar, NeXT, and again at Apple over the past 14 years, he focused all his energy on giving people the ability to do extraordinary things with technology. In doing so, he taught us so much about how to live and work meaningfully. Here are four lessons from Steve that I will always carry with me:

Choose Things That are in Their Springs

At the D8 conference in June 2010, he explained how Apple chooses the technologies to include in their products:

The way we’ve succeeded is by choosing what horses to ride really carefully – technically. We try to look for these technical vectors that have a future, and that are headed up, and, you know, different pieces of technology kind of go in cycles. They have their springs and summers, and autumns, and then they, you know, go to the graveyard of technology. And, so we try to pick the things that are in their springs.

And, if you choose wisely, you can save yourself an enormous amount of work vs. trying to do everything. And you can really put energy into making those new emerging technologies be great on your platform, rather then just okay because you’re spreading yourself too thin.

Design is how it Works

From The Guts of a New Machine, the 2003 New York Times article that profiled Apple just as the iPod was being recognized as a cultural phenomenon:

”Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like,” says Steve Jobs, Apple’s C.E.O. ”People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Focus, Because You Have One Shot to Get it Right

In an article in Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, Steve Kemper tells the story of a secret meeting between the team building the Segway personal transport device and Steve. The Segway designers wanted his opinion, and during the meeting he reportedly criticized the product’s design, saying:

“You have this incredibly innovative machine but it looks very traditional.”

When members of the team countered that they were on a tight schedule to release the product, and felt they couldn’t spend more time on the design, he replied:

“Screw the lead times. You don’t have a great product yet! I know burn rates are important, but you’ll only get one shot at this, and if you blow it, it’s over.”

He explained his experience with the iMac, how there were four models now but he had launched with just one color to give his designers, salespeople, and the public an absolute focus. He had waited seven months to introduce the other models.

Giving everyone an absolute focus helps them create a product rise above the competition to become a universally recognizable phenomenon. When that translates into a large customer base, the designers and engineers can return to the drawing board to refine their creation and potentially develop new models to satisfy different needs.

But in the beginning, all that matters is getting the product right.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

In the last chapter of Wikipatterns, I included the following passage:

In his 2005 Commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs’ parting words to the graduates were “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” They came from the final issue of The Whole Earth Catalog, itself a product of the collective efforts of a community, and they perfectly describe the attitude necessary to bring about change. Introducing a wiki to your organization and changing your culture for the better is an exhilarating experience. It takes time and dedication, and if you’re the WikiChampion, a few odd looks the first few times you tell people about the “wiki”. But it’s worth it, because it creates an environment where everyone is empowered to directly make things happen, which gives people a deeper sense of purpose and accomplishment. It’s also essential if you want to build a successful new venture, or ensure the relevance and success of an existing organization in this rapidly changing world.

He showed us all how to be daring, care about the details, and make big things happen.

Thank you, Steve. We love you and miss you.

Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Steve Jobs: “Every Person Votes for Themselves”

Steve Jobs, speaking at the D8 conference in 2010, explains how consumers give the best products a direct vote of confidence:

What I love about the consumer market, that I always hated about the enterprise market, is that we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves. They go “yes” or “no” and if enough of them say yes, we get to come to work tomorrow. That’s how it works. It’s really simple.

That’s where the enterprise market – it’s not so simple. The people that use the products don’t decide for themselves, and the people that make those decisions sometimes are confused. We love just trying to make the best products in the world for people, and having them tell us by how they vote with their wallets whether we’re on track or not.

Want a Good Business Model? Sell Beautiful

So says Larry Green, Corporate Web Director at Landor:

Some will argue that in high technology companies, visual design really isn’t that important, because what separates the winners from the losers in this game is superior engineering. To that, I also say: lip service. Technological excellence will get you a lead, but it won’t sustain it, because everyone’s technology is always improving; that competitor in your rear-view mirror is closer than you think.

What happens in technology companies when visual design—and the deeply creative thinking it embodies—gets a seat at the big table with engineering? What happens when visual design is integrated into the product development process from day one? I don’t know for sure, but I think you end up with something like Apple’s iPhone.

Rory Marinich, (in a post since removed), explains this idea in advertising terms, using Apple as an example. In its advertisements, the company highlights a device’s aesthetics instead of technical specifications:

The iPad is a 10” computer with a 16GB flash drive and multitouch technology. What makes that so worthwhile? Haven’t we seen this before? How is this better than a Windows tablet or a netbook?

Here’s why. Apple’s not actually selling a computer. Or a flash drive or multitouch. They needed to make those things for their product, but that’s not what the product is. The product is, simply put, a magical screen that can do anything you ever want it to, no matter what that is.

Here you go. It’s five hundred dollars. If you pay me that, I will give you this magical thing that can do anything. You don’t have to read a manual. It will do anything, and it will do it right now, out of the box.

Other companies are selling computers. Apple’s selling magic. Which one would you rather have?