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Monthly Archives: August 2009

Your new digital address? It could be Zooloo!

My first impression on checking out Zooloo was that it could fall into the category of YAWN — yet another whizzbang network. Would people have time for one more social entanglement?

Mural2I sprung the question to Zooloo’s CEO  Jeff Herzog who was inexplicably swinging a golf club when I visited the the offices. In the age of smart pointing devices and tons of content, a club as an over-sized pointing device might be a good idea –in case I completely missed the point :-)

“Social is just one component,” he said, quickly focusing on the big differentiation: the fact that you could register, build and customize your digital footprint in a snap. ” Zooloo is a dashboard that brings together your digital and social life.”

In other words, a way to rein in internet clutter.

Like you, I am very suspicious of shiny new objects, and anything that promises to be game-changing, despite Herzog’s reputation for having created iCrossing. (Full disclosure here: I worked very briefly for iCrossing.) The mural on the wall (above), and toys strewn on the floor give you a sense that this is not your typical tech firm.

On the other hand, I work in an organization that uses a visualization space as a digital dashboard –a very large dashboard– so I know its potential in a data-rich world. But could a ‘dashboard for your digital life’ have enough takers?

For instance: How would a personalized social network be relevant to those people who did not spend their entire lives on the Net, I asked.

Long pause.  “Who are they?” he asked.

We laughed.

I was thinking of teachers, and hair-dressers, and the mechanic at my car dealership, a coffee shop owner… I ask them all the time, and they think all this tweeting, and blogging is a waste of time.

“Even for someone who spends just one-third of his or her life online, a dashboard like this would make that one-third of time spent online very productive,” Herzog shot back. It is “just 15 percent of the experience.” What’s connected to it, what surrounds that dashboard, is what differentiates it.” Hard to disagree with that. Still, Zooloo as a pretty neat concept. If not exactly novel (with such tools as Page Flakes, and apps like Eventbox) it fills a huge need. If one of the four benefits work, we could be talking of Zooloo the way we once talked about other brands with double O’s in their name:

  • One digital address. It will be the home of your personal brand, and where you can be contacted — “your next cell phone number,” as Zoolooites call it.
  • Time management: Why spend all that time opening up Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo, Flickr and Gmail, when you can access and update all of them in one place?
  • Privacy filter: We struggle with whom we can share what. Grandma doesn’t need to see what we uploaded to SlideShare. My directors don’t need to see my vacation photos. One dashboard with many filters can take away this headache. My LinkedIn buddies don’t need to see my Google docs…
  • A kind of lifehack: Simplifying everything we will add on to our already cluttered lives –blogging, shopping, file storage, email, news etc

I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t let me embed WordPress. The default blogging app was clumsy, to say the least. MAybe we are spoiled with the streamlined WordPress and Typepad interfaces. In the next few weeks I will check  it out a bit more, here. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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Quotes for the week, ending 29 Aug 2009

“He took the long view. He never gave up. And though on most issues I very much wished he would give up.”

John McCain, on his friend and Senate adversary, Ted Kennedy who passes away this week.

“IBM is trying to push this debate onto social nets via the most convenient device–the remote you’ve just used to switch channels. “

Fast Company story on the new move to get TV viewers to micro-blog from the couch.

“I would say I’m a different GoDaddy Girl.”

Erin Kalin, a mother and singer who is the latest GoDaddy Girl, who hopes to be a role model for young girls.

“I like to call that person The TMI  Guy.”

A post from CaliberPulse, on how each one of know someone who posts Too Much Information

“a kind of virtual race to get as many people online by the Olympics alongside all the real physical races that will be going on.”

Martha Fox, the British government’s digital champion.

“It’s a balance between the issue and the (one) person …“Pick people who symbolize the issue.”

Kimberly Dozier, on the challenges of being an ‘embedded journalist’ in a session (‘Reporting from the frontlines’) at the SPJ Journalism Conference in Indianapolis.

 

Connecting the dots between interview and podcast

iPadioI had never heard about iPadio, until I stumbled on a podcast-like audio comment that had been recorded by Yang-May Ooi, on her Blackberry, commenting on me!

It had been recorded soon after she left a Twitter interview I had asked her to join, with Silvia Cambie. More about that and their book, here.

iPadio is a nifty solution. It enables what is techniclaly called Phone Blogging. All you need to do is talk on your phone by calling a toll free number and using a PIN, and it live-streams the audio comment directly to your blog !  Nothing to download, too. How neat is that? When you listen to her comments you get a sense of the immediacy and spontaineity. This could easily be turned into a longer podcast. And because it was being streamed live, I could have been listening to it while interviewing her co-author – thereby creating an interesting feedback loop. Apparently there’s a way to post the audio file to Facebook, as well.

As Yang-May observes (since had been followed and participated in the Twinterview on her phone) these are the early manifestations of multi-channel, real-time communictaions. It also shows how easy it is becoming to connect the dots between different forms of communication.

I am testing it out this week. If you have used it, or a similar service, leave a comment. I would love to pick your brains.

 

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Kill the leave behind for the long tail?

I had a very stimulating conversation with an editor today and we talked about the motivation to take everything that’s ink on paper to an online platform.

So the question I had was, do those who salivate after the long tail value of content (be assured I am a champion of this) really think that the printed product will lose its audience?

After all, as the popular argument goes, why would anyone pick up a magazine or a paper, when they could read the same content on a mobile device or on a laptop? 

My short answer to that: “experience.”

Anyone could duplicate the story, or even enhance it, for an online audience. But it’s no substitute for the print experience. Content that can be folded, torn, highlighted, photo-copied, taped to a wall, or slipped into a folder can never be substituted. Even on a digital reader.

Then there is our appetite for short-form and long-form journalism. Our brains are wired to shuffle between short content and in-depth stories; our eyes are trained to scan headlines, sidebars and  info-graphics; our bodies trigger automatic responses to seeing large bold headlines of shocking news (like this and this).

To those who say, “yes, but newspapers are filled with yesterday’s news,” my response is that sometimes, the story the day after, put together by thoughtful editors, is what we really want. Could we forget the front pages of thistory –on 09/12?

  • When that United Airlines flight splash-landed in the Hudson, were you content having followed the tweets in real time? Or did you crack open the paper the next day to see how the ‘miracle’ unfolded?
  • As of this morning, the wires and other online media updated us on the passing of Ted Kennedy -a story that all ink-on-paper publications missed for obvious reasons. Would you skip the “old news” in tomorrow’s papers, or will you dive into those broad contextual pieces, timelines, photos, eulogies?

As I told my friend, the problem we are facing is people buying into idea (urban legend?) about people’s reading habits , and partly in the fancy notion that the opposite of the (printed) leave-behind is the (digital) long-tail.

I should be the last person to say this, but digital is not a great replacement for all communication. Some times it is a really bad choice; cutting back on newspapers will be a self-fulling prophecy feeding the idea rather than responding to the notion that “no one really reads!”

 

Are you a Specialist or a Generalist? If not what?

When you introduce yourself and what you do, do you use the word ‘generalist’ or ‘specialist’ to describe yourself?

I use neither, because I’ve always had problems with both terms. I am not saying both are wrong, but they have not been an ideal fit. Here is my problem:

A Generalist made me come across as trying to do a bit of this and a bit of that, and not really have in-depth knowledge of both ends. Maybe I was talking to a wrong audience. Maybe I was cut off by the person asking a question –this was before the concept of a 140-character pitch! – and did not have time to qualify with some details.

A Specialist sounded fancy at that time, but did not resonate with me because it made me feel like I was capable of one thing and one thing only. From my agency life I realized that a writer who doesn’t understand design, and a designer who doesn’t appreciate the nuances of language is not a great asset. Today’s specialists are different. I’ve met writers who are deep into interactive media, and web geeks who are podcasters and closet citizen journalist.

So my question  to you is: What label best fits you –Generalist or Specialist? Or do you have a better one?

I am reminded of what Silvia Cambie, author and communicator told me when I interviewed her earlier this month. “The communicator of the future will need to be an integrator able to aggregate info and understand new cultural settings,” she said.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2009 in Communications, Social Media

 

Connecting the dots with your blog

Not this!

Not this!

I was at the Social Media AZ conference last Thursday, and some of the well-known practitioners (note: everyone’s refraining from the word ‘experts’)  seemed to affirm what I have been talking about. I also learned a lot in six hours.

Here are some great takeaways longer version at ValleyPRBlog.com:

  • “LinkedIn is the new Rolodex” – Al Maag
  • “In social media, do you want to measure the media, or the social?” – Ed Brice
  • “The ultimate metric is trust.” – Jay Baer
  • “Create a content stew” – Pam Slim
  • “Humanize your company” – Jay Baer
  • “Focus on the bottom of the marketing funnel” -  Chris Hewitt
  • “Segment your audience before forming tactics.” – Michael Corak

One of my big lessons, and something I tend to articulate differently to my clients is that blogging and tweeting, in and of themselves, are nothing if they don’t connect the dots between other activities, content buckets, people, and online/offline properties.

A blog or a podcast will not automatically solve every communication issue.  Unless you allow social media to leave ‘breadcrumbs’ between the different tactics, then all you might be doing is creating new silos.

Download or listen to the presentations:

I think of a blog as the second hub that has dotted lines –pointy arrows in, pointy arrows out– between branding, marketing, HR, PR, the people in the organization. Why? because this is what gives the content more depth and wider context.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2009 in Best Practices, Blog, Social Media

 

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Quotes for the week, ending 22 August, 09

“Welcome to the hunt!”

WIRED’s electronic manhunt, a game to find a Evan Ratliff. Anyone who comes up with a clue will get a free subscription of the magazine.

“The PR blogosphere is beating a dead horse – nonetheless, it’s a horse tied to a rocket.”

Dan Wool, Co-editor of ValleyPRBlog, on social media hype and how strange it is that after 5-6 years of it being mainstream, we’re still screaming that the sky is falling.

“As the TV networks and hundreds of other businesses realized, computers could be used to impress people. A poll prediction looked much more accurate on computer print-out paper than in human handwriting.”

Cory Doctorov, on the earliest use of a ‘computer’ to predict election results, in the fifties sixties

“This isn’t an announcement of my disappearance.”

Larry Lessig, saying he is taking a sabbatical form blogging

“Tap into the expertise of your organization, and create a ‘content stew”

Pam Slim, at Social Media Az conference in Tempe, Arizona


 

Social media for business conf. brings out heavyweights

Al Maag, Chief communications officer at Avnet opens the Social Media AZ conference with a keynote that has everyone’s head nodding.

He talks of how he brought a technology company to consider using .social media to communicate, by asking the wrong questions, but being persistent in asking the right people. Turns out it was an integral part of Avnet’s brand strategy. His main approach to the C-Suite : He told then, look, “the train has left the station,” and we are going this route, because guess what, the competition is going to be on this train, anyway.

Some highlights of his presentation:

  • The Avnet’s Facebook program began in Europe. It’s Avnet’s way of sharing knowledge and enhancing talent.
  • The Avnet blog was not even claled a blog when they began
  • If you don’t have guts and self-esteem, don’t be in this job. (“I’ve been called Tweeterdumb” and “blog boy”)
  • Lose the battles …win the war
  • Just bring in a consultant. (Shel Holtz plug here)
  • LinkedIn is the new Rolodex, videos are vital, Twitter is not for everyone

AvnetonDemand.com was created with no budget

Al Maag’s blog is primarily to communicate with the media; he talks of things such as Woodstock (guitars) and

The line up of speakers is like a who’s who in new media, PR, interactive.

Mike Corak and Chis Sietsem on crafting a social media plan were good. Some of this is what we know, but it reassures me to see others think this way. Especially that Measurement, that much maligned word, is not just about traffic but measuring (knowing) engagement, sentiment..

Next session Elizabeth Hannan, says welcome to the hot room (a passing reference to the air conditioning here). It’s all about building community.

 

The ‘news we choose’ won’t land on our doorstep

Long post alert!

As is patently obvious from this blog and my other work, I’m a big supporter of crowdsourcing and citizen journalism, wikis and collaboration.  Not just a cheerleader, but a practitioner. But I’m also a concerned citizen looking beyond the cool factor Digg, and the amazing possibilities of ‘knowledge’ aggregators, and the Twitter stream of consciousness.  I am awed by the new trends in journalism such as spot.us, yet I can’t resist picking up a newspaper.

The big question I ask myself, and am asked by others, is if our addiction to instant gratification, and near-ubiquitous access to content is making us more informed, and … more shallow? Is the blogosphere accelerating a trend where consumers grow up on a diet of context-free data, pinging on the walls of  interconnected echo-chambers? What’s that Eliot quote? “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

Less than two years ago, Pew Research published findings from a study it conducted to see how crowd-sourced news differs from the news that editors of media organizations put together.

It found that:

  • There was a big difference –that “many of the stories users selected did not appear anywhere among the top stories in the mainstream media coverage.”
  • 70% of the stories users selected, came from blogs or Web sites such as YouTube and WebMd.
  • Recommended stories focused more on “news you can use” (such as advice from the WHO health advice etc)

Most concerning was this. It found that “Despite claims that the Web would internationalize consumers’ news diets, coverage across the three user-news sites focused more on domestic events and less on news from abroad than the mainstream media that week.”

When people do make choices of what news to stay on top of, they found that:

  • They seek it form sites that do not focus on ‘news’ per se.
  • Most stories they chose had very little follow up, and appeared only once, never to be repeated
  • They tended to choose news that was more sensational in nature, with a heavy dose of crime and celebrity

But having said that, citizen-based media is not the end of newspapers –and good journalism– as we know it.  A more recent study by Pew (the Project for excellence in Journalism) on the state of the media in 2008  found that citizens are playing a bigger part in news produced by ‘legacy media’ but citizen sites were few. Rather, citizens are being used more as sources than reporters.

What does this all mean? To me it’s not all that discouraging.

  1. Legacy media is just sampling what it means to empower the hoi polloi to fill the news hole; this tricky experiment is ongoing. Citizen sites are providing the kick in the butt for this trend, even through they aren’t kicking too hard.
  2. The news we choose may land in our RSS reader, not on our doorstep, but not in the way we can taste it now. Very soon some smart media organization is going to learn how to package legacy content and citizen content, blend the ‘Dugg’ stories with those reported by solid journalists, and deliver both.
  3. Unless a new type of journalism is taught in schools, the new journalism (content and delivery systems) will be a long time coming. The good news: Digital journalism is being taught in many places. Editors and publishers are taking on issues such as hyperlocal news, free vs fee, the semantic web

Rupert Murdock’s attempt to charge for online content, including content from NewsCorp’s newspapers and TV channels may be a flawed move, but it has woken everyone up.

(Incidentally, that story was also reported by Newser, an  “online news service that adds human intelligence to machine-driven aggregation”)

Ouch!

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2009 in Business Models, Journalism, New Media

 

Quotes for the week, ending 15 August 2009

“We’ve just had a demonstration of democracy.”

Senator Arlen Specter, after a person attending a town hall meeting shouted at him. The man was escorted out of the room, at a Harrisburg Community College.

“The Obama administration has delivered … a message of tough love. We are not sugarcoating the problems. We’re not shying away from them.”

Secretary Hillary Clinton, summing up her trip to Africa

“The Internet disrupts any industry whose core product can be reduced to ones and zeros ..it is the biggest virgin forest out there”

Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of education startup Knewton

“Doing sustainability is fine, but being sustainable is where we want to wind up.”

Michelle Bernhart, author of “The Rules of the Game” in an upcoming edition of IABC’s Communication World magazine, interviewed by Natasha Nicholson.

“FriendFeed, in my mind, is the new RSS reader.”

Robert Quigley in Old Media New Tricks

“Macaca Day, for those of us who make our living from video on the Internet and elsewhere, is a holy day – the day that marks the birth of YouTube politics, and reminds us that citizens with cellphone cameras and a YouTube account – or at least an election.”

Dan Manatt, at Tech President, on the infamous comment by senator George Allen during the election campaign

“Google Voice “is merely symptomatic of that larger question.”

Ben Scott, public policy director of Free Press, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group in Washington, on the investigation on whether the carrier (AT&T) and handset maker (Apple) had anything to do with banning Google’s voice application from the iPhone.

“This is a decision based upon consumer experiences, child protection and our strategic investment to build up MSN Messenger.”

Geoff Sutton, GM of MSN Europe, on the decision to shut down Microsoft chat rooms in 28 countries.

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