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mStoner’s Third Annual Top Picks


mStoner’s Third Annual Top Picks

Jan 22, 2014By Mallory Willsea

For the third year in a row, I enlisted the help of my colleagues to bring you mStoner’s Top Picks. This is an amazing collection of our favorite books, videos, websites, and more. I hope you’ll discover a new resource to use, person to follow, or book to read. And we’d love to hear your Top Pick, just leave a comment or tweet it out using #mStoner.

Read on!

Teh Awesome in Higher Ed

(Nope, it’s not a typo!)

Timely. Funny. Good. It’s hard to hit this trifecta when creating Internet videos around subjects that aren’t cats. Truman State University succeeded when it released “T‑Pain Misses You,” a humorous take on the emotional state of President Troy Paino while awaiting students to return to campus from the holiday break. The campus enrolls 6,100 students, but netted 54,000+ video views in less than two weeks for its effort.
— Patrick Powers, Project Manager



Paul Smith’s College launched its new website on December 17, 2013, to become the first college or university to leverage mStoner’s new Buzzr Higher Ed Edition CMS. We couldn’t be more excited for the people at “The College of the Adirondacks” and the opportunities this new site will provide them.
Bill McLaughlin, COO



I am wowed by Georgia Tech’s bold adoption of video in their feature area. It’s not every day you see this on an institution’s homepage!
— Sarah Eva Monroe, Senior Creative Director



As the co-chair for the marketing track of the Web Conference at Penn State, I’ll admit I’m a bit biased. However, I believe this is one of the top conferences for web, marketing, and communications professionals in higher ed. And this summer’s line-up can’t be beat! Keynote speakers include Josh Clark, Wil Wheaton, Tiffany Shlain, and Jeremy Keith. And if that’s not awesome enough, Ethan Marcotte and Luke Wroblewski (2011 keynote presenters) are returning as workshop speakers.
Mallory Wood, Director of Marketing



I find that the Harvard Campaign’s microsite has a wonderful mix of interactive elements, inspirational information, and elegant, responsive design.
Voltaire Santos Miran, Co-Founder and Managing Director


paul smiths tweet

For me, #smittypix was the best hashtag of 2013. Paul Smith’s College not only has a new website, they also have a homepage that features Instagram. The result is visually compelling and builds on the many brand ambassadors using the #smittypix hashtag. Delightful!
— Susan T. Evans, Senior Strategist



There is no better (free!) resource for professionals in higher education than Higher Ed Live. The network’s programming focuses on web-trends, marketing and communications, admissions, advancement, and student affairs. Each week’s episodes feature exclusive interviews with professionals from colleges and universities across the country; journalists; consultants; and other thought leaders. And don’t worry, if you miss an episode you can find it on YouTube or iTunes!
— Mallory Wood, Director of Marketing


college unbound

I thought this book was so important and Jeff Selingo’s views on what’s happening in higher ed are so significant that we asked him to talk with our team at our annual meeting. College (Un)bound provides an overview of both historical trends that resulted in our current crisis in higher education — and looks at some innovations and institutions that are working on creating the more personalized, unbundled, energized education system of the future. This book should be required reading for anyone working in higher ed.
Michael Stoner, President

Do you remember the scene in The Matrix where Neo is offered the blue pill or the red pill? In that scene, the red pill represents the painful truth of reality. This book is the red pill of awareness for higher education. It’s a fast-paced read that concisely lays out issues and challenges faced by colleges and universities, and why education (as an industry) is ripe for disruption. College (Un)bound should be required reading for anyone who works for a college, university, or professional school.
— Doug Gapinski, Strategist


mStoner Social Works book

Recently I was rereading some of the case studies in Social Works, and I’m still impressed at how powerful and useful they are almost a year after the book was published.
— Michael Stoner, President

Where else are you going to find case studies of successful social media campaigns all in one place?
— Voltaire Santos Miran, C0-Founder and Managing Director


The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership

University of Southern California’s President Steven Sample wrote, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, and it was one of the best books I read in 2013. Over the years, I’ve consumed many books about leadership and this is one of the best. Sample’s style is direct, approachable, and particularly useful for leaders in higher education.
Susan T. Evans, Senior Strategist


elements of user experience

This book may be 10 years old, but hands down it’s the cleanest, clearest illustration and explanation of the extremely complex and connected work that goes into creating digital user experiences. Mind = blown. (Ooo, and there’s a blog!)
Fran Zablocki, Strategist


Websites, Blogs, and Articles

seer seo

A Google Spreadsheet on steroids, the SEO Toolbox is a great tool to automate some SEO tasks and bring in data from popular tools like Google Analytics, SEOmoz, Twitter, and more. For those who like tinkering with spreadsheets and SEO, there are some powerful tools here.
— Greg Zguta, Technical Lead


css3 generator site

CSS3 Generator is a fantastic development tool that was recently updated to look more inline with the code it generates. Based on quick form inputs, this site allows the developer to easily output sample code structures for the most common CSS3 effects … with 100 percent more flair. But keep in mind that SASS and mix-ins will make sites like this a thing of the past, so get to using this site while the using is good!
Kevin Zink, Senior Tech Consultant


leadership now

I love Fast Company’s “Leadership Now” blog. It offers interesting nuggets on innovation, culture, leadership, learning, and productivity, and reminds me to do things like put my iPhone down and go for a walk every once in a while.
Deborah Maue, Senior Strategist



I think Medium.com upped the ante on how we consume articles on the web.
Sarah Eva Monroe, Senior Creative Director

Transitional Interfaces by Pasquale D’Silva
This post on Medium inspired a whole slew of other blog posts and articles on incorporating tasteful animations in user interfaces. Slight animations in user interfaces are a good way of making websites feel more sophisticated and app-like.
Doug Gapinski, Strategist



Currently, one of my favorite websites is CSS-Tricks.com developed by Chris Coyier. This is a great tech-focused site serving the web design and development community. I’m also loving its sister site CodePen.IO, also developed and maintained by Chris Coyier. CodePen is a social code playground for developers that allows you to create, test, and share code snippets.
Jim Johnson, Senior Tech Consultant



I’m not a news geek like some people I know, but I consult two pioneering sites for news regularly: Talking Points Memo and The Dish. TPM is the brainchild of journalist Josh Marshall, who’s experimenting with several forms of content delivery: there’s a public, ad-supported version of the site and an ad-free version where subscribers can comment on the postings and news of the day. TPM mixes original reporting with an informed take on stories reported elsewhere. Journalist Andrew Sullivan asked for support of The Dish last year and raised some $400,000 in just a few days to further his synthesis of views on current events and culture. Both Marshall & Sullivan are now experimenting with longer-form journalism. I’m fascinated by the success and vision of both these men and the commentary that’s emerging from their operations.
— Michael Stoner, President



Codrops is a great source to find examples of animation and flat design.
— Kevin Rieg, Interactive Designer


Mobile continues to revolutionize and disrupt nearly every industry in the world, and remained a hot topic in 2013. Mobile is Eating the World by Benedict Evans offers clarity and data about mobile scale, impact, and the growth of tablets.
Doug Gapinski, Strategist


People to Follow

Justin Cutroni tweets and blogs practical tips on web analytics. He’s written several analytics books and is a good resource for concise details on how to get the most out of analytics.
— Greg Zguta, Technical Lead

Sure, my selection may be biased toward my fellow in-state Cardinals fan. But if you work in marketing or communications in higher education, you need to recognize the regular contributions Andrew Careaga makes to the betterment of our community. Andrew blogs more often with insightful commentary than most anyone I know. When he shares his posts on Twitter, know I’ll be clicking through to read.
Patrick Powers, Project Manager


Grab Bag


The Uber App is awesome. Rarely has an app worked so flawlessly for me. The app makes you feel smart for using it, the website makes you feel like you’re getting dropped off at the Oscars, and the cost can’t be beat. Livery has never been so glam.
— Fran Zablocki, Strategist

Adobe Edge Inspect is a tool that allows you to browse in sync with all of your devices, eliminating the need for refresh when coding and designing for responsive. It’s been a great tool for designing in browser.
Kevin Rieg, Interactive Designer


trunk club

The Trunk Club. In this day and age of app everything, it’s a wonderful thing to have a wardrobe curated by a human stylist who, unlike SIRI, doesn’t tell me I look pretty good in plaid. (Go ahead, ask SIRI, I dare you.)
— Voltaire Santos Miran, Co-Founder and Managing Director


Reader Submitted

Since the launch of #fundchat in June 2011, nonprofit professionals from all sectors have gathered for a weekly Twitter chat covering a broad range of topics. The influence of this group has grown significantly. Today, the #fundchat hashtag reaches over 1 million people a week on Twitter (on average). In October 2013, the #fundchat blog opened its doors to guest bloggers. With over 20 regular contributors, the #fundchat blog has become a go-to resource for nonprofit professionals and has been recognizes by Alltop as “best of the web” on the topic of nonprofits. Above all, #fundchat is a community. Participants and contributors network, share expertise and advice, and have some fun in the process!
Brendan Kinney, VP for Development & Marketing, Vermont Public Radio